Making mayonnaise is easy


Making mayonnaise is easier than you think.

For the first time ever, I made potato salad last week. Yes, I know, I am turning into such a Susie homemaker, but I don’t care. Enjoying good food does not make me any less of an independent-minded feminist. I’ve never been a huge potato salad fan, often equivalating it to other bland grocery store deli items like macaroni salad (yuck), but I had a bag of fresh, little potatoes bought at my neighborhood farmer’s market for only $1.50, a couple bunches of fresh dill, a carton of eggs, and Greek yogurt, which has been my favorite thing new twist in the kitchen this year. I use Greek yogurt all the time for salad dressing, in baby food, etc.

After my potatoes and eggs were boiled, cut, and seasoned, I got out my yogurt and saw I didn’t have much left in the container. I was home with the baby and I was scheduled to work later in the day, and I didn’t feel like taking a drive to the grocery store for only one item. I needed to be resourceful. Invention is the mother of necessity.

Looking around my kitchen, I found lemon juice, olive oil, coconut oil, mustard, salt, red wine vinegar, and more eggs in the fridge. I could make mayonnaise! I realized.

Why not? They make fancy garlic aioli at restaurants I’ve worked at. If they can do that, surely I could make plain ole mayo.

It was even easier than I thought. Here’s what I did:

Two egg yolks, two tablespoon lemon juice, one tablespoon red wine vinegar, one teaspoon dijon mustard, one teaspoon salt in the food processor. Press start let that run about 10 seconds before pouring in 3/4 cup of olive oil SLOWLY. Then I did another 3/4 cup of coconut oil SLOWLY.

As the food processor goes it whips it up into mayonnaise. Incredible to watch, it’s like magic! Mayo is just eggs and oil. You can use your oil of preference, I just used coconut and olive oil because that was what I had. Today I did this same recipe and used 1 1/2 cup of canola oil which is a much more neutral flavor, so it tasted more like what you might pick up at the grocery store.

I threw this homemade mayo into my potato salad and it was HEAVEN. Give it a try!


Step-by-step spaghetti & meatballs

No one taught me how to cook Italian food. My Italian grandmother died when I was nine, and she was the last great home cook from that side of the family. Over the years, I’ve heard stories of her famous Sunday dinners, an all-day 10-course meal. Pasta was its own course, which boggles my mind. I remember some of her food, especially her stuffed shells, but unfortunately, her recipes didn’t get handed down after she passed.

So I ended up figuring out how to make Marinara sauce on my own. The recipe varies depending on what I have on hand. It’s suited with my favorite flavors, using classic ingredients like tomatoes and garlic, and my own touches, like Worcestershire sauce. Try it out and let me know what you think.

1 ingredients

To begin, I gather my ingredients, as shown above. Four cloves of garlic, a Vidalia onion (I usually use yellow onions but Vidalia was on sale and I couldn’t resist—they’re usually a sweeter onion), can of tomato pasta, four 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce, smoked ground oregano, dried basil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, a few leftover tomatoes, salt, pepper. Not shown: red wine.

2 garlic

Garlic first. I use a heavy meat cleaver to pound the flavor out of my garlic cloves.

3 smash garlic

Bam! I use my hand to squash it over the side of the knife. Then I cut the onion. I only use about half of the onion because it’s rather large.

4 onions

At medium heat over the stove, I drizzle olive oil and add one tablespoon butter with the chopped onion first. Stir. When fragrant, add garlic. If you add it too soon it will burn.

5 onions tomatoes

I add a handful of chopped tomatoes.

6 onions tomatoes spices

In goes a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Smells so good while it sizzles. Stir it around a bit. I like using a wooden spoon. Optional: add half a cup of red wine. Stir for five minutes.

7 tomato paste

Add 32 ounces of tomato sauce (four 8-ounce cans), one cup of water, and one tablespoon of Better than Boullion. Stir. Then add 8 ounces of tomato paste. Pictured above it the pasta going in last. Switch to low heat, cover, and allow it to simmer.

8 meat

Next up, meatballs. Pictured above is nearly everything you need for meatballs. One pound of ground beef (I prefer 80% lean), 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon oregano, and 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce. Not pictured: two eggs. Mix this up with your hands and hand form the meatballs. Usually makes about 12 or 13 golf ball sized meatballs.

