Food’s a medium too!  As anyone can tell you, cooking is an art form.
I’m keeping previous recipes here as well, so if you’re looking for an older recipe scroll down or search with control-F to read other recipes I’ve posted.  I’m attempting to add a new recipe when I add a new blog.

MEATLOAF:  This is the meatloaf that I’m making for Dad tomorrow night
(not sure yet what I’m doing with tonight’s porkchops)
1 pound ground beef (90% lean), mix with 1 pound ground pork, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 3/4 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, 1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper (I’ve also used carrots or red peppers too) 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  When I make this meatloaf for Woody I don’t put in any onions, but Dad loves onions, so I’ll put in some.  This is a very versatile recipe … I’ve used fresh and dried bread crumbs both with good results.  This recipe also works well for a stuffed meatloaf … roll out the meatloaf mixture into a rectangle on top of plastic wrap, sprinkle with vegetables and cheese (one of our favorites is spinach and swiss), then roll up the meatloaf (using the plastic wrap to hold it together as you roll, being careful NOT to roll the plastic wrap into the meatloaf).  Place the loaf shaped meat mixture into a greased baking dish (I use Pam) and cover it with a single layer of bacon (usually 3-5 slices will work, run whole pieces lengthwise, or half pieces across).  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and one half.  Let it rest 10 minutes or so before removing it from the pan to a platter or cutting board and serve with sauted mushrooms and onions (no onions for Woody of course).

Today’s recipe comes from a conversation this morning (Friday mornings at our house the band rehearses and the coffee conversation on break can consist of just about anything).  We were discussing the ingredients in a real NY Egg Cream, a Lime Rickey, and that a Vanilla Dr. Pepper made with homemade vanilla extract (see the recipe at the bottom from my very first post) using Captain Morgan’s Rum as the base, is far superior to a soda fountain Vanilla Dr. Pepper.
NEW YORK EGG CREAMThis site gives great description, history and recipe for a Chocolate Egg Cream
In a tall glass stir together 2 tablespoons of vanilla simple syrup and 1/4 cup cold whole milk, top off with cold freshly opened seltzer.  Serve immediately.  (Vanilla Simple Syrup – In a small sauce pan over medium heat, bring to a boil 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1 split/scraped vanilla bean with seeds, then cook, stirring, until the sugar has all dissolved, remove from heat and let cool completely, then stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract…fish out the vanilla bean and put it into a bottle in the fridge and it will keep 3-6 months, shake well before using)
LIME RICKEY:  In a tall glass, add 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup (see the above recipe, but omit vanilla bean & vanilla extract, after the sugar water comes to a boil you may add some lime zest and fresh slices of ginger to flavor the syrup…keeping a basic sugar syrup on hand in the fridge is pretty versatile, you can use it to sweeten homemade ice teas, lemonade, fruit salads, coffee, tea, etc.), then add 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters to the glass, top off with seltzer or club soda.
VANILLA DR. PEPPER:  Exactly as it sounds (and NOT for the under 21 crowd) … basically it’s a rum and coke (4 ounces of rum to 8 ounces of coke, but who measures), only made with your homemade vanilla extract and Dr. Pepper instead.  You must use a homemade vanilla extract, the “pure” vanilla extract purchased in the store would make this a crazy expensive cocktail and would taste HORRIBLE.  It does require some preparation, but if you make up a fifth of Captain Morgan’s Rum into homemade vanilla (you have to do this a month before your planning to serve your cocktail) you’ll make the BEST vanilla Dr. Pepper EVER!

