Stories from middle America


A glimpse of what’s on the way, on the corner of 9th and Dodge streets

It’s hard out there for the new kid. Fear of the unknown, fear of being unpopular, fear of being the weirdo eating alone in the cafeteria. The new kid wants to be liked, to be thought of as “cool” and to be invited to hang out. The new kid wants to fit in where all else has long been established.

In school, I was never the new kid. I was born and raised in the same town; I left when I was 19 years old. Looking back, I remember always wanting to be that new kid. I wanted to start fresh, to have a blank slate, so to speak, to be a new or better version of myself.

New kids always stirred things up. They showed up mid-year, right in the middle of our routine and breathed new life into the classroom. They didn’t know our stories or the daily dramas of our lives, and we didn’t know theirs. We saw them and accepted them for what they were: a newer, slightly different version of ourselves. And we couldn’t wait to hang out.

The restaurant industry isn’t so different from school. In any city across the country, new restaurants are popping up, trying to find a niche and make a name for themselves among the established. Diners are wary, unsure… yet interested in getting to know the new cuisine. And before you know it, the new kid in town becomes a place where regulars hang out.

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Sara Blake with LOCAL’s certified cicerone Eric Brouillette and co-owner Charlie Yin

That is the hope for my newest adventure. I was offered, and happily accepted, the position of Assistant General Manager to Omaha’s newest craft beer bar called LOCAL Beer, Patio and Kitchen. Our focus is Nebraska craft beer, and we can’t wait to share our stories with you. We’re taking over the former 9th Street Tavern location at 902 Dodge Street; Omaha’s gorgeous Old Market just blocks away.

We’re a little off the beaten path, but as the new kid, we have a lot going for us. Omaha superstar branding agency Secret Penguin has breathed new life into the space. We’ll will have at least 54 taps of outstanding craft beer, curated by Krug Park alum and Certified Cicerone Eric Brouillette, tasty bar food, prepared by Benson regular and chicken dad, Chef Ryan Kingkade. We’ll also have one of the best patios in the Old Market.

Much of our menu (which I’ve designed alongside Chef Kingkade) will be familiar — the usual suspects one finds in a bar: tasty burgers, chicken wings and tenders, sandwiches, salads and more. But I’m personally excited about our encased meats section of the menu. I admit it, I love hot dogs. There’s something so comforting, so nostalgic about eating a juicy, salty hot dog. Perhaps that’s the comfort and nostalgia I’m relying on when faced with the challenge of being the new kid in town.

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Sara with LOCAL co-owner Charlie Yin

I’m confident that LOCAL will have something for everyone. Whether that means a sunny spot on the patio holding a glass of your favorite double IPA, a seat at our bar with a basket of onion rings in front of you, or at a table with a flight of some of Nebraska’s best craft beers, I think this new kid is going to be one you’ll want to hang out with.

I mentioned last time that deviled eggs are the perfect blank-slate snack because you can build so many great flavors on top of a simple base: the yolks of 6 eggs, 2 tablespoons mayo, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.

For example, yesterday I showed you the magic of the Sriracha deviled egg. Now it’s time to experience two more delicious (and super easy) variations — tuna deviled eggs, flavored with lemon and capers, and beet-stained deviled eggs with goat cheese.

Tuna deviled eggs

Tuna deviled eggs Squeezing lemon for deviled eggs Ingredients for Tuna deviled eggs Filling tuna deviled eggs Adding parsley

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, halved, and yolks placed in bowl
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp mayo
1 4-oz can albacore tuna, drained and flaked
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 anchovies, minced
1 Tbsp capers, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Combine yolks and next 7 ingredients in medium bowl making sure to thoroughly mash the yolks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Using two small spoons or a spoon and small spatula, fill whites with mixture, and top with fresh parsley leaves.

Beet-stained deviled eggs

Beet pickled deviled eggs Ingredients for beetpickled deviled eggs Mixing ingredients for beetpickled deviled eggs Filling beetpickled deviled eggs

For beet pickling liquid:
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1 ½ cups water
1 medium beet, peeled and sliced
½ cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

For filling:
6 hard-cooked, beet-pickled eggs, halved, and yolks placed in bowl
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayo
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Bring water, beets, vinegar, sugar, salt and onion to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and allow to cook until beets are tender, about 25 minutes. Cool completely, uncovered. Place eggs in a container or jar (I used a quart mason jar) and pour beet pickling liquid over, making sure to completely cover eggs. Place jar in refrigerator and allow to marinate at least two hours, or overnight.

Remove eggs from jar and pat dry, discard pickling liquid. Combine yolks and next 6 ingredients in medium bowl making sure to thoroughly mash the yolks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Using two small spoons, or a spoon and small spatula, fill whites with mixture, and top with parsley.

Three deviled egg recipes

All photos by Hooton Images

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-1

There is very little in life that makes me happier than the changing of the seasons. Living in the midwest affords me the opportunity to experience these changes four times each year. Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer; planting my garden, going to the pool, reading on the deck. But those few days at the end of September are a welcome change. The air is crisp, and the leaves begin to turn color and fall from the trees. The neighborhood squirrels are busy scavenging and building their supply of food for the coming winter. Sweaters come out of storage, and the kitchen is filled with the smells of comfort food. As tough as midwest winters can be, they’re worth it for the few months of autumn we’re offered by Mother Nature.

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-3

That said, after trudging through what may feel like the longest winter, the sounds, smells, and foods of spring are a breath of fresh air. The last of the snow has melted, the birds are singing their songs, and the sun is out! Spring is a time of rejuvenation, it’s a time to turn off the furnace, open the windows, get out in the yard and clean things up. It’s also a great time to put away the casserole dishes and the stew pots and start thinking about lighter fare for eating.

