Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Winekraut with Dumplings

Brrrr, it's cold out there!  Do you have one of those stick-to-your-ribs kind of meals that always warms you up....body AND soul?  Winekraut is one of those true comfort food meals for us.  

Good tart sauerkraut smoothed out by the sweetness of apples, onions and a wee bit of brown sugar, made hearty with chunks of potato, loads of bratwurst and smoked sausage all simmered together in white wine right on top of the stove.  Your house will smell wonderful!  

I really like to top the winekraut off with dumplings - okay, not the prettiest of breads, they serve to sop up the juices and seem to thicken the dish ever so slightly.  If you don't care for dumplings, serve the winekraut without them!  Good pumpernickel rolls with sweet butter make a good accompaniment, too!

  • 1 27 ounce can sauerkraut, I really like Bavarian sauerkraut with caraway seeds
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large baking potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, diced
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 pounds bratwurst links, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 pounds smoked sausage, cut into chunks

Mix all ingredients in large dutch oven on the stovetop.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cover and simmer 45 minutes.  Uncover and top with dumpling batter.  Cook uncovered 10 minutes then cover and cook another 10 minutes.  Serve

Dumplings:  1 1/2 cup Bisquick, 1/2 cup milk.  Stir together and spoon onto hot casserole as above.  

NOTE:  To make these gluten-free, use gluten-free Bisquick!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Double Corn Crabcakes

Double Corn Crabcakes

You know how sometimes a recipe just seems to drop into your lap?  Yup...happened to me last night.  I was rummaging around in the freezer and WHAM!  A pound container of jumbo lump crabmeat fell out of the freezer - narrowly missing my foot - and fell on the floor.  The plastic container broke into a couple of pieces so there was no putting that puppy back into the freezer.  Gosh darn...I'd HAVE to make something with crab!  I let it defrost in the fridge overnight and I winged a new crabcake using what I had on hand tonight.

You know corn and crab are just made for each other.  Instead of regular bread as part of the filler, I used cornbread - mmmm - why hadn't I thought of that before?!  For more sweetness and texture, I used a little corn, too.  If it had been summer, for sure I'd have used corn cut fresh off the cob, but it's cold weather out there....frozen was just fine, thank you very much.  For color I used some diced sweet red bell pepper and for heat - you know I like my heat - I used Kraft Hot n Spicy Mayo in place of regular mayo.  The sweet, lump crab was even sweeter with the corn and cornbread!  Frying just made them golden and corny and crunchy and totally scrumptious!  Yay crab catastrophe!  All accidents should turn out so deliciously.

  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat - MD or TX or LA or VA blue crab, please!
  • 3 T. Kraft Hot n Spicy mayo - if you don't have it, you can mix siracha & mayo to make your own OR you can use plain mayo - sigh
  • 2 T. red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 C. corn kernels
  • 2/3 C. cornbread (you know I use gluten-free to make these gf - preferably Gluten Free Pantry brand or use regular cornbread if you don't have to worry about the gluten issue
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 t. Old Bay
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce

    Gently pick through crab to remove any errant cartilage or shell - don't break up those beautiful big lumps!  

    Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix gently, but thoroughly.  Again, keep those big lumps in one piece!  Form into 5 or 6 rounded cakes - pressing firmly together.

    Heat a skillet, add canola oil to about 1/4".  When oil is hot, gently place the crabcakes into the oil.  Brown on one side, gently turn to other side and fry until golden and crisp.

    Serve with wedges of lemon as is or serve on a bun....which I think is a waste of damned good crab!

    Enjoy!  I sure did.

    Spinach, Black Bean and Turkey Enchiladas

    This recipe was first given to my mom and I by my sister Julie - this quick and easy meal is one of Julie's all-time favorites. And, it is delicious and healthy, too! The only change I've made over the years is to add meat to it - which makes it perfect if you have left over chicken…or turkey from Thanksgiving. Since the recipe was originally vegetarian, if you want to leave out the chicken, go right ahead! 
    • 1 package frozen spinach, cut kind, 10 oz. package, thawed and squeezed dry
    • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix - I use HOT, of course
    • 1 can black beans, drained
    • 12 oz cooked diced or shredded turkey or chicken
    • 10 rice tortillas (or tortillas of your choice) (soften tortillas by placing a damp paper towel on a plate, then the tortillas, another damp paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds or until warmed and softened - keep covered until ready to use)
    • 4 ounces feta cheese (or more, what the heck!)
    • 1 can RoTel
    • 1/2 cup salsa, thick, saucy kind like Pace - HOT, if you dare!
    • 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

    Mix spinach, beans, turkey (or chicken), feta & taco seasoning. Dip a tortilla into salsa and fill with mixture. Roll and place into 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with Pam and has a little salsa spread on the bottom. Fill and roll rest of tortillas. If they crack, don't worry - it will be just fine. If you have any leftover filling, just scatter it over the top of the casserole before the next step.

