Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spicy Pork with Asparagus and Chile

I returned from my last trip to Indiana with a stack of my mom's cooking magazines (she saves her subscriptions for me after she reads them...or doesn't have time to read them) and 4 lbs. of asparagus that my uncle brought back from a trip to Michigan. This was perfect timing, because most of the spring edition magazines feature recipes with asparagus, like this yummy pork stir-fry that I found in the April issue of Bon Appetit.

As for the rest of the asparagus, we've steamed it for a side dishes, blanched and chilled it for a snack, and I even found a cool idea for shaving raw asparagus with a vegetable peeler and making it into a salad. I've made 2 salads this way and have not remembered to take a picture, so if you're a fan of asparagus, definitely check out the link. It was delicious! I really thought that I would freeze some of the asparagus for later, but we have eaten our way through that 4 pound bag pretty quickly. I have just a handful left that I'm saving to grill over the weekend. 

How do YOU like to eat asparagus?

While  you think about your answers, let's take a look at the Spicy Pork with Asparagus and Chile... 

First, I diagonally sliced about 12 oz. of asparagus into 1/2 - 3/4 inch pieces.

While I was in "chopping mode", I went ahead and minced a jalapeno pepper, mashed some ginger, and sliced a couple of green onions. When you're making a stir-fry it's nice to have all of the ingredients ready to toss in...

The recipe called for 12 oz. of ground pork (preferably coarsely ground). I didn't have any ground pork. What I did have was a 1 lb. piece of pork loin.

I cut it up into little pieces and tossed it with a tablespoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of rice vinegar, and tablespoon of cornstarch.

With all of the ingredients chopped and ready to go, I fired up the stove and heated a couple teaspoons of toasted sesame oil in a skillet. Then I added in the asparagus, pepper, and ginger. Toss for a few minutes until the asparagus is tender-crisp. Then remove the veggies from the skillet.

Heat another teaspoon of sesame oil in the same skillet and add the pork. Stir fry for a few minutes until the pork is browned.

Add the veggies back into the skillet and then pour on the sauce ingredients: soy sauce, oyster sauce, and honey. Stir-fry a little longer, until the pork is cooked through. Toss in the green onions and salt and pepper (if needed) to finish.

I served mine over rice. As a fan of stir-fry,  I'd definitely make this one again!

The jalapeno that I used was surprisingly hot. It made the stir-fry too spicy for our daughters to enjoy. Luckily I had extra asparagus, so I steamed a batch their dinner. Here's a picture of one of the half-eaten asparagus and rice dinners that I served to the kiddos. It totally makes me happy that they love asparagus too!

* Asparagus makes for great finger food for kiddos. If they're not sure about it at first, let them dip it in ranch dressing. Once they develop a taste for a new vegetable, they might enjoy it without the aid of condiments down the road. It's all about setting up healthy habits for the future!

Here's the recipe:

Spicy Pork with Asparagus and Chile from Bon Apettit

•3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
•1 tablespoon Shaoxing Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry
•2 teaspoons cornstarch
•12 ounces ground pork (preferably coarsely ground; sometimes labeled chili-grind)
•3 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
•12 ounces thin to medium asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on extreme diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
•1 red jalapeño chile, minced with seeds
•1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
•2 tablespoons oyster sauce
•1 teaspoon honey
•2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
•Fine sea salt
Ingredient info: Oyster sauce is available in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets and at Asian markets.


Whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch in medium bowl. Add pork; toss to blend. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in heavy large wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, chile, and ginger. Toss until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus mixture to plate. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to wok. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until browned, using spoon to break up pork into small pieces, 2 to 3 minutes. Return asparagus mixture to wok. Add remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, oyster sauce, and honey; stir-fry until pork is cooked through, adding water by tablespoonfuls if dry, about 2 minutes. Add green onions; toss to incorporate. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Nutritional Information
One serving contains:
Calories (kcal) 285.6
%Calories from Fat 57.4
Fat (g) 18.4
Saturated Fat (g) 6.0
Cholesterol (mg) 66.6
Carbohydrates (g) 9.0
Dietary Fiber (g) 2.0
Total Sugars (g) 4.4
Net Carbs (g) 6.9
Protein (g) 21.4
Sodium (mg) 1287.7

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rustic Beef and Onion Tart with Crispy Fried Morel Mushrooms

With a bag of morel mushrooms that I found in the woods on my recent trip home to Indiana and a tub of Philadelphia Cooking Creme in my fridge, I was inspired to come up with this simple, savory, dinner tart. Made with refrigerated pizza crust, it comes together in a snap and the whole family loved the combination of flavors.

