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Cook's Corner

I still want to learn …
A. How to walk into a room and destroy them with jokes, have them laughing on the floor rolling around in tears. I did stand-up comedy when I was in New York. That was one of my hobbies. You have to realize you’ll get onstage and you’ve told the same jokes the night before to roaring laughter. The next night, same jokes, different crowd and you can hear a pin drop. It’s not what you see on Comedy Central.
I can’t wait to …
A. Earn a good living documenting recipes – for more money to go into my savings rather than out. I’m all in with this.
Peanut and Toffee Candy Clusters

Blogger dedicates days to food

Diana Parker | Diana Parker
Justin Gilbert gets ready to shoot a photo of his Peanut and Toffee Candy Clusters for his blog, “Behind the Bites.”

– A former resident of New York, Justin Gilbert, 39, has a background in journalism and worked for companies such as Associated Press, Newsday and Bloomberg News.

One evening while still living in New York, Gilbert arrived home to his apartment and decided to cook dinner.

“New York City is a rat race,” he says. “One night I decided to make a pizza from scratch. I didn’t let it rise; it was tough but a great experience. Then I started to grill.”

Gilbert said he knew he had “arrived” as he describes his cooking skills, when a girl invited to his Super Bowl party came for the food.

Looking back and laughing on the experience, Gilbert says, “She said she didn’t even like football.”

That’s when he says he decided to take his hobby and turn it into a career, writing a blog called “Behind the Bites” (

“I’ve been doing this a little over two years,” he says. “What I illustrate is information.”

“This two years has been a continuing adventure; … this is full time. I work six days a week. No joke, it’s a 12-hour job to do one recipe,” he says.

Describing the steps in detail, Gilbert goes on, “The food styling shot (is) the last thing I do. I start with an original recipe. I go on the Web and find something. I design it with dummy shares. I think what’s the most effective in telling in how to cook it. It’s the visual. I leave that up on the (computer) screen. Then I start shooting all the prep ingredients. I’ve got it set up in the middle of the room. After I’ve got the shoot done, I do the artsy shoot. I go back (and import all the photos). Then I write the 200-word introduction. I love to get the history of a dish or an ingredient.”

During December, Gilbert is using recipes from his Aunt Suzy Gross of Allen County to post on his blog.

Giving his take on other food bloggers, and with a smile, Gilbert says: “They’re not normal people. To me the trick is to have people who aren’t food bloggers follow me.”

Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?

A. Cuisine at Home magazine. I cooked recipes out of there and it got to where I was waiting for the next magazine. And for visuals, Food Network magazine. They’re fantastic for layouts.

Q. What’s your favorite website for recipes?

A. I strictly look at Food Network for inspiration, not necessarily to cook the recipe. I don’t think they’d put anything on there that isn’t good.

Q. What’s your go-to meal?

A. Tacos. (laughs) Well, there’s the great thing about tacos, you can do anything – beef, chicken, guacamole. It’s a great (party) food. I can eat them every day as long as I had different stuff to put in them.

Q. What vegetable do you eat most often?

A. Grilled asparagus in the summer.

Q. What’s something people would not find in your refrigerator or pantry?

A. You know the imitation cheese product? That. I’m allergic to it.

Peanut and Toffee Candy Clusters

1 pound vanilla candy coating

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts

1 cup crispy rice cereal

1 cup English toffee bits

In a microwave or double boiler, melt vanilla candy coating. When completely melted, stir in peanut butter. Take mixture off heat and stir in peanuts, crispy rice cereal and toffee bits until well incorporated. In tablespoon-sized scoops, place mixture in clumps on cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Put in a cool place for 2 hours to let candies set completely; then serve. Makes about 30 pieces.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1/2 cup red pepper, diced

1 tablespoon flour

2 cups milk

1 cup spinach cooked, chopped

1 cup chopped, cooked artichokes

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Tortilla chips, as desired

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, sauté garlic, shallot and red pepper in butter until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in flour; then cook another 2 minutes. Add milk to the pan and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach and artichokes, simmer another minute or two. Add cheese 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir until it is completely melted and then add another 2 tablespoons. Repeat until cheese is gone and incorporated. Adjust seasonings if needed. Place in a bowl and serve with tortilla chips. Makes 6 servings.

Cajun Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, cleaned

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 cup diced red onion

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning

1 pound Andouille sausage, fully cooked, diced

2 cups rice

4 cups chicken broth

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add green beans and salt to taste. Cook beans 7 to 8 minutes or until cooked through, remove and place in a large bowl of ice water for at least 5 minutes, then drain. In a sauté pan over medium heat with a little olive oil sauté onion, garlic, peppers and Cajun seasoning until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in beans and Andouille sausage. Cook until mixture is heated through, 6 to 8 minutes more. Divide mixture among plates and serve over rice. Makes 4 servings.

To make rice: In a pot, over medium high heat, toss rice in a little olive oil until well coated and slightly toasted. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. After 20 minutes, remove cover and fluff rice with a fork.

Asian Style Tacos

1/2 cup broccoli slaw

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup Hoisin sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon Teriyaki sauce

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken

16 to 20 corn tortillas

1 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup diced onion

Mix together broccoli slaw and rice vinegar, season to taste, set aside. Over medium high heat in a sauce pan with a little oil, sauté ginger and garlic until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add Hoisin, rice vinegar, sesame oil and teriyaki, bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Grill over medium heat until cooked through 8 to 10 minutes, turn once during cooking. Let rest at least 5 minutes then slice into chunks. While chicken rests, wrap tortillas in paper towel and microwave 1 minute. On two corn tortillas, layer chicken, sauce, cilantro, onion and broccoli slaw. Fold and serve. Makes 8 to 10 tacos.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-0088; fax 461-8648; or email