Family Classics: Brown Sugar Meatloaf

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Everyone’s talking turkey.  It’s Thanksgiving.   Stores are literally giving gobblers away this time of year.  For most, it’s about getting the biggest possible turkey so that you’re guaranteed to have lots of leftovers.  This was my least favorite part of Thanksgiving as a kid….. how many days straight did they expect me to choke down turkey with stuffing, mash potatoes and gravy?  As I am not the host of our annual Thanksgiving meal, I won’t be forced to find creative ways to use up or serve the leftover turkey.  I promise you, I won’t be eating turkey on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday.  Instead, I will be whipping up some of our other classic family favorites.

For those of you in agreement on the turkey veto, I thought I would share an entirely different classic with you today.  Oddly enough, it’s another meal that I detested as a kid.


Maybe it’s because the name makes it sound so unappealing.  I was not a happy camper when my mom plopped a pan of meatloaf on the table.  But, over the years, my taste buds have matured, and I’ve found meatloaf to be a good thing.  It’s become a staple part of our family dinner rotation.

I’m sure that most everyone already has a recipe for meatloaf.  It’s easy, family friendly and inexpensive to make.  Our recipe includes brown sugar,  a magical ingredient in the kitchen as it seems to make everything more delicious.  The brown sugar bakes with the ground beef  and caramelizes into a sweet, sticky glaze.  It’s wonderful.  I also add ginger to the loaf mix which gives it an unexpected pop of flavor and fragrance.


Brown Sugar Meatloaf

Brown Sugar Meatloaf


1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

packet of dry onion soup mix

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup finely crushed saltine cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan.
In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients (except the ketchup and brown sugar)and shape into a loaf.
Spread the brown sugar on the meatloaf and top with the ketchup.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until juices are clear.
Some people would take this recipe a step farther and throw some bacon or slices of cheese on the top.  If this sounds appealing, go for it.  Meatloaf is one of those versatile meals.  You can add and subtract just about anything to this dish and it will still remain appetizing.

I buy my ground beef in bulk at Johnnies.  Johnnies sells 5lb. “frozen sleeves” of 80/20 ground beef.  I thaw the entire 5 lb. sleeve for about an hour at room temperature.  This allows for the beef to slightly soften and then I am able to slice and divide into three even amounts.  (a little over 1.5 lbs. each)  This saves me time and money.  Plus, I love to know that at any given moment I have a stockpile of meat in the freezer.



Copycat Recipe: Penne Rustica

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I’ve bored you time and again with tales of how much I enjoy cooking.  And truly, I do.  But don’t be fooled.  Every once in a while I like to go out for dinner.  It’s a treat to let someone else do the cooking and wash the dishes.

But sometimes it’s hard to find a restaurant that will satisfy all of my family members.  We each have our favorites.  Italian food is an easy choice for all of us and one of my favorite places is Macaroni Grill.  Hard as I may try to resist, I find myself drawn to the same classic dishes time every time.  Penne Rustica is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes….and one of my favorites as well.  It’s a hearty pasta dish packed with Shrimp, Chicken and Proscuitto, baked in a white cream sauce and topped with Parmesan Cheese.  What’s not to love?  And, thanks to the internet and other popular social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, I’ve been able to find many of my favorite restaurant recipes, including this Penne Rustica, online.   Copycat recipes, if you will.  It’s the luxury of eating out with the comfort  of eating in.  (Not to mention that it saves me quite a bit of time and money, as well.  I think the closest Macaroni Grill is an hour’s drive.)

 Macaroni Grill’s Penne Rustica

I took the liberty to make a few changes with this recipe.  The original uses Proscuitto instead of bacon.  Use what you prefer or what you have on hand.  You can find the shrimp, chicken breast and bacon at Johnnies.

I admit, with 4 cups of heavy cream, it’s will not be considered a light or healthy dish.  I will also admit that it’s a bit more time consuming to prepare, there are several steps and more than one dish to clean,  but, it’s worth it.  And, I think the ending result comes pretty close to the original.  The smells alone are heavenly.

Copycat Macaroni Grill’s Penne Rustica
White sauce 
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/2 cup marsala cooking wine
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups heavy cream

Penne Rustica
one strip of bacon (but I really like bacon so I threw in an extra strip)
9 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 ounces grilled chicken breasts, sliced
8-12 ounces penne pasta, cooked
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped pimiento (optional)
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon chopped shallot
pinch salt and pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon paprika

For White Sauce:

Saute butter and garlic until garlic begins to brown.  Add Marsala wine and reduce by one-third.  Add remaining ingredients, reduce by half of the original volume.  Set aside.

