How lucky am I that both of my grandmas are amazing cooks?!
I could really talk about any of those memories and so many more, but this is a food blog so of course I am going to talk about my grandma's food!
Like anybody else's grandma, the food she made for us was always wonderful! Some of the best meals I have ever had in my life took place at my grandparents' houses. Whenever we happened to spend the afternoon at her house, my grandma would make us spaghetti and creamed corn. No matter how many times we had it, we would always ask for the same thing because it was so amazing! The spaghetti was not your ordinary spaghetti and tomato sauce, though. Oh no! She had to add her special touch to it. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what all she put into it, but I am pretty certain that the ingredient list included ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar! No wonder we liked it so much! And don't even get me started on the creamed corn! It was made with fresh corn she grew herself and was so creamy and sweet and salty at the same time it was amazing! I still love it to this day! After we had finished our lunch we always knew what was next...DESSERT!
While there are so many great desserts that my grandma makes, the one she is famous for is her custard pie. It is so amazing I don't even know where to start! It is so satisfyingly sweet and creamy, and there's this layer where the custard and crust meet that is almost fudgy from the custard soaking into it. It is to die for! Everyone in my extended family knows and loves this pie. Many have tried to replicate it with varying levels of success, but none come close to the real thing. Chalk another one up to the magic of grandmothers!
One of the other desserts that my grandma makes regularly is a simple yet delicious banana cake that is topped with a delicious caramel frosting. I remember having this cake countless times throughout my childhood with homemade ice cream and it always hit the spot. I recently got the recipes of several of my grandma's famous dishes and this cake was one of the ones that I was most excited about making for myself. When the cake was finished and I took my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my childhood; sitting at my grandma's dining room table playing games and eating food. I find it so amazing how food can do that. No matter how much time has passed, or how much you've grown or changed, food can take you back to simpler times and memorable places in an instant.
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed bananas
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs on at a time, making sure to fully combine each egg before adding the next.
Add the vanilla and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl so everything is incorporated.
In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl combine the buttermilk with the mashed bananas.
Slowly add a third of the banana mixture to the mixing bowl mixing to combine.
Then add a third of the dry mix, mixing to combine.
Continue to add the rest of the ingredients alternating between wet and dry until everything is just combined. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan and place in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool, then cover in the caramel frosting.
1/2 cup butter
1 heaping Tbsp of flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
In a heavy sauce pan melt the butter of low heat.
Once completely melted, add the flour and stir to combine and get rid of any lumps.
After a minute, add in the milk and the brown sugar and stir frequently until the sugar has completely dissolved. (about 2 minutes)
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
Allow the frosting to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, add enough powdered sugar to thicken to your desired consistency and spread over cake.
Serve and enjoy.
With summer in full force
Fortunately, we have a grill in our backyard which has really come in handy the past couple weeks. While using the grill is obscenely hot, it keeps the heat outside while also embedding our dinners with wonderful summer flavors. Most recently, we had vegetable kababs and roasted Brussel sprouts on the grill. They get this wonderful char on them and the caramelization adds great flavor to an already delicious meal. I decided to make a simple pasta salad to go along with the kababs. I was inspired by several recipes I found online and developed this recipe of my own to fit the ingredients available and the flavors I wanted.
In my opinion, pesto is always a great addition to a meal so this summer pesto pasta salad hits the spot. The fresh cherry tomatoes and cheese compliment the pesto and greens nicely. I really enjoyed this dish and will plan to make it more often throughout the summer. I highly recommend trying it for yourself. You will not be disappointed! Try to stay cool out there!
Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
8-10 oz. short pasta of your choice
2 cups cherry tomatoes
10 oz. fresh greens
8 oz. feta, mozzarella, or parmesan cheese
1/4 of a red onion thinly sliced into strands
3/4 cups prepared pesto
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper to season
Cook the pasta until al dente and set to the side to cool
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to a large bowl
Take the cheese and cut into small cubes and add to the bowl.
Add the cooled noodles and the red onion to the bowl.
In a separate bowl add the pesto, vinegar, sugar and olive oil.