9 meatballs

Over medium high heat, sear the meatballs.

10 meatballs cooking

Use tongs to flip them around and make sure the edges stay brown.

11 meatball sauce

Add the meatballs in your sauce. Allow meatballs and sauce to simmer on the lowest heat setting for an hour and a half to two hours.

12 spaghetti

Pour your meatballs and sauce over spaghetti, and you’ve got a tasty homemade meal. Be sure to share!

So many changes

My, my, how times have changed. It’s been a few years since I’ve written for Susan Eats the World, and I think it’s time to resurrect this blog because 1) I miss writing about food, 2) I have lots of food adventures to document, and 3) this blog is hella fun!

A few things that happened since my last post 3 years ago:

  • I worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Bakken.
  • I got surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
  • I made friends with a Mexican family who owned the best taco truck ever.
  • I fell in love with a beautiful man.
  • I got pregnant and moved into an old Tudor house in Omaha that is pretty and NOT haunted.
  • I discovered pregnancy discrimination is a real thing and the fight for gender equality is far from over.
  • I gave birth to a boy who everyone always says is “so chill” in a surprised tone.
  • I joined a bacon club and published a feature on it.
  • I attended a food writers conference in Iowa City.
  • I ate lots and lots of great food in Omaha and discovered this little Midwestern city has a lot of diversity and some great restaurants. There’s a decent sized Thai community here, and we just celebrated Songkran (Thai new year).
  • I gained weight.

That last one has been a struggle. With more time at home with a baby, I find myself cooking a lot more. To me, food is life. I love to cook food, I love to eat it, smell it, taste it, feel it, knead dough with my hands, blow a spoonful of hot soup, mix spices, grill steaks, dip lobster in lemon and butter, get a bountiful supply of veggies at my farmers market, visit the Thai grocery store and make curry and tom yum…

Speaking of good Thai food, I made Thai chicken noodle soup this week, called “gua theywa” in Thai.

We had a tornado warning earlier this week. My baby and I sat under a desk under the basement and waited it out. We heard tornado sirens and wind outside. After all was clear, we went back upstair and upon seeing how gray and cool it was out, I decided it was the perfect time for a big, warm bowl of chicken soup.

I pulled out our dutch oven, filled it almost all the way with water, a large tablespoon full of Better than Boullion, 3 rib bones out of a gallon sized zip lock I keep in the freezer, drizzles of soy sauce and fish sauce, sliced fresh ginger, 3 smashed garlic cloves and 2 onions, chopped. I let that boil while I pulled a family sized package of chicken legs and defrosted it in the microwave. Once the chicken legs were defrosted enough to pull apart from each other, I placed them in the dutch oven and boiled for 15 minutes, then left it on low for about an hour. Makes the whole house smell soooo good, and it’s so easy to make.

When it was closer to suppertime, I prepared some rice noodles (boiled them separately, then rinsed with cold water), chopped up some fresh green onion, cilantro, and lime wedges.

Next, I pulled out a few chicken legs from the pot and chopped up the meat.

Chopping chicken on the veggie side.

I pulled out my soup bowl and fill half of it with rice noodles, pour my onion-y broth over it, a handful of chopped chicken, cilantro, squeeze of lime, squirt of sriracha, and voila!

Homemade Thai chicken noodle soup.

One of my favorite soups of all time. The Thai grocery store by my house sells fried garlic in huge containers, so of course I keep that in the pantry handy to sprinkle over this soup. Why not? It adds texture and flavor, mmm!

I moved

My last post was only a month and a half ago, but it feels like a lifetime since I’ve had that pho.

In mid-July, I moved from Chicago to a little oil boom town in Eastern Montana to write for a local newspaper. At the Sidney Herald, I am publishing food reviews every Wednesday (among other things).

To read my food reviews for the Herald, check out my writer’s portfolio at On the left hand side of my portfolio there is a page called “Food writing” to click on.

At times, it’s a challenge to cover the “food scene” of small town America, but as some old white dude once said, “There are no dull subjects, only dull writers.”

Susan Eats the World has been fun to write. I would like to thank my (three) loyal readers for staying with me through the years. Although I’m now occupied with the Herald all the time, you can expect an occasional rant or ramble here in the future.