For Penne Rustica:

Saute bacon until it begins to brown.  Add butter, shallots, and shrimp.  Cook until shrimp are evenly pink but still translucent.  Add chicken, salt, pepper, and mix thoroughly.  Add white sauce and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  Simmer until sauce thickens.  In a large bowl, combine shrimp and chicken mixture with the cooked pasta.  Pour into a large casserole dish or roaster.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup more parmesan cheese, pimientos and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake at 475 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.


Just in case you missed it, Johnnies now has a Facebook page to call it’s own.  If you are a member of Facebook, simply search Johnnies Restaurant &  Hotel Service and “like us.”  This way you can stay on top of weekly specials, open houses’ and other random events happening at Johnnies.

Beer Soaked, German-Style Sausages (Brats)

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I love October.  Cooler fall weather is settling in.  Carved pumpkins and spooky skeletons are beginning to appear on front porches.  Candy is on sale by the bagful.  And……it’s Octoberfest time of the year.  (October also comes before November, which brings Thanksgiving.  And November comes before December, which brings Christmas.  This is my favorite quarter of the year!!!!)
Though I can trace my family roots back to Germany on all 4 sides, I cannot claim that my love of all things Octoberfest is because I was raised to practice and appreciate these German beginnings.  Guten Tag means “hello”, but I can’t speak German.  Lederhosen are leather breeches, but I don’t own any.  I wasn’t taught how to polka…..wait, maybe that’s not German?  But, I do love pork, sauerkraut and the occasional German brew.  As I’m not traveling to Munich to celebrate this year, I thought that it would be fun to host an “Octoberfest Feast” for some friends.  Without much trouble, I found several recipes to fit my German theme.
“Brats and Beer.”
Most German based recipes call for Bratwurst.  Bratwurst is a fresh pork sausage, heavily seasoned and usually served fried.  The major difference between bratwurst and regular pork sausage is the addition of seasonings.  (Most commonly seasonings such as celery seed, caraway, cardamom and coriander.)  I chose to substitute regular Pork Sausage.  For one thing, it was easier to find as Johnnies carries Kessler’s frozen (fresh) Pork Sausage, and I thought it would be a milder choice for my kids.  (Who were already questioning the whole “you put beer on my sausage!!”)  I am sure that somewhere or somehow I am committing a serious crime.  But, as neither I nor my family are sausage connoisseurs, I felt the substitution was minor and appropriate.
This recipe does call for the addition of beer.  If you do not wish to buy beer, use beer, or have anything to do with beer, there are several alternatives.  Some of these suggestions may change the flavor, but the difference shouldn’t be too drastic and shouldn’t alter the overall results of the recipe too much.  You could substitute a different carbonated beverage such as Sprite or Gingerale, use chicken or beef broth or simply use water.  (or even non-alcoholic beer sold at most grocery stores…)
Beer Soaked Sausages (Brats)
  • 4 cups beer (not dark)
  • 1/4 cup Bavarian mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 large onions
  • 12 uncooked pork sausages or brats

Optional Accompanimentssliced dill pickles, sauerkraut or mustard

Preparation: In a large deep heavy skillet stir together beer, mustard, and ketchup.  Cut 1 onion into thick slices and add to beer mixture.  Bring beer mixture to a boil and in it simmer sausage, uncovered, turning occasionally, 20 minutes.

Prepare gill.  Remove sausages from beer mixture, discarding beer mixture. Cut remaining 3 onions into thick slices, keeping slices intact.  Grill sausages with onion slices on grill until cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes.  (I admit several of my onion rings fell to a firy death through the grill slats.)  Top brats with grilled onion, pickles, and mustard.

Serves: 6

One of my friends brought this traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Salad to the party.  It was her grandmother’s recipe and it was the hit of the feast.  Unfortunately, there were no leftovers, so my daughter insisted we make it again the next night.

Pennsylvania Dutch Salad (“like Grandma used to make”)

1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 dozen eggs, hard boiled and diced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons mustard

Dash of garlic salt

1 teaspoon bacon drippings

celery seed

1 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped

Beat together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, garlic salt and bacon drippings.  Mix well.  Then add 1 teaspoon celery seed.  Chill.  Pour over lettuce.  Top with crumbled bacon and diced hard boiled eggs.

