Sweet and Salty in the Windy City: Chicago Mix Popcorn – Illinois

If you’ve ever visited Chicago and caught a whiff of a delicious aroma that lured you, trance-like and salivating, to stand in line for 20 minutes, you might have been ensnared by Garrett’s Popcorn.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

Enticing customers with that heavenly smell since 1949, Garrett’s Popcorn is truly a Chicago institution. Their famous Chicago Mix is an addictive combination of cheese and caramel popcorn that will convert even the most popcorn ambivalent among us. When we first moved to Chicago, we wondered what all the fuss what about, until we tasted it. The caramel, so rich and buttery, marries well with the salty, tangy cheese. You can order Garrett’s Popcorn online or you can save some nickels and make it yourself with this recipe.

If you want to immerse yourself in history and architecture, check out the many offerings for a Chicago boat tour. Most start at Navy Pier and combine the lake and the Chicago River, a “can’t-miss” when you visit Chicago.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 50 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  •  1 cup popcorn kernels
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 paper bag

For Cheese Popcorn:

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (omit if cheese  powder has added salt)
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

For Caramel Popcorn:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda


Pop popcorn in vegetable oil. Let cool, then remove all unpopped kernels. Divide into two equal parts.

For Cheese Popcorn: Combine spices in a small bowl. Melt butter and pour over half the batch of popcorn. Place popcorn and spices into the paper bag and shake vigorously until popcorn is completely coated.  Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 250 degrees for 15 minutes or until popcorn is crisp.

For Caramel Popcorn: Place half of the popcorn on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Combine salt, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup into a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat until boiling. Continue cooking without stirring until temperature reaches 235 degrees with a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and carefully add baking powder. Be careful as the mixture may foam or spit. Working quickly, pour the caramel over the popcorn. Using a rubber spatula, stir the popcorn until it is completely coated. Place baking sheet into oven heated to 250 degrees. Stir every 10-15 minutes to evenly coat the popcorn. Bake for one hour or until popcorn is crisp.

After both popcorns cool, combine both for Chicago Mix.

Oh Mommy Umami: Fish Sauce Wings – Oregon

At first blush, fish sauce wings do not sound particularly appetizing. After all, this pungent Southeast Asian sauce made from anchovies and fermented in wooden barrels is intensely flavored and

Fish Sauce Wings

something of an acquired taste. But diners in Portland, Oregon, have been clamoring for fish sauce wings ever since Andy Ricker maxed out his credit cards in 2007 to open Pok Pok restaurant. Insanely popular there, Ricker opened outposts in NYC and LA in the intervening years.

These wings are a bit sweet, a bit salty, a bit crunchy and a bit spicy, and have been described by Ricker as “umami bombs.” We bet that you too will become strangely addicted before you can finish the batch and lick your fingers.

What goes great with chicken wings? Beer! Head on over to the Hood River Hops Fest, September 26, 2015, which showcases fresh hops beers from 36 Northwest breweries.

Fish Sauce Wings

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 50 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup warm water
  • 2 lbs. chicken wings, separated
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup tempura batter
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce (optional)


For marinade: Combine garlic, salt and warm water in a small bowl. Let set for a few minutes. Combine fish sauce and sugar in a deep dish or marinade tray. Using a mesh sieve, take garlic mixture and mash garlic through the sieve into the marinade tray until all the liquid is gone. Scrape out any leftover garlic that did not go through the sieve and reserve in a small dish for later. Add chicken to the marinade. Marinate for 6-8 hours or overnight, turning chicken occasionally.

For frying chicken: Heat oil to 325 degrees. Fry garlic until golden brown, remove with a slotted spot and reserve. Combine rice flour and tempura batter. Remove chicken from marinade and reserve the marinade. Coat chicken in flour mixture. Fry in batches for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. While chicken is frying, take leftover marinade and add to a wok along with ¼ cup water and Sriracha sauce if desired. Boil mixture for 1-2 minutes. Keep warm. As chicken finishes, remove pieces with tongs and place in sauce, tossing each piece completely. Remove chicken and sprinkle with half of the fried garlic. Fry remaining batch of chicken, tossing in sauce and then adding garlic. Serve immediately.