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-44

Deviled eggs, the blank-slate snack

Some of my favorite spring snacks are deviled eggs. They are perfect for picnics, office parties, or as an accompaniment to a big salad (à la Elaine Benes). Deviled eggs are so versatile; they’re a veritable blank slate for any number of flavor and texture combinations.

Do you love caesar salads? Then add a few anchovies, some garlic, and a little parmesan cheese to the filling, then top it off with a crouton and a tiny piece of romaine. Are you a fan of buffalo wings? Combine wing sauce with the filling, top with blue cheese, a celery leaf, and a piece of crispy chicken skin (if you want to get crazy). Are bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon your favorite thing ever? Just add a little cream cheese and capers to your egg filling, top with a small piece of smoked salmon and pickled red onion, and you’re all set!

But the hardest part of making deviled eggs is peeling those darn hard-boiled eggs, right? Wrong. Let me tell you my easy secret so they turn out perfectly every time: I steam my eggs rather than boil them.

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-6

Get yourself a stainless steel steamer basket like this one. Place about an inch of water in a stock pot and place the open steamer basket inside. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil, then place the eggs inside the steamer basket and cover. Let the eggs steam for 13 minutes (for hard-cooked eggs).

Immediately place the eggs in a bowl of ice water (which shocks them, stopping the cooking process) and allow them to cool in the ice bath for at least 20 minutes, if not overnight in the fridge. To peel them, gently crack the bottom and top of the egg on your work surface, then roll them gently to crack all around the shell. Peel the egg under cool running water. Use them immediately, or you can keep them in the fridge for up to five days.

Recently, I threw together a selection of deviled eggs, all inspired by flavors I love. I even dyed one group of eggs by placing them in a beet pickling liquid! Each recipe is enough to fill at least six eggs, but feel free to fill more or double the recipes.

And remember that the base is basically the same for each recipe: the yolks of the 6 eggs, 2 tablespoons mayo, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Now that you have the base down, you can get creative and add any flavors you like. Let me give you one example for today:

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-35

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-39

COOP Deviled Eggs Recipes by Sara Blake-42

Sriracha deviled eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled, halved, and yolks placed in bowl
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp mayo
2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
2 cornichons, minced (or ½ of a dill pickle, minced)
1 small shallot, minced
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 scallion, minced
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 slice prosciutto (or cooked bacon), chopped, for garnish

Combine yolks and next 7 ingredients in medium bowl, making sure to thoroughly mash the yolks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Using two small spoons, or a spoon and small spatula, fill whites with mixture, and top with prosciutto (or bacon).

But like I said, there’s a lot you can do with deviled eggs. I’ll show you two more easy variations tomorrow!

All photos by Hooton Images



My favorite season is upon us. The temperature begins to drop, the sun rises a little later in the morning, the leaves turn gorgeous shades of red, gold, and orange and lazily release themselves from the trees. I can begin the transition from summer dresses to cozy sweaters, pull out the heavy quilts, and turn my attention to the best part about autumn: comfort food.

To me, autumn signifies roast chicken, shepherd’s pie, and enormous pots of chili simmering on the stove. Perhaps chicken isn’t your go-to comfort food; leg of lamb instead? Spaghetti and meatballs? Or maybe a huge batch of late summer vegetables, slow-roasted in the oven with rosemary and garlic?

Even still…perhaps savory dishes don’t make your list when autumn rolls around. If you’re anything like me, once the air begins to cool, I get an intense itch to bake that only vast amounts of flour, butter, and sugar can scratch.

What then, does one do when the itch arrives, their garden is overflowing with late summer vegetables, and all they can find at the Farmers Market are gourds and squash? My answer: bake a coffee cake, of course!

Most of us are familiar with zucchini bread and pumpkin pie, but perhaps you’re unaware that the lowly butternut squash can serve as a delightful addition when baking quick breads and certain desserts. In fact, I did just that when deciding what to do with the butternut squash from my garden.

Other varieties of squash can fall into the dessert category, as well; don’t pass up on acorn, kabocha, carnival, blue hubbard, red kuri, or sweet dumpling when considering winter squash for desserts. In fact, any squash that can be slow roasted, scooped from it’s skin, and puréed can be used in the following recipe.

If you want to experiment even further, and squash really isn’t your thing, consider adding roasted and puréed sweet potatoes or carrots to your next coffee cake or quick bread. Additionally, roasted and puréed beets add richness and moisture to dark chocolate or spice cakes.

So, when you find yourself surrounded by the bounty of late summer and autumn vegetables, and savory dishes simply won’t scratch your itch, consider the versatile winter squash as a dessert contender. You’ll taste the most perfect of seasons, autumn, in every delicious bite.

Butternut Squash Coffee Cake

For Crumble
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 chopped walnuts or pecans
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons canola oil

For Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups cooked and puréed butternut squash (or other winter squash)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease, or spray with non-stick cooking spray, a 9-inch springform cake pan, set aside.

For crumble: combine first five ingredients, add oil, stir until crumbly and set aside.

For cake: Combine dry ingredients (first seven ingredients) in a medium bowl, set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with paddle attachment) on medium-high speed, cream oil and sugar until incorporated. Lower speed to medium, add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Add squash and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, mix until combined.

Divide batter (it’ll be thick, don’t worry) and spread half into bottom of springform pan all the way to the edges. Spread applesauce carefully over the batter, then sprinkle with half of the crumble. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the applesauce/crumble mixture, and sprinkle the remaining crumble over the top.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from springform pan.

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