Gossip Girl
(Ha, not really. I just love Kristen Bell’s voice when she signs off.)

Soup I’ll never pho get


Located downtown Wheaton on Main Street, Luong Loi Restaurant looks like a dingey hole-in-the-wall type of  place with its white blinds and plain decor. 

This weekend, I walked in and an old Vietnamese grandpa was sitting on a crooked chair, his head bent down towards his chest, snoring. There was maybe one other table seated. Outside it was sunny. Inside I’m not even sure if the lights were turned on. Just little sun rays seeping through the blinds.

A typical person may have been irritated that there was no hostess to greet us. They may have called that grandpa lazy for sleeping on the job. They may have said that everything looks dirty and the dingy lighting needs to be fix. They may have thought, maybe we should go somewhere where the staff is actually awake.

Not I. 

See, when I saw that sleeping grandpa, I knew it wasn’t laziness. Instead, I saw hard work.

Luong Loi is like the best place to get pho in all of Chicagoland, and making real pho is no easy task. It takes several days to make the broth from scratch, waiting for all the marrow to seep out of beef bones, gradually adding the right amount of spices (Saigon cinnamon and star anise anyone?!), and stirring that shit up real good. 

You need good arm muscles to continuously stir real pho beef broth. That grandpa was probably so worn out from making so much pho that he couldn’t help doozing off a few minutes. I’d rather go somewhere where the staff is tired and the broth is real than somewhere where the staff is perky and the broth comes from bouillon cubes. (The thought of someone using bouillon cubes to make pho makes me seriously sad.)

Order the number 18, the Pho Dac Biet. It comes with the special traditional broth that that grandpa slaved over, rice noodles, cilantro, sliced cooked beef brisket, and think sliced broiled beef. On the side you’ll get a plate of fresh bean sprouts, limes, sliced spicy peppers, and Thai basil leaves. 

I like to rip up the basil with my hands before throwing into my pho. It seems so fresh and appetizing that way. I squeeze the lime, throw in the peppers, add some siracha and hoisin sauce, and I’m good to go.

Luong Loi is the standard of which all other pho places in the U.S. should try to measure itself up to. Like, one time I went to this pho place in Seattle and they gave me NO LIME. As if I’d ever pho get that!


Bacon Potluck

The other day I was having a late-night conversation with a friend, the kind where you talk about personal anecdotes and go off on tangent after tangent about anything and everything, from money to people to movies and TV to philosophy to poop to politics and healthcare and education and debt and the prison system in Norway and on and on we go. These kind of conversations are best done with someone open-minded, yet opinionated, sometimes with a cigarette in hand. (I am not a smoker but I love the way smokers leave crowded bars and parties and have their own fun little hang out together. Call me a smoker wannabe. I occasionally puff cigars, if that counts.)

So one of the tangents we got on was how we think we’re going to die. This was not as morbid as it sounds. We talked about it the same way someone would talk about the outfit they wanted to pick out for work the next day. 

There are several ways I could see myself going (car accident, old age, cancer, etc.), but after running through the options in my head I decided I’m probably going to die from bacon. 

I am not a fan of pork–in fact, it is my least favorite meat. It’s too dry, plus someone once told me that it’s the closest flavor to humans and that has always disgusted me. But somehow, bacon is still one of the BEST THINGS OF ALL TIME.

What is it about bacon that makes it so good? It’s the crispiness, the saltiness, the crunch in your mouth, the fat, the flavor, the fact that it’s so bad it’s good. One bite is never enough, I feel like I can keep eating it all day long. (Confession: sometimes I do. Like seriously, sometime it’s my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

This weekend, I am happy (and somewhat guilted) to say I went to a bacon potluck. My friend John concocted this lovely quiche below. I gotta quit eating this stuff before I get a heart attack… but it’s just so good! 


Dream about tea

There’s a tiny, cramped shop in Seattle’s International District where a little old Chinese lady sits with her fur ball of a dog and drinks tea all day long.

Until today, that nameless squalor was the only tea shop I’ve been to in this country that has some decent oolong.