Serves: about 6

Now, if you still have time, and you’re still feeling the German spirit, here is a recipe for a great Chocolate Stout layer cake.  We thoroughly enjoyed this cake. It was a surprisingly light, crumbly cake full of chocolate without being overly sweet or intense.

Chocolate Stout Cake

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1  3/4 sticks butter, room temperature

1  1/4 cups plus 3 Tablespoons sugar

3 eggs, separated

3/4 cup chocolate stout, regular stout or porter

2/3 cup freshly brewed strong coffee

2 containers of store bought icing (cause I ran out of time….)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans.

Place chopped chocolate in medium bowl.  Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove bowl and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.  Using mixer, beat butter and 1  1/4 cups sugar in large bowl until fluffy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes.  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.  Beat in lukewarm melted chocolate, then stout and coffee.  Beat flour mixture into chocolate mixture in 2 additions until just incorporated.

Using clean beaters, beat egg whites and remaining 3 T. sugar (in another bowl) until stiff but not dry.  Fold 1/3 of egg whites into cake batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions.  Divide batter between prepared pans.  Bake cakes until toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Cool in pans.  When cake has cooled, frost with store bought chocolate icing or your favorite “made from scratch” chocolate icing.


Chicken Parmesan

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Every Italian restaurant has their own version of Chicken Parmesan.  It’s a classic Italian dish.  It’s comfort food at it’s finest.  And the menu descriptions are usually mouthwatering…..Crispy Breaded chicken breast, topped warm marinara sauce and smothered with lots of gooey cheese.

You’ve got my attention.  You’re playing my tune.  And I found a way to play that tune with only 5 ingredients. 5 Ingredients in 15 minutes.

I have been using this chicken marinara recipe for years.  Usually, I bread the chicken myself  using boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  (Which you are welcome to do….)  Dipping them in flour, eggs and then in a mixture of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  It takes time, creates more dirty dishes and requires more ingredients.  (And sometimes I lose part of my breading during the frying process.)  I found these great breaded chicken fillets at Johnnies.  The fillets are a 4 oz. Tyson fillet that is breaded and uncooked.  I bought a pack before really knowing how I was going to use them.  But, then it hit me, these fillets would be perfect for chicken marinara.  And by using “pre breaded” chicken fillets, this dinner can be prepared in about 15 minutes.

Chicken Marinara

6 Crunchy Breaded Chicken Fillets (I did thaw mine in the fridge before cooking)

1 Jar of Spaghetti Sauce or Pizza Sauce, any kind will do

Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Olive Oil

Heat 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil in Large Skillet over medium-high heat.  (Another opportunity to use my new Johnnie’s cookware!!)  Add chicken and saute until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.  Spoon a few Tablespoons sauce over each chicken breast.  Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.  Cook until chicken is cooked thorough and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Serve with pasta.

This recipe is short and sweet.  But the result is the same.  The chicken was crispy, as usual, and my family loved this simplified version as much as the original.  Maybe even more because they were hungry and dinner was ready in record time!  I serve my chicken parmesan with a side of angel hair pasta.  But, for a twist, you could throw the fillets in a crispy french roll or a soft “hoagie”bun, top them with the marinara sauce and cheese to create a hearty sandwich.  Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Buon Appetito!!

Homemade Applesauce….and all necessary equipment

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I admit I have a love of cooking.  (I think it’s genetic, there are many great cooks in my gene pool.)  I cook because I enjoy it.  I cook because it saves money.  I cook because I can control, to some extent what goes into my body.  (and my family’s too..)  I try to cook at least 5 nights a week.  (I don’t usually get away with leftovers unless it’s spaghetti or soup.  My family is sooo demanding.)  Because of all this cooking, my kitchen takes a beating.  My kitchen floors are always sticky, my oven cook top is not pretty, my dishwasher is always full of dirty dishes, and my pots and pans are lacking luster.  I had begun to think about replacing my worn out pots and pans, when, on my weekly jaunt to Johnnies, I spied a sparkly new set of cookware.  A Deluxe 7 piece set of stainless steel cookware.  The set included a 1 quart, 2.75 quart a (6.75 quart) stockpot and a 9 1/2 inch fry pan……and 3 lids of varying sizes.