Last year I competed in The Real Women of Philadelphia cooking contest. If I had time to make and edit a video submission this year, I would've entered this recipe in the running for the entree category. It was a delicious way to use the new Philly Cooking Creme and showcase my favorite fungi. As you read through this post, you will realize that this tart certainly cannot be considered health food. However, since Ms. Paula Deen never discriminates against recipes with lots of butter (or cheese), I'm declaring this one a winner!

Here's what I did:

First, I browned a pound of lean ground beef, seasoned with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I tossed in 1/2 of a sliced red onion and stir-fried it for a couple of minutes until the onion started to get a little tender.

Next, I grabbed a tub of Italian Cheese and Herb Cooking Creme.

I oiled a baking sheet and then pressed a tube of refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury Thin Crust) to fit. Spread 1/2 of the tub of cooking cream onto the pizza dough.

Then top with the browned beef and onion (drained of excess fat).

Drop the remaining cooking creme by spoonfuls over the beef and onion.

Fold up the sides of the pizza dough to form the tart. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile, heat a stick of butter in a skillet. Toss morel mushrooms with flour, shaking off  the excess flour before placing them in the hot butter. Fry until golden brown and a crispy around the edges, then remove to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Salt to taste.

Top the pizza with some of the fried morels and serve the rest around the tart.

Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Slice it like a pizza to serve and enjoy!

Rustic Beef and Onion Tart with Crispy Fried Morels
1 lb. lean ground beef

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 of a medium red onion, cut into thin slices

1 tube refrigerated pizza dough

1 tub Italian Cheese and Herb Philadelphia Cooking Creme

1 lb. morel mushrooms, halved

1/2 cup flour

1 stick butter

fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. In a skillet, brown beef with garlic, salt, and pepper. Add onion stir-fry over medium heat until onion is tender. Drain off fat.

2. Meanwhile, grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment. Unroll pizza dough on baking sheet Roll or pat dough to a 15x12-inch rectangle. Spread with 1/2 of cooking creme. Top with beef mixture, keeping filling within 1-1/2 inches of all edges. Drop remaining cooking creme over the beef by spoonfuls. Fold edges over the filling, pleating as needed.

3. Bake tart 15 minutes or until crust is golden.

4. Meanwhile, heat butter in a heavy skillet. Toss morels with flour, shaking off the excess. Fry in the butter until golden brown and crisp around the edges. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain and salt to taste.

5. Top the tart with some of the fried morels and serve the rest around the tart. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serves: 4-6 

Note: If you don't have morel mushrooms, you can use regular button mushrooms. Either slice and toss them into the beef with the onion and bake into the tart or quarter and fry in butter just like I did with the morels, adding them to the tart after it bakes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Meal Plan and Grocery List 5/23- 5/29 PLUS Some Ideas For Your Weekend Cookout

It's been awhile since I posted a meal plan. Travel, yard work, and all of our spring activities have kept our little family hopping! We've been living off the reserves in our freezer in between my irregular shopping trips. For instance, tonight I pulled a Chicken Divan casserole out of the freezer for a no-fuss dinner. There's definitely some yummy food on the menu for this week and then for the long holiday weekend I am planning for some of our cookout favorites. Check out these past posts for ideas for your weekend festivities:
Grilling Favorites
My Favorite Pasta Salad and Jimmy Carter Cake
Macaroni Salad and Banana Cream Pie
More Cookout Favorites (including Black Raspberry Cream Freezer Pie!)

