Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Homemade Croutons

I was never a crouton lover until I started making them at home.  Homemade croutons are the easiest thing to make and so much better than store bought.  No bread goes to waste as I make these golden, crunchy nuggets for our daily salads.  Now that fall weather is here I can't wait to make some tomato soup for these croutons!

Today I used sourdough but I use whatever bread I have.  

 Here's my basic recipe but you can get creative with different seasoning.  Also, if you are using more or less cubed bread, the ratio of butter/bread is about 1/2 tablespoon melted butter to 1 cup bread cubes.  Day old bread will need a little more melted butter.


8 cups cubed bread (fresh or day old)
4-6 tablespoons melted butter (use more for day old)
1/4  teaspoon garlic salt 


1. Preheat over to 300 degrees.  2. Spread bread cubes on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
3. Drizzle melted butter over and sprinkle garlic salt, toss lightly and again spread cubes in a single layer.
4.  Bake, stirring croutons every 10 minutes, for a total of 30-40* minutes until they are golden and crispy.
5. Cool and store croutons in an air­tight container or ziplock bag.  Will store for about 2 weeks.

Notes:  *Baking time will vary depending on the type of bread. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Ultimate Dinner Party

Saturday evening Kevin and I along with our friends Tony and Margaret hosted a dinner at my house.  It wasn't an ordinary dinner party where I'm usually slaving in the kitchen, making a huge mess and stressing to get everything done before the guest arrive.  No, this was so different and wonderful!  Chef Mark and Brian of Vignette (dining club) came to my house to prepare a 5-course dining experience for 8.  How this all came to be was through a fundraiser,  Stand Up and Sing for Kids (Dane County CASA and Canopy Center).  We love to support and donate to this wonderful organization helping strengthen families and support children impacted by trauma and adversity.  We didn't even win the bid but Chef Mark and Brian were so gracious to give two dinner parties.  Lucky us, because it was amazing.  Thanks to Chef Mark and Brian, you guys sure know how to throw a dinner party and gave us all an evening to remember.  It was fun having you hang out in my kitchen.  You're welcome anytime!

Wine Pairing for each course.

Local Meat and cheese from Bavaria Sausage

          Tony & Margaret
          Ed and MaryAnn
          Megan & Ryan
          Kevin and Dawn

      Chef Mark and Brian

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As wonderful as dinner was, one of the highlights for me was Mark and Brian washed all the dishes and left my kitchen spotless!  THANKS!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cod with Tomato and Herb Butter

This dish is as beautiful as it is delicious.  The cod is flaky and tender, then when you top it with this tomato herb butter sauce it takes it over the top.  This recipe comes from the blog Little Broken.  You'll have to check out her blog for her step by step photos of this recipe.  

I'm going to try this flavorful tomato herb butter sauce on salmon and chicken soon.  So GOOD!

Tomato and Herb Butter
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling the cod
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used chicken broth)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (I used 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt)
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, sliced (I used salted butter so I cut down the the salt)
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs (basil, parsley, chives, cilantro), plus extra for garnish (I used 1 Tblsp. of each basil parsley and cilantro)
  • 2 - 2¼ pounds fresh cod fillets, cut into 6-8 oz. portions* (I used only 4 portions because you'll want enough butter sauce for each serving)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper

Tomato and Herb Butter
  1. In a small saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté shallot for 3 minutes, then add garlic for 1 minute or just until fragrant, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, for 15-17 minutes or until tomatoes break down and release their juices and liquid has almost evaporated. ( While this is cooking prepare cod and put in the oven so both are done around the same time.)
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat (I turned the sauce pan to low) and stir in the butter and fresh herbs. The herb butter should be velvety. Cover and keep warm while the cod is baking.
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Drizzle the bottom of a casserole dish lightly with olive oil. You want a dish big enough to fit the cod in a single layer.
  3. Pat dry the cod really well and place in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the top lightly with olive oil and squeeze of fresh lemon. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 15-18 minutes or until easily flaked. Baking time will depend on the thickness of the cod.
  4. Remove from the oven (I drained off the extra liquid in the pan so it wouldn't thin out the butter sauce) and evenly spread the tomato butter over the cod. Cover back with aluminum foil and let stand at room temperature for 1-2 minutes before serving. You just want all the flavors to come together.
  5. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs, if desired, and serve immediately.
Serves 4