Introducing Dream About Tea in Evanston, IL. This place is not polished and brightly lit the way chains like Starbucks or Argo Tea are. On the shop’s window a handwritten sign has “Free Wifi” scrawled on it. The interior looks like your elder Chinese-American uncle’s living room with its old mismatched furniture and TV in the corner. 

This place is quiet. Not in a eerie, awkward, need-to-fill-the-void kind of silence, but rather, a peaceful, meditative, I feel-like-I’m-a-Buddhist-monk kind of quiet.

At the tea counter, there is a wide and varied selection of jars and jars of great Chinese tea. I asked for oolong, and the gentle men behind the counter asked, “darker or greener oolong?” This has never been asked of me before, and I liked that he checked. I told him greener, and he pointed out five choices. I chose an ounce of Lishan.

When still dry, the Lishan Oolong smells fresh and strong, sort of like taking a whiff of fresh air when you’re uphill on a green mountain in the springtime. Once brewed, it expands magnificently and can be rebrewed several times, as most oolong can.

You can find me dreaming about tea tonight.

90 Miles Cuban Cafe is bold, fun and authentic

When is comes to eating meat, there are two things that make me a very happy woman. 

One is when you’ve got a great hunk of meat marinated and on low heat for ten hours. How could that not make anybody happy? There simply is NOTHING like the scent of dripping fat and spices permeating the kitchen all day long. It’s what makes home and holidays so great. A giant turkey cooking for six hours on Thanksgiving. A chunk of ham roasting in the oven on Christmas. Even if the day is mediocre, the knowledge that a juicy, dripping, tender, soft, chewy, pink piece of meat is sitting and working and just waiting all day for you to take a bit out of it is absolute bliss.
Shoot, I got so caught up in thinking about how much I love slow roast meat that I can’t remember what the second thing was.
Well, whatever.
The point is this: if you’re a lover of meat, spice, and garlic, there is a great Cuban place in Chicago you’ve gotta check out. It’s called 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. They’ve got two locations–I went to the one on Armitage and Milwaukee.
It felt as though I were back in Key West again. The Cuban presence at this place is legit and way fun. They had good windows and lighting. Water is served in glass jars and there are quirky antiques everywhere to decorate the dining room, include a wall piano. A large TV screen had I Love Lucy playing with the volume on mute. It’s colorful, bright, and happy without being overwhelming or too noisy. Tropical Cuban music could be heard throughout the cafe. I think Ernest Hemingway would have approved, though it might be just a tad too cute for him. (But definitely not too cute for me.) I half expected to see one of his six toed cats to stroll in. (Did not happen.)
Also the bathroom was one of those bathrooms where everyone writes all over the walls and all over the stalls. This can make a place look dirty depending on how it’s executed. At 90 Miles, it fortunately did not look dirty at all. Just made it more fun and customize!
On my the server’s recommendation, I ordered the Churrasco. This consists of “marinated, tender, skirt steak served with parsley garlic sauce, yellow rice, and boiled yuca with mojo de ajo.” The garlic sauce is very strong, like pure chunks of nearly raw garlic. It will seep in your pores for days, but the savory, unique bold flavor is worth it.
I went there for lunch with my teenaged sister, so being the responsible adult I did have have any alcoholic drinks. Although it should be noted that they have great looking sangria and mojitos! I imagine it would be the perfect place to host a summer birthday dinner. (Hint hint to all my friends.)
Our server was very experienced. He told me he’d been at 90 Miles for four years now. He was very knowledgeable about every menu item and happy to give further descriptions and recommendations. You could tell he had a lot of tables but he did his best to manage his time and check up on everyone and be attentive and all that.
They give you a little brown paper bag to put your money in at the end of the meal, which I’ve never seen done before at a restaurant.
Overall, 4.5 out of 5 stars!

A trip to Wicker Park’s tastiest “eco-chic” restaurant

A few weeks ago when it was snowing terribly in Chicago, a friend took me to dinner at a place called Prasino.

I was in the mood for some cheap Thai food, so before we went I asked her what kind of food they serve. She stumbled around too long for an answer and I got short-tempered. Chinese? Greek? Vegan? Jesus Christ, is it really so difficult to categorize food?!

(It should be noted that similar to those people in Snickers commercials, I’m just not myself when I get hungry. This friend is very patient with me.)

The description she came up with was one word: (more…)