Here's the meal plan for this week:

Monday May 23rd

Chicken Divan

Tuesday May 24th

Rustic Beef and Onion Tart with Crispy Morel Mushrooms

Wednesday May 25th

Mexican Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Thursday May 26th

Spicy Pork with Asparagus and Chile

Friday May 27th

Tomato Basil Pizza

Saturday and Sunday May 28th & 29th

Cookout food (see links provided above)

Grocery List


red onion
1 lb. morel mushrooms or 8 oz. button mushrooms
2 heads romaine lettuce

3-4 large tomatoes
green onions
12 oz. asparagus spears
red jalapeno chile (or green if you can't find red)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. pork loin or 1 lb. coarsely ground pork


shredded cheddar
2 tubs Philly Cooking Creme- Italian flavor
2 tubes refrigerated pizza dough (I like Pillsbury Thin Crust)
shredded Mexican blend cheese
shredded mozzarella

Canned Goods

cream of chicken soup
lemon juice
hot sauce
olive oil
black beans
soy sauce
rice vinegar
sesame oil
oyster sauce

Dry Goods

bread crumbs
corn chips (like Fritos)


16 oz. package broccoli florets

I hope that all of you are having a wonderful week! Happy cooking!

Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars

I grew up eating a variety of rhubarb baked goods in the springtime. The stalks sprout up every year along my parent's grain shed. We baked everything from muffins and cake to crisps and  pie. Then we'd make still more into jam or freeze it and enjoy it all year 'round. I happen to love the stuff. The tart stalks play perfectly against the sugar in some my favorite desserts. When I found this recipe for Rhubarb Cheesecake Squares in the April/May edition of Taste of Home magazine, I knew that I would give it a try. I loved the sweet buttery crust and the crumb topping with the cream cheese filling. Seriously yummy! The next time I bake these, I will make a couple of adjustments, but overall this one is a keeper!

To make this recipe, I began with some rhubarb stalks. I prefer the free variety (from my parent's farm), but this time I had to settle for a package that I found on sale at my local market. If the rhubarb that you purchase looks like this, you'll need to cut off the dry, split ends.

I like to slice the stalks into thin strips first,

and then dice it up. The next time I make this, I will leave some slightly larger chunks. I really like to taste the rhubarb in my desserts.

Next, I began the crust/topping. I mixed together brown sugar, old fashion oats, and flour.

Then cut in a stick of unsalted butter until crumbly.

Reserve a cup of the mixture for topping and press the rest into the bottom of a greased 9-inch square pan.

Now to go to work on the filling...

Cream 8 oz. of cream cheese (I used Neuchatel) with 3/4 cup of sugar until smooth. Then add in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and some salt. (Next time I will omit the salt. The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon. It was too much. I could actually taste the salt.)

Add an egg and beat on low until just combined.

Fold in the rhubarb.

Spread the filling over the crust and sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top.

Bake the bars for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees until the topping is golden brown and the center is set.

Now, here's the worst have to wait. Let the pan cool for 1 hour on a rack, then chill for at least 2 hours before slicing. They are worth the wait. After 3 hours of cooling, they slice up beautifully!

Rhubarb Cheesecake Squares adapted from Taste of Home
16 Servings Prep: 20 min. Bake:35 min. + chilling


1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb


•In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup crumb mixture; press remaining mixture onto the bottom of a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Set aside.

•For filling, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in rhubarb. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.

•Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares.

Looking ahead:

Stay tuned for this week's meal plan (just one day late) tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Santa Fe Chicken Casserole

Have you heard about the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme? It has definitely been on my radar lately. I've seen the commercials, I've heard about it from friends who tried it (and loved it), and as a former participant in the Real Women of Philadelphia cooking contest, I've seen the product popping up messages regarding this year's contest (Which is going on right now!) I'm also a member of Kraft First Taste which gives me the opportunity to try (often for free) and review new products from Kraft Foods. Kraft First Taste sent me one coupon for a free tub of the new cooking creme and one for $1.50 off. The cooking creme is available in 4 flavors. I opted for the Santa Fe and the Italian varieties. I've already used both tubs and I have to say that I'm a fan! Each tub comes with 3 recipe recommendations attached to the container (which is where I found this Santa Fe Chicken Casserole) plus there are more posted HERE on their website. The cooking creme makes for a delicious base for recipes and eliminates the need for spices and seasoning (it's already in there!)