I was lucky enough to attend a really fun party last weekend and was told that I should put my trifle recipe as this week’s post, so here it is:
4 packages of lady fingers (one dozen lady fingers in a package)
Raspberry Jam (you’ll probably use about half a jar depending on how generously you spread it on the lady fingers)
1 cup cream or sweet sherry
1/2 cup brandy
boiled custard, chilled (see recipe below)
1 large jar of canned peaches & 2 cups sliced strawberries (I used frozen, but fresh is better)
1 to 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 to 4 tablespoons of sugar (I used vanilla sugar, split one of those vanilla beans from top vanilla, and put it in your sugar canister)
1 tablespoon of homemade pure vanilla extract (see my very first recipe post below)

First make the boiled custard: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Whisk in 3 cups of half and half.  In a separate bowl beat 6 eggs.  Heat the ingredients in the saucepan, stirring constantly, until hot (not boiling) and then whisk one-third of the mixture into the eggs (this is called tempering the eggs) and then pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan, cook stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture coats the spoon and thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  Chill thoroughly.  If you really want to knock the flavor right out of the park, split a vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the saucepan and toss in the pod right at the beginning, remove the pod either before chilling (if you’re just putting this into serving cups as is) or before you begin building your trifle.

Now to build the trifle, spread jam on the flat side of a lady finger half and then press the flat side of another lady finger half to it.  Stand the filled lady fingers around the inside of the trifle dish (or just layer them in a bowl as follows if you don’t have a trifle dish).  Then line the bottom with more filled lady fingers.  Combine the sherry & brandy and sprinkle a quarter of the mixture over the lady fingers.  Put in a layer of peaches & strawberries, using about 1/3 of the quantity.  Spoon about a quarter of the custard over the fruit and then put on a layer of filled lady fingers and sprinkle with another quarter of the sherry-brandy mixture.  Make 2 more layers of fruit, custard, lady fingers and alcohol (note that this does not get cooked, so the alcohol is still very intoxicating!).  After the last layer of lady fingers and alcohol, spread the final layer of custard, cover tightly and chill for a few hours.  Just before serving whisk the heavy cream with the sugar, vanilla & just a dash of salt to make delicious homemade whipped cream, spread over the top, dust with a little nutmeg and serve; if you made extra whipped cream have it on the side to let people add additional whipped cream.  When serving be sure to use a long spoon and get all the way to the bottom … it’s super yummy!

DRAGON COCKTAILS (Monday begins the Year of the Water Dragon)
Celebrate Chinese New Year with some Dragon Cocktails…here are the 2 I’m bringing to a friend’s party Sunday (and here’s a link to some additional Dragon Drinks :)
Water Dragon Cocktail
1 oz vodka
1 oz blue Curacao
splash pineapple juice
fill seltzer
lemon or orange twist
Combine vodka and blue Curacao in a shaker with ice. Shake well and pour into tall glass filled with ice. Add a splash of pineapple to taste and fill with seltzer. Take peel and twist over glass then toss on top.

Green Dragon Champagne Cocktail
Pour 1 1/2 ounces of Midori Melon Liqueur into a chilled champagne flute top off with chilled champagne, stir gently and serve immediately.

GRITS & CHEESE BREAKFAST CASSEROLE (though my Mom sometimes made it for dinner with a salad and no one minded)
This is one of my all time favorite breakfasts to make for company; it’s a creamy, yummy comfort food.  My Mom got the recipe from a really fantastic cook book “More-with-Less”; if you’re looking for a basic cook book that will help you to eat better while limiting your carbon foot print, this is a real waste-not-want-not book.  I have my Mom’s copy that she used, it’s pretty beat up, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

First, whisk together

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 6 drops (or to taste) hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce

Have ready
1/3 cup butter (you can substitute olive oil or vegetable oil for up to half of the shortening, even in baking, though in baking it can affect the texture)
2 cups of shredded cheese (cheddar, pepperjack, swiss, any combination, this is a great way to use up cheese left from a party)
Bring to a boil 4 cups of water, adjust the heat to low and whisk in 1 cup of hominy grits, polenta or cornmeal (I like Wild Hive’s polenta for this).  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (I pretty much stir most of the time).  Whisk a little of the cornmeal mixture into the eggs to temper them (it warms them up so that they won’t cook all clumpy in the pot) and then add the egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture, stir in the butter and the cheese.  Pour into a greased 2 quart casserole dish and sprinkle with paprika or chili powder (we always use the chili powder, not to mention a little extra cheese on top).  Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour.  This is great served with a fresh fruit, for dinner we sometimes had it with spinach too.  ENJOY!

