Banana toast for breakfast

I continue to cook from one of my newest cookbooks, Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert.  I tried one of her breakfast recipes during the holidays, and really loved the taste and ease of preparation.  Any type of bread can be used–cinnamon swirl bread, raisin bread, cinnamon bread or other types of sweet breads.

The key to this recipe is the cinnamon.  I chose to serve the banana toast with soft cooked eggs for a delicious brunch.

Here is the recipe:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt one stick of margarine in the oven on a sheet pan.  Select six slices of cinnamon bread.  Mix 1/2 cup white sugar with 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Slice two bananas.

Remove the pan from the oven and dip both sides of the bread in the margarine and leave on the pan.  Sprinkle the bread with half of the sugar.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Turn the slices over. Cover with banana slices with the remainder of sugar. Bake for a couple of minutes or broil for one minute.  Watch closely.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.  This recipe could be served with maple syrup if desired.


Cheese fondue

For easy entertaining, I have served a variety of cheese fondue recipes over the years.  Some have been made with classic cheddar cheeses, and others are made with a different flavor profile.

This past Christmas, I served a new recipe that I enjoyed along with my guests.  One of the best features of serving a fondue is that by offering a variety of dippers, everyone can create their own meal.  Guests seem to voice a favorite choice by the end of the evening.

Here is my new recipe for cheese fondue:  Begin with one cup of white wine.  Bring up to a boil in a sauce pan, and then add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Add one wedge of Fontina and one wedge of Fontinella cheese which have been shredded or cubed to melt evenly.  Then add, one square of white cheddar to incorporate fully.

When the cheese is melted, combine in a measuring cup 1/2 cup of Angry Orchard cider with 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Then, slowly pour into the fondue while stirring.  Season with grated nutmeg.

Serve in a fondue pot and keep warm.  Offer a variety of dippers for guests. I served celery sticks, carrot sticks, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, green and black olives, pickles, crusty bread, bread sticks, turkey sausage sticks and roasted white chicken.



Serving cheese

Pleasing presentation during entertaining has been encouraged for years by entertaining experts.  Presenting food in an appealing way actually encourages the overall interest for the food, including taste and food satisfaction.

I often consider what is the best plate, platter or tray to display appetizers or cheese for guests.  I was thrilled to receive a lovely new cheese plate for Christmas from my son and his wife.  I collect Emma Bridgewater china from England, and this cheese platter was a perfect addition to our home collection for entertaining.

One of the basic concepts for cheese and fruit platter presentation is allowing enough room around the cheeses to allow for complimentary flavors and tastes from other foods. With this in mind, it is very clear that a larger platter is a better choice for cheese tasting. This platter design includes the names of cheese in a lettered design layout. For any cheese platter presentation, use a few simple rules.

To start:  Choose an odd number of wedges for the platter. Add complimentary tastes with fruit, honey, crusty bread, or nuts.

Place the cheese in a circle, with the mildest cheese at the top and continue around the platter.  Choose cheese based on region of the World or just from America.  Too many types is overwhelming.  Stay with two or three types.   And consider the texture and the type of cheese.  Consider a theme.

Invest in a good set of cheese knives.  They make a huge difference. And finally, pair with a delicious choice of wines.

Cheese is a perfect appetizer or light bite for almost any occasion.  And having a cute platter makes it even more fun to share with others.


Specialty chocolate for a Valentine celebration

Are you thinking about a special gift for your Valentine?  I know one of my favorite gifts is always chocolate.

I was so happy this past Christmas when a dear friend sent us a box of Holl’s chocolates from Vienna West Virginia.  These chocolates are made from a family business in a small West Virginia town.  They are Swiss chocolates, made from raw chocolate purchased from Switzerland.

It is obvious when tasting these chocolates, what the excitement is about.  The taste is both creamy and rich with flavor.  The other difference is that Swiss chocolate is fashioned with less sugar content.  That technique lends to the smooth and full flavor of the chocolate during tasting.

Each box comes with a guide to the description of each piece of chocolate.  They are freshly made and gift recipients are encouraged to eat within two weeks of purchase.  I loved every piece I tasted and think this would be a great gift for your Valentine.  For more information, please follow this link:

Holiday baking

For many years I have used a variety of objects to test my cakes and breads to be certain they were totally baked before removing from the oven.  Often recipes give a range of baking times based on a variety of oven temperatures which may or may not be totally accurate in every home.

For essential professional baking, it is important to have a thermometer to test the actual temperature of any oven used for baking delicate pastries or other baked goods.

In reality, most home cooks just guess, and often use a cake tester to see if the middle of their product is dry and fully cooked.  Finally, I found a really cute cake tester.  I guess only a “true foodie” would really get excited about finding a cake tester with a very cute gingerbread house on the top.

I love this cake tester, and I purchased it at Crate and Barrel this year online from one of their seasonal catalogs.

So cute, so fun, and just the right thickness not to damage my breads or cakes.  And, it certainly helps me to determine that I have baked my recipes to perfection.


Baby–it will be cold outside

One of the newest trends in entertaining has been the beverage bar.  It has evolved from the classic tea service, to a coffee bar, and now encompasses hot chocolate or other warm drinks for the winter season.

Even though our Michigan winter temperatures have not been as cold as past years, I decided to get my beverage bar together for the holidays.  I chose a portion of my kitchen counter and devoted it to some toppings, flavors, and just fun coffee and tea selections.  Under the counter are drawers devoted to flavors of tea, coffee, tea pots, serving ware for beverages, and other accessories.  Of course, whipped cream, milk, honey, and chocolate syrups are also available one step away.

One of the best parts of assembling a beverage bar is putting together a list of recipes for guests to try different types of drinks.  Some require marshmallows, syrups, heated or frothed milk.  A selection of different types of ceramic mugs or glassware should also be available nearby.

If you do not have room for a whole beverage area every day, be sure to set one up for your holiday entertaining parties, and watch how much fun everyone has making their selections.

Lemon cod with potatoes

Here is a delicious recipe that I adapted from a cookbook named “Sheet Pan Suppers.”  This is one recipe that I will make again and again.  The potatoes were crispy and delicious, while the cod was perfectly cooked with a hint of lemon.

Gather these ingredients and pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees:  1 large Idaho potato, 2 tablespoons olive oil, minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, ground black pepper, 2 large slices of cod, 1/2 stick margarine, 1/2 sliced lemon, dried herbs.

In a large bowl, toss the sliced potato with olive oil, garlic, green herbs, salt and pepper until coated.  Next, on parchment paper on a sheet pan, make four rafts of potatoes.  Then, roast the potatoes in the oven about 30-35 minutes until they are brown.  Remove the pan from the oven. Place a section of the fish on each potato raft.  Top with margarine slices and lemon.  Add dried green herbs to taste.  Select from parsley flakes or an herb mix.

Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer to plates to serve. Serve with a delicious vegetable for a perfect meal.