Here's how I made the Santa Fe Chicken Casserole:

First, I combined shredded chicken breast, black beans, diced tomatoes (I used a can of Rotel) and sliced green onions.

Then I scooped out 3/4 cup of the Santa Fe Cooking Creme and stirred it into the chicken mixture.

Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture into the bottom of a pie pan.

Top with 1 tortilla, half the remaining chicken mixture and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.

Cover with the second tortilla, remaining chicken mixture, 1/4 cup shredded cheese and finally the remaining tortilla. Spread with the remaining cooking creme and sprinkle with MORE shredded cheese. This final layer of cooking creme and cheese was super yummy when I bit into the casserole!

You're supposed to cover it before baking, but I missed that step. Oops. Bake for 20 minutes covered, then 5 minutes, uncovered.

Slice it up like and pie and serve. I served mine on a bed of lettuce for a nice cool, crisp bite with the cheesy casserole. My whole family loved this! Okay, so my kindergartner DID pick out the black beans...

Santa Fe Chicken Casserole from Kraft Foods

total time: 40 min
prep: 15 min
servings: 6 servings

What You Need
3 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz.) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained (I used Rotel)
2 green onions, sliced
1 tub (10 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Santa Fe Blend Cooking Creme, divided
3 flour tortillas (6 inch)
3/4 cup KRAFT Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese, divided

Make It

HEAT oven to 375ºF.

COMBINE first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add 3/4 cup cooking creme; mix lightly.

SPOON 1/3 of the chicken mixture into 9-inch pie plate; top with 1 tortilla, half the remaining chicken mixture and 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Cover with second tortilla, remaining chicken mixture, 1/4 cup shredded cheese and remaining tortilla. Top with remaining cooking creme and shredded cheese; cover.

BAKE 20 min. or until heated through; uncover. Bake 5 min. or until cheese is golden brown.

Kraft Kitchens Tip:

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro just before serving.

Serving Suggestion:

Serve with a crisp mixed green salad to round out the meal.

Nutritional information per serving

Calories 370 Total fat 14 g Saturated fat 7 g Cholesterol 95 mg Sodium 680 mg Carbohydrate 26 g Dietary fiber 6 g Sugars 5 g Protein 33 g Vitamin A 20 %DV Vitamin C 8 %DV Calcium 20 %DV Iron 15 %DV

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dim Sum Buns

Since I'm not working with a meal plan this week, I'm taking some time to catch up on a few of the recipes I made over the past few weeks instead... like these delicious Dim Sum Buns.

Dim Sum isn't a recipe for a specific food. Dim Sum is a category of food. Dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. It's what we would call appetizers, the French refer to as hor d'oeuvres, and the Spanish call tapas.

This particular recipe for Dim Sum Buns comes from The Pampered Chef Season's Best cookbook. I took them to a party a few weeks ago and left with an empty plate and compliments. Utilizing ready-made ingredients like crescent roll dough, these come together easily but look and taste like you fussed over them.

Here's what I did:

I combined ground turkey, sliced green onions, chopped water chestnuts, Asian seasoning mix, cornstarch, and soy sauce in a bowl.(For speedy preparation, this filling can be made a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.)

I didn't have any Asian Seasoning mix so I ended up using a Stir Fry mix which I found in the ethnic food aisle at the grocery store. Cornstarch was listed on the label, so I didn't need to add more.

Unroll a tube of crescent roll dough onto lightly floured pastry Mat. Pinch the seams together to seal. Roll into a 13 x 12-in. rectangle. Then cut the dough lengthwise into four strips and crosswise into fourths to form 16 rectangles.

Divide the filling evenly among the squares. Bring each of the corners of the dough to the center, then seal the seams.

Brush each bun with a little egg yolk and then sprinkle with sesame seeds before baking.

I served mine with a dipping sauce. (Unfortunately, I didn't write down the recipe for the sauce). I know that there was soy sauce, water, wasabi, ginger, green onion, sugar, and sesame oil in there. I just played with the ingredients until it tasted right. If you don't want to make your own, you could always purchase a dipping sauce like this Ginger-Wasabi Sauce.