TROPICAL OATMEAL BREAKFAST (this recipe uses a slow-cooker/crockpot)
This is great for winter mornings when you’re in a rush.  The day before you want to eat this for breakfast, soak a half a cup of wheat berries in a bowl of water on your counter.  Start soaking them in the morning and before you go to bed, drain the wheat berries and mix with the following ingredients:
1/2 cup steel cut oats (you need steel cut or Irish oats because regular rolled oats get way too mushy)
3 cups coconut milk and an 8oz can of crushed pineapple (juice and all, do not drain the pineapple)
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 vanilla bean (split the bean and scrape the seeds into the mixture, then toss in the bean as well)
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice (this is a mixture of Anise, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cloves & Ginger)
We have a large oval crockpot, this recipe only serves 4 and I didn’t want to make more than this amount … here’s how to make your oversized slow-cooker smaller if you need to … use a 1-3/4 quart corning ware dish inside the slowcooker, fill the slow cooker with water so that it’s a good 3/4 of the way up the outside of the corning ware dish (essentially it’s like a bain-marie).  Before putting the corning ware dish into the slow-cooker, butter the corning ware dish and put in your wheat berry oatmeal mixture.  ONLY USE THE SLOW-COOKER/CROCKPOT LID, do not put a lid on the corning ware dish.  Set the crockpot to low and leave it to do its thing overnight (about 8 hours give or take).  If you have a small slow-cooker, you can omit using the corning ware dish, just butter the crock of your slow-cooker.  In the morning, have some toppings ready, I love toasted sliced almonds, honey and diced fresh mango. 
If you don’t want to go the tropical route, you can use water, juice or broth (that’s right, don’t be afraid of a nice wheat berry/oatmeal side dish using chicken, mushroom or other broth and veggies in place of fruits)  Experiment, that’s what makes cooking fun!  If you try this technique using alternate ingredients let me know how it works out for you :)

This recipe uses a half pound of mushrooms, but you may want some extra mushrooms to slice for a garnish.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt 1/4 cup of butter and saute a half pound of chopped mushrooms with a few teaspoons of finely chopped onion or shallots; saute for 3-4 minutes and add a minced clove of garlic.  Stir in 1/3 cup of flour and cook until just bubbly.  Add 4 cups of mushroom broth (Pacific is my favorite mushroom broth, it’s actually a broth, not “cream of” anything, not only is it great for soups, it’s fantastic in mushroom risotto).  Now add 1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste), dash of white pepper.  Let simmer, stirring constantly until the soup begins to thicken, and add 1 cup of half-n-half.  Just heat through, garnish with parsley and sliced mushrooms and serve with some warm bread.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan.  Add about a cup and a half of thinly sliced onions (feel free to experiment with types of onions and even a few shallots).  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally  add a half a pound of sliced mushrooms (I like crimini, but again feel free to mix them up) and continue cooking about another 10 minutes (until the mushrooms and onions are to your desired doneness).  Add 4 cups of mushroom broth (see Pacific link above) and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put some nice large Texas sized croutons into 4 bowls and spoon the soup in on top of the croutons, top with shredded Gruyere or other Swiss cheese.  Slide under a broiler and broil until the cheese melts.