I tried to resist, but somehow they found their way into my cart.

Like a child with a new toy, I needed a a project to thoroughly test out this new cookware.  I’d been wanting to try my hand at making homemade applesauce.  The organic applesauce at the store is quite expensive, and my kids love it and eat it very quickly.  It seemed a no-brainer to D.I.M.  (do it myself)

I found a couple of recipes online and combined a few for my first try.  The variety of apples that you use is probably the most important factor.  And, hello….we basically live in Appletown USA.  (The National Apple Musuem is 28.2 miles away from where I sit right now in Biglerville, for goodness sakes.)  We’re surrounded by acres of the nation’s best apple orchards.  You can find an abundance of varieties: Pink Lady, Jonathon and/or Fuji, just to name a few.  It depends on the timing, some varieties mature sooner than others.  For my first attempt, I tried Cortland Apples.  I bought a 1/2 peck bag at a local road side stand and raced home to begin the experiment.

I like this particular style of making applesauce.  A lazy woman’s applesauce, no peeling involved.  Some wise woman once told me the flavor was in the skin.  So, I left the skin on.  It just so happens that I had also purchased a food mill a few months back.  Thus, I had another new toy that wanted in on the action.  A food mill is not necessary for making applesauce.  However, it made the job sooo much quicker and easier.  Too easy?

First, thoroughly wash your apples and cut into big chunks, cut straight down around the core. Throw away the cores.  Place cut apples in a large pot with about 2 cups of water. (The water doesn’t completely cover the apples.  I added enough to cover the bottom of the pan.)  I used the 9.75 quart stock pot.  Cover the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the apples are very tender, about 20 minutes. This will take more or less time depending on the variety of apples you’re using and the number of apples you in your pot.

When the apples are tender, spoon them into your food mill.  It’s best to do this in small amounts.   Start cranking.  The peels will be left behind yielding smooth, sweet applesause.  Made in the USA.  Made in your kitchen, by you.  Because my family loves cinnamon, I added a few tablespoons of ground cinnamon to the finished product.  I used a peck of apples, about 5 lbs.  The “recipe” yielded 2 1/2 quarts of sauce.  What we didn’t eat in a few days, I put in the freezer.  Applesauce will last up to a year in the freezer.  But, I don’t expect to have any left until then.

So far, the critics have given the finished product a thumbs up!

I didn’t use any sugar in my recipe.  But, next time I might try adding a few tablespoons.  Again, the variety of apple that you choose will play a big part in the sweetness of your applesauce.  Sugar can be added to the apples during the cooking process.

My stockpot weathered the applesauce very well and cleaned up with little to no elbow grease.  I have since used the fry pan to brown ground beef and make grilled cheese.  So far, so good.  Because the pot bottoms are aluminum, they are supposed to heat quickly and more evenly.  And because the rest of the surface is stainless steel, they shouldn’t pit, color or transfer flavor.

You can find both the awesome Deluxe 7 piece set of pots and pans and the stainless steel food mill at Johnnies.

Don’t forget to print the What’s for Dinner coupon.  Follow the link located just above this post.  (It will save you $5.00 on any $25.00 or more purchase!)  But hurry, the coupon expires at the end of September.

Burger Contest

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If you’re an avid reader of this blog, if you’ve ingested every word that I’ve written, you would remember that a couple of months ago I wrote about Johnnies Black Angus Burgers.  We grilled often this summer and these burgers were repeatedly thrown on the grill, enjoyed again and again.  (No, not the same burger silly.  You know what I mean…..)   Last year we hosted a pizza party contest with some of our friends. It was competitive and delightful, everyone was a winner.  So this year, we decided to host another family friendly competition.  This time around, burgers.

The mission, if they chose to accept, was to knock our socks off with their burger creations.  We would provide the burgers, they the toppings.

I appreciate that my friends accept these silly challenges with such gusto and passion.  There is a lot of secret planning, bragging and plenty of “smack talk.”  I appreciate that no one rolls their eyes or shows up last minute simply armed with ketchup and mustard.

No, these friends of mine come to play the game.

They come to win.  And, for this reason, I thought I would share the details and winners with you.