Dim Sum Buns from The Pampered Chef

2 green onions with tops
1/3 cup (75 mL) sliced water chestnuts
8 oz (250 g) 93% lean ground turkey
2 tbsp (30 mL) Asian Seasoning Mix
1 tbsp (15 mL) cornstarch
2 tsp (10 mL) reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 egg yolk
2 tsp (10 mL) water
1 pkg (8 oz/250 g) refrigerated crescent rolls with no seams (see Cook’s Tip)
1/4 cup (50 mL) black or white sesame seeds or combination (optional)
1 cup (250 mL) Ginger-Wasabi Sauce

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly brush Large Round Stone with Handles with vegetable oil. Slice green onions using Color Coated Chef's Knife. Finely chop water chestnuts using Food Chopper. Combine turkey, green onions, water chestnuts, seasoning mix, cornstarch and soy sauce in Stainless (2-qt./2-L) Mixing Bowl; mix well. Combine egg yolk and water in (2-cup/500-mL) Prep Bowl; whisk well and set aside.

Unroll dough onto lightly floured Pastry Mat and roll into a 13 x 12-in. (33 x 30-cm) rectangle using Baker's Roller®. Using Pastry Cutter fitted with straight wheel, cut dough lengthwise into four strips, then crosswise into fourths to form 16 rectangles.
Using rounded Small Scoop, scoop turkey mixture onto centers of dough rectangles. Bring corners of each rectangle up toward center; pinch edges to seal. Arrange buns on baking stone; brush with egg yolk mixture using Chef's Silicone Basting Brush. Sprinkle buns evenly with sesame seeds, if desired.

Bake 16–18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove baking stone from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack. Serve buns with sauce.
Yield: 16 appetizers

Nutrients per serving: (1 appetizer, 1 tbsp/15 mL sauce): Calories 110, Total Fat 4.5 g, Saturated Fat 1.5 g, Cholesterol 20 mg, Carbohydrate 12 g, Protein 4 g, Sodium 340 mg, Fiber 0 g

Cook’s Tips: If desired, regular refrigerated crescent dough can be substituted for the crescent dough with no seams.

Toasted sesame seeds can be substituted for the black or white sesame seeds, if desired.

Sweet and sour sauce or peanut sauce can be substituted for the Ginger-Wasabi Sauce, if desired.

© 2011 The Pampered Chef used under license.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One Giant Catch Up Post: Mother's Day, A Post from the Farm, and A Field Trip

I pulled an unintended disappearing act from the blog this week. First, I was out of town. Then I was back, but too busy. And finally when I sat down to type, Blogger was "down" for like, 2 whole days. Ugh.

I just can't seem to find the time to post my kitchen adventures lately. I have pictures of recipes from all the way back to Easter, just waiting to be written about. I planned to catch up the blog with those posts this week. In addition to catching up, I had every intention of posting the latest meal plan as usual on Sunday. As it turned out, none of this planning mattered. Here's what really went down:

Mother's Day began as I had planned. I woke up early because my daughter would be performing at 2 church services and I needed to get everyone suited in their "Sunday best" and out the door in a timely fashion. (I'm laughing to myself as I type this because leaving on time seems to be a huge challenge for us, no matter how early we begin.) Alone in my kitchen, I started the coffee, then pulled up the blinds to check the weather. I was instantly taken in by the view of our backyard. The rising sun was shining through the mist that had settled close to the earth. The effect was so beautiful. I grabbed my camera and headed outside to try to capture the scene.

It almost didn't look real. It was more like a painting....

I contemplated taking my coffee out to the deck for a bit as I snapped one last picture of the sun coming up (Hmm. As I read this, I think I'm starting to understand why we have such difficulty with leaving on time. I'm easily distracted...) Just then, I heard my phone beeping in the kitchen with incoming text messages. At first, I thought it was my husband wishing me a happy Mother's Day from work (he went in at 5:00 am that morning). Instead, it was a message from my younger sister letting me know that she was finally (now a week over-due) in labor and checking into the hospital. Yay!