    Mix remaining salsa and a can of RoTeltomatoes together and spread over enchiladas and then sprinkle with cheddar.

    Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
    To serve, either lift enchiladas with two forks onto a plate or simply cut the casserole dish into squares like you would lasagna...which is how mom does it.

    NOTE: We used to make these with flour tortillas until my mom had to go Gluten Free. Two years ago I made this dish for Mothers day and used gluten-free rice tortillas, I will use these from now on. The crunch and taste was just perfect! Mom sometimes uses soft corn tortillas, too.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    White Chili

    You just knew I'd be posting a recipe for leftover turkey, didn't you?!  And, I am.  But this is one that won't make you feel like it's the same old, same old turkey, gravy and stuffing all over again.  Nope, the flavors of spicy chiles and smoky cumin, sweet onion and garlic turn leftover turkey into a whole new dish your family will want again and again....not just after Thanksgiving!

    Truth be told, I've always used chicken for this dish - if you want to use chicken, go ahead!  I had LOTS of leftover turkey dark meat, so that's what inspired me to run with this variation....and it is fantastic!  Use white meat or dark meat, whatever you have the most of or whatever you like best.  

    Where the recipe calls for ancho chile powder?  Go ahead and use regular chile powder or HOT chile powder or a combination of whatever kinds of chile powder you like best...chipotle?  That would be awesome!  If you like more or less cumin - go for it!  Obviously, this is a very forgiving recipe....and one my family clamors for often.  Bet your family will too.

    White Chili - with turkey!

    • 3 C. onion, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 T. olive oil
    • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, minced (I used 4 - we like it HOT!)
    • 2 4-oz. cans chopped green chiles
    • 2 T. cumin, or more to taste
    • 1 t. oregano
    • 1 t. ancho chile powder - or your favorite kind
    • 1 t. salt
    • 2 C. chicken stock, canned or homemade
    • 40 oz. cannelini beans, drained
    • 4 C. cooked chicken or turkey, shredded
    • 1 can DelMonte Summer Crisp corn, or whatever kind you like
    In a soup pot over medium high heat, saute onions and garlic in the olive oil until onion is soft.
    Add jalapenos, green chiles, cumin, oregano, ancho chile powder and salt.  Cook 1 minute.
    Stir in chicken broth, beans and chicken or turkey.  Bring to a boil.
    Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened.
    Stir in corn and continue heating another 15 minutes.
    To serve, ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    BBQ Cranberry Meatloaf

    BBQ Cranberry Meatloaf
    Tired of turkey yet?  Ready for something basic, yet with just a little twist?  I don't know about you, but after all the chaos of the last several days, I was ready for something that I didn't have to fuss over. 

    If cranberries and BBQ seem odd to you, think about those cocktail meatballs with the cranberry sauce and chili sauce that everyone loves.  Got it?  Yep, those are the flavors in this meatloaf!  Throw the meatloaf in the oven, put in some potatoes to bake, and if you have some leftover veggies from turkey day....there's an easy, delicious, no-fuss dinner.  We just happen to have some of Kimber's fresh green beans with bacon and roasted garlic and some sweet and sour red cabbage to enjoy all over again for our dinner tonight.  

    • 2 pounds ground beef, lean
    • 1 pound ground pork
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 large onion, chopped fine
    • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
    • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs, for a gf meatloaf, use gluten-free breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 cup ketchup
    • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
    • 3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce, gf to make this a gf meatloaf
    • 1/2 cup cranberry juice, frozen concentrate, thawed
    • 2 tablespoons Jane's Crazy Salt
    • 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper, ground varietal type chile powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


    • 1/4 cup ketchup
    • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
    • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce, not wholeberry kind
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    Preheat oven to 375. 
    Mix everything together but the glaze ingredients in a mixing bowl lightly, but thoroughly.  Form into 2 or 3 loaves - I do 4 small loaves since there are only two of us at home now.  (Then I freeze the rest for quick dinners anytime!)
    Mix the glaze ingredients - ketchup, mustard, cranberry jelly and cayenne - together and spoon over the meatloves in the pan.
    Bake the meatloaves for about an hour and a half or until completely cooked through and beautiful!
    NOTE:  To keep your meatloaf from sticking to the bottom of the pan and so it lifts out easily, prepare roasting pan by spraying the bottom with olive oil.  Then cut a piece of parchment paper to fit and nestle the paper on top of the olive oil.  Easy clean up, too!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Traditional Thanksgiving Sauerkraut???


     Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

    Traditions abound across the U. S. when it comes to holidays and foods.  Having lived outside of Baltimore, MD for so many years (now in Pittsburgh), perhaps one of the oddest traditions I've encountered is that of serving sauerkraut with turkey.  Sure, it sounds unusual, but when you really ponder the combination, it makes sense...sauerkraut cuts the richness of the turkey quite nicely! 

