Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter's On It's Way: escalloped pineapple

Back from a lovely vacation to gorgeous and very atypical Spring weather in Indy.  Warm sunny skies and 75 degrees.  We would kill for this weather for graduations, the 500 or even Father's Day in mid-June.  Crazy.  The lovely weather has kept me from sitting down to write, but I can't let a day off come to a close without cooking and posting.

Since Kelly's birthday is the week after Easter this year, I will host Easter dinner and have Kelly's family birthday all in one day.  (Sara will be at Duke celebrating Easter with her BFF Annie who will also be without family, so I know she will not "like" this post on facebook.  That and she doesn't eat cooked fruit with the notable exception of my homemade applesauce.  Love you, Sara).  There will be ham (you don't like that either, little one but I know that's not the point), asparagus, strawberry-spinach salad, mac and cheese and escalloped pineapple all for tradition's sake.

Will there be the famous lamb cake?  Hmmmm..... maybe not.  Will have to ask the birthday girl.    Creme brulee cheesecake?  That one's so good my recipe was in The Indianapolis Star last week.  I had the most amazing orange cake with lemon filling and coconut icing at my favorite restaurant on St. John, Shipwreck Landing.  If I don't try to replicate that on Easter it will happen soon.  You know I love cake (if you don't know this, read my older posts and catch up).  You also probably have shared my experience with cakes in restaurants:  they look and sound fabulous and end up being a big disappointment almost always.  Not this one.  And it wasn't just a long day snorkeling and soaking up sun accompanied by lots of fluffy drinks, it was a da** good cake.  Moist orange layers, lemon curd filling and coconut buttercream icing with toasted coconut.  Alas, there are no pictures.  That you might blame on the pinot grigio that night.

But I digress, I started out intending to give you a recipe for the scalloped pineapple so you can add it to your recipes for your own Easter dinner or anytime you have ham.  This recipe is an adaptation of one from a vintage spiral bound cookbook from the good ladies of the United Methodist Women from the Carmel UMC.  A treasure trove of goodness.  I've cut the butter in half and reduced the sugar by over 25%.  You just don't need it.  It's almost a pineapple bread pudding.  I'm sure you could class it up and use fresh pineapple instead of canned or brioche instead of white bread or add a little toasted coconut.  But if you're going almost old school, and Easter dinner is pretty terrific the old-school way, here's a dish that fits right in.  Ham without escalloped pineapple is like turkey without cranberries to me.  Don't even bother unless both things are on your fork at the same time.

*cook's note:  so I made this using a whole fresh pineapple peeled, cored and cut into chunks and 3/4 C skim milk since I did not really have juices from the pineapple.  Kelly was in charge of combining all the ingredients and we let it sit and kept tossing it all for about 20 minutes which made the bread super smushy and not really cubed at all.  We actually added about another cup of bread as we went along.  It was amazing.  More like a pineapple bread pudding for Easter.  Especially good since whole pineapples were on sale everywhere this week.  I bought three.  One for this recipe, one we grilled (peel, cut in rings and use an apple corer or knife to cut out the cores, brush lightly with vegetable oil and grill over low maybe 5 minutes per side) and we still have one just to eat fresh.

bubbling escalloped pineapple

Escalloped Pineapple

2  20-ounce cans pineapple chunks in natural juices, drained reserving juice
4 C cubed/torn fresh white bread (I actually used whole grain white from Pepperidge Farm)
1/2 C unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 C white sugar
1/4 C milk
1/2 C reserved pineapple juice
3 eggs
2-3 T coarse or demerara sugar