Rub a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray).  Pound boneless skinless chicken breasts thin.  Rub the chicken breast with olive oil and garlic, sprinkle with just a little salt and pepper (you’ll be adding more later).   Sprinkle the chicken breast with a thick layer of sliced mushrooms, remember, the mushrooms cook down (use a variety, I love maitake, crimini & oyster mushrooms, or just pick up a gourmet blend from the grocery).  Sprinkle the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper (and a drizzle of olive oil if you’d like, truffled olive oil is especially nice).   Now sprinkle with a little grated parmesan, romano, locatelli, or fontina cheese.  Cover the baking dish and bake at 325 degrees for about 35-40 minutes (you want the internal temp to reach about 165 degrees, but remember the internal temp of the chicken breasts increases around 5 degrees as it rests).  Quick, simple, tasty.  Put it with a nice salad, some asparagus, good bread & wine and you have a gourmet meal.  Tune in next week where I’ll continue my mushroom recipe theme with 2 of my favorite soups using mushrooms!

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I’m a fan of Wild Hive’s flour and King Arthur flour)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (for brand, again see above)
1/2 cup cornmeal (Wild Hive has the BEST cornmeal ever!)
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground rosemary
1 tsp. granulated garlic
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg
1 cup milk
a few dashes of black truffle olive oil (optional)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted  (have I mentioned that I LOVE Cabot butter & cheese?)
1-1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (1 cup for the recipe & 1/4 cup to top the muffins)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, butter a 12-cup muffin pan (will do 18 small muffin cups).  In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix with a whisk to blend.  In another bowl beat the egg with the milk, and add the melted butter (and truffle oil, if using).  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir until thoroughly moistened.  Fold in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and the spoon the batter into the muffin cups with a quarter cup measure.  Sprinkle a little of the remaining cheddar on top of each muffin cup, then bake 15 to 20 minutes.  YUMMY!
And remember, be creative, just because I used rosemary, don’t be afraid to try some dill instead and maybe add a little hot sauce to your egg mixture, or maybe try some swiss cheese.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit, have fun with it!

SPRING MIX SALAD BARS – feel free to add grated carrots, and mix up the cheese
This is a recipe that I’ve made for several Friends of the Library functions and it was suggested that I post it to my recipe page … so, here it is.  It was originally from Veggie Life magazine, which is no longer.  I’m very bummed about that.
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon each, salt and baking powder
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 pound spring mix greens, roughly chopped
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 heaping tablespoon pinenuts (pignolis)
Cayenne pepper and grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 7×11 or 9-inch square baking dish. (Thinner bars can be made by using a 9×13-inch baking dish.) In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Add dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Stir in greens and cheese, mixing well to insure all greens are coated.
2. Spread mixture evenly into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle pinenuts over the top and press lightly into batter. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cayenne. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Cool slightly and cut into bars.

So, today’s recipes are an odd combination; I had a special request to post my margarita recipe, as well as the super, easy way to cook bacon.  This led me to think BRUNCH (you can have margaritas on a weekend brunch, right?)

Bacon:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While the oven’s preheating put foil on a jelly roll pan or large cookie sheet and put the bacon on in a single layer.  When the oven’s ready, put the pan in and bake for 10 minutes, flip the bacon and cook an additional 10 minutes.  You may need to adjust the temperature or time based upon how crispy you like your bacon (or if you’re cooking the bacon along with something else).  In addition to easy clean up, you’ll have really nicely rendered bacon fat to use in your cooking, make sure to store the rendered bacon fat in the fridge.

Margaritas:  This is just as easy as the bacon.  Get a pitcher (sorry, only way I know how to make margaritas are by the pitcher) add 750ml of silver/white tequila (my favorite is Milagro), pour in 375ml of Cointreau (don’t skimp, triple-sec or other sweet/citrus liqueurs will screw up the margarita), squeeze in 6 limes and then, depending upon the tartness of the limes, add ½ cup up to 1 full cup of Rose’s Lime Juice.  Don’t get special “margarita salt” to rim your glass, coarse kosher salt works perfect.   Serve over ice.  That’s it, no frills.  

If you whip up some eggs and toast or a breakfast casserole (you can bake the bacon in the same oven, just adjust the time you cook the bacon to work with the temperature the casserole gets baked at) and serve with fruit (for example try the fruit salad recipe below) you’ll have a brunch to completely WOW your partner or company.