    It was back in the 60's in a typical, traditional Baltimore rowhouse in Peg's kitchen that I had my first experience with Thanksgiving sauerkraut.  Peg cooked her sauerkraut on top of the stove.  She nestled the turkey neck, and the rest of the stuff that comes in the bag inside the turkey, right down into the kraut, added some onions, too.  She let it simmer for several hours while the turkey roasted in the oven and added a little water if the sauerkraut started to get a little dry.  The turkey flavors mellowed out the sharpness of the kraut and it all melded together into a very nice dish that somehow worked with all the rest of the meal. I really liked it!

    Since moving back to Pittsburgh, I never did sell the Pittsburghers on the sauerkraut dish. But, since all my relatives come from good old German stock, it wasn't difficult to substitute our family favorite sweet and sour red cabbage to get the same effect...and it's prettier!  

    And that common Baltimore/Pittsburgh German connection?  My guess is the Baltimore tradition originated when a homesick German immigrant decided American Thanksgiving needed just a little bit of the Old Country.  And so, in the form of familiar sauerkraut, he gussied up dinner to make Thanksgiving his very own blend of old and new traditions.  And thus, theoretically, a New World Baltimore tradition was born...and still exists today.

    Here's my traditional recipe:

    Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

    • 2 slices bacon
    • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded (the food processor disk is great for this!)
    • 1/4 C. cider vinegar
    • 1/4 C. light brown sugar 
    • 2 T. water
    • 1/2 t. salt

    In a large skillet (I love my electric skillet for this), fry the bacon until crisp and all fat is rendered into the pan.  Remove the bacon and use for something else - a snack perhaps?

    To the bacon fat in the pan, add vinegar and brown sugar, water and salt.  Stir well.

    Add the shredded cabbage and mix so that all cabbage is coated.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until cabbage is tender.  I usually do it until it turns a beautiful dark red color - it seems to get sweeter the darker it gets.  

    Serve warm.  I like it cold the next day!

    NOTE:  You can double this easily!

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Fort Knox Pie

    If you've read the "About" tab at the top of this blog, you already know how Fort Knox Pie figures into Dinner Plan-it....and that I promised early on to post the recipe for this decadent dessert.  If you haven't read the "About" tab yet, go ahead....I'll wait until you get back.  Okay, all caught up and ready to go now?  

    First of all...MAKE THIS PIE!  Yes, it warrants all caps, it is THAT good!  We not only make it for Thanksgiving, we make it for Christmas.  And for guests.  And for Easter.  Aw heck, we make it all through the year and enjoy it ever bit as much every single time.  

    I'm posting the recipe before I have a picture of it so you have time to get the ingredients to make it for Thanksgiving yourself.  Trust me.  It is gorgeous!  

    Although there isn't a picture here - yet - let me describe the vision....imagine a dark, rich, buttery chocolate crust studded with pecans.  In the bottom of that crust lies a pool of liquid gold caramel.  On top of the caramel is smooth, decadent dark chocolate mousse - light, creamy sensuous....oh yes. Once you cut into this temptation, the caramel oozes ever so gently from the pie and slowly onto the serving plate - not too much, just enough to catch your eye with a subtle come hither golden look.  And, if you're into over-the-top, full on luxury, go ahead and whip some heavy cream into fluffy clouds - maybe kissed with a little Godiva chocolate liqueur or some dark aged rum, then spoon it over the top, letting it settle into soft mounds just waiting for you to....ooops...this IS a family sorry.  Okay...check back tomorrow for an actual picture....or maybe you'd simply prefer to keep the picture you already have in your head.  Here's the recipe!'s the pic!(Better late than never!)

    Ft. Knox Pie

    • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin - Knox gelatin
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 cups heavy cream - divided
    • 6 ounces chocolate chips - my favorite chips are Ghirardelli
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 22 pieces caramel candy
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 cups Famous Chocolate Wafer Cookies crushed into crumbs - When I can't find Famous Chocolate Wafer Cookies, I use chocolate graham crackers - to make this gluten-free, see note below
    • 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup melted butter

    In small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand for 1 minutes.  Stir over low heat until dissolved.  Stir in 1 c. cream, bring to boil & pour into blender with chocolate.  Process until chocolate is melted.  Through the hole in the top while processing, add 1/2 c. cream, eggs and vanilla; process until well-blended.  Pour into bowl and chill until thickened, about 15 minutes.

    Make crust by mixing 2 c. chocolate wafer crumbs, 3/4 c. finely chopped pecans and the melted butter.  Press into 9" springform pan and up sides for a high rim.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Cool.

    In another small saucepan, mix caramels, 1/4 c. cream and butter.  Stir until melted; pour into crust and cool for 10 minutes.

    With whisk, beat chocolate mixture until smooth, pour into crust and chill until firm, at least 8 hours - I always make this the night before serving.    Top with whipped cream.

