Donut Day

The farmers market in our town has always been spectacular. All the vegetables and fruits are delicious, but the donuts are the real attraction. Forget all the fancy donut places with their unique toppings. The donuts are made in the church basement, sent out through the window still warm. They are the real deal!

Through the organization that have provided my kids day care for the past 10+ plus years, I got the opportunity to go behind the scenes and take part in making the donuts.  Sign me up! And I jumped at the chance to cook the donuts, even if it meant getting up at the crack of dawn. On the plus side, there were plenty of parking spots.

donut alarm

The kitchen was already in full swing when I got there just after 4 am. I found my spot at the frying station and they taught us the ropes. We dove right in and starting making donuts at a good clip.

Each week a different organization helps out making the donuts, under the supervision of the regular church donut staff. The organization gets to take home a percentage of the proceeds. It can take as long as 10 years to get a spot in the rotation!


Oak Park Farmers Market

Huge lines form for these donuts, three varieties are served. Plain, cinnamon sugar, and powdered sugar. The plain are my favorite, but as I learned Saturday the cinnamon sugar is pretty amazing when they are warm. The powdered sugar are so darn messy, my kids always order those  no matter how hard I tried to persuade them otherwise.

They have the donut making routine pretty nailed; make the dough, pour it in the donut dropper, cook, clip, cook, move to the try table, tray, coat and serve. The kitchen was a well oiled machine.

donut dough

Each batch makes about 75 donuts. Between 4am and 11am we made about 35 batches, about 6 bags of spice cake doughnut mix. They make anywhere from 6-7000 per day!

Donut Dough

I learned more about the shortening then I care to know, I liked to refer to it as the secret sauce. We went through two of these, not sure how many pounds it was.

Donut Day

The tools of the trade? Drum sticks to flip them. Took a few batches and then we could flip them with only one stick.

Donut Day

Once you flip them, they only take about 10-30 secs to finish to a nice golden brown.

Donut Day

Then it is off to the trays and to get their tasty coating. After my frying shift, my son showed up to help too. These two were expert coaters.

Donut Helpers

Though they really loved walking around handing out samples. I mean, everyone is happy to see you, what is not to like?

Donut Helpers

But lets be real, getting paid in donuts is what it is all about!

Donut Helpers

So mannnnny donuts!

Donut Day

And jugs and jugs of coffee to go with it. Lucky for me, it was a cool day. I could not imagine being in that kitchen over the frying when it is really hot out.


The coffee jugs were a workout to get up and out the window to the server.

Donut Day

From what I was told, the proceeds from the 24 Saturdays they sell donuts, it pays all the utilities for the church for the year. Not a bad deal. We are looking forward to volunteering again next year.

Donut Day

Check out Saveur’s write-up from back in 2011, they are often list as the best doughnut in Chicago by Chicago Magazine too. But most important, make a trip out and try them yourself.


Marinated Cauliflower Salad

My love of cauliflower is well documented. And while I normally prefer it roasted, this salad is a great way to enjoy it in the summer when you dread cranking up the oven.

cauliflower salad


Marinated Cauliflower Salad
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • ¼ red onion, finely diced
  • ⅓ cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • ½ teaspoon garlic chili sauce
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • black pepper, freshly ground
  1. Chop cauliflower into bit size pieces
  2. Finely dice the red onion and parsley
  3. combine cauliflower, red onion, raisins, and caraway seeds in a large bowl
  4. In another bowl make dressing, add garlic chili sauce, parsley, dried oregano, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour dressing over cauliflower and stir to coat.
  6. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate a couple of hours or overnight.

Caraway seeds add peppery licorice flavor, it also evokes the flavor of meat to me. Probably because a soft rye with caraway seeds is essential for a killer corned beef sandwich. The golden raisins add sweetness that is tamed with the bite of the red onion. The garlic chile sauce gives it just enough heat.

marinated cauliflower salad

This salad gets better the longer it sits, so make a big batch and eat it all week. Serve it as a meal over salad greens, as a side dish, or even on some fresh bread for a veggie sandwich.

cauliflower salad

No matter how you chose to eat this salad, it is delicious!


Radish Crostini

The radishes were another gorgeous item we saw at the farmers market this past weekend. When we walked past this bunch on the table the 8 year-old said “I want some of those”.


Of course, I had to grab a bunch to take home. Such beauties.


Knowing radishes have a bite, I didn’t want that to be my son’s first taste of a radish. I figured I’d sweetened to deal with some butter.

radishes with butter and salt

This is my absolute favorite way to eat radishes. I especially love this combo on a steamy summer day. The cool crisp radish with the sweet butter. The touch of salt is the pièce de résistance!