Spray a 2 to 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Drain pineapple and reserve the juice.  Pour pineapple chunks into dish.  Top with bread cubes.  In medium bowl whisk together melted butter, white sugar, milk, pineapple juice and eggs.  Pour over pineapple and bread and toss together until well combined.  Sprinkle top with coarse or demerara sugar and bake until golden, about 40 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


draining pineapple
I so need to wear my reading glasses to see my camera screen,
sorry about the blurriness

torn bread, we don't mind crusts

eggs, sugar, butter and milk and pineapple juice

all mixed up

sugar sprinkled on top


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

spring break for grown-ups

Hey there, it is empty-nester, grown- up Spring Break this week. Maybe I am snorkeling, dining seaside or buried in the Hunger Games trilogy in a beach chair. It's apparently unseasonably warm everywhere, so if you can't easily dip your toes in the Caribbean, sit outside in the sun, close your eyes and take yourself there. I'll be back to reality and posting in a few days. Come back soon or like me on Facebook!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

college spring break: honey lime chipotle sweet potato tacos

It's 7 p.m. Sunday evening on the first day of Daylight Savings Time and after a full day of sunshine and almost 70 degrees I have that warm and fuzzy feeling as I sit and write.  Sara and I started the day at Banker's Life Fieldhouse and the lululemon stretch zone before running the B1G Ten Hoops Game Day 5 K (great route through monument circle and past Lucas Oil Stadium the house that Peyton built, sniff sniff).  After a day of packing and a drive to the airport I am back home.  Some windows are still open, the daffodils which opened today are still lighting up my wood line and contentment abounds.  Sara is just now back on campus at gorgeous Duke after Spring Break in not quite as beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana.  Kelly is loving her senior Spring Break in "Frat Lauderdale".  Greg is enjoying his first full day in the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires with plenty of Malbec, beef and even a boat ride.  I'd be jealous, but after my cold stole my last full week alone and nothing got done around here,  I'm fine with being home.  This week I might not check everything off my spring cleaning list because vacation is on the horizon and I'm ready to get all geared up for our trip to St. John.

Kelly drops by the house on a pretty regular basis and we love having her knowing she'll be anywhere but Indiana fairly soon with graduation almost here.  Hopefully, she'll be gainfully employed and living somewhere a bit more bright and shiny.  We see Sara more on ESPN working a Duke basketball game then we see her in person.  That's the sacrifice we all make for her to live her dream of attending a prestigious school in a much warmer climate.  So, it was absolutely wonderful to have four of us around the dinner table once night last week.  I love my little family.  To hear the two girls up in one of their rooms just flat out giggling is pure joy.

There's been lots of Spring Break talk around lululemon with our guests shopping for trips and outdoor sports.  Had a lovely talk with one of them as she tried on some cute luon (everything looked good on her, she's a barre method instructor).  Somewhere in the conversation she asked where my family was traveling and I had to say out-loud that most likely our days of vacations as a family were over.  And then of course tears started to well in my eyes.  True, when my kids are home I stay up too late and end up a bit exhausted but it was still a little sad that tears sprung to my eyes as I folded a stack of wunder unders (if you don't have wunder unders, stop by and try on the world's best tights/leggings-the crop ones are my favorite).  Time to get back to the yoga mat and work some of that out.

Back at the ranch, when the girls are home I will cook whatever they want and if we need any missing ingredients they are happy to run out and get whatever to have "delicious food" they don't get on campus.  We'll make a family classic, try a new recipe from online or a magazine or just wing it like we did with the following recipe.  Sara's love of sweet potatoes meant there are always a few of those in the house, we had plenty of avocados from a Costco trip earlier in the week and there was ground turkey in the freezer as a meal-planning stand-by.  I found a few sweet potato taco recipes online and did a little addition, subtraction and substitution to come up with a really yummy dinner.

The tacos can be vegetarian using black beans (the chipotle pepper brings smokey and spicy to the table) or you can do what I did and cook up a little ground turkey and onion filling and fold it into the sweet potato mixture.  Either way you can't go wrong.  Everything is better with guacamole even if you don't have cilantro (it's the lime you can't live without).  And all Mexican meals at my house involve my pinto beans.  If you belong to Costco, please go buy the Sweet Mesquite Seasoning (nice and smokey too) in a big square plastic bottle for fajitas, tacos and whatever.  If you don't use a fajita seasoning or your favorite taco spice mix if you are serving the ground turkey version of these tacos.  I always serve this type of meal with quartered limes and light sour cream.