    This originally came from a magazine advertisement for Knox Gelatin back in the 80's.

    Servings: 12

    Note: Use GF chocolate cookies to make this GF.  I like Pamela's Extreme Chocolate Mini Cookies for the crust.  They come in a 7 oz. bag.  If you can't find them at your local gluten-free store (Soergel's in Wexford, PA is my favorite!), order them online.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Almond-Encrusted Amaretto Cake

    Almond-Encrusted Amaretto Cake

    It’s Tara’s birthday tomorrow!  So, I baked a cake to surprise her with at work.  Actually, a couple of weeks ago, Lisa was telling Tara how much she loves my Almond-Encrusted Amaretto Cake. “What?” Tara said.  “I’ve never had that!”  (I think she may even have growled just a tiny bit.)  And so I promised her I’d make her one for her birthday.  Your birthday wish is my command.

    Almond-Encrusted Amaretto Cake
    • 1 package yellow cake mix
    • 1 package vanilla pudding (instant)
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1 teaspoon almond extract
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup amaretto
    • 3/4  c. sliced almonds

    • 1 stick butter
    • 1/4 cup amaretto
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar

    For cake:

    Blend ingredients (except nuts) and beat on high for 2 minutes.  Grease (liberally so the nuts stick!) bundt or tube pan and sprinkle with nuts, making sure all surfaces of the pan are covered with almonds.  Pour in batter and bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes.

    This is what the pan looks like before pouring in the cake batter.

    For glaze:

    Melt butter in small pan; add 1/4 c. amaretto, water and suar.  Bring to boil and stir for 2-3 minutes.

    Cool cake for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and place on a cake rack ove a deep dish and spoon the hot glaze over.  Keep re-using glaze that has run off into dish and glazing cake until all the syrup is gone.

    NOTE:  Here's a little hint to grease and coat the bundt pan with almonds.  First, put your hand into a plastic sandwich bag to grease the pan with Crisco.  No mess on your hands!  To coat the pan with almonds,  rotate the pan while sprinkling with the almonds.  Get the inside tube, too, and pat some into place where they may be a little skimpy.

    ANOTHER NOTE:  This recipe came from Cate Olsen who owned the most wonderful pottery shop in Ellicott City, MD back in the 70's.  Cate was a fabulous cook who served goodies in her store regularly...and handed out beautifully handwritten (and copied) recipes, too.  I treasure my old copies.  I treasure my beautiful pottery pieces, too!

    Cranberry Margarita

    Cranberry Margarita

    We LOVE margaritas in our house!  And we especially love this tart, sweet, tangy, colorful version for the holidays.  The flavor of and color of cranberries is so beautiful for either Thanksgiving or Christmas...and the flavor goes well with turkey or ham or a good beef roast.  Mmmmm.

    These are great straight from the blender all icy and wonderful, but you can put the mixture into the freezer and have them ready any time guests might drop by during the holiday.  No fuss entertaining!
    • 3/4 c. premium silver tequila
    • 3/4 C. frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
    • 1/2 C. canned jellied cranberry sauce
    • 5 T. fresh lime juice

    • 3 T. Grand Marnier
    Process all in blender until smooth.  
    Add to blender:
    • 1 3/4 C. ice cubes

     Blend until mixture is slushy.  Pour into salt-rimmed glasses. 

    Alternate directions for frozen margaritas:  
    Pour mixture into large plastic container with lid.  Freeze until ready to serve.  
    To serve frozen margaritas: Using a fork, scrape the fork across the top of the mixture breaking up into crystals (just like you do with a granita).   Then, with an ice cream scooper,  scoop the frozen margaritas into salt-rimmed margarita glasses and serve!

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Asian Beef & Noodles

    I love making foods that are super easy, but also SO yummy! Okay, many of us have had a time in our lives where we could do without having ramen noodles ever again...maybe you HAD to eat them too many times in your life.

    Here's a recipe that will change the way you look at that old college staple and instead turns those dreaded ramen into a whole new and different Asian dish you might want to make again and again. Really!
    • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef, extra lean
    • 2 packages ramen, Oriental flavor noodles
    • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, oriental variety
    • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
    • 2 green onions thinly sliced - well up into the green
    • 1 small can of sliced water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
    • 2 cups water 
    In large skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat until there is no pink left; breaking up into pieces. Drain the grease from the skillet and remove the beef to a large bowl. Add ONE seasoning packet from noodles (save the other for later in the recipe) to the beef in the bowl; set aside. 
    In same skillet, combine 2 cups water, veggies, noodles (broken up), ginger, water chestnuts and remaining seasoning packet (told you you'd use the other packet!). Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 3 minutes or until noodles are tender. Return beef to skillet; stir in green onions. Serve!

    Thursday, November 17, 2011


    Homemade Kahlua -
    Save a couple bottles for yourself!