So, I had picked up a beautiful acorn squash from Black Horse Farms, oven roasted it for about 40 minutes and went to glaze it (see the squash recipes below) and realized that I was out of brown sugar … bummer.  I did the only thing I could do, make some.  You didn’t know you could do that?  The next time your using brown sugar, or picking some up in the store, check out the “ingredients”, usually it’s processed white sugar with molasses added.  Ta-daa, super easy.  Use 1 tablespoon of molasses to roughly 1 cup of granulated white sugar (use 2 tablespoons if you want dark brown sugar), you’ll see suggestions to mix with a fork, don’t … mix it with a spoon by pressing the back of the spoon into the side of the bowl, you’ll get nice, fluffy, fresh brown sugar … mmmm.
While I’m at it, I made banana bread this morning, I use buttermilk, which I happen to have on hand (LOVE Kate’s Real Buttermilk from Maine, it’s not soured skim milk like some “buttermilk” is).  But if you don’t use a lot of buttermilk and don’t want to buy it just to make some biscuits or coffee cake (or banana bread :), add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or apple-cider vinegar to 1 cup of milk, stir and let it stand for a moment and you’re all set.  You can also substitute with plain yogurt, but you may need to thin it with a little milk.  If you have any substitution questions, feel free to ask, I’ll be happy to reply if I have a solution.

I have a few really great ways to use fresh green beans when they’re available,
plus these are super simple recipes.
Green Bean Potato Salad – My Dad always made this with fresh green beans from my Mom’s garden.  Cube up a few potatoes (the potato to green bean ratio is up to you), skins on or skins off, your choice.  Bring them to a boil in salted water and let them simmer.  While you’re waiting on the potatoes, clean the green beans and cut them into about 1 or 1-1/2 inch pieces.  When the potatoes are about 5 minutes from being done (length of time will depend upon the size you cut the potatoes into) toss in the green beans and cook until the potatoes are well done.  Drain and toss well with olive oil, salt and pepper. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s absolutely delicious served hot, room temp or cold.

Crunchy Green Beans – Clean the beans, leave long (ie. don’t cut them up).  Bring salted water to a boil.  Have a bowl of ice water ready.  Toss the green beans into the boiling water, let it come back to a boil, and then when the beans look bright green (this just takes a few moments) drain them.  Don’t over cook them!  Immediately toss the beans into the ice water, let them get good and cold (you can even put them in the fridge if you need to leave them for a little while).  Drain the beans again, they should be crunchy and ready to eat.
If you’re not eating them right away, or if you have left overs, be sure to store them in a container with a tight fitting lid, in the refrigerator.

Dilled Green Beans – Either sauté or simmer fresh green beans to desired doneness.  Mix with a little butter or olive oil.  Add chopped fresh dill (dried if you don’t have fresh) and mix well with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in fresh lemon zest and juice from one lemon.  Simple and tasty.

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I had been considering a Yorkshire Pudding recipe for today, but a friend of mine suggested that would be better suited toward the holidays; I think she’s right.  Ed suggested this soup as an alternative; it’s one of his favorites.  It has a few steps, but isn’t difficult, it takes a little time, but is sooo worth it!  Every squash tastes a little different; there are so many varieties.  Acorn, Carnival, Delicata, Butternut, Hubbard, Pumpkin (yes, pumpkin’s not just for pies :) try them all!  I like this soup best done with Butternut, but feel free to be creative.