As promised, I provided the burgers.  (Johnnies Black Angus All Beef Burgers, of course…)  By providing the burgers, it ensures that each entry is consistent (to a certain degree) from the start.  Each participant provided the fixings of their choice, limited only by their reservations and imaginations.  Our family of 4 would be the judge and jury.  (We added two additional judges to our group which helped in the end since competition was so fierce.)  The only “implied rule” is no goat cheese. I do not like goat cheese.  I do not like it Sam I am.  So, if you want to win, leave the goat cheese at home.

Each of the this year’s entries, in no particular order.

Burger #1: Angus Burger trimmed with a hearty slice of turkey breast, stuffing, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy, all sandwiched together in a potato roll.  A complete holiday meal without the family feuds.

Burger #2:  Angus Burger accompanied by a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced, marinated tomatoes and basil pesto, layered on a grilled bun.  I think it was called the “Italian Stallion.”

Burger #3:  Angus Burger drizzled with a sweet maui teriyaki sauce, garnished with a slice of swiss cheese and fresh grilled pineapple, presented on a sweet hawaiian roll with red pepper jelly mayonnaise.  Check out the presentation, makes me want to grab my board and “Hang 10.”

Burger #4: Soy sauce marinated Angus Burger, loaded with portabella mushrooms and sauteed onions.  “Umami.”

*I feel that this burger needs an explanation.  To make a long story short, Umami is defined as a savory taste.  Originally, humans were thought to have the ability to distinguish 4 individual tastes.  Sweet, sour, bitter and salty.  A certain chef somewhere at sometime, determined that he was tasting something outside of these 4 original taste categories.  A fifth sense, if you will.  In 2002, Umami was officially defined as this 5th, savory flavor and earned it’s spot in dictionaries and in restaurants and on wikipedia.  I learn something new everyday.

Burger#5: Angus Burger dressed with a granny smith apple slaw (made with mayo, sugar and apple cider vinegar) and a slice of muenster cheese.  Bonus points for the American Flag!!

Burger #6: Angus Burger smothered with fried onion rings, sauteed mushrooms and swiss cheese served between two slices of grilled bread.

Honors and awards were given for 3 categories: Most Original, Best Presentation and Best Overall Burger, The Burger King.

I have to admit that, once again, all of the entries deserved a prize.  They were all mighty tasty and truly creative.  But, in the end, one burger took the lead for best overall burger with a majority of the judges’ votes.  Burger #2, the Italian Stallion.  I believe the ingredient that earned them the title of Burger Kings was the pesto.  (Funny thing, last year’s pizza in large part because of the pesto topping.  Pesto is such a powerful, flavorful ingredient.  It must be the condiment to beat.)

The prize for most original went to Burger #1.  The concept for this burger came from a 9 year old.  Impressive, something she will probably want to add this award to her resume in the future.

Hands down, the prize for best presentation went to Burger #3.  Served with a pineapple top, Hawaiian shirt, shell necklaces and Hawaiian leis, all that was missing, hula dancers, a grass skirt and a long, cramped flight across the Pacific.

Planning a contest of any kind is a great group activity.  It doesn’t require a lot of work or planning.  (I would caution against accepting too many entries.  Taste testing 6 burgers is about my limit, even if I just take a bite.)  Again, I recommend Johnnie’s Black Angus Burgers.  Even if your grill catches on fire and the propane tank hose melts, and the burgers are reduced to blackened hockey pucks……they still don’t taste too bad.  (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything???)

Last week Johnnies conducted it’s first ever Hawkerdog Hot Dog topping contest.  They accepted entries and gave out prizes for the best tasting dog creations.  Then, they invited the public to come for a few hours of good food and great company.  Money was raised to support Scleroderma Research.

Congratulations and recognition to the first and second place winners:

First Place:  10 year old Sammy for his Sammy’s Dawg Juice, represented by his dad since he was in school.  His dawg was topped with ketchup, bbq sauce, onions and a melted cheese sauce.

Second Place: Hat’s Heroes for their Heroe Dog (a cold sub topping mixture: lettuce, tomatoes, onions and provolone)

Thanks to all who came to participate and to support a worthy cause!!



Ham and Cheddar Frittata

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I can still hum the 80’s television commercial for “The incredible, edible egg.”  It’s stuck in my mind along with several other memorable tag lines like “Where’s the beef?” and “Do you happen to have any Grey Poupon?”