He loved it! Phew.

radishes with butter and salt

We were having a going away party for our friends so I made up a batch to serve. Spread some butter on grilled bread, top with sliced radish and top with a pinch of salt. These went fast!


Market Day {Rhubarb Syrup}

I finally made it to the farmers market, everything was G O R G E O U S!


The colors were so vibrant. Must be all the rain.


Look at this rhubarb, amazing. I love the pink with white polka dots.

Rhubarb Syrup

It was a steamy day so I stuck to fruits and veggies that didn’t need any major cooking. Summer is prime time for simple cooking.

Rhubarb Syrup

It doesn’t get more simple than a simple syrup. After all, there IS a reason it’s called simple syrup.

Rhubarb Syrup

Rhubarb Syrup
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 1 lb. rhubarb, rough chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot
  2. Stir to combine and heat over medium heat
  3. Cook about 10 minutes until fruit gets soft
  4. Mash fruit and cook about 10 more minutes
  5. Cool and then strain out the fruit
  6. Store liquid in a glass jar in fridge
The strained out fruit makes a delicious quick jam spread.


The rhubarb syrup makes a great addition to your favorite cocktail, or with seltzer. Next time I plan to add some fresh ginger and basil when making the syrup, I think that will be a great addition.

Rhubarb Syrup

See, simple!

Breakfast Time {Muesli}

Breakfast is a challenge on work days. My preference is something savory, low-carb, and satisfying. Oh, and I try to keep breakfast around 300 calories. Eggs are a preferred choice, though I prefer to eat later in the morning (at work), so they are not a great option most days. Chobani black cherry yogurt with a tablespoon of peanut butter is my fallback option. It doesn’t always satisfy though, I end up really hungry before lunch. Ditto on smoothies. Granola is an easy add-in for the yogurt, but shoots the calories and carbs way up. Besides, MUST EAT ALL THE GRANOLA.

I am finally climbing out of a long winter rut that did not include much cooking or kitchen creativity. The other day I passed by the bookcase with the overflow of cookbooks in our basement, and a few caught my eye. As I was looking through Super Natural Every Day the muesli recipe caught my eye. I love how Heidi Swanson wrote the recipes in this cookbook, she lists the star ingredients directly under the recipe title. I immediately saw it called for oats, golden raisins, Marcona almonds. Oats, check. Marcona almonds, check – just happened to buy a large container of from Costco, check. Golden raisins, check – leftover from another recipe (coming soon).



Muesli is like granola, except it is raw. No baking obviously makes the prep super simple. No oil or sweeteners, which keep the sugar and fat in check. The recipe fits nicely in a quart size mason jar. I only strayed from the recipe a bit, I could not find wheat or oat germ any where, I used oat bran that I had on hand instead.


You can serve the muesli in milk like a cereal or mixed into yogurt. I mixed it into plain nonfat Greek yogurt, let it sit in the fridge overnight, and added in my toppings of choice right before eating.

Muesli with Greek yogurt

Admittedly, it is not much to look at. But can we talk about the bowl for a minute? My daughter made it at school. in fact, she made all the bowls pictured. We are lucky that our high school has a kick-ass arts department, with a ton of offerings. This was her first wheel throwing class, and the pottery she made is phenomenal.

muesli blueberry

Top with your favorite fruit. Or stir in nut butter, or cinnamon.

Muesli maple

Or top with one teaspoon of pure maple syrup and a few chopped Marcona almonds. Whatever you like!

Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 3 cups oats, old fashioned
  • 1/2 Marcona almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Stir to combine all ingredients
  2. Store in an airtight quart size container
  3. Makes 8-1/2 cup servings

Here is how I made mine, letting it sit overnight. I used a 1/2 cup of water and it was still very thick. Adjust to your taste. Left to combine overnight, I did not find the oats chewy or doughy and the almonds still had a bite to them. According to my calculations for a serving of muesli + yogurt = 248 calories, 6 grams of fat, 34 carbs, 4.5 fiber, 9 sugar, 17.5 protein.

muesli strawberry

Muesli with Yogurt
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
  • 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, nonfat
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water (depending on how thick you want it)
  • 1/2 cup of Muesli
  1. Stir to combine
  2. Let sit in fridge overnight
  3. Optionally, when serving stir in sweetener, fruit, nuts, raisins, nut butter of choice
I used 1/2 cup of water, and it was still thick.

Fulfills all my requirements, savory, low-carb, and very satisfying. A great workday option for breakfast, especially in the summer.


Seared Ahi Tuna with Chili Garlic Ginger Sauce

I haven’t been making much worth sharing lately. But this, this makes up for it.


seared ahi tuna with chili garlic ginger dipping sauce

While this Ahi is delicious, it’s all about the sauce.