I like to serve this with a rice pilaf. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Peach, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

When summer produce is at its peak this simple salad is summer on a plate! I just got a box of 12 peaches at Costco and they are so good, firm but ripe, juicy and so sweet.  Perfect for this salad as each ingredient needs to be at it's best.  I also got some wonderful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market that taste like a tomato should taste.  I will be making this again real soon as the peaches are ripe and ready.  
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil *
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar *
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt, divided
1 heirloom or vine ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 ripe peaches - halved, pitted, and sliced
4 leaves fresh basil, torn
4oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced and quartered *

1.  Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 pinch flaked salt together in a bowl until dressing is smooth.
2.  Alternate tomato slices, peach slices and mozzarella slices in layers on a platter.  Sprinkle salt and basil on top. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

Serves 2-4

*Instead of the oil and balsamic vineagar dressing, you can use a balsamic glaze.
*You can use burrata instead of fresh mozzarella

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Concerts on the Square, Madison WI 

I don't do much baking these days but when I do, it's usually these cookies.  I have to have people to share them with because I'm not able to stay out of the cookie jar, they're that good!   Today's my opportunity as we're having a picnic with family and friends.  In the summer every Wednesday evening is an outdoor concert by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra held on the lawn of the Wisconsin State Capitol.  It has been called "The Biggest Picnic of Summer."  It's really a sight to see all the families and friends gathering around the Capitol lawn, having a fun summer evening.

I've posted this recipe a long time ago but thought I'd post again as it's really one of my all-time favorite cookies.  The combination of dark chocolate and dried cherries are amazing.  I got this recipe from Cooks Illustrated.  One thing I've learned from making recipes from Cooks illustrated is that if you follow the recipe that they worked very hard to get just right it will turn out for you too.  Their little tricks like measuring the ingredients, toasting the pecans for more nut flavor, or using cool butter so that the cookies hold their shape and don't spread too thin.  Also the timing on the mixing, one minute here and 30 seconds there, not to add to much air to the batter.  So, if you follow the directions they'll turn out perfect every time.  Crispy, chewy, chocolate and cherry in every bite.  They are worth every calorie!


1 1/4 (6 1/4 oz) cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon  salt
1 1/4 (3 1/2 oz) cups rolled oats, old-fashioned (not instant)
1 cup toasted pecans (4 ounces), chopped (*see note)
1 cup (5 oz) dried tart cherries (chop coarse *I leave them whole)
3/4 cup (4 oz) dark chocolate chips
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons)  butter, softened but still cool 
1 1/2 (10 1/2 oz) cups packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In a second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries, and chocolate.
3. In a standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.
4. Roll between palms into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (2 oz); stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet,  flatten slightly spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake 14-16 minutes until cookies are light brown. Do not over bake.
5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Makes about 20 cookies

*  To toast pecans place on cookie sheet and place in oven while preheating.  When the oven reaches 350 pecans are toasted.   Every oven heats up differently so keep a close eye not to burn nuts.  Make sure they are cool before adding to cookie batter!

*  If chopping dried cherries, it works better if you freeze them slightly before. 


Friday, June 29, 2018

Lemon Basil Grilled Salmon

I made this for lunch today and I'm so happy right now.  It was so good!  So fresh and bright, summer on a plate.  I got the recipe from the blog, I Wash You Dry.  I'm sure I'll be making this again soon as it was so easy.  While the salmon and corn were on the grill, I made the tomato salad and lunch was ready in less than 30 minutes.   I did make one change, the recipe called for Land O Lakes® Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt but I used regular salted butter.  Check out I Wash You Dry for the recipe.