Category Archives: Midwest Inspired

Mom’s Beef Pot Roast – Paleo Style.

Mom's beef pot roast paleoIn 2011 I made some of my mom’s recipes for the blog. They are family recipes that hold a nostalgic soft spot in my heart, but they do include prepared food items as well as grain and dairy derived ingredients. These are things I do not eat anymore, and in fact, neither does my mom. So for myself, the blog, and mostly for her, I have remade one of her classics as a paleo dish (the recipe…not the process, I still use a crock pot, no camp fires for this girl). Yes, I know, it does still have high carb regular old potatoes in it, but once in a while, I think a homegrown organic potato is completely acceptable. Otherwise, this is the old standby now featured without dairy, GMOs, grains, and a million other corn based “food” stuffs. And while I am the first to admit this is not something you need to be eating every day, it is nice to have a childhood favorite made in a healthy manner so that it is available for those special, nostalgic occasions.

So, let’s start with the original recipe, because you are going to use this recipe and simply substitute the canned cream of mushroom soup and the package of onion soup mix. I did add more carrots and less potatoes (and if you want you could add some parsnips or other root veggies). Oh and I also used a 100% grass fed, USDA organic chuck roast, Yum! My roast came from TX Bar Organics and was only 2 pounds, but do not fret, it turned out just fine with the smaller roast (if you are looking to feed more mouths, use two roasts).

Original Recipe: Please click here!

I was first inspired to remake this recipe by a paleo cream of mushroom soup recipe that I used on Christmas Eve. I have made it a couple of times since for other dishes and the only thing I did a little differently this time was to make it thicker (just add a little more starch) than I had in the past, so that it would hold up through 8 hours in the crock pot.  I also made a double batch of soup (we like gravy!). I put the soup in the refrigerator overnight so that it would be as solid as possible going into the crock. I did not measure when I added it to the crock, I just used all of what I made. The cream of mushroom soup recipe is here (I am not posting the whole recipe on my page because you should most definitely click through and check out And Love it Too): Please click here!

A few other changes I have tested with this recipe that may be helpful to know.

  • If you are looking to make this gluten free, not paleo and don’t use coconut flour, brown rice flour works very well.
  • If you do not use arrowroot powder (I personally do not prefer the flavor) tapioca starch works beautifully.
  • If you want to better control the level of coconut flavor you get in your final product and do not mind using refrigerated coconut milk (I know many people will not use it, this is just an FYI), the recipe works fine with regular, unsweetened refrigerated coconut milk.
  • Again, for controlling the coconut flavor, use refined coconut oil (however, I have tried both and I taste no discernible difference).

The second change to the recipe is to make an onion soup replacement. Here is what I made, storing it in an airtight container so I can shake it up before using. I used five tablespoons in this dish. Ingredients (which you can play with of course!): 2/3 cup dried, minced onion, 3 teaspoon dried parsley flakes, 2 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

And there you have it. Mom’s beef pot roast, no packaging needed. Oooh, this is fun! I am enjoying reinventing past posts on my blog with a grain and dairy free approach.



Filed under Beef, Crock Pot Cooking, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Midwest Inspired, Mom's Recipes, Outside of the Box, Paleo

Offal with Grandma: Chicken Hearts & Gizzards.

This is a recipe I have always wanted to try. I remember having it at Grandma’s house growing up and watching all of my uncles fight over the hearts! I have watched my Grandma make this, but I do not have a recipe for it. So this is my best guess at her ingredient list and cooking process from what I can remember. I was really happy with the flavor and texture of the meat and think I did an ok job replicating what I remember from my childhood.

Chicken Hearts & Gizzards. 


4 oz unsalted butter

2 lbs chicken hearts and gizzards

1 medium onion

1/2 t kosher salt

1/4 t fresh cracked black pepper

1.5 C water


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Clean gizzards, making sure to remove any tough yellow membrane that still might be on them. Chop onion into larger pieces.

Melt butter in a large stock pot or roaster over medium heat. Add meat and onions, season with salt and pepper and brown for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add water, you may need more or less that the cup and a half. You just want to barely cover the meat. Put stock pot in oven for 2 – 2.5 hours, or until soft. Serve hot with your favorite sides.