Chili Garlic Ginger Dipping Sauce

It may not look like much, but there is a whole lot of awesome packed in that little bowl. The chili garlic sauce and pickled ginger being the leads on flavor.

chili garlic sauce

Move over Sriracha, I have rekindled an old flame. This goes on everything! Morning, noon, and night. It packs way more depth of flavor with the garlic and less spicy chili.  The sweetness of the pickled ginger mellows out the heat, so don’t fear the spice in the sauce, or add more chile garlic if you want more heat.

seared ahi tuna with chili garlic ginger dipping sauce

Clearly, I prefer my tuna very rare. I marinated the steak in soy sauce for about 30 minutes. Patted each side dry, and then coated the top and bottom in toasted sesame seeds.  Sear it in a hot pan, with a touch of oil, for about 1-2 minutes per side.  Let cool, slice and serve.

The tuna is even better if you park it in the fridge until well chilled. Great as an appetizer or a main course. Perfect for a hot summer night.

Seared Ahi Tuna and Chili Garlic Ginger Dipping Sauce
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 Ahi tuna steaks
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • Sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons rice whine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet pickled ginger
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons garlic chili sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  1. Ahi Tuna Steaks:
  2. In a shallow dish or zip bag, cover the tuna steaks with soy sauce and garlic. Marinate for 30 minutes in fridge.
  3. While steaks marinate, toast sesame seeds and make sauce
  4. Heat a skillet under medium heat. Toast sesame seeds, about 2 minutes and remove pan to a plate to avoid burning
  5. Combine first five sauce ingredients in a bowl
  6. Whisk in mayonnaise until smooth and creamy, park in fridge
  7. Remove steaks from marinade, pat dry
  8. Coat top and bottom of steak in sesame seeds
  9. Heat skillet over medium-high heat, with oil to coat
  10. Sear steaks 1- minutes per side
  11. Cool steaks and slice about 1/4″ think, against the grain
  12. Serve with sauce and pickled ginger

For me, the tuna becomes a conduit for maximum sauce enjoyment. Try it with shrimp or even grilled steak.


Easiest Caramel Corn Ever {Cayenne Cinnamon Caramel Corn}

This my friends is the easiest caramel corn recipe ever. It helps when you can rely on culinary geniuses to make delicious ingredients to get you started. Case in point, cayenne cinnamon caramel sauce from Chocolate Twist.

caramel sauce

Though of course you could make your own caramel sauce, or just use store-bought. This recipe came out of the fact my husband ordered a lifetime supply of microwave popcorn from the Boy Scouts. Well, that and the fact I wanted an excuse to dig into this jar of cayenne cinnamon caramel sauce.

easiest caramel corn

Pop the popcorn, heat the sauce with some brown sugar, combine and bake in the oven. Easiest caramel corn ever!

cayenne cinnamon caramel corn

I used buttered flavored popcorn, which made the end result tastes like kettle-caramel corn magic. Oh, and you think it can’t better, but it can if you throw in some cashew halves.

caramel popcorn

Easy Caramel Corn
Recipe Type: Snacks, Dessert
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
  • 2 single-serve bags microwave popcorn, butter flavor (about 18 cups popped)
  • 4 oz caramel sauce
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • cashews halves (optional)
  1. Pop bags of popcorn and pour into a large bowl
  2. In a small saucepan, heat caramel sauce and brown sugar over medium heat, stir until combined and sugar is melted with no lumps
  3. Add cashews to popcorn, if using
  4. Pour caramel sauce over the popcorn and stir to coat
  5. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper, spread the popcorn in a single layer
  6. Heat in over for 45 minutes, stir every 15 minutes
  7. Cool and break large pieces apart

See, easiest caramel corn recipe ever!


My Valentines {Strawberry Scones with Honey Butter}

Nothing says “I Love You” quite like butter and heavy cream. Right? Oh and strawberries. Ya know what else, the smell of strawberries drying in the oven is AMAZING! Heat oven to 200 degrees, slice the strawberries, arrange in single layer on parchment lined cookies sheet. Cook for 4 hours, flip at the halfway point. Voila, a bowl of goodness.

Oven Dried Strawberries

The strawberries were for these rich and buttery strawberry scones. The recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. This cookbook has reliable, easy recipes. Scones being one of the easiest to make, I had these in the oven in under 15 minutes. Lots of butter and cream baked in.

Strawberry scones

Butter is love, so I whipped up some honey butter to slather on the scones. Beat room temperature butter with honey, to taste. I used 1 stick of butter and about 2 tablespoons of honey. Kerrygold salted butter is best, the touch of salt is just perfect with the sweetness of the honey.

Honey Butter

Strawberry scones and honey butter, love that lasts.