Mix well until everything is combined and smooth.
Add the dressing to the large bowl and mix everything together.
Add the salad greens in handfuls until there is enough to your liking.
Season with salt and pepper and place in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld together and enjoy.
Summer is here!
While I don't particularly enjoy that aspect of the season, one of the things I do look forward to when summer finally arrives, is the fresh produce! The bright colors and flavors of summer fruits and vegetables really shine during the summer months. And the endless possibilities of summer dishes fill my brain with new ideas that have been dormant all winter long.
There is a local farm that has fresh produce stands all over Northern Indiana during the summer that my family and I always go to. They have everything you could think of during June, July and August; fresh tomatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, peppers, and so much more! I remember going there countless times growing up and getting a bushel of sweet corn with my mom. We would take it back home and everyone would gather around a bucket and shuck the corn for dinner. It was a bit tedious but so much fun and definitely worth it!
These Zucchini Spears are a simple, and unique way to use zucchini. The coating is wonderfully salty and crisp and highlights the zucchini's flavor nicely. I recommend trying this recipe this summer when zucchini are in full season. It works very pretty well as a side dish to a main meal like steak or grilled chicken or even the spaghetti and creamy tomato basil sauce I have here.
Parmesan Zucchini Spears
3 zucchini, cut into 3" spears
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup powdered parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder
In a bowl add the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and spices and mix to combine.
Drizzle the zucchini spear in olive oil and mix to coat entirely.
Individually dredge the zucchini spears in the bread crumb mixture making sure to coat evenly on all sides.
Place the breaded zucchini on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single, even layer.
Put the finished spears in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and fork tender.
Remove from the oven and eat immediately.
You cannot go wrong when it comes to tacos!
Growing up, we used to have family taco nights pretty regularly and we would go ALL OUT! We had rice, beans, chicken, peppers and onions, and all the toppings. It was always a team effort to get everything ready. Someone was in charge of the rice and the beans, while others chopped vegetables and meat. Then while someone else fried the meat and vegetables, yet more people prepared the toppings and made sure everything was set out and ready for people to dig in. It was so much fun working together in the kitchen and making food as a family. It wasn't something that happened all the time, but when it did we always had a blast!
Once everything was ready we would gather around the table in the kitchen and build our own tacos or burritos. It seemed impossible to not over fill them, and we would always end with a complete mess all over our faces, but the flavors were amazing! The spicy peppers and seasoned meat, the fresh tomatoes and onion, that special zing from a lime wedge; the symphony of flavors would sing on the tongue and have us filled with joy.
In the past several years I've figured out a way to make this already wonderful occasion that much better homemade tortillas! I found this simple recipe in a cast iron skillet cookbook I had and now I make them every time we have taco nights. If you have never experienced the flavor and wonderful chewiness of a fresh tortilla you are seriously missing out! These tortillas are pretty easy to make and can take any taco night to the next level! I highly recommend you try our these great tortillas the next time you have a taco party at your home! You won't regret it!
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. chilled butter
1 1/2 cups room temperature water
In a large bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
Chop the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture.
Using your hands break up the butter until the dough is crumbly and the butter chunks are pea-sized.
Add 1 cup of the water and mix with your hands until all of the the water is incorporated.
In portions, add the remaining 1/2 cup of water until the dough is wet but not too sticky.
Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.
(About 10 minutes)
Portion the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Taking a rolling pin, roll a section of dough into a round about the size of your skillet.
Repeat the process with all the sections of dough.
Over high heat, add a single tortilla to the skillet (no oil necessary) and let it cook for 30 seconds to a minute then flip to cook the other side.
The sides of the tortilla should be browned but not burnt.
Serve the tortillas immediately or cover with a damp tea towel to keep them warm longer.
Last Summer I had
This dish is comprised of a simple mashed potato, topped with a gravy and a sausage. What isn't there to like? My first sample of a traditional Bangers & Mash was at a small pub in London. Let me just tell you, the atmosphere in these traditional pubs is so amazing! The loud music, happy people, and rustic décor were wonderful and really added to the experience. When my Bangers & Mash was set down in front of me, my mouth instantly began to water.