Eggs have been getting a bad rap for years, being blamed for contributing to high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease.  It’s taken over 40 years of research to disprove these beliefs.  Eggs are lower in cholesterol than originally believed and they offer a slew of health benefits thanks to a natural abundance of vitamins and minerals.  Eggs can aid in weight loss, increase muscle strength, promote a healthy pregnancy, improve brain function and protect your eyes from sunlight and other free radicals.  All that for a mere 70 calories!

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast anymore.

I try to serve my family an egg dish for dinner once or twice a month.  (Not too often or they will protest.)  We love quiche and omelettes, but I’ve found frittatas to be even easier to throw together.  They are quick and simple and can be ready in under 30 minutes.  Frittatas are similar to quiche, but without a crust and containing little, if any, milk or cream.  Eggs are the major ingredient, but from here, you can add just about anything  else that suits your fancy.

For my recipe, I used ham, but chopped bacon or crumbled sausage could be used instead.  Johnnies has a variety of ham options that will work for this recipe.  You could use the Kunzler Ham Medallions or Ham Steak.  Johnnies has a boneless Ham Steak by Kessler’s or a Farmland Ham Steak/bone-in.  Either one fits the bill.

Or, forget the meat, and dice up some veggies or potatoes to create a vegetarian dish.  Switch out the cheddar cheese for feta or a smoked gouda.    Imagination……that’s all you need to whip up this meal in a variety of ways.  And it’s perfect for using up the leftovers in your fridge.

Before you begin, make sure you have an oven proof skillet handy.  This meal starts cooking on top of the stove but finishes with a few minutes under the broiler, resulting in a nice delicate, crust on top.  Remember, even the handle of the skillet will be hot when you remove it from the oven.  Handle with care.  I used a non-stick skillet which worked just fine.  Just be sure to thoroughly coat the skillet with butter before cooking so that your frittata does not stick.

Ham and Cheddar Frittata

Serves 6-8

8 oz. asparagus trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 Tablespoons butter

10 eggs (beat thoroughly to give your frittata an airy quality)

1/3 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

ground pepper, to taste

Mrs. Dash to taste (or your seasoning of choice)

4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1  1/2 cups diced, cooked ham

3 chopped scallions

Add asparagus to medium saucepan and cover with water.  Heat until boiling and cook for a few minutes until the asparagus is crisp tender.  Drain immediately and cover with cold water to stop further cooking.  Drain again and set aside.

Combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash in a bowl.  Whisk until blended and stir in shredded cheese.

Melt butter in skillet over low heat.  (preferably cast iron or )  Swirl butter around to cover the entire surface of the skillet.  Add ham and scallions to the pan and cook until fragrant and warmed,  2-3 minutes.  Add drained asparagus to pan.  Pour egg mix into pan and give the entire mix a quick stir.

Increase heat to medium and cook without stirring.  Cook until set around edges but still liquid in the center and the top, about 7-8 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Transfer the skillet to the broiler and continue to cook until the top and center are fully cooked, about 3-4 additional minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool until completely set, about 5 minutes.

Slice and serve.

From start to finish, this frittata took less than 30 minutes.  It tasted wonderful and looked equally impressive.

I actually halved the recipe for my family.  If you follow the recipe, your frittata will be thicker than what is shown in my photographs.

*Please note that all of the bold print ingredients are available at Johnnies, usually in varying sizes and/or quantities.

Fair Food: Poppers, Broccoli Bites and Fried Pickles!!!

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One of my favorite summer traditions is going to the fair.  I don’t go for the tractor pulls, the bagged goldfish prizes or to see the blue ribbon hogs and cattle.  (My daughter did win a fish at the fair this year.  Unfortunately it lived less than two weeks.  I don’t even think it had a name.)  I go for the fair food.  All greasy, fried and finger licking good.  Funnel cakes, deep fried oreos, pit beef sandwiches.  It’s all good…….in a really bad way and I’m getting hungry as we speak.

But when the fair isn’t in town, loosen your belt and try recreating your favorite fried treats at home.  For our family, specifically, Fried Pickles, Broccoli Bites and Jalapeno Poppers.  But make no mistake, Johnnies “fair food” offerings extend beyond these 3 treats.  They also offer fried cauliflower, funnel cakes and  mozzarella sticks…..just to name a few.

You will achieve the best results if you cook all of these products in a deep fryer.  I have tried, in emergency situations, to oven bake.  From my personal experience, it’s not worth it.