Strawberry Scone with Honey Butter

Go make some for you Valentine, they’ll love you for it!

Commute Free Cooking {Spicy Herbed Feta}

The best part of working from home is (besides being able to eat Brussel sprouts for breakfast) the time I save on commuting can be spent in the kitchen. Relaxed time in the kitchen, without the normal rush of a weeknight meal. It gives me time to dig into recipes on my to-cook list. A few weeks back I ran across this recipe for oven-roasted chicken shawarma, and it went right to the top of my list. Right next to this naan bread.

Over the weekend I stocked up on meat at Costco. The organic skinless and boneless chicken breast are the best we’ve had. Same goes for the organic grass-fed beef. A bit more expensive than non-organic, but worth the price to us since we only eat meat few times a week, and mostly because the flavor can’t be beat. I grabbed some organic skinless and boneless chicken thighs too, since the shawarma recipe called for them.

Chicken Shawarma Dinner

I made the marinade on Sunday, and marinated the chicken for couple of days in a Ziploc bag. so they were ready to go. The naan bread was easy, but took some active cooking time. I followed the recipe exactly (minus the Tandorri), and it turned out perfect.

As you can see, not a completely traditional meal. I served it with cucumber, tomato, avocado (because I forget to pick-up hummus), spicy herbed feta, and giardiniera (because my husband and son put that shit on everything they eat).  The feta was leftover from an appetizer I served on Sunday, spicy herbed feta.

Spicy Herbed Feta

The feta was a quick appetizer served on bread, though you can serve it with picks on an olive tray and skip the bread. Or if you want something more spreadable, whip it up in the food processor with a bit of milk to make a dip.

Spicy Herbed Feta
Recipe Type: Appetizer, Condiment
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
  • ½ cup extra virgin oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 red jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lemon – rind, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 8oz feta cheese (block, not crumbled)
  1. Combine oil and garlic in a small pan over medium heat. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Stir parsley, basil, jalapeno (to taste), lemon rind, and pepper into oil.
  3. Cut block of feta into cubes and place in a container. Pour oil mixture over the cheese and let sit for about 2 hours.

It was a great addition to the shawarma dinner. It wasn’t too spicy, and the creamy rich with the cool tomato and cucumbers was just right.

Spicy Herbed Feta

Cooking beats commuting any day in my book. And it was time well-spent, every bite of this meal was better than the last. The kids even wolfed it down.

Spice of Life {Saffron Fettuccine with Spiced Butter}

Let’s see if I remember how to do this. 😉

I’ve made a few recipes from the Plenty cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. This cookbook is gorgeous, with a plush cover and amazing photos, I just love to read through it. Ottolenghi makes it easy to succeed with simply written recipes, and every one I have attempted has been noteworthy; Caramelized Garlic Tart, Smoky Frittata, and Burnt Eggplant with Tahini. Tonight’s was no exception, fresh fettuccine topped with spiced butter.

Fettuccine with Spice Butter and Salmon

The original recipe calls for homemade tagliatelle, I didn’t attempt that. Maybe another time. We also decided to top the fettuccine with salmon, baked simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was delicious but honestly the pasta didn’t need it. The pasta stands on its own, just as Ottolenghi intended.

Saffron Fettuccine with Spice Butter
Author: Jacky Hackett
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces fresh fettuccine, 4 servings
  • 2 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 tablespoons mint, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  1. Combine butter, oil, shallots, and onions in a large skillet.
  2. Cook until the shallots and onions are softened, about 10-15 mins.
  3. Mix in ginger, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and keep warm.
  4. Cook pasta, add saffron and salt to the cooking water. Boil noodles per directions provided with noodles. Drain once cooked.
  5. Combine spiced butter and cooked noodles.
  6. Put pasta on plates, top with mint, parsley and pine nuts.

The original recipe also called for turmeric, which I sent my husband to the store for and then forgot to include. For the best, once he smelled it, he decided he probably wouldn’t like the addition, I agreed.

Spiced Butter

This spiced butter isn’t the prettiest, but holy crap did it smell and taste amazing. A savory cinnamon spice smell that just warms the soul. The flavor was rich and satisfying. A great meal!

I regret not making Biz’s Naan bread recipe to go with this, it would have been a perfect tool to clean my plate of all the tasty spiced butter. Nest time, and it will be soon, I will skip the salmon and make the Naan.

I love how simple, yet flavorful Ottolenghi’s recipes are.  Easy enough for a week night meal, but impressive enough for a dinner party. If you don’t own Plenty I highly recommend purchasing it, it does not disappoint.

Off to watch another sports related movie with the 8 year-old, Rudy and Hoosiers was so far this weekend.