There was this huge mound of mashed potatoes absolutely smothered in gravy and beside it was this enormous, perfectly caramelized sausage about the length of my forearm. Needless to say, I was excited to dig in. The potatoes were thick and creamy and the gravy added a nice peppery kick. The sausage was wonderfully seasoned and had the perfect combination of saltiness and spice. I happily ate the entire dish with much gusto and many a satisfactory exclamation!
Since I have been home, I have craved this meal again and again. Finally, I decided to make it and boy was I taken back! This recipe is very simple and a great week night meal for people who may not have a lot of time to devote to making meals. I added a side of roasted vegetables to balance out the meal and it was wonderful. I highly recommend trying it for yourself if you're craving a taste of English cuisine.
Bangers & Mash
6 medium potatoes, rinsed and diced into cubes
2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter
1 cup milk
black pepper to taste
Good quality sausage (Kielbasa or Andouille will work)
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 Tbs. flour
2 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
Boil the chopped potatoes in water until potatoes are fork tender. (about 25 minutes)
Drain the potatoes and mash until smooth.
Add in the butter, salt, milk, and pepper and combine until butter has melted.
In a medium sauce pan fry the onions in the oil until translucent.
Add the flour and stir to incorporate.
Constantly stirring, slowly add in the broth and stir until all flour has dissolved.
Continue to stir frequently and cook over medium heat until thick and bubbling.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the sausage into portions.
Cut the sausage in half length-wise.
Fry in a hot pan until both sides are caramelized and slightly charred.
To serve: Mound the potatoes on a plate and top with the gravy. Place the bangers on top and serve with a side of roasted vegetables.
As a kid, pizza night was a wonderful occasion!
Our mom would make the dough and gather all the ingredients, but when it was time to assemble the pizzas it was all hands on deck! We would press the dough into a baking sheet and then add sauce and all the toppings we could find, and of course cover the entire thing with cheese. I remember standing around the kitchen counter with my brothers arguing about what would go on which side of the pizza. They made it very clear that they didn't want any "disgusting vegetables" on their half of the pizza, and I was more than happy to keep them for myself!
Sometimes if we were lucky there would be some extra dough that we would turn into bread sticks. That was particularly exciting, because it meant we got to have an appetizer before the main meal! (Life's all about the little joys right) We would dip them in ranch or tomato sauce or, if we were feeling decadent, we would make this cheesy tomato dipping sauce that was so good and so not healthy, a little kids dream!
To this day I still get excited at the thought of having homemade pizza nights, and these cheesy, garlicky knots are a fun variation on the breadsticks we had. The dough is soft and pillowy, and the salty, garlicky goodness of the topping hits the spot perfectly. Of course you can dip these in whatever sauce you want but they are also just a delicious on their own and oh so addicting. This recipe is so simple and easy to work with, you could use this dough for just about anything from pizza, to a loaf of bread. I encourage you all to make these garlic knots for yourself the next time you have a pizza night or any ordinary night for that matter!
Garlicky Parmesan Knots
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
3 cups flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let sit for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.
Add 2 cups for flour and mix well until the flour is combined.
Dissolve the salt in 3 tsp. of warm water and add to the dough. Mix well.
Add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic.
(about 10 minutes)
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth and let raise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size punch it down and dump onto a floured work surface.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle with about a 1/4 inch thickness.
Using a knife, cut the dough into strips about an inch wide.
Take the strips one at a time and twist them.
Then, carefully form a knot with the dough tying it in on itself.
Place the finished knots on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush the knots with melted butter and garlic.
Put in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes have passed, brush the knots with butter again and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place back in the oven until golden brown, about another 5-10 minutes.
Let the knots cool for a couple minutes and enjoy!