Do not thaw the product before cooking.  Use caution when cooking in a deep fryer, especially with frozen foods.  Ice crystals on the frozen foods can cause “spattering” when you add them to the hot oil.  Please use caution when adding the frozen products.

You can use either vegetable oil or peanut oil.  If you use peanut oil, just make sure that none of your guests have peanut allergies!


Fried Pickles: A relative newcomer to the local fair scene.  I actually tried these for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  I’m not sure that I would even consider myself a pickle lover.  But deep fried and these dill pickle spears are the perfect combination of salty and sour.  Johnnies offers Breaded Dill Pickle Spears and Breaded Pickle Chips.  Both are coated with a dill flavored breading.  They are quick and easy to prepare and cook up crisp and golden brown.   I served them with a spicy ranch sauce.

Deep fry for 2-2 1/2 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sauce: 1 cup prepared Ranch Dressing mixed with 2 Tablespoons Hot Sauce

Broccoli Bites:  We’ve been enjoying these bites of goodness for years at our favorite beach pizza parlor.  We were surprised to find that  Johnnies Battered Broccoli and Cheese Bites met our high expectations.  (despite the fact that we were miles from the beach….)  We enjoy them best with ranch dressing or bleu cheese on the side, partially because we can’t wait for them to cool.  The cooling sauce prevents us from seriously burning the roof of our mouths.

  Deep fry at 350 degrees for 3-3 1/2 minutes.

Jalapeno Poppers:  You can’t go wrong when you add cheese.  These Cheddar Cheese Stuffed Jalpenos are halved jalapenos stuffed with cheddar cheese and coated with breadcrumbs.  Honestly, they don’t need a thing.  But, if you must, you could try serving with sides of spicy mustard, spaghetti sauce or a sweet, fruit jelly.

Deep fry at 350 degrees for 3 1/2 – 4 minutes.



Yellow Fin Tuna

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My son likes loves to fish more than anyone I know.  In the creek, in the bay, in the ocean……it doesn’t matter.  He’s happy fishing  just about anywhere.  Last month “the boys” went fishing 70 miles off the coast of Ocean City, MD.  They went in search of tuna, and find it they did.  They landed 17 yellowfin tuna, more than 700 pounds of fish!! 

We’ve eaten our share, we’ve given plenty away, yet our freezers are still full of this delicacy.

With over 700 lbs. of fresh tuna, we’ve been scrambing around trying to find simple, quality receipes to incorporate our fresh tuna.  If you’re not lucky enough to charter a successful trip on your own, or if the thought of traveling the high seas has you seeing green, Johnnies yellowfin tuna steak is the next best thing.  Fresh or frozen, grilled, blackened, baked or broiled…’s hard to go wrong with yellowfin tuna.

Yellowfin tuna is a mild tasting, versitale fish that is both delicious and nutritious. Prior to this windfall of tuna, I have to admit I didn’t know much about it.  In appearance, it differs greatly from other fish.  Depending on the grade and it’s freshness, tuna should actually be bright to pale red in color.   And the proper thickness of your tuna steak should be between 3/4″ to 1 1/4″ thick.  More like a good cut of beef than a fish!  Some people eat it raw, think sushi.  But most everyone agrees that it should be cooked no more than medium, so that it’s still pink in the center.  You can always throw it back on the grill.  But give it a try first.  Overcooking is the worst crime you can commit when cooking fish.

This is a simple, but good recipe.  Only 5 ingredients, it doesn’t get much easier than this.

Grilled Teriyaki Tuna

1 cup teriyaki sauce

3/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground pepper

4 yellowfin tuna fillets/steaks

Combine all of the ingredients in a resealable plastic bag and add the tuna.  Seal, shake and allow to marinate for several hours in the fridge.

(You will want to thaw your tuna steaks before grilling. )

Preheat your grill for high heat.  Place tuna on grill.  Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Remember, pink tuna is ok.  Pink (medium) tuna is encouraged.

You don’t want to overcook or the tuna will be dry.

*We’ve made this marinade for our tuna several times.  With the first bite, I actually thought that these tuna steaks tasted like steak steaks.  Amazing!!  Thick yet incredibly tender and without a fishy odor or flavor.



