Twice Baked Potatoes

During a NY visit to my East Coast family, my Uncle Steven taught me how to make his version of the baked potato. There we were in his kitchen, martinis in hand. “I’m going to show you the right way to make a potato,” he said. There was no argument about it.

The secret ingredient is bacon. You fry it up in a pan, and then roll the potatoes around in the grease for a few minutes. I really need to start cooking lighter. My apologies. But really, he was right. This method provides a crispy skin, and a potato that is full of flavor.

I was feeling cheesy so I chose to make a twice baked potato. Depending on your tater preference you don’t have bake twice. Just simply add your toppings of choice after baking and serve as is.



Several slices of bacon

Shredded cheese


Fresh chives


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pan, cook bacon. Remove bacon from pan and reserve for later. Keep heat on.

Rinse and scrub potatoes. Pat dry.


Stab several times with a fork.

Roll potato in heated bacon grease for several minutes.

Remove from heat and bake for 1 hour. (ALERT. In order to prevent a grease fire, cover bottom of oven with liner, or let potatoes rest on aluminum foil beds).

If you’re not twice-baking, simple slice open the potatoes and stuff with your flavor additions of choice.

If you are, slice open the potato and let cool for a few minutes. Gently push sides of potato in, towards each other, to loosen innards. Leave oven on.

Baked Potato

Now, carefully spoon out potato guts into a separate bowl.

Baked Potato

Add cheese, butter, and chives to mixture and stir to combine. Salt and pepper as needed.

Restuff potatoes.


Wrap bottom half of potatoes with foil, and bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes. Remove, sprinkle bacon on top, and enjoy.


Lasagna Bolognese

Lasagna Bolognese

Fall is by far my most favorite time to cook. The recipes are so warm, hearty, and comforting. Italian is kind of the epitome of all these descriptors. I found this recipe for Lasagna Bolognese in my Fall Entertaining edition of Cooks Illustrated.

Bolognese is different from the Americanized lasagna we typically come across. Rather than using mozzarella or ricotta as a filler, it has a creamy Bechamel sauce made from a mixture of milk and flour. It was absolutely delicious, with perfect portions of meat, cheese, and creamy sauce.


Meat Sauce:

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped

1 medium celery, chopped

1/2 small onion, chopped

1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces ground beef

8 ounces ground pork

8 ounces ground veal

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups white cooking wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bechamel Sauce:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

4 cups whole milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

Noodles and Cheese:

1 package “no-boil” lasagna noodles

2 cups parmesan, grated


Process chopped carrot, celery, and onion in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to bowl.

Chop whole tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped.

Heat butter in large, deep pot over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, and onion and stir to coat. Cook for about five minutes, stirring every now and then.

Lasagna Bolognese

Add ground meats and cook for about a minute, using a large spoon to break up meat into small pieces.

Lasagna Bolognese

Add milk and simmer to cook for 20 to 30 minutes, continuing to break up meat with spoon. Add white wine and simmer for 20-30 minutes more.

Lasagna Bolognese

Stir in tomato paste. Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until meat sauce thickens. Let cool afterwards.

Lasagna Bolognese

As the meat sauce simmer, melt butter for Bechamel sauce in medium to large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for one to two minutes, whisking the entire time. In small batches, whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, continuing to whisk. Add salt, reduce heat to medium/low. Simmer for ten minutes, stirring constantly. (Make sure milk doesn’t burn at bottom of pan!) Transfer to another bowl and let cool.

Add 3/4 cup Bechamel sauce to meat sauce and stir. Cover lasagna noodles with hot water and let soak for about five minutes. Remove noodles and place on paper towels. Spray 13 in. by 9 in. baking dish with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To prepare lasagna, pour about 1 cups meat sauce in baking dish. Even out with spatula. Place three noodles on top, close together, but not touching.

Lasagna Bolognese

Spread 1 1/4 cups meat sauce over noodles, (not entire pan, just to the edge of the noodles). Pour 1/3 cup Bechamel sauce over meat sauce.

Lasagna Bolognese

Sprinkle 1/2 cup parmesan on top. Repeat layering of noodles, meat sauce, bechamel, and cheese, until you come to the final layer of noodles.

Lasagna Bolognese

Add remaining Bechamel, then remaining parmesan.

Lasagna Bolognese

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray, cover lasagna dish, and bake for 30 minutes.

Lasagna Bolognese

Take off cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool for 15 minutes, slice, and enjoy!