Over the next few hours (discretely checking messages through 2 services and a choir awards ceremony), I received updates from the delivery room where both of my little sisters were keeping me posted.

With a busy week ahead of me, I had resolved to wait until next weekend to make the trip home and see the new baby. But as the texts flew, I realized that everyone was there but me, I missed them all like crazy, and I felt SO far away. It only took one request from my sister followed by my husband urging me to "GO!" to change my mind. By mid-afternoon, I had my daughters and an overnight bag packed into the car as I turned onto the highway.

By 7 pm I had 6-hour-old baby Graysen in my arms. What a Mother's Day!

Isn't he precious?! And he already has GREAT hair!

And now for a post within a post....

A Post from the Farm

Some of you are familiar with my summer "Posts from the Farm". This unexpected Indiana trip to meet my nephew created the opportunity for a spring post from the farm. Let's call this one, "The Morel of the Story".

Every spring of my childhood found my family in the woods behind our house (or behind my grandma's house) fervently searching the ground for the morel mushroom.

The morel, in my opinion, is the best fungus on the planet. It's God's gift to fungi.

The morel is absolutely delicious. I can't compare it with anything else that I have tried. With the combined harvest from my uncles, cousins, and my family, my grandma would fry up a whole "mess" of mushrooms and we'd have a big family dinner. It was a tradition that ranked right up there with Christmas dinner and I loved it.

Unfortunately, the last time I attended a Mushroom Fry was before I graduated from college. In the last several years, my husband and I moved to Ohio, then back to Indiana, then to Georgia, then to Ohio again. My visits home never seemed to coincide with mushroom season. I may have felt a pang of jealousy when I heard that my family was enjoying the mushroom feast without me, but I was okay with it. Until this spring, that is... On the few warm days we've had, I have felt my eyes searching the ground during hikes through the woods with my daughters. "I wonder if they grow mushrooms here?" I thought. I started asking around; first questioning my neighbors and eventually anyone who would make eye contact with me while I was out and about. Every inquiry of "Does anyone here hunt mushrooms?" or "Do morel mushrooms grow here?" fell short. Most people didn't have a clue what I was talking about. When I explained, they looked at me like I was a little crazy. You mean you walk through the woods, pick fungus up off of the ground, and then fry and eat it? How do you know it's not poisonous? Well, I just do. I learned to spot a morel before I learned to read....

My craving started small and then grew into a monster as I saw my hometown facebook friends posting pictures of their mushrooms. The craving eventually evoked a bit of suspicion: Maybe the people around here DO hunt for mushrooms and they are just guarding their secret hunting spots. I even "Googled" it. While Ohio isn't the leader in mushroom hunting, they do find them here.

Luckily, before I started tailing my neighbors into the woods, my sister had a baby smack dab in the middle of Indiana mushroom season.

The morning after arriving  in my hometown, I was helping to watch my two young nephews while their parent's were at the hospital with the new baby. I convinced my mom to watch the two youngest kiddos and I set out for the woods with my oldest daughter and one of my nephews. After a quick stop by my uncle's house, we were outfitted with directions to a hunting spot, a truck that would get us there, a tall pair of rubber boots, and insect repellent (word has it that ticks are out in full force this year). This was my daughter's first time hunting. I was happy to pass on the tradition. She and my nephew were happy to crash through the woods together and find vines to swing on.

After 15 to 20 minutes of walking, I spotted the first 'shroom. It was the variety that mushroom hunters call a "spike". Click HERE to see pictures of the other types of morels that we hunt.

Over an hour later, we made it back to the truck with a mere 7 "spikes" in our bag. While I was happy that I had found something, 7 mushrooms hardly make for a meal. I needed more...

That evening, before the sun sank down past the horizon, I loaded the kiddos into my parent's John Deere Gator and set out for the woods again. I reasoned that since tmy children are closer to the ground, they might be able to spot the 'shrooms better than me. I was right! While we didn't find a ton of mushrooms, we did find enough for a meal. We even found some of the yellow sponge variety. (While the grey sponge is my favorite, the larger yellow sponge is a great find!)