Filed under Chicken, Midwest Inspired, Poultry

A Loaf of Meatloaf.

This is my first loaf of meatloaf. I have made muffin cup meatloaves before, somehow they seem less intimidating. But I have never made the loaf. The hubs says the only thing that can go wrong with a meatloaf is that it could be dry, so I was determined not to let that happen with this one. Besides, it needed to be moist enough to make yummy leftovers, and possibly meatloaf panini sandwiches (stay tuned). So I thought for a second about looking up some recipes, then I abandoned that and came up with this instead. It has some fresh veg in it that you might not have on hand and that is totally ok. If you don’t have kohlrabi sub in a little turnip (two small) or other veg that has a decent amount of moisture in it, you could also try just using the carrot, it will likely turn out just fine. I used the veg to keep the loaf moist.

A Loaf of Meatloaf (and a side of glaze). Serves 6-10.

Meatloaf Ingredients

1 T olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 crimini mushrooms, finely diced

1/4 t kosher salt

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 lb 5% fat ground beef

1 lb 20% fat ground pork

1/4 C bread crumbs (I used Italian style)

1 large egg, beaten

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1/2 t fresh rosemary, minced

1/2 t fresh thyme, minced

1/2 t kosher salt

1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper

1 large carrot, shred

1 medium kohlrabi, shred

Meatloaf Procedure

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and sauté onions and mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, until soft and the onions are transparent. Add garlic, stir, cook for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Grease a metal or oven-safe glass 9×5 loaf pan. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Push mixture together in a loaf shape about the size of the pan and transfer to the loaf pan. Bake in the oven, uncovered for one hour and 15 minutes (if this seems long remember how much moisture you have added with all the veg). Remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the glaze. Remove the loaf from the cooking pan as the loaf will have likely let out quite a bit of moisture (you might avoid this by cooking the shredded veg, but I like it to maintain its form and not be mushy) Plate on a platter or in another dish and top with glaze. Cut and serve.

Glaze Ingredients

1 T honey

2 T BBQ sauce (your favorite one)

1 T water

1 t tomato paste

1/2 t granulated garlic

pinch of kosher salt

Glaze Procedure

Combine ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. When mixture is heated through and all ingredients are melted and combined the glaze is ready to be drizzled over the meatloaf, about 5 minutes.


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Filed under Beef, Casseroles/Bakes, Dairy Free, Midwest Inspired, Pork

A Garden Sleeper: The Tomatillo and some Salsa.

For two years I have tried to grow tomatillos and for two years I have failed (or so I thought). They take up a lot of space in the garden and never seem to ripen on time. So this season, the end of year two, I am cleaning out garden beds to make way for cover crops and winter veggies and I rip out the first of two tomatillo plants.

Annoyed I am thinking about how I am not going to plant tomatillos next year. All I want is a little green salsa, that is all. And I toss the gigantic plant to the side and look down into the bed and see two fully formed, ripe and ready to use tomatillos. What?!? So I start investigating the plant and there are more, MORE! I was so excited I ran inside and woke up the hubs, who was trying to sleep past 8 (which is tough to do when you live with me), I shove handfuls of fully ripe, ready-to-use tomatillos in his face, exclaimed LOOK! and ran out to check the other plant straight away. In all, I ended up with a mere 16 ounces, but that is 16 ounces I did not know even existed! That is 16 ounces that I used to make this lovely salsa.

Easy Tomatillo Salsa.


1 lb tomatillos

1 small onion, rough chopped

3 T cilantro

juice of 1/2 lime

1 jalapeño

1/4 t sugar

1/4 t kosher salt

Peel and wash the tomatillos. Seed the jalapeño if you want to control the heat of the final product and rough chop it. Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is the texture you are looking for. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or as a topping for any Mexican style dinner.


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Filed under Appetizer, Condiments and Seasonings, Dairy Free, Edible Plants, From the Garden, Garden, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Midwest Inspired, Sauce and Gravy, Snacks

Skillet Macaroni & Cheese.