      Eek!  It's time to start making the Christmas lists!  Actually, there's no big decision about what to make when it comes to gift-making for my friends.  My friend Judy from Maryland (hi Judy!) makes the best Kahlua ever!  Judy's secret is DOUBLE the vodka of the usual recipe!  Who wouldn't love it?!      
      Last year I made a triple batch of Judy's coffee liqueur.  To make it special, I stopped at the beer and wine making store and picked up some frosted wine bottles, cool cork stoppers, plastic sleeves for the necks of the bottles that you dip into boiling water so it shrinks to look all professional and some labels that I customized on the computer.  I was so proud of how good the bottles looked, but the best part of the gifts was how delicious the dark brown booze was inside those bottles!  
      Here's the recipe NOW so you can make this in time for  this luscious liquid to age and mellow before giving it as a gift.  If you don't want to go to the expense of buying fancy bottles, save old bottles (vodka, rum, whatever), clean them well, soak off the labels and put the Kahlua into those.  I saved all sorts of bottles for this year! Make this...your friends are gonna be SO happy!
      Homemade Kahlua 
    • 1-1/2 cups light brown sugar (do not use dark brown sugar)
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup instant coffee (or use instant espresso powder!)
    • 2 cups of water
    • 3 cups vodka
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract

    Combine brown sugar, white sugar and water in medium sauce pan. Bring to boil stirring constantly until all the sugar is completely dissolved.  Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes.  Add coffee and dissolve completely.  Cool thoroughly.

    Once the coffee mixture is complete cooled, add vodka and vanilla.

    Using a funnel, pour this delicious liquid into containers bottles and let mellow for at least one week....the longer the better.

    Enjoy - makes really nice Christmas presents, but save some for yourself!!!!

    NOTE:  I recommend using a much larger pot and at least tripling the recipe! 

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Reuben Baked Potatoes

    Reuben Baked Potatoes

    Easy, cheesy, Reuben goodness in a potato.  Mmmmm.  If you love Reubens (and who doesn't?!) about turning that fave sandwich into a different dinner the gang will love.  Sometimes I make them the night before because they're just as good the next day. 

    Reuben Baked Potatoes

    • 4 russet potatoes, pierced
    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup onion, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained
    • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
    • 1 cup corned beef brisket, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
    • Russian salad dressing, purchased or homemade

    Preheat oven to 450.

    Bake potatoes for 1 hour and let rest until cool enough to handle.

    Cut the tops lengthwise off the potatoes.  Scoop out potato leaving 1/4" shell. Place shells on pan. 

    Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the onions until golden.  Add sauerkraut, caraway & scooped potato, breaking up the potato.  Mix & heat until it begins to brown.  Add corned beef and ¾ C. of the cheese.  Spoon into the shells & top with remaining cheese.  Bake until tops are lightly browned, about 25 minutes.

    Drizzle with Russian dressing to serve

    NOTE:  To make Russian dressing:  Mix 1/2 mayo with a little ketchup or chili sauce and add a little pickle relish.  Mix well.  Voila!  Russian dressing!

    P.S.  These are naturally gluten-free, too!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Roasted Grape and Asparagus Salad

    Roasted Grape and Asparagus Salad

    Who else loves quick and easy lunches or dinners to make in the morning for later on in the day?! Look at all those waving hands and the chorus of "I do! I do!" This past week I threw this salad together one was so good I've made it several more times already!

    The great thing about this one is that grapes are in season now - often on sale - and I've found some (relatively) inexpensive asparagus, too. That makes this a delicious and budget friendly salad to make…and it is soooo yummy!  

    Roasted Grape and Asparagus Salad
    • 1 ½ - 2 cups of salad mix
    • 2 strips of cooked, crumbled bacon
    • 4-5 spears of asparagus
    • ½ cup grapes
    • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • granulated garlic, to taste
    • 10-12 almonds halved (I used Smokehouse almonds)
    • 2 Tablespoon blue cheese
    • a little thinly sliced red onion
    • 2 Tablespoons of your favorite Raspberry or Balsamic Vinaigrette

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place grapes and asparagus on baking sheet, drizzle both with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste (yes, the grapes, too!). Sprinkle the granulated garlic only on the asparagus. 
    Place in oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes - less if you wish. Grapes should be almost crispy on the outside, but they should not burst. Asparagus should still have a bite to it and be bright green with a little crispiness. Let grapes and asparagus cool to room temperature and cut the asparagus diagonally into bite-sized pieces.

    In the meantime, place salad mix in a bowl and top with bacon, almonds, blue cheese, and onions. Arrange the cooled grapes and asparagus on top. Drizzle salad with dressing and enjoy! 
    I really like this salad for lunch on its own, but t would also be good as a side salad to dinner. It looks impressive and is so easy!

    NOTE: This salad is great to use left over asparagus from the night before. If you do not have time to roast the grapes you can put them in raw or exchange them with Craisins.