My Purdue Boilermakers are a 10 seed in the tournament and if they get past St. Mary's they'll face Kansas so it's not looking super promising, but these tacos are winners.  And now we get to cheer for Duke too.  Amazing how having a daughter there quickly turned them from reviled to one of "my teams" on my ESPN app!  Enjoy the March Madness.  I'll be watching.  Time to fill out my bracket!

this is how I know my trial contacts are failing me
by the end of the day I can not see the screen on my camera
anyway, this is my plate honey lime chipotle sweet potato tacos

Honey Lime Chipotle Sweet Potato Tacos

optional filling:
1 pound lean ground turkey
one medium onion, chopped
olive oil
taco or fajita seasoning (I use about 2 T of Kirkland Sweet Mesquite Seasoning from Costco)

veggie filling:
two medium-large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
one medium onion, chopped
1/2 C black beans (optional)
1 chipotle  in adobo sauce
2 T of adobo sauce from chipotle chile can
1 T honey
juice of one lime

6-8 soft tortillas or hard taco shells

sour cream
shredded lettuce
lime in quarters

If you have meat-eaters make the turkey taco filling by heating about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large saute pan.  Saute the onion and turkey until meat is cooked through and onion is soft.  Add seasoning and cook a few minutes to blend flavors and taste for salt, if needed.

For veggie filling, heat another tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onion and sweet potatoes and stir and cook until browned and softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, honey and lime along with black beans if using.  If the mixture is too dry, add about 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth to help soften the sweet potatoes (at this point I covered the skillet and reduced the heat to make that happen).  Taste for salt and pepper.  Fold in turkey mixture if using.

Heat soft tortillas wrapped in foil or hard shells on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
Serve with guacamole, shredded lettuce, sour cream and limes.                                                                                                                                    

sweet potatoes and onions browning

honey, chipotle, adobo sauce and lime juice added in

Sara stirring while I make guacamole

turkey mixture folded in

my pinto beans

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sara's home! crepe blog-fest

Well, last week was a wash with a sinus infection that had me in low gear for over a week.  A week when it was just me and the cat except for one fun dinner with Kelly when she stopped by to pick up her car.  And a week when I had big plans to do early spring cleaning that just had to wait so I could get better.  So, sorry about not posting.  If you're new to "blue skies and a squeeze a lime" after the Indianapolis Star published one of my recipes, welcome.  And this is how it goes, I'm just one person trying to find balance and some weeks are just more conducive to writing than others.  It makes me super  happy to cook, eat and write about it.  And then to have people read what I've written and maybe try a recipe? That's just fantastic.

It's Sara's spring break and it's so normal to have her home and have our little team back together.  For three years it was just Sara and Mom at home (well, there were more pets then too:  Hudson our house rabbit and Whistle our guinea pig) and we had a little routine and it's nice to fall back into it a bit this week.  One thing that's always been a given in my kitchen is that if you want a treat, I'm happy to make or bake it just about any time.  It's never that tricky to whip something up.  A couple of weeks ago, Greg and I had a very healthy light dinner and of course we were looking for a little something a few hours later so I baked my banana oatmeal snack cake.  Start to finish in well under an hour.  Tonight crepes sounded good.

courtesy of my food stylist and photographer, Sara

Apparently the food trucks in Durham. NC (beautiful home of Duke University and my Sara) are full of delights and one of them serves nutella and strawberry crepes so that's what we made.  The girls gave me an electric crepe maker two years ago so we made the batter, let it rest about 15 minutes and then warmed up the crepe maker.  Crepes are just very thin pancakes.  They are easily enough made in a non-stick saute pan on the stove, but the crepe maker is a fun way to do them as a team.  There are leftovers and I'm pretty sure I'll have one tomorrow with lemon and sugar.  Yum.

Honey Wheat Crepes

1 C skim milk
1/4 C cold water
2 eggs
1/4 C whole wheat flour
3/4 C all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 T honey
3 T melted unsalted butter

additional 2 T melted butter for pan

Blend the milk, water, eggs, flour and salt together until smooth (a blender or a food processor work well). Add the honey and melted butter and quickly blend again.  Let the batter rest for 15 minutes on the counter or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Heat your crepe maker or non-stick saute pan (medium heat on the stove) until water drops dance and sizzle.  Brush a little melted butter on the hot pan.  Pour about 1/4 C of batter and lift the pan to quickly shift and turn it so the batter runs into a big circle evenly coating the bottom of the pan.   (If you have a crepe maker follow the cooking instructions).  Cook until when lifted the bottom of the crepe is nicely browned and ready to release from the pan (maybe 2 minutes).  Use a spatula and flip the crepe to cook on the other side for another 30 seconds to a minute.  The first crepe almost always is a bit of a disaster.   It's tasty, but not pretty.  Who knows why?  Stack the crepes and keep warm until ready to fill and serve.  Crepes wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a ziploc bag will last in the refrigerator 3 days (if you can resist them that long).  They are easy to freeze too for a couple of months.  Fill and fold or roll to serve.