Our bag o' morels.

Back at the house, I washed away the soil and removed any visible insects from the morels. I cut most of them in half, lengthwise up the stem, to search for any bugs hiding inside. Slicing also allows for more even frying with larger mushrooms. Then I soaked them in salted water for a few hours. This helps to remove any additional soil, chases out the remaining bugs, and keeps the mushrooms from drying out. You can leave them in the water overnight, if you like.

I drained off the water and gave mine a final rinse before laying them on paper towels to soak up the excess water. Then I carefully placed them in plastic baggies and put them in the fridge for the night.

I couldn't wait for dinner to eat my mushrooms, so the next morning I fried some for breakfast. Told ya I was having a craving...

It seems that everyone has a preference about the way they like their morels fried. I am most used to the way my grandma makes them: dipped in egg, dredged in flour, and fried in butter. My dad swears by just rolling them in flour, seasoning with salt and pepper and frying (in butter). He claims that this really lets the mushroom's flavor shine through. I'll try the next batch his way...

I had heard that my uncle's girlfriend fried some delicious mushrooms last week, so for this batch I decided to call and get her method. Her secret ingredient: pancake batter mixed in with plain all-purpose flour. She also adds olive oil to the butter, noting that just butter browns too fast during frying.

Here's what I did:

First, I whisked an egg into some milk. Then I dipped the mushrooms into the mixture.

I mixed equal parts of flour and pancake mix and then dredged the mushrooms in the combination. (I forgot to photograph this step). I dropped the coated mushrooms into a skillet heated with butter and olive oil and fried them until browned and crispy on one side,

and then the other.

Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Salt to taste.

This was breakfast. My arrangement turned out looking a bit like a tarantula, but don't let that fool you...each bite of the crispy-fried fungi was pure bliss.

A Field Trip (click HERE to read other "Field Trip" posts)

After my mushroom breakfast, my mom sent me on an errand that brought me to an impressive candy store. The Wakarusa Dime Store has been in business since 1907. Surprisingly, I had never heard of the place.

Just inside the entrance I was greeted with a huge display of flavored popcorn. After I tried each and every one (Hey, I hadn't had lunch yet. I was hungry!) I headed for the jelly bean aisle.

The Dime Store is also known as the "Home of the Jumbo Jelly Bean". Their jelly bean aisle certainly is impressive...

And there are samples everywhere!

Pictured below are pink grapefruit, pineapple, and I want to say mulberry (?). If you love jelly beans, then you will love jumbo jelly beans even more! I'm a chocolate kind of girl when it comes to candy, so it's no surprise that I was most impressed with the chocolate-covered cherry jumbo jelly bean. It was a tart cherry jelly bean covered in real chocolate. Surprisingly delicious!

Next, I drifted on my sugar-high cloud over to the vintage candy/taffy aisle. You name it, they've got it here!

The Dime Store is really part museum too. There are interesting things to see and read everywhere!

Anyone remember Sixlets? I actually found a package or two in my daughters' Halloween candy last year. At The Dime Store you can fill up on as many as you want...and choose the color scheme too!

I didn't even take any pictures of the front of the store where the hand-dipped chocolates and fudge were for sale. But I did get this...

They are pretty enough to be a rock collection, but they taste better than M&M's. Chocolate rocks! They were my favorite purchase of the day.

If you ever find yourself in Northeastern Indiana, stop by The Wakarusa Dime Store to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Speaking of Northern Indiana, I'm typing this from the passenger seat of our car on the way to Indiana...

Come See Me!

Tomorrow (Saturday May 14th) from 11:30 to 12:30 I will be giving a cooking demonstration in Napannee, Indiana at the new Kountry Cabinets and Home Furnishings, 252 W. Market Street. If you're in the area, stop on by! I'll be packing the perfect picnic with recipes like Tuscan Style Pork Loin, Caprese Salad Skewers, and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries.

I'd love to see you there!

Alrighty,  I've caught ya'll up a bit. Now that I'm posting again,  let's see if I can actually post some of the recipes I have made lately. I'll work on that this week...

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!
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