    What I Learned in Mixology Class Over the Weekend - Espresso Martini!

    My Homework

    Mixology class?  Yep...nice way to spend a few hours on a Saturday.  Just look at my homework! 

    There are some really fun classes out there...some even on specific liquors - I took a vodka class a couple of Saturdays ago.  Rum, tequila, vodka infusions and quite a few others are already on my agenda!  If you have a hankerin' to give a class or two a shot (yes, pun intended!) give a cocktail or mixology class a whirl!

    Espresso Martini

    • 2 oz. Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
    • 2 oz. vanilla vodka
    • 2 oz. strong cold coffee (I used leftover cinnamon Pecan Praline!)
    • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
    • 1 t. sugar
    • splash (or two) hazelnut liqueur
    • cinnamon
    In a chilled tin, mix the Kahlua, vodka and coffee and pour into a chilled martini glass.
    Wipe out the tin and add the cream, sugar and hazelnut liqueur. Shake vigorously until the cream is nice and thick.  Pour the cream gently down the side of the glass so it floats across the surface of the martini.  Dust with cinnamon and enjoy!

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Jerk Burgers

    Busha Browne's Jerk Seasoning - This is the one!

    I have been craving jerk...fantasizing about jerking some wings and throwing them on the grill for the next game day.  So burger night came up first and I thought...burgers!  Hamburger?  Nah.  Pork! 

    These were juicy, succulent, spicy, sweet and all good things all wrapped up together in a burger.  The sweetness of the apple is classic with pork, but the spicy jerk seasoning took it over the top!  So easy, too.  It's our new favorite burger!
    Serving Size  : 4 
    •   1       pound  ground pork
    •   1       tart apple -- grated on large holes, skin on
    •   1/4    medium  onion -- finely diced
    •   2       teaspoons  jerk seasoning -- Busha Brown is my fave! (more or less - I like MORE)
    •            Kosher salt -- to taste
    Mix all ingredients together lightly, but thoroughly.  Form into 4 equal burgers.  Grill until cooked through, but still juicy.

    Serve on toasted or grilled buttered buns and top with sliced, red ripe tomatoes and serve alongside a pile of sweet potato fries and a nice slaw. 

    NOTE: The best jerk seasoning I've ever found is Busha Browne's.  It's a paste type in a small jar (4 oz.)...packs a nice punch of heat and subtle sweetness.  Absolutely the best out there.  If you're lucky enough to be able to shop at a Wegman's, pick yourself up a few bottles!  I do every time I'm in MD since the Pittsburgh area doesn't have a Wegman's.  You can also order it on the internet.  Amazon has it.  Do it!

    (HEY WEGMAN'S!  PUT A STORE IN PITTSBURGH!!!!  There's one in Erie, those lucky ducks.)

    Thursday, November 10, 2011


    Mom and I definitely had to stop at Tapas Adela - one of our favorite places in Baltimore! They always have some of the best small plates and drinks in town…this time was no different. They have such a creative bar, I always like to see what's new on the bar menu...they didn't disappoint. A Michelada (aka a beer bloody mary) is something I have heard about but never tasted. It was time for the tasting! The idea of it sounds kind of weird, but damn was it good.

    Did a little research on the Michelada and it seems the name may be a mash-up of the words "mix" and "chela" which is a Mexican version of the word "beer." Makes's a cold mixed beer instead of a cold mixed drink. Why not?! And beer cocktails are so trendy these days!

    My dad says that Baltimore was famous in the 50's for a similar drink. Those hot, humid, sultry Baltimore summers, before air conditioning was common, were cooled down when blue collar workers simply mixed beer and tomato juice and poured it over ice. Ahhhhh. Guess tomato juice and beer cocktails have been a long-standing Baltimore tradition. Who knew?

    Here is my take on this delicious drink:


    8 oz beer (they used Dos Equis at Tapas Adela…so that is what I would use. Use gluten free beer to make it gluten free!)

    4 oz spicy V8 (or more to taste)

    Juice of 1 lime

    1-2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce (for gf, check the label!)

    1 dash of soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari, to keep it gf)

    1 dash of hot sauce

    salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

    Mix all of the ingredients together in a shaker and serve in a large glass (Tapas Adela uses a tall Pilsner glass) with ice and garnish with a lime wedge.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Bad Decisions....Of The Very Best Kind!!

    If you’ve been reading this very new blog, you may have noticed, Bad Decisions in Fells Point (Baltimore), has already been mentioned a couple of times.  For good reason!

    John Reusing, the owner/bartender, is an artist and a showman behind that bar!  Nothing less than top shelf liquors (Patron XL Espresso Tequila!) and liqueurs (Lazzaroni amaretto and sensuously delicious Or-G with flavors of persimmon, papaya, mango and lime!) are turned into magical elixirs of fresh herbs and whatever fresh fruits are beckoning to him in the market that day.  Fresh figs and passion fruit starred in last weekend’s cocktails!