Holy Chip: Chocolate Covered Potato Chips – North Dakota

Everything is better with chocolate. That’s a motto we can get behind and we think most of you would agree. Widman’s Candy Company, located in Grand Forks and Fargo (along with Crookston,

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips - N. Dakota


MN), has been in the chocolate business since the 1880s. The Widman family has an amazing array of chocolate dipped items including some startling candidates (pickles and olives) but by far their most popular item is their chocolate covered potato chips. Called “chippers” these sweet-n-salty snacks are made from Red River Valley potatoes.

We recreated this signature delight with dark chocolate, but Widman’s uses milk and dark chocolate, as well as white almond and peanut butter. Use whatever chocolate you like best. We guarantee these chips will disappear faster than you can say “Holy Chip!”

The 50th Annual Potato Bowl will take place September 8-12, 2015 in Grand Forks, ND. Events include a golf outing, a French fry feed, fireworks and of course, the culminating event, the football game between University of North Dakota vs. Drake University.

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 20 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 5 ounces ridged potato chips
  • 2-3 teaspoons vegetable oil


Heat the chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Remove from heat and stir in oil until a smooth consistency is reached. Dip half of each chip in chocolate, or if preferred, dip completely. Let excess chocolate drip off back into the saucepan. Place chip on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat with remaining chips. Let cool in fridge.

Snick Snack: Zweiback – Kansas

Forget what you think you know about zwieback. This is decidedly not that hard toast stuff you give to babies when they are teething. When folks talk zweiback in the Sunflower State, they are referring to delicious rolls, a little bit richer and saltier than the usual Zweiback - Kansashomemade bun. The Mennonites brought these from Russia, presumably because they traveled well, especially when toasted (thus the name in German which roughly translates to “double baked”). These rolls have a unique shape with a little ball on top of the base of the bun. They are great for Sunday brunch with some butter and jam or to hold your sandwich innards. They also freeze very well.

History buffs will love Fort Larned National Historic Site, which houses a complete and authentic army post from the 1860s. Various living history events will take place Labor Day weekend, September 5-7, 2015, including lectures, carriage rides and artillery and  blacksmith demos.

Zweiback - Kansas


  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 2 hrs, 30 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup margarine, butter, or lard
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 3/4 to 6 cups flour


Heat milk, water and butter or margarine together in a microwave safe bowl or cup until warm, about 100 degrees. Do not let the liquid boil as the yeast will not proof. Sprinkle with yeast and sugar. Let set a few minutes until mixture is bubbling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with salt. Gradually add 3 cups sifted flour and beat with an electric mixture for 5 minutes. Add the additional flour and beat until thoroughly combined. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead by hand for about 8-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough into a large bowl coated in oil and cover with a tea towel. Place in a warm spot for about 75 minutes or until dough is doubled in size. Punch down and let dough rise again, about 30-45 minutes. Punch down again. Remove dough to a well-floured surface and knead out any air bubbles.

To form the rolls, divide dough into 24 pieces. Roll each piece by hand until round, then pinch off a large marble sized piece. Place bigger piece on well-greased baking sheet, flatten slightly. In the middle of the roll, make an indentation, then place the smaller ball on top (this will ensure the top will not slide off during baking). Continue until all rolls are formed, making sure to spread out the rolls 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.

Feeling Crabby: Crab Crostini Melts – Delaware

Delaware is the second smallest state, and while only 30 miles wide, it also has 117 miles of coastline. Beaches and the shore make up a big part of the state’s culture and we’ve talked before about how the blue crab is a vital part of the state’s economy.

Crab Crostini Melts - Delaware

We created this this lovely little appetizer for a recent pool party and it was a big hit. You can spend a lot of money on crab meat but since this is basically gussied up crab salad topped with tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, save your money for good cocktails.

If bird watching is your thing, check out Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Dover, with its stellar interpretive programs and photography opportunities.