I have still got the itch to cook with the skillet we picked up while on vacation. I really don’t know why either. There is just something about it that makes me feel warm inside. With all of the comfort food rolling around the internet these days and my own uncontrollable urge to wrap myself in warm, gooey foods, I thought the next natural dish for the skillet would be mac and cheese!

This came together really quickly and I think the original recipe was written in a way that any home cook can replicate it. It uses one 11 inch skillet and one pasta pot. How simple is that! I found it over at Serious Eats, who credited Jennifer Hess of Last Night’s dinner. You can read the original here. The result was a beautiful dish that made my heart sing and I just had to share it.

Skillet Macaroni & Cheese.


1 pound dry pasta (I used tri-colored veggie shells)

1/4 C unsalted butter 

1/4 C flour

2 C whole milk

1 C heavy cream

dash of hot sauce (I used Frank’s)

1 t dried mustard

1 t kosher salt

2 C sharp farmhouse cheddar, shredded

1 C Gruyere, shredded

1 C fresh parmesan, grated (1/2 C reserved for topping and not put into sauce)

2 C panko bread crumbs

1/2 t dried thyme

1/2 t dried oregano

Get pasta boiling in a large stock pot, season water with salt if you like. Remove and drain when the pasta is al dente. (If you are using shells it is okay if the centers still have quite a bit of tooth.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat skillet over medium heat and melt butter. Add flour and whisk to ensure the mixture is smooth and silky. Slowly add milk and cream, whisking continuously. Add hot sauce, mustard, and salt and continue whisking.

Begin adding cheese a little bit at a time (like 1/2 handful) whisking until all of the cheese is melted before adding more. When all of the cheese is melted add pasta and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl mix reserved parmesan, bread crumbs, and herbs together and sprinkle over the top of the pasta and cheese.

Place in oven over a cookie sheet (in case anything drips while cooking) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving because it is going to be hot!


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Filed under Casseroles/Bakes, Cheese, Midwest Inspired, Pasta

Chicken Pot Pie Soup.

Three words: chicken.pot.pie. Does that not entice wonderful thoughts of dark evenings, warm fires, and quiety falling snow outside? It does for me. It is the blanket of all foods, warm and cozy, it wraps your insides in in the equivalent of a down parka. Chicken pot pie reminds me of being a child, it carries a warm sense of nostalgia with it.

Well, this did not actually turn out as chicken pot pie. I have execution issues with this dish, I always have and this rendition was no different. I thought I had it in the bag. I was going to use my homemade cream of chicken soup as the creamy base for the gravy. Only one problem…the base of my cream of chicken soup is broth…not congealing chemicals and corn by-products…so the result was brothy! I ended up with a fantastic chicken soup that was topped with a gorgeous puff pastry. It was absolutely delicious. Have no fear, I will be back with chicken pot pie at some point, but today I give it to you in soup form. Just another warm, comfort food for fall!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup.


1 1/2 C homemade cream of chicken soup

1 chicken breast, cooked and small diced

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 large potato, finely diced

4 crimini mushrooms, finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

1 small onion, small diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper

1 t dried thyme

1 piece of puff pastry, thawed if frozen

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine all ingredients except puff pastry and butter in a large mixing bowl. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray and fill with mixture. Cover with puff pastry.

Place in preheated oven and cover with a foil tent. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 25-35 minutes longer, until the puff pastry is puffed and golden brown.


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Filed under Casseroles/Bakes, Chicken, Midwest Inspired, Outside of the Box, Vegetables

Crock Pot Chicken Soup.

I know it is still hot around most of the country, it’s hot as heck here, finally getting well over 90 for the first time. But I can already feel fall in the air, it is coming (or at least that is what I am telling myself). Fall is my FAVORITE. For me, fall is a great time for soup because there are still plenty of fresh garden veggies but the air is beginning to cool and comfort foods are starting to sound good again.

I got the original recipe for this soup from family friend Sue. She is the one that motivated me to make homemade cream of chicken soup, while making her lasagna. The recipe was originally made as a gluten-free dish and was posted on WebMD, here. I thought this would be better called crock pot chicken soup on my blog, because I am not sure if any of my variations made it less gluten-free and since I am not buffed up in the topic, I did not want to mislead anyone.

Crock Pot Chicken Soup.