One of the biggest factors
Originating from Peru during the colonial era, Ceviche has grown and developed over time into what we know it as today, but much of the tradition behind the dish has remained the same. Many regions of South and Central America have their own version of the dish, each adding their own regional flare. Ultimately, the base of fish in a tart juice stays the same wherever you are. My first experience with Ceviche was not on the coast in Lima like you would expect, but in the mountains, of Ayacucho. One Saturday my host mom, my little brother, and I were going to an open market to get groceries for the weekend. Before we went there we made a stop at a little Cevicheria in our neighborhood. When the waiter served us each a bowl brimming with marinated fish atop boiled potatoes, I was both nervous and excited to try this interesting dish. As I took my first bite, my mouth filled with saliva. It was spicy and tart, and the potatoes added a satisfying stability to an otherwise dynamic dish. I happily ate alongside my little brother, who ate his whole bowl in record time and even drank all of the extra liquid without even a second thought.
One of the most essential ingredients in nearly every Peruvian recipe is the aji pepper. There are many different types of aji peppers that Peruvians use on a daily basis to season countless dishes. These peppers are native to Peru and can be difficult to find if you are cooking outside of their native country. Try looking for these peppers in your local hispanic or South American food market or look online for purées or sauces that can be shipped to your home. If you have no other option, any type of chili pepper available can work. While it will not be an authentic Peruvian dish, it will get the job done and still be delicious. I also recommend using a white fish for is recipe. Look for sea bass, sole, or flounder in your local supermarket. You could also try the dish with shrimp or other types of seafood to add another dimension to the dish.
If you want to learn more about Peruvian cuisine and the culture behind it, I encourage you to order my cookbook, Buen Provecho! It is a collection of stories and recipes from the time I spent living and learning in Peru.
1 lb. of raw fish fillet
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 aji amarillo peppers, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a cup lemon juice
1/2 a cup lime juice
1 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium yellow potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes until just tender and then set aside. Wash the fish thoroughly with water and chop into 1" cubes. Slice the onions and soak in a bowl of water. Finely mince the aji and garlic. Then add the salt to the aji and garlic and mash into a paste with the side of your knife. Combine the fresh fish, lime and lemon juice, aji paste, onions, cilantro, and pepper to taste. Allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes and serve on slices of the potatoes.
Growing up I was never a fussy eater.
Now that I'm older that still rings true. You would be hard pressed to find something that I will not eat. And even if you did happen to find something questionable, I won't knock it until I have tried it. All that is to say, I love me some vegetables; always have, always will! Besides the fact that they are healthy for you, if you prepare them correctly they can be very flavorful and exciting to eat. One of the best ways to make vegetables that much better is to roast them!
The process of roasting vegetables really highlights their natural flavors and the caramelization that happens when you cook vegetables at a high heat is wonderful. Roasted vegetables also happens to be a relatively simple thing to make, whether it is a side dish or the main course. All you have to do is chop them and put them on a pan and in a short while you have a great dish full of flavor! Especially during the summer when the vegetables are fresh and full of flavor, roasting them is a great option to elevate your simple vegetable.
The recipe I have here is my go to recipe for roasted vegetables, but this dish is so simple you can easily make it your own. It is so easy to add whatever vegetables happen to be in season! Peppers, onions, squash, snap peas, carrots; any combination of vegetables works well with this dish. Also you can play with the seasonings just a easily. Use Italian spices or maybe Indian or simplify them by only using salt and pepper to bring out the natural flavors of the vegetables. The possibilities are endless!
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, stems removed and cut in half
3 Large Carrots, peeled
1 Medium Red Union
1 Head of Broccoli
1 Head of Cauliflower
3 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Tbs. Italian Seasoning
1/2 Tbs. Paprika
1 Tbs. Garlic Salt
Black Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Chop all of the vegetables to desired thickness (aim for each piece to be about 1 inch in thickness)
Put all of the vegetables on a large baking sheet.
Drizzle vegetables with olive oil.
Sprinkle the spices all over the vegetables, then mix everything together with your hands.
Spread the vegetables out in one even layer and place in the oven.
Roast the vegetable for 10 minutes.
Stir the vegetables around with a spatula and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
The vegetables are done once they are tender and the edges are browned and crispy.
Serve as a side to a main dish, or eat as a main dish on a bed of greens or with rice.