2 Tbls. of butter, melted with 2 Tbs. of Olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock-pot, dutch oven, or such.
2 med. onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed & minced (or pressed)
2 pounds of squash that’s been oven roasted & scraped from skin (see directions below, this can be done in advance the day before & refrigerated, or much earlier & frozen in a freezer bag)
1 apple peeled, cored & chopped (I love Granny Smith apples for this recipe)
1 Tbl. curry powder (if you’re not into curry don’t be afraid to omit & try something else such as sage, nutmeg or dill)
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
4 cups chicken stock (I’ve sub’d with vegetable stock for my vegetarian friends & it still comes out great)
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup whipping cream

Add the onions, garlic & curry to your butter/olive oil pan.  Cook over a low heat until the onions become translucent (don’t brown them).  Add the squash & apples, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the cider & simmer for 30 minutes.  Puree solids in a blender or food processor (you may either strain the soup, reserving the stock, or use a slotted spoon to ladle the chunks of vegetables, a little of the stock may make it process better, be careful, it’s hot).  Put it back into the pot & let it simmer on low for 10 minutes, add the salt & pepper.  (At this point it may be cooled & frozen for later use, if desired)  Before serving, stir in the cream (the soup is good without the cream, but it adds a wonderful richness to the soup).  Another item that can be added before serving (& makes this a super zesty dish) is to add a pound of browned/cooked sausage (I like hot Italian).  Be sure to take advantage of all the fabulous fall squash out there; you’ll be glad you did.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, split the squash in half, leave the seeds & fibers in, for small squash bake cut side up for about 30 minutes, the larger the squash the longer it takes, place large squash (with seeds still in) cut side down, a large pumpkin or hubbard squash may take up to 2 hours & the oven should be at 350 degrees).  Once the squash is baked remove the seeds & fiber … at this point, there are tons of things you may do:

Stuff the cavity with veggies, creamed chicken, or sausage sprinkle with some buttered crumbs (cracker, or bread) & slide it back into the oven to brown & then serve.  This works best with smaller squash such as acorn.

Glaze the squash by sprinkling with brown sugar (or try maple sugar, mmmm), put a small slice of butter in the cavity, & slide it back into the oven until the sugar melts.  Again, this works best with smaller squash.

Scrape the flesh from the skin & mash.  The mashed squash can be seasoned spiced, such as curry or ginger, sweet like pumpkin pie, or savory with herbs like sage or thyme.  With the sweet you can put marshmallows on top, or for savory sprinkle with chopped bacon, & bake it in the oven at 400 degrees until the marshmallows melt & turn golden, or the bacon crisps.

Scrape the flesh from the skin & freeze the mashed squash unseasoned & it’s all ready for use in a future recipe such as squash pie (use a pumpkin pie recipe & use your mashed squash), squash cheesecake (another of Ed’s favorites that I’ll put here at a later date … this is getting way too long, but there’s so much you can do with fall/winter squash), or soup of course!

Ok, so NY State bats eat insects (but I wasn’t about to put an insect recipe here) and I thought a fruit salad would be a good recipe to include, besides, it uses one of the vanilla beans that you had to purchase (if you bought them bulk for the Vanilla Extract recipe below).  This is super easy and super tasty; it also dresses up nice with a few edible flowers (edible orchids from the grocery produce department, or nasturtiums if you happen to grow them).  Start by making a very quick light simple syrup as follows:  In a small saucepan put 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar (use vanilla sugar if you decided to keep a split vanilla bean in your sugar bag or tin) add 1 bulb of smashed, chopped lemon grass (or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried if you couldn’t find fresh), 3 pepper corns, 3 coriander seeds, 1 whole clove pod (the spice, NOT garlic :) 1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice (this is a MUST have for this recipe) strips of lime, lemon & orange zest (use a zester or a vegetable peeler over about 1/2 of each of the pieces of citrus) 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped ginger (I tend to use a little more, I love ginger) 1 vanilla bean split plus the scraped seeds.  Bring all of this to a boil, let it boil briefly (5 minutes or less) remove from heat and set it aside to cool while you clean and cut up the fruit.  This works especially great with a tropical fruit blend such as pineapple, kiwi, papaya and mango … but let your creativity soar with this one, I’ve used it with strawberries, cantaloupe, champagne grapes, blueberries, etc.  It adds a wonderful exotic flavor to your fruit salad without a lot of additional effort!