2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

1-2 t olive oil

1 t sea salt

1 t fresh cracked black pepper

1 14 oz fresh or canned chicken broth (low sodium)

1 C dried spelt, kamut, or wheat berries

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 1/2 C green cabbage, shredded

1 medium zucchini, diced

2 C potatoes, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 C sweet corn (I used fresh off the cob, but you can sub 1 cup of frozen)

1 lb tomatoes (skinned, seeded and diced) or one 14 oz can

1 T each of three of your fresh favorite herbs, minced (1 t each of dried)

1 T sea salt

1 t fresh cracked black pepper

2 T olive oil

Rub chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Place in the bottom of a six quart slow cooker. Top with broth. Continue to prepare remaining ingredients and layer them into the slow cooker in order as listed above.

Add water if the liquid level does not just cover the ingredients. Place lid and turn on high. Stir top vegetable ingredients after about two hours (not required, I just like stirring things I am cooking in the crock pot!). Cook for 6 hours, or until chicken shreds when stirring.


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Filed under Chicken, Crock Pot Cooking, Edible Plants, From the Garden, Garden, Grains/Rice, Midwest Inspired, Soup/Stew, Vegetables

Strawberries and Buttermilk Shortcakes.

For our second unplanned Labor Day weekend BBQ, I was inspired by the Oregon transitional strawberries that I saw at the market on Friday. A true sign of an ending season, something called “transitional”. So sad, I had not even made strawberry shortcake this year. Ever since the Skis took over harvesting our strawberries for us {wink, wink} I have stopped using them in dishes. But I could not resist, I had to buy some.

I made the strawberries just as my mom always did when we were growing up. It is so simple and pure. She did not however have a shortcake recipe so I had to go find on of those.  I decided to alter my breakfast biscuits by adding sugar and vanilla.

Macerated Strawberries.


2 lbs fresh strawberries, as sweet as you can find

1/4-1 C evaporated cane sugar

Slice strawberries into a large bowl (you will end up with about 8 cups of berries). Sprinkle with 1/4-1/2 C of sugar, depending on how sweet they are. Remember, you can always add more sugar. Mix and allow the berries to sit for 10-15 minutes. Check their sweetness and repeat using 1/4 C of sugar if needed. My “transitional” berries required just over 1/2 C of sugar, so if you have super sweet peak season berries, I would be surprised if you needed more than 1/4 C.

Buttermilk Shortcakes.


2 C flour

1/2 C evaporated cane sugar

1 T baking powder

1/4 t kosher salt

5 1/2 T unsalted butter

3/4 C buttermilk, + 1 T if dough is dry

1 t pure vanilla extract

1 t evaporated cane sugar, reserved for topping

Cut butter into small chunks and place in the freezer. Pre-measure buttermilk and also place this in the freezer. Preheat oven to 450.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bin of a food processor, pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until the mixture has a sandy texture (about 5-10 seconds). This can be done by hand if you don’t have a processor. Add buttermilk and vanilla extract and process just until the dough comes together (about 5 seconds).

Drop 1/4 cup at time (use a measuring cup if you need too) onto a silpat lined baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with reserved sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Serve shortcakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream!


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Filed under Bread, Dessert, Fruit, Midwest Inspired, Mom's Recipes, Vegetarian

Sort of Sue’s Chicken Lasagna.

I was recently challenged by a family friend. I was in town for my Whirlwind Trip that I told you about when my parent’s best friend Sue asked if I had made her chicken lasagna recipe that she sent me. I had not. Much to my chagrin, I replied, “no”, and she said “I was hoping you would try it because I wanted to see how you would change it. You always change everything.” She is right, I do. So I got to thinking about it, why hadn’t I made that recipe. It was intriguing enough, but something had held me back. So I dug out the email where she had sent it to me….last June and the email where I responded that I would give it a try. Shoot! I really screwed this one up. So I printed the recipe again and took a look at it. Then I remembered, I had not made the recipe because it has cream of chicken soup in it, the canned kind. I know sometimes I will use these ingredients when covering someone elses recipe, but I really don’t like the flavor of cream of chicken soup.