    Besides great drinks, John has some mad skills in the kitchen, too.  His rich, thick, Southern chicken and veggie-filled Brunswick stew hit the spot, but the bacon wrapped asparagus was the BIG hit of the night!  That’s the recipe I recreated and made for dinner last night…and added an orange balsamic drizzle to give just a little of an acid balance to the salty bacon/sweet asparagus delectable bundle of goodness.  Hope you don’t mind, John!

    Bad Decisions is a GREAT decision for those of us who want a laid-back, comfortable, neighborhood feel with no pretensions along with great drinks and damned good bar food to boot.


    Roasted Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
    with an Orange Balsamic Drizzle


    • 24 thin asparagus spears
    • 8 thin slices bacon

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

    Snap the woody ends off the bottoms of the asparagus.  Hold 3 spears of asparagus together and tightly wrap a slice of bacon from the stem end up to the tips.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Repeat with the rest of the bacon and asparagus.

    Roast, turning once or twice during roasting, until the bacon is browned but the asparagus is still crisp tender.  Drain on paper towels and then place on a serving plate. 

    Drizzle with the orange balsamic glaze and serve.


    • ½ C. good balsamic vinegar
    • 2 t. sugar
    • 1 t. grated orange zest
    • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

    Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer until the glaze is thickened, but not too thick.  It should be like a syrup.  If it goes too far and you end up with balsamic tar, use a little juice from the orange to thin it out.  It may take a little stirring, but it will be just fine.  (Obviously, I learned that the hard way.)
     (By the way, those are Jerk Pork Burgers on the plate along with the asparagus....recipe soon.  And yes, pork and bacon go together just perfectly!)

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    VOLT Restaurant - Chef Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef

    Little Parting Gift of VOLT Granola!
     Housed in a sturdy brick, elegantly arched old mansion, we climbed the stairs to enter a massive center hall and were greeted by a smiling hostess.  The reception area, lounge and dining room were basically white - all the better to highlight the plates of food which could easily have moonlighted as artwork.  The service was equisite! That tiara day I talked about earlier?  Here it is!  We were treated like royalty - but with a smile.

    Okay, enough about all that....on to the important part....the food!  We each opted for the $25 3-course prix fixe lunch.  The choices!  Kimber and I each decided on different 1st courses - she the autumn garden plate of beets, radishes, coffee "soil" and chevre mousse.  It was gorgeous!  I had the composition of market veggies - delish shaved fennel and carrots with an ouzo vinaigrette amid spring greens. 

    We ordered different 2nd courses, too.  The better to taste more dishes!  All the cooking shows seem to be making bronzini these days...I've never tried it, so that was my choice.  Well, it turns out I HAVE had's another name for sea bass...who knew?! It came with pee wee potatoes, tiny sunchokes, Brussels sprouts  the size of pearls and green garlic.  Finally, I'm now a fan of Brussels sprouts...I've been converted by VOLT!  And that crispy fish skin the judges swoon over on all the cooking competition shows on Bravo and Food Network....I'm swooning now, too.  Yum.

    Kimber ordered the Snake River Farm pork ossobucco with salsify, mushrooms, carrots and gremolata.  I don't know whose dish I enjoyed the most.  Succulent. 

    For our 3rd course, however, we BOTH went for the Textures of Chocolate.  Oooooo....chocolate....textures.  Cold and smooth caramel-y white chocolate, crisp and crunchy cocoa caramel shards, powdery and fine milk chocolate dust, liquidy dots of dark chocolate ganache and a gorgeous little quenelle of milk chocolate-looking, ice cold, deep dark chocolate-tasting gelato....every taste and texture a little bit of chocolate heaven. 

    Not wanting to be "that" woman taking pics of everything and annoying other diners, I opted not to take pics - mistake!  After we'd thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite, camera phones started flashing all over the place.  Lesson learned.  All I got a picture of was the cute little packet of granola with the VOLT name.  We might not have the pics, but we have the lingering memories to last a lifetime. 


    What to Do While Waiting for VOLT to Open...Shopping!

    So….BEFORE we got to Baltimore, along the way we made a long awaited visit to Frederick, MD.  Why go to Frederick you ask?  Isn’t that where old Barbara Frietchie  once waved the Union flag from her window taunting the Rebs with, “Shoot if you must this old grey head, but spare our country’s flag!?”  Ballsy chick for a 94-year old in the Civil War days…heck for these days!  But I digress.  We planned way ahead and made reservations months ago at VOLT Restaurant – yep, Top Chef finalist, Bryan Voltaggio’s place! 

    Our reservations were for noon so we had about an hour to explore the town before lunch.  I haven't been there since the 70's...WOW...has old Frederick ever changed!  Being a bedroom community of DC now, there are trendy restaurants and boutiques, chocolate shoppes, specialty cutlery stores, antique stores and even a pawn shop! 