One of the best parts
The buttercream I made for both of these special occasions worked perfectly and has made me a bit of a family celebrity! The flavor is outstanding and now my family looks for any excuse for me to make something that has this amazing frosting on it. The recipe below is for the strawberry version of the buttercream frosting, but you could substitute the strawberries for any other fruit filling or other flavoring to fit your desires. I highly recommend using it for your own special events. Whether it is a birthday cake or an anniversary celebration, (or just a Friday night...no judgement) this buttercream frosting is a great choice and will really make your cake pop and leave your guests wanting more.
4 egg whites
1 cup of white sugar
1 lb. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and room temperature
1/3 strawberry puree or jam
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water to a simmer.
In a large heatproof bowl add the egg whites and sugar and whisk together.
Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk the egg mixture constantly until the mixture is hot to the touch, the sugar is dissolved and slightly airy.
Pour the egg mixture into a stand mixer bowl and whisk on medium speed for until the mixture has doubled in size and holds a medium peak.
Let the whipped eggs cool to room temperature, if not already.
Once cooled, turn the mixer on medium speed and drop several pieces of butter into the mixture at a time until completely incorporated. Continue to add butter chunks until all of the butter is used.
After all of the butter is added, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and turn the mixer up a bit and let it mix for a couple minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy.
Add the strawberry puree and vanilla and start mixing on low and gradually turn up to high speed until completely incorporated.
I recommend making and using buttercream immediately. It is at its best consistency fresh. It can kept in the fridge for up to a week, but it must come completely to room temperature before you use it or the buttercream may separate.
The Cronut. The Sushi Burrito. The Turducken.
Each and every one of these crazy culinary concoctions will go down in history as one of the greatest food mashups of all time. But why are they created? Who invented these dishes and how?! Only those who have the creativity and brain capacity have the ability to create something so mind-blowingly delicious. Only a true culinary genius can create a dish that gets people all over the world ranting and raving. And I, Jonah Yoder, am up for the challenge!
In order to create a truly inspirational food mashup you have to take two seemingly incompatible dishes and smash them together on one plate. When you think about it the opportunities are as endless as your creativity. The most impactful mashups are the ones that bring together the most differing foods. So without further adieu, I present to you the Cheesecakeadilla!
Below you will find the recipes for both versions of the cheesecakeadilla. Feel free to be creative when you make them. Add your own layers or sauces! The excitement of making a dish your own, is one of the best parts of cooking! I highly recommend trying both and deciding for yourself which one is the better mashup. Good luck!
8 large flour tortillas
8 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
butter for pan frying
Put the cream cheese, heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar in a bowl and mix together until totally combined.
Take a flour tortilla and smear some of the cream cheese mixture on it, then top with the other tortilla.
In a hot skillet add about 1 tablespoon of butter and let it melt.
Add the prepared tortillas and pan fry on both sides until golden brown.
Top with cinnamon sugar or more powdered sugar and serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.
(caramel, strawberry, chocolate...really anything would go great!)
Cheesecakeadilla (Main Dish)
10 large flour tortillas
10 oz. can of refried beans
10 oz. can of corn
10 oz. can of black beans
10 oz. of sour cream
Begin by making the cheese quesadillas by pan frying 2 tortillas together with cheese in between them.
To form the cake take a round springform pan and lay 1 quesadilla in the bottom.
Take the refried beans and spread an even layer on top of the quesadilla.
Sprinkle some corn on top of the refried beans, then place the next quesadilla on top gently pressing down on the previous layer.
Next spread an even layer of salsa over the quesadilla layer.
Then sprinkle some black beans on top of the salsa, then place another quesadilla on top gently pressing down on the previous layers.
Then spread an even layer of guacamole over the quesadilla layer.
Top with another quesadilla and gently press down on the previous layers.
Repeat the steps until all of the quesadillas are used and the cake is formed.
Sprinkle some cheese over the top and place in the oven set to 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes so that everything sets and is melty.
Once the top is golden brown remove the cake from the oven and let it cool.
Once it is cool enough to touch, remove the siding of the pan.
Take the sour cream and carefully spread all over the cake so that everything is covered and smooth.
Garnish with salsa & guacamole and serve immediately with a side salad.