This time though, I read the recipe and heard Sue’s voice ringing in my ears…”I wanted to see how you would change it.” So I thought about my challenge and how to best proceed next and out of sheer happenstance, I stumbled upon the most intriguing blog that I shared with you yesterday. It was a post where someone has adapted James Beard’s cream of chicken soup. An adaptation that I just had to try!

This is my version of this recipe with Sue’s ingredients listed in parentheses where I have subbed them. Make whichever version you are most comfortable with or mix them together!

Sort of Sue’s Chicken Lasagna.


about 6 lasagna noodles

16 oz sour cream

2 C cream of chicken soup (or 2 cans if you must)

1 6 oz can of black olives, sliced

2 C chicken breast (or two cans), cooked

2 C cheddar cheese, shredded

1 C grated parmesan cheese

3 cloves of garlic, minced (Sue subs granulated garlic, I would say 2 T would be enough)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

I also have to add some veggies to this one, so:

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)

Boil water in a large stock pot. Add noodles and cook to package instructions. Or you can use the no boil noodles. Again prepare as directed on the package.

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients reserving 1/2 of the cheese to use as a topping. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread 1/3 of the filling on the bottom of the dish and cover with half of the noodles. Spread the next 1/3 of filling over the noodles and top with remaining noodles. Finish with the rest of the filling mixture and spread remaining cheese over that.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, making sure the foil is raised off the cheese so it does not bake together. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more. Remove lasagna from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes before cutting.


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Filed under Casseroles/Bakes, Cheese, Chicken, Midwest Inspired, Pasta

Whirlwind of a Trip to the Great Midwest.


Welcome to the Mitten State, the Wolverine State, the Petoskey State, the Great Lake State. Welcome to Michigan. I was born and raised in the state of Michigan. It is as unique as the rest of them with a long and arduous history that many know well. It is the birthplace of Motown, The Ford’s, Gibson Guitar Company, and many, many more companies we know and love. Every year I get back to Michigan for one reason or another and this year was no different.

Our trip back this year was quick, only a handful of days, but it was jam-packed with many activities (mostly eating). I wanted to share some of the highlights with you here. (A quick disclaimer that these were all taken with the phone so they are a little blurry!!)

Our first visit was to a newer restaurant called BOLD Restaurant. The parents have been raving about it for a while now and I have to say that this was without a doubt the best cooked and presented food I have had in southern Michigan, especially in my small town! It was amazing. It was fresh, perfectly seasoned and even the seafood items were awesomely cooked to perfection.

After our wonderful dinner, the next day was started with a traditional Midwest diner breakfast at Red’s Grill. It was a well-rounded way to start our first full day of vacation, especially because we had some entertaining to do with the niece and nephew that afternoon! The day was rounded out by a trip to Bowker’s Pizza Parlour & Grill for a nice dinner with my dad, step-mom, three sisters, a niece, and a nephew!! This is a great piece of nostalgia for me. We used to go here once a year or so and it was a blast this time around as well!

The next day was the reason for the trip, the WEDDING! One of my longest friends was to be wed and it is why I was in Michigan to begin with. The day started with lunch at Bell’s Brewery! Though we usually stop in for new shirts and fun take aways, the hubs had not actually had a beer on site, so we ventured in with the parents for a pre-wedding lunch. They have the best Reuben I have had in a long time, and this is not an easy thing to do!

The wedding was up next and was amazing. My friend was absolutely stunning and all of the planning really paid off. From an attendees perspective, the day was perfect!

With one day to go we were getting tired! The last day was spent at my parent’s summer place with good friends, relaxing, drinking and eating! We started the day at the Howe Restaurant (no website available!). They made an even better Midwest breakfast that the one enjoyed on Thursday which very necessary for soaking up post wedding beers from the night before! For an afternoon treat we headed to the beloved JoJo’s Pretzels. I cannot travel home without getting this scrumptious treat. And then to finish up the eating tour that became our last day my parents made a shrimp boil for dinner and in typical Midwest fashion, the dish was comforting and oh-so-yummy!

The next day we wearily headed back to the Great Northwest with another Midwest jaunt under the belts we were wearing a little loser for the flights home!



Filed under Holiday, Midwest Inspired, Travel