Crab Crostini Melts

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Time: 20 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 12 ounces crabmeat
  • 3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Pepper
  • Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced and cut in half
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Paprika
  • Small baguette, sliced


Preheat broiler. Slice the baguette and place pieces on a baking tray. Broil both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Combine first five ingredients. Season with pepper. Add crab mixture onto crostini. Top with a half tomato slice and then Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on paprika. Broil again until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

Pucker Up: Key Lime Pie – Florida

Key Lime Pie is one of those dishes that reminds you of that fun beach vacation every time you taste it. The official state pie of the Sunshine State since 2006, the origins of this pie are murky.

Key Lime Pie - Florida

Historians tend to agree that the recipe was created in order to push a new product called sweetened condensed milk which was brought to Florida in the 1850s by a ship salvager named William Curry. This canned milk was shelf stable, important for an area of the country that did not get refrigeration until the 1930s.

Folks like to quibble over the type of crust (regular or graham cracker?) and the type of topping (whipped cream or meringue?) but one thing everyone agrees to is that the filling must be light yellow and not green. We stuck with a pretty traditional recipe here, from Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, and we have to say, it’s the best we’ve tried.

Grab your old milk jugs and duct tape for the Anything That Floats Race in Key Largo, August 15, 2015. Homemade vessels rule in this race that awards the fastest teams, the best decorated boats and the best looking crew.

Key Lime Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 60 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


For crust:

  • 1 sleeve graham crackers (or 1¼ cup graham cracker crumbs)
  • 5 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For filling:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • Zest from 2 limes, grated
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (use key limes if available, if not, use regular limes)
  • Whipped cream (optional)


For crust: In the bowl of a food processor, add graham crackers, butter and sugar. Pulse until completely mixed. Press crust into a greased 9-inch pie pan, pressing firmly into the bottoms and sides of the pan with a bottom of a measuring cup. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until crust just begins to brown. Remove and let cool.

For filling: Add egg yolks and lime zest into a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on high speed, about 5 minutes. Mixture will expand and be frothy. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk, beat about 5 minutes longer. Add lime juice and mix by hand. Pour into the cooled pie crust. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees or until filling is set. Let cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cold with whipped cream.

Wicked Good Licks: Grape-Nuts Ice Cream – New Hampshire

Ahhhh, summertime and who can resist the sweet temptation of an ice cream cone? A regional flavor that doesn’t get much national play is Grape-Nuts Ice Cream.The Granite State loves its dairy (it’s their top agricultural product) and this winning taste sensation can be found along the New Hampshire Ice Cream Trail and throughout New England.

Grape-Nuts Ice Cream - New Hampshire

The texture of the cereal reminded us of crushed cookies (and who doesn’t like that mix-in?) and its delicate nut-like flavor wedded well with the creamy vanilla base. Give it a try and you’ll be a convert too.

Hike, rock climb, or mountain bike in New Hampshire’s playground, the White Mountains.

Grape-Nuts Ice Cream

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 45 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Grape-Nuts cereal


Heat the cream in a medium sized saucepan until bubbles appear on the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and add the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Pour cold batter into the canister of ice cream maker. Churn ice cream for 20 to 40 minutes or until it reaches soft serve consistency. Add Grape-Nuts cereal and let ice cream maker churn until cereal is fully incorporated. Remove ice cream to a freezer-safe container and let freeze until it reaches desired consistency.

Olive U: Pimento Cheese Spread – South Carolina

Pimento cheese, that iconic Southern food, evokes images of sitting on the front porch on a lazy afternoon, munching on a sandwich while sipping lemonade and reading a good book. Made with just six or so ingredients, this creamy/zesty cheese dip elevates boring

Pimento cheese spread - South Carolina

white bread and celery sticks to something bordering brilliance. At the turn of the century, most pimento cheese was commercially prepared, but after WWII, home cooks began making this treasured cheese spread and crackers haven’t been the same since.

While the Varsity in Atlanta puts pimento cheese on their hot dogs and hamburgers, and golf enthusiasts can indulge in a cheap lunch during the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Food & Wine picked Burbage’s Grocery in Charleston, South Carolina, as having one of the best pimento cheese sandwich in the South. We’ll go with that.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor is the site of the first shots fired in the Civil War. Accessible only by boat, this former military post is now a national park worth exploring.

