Vanilla Extract

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I have had this jar for years. I just keep adding vanilla beans and in this one bourbon however vodka can be used as well. With patience you will have the best vanilla that money can by and you made it yourself. Save those split vanilla beans you have used in recipes, rinse off and place in the jar of your home brew.

Vanilla beans

Vodka or bourbon

Place whole vanilla beans in a jar and pour in the alcohol,seal. Set aside in a dark place for at least 8 weeks and it’s ready to use. The longer you leave it and feed it the better it gets. Continue to add beans and alcohol as needed. Don’t forget to save, rinse and add back the split beans from recipes to your vanilla extract as well.

Bourbon Soaked Raisins-Something that you will always want on hand in the pantry!

Bourbon Soaked Raisins

I always have these ready in my pantry.

So easy; there are no excuses. Just add raisins and really any alcohol such as bourbon, cognac will work. Seal and store away. Use as an ice cream topping and in any recipes which call for raisins. Simply drain before using in recipes calling for raisins. They add a wonderful flavor profile and are so plump and juicy.

Spinach Corn Strudel with Tomato Dipping Sauce


1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups corn kernels

2 egg whites

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

nutmeg ; to taste

salt and pepper; to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

5 cups fresh packed baby spinach

4 sheets of phyllo dough

4 tablespoons melted butter

Tomato Sauce:

3 tomatoes

salt; to taste

sugar; to taste

pepper; to taste

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vinegar

6 fresh basil leaves , chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, corn, egg whites, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the spinach. Saute until soft. Place the spinach on a cloth towel and dry the spinach, squeezing gently. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Brush a sheet of phyllo dough with 1 tablespoon of butter. Place the second sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Repeat with remaining sheets.

With the long side of the phyllo toward you, spoon the ricotta  mixture onto bottom third of the dough, spread spinach on top of the ricotta.

Roll the phyllo up from the bottom, like a log; tucking in on the sides as you roll. Place on prepared sheet pan and bake 20 minutes, until golden.

Cut the phyllo diagonally into 8 pieces for appetizers or 4 for entree. Serve with the tomato sauce.

8 appetizers

2 entree

Tomato Sauce:

Blanch tomatoes in boiling water, chill in ice bath, remove skins and seeds.

In a food processor, puree the tomato. Add the salt, sugar and pepper; to taste.

With food processor running , slowly pour in the olive oil and vinegar. Blend until mixture is smooth.

Stir in basil.

Chicken Pasta Salad

Chicken Pasta Salad

Salad Ingredients:

2 cups cooked cubed or shredded chicken

1/4 lb. linguine, cooked al dente in salted boiling water, drained

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 cup sliced celery

1/4 cup julienned multicolored bell peppers

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup small broccoli florets

1/2 cup sliced black olives

1/2 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds


1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. dried tarragon

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

juice of 1/4 of a lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

Toss chicken and pasta with olive oil and cool. Add the Parmesan cheese and garlic powder; toss and refrigerate 1 hour.

To serve , add remaining salad ingredients and toss.


Combine the ingredients and whisk together until well combined. Pour over salad and toss thoroughly.

Arugula Salad with Berries and Black Pepper Dressing


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt, to taste

Whisk together until well combined and homogeneous.


Fresh Berries


Strawberry – Almond Freezer Jam


2 cups finely mashed strawberries

4 cups sugar

zest from 1 lemon

1 tsp. pure almond extract

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 package powdered pectin

1 cup water

Combine berries, sugar, lemon zest, almond extract and lemon juice. Let stand about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir the pectin into the water, bring water to boiling and boil rapidly for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from from heat. Add the berries and stir about 2 minutes.

Pour in freezable containers leaving 1/2 head space. Let stand until set; label and freeze.

Makes about 6 half-pints

Fresh Mango Salsa for my Chicken Quesadillas


Fresh Mango Salsa for my Chicken Quesadillas

This is a no measure taste as you go recipe. Make as mild or as hot as you want. No rules here.

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and deveined, minced

5 green onions, sliced or red onions if you have them, diced

1 clove garlic , minced

3 mangoes , diced

zest of 1 lime

juice of 1 lime

hand full of diced fresh tomato

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

a pinch of cardamom or cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Toss all together.

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd

1 cup lemon juice

zest from 2 lemons

2 1/2 cups sugar

8 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup butter

Combine first 5 ingredients in a heat proof bowl and whisk to combine. Place bowl over saucepan with simmering water. Do not allow water to touch bottom of bowl . Stir until mixture is thick , remove from heat and stir in butter which has been cut into pieces.  Allow to cool and store refrigerated in airtight container.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes photo

Roasting tomatoes ahead of time and freezing makes it so convenient to have fresh tomato sauce anytime.

  • Grape or Roma tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Place whole tomatoes on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes begin to turn a dark color on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in airtight containers in the freezer.

Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic photo

Freezing Roasted Garlic is so handy to have on hand.


  • Whole garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  • Cut the tops off the whole garlic head so that the cloves are exposed. Place the heads of garlic on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Enclosed the heads of garlic in a foil envelope.

  • Bake for 1 hour or until the garlic is caramelized. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Freeze double wrapped. Use thawed from freezer as you would fresh roasted garlic.