    Lebherz was the name of one cute little place with tall, gleaming, chrome-ish containers of infused olive oils and vinegars - over 40 varieties.  After tasting, take some home in whatever size bottle you wish. 

    Vibrant Artwear was my bargain find store of the day!  Filled with unique creations at rock bottom prices, I found 80% cashmere/20% silk pashminas in beautifully colorful patterns - soft as, well, cashmere...duh.  I bought 3 -  red/wine hues, forest/spring green hues and purple/gold hues.  They were $5.99 each!  On top of that, I checked in on Yelp! and got a free pair of stud earrings to boot.  Score!

    Vibrant Artwear Bargain Pashminas!

    Kimber and I poked our noses into Retro-Metro where Kimber bought a brass knuckles meat tenderizer...handy for tenderizing meat and for self defense, lol.  I think she's going to tell you more about this one herself!

    Tiara Day (and frankly, don't we ALL need a tiara day?!) was an interesting assortment of retro clothing with a HUGE collection of vintage jewelry and other gift items.  Fun owner, too!  We stopped at a few other places and....wait a minute!  It's time for lunch!  We hoofed it on over to VOLT.  Woo-hoo!

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    What a Weekend!

     I mean that in the VERY best way!  Check out our room at the Admiral Fell Inn (don't you love that name?! And, yes, there really was an Admiral Fell.).  It's in the Fells Point section of Baltimore right on the Harbor and right smack dab in the middle of gobs of bars, restaurants, boutiques, bookstores, pizza joints, small museums and more things to do than is possible in a weekend. 

    We tried to do it all and will have to come back again to give it another try!  In the meantime, here are just a few of the places we hit...we'll post recipes throughout the week for some of the cocktails we enjoyed and some of the really special dishes we encountered!

    The Forbes Room - Admiral Fell Inn

    The sheer number of  pubs - Irish and otherwise - and bars packed into a walkable distance of picturesque cobblestone streets (yes, I wore heels...and lived to tell about it) is mind boggling.  Of course, if you visit enough of them in a row, the mind might be boggling for another reason!

    One-Eyed Mike's - Grand Marnier Bar
    The vibe of this place makes you feel as if you've time-traveled back to when sailors piled off of sailing ships looking for their first on-land grog.  Well, maybe not the striped shirt grunt sailors that sailed in the belly of the ship, probably only the finely uniformed and highly decorated officers would have gotten their drink on here because only the upper crust officers could afford One-Eyed Mike's!  While it was cool, you were paying for the atmosphere.  Do your REAL drinking elsewhere.

    Bad Decisions on Fleet Street 
    BEST Bar in Baltimore!

    Despite the name, Bad Decisions is a great decision. The most unique and finely crafted libations in town are here and made of the finest liquors, fresh fruits and herbs, house-made syrups and infusions to be found.  Voted Best Bar in Baltimore repeatedly over the years in all sorts of media, the very casual bar was featured on the show Food Paradise, the Bacon Paradise episode, on the Travel Channel.  If you're lucky enough to get to one, catch the monthly Beer and Bacon Night featuring an all new bacon-laden menu - appetizers to desserts each and every month.

    For starters, John and his very skilled staff made a fresh fig caipirinha for me and a flaming fresh passion fruit drink for Kimber...I wish you could see the flames in the pic!

     Fresh Fig Caipirinha
    Flaming Fresh Passion Fruit Drink
    We couldn't begin to list and mention each and every place we managed to visit, but a few are: Riptide by the Bay - fantastic spiced steamed shrimp and potatoes redolent with Old Bay; The Point in Fells where we enjoyed a well-prepared pork belly and a creamy fresh musroom soup; The Waterfront Hotel - good drinks and live entertainment ALL through the day! The Horse You Came In On - decent drinks and MORE live music all through the day!  Tapas Adela - our favorite tapas place serving house-made charcuterie platters and finely made cocktails.  The chilly day we sat there, a warm pumpkin-infused cider simmered behind the bar.  It was delicious! 

    I wish we had pictures of the truly amazing collection of art we viewed, and in some cases, interacted with at the American Visionary Arts Museum across the harbor from Fells Point in Federal Hill.  (No photos allowed.)  We wondered at the 3-story high, giant momma bird peering into the metal sculptured nest affixed to the side of the outside wall of one of the buildings and wandered through the winding outdoor sculpture gardens. 

    The building itself is festooned with an undulating mosaic of blue tiles and mirrors while the inside is three stories of paintings, assemblages, thrones made of rulers, the Titanic made of toothpicks, woven artwork, spaceships made of vacuum cleaner parts, styrofoam cup sculptures, the list goes on and on and on.....and the wonders leave you giddy as a kid at the end of the ride.  Don't miss it if you're an untraditional kind of art fan!

    We had a weekend filled with fun, food, fine cocktails, fine art and wonderful memories.  Go make some of your own!