August 31, 2011

Uncle John's Blood Mary Mix

The Bloody Mary mix can make or break your Bloody Mary.  I have been trying to find the right one to go with my pepper infused vodka for quite sometime.  I finally found one when I ran into John at MGM Liquors in Burnsville.  He was sampling Uncle Johns Bold Bloody Mary Mix and also the Uncle Johns Spicy Bloody Mary Mix.  I tried both flavors.  The mix had a fresh tomato taste with just enough spice in both to please the palette. The mixes didn't taste salty; that is something I have found with several other brands.  I have used Uncle Johns Spicy Bloody Mary Mix and even people who do not like spicy Bloody Marys agree this one does not have overpowering spicy flavors and they enjoyed it.  The mixes would be great for Virgin Bloody Marys and the website has some recipes utilizing the mixes.

Uncle John's is a local company out of Rochester, MN.

Where to buy: Buy Uncle Johns
Come meet Minnesota Food Bloggers at the Minnesota State Fair in the Eco-Building on August 31st

Mint Iced Tea

13 tea bags
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, lightly packed
Juice from 2 lemons, squeezed
1 (6 oz.) can frozen orange juice
1 c. sugar
Mint sprigs to garnish

Combine tea, mint leaves and 1/2 quart water in large saucepan, cover, boil and immediately remove from heat. Steep 30 minutes, add lemon juice, orange juice and sugar and enough water to make 2 quarts of liquid. Drain liquid and chill. Serve with sprigs of mint.

Mexican Corn Dip

Recently I was at a pot-luck and my friend made a great Mexican Corn Dip.This recipe is quick prep and will go quick with the crowd!

3 cans Corn n’ Peppers – Drained
2 cups sour cream
1 cup mayo
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Cumin
1 lb. Shredded cheddar cheese
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Mix all together and enjoy!

August 30, 2011

Carrot Cake

Not my best picture. This cake is 4 layers

Adapted from

Note: You can make this in either 2, 9-inch round pans or a 9×13 pan.

For the cake:4 eggs
1 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots (a food processor or box grater work the best)
1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla (I used Vanilla Bean Paste)
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray with cooking spray (or Butter) and flour your pan(s) of choice.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white and brown sugar and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly add into the wet ingredients, but don’t over mix.

Stir in carrots and then fold in 1 cup of chopped pecans.

Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 25-30 minutes for round pans and 40-50 minutes for 9×13 pan, rotating the pan(s) halfway through.  Test with your cake tester and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer until mixture is smooth and creamy. It takes a little bit for it all to come together so be patient. Frost the cooled cake and sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans.

*When I made this recipe I used Black Walnuts instead of pecans.

Cherry Tomato Five-Minute Sauce

One of the reasons I bought the cookbook My New Orleans was the chapter on tomatoes. I remember looking at it in the middle of winter and wishing I was picking tomatoes off a vine or shopping the farmers market for the freshest tomatoes. My mom's garden has been producing cherry tomatoes all summer and almost every time I am at my parents house my mom sends me home with cherry tomatoes.  I enjoy them, however I cannot eat them fast enough. It was very easy to make. The sauce isn't thick; I think it would be a great for Gazpacho or a base to my Bloody Marys.
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 quarts ripe cherry tomatoes (red, orange or both), halved (I even used yellow)
  • Leaves from 1 branch basil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flake
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oil in large, deep skillet over high heat until hot. Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, pepper flakes and garlic and cook until tomatoes come to a full boil. Cook 5 minutes more, until most tomatoes have collapsed, crushing them with back of a wooden spoon (I used a potato masher).

From My New Orleans
Using a food mill, puree sauce or push through a strainer into a bowl with rubber spatula. Discard skins. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a jar and refrigerate.

Makes 1 quart.

August 25, 2011

Black Walnut Cake

My dad has always liked black walnuts and wanted to have someone make him a black walnut cake; my mom had some in the freezer waiting to be used.  I found this recipe online.  It originally called for 1/2 cup of black walnuts, but I added an extra 1/2 cup.

Makes 12 Servings


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped black walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing just until the yellow disappears. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Stir in the vanilla and walnuts, and pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the crown comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before turning out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.

August 23, 2011

Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

When I saw the okra at the farmers market one thing came to mind - John Besh's My New Orleans.  This was my first attempted at an official gumbo.  The recipe is definitely not a small serving (Serves 10 to 12), but I like to entertain and have family and friends for dinner; dish is perfect for a large group.

The roux made up of the fat or oil and the flour provides a rich base to the gumbo.  The slow cooking takes the color from light tan to a rich brown and makes the first step the beginning of a wonderful smell in your kitchen.

Don't go searching for a pre-made Creole spice you may have the items you need right in your pantry. I thought Besh's blend added wonderful flavor and and just the right amount of kick.  You will have plenty to use on other dishes as well.

The cook time is approximately 2 hours, it is worth the patience with every bite.

    1 cup rendered chicken fat or canola oil
    1 cup flour
    2 large onions, diced
    1 large chicken, cut into 12 pieces (I used boneless skinless thighs, they held up great and were tender)
    2 tablespoons Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows)
    2 pounds spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch thick
    2 stalks celery, diced
    2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
    1 tomato, seeded and chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
    3 quarts chicken stock
    2 bay leaves
    6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped
    2 cups sliced fresh okra
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Filé powder
    White rice for serving
Make a roux by heating the chicken fat or oil in a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil. It will immediately begin to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue whisking until the roux takes on a deep brown color, about 15 minutes. Add the onions, stirring them into the roux with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the roux is a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Season the chicken with Creole Spices. Add the chicken to the pot, raise heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the smoked sausage and stir for a minute before adding the celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the thyme, Chicken Stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and skim off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.

Add the andouille, okra, and Worcestershire and season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat off the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice.

Basic Creole Spice - makes 1/2 cup -
    2 tablespoons celery salt
    1 tablespoon sweet paprika
    1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
    1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Mix together the celery salt, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and store.

I think I made Chef Besh proud with my gumbo.

August 1, 2011

Toby Kane CD Release Party

DATE: August 26, 2011
TIME: 6:00pm - 9:00pm
LOCATION: Club David - 214 W. 10th Street, Sioux Falls, SD

Free admission. Portion of all CD and iTunes sales to benefit the American Heart Association of South Dakota.

6-8pm -- Acoustic Happy Hour performance on beautiful Skyline Patio.

8pm -- The party moves downstairs for preview of "The Heart Machine" on David's massive sound system; video debut of "Gamechanger"; special drinks; surprise guests; and a drawing for a private house concert.

Toby's new CD is available now on iTunes. If you download during the month of August (2011), 20% of all sales to benefit the American Heart Association of South Dakota. Anyone who downloads the CD on iTunes can bring their receipt to release party for free CD
 Click Here to Download The Heart Machine @ iTunes