Pimento Cheese Spread

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 15 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 ounces pimentos, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worchester sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dash of hot sauce (optional)


In the bowl of a food processor, add first six ingredients. Pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce, if desired. Spread on bread to make sandwiches or use as a dip with crudité or crackers.

Pimento cheese sandwiches - South Carolina

Garden State Fave: Blueberry Shortcake with Lemon Curd – New Jersey

Summer is our favorite time of year here in the StateEats kitchen and that’s because of all the fresh fruit that is in season. New Jersey

Blueberry Shortcake w/ Lemon Curd - New Jersey

is known for its delicious blueberries so much so that its legislature declared the Highbush blueberry the state fruit in 2003. And didja know that Hammonton, NJ, is the self-proclaimed blueberry capital of the world? In terms of nutrition, blueberries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C and are antioxidant powerhouses.

We decided that this family recipe for blueberry shortcake was worth sharing. You can make it with all kinds of fruit if you don’t have blueberries but strawberries, blackberries, and peaches work particularly well. The lemon curd amps up the deliciousness level.

Pack a picnic and head to the beach for the Wildwood Crest Sand Sculpting Festival, July 11, 2015.

Blueberry Shortcake with Lemon Curd

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


For the lemon curd:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1-2 lemons to yield 1/4 cup lemon juice

For the shortcake:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • Whipped cream


 For the lemon curd: Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed 2-3 minutes or until mixture is combined. Add eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat until combined. Pour mixture into a saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring constantly, about ten minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool. Lemon curd will keep about two weeks in the refrigerator if well sealed.

For the shortcake: In a small saucepan or in microwave, heat milk and butter until butter just begins to melt. Set aside. Combine flour, baking powder and salt into a small bowl. Set aside. In a larger mixing bowl, beat eggs on medium speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add one cup sugar, beat until mixture is thick and lemon colored. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Add milk/butter mixture and vanilla and again mix until just combined. Batter will be runny. Pout into a greased 8×8 pan and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees or until top just begins to brown. Let cool.

To serve, cut cake into squares, then cut each piece horizontally. Place a dollop of lemon curd on the bottom piece, sprinkle with blueberries, top with whipped cream. Place top half of cake on top, add a small dollop of whipped cream and more berries.

Check the Cupboard: Coffee Cabinet – Rhode Island

A coffee cabinet is a delicious concoction, only it’s too bad no one outside of Providence or Warwick knows what the heck it is. Let us elucidate. In other parts of the country, a cabinet is simply a

Coffee Cabinet - Rhode Island

milkshake or a frappe. This ice cream drink is called a cabinet, supposedly because it is made in a blender which is stored in the cabinet. Who knew?

A key ingredient of a coffee cabinet is coffee syrup and in the Ocean State that syrup  is usually made by Autocrat, a company based in Lincoln. Autocrat is sometimes hard to find outside of New England but don’t despair, you can easily make coffee syrup at home in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Family Guy. Simply boil coffee with sugar and then simmer until the liquid reduces.

The cabinet recipe can easily be adapted if you’re vegan by subbing out the regular ice cream and milk for soy or almond milk products. And if you want to hold the ice cream and just mix the coffee syrup with milk, you’ll have what’s called a coffee milk, which is the official beverage of Rhode Island.

If you want to see how the other half lived during the mid to late 19th century, check out the Newport Mansions, many situated on beautiful Bellevue Avenue in Newport. Tour Marble House, The Breakers, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, and get your Vanderbilt on.

Rhode Island Coffee Cabinet

  • Servings: 1 drink
  • Time: 15 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


For the coffee syrup:

  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cabinet:

  • 2 tablespoons coffee syrup
  • 1 large scoop coffee ice cream
  • 3/4 cup milk


For the coffee syrup: Combine coffee in sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until boiling. Turn down to low and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and let cool.

For the cabinet: Place coffee syrup, ice cream and milk in a blender. Puree until frothy. If too thick, add a bit of milk, or if too thin, add a bit of ice cream. Pour into a tall glass for serving.

Highlighting food from our 50 states


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