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Sometimes it’s difficult to make choices.  Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to make for dinner, especially when it comes to dessert when you have both “pie people” and “cake people”.  While spending more time than I care to admit on Pinterest, I came across the perfect solution….a Cherpumple.  This towering dessert takes the choice out of baking by combining all of your favorites in one oversized, calorie filled creation.  The origins of this creation belong to one Mr. Charles Phoenix who created this masterpiece for a Thanksgiving Meal.  Think of a Cherpumple as 6 desserts in one….3 kinds of cake, 3 kinds of pie, all baked together in one monster of a dessert.

Assemble your Ingredients:

3 boxes of cake mix and necessary eggs, vegetable oil and/or water

Use any variety that you want.  There are endless possibilities… velvet, spice cake, devil’s food, white, whatever.

3 store bought pies

Store bought pies are necessary as the pies need to be sturdy to withstand the stacking process.  This is a heavy dessert and the cake-pies will be stacked 3 layers high.  To make it an official Cherpumple, use Cherry, Pumpkin and Apple Pies.  Johnnies offers all 3 ready baked and ready to go.

2-3 containers of store bought icing

Again, the flavor choice is up to you.  Since there were so many other flavors at work, I chose plain white icing.

Other Handy Tools

10 inch Springform Pan

Parchment Paper


For my Cherpumple, which really wasn’t a Cherpumple at all, but rather a Cherblupple, I chose red velvet cake, white cake and devils food cake.  For my pies, I chose cherry pie, apple and blueberry.  It was a Fourth of July themed party, so red white and blue ingredients seemed necessary.  Again the possible combinations of pies and cakes are seemingly endless.

Be advised that making a Cherpumple is not a quick task to complete.  You will need to set aside several hours to bake and thoroughly cool your cake/pies, although using store bought cakes, pies and frosting does save you some time.

I baked my cake-pies in a springform pan, as I didn’t think that my regular pie pan would be deep enough.  I sprayed the 10 inch round spring form pan and lined it with a round of parchment paper.  (And, just to be safe, I sprayed it again.)  I mixed each cake reducing the amount of water and oil for each mix by 1/8 cup.  Previous online reviewers had commented that their Cherpumple fell apart because is was too moist and too soft.  By reducing the liquids, I was able to achieve a denser, firmer cake/pie.  I poured a bit of the prepared cake mix into my springform pan, about 1/3 of the batter.  Then I removed each pie from it’s foil pie plate and sat it in the pan.

Then I poured the remaining cake mix on top.  When finished, the pie disappeared under the raw cake mix.

Each cake-pie baked at 350 degrees for one hour.  (I tested each layer with a toothpick, very scientific I know, before taking it out of the oven.  The last thing you want to do with each layer is underbake.  That would result in disaster for sure!)  Then, I allowed each layer to cool.  Since these layers are thick, be sure to allow several hours for each to cool completely.  If you are short on time, you could put each layer in the freezer to help it cool faster.  Otherwise, if the cake-pie is not completely cool and set, I would anticipate it to collapse under the excessive weight.

When each layer has cooled, begin to stack them.  I placed the first layer on a plate, then spread a little icing on top to act as an adhesive.  Then, I repeated the process with the next 2 layers.  If everything has gone according to plan, your cake-pies should be uniform in size and flat on at least one side.  If not, try to even them up with a knife.  Then I iced the entire dessert with the remaining icing.  I used 2 containers of store bought icing.  You could easily use 3 containers if you prefer more icing.

The trickiest part of this dessert is cutting and eating it.  I was able to cut and serve about half until the “walls came tumbling down.”  So be prepared.  Serve the initial pieces and switch to a horizontal cutting process.  But, even if it falls, you won’t lose any of the flavor.

To enjoy all of the flavors that abound in this beast, be prepared.  The slices are tall, so I recommend making very thin slices so your belly won’t get too full too fast.

This dessert was quite the conversation piece.  None of my guests had even heard of this weird, crazy concoction.

I was worried that this dessert would end up being more about the presentation than the taste.  Would all of those components actually taste good together?

I combined all of my favorite pies and cake flavors.  I chose a creamy vanilla frosting.  I could taste all of the flavors as they blended into one moist dessert.  Yes, we did enjoy the Cherpumple-Cherbluple.  What’s not to love about all of your favorites coming together in an explosion of taste?  My only complaint is that we couldn’t even finish half of this dessert.  It is a monster dessert.  If you are adventurous enough to give it a try…….invite many guests!!