Lasagna Bolognese

Red Wine Sangria

Red Wine Sangria

Sangria is a sort of wine punch with Spanish origins. You can make it with red or white wine. It’s a simple way to spice up a glass of wine during a cool fall evening. This recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated.


2 oranges, one sliced, one juiced

1 lemon, sliced

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup triple sec

1 bottle cheap red Spanish wine


Put sliced fruit in large pitcher or other container. Pour sugar on top.

With a large spoon, crush fruit slices to release juices. Pour orange juice, triple sec, and red wine on top. Let sit for two to eight hours. Serve over ice and enjoy!


The Curds

Cheese Curds

I know the State Fair is over. But there are other ways to get in your cheese curd fix year-round. The Renaissance  Festivalstill has another weekend. Stop by the Groveland Tap or Casper and Runyon’s Nook in Saint Paul, or Psycho Suzi’s in Northeast, and you’ll find them on the menu.

I don’t care if they are unhealthy. Use in moderation. Smokey and I concur.


Another take on Bruschetta

So, I was bored with reading cookbooks and we had an uber-excessive number of tomatoes from our backyard to deal with. I was inspired by this recipe from an issue of Martha Stewart’s Body Soul magazine. A writer had suggested to mix edamame and goat cheese and spread it on toast. Interesting combination, I thought. I like goat cheese. I like edamame. Would I like them together?

In the end I added more to the recipe. Did it work? My husband and father-in-law ate all of them, so that was a positive sign. I enjoyed them. Perhaps you will too.


1 small package goat cheese

2 dollops creme fraiche or sour cream

1/2 cup edamame beans

Handful of fresh chives, lavender, parsley

1 half lemon

Sliced fresh tomatoes

Sliced fresh baguette

Olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush olive oil on baguette slices. Toast in oven for about ten minutes, until edges are golden brown.

Baguette and olive oil
















Mix goat cheese, creme fraiche, and edamame beans in food processor until edamame is thoroughly chopped.

Next, add lemon and herbs and mix more.

While running, add about one tablespoon olive oil. Run until smooth.

Now, spread onto toasted baguette slices. Add sliced tomato, salt and pepper.





Another take on bruschetta

Chilled Corn Soup

Corn Soup

This recipe comes from the Bon Appetit Cookbook.


6 ears sweet corn

6 cups broth

3 shallots

1 onion

Salt and pepper

Optional Additions:

Creme fraiche


Fresh chives


Remove husk from corn and using a large, sharp knife cut ears in half.

Chop onion and shallots.

Corn SoupCorn Soup

Add corn, broth, onion, and shallots to a large pot.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Corn SoupCorn Soup

Using tongs, transfer corn to a separate bowl. Let cool. Keep broth.

Once cooled, cut kernels off cobs. Add 4 cups kernels to broth.

Working in batches, blend corn and broth together in a blender. Then, press mixture through sieve over a large bowl, Corn Soupusing the back of a spoon to press all the liquid out. You can stir in additional broth if you want to thin out the soup.  I like to add leftover corn kernels into the soup. Adds a sweet crunch. Season with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate, uncovered, for about four hours. When serving, add creme fraiche, pancetta, and chives, if you like.

Corn Soup


Corn Soup

Mini Donuts

Could there be a better way to begin breakfast than a bowl full of house-made mini donuts? Really?

I think not.

Nibbling on warm, crispy-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside, sugar-crusted donuts at  the Boon Fly Cafe in Napa is absolutely the most rightfully gluttonous way to welcome the new day. Hey, you’re on vacation. No shame in splurging.

This quaint little joint is part of the Carneros Inn compound in the Carneros region of the valley. We had such a wonderful experience staying here for our honeymoon last year, that we visited again when we celebrated our anniversary this year. It is heavenly. I can’t think of any other words to describe it. The rooms are small cottages with fireplaces, al fresco showers, and private patios filled with local vegetation. The grounds are scattered with fig and apple trees. The pool overlooks wine country, and it’s not uncommon to have horses wander up to the fence next to it.




But back to the donuts. Even if you aren’t staying at the Carneros Inn, the Boon Fly Cafe is well worth the drive for breakfast.


Mike ordered the BELT; meaning bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato all squished in between two slices of thick, buttery toast.



I’m a Benedict fanatic, so I had the Boon Fly Benedict. Two perfectly poached eggs sitting on thick-sliced ham and warm Pain au Levain (an artisanal french bread made using a sourdough starter). The ham is so juicy and has some light marbling, not like the thin, tough slices of Canadian Bacon you see elsewhere. Everything is topped with jalapeno hollandaise.

Jalepeno Benedict