So in keeping with my frog theme  … here’s the Pennsylvania Dutch version of Toad in a Hole (the British version involves sausages and making batter; the PA-Dutch version is the one that my Mom made)
Butter a slice of bread on both sides, use a round glass or cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of the buttered bread, remove the center and place the piece (which will make a lovely bit of grilled toast to sop up the egg yolk) and the bread with the hole on a warm skillet that’s been sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Crack an egg and drop it into the hole in the bread.  Fry and flip to desired doneness.   Season with a little salt & pepper.   Mmmmmmm  One of my favorites, but my husband thinks that Toad in a Hole sounds unappetizing, so when he’s eating it, it’s called Egg in a Nest :)

I’ve already started my vanilla for holiday baking … you do know that it’s way cheaper to make your own? (not to mention how much better it tastes)  You don’t know how?  Allow me to explain … for a pint of base liquor (rum, brandy, or vodka) split one vanilla bean, scrape the seeds & put them into the bottle of liquor, toss in the split bean, put the top on, give it a shake, then stick it in a cool, dark cabinet and ignore for 1 month.  Keeps as long as the liquor does.  Not only is this great for baking, but it makes a delicious vanilla coke or vanilla Dr. Pepper (obviously not for kids).  If you make it from Courvoisier  you may not want to bake with it, just drink it :)   If you start using vanilla extract in everything you may want to make a fifth instead of a pint, in which case use 2 vanilla beans.  Hard to find inexpensive vanilla beans?  Check out Cost Plus World Market (or for bulk beans


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laura
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 16:47:49

    Now I’m hungry. I appreciate the bacon suggestion. Everyone in my household (except me) are vegetarians so cooking bacon hasn’t been practical. Putting it in the oven is a whole different story.

    I don’t actually drink but that recipe might drive me to drink (in a good way).


    • Donna Wasilewski
      Oct 15, 2011 @ 10:57:57

      At least it isn’t 2am :)
      The other thing that’s nice about doing the bacon this way is that you can do the entire package (usually 1 pkg fits on a jelly roll pan) and then keep the left over bacon in the fridge and a quick drop in the pan or zap in the microwave to warm it up and it’s perfect to use on sandwiches or in other recipes. I made jambalaya last weekend and used some of the rendered bacon fat to brown the chicken and also chopped in a little leftover bacon.


  2. David
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 12:40:38

    Thanks for posting the margarita recipe! As someone fortunate enough to have tasted it I can highly recomend it! I would add your toad in the hole recipe to the brunch mix too! See you soon.


  3. Laura
    Oct 07, 2011 @ 02:37:59

    I have to stop reading the recipe page on your blog at 2am. Now my stomach thinks I should eat again! Well, tomorrow is another day.


  4. Laura
    Sep 23, 2011 @ 22:42:35

    The fall is my favorite time of year also. Another thing we have in common. The fall just doesn’t last long enough. Another good reason to capture it in some way.

    The new recipe sounds scrumptious – can’t wait to try it.


    • Donna Wasilewski
      Sep 24, 2011 @ 07:14:01

      I hope you love the recipe … I was afraid the directions were a little daunting, but it really is an easy recipe. The time it takes is really worth it, plus you can do the roasting step ahead of time and do a whole lot of squash at once.


  5. David
    Sep 16, 2011 @ 18:07:18

    As someone who was lucky enough to sample your fruit salad recipe last week I can only tell your readers that it was DELICIOUS. The spices and herbs in the syrup are genius.


  6. Kathy
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 20:41:32

    Thanks so much – great, fun ideas – luv it!


  7. Sandra Croft
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 22:50:32

    Love your blog…….between this & the website, you’re over the top, girlfriend!! Love to you & Ed – Sandra & Ronnie


  8. Laura
    Sep 02, 2011 @ 21:01:57

    Thanks for the great info. I love it when better is also cheaper! Good luck with your new blog. I’ll be checking it out frequently.


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