I don't have a working blender
so instead, I used my little processor attachment for my immersion blender


my crepe maker

patiently waiting

batter rested

buttering the "pan"

look, I am spreading the batter and yes, I have my pajamas on

Sara's crepe filling skills


still flipping

nice crepe picture!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Look, it's me in the paper: pork chops with sweet onion marmalade

Yep, that's me in the food pages of today's "Indianapolis Star" with the "Reader Recipe" of the week!  So exciting!  They've asked to use some of my recipes on a rotating basis and I'm happy to oblige.  My girls couldn't believe I submitted the "OMG Yogurt-Marinated Herbed Chicken Skewers", not because they aren't delicious but they expected something flashier.  Hopefully we'll get around to flashy!  Pick up the paper today or look online at  That's a picture of me carrying a creme brûlée cheesecake into dinner club last summer and yes, I was talking in the picture.  I submitted just a head shot too that's less quirky.....

In honor of my first published recipe today's recipe will be an Indiana favorite:  pork chops.  The Indiana Pork Producers take their piggies seriously.  This is the place to try a fried pork tenderloin sandwich or Perkinsville Pork.  And then there's the story of how I knew Greg was the one for me.  Let's visit that semi-quickly.  I met my husband my very first day on campus when he came by Shreve Hall checking on all the Carmel girls just moving in.  You know, just a helpful sophomore who knew a girl on my floor.  Fast forward about a month later when I'm so tired of being so sick and he's the only one I can think of that I can call to take me to the Student Health Center on a Sunday night.  I'm sniffling and sobbing in the waiting room and he stays with me and reads to me from "American Pig Farmer" magazine.  Where else would you find that periodical on a college campus?  Well I'm guessing Iowa, but that's beside the point.  He's a funny guy.  Married him three years later.  Oh, and I only had hay fever.  Never had it in northeastern Ohio, a little more pollen amongst the corn and soybean fields of Indiana.  Still struggle with the hay fever but the marriage is working out great 27 1/2 years later! 

This is an adaptation of a recipe I watched Giada whip up one day while I was on the treadmill.  I served it with simple polenta (water, coarse corn grits-I like Bob's Mill brand in the bag, a little olive oil, salt and pepper) and a bib lettuce salad with fresh buttermilk ranch dressing (plain Greek yogurt, a little buttermilk and Penzey's buttermilk ranch seasoning).  Delicious.

pork chops with sweet onion marmalade, polenta and bibb lettuce with buttermilk ranch 

Onion Marmalade

2-3 T olive oil
4 large onions, thinly sliced 
1/4 C low sugar orange marmalade
1T chopped fresh rosemary 
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T sugar (optional, taste it first)

Pork Chops
1 T chopped fresh rosemaray
1 T chopped fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pork chops (2-6 or however many you would like)

For the marmalade, heat a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and the onions and cook until starting to sizzle.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat to low, cover pot and cook for an hour or so, stirring every 20 minutes to scrape up the brown bits.  The onions will be soft and deep brown in color.

Meanwhile, for the pork chops combine the spices in heap on your cutting board and mince it all together and toss in a bowl to combine.  Pat rub evenly over chops and hold in the refrigerator until ready to grill.  Either heat a grill pan brushed with olive oil on your cooktop or preheat your outdoor grill.  Grill chops to medium about 7-10 minutes per side depending on thickness.  Serve with warm onion marmalade heaped on top.

ingredients, I only had dried thyme (use 1tsp dried for 1 T fresh, this goes for all herbs)

onions marmalizing

chops on the grill pan

all done

pork chops on the grill pan


adding the salad