Favorite Fall Recipes

With the holidays rapidly approaching, you’ll be thinking about menu items for your festive dinners. These items are some favorites of mine, aside from the traditional roast turkey meal. Personally, I look forward to the leftovers more than anything. These are dishes you can try on other nights or add them to your holiday menu.

Fall Recipes

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

This soup serves as a starter dish for a dinner party or can be a meal in itself with a salad on the side. It’s perfect for chilly fall evenings.

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, diced
1 pound peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 carrot, sliced
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbsp. unsulphured molasses
1 cup half-and-half

Directions

Melt butter over medium heat in large soup pot. Add onion and cook until translucent. Then add squash and carrots. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add spices and cook until vegetables start to caramelize. Add chicken broth and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and discard thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. (It can be frozen at this stage.) Stir in molasses to blend. Add half-and-half and mix to combine. Ladle into individual bowls and serve hot.

If frozen, defrost gradually and then reheat in large pot. Stir in molasses and half-and-half and serve as above.

TURKEY TENDERLOINS

 I love roast turkey same as anyone, but this is an alternative if you don’t feel like roasting a whole bird or even making a boneless breast of turkey. You can slice the tenderloins into serving sizes and make a nice presentation with the sauce. If the liquids get absorbed during cooking and the tenderloins aren’t done, add more broth.

Turkey Tenderloins

Ingredients

2 lb. turkey tenderloins
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup chicken broth
½ tsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. light rum

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown turkey on both sides in melted butter in large skillet. Remove tenderloins from pan and place into greased baking dish. Deglaze pan with chicken broth and pour drippings over turkey. Sprinkle with thyme. In a separate bowl, combine molasses and rum. Spoon over tenderloins. Bake turkey in oven uncovered for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Slice and serve warm. Makes 6-8 servings.

RITZ CRACKER DRESSING

I use the terms ‘stuffing’ and ‘dressing’ interchangeably. However, if you want to be technical, stuffing is a seasoned mixture of bread, vegetables, and oil or butter that is stuffed inside poultry. Dressing is cooked in a separate dish on the side. In the South, cornbread dressings are popular. This recipe is inherited from my mother.

 Ingredients

3 or more rolls of Ritz Crackers
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 eggs or ½ cup egg substitute
8 oz. container chopped onions
8 oz. container chopped celery
6 oz. matchstick carrots
Garlic powder
Salt
White wine (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crumple crackers into a large bowl. Add eggs, mix, and set aside. In a frypan, sauté chopped onions and celery in olive oil until wilted. Add to crackers along with grated carrots. Sprinkle in salt and garlic powder to taste. If you want to moisten the mixture further, add some white wine. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

SWEET POTATOES WITH MARSHMALLOWS

You all have your favorite sweet potato recipes for the holidays, and here’s mine. It’s quick and easy, which is how I like to cook. For a larger crowd, add extra cans of potatoes.

Ingredients

(2) 40-oz. can sweet potatoes or yams
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup light corn syrup
1 bag mini marshmallows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain and mash potatoes and put into large bowl. Stir in melted butter and corn syrup. Pour into greased 9x13x2 inch baking dish. Sprinkle marshmallows on top and bake 20 minutes or so, until dish is heated through. Remove when marshmallows are lightly browned. Serves 8 to 10.

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Personally, I prefer jellied cranberry sauce and buy the cans for expediency. This recipe is easy if you want a healthier version.

Ingredients

12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 cup water

Directions

In a medium pot, mix all ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until cranberries are softened. Cool and store in refrigerator until served. Makes 2 cups.

PUMPKIN MOUSSE

This is a light dessert if you want an alternative to pumpkin pie.

Ingredients

 1 ½ cups fat free milk
1 oz. package sugar free instant butterscotch pudding mix
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground allspice
½ cup fat free whipped topping
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Whisk milk and pudding mix in large bowl for two minutes. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Add to the pudding mixture. Gently fold in whipped topping until blended. Spoon into individual dessert cups. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 4 to 6.

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For more recipes, check out A Bad Hair Day Cookbook available at most online bookstores. With 160+ recipes, plus anecdotes and cooking tips offered by savvy sleuth Marla Vail, this award-winning title will become a handy reference guide for quick and easy meals.

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Dining Adventures Sept 2022

September is an exciting month for us with family birthdays. We get to enjoy several celebrations, in some cases trying new restaurants to add to our roster of Orlando eateries.

For our first experience, we ate at Hamilton’s Kitchen in the Alfond Inn at Winter Park. It was a lovely place for brunch in a boutique hotel, and I could easily return there.

   

The next occasion found us in The Taproom at Dubsdread again for Sunday brunch. This place is set on a golf course and is always a favorite.

Dining at Las Lomas Mexican Grill in Altamonte Springs was a new experience. It’s a gaily decorated restaurant with an enticing menu and generous portions.

         

Finally, we topped off the month at TooJay’s in Altamonte Springs with Rosh Hashanah dinner since nobody could host due to travels or kitchen renovations.

  

Between September birthdays, Orlando’s Magical Dining Month and Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, it’s a festive time of year!

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Magical Dining Sept 2022

Magical Dining month in Orlando is an opportunity to try new restaurants or to revisit a favorite one at reasonable prices. For a fixed amount of $40 per person, you get a three-course dinner. Our first stop this year was The Back Room Steakhouse in Apopka. We actually went twice, because my husband got a gift card there as a birthday gift. The atmosphere was elegant with good service. The first time, we had Thai Chili Coconut Shrimp, 10 oz. Prime NY Strip, and Key Lime Pie. The shrimp and the dessert were really good. The steak was okay. I wish they’d offered a beef fillet instead. I’m not a big steak person but chose this entrée because I don’t eat much meat at home.

       

The next visit, we indulged in the Braised Short Rib Egg Rolls, Sauteed Norwegian Salmon Filet, and — how could I resist? — Key Lime Pie again. The egg rolls were deeply fried and rather heavy, making me prefer the lighter spring rolls from Trader Joes. The shrimp was much better as an appetizer. The salmon was perfect and I chose a baked potato and broccoli as an accompaniment.

   

My overall impression? If you live west in Apopka, this is a nice choice for a fancy occasion although the prices can be steep. It might be worth another trip for Magical Dining depending on the menu. However, where we live, we do have lots of other options.

Our second experience was at TerraMia Ristorante E Trattoria in Altamonte Springs. Here we shared the Antipasto TerraMia and the Burrata Pugliese for appetizers. Both were excellent. For an entrée, I had the Agnello Abbruzzese, a barolo braised lamb shank served with genovese sauce. It was very tender with lots of meat that fell off the bone. Richard had fish, the Branzino Mediterraneo pan-roasted in a white wine garlic sauce with cherry tomatoes and served over pasta. He enjoyed his dish. For dessert, I chose the Torta Alla Pera, a classic neapolitan cake filled with cream and pear. This did not impress me. I didn’t taste any cream inside and there was a small half slice of pear on top. I can make a better cake myself. Richard got the Selvanera Cake, an Italian version of black forest cake.

                     

Overall, the food was excellent, but the atmosphere was extremely noisy. Maybe it’s better on a weekday, but the bar overwhelms the restaurant and does not make for a cozy, intimate experience. If you’re looking to sit at a lively bar, you might like this scene. We prefer a quieter evening.

Wines of Washington Cooking Class

If you’re a home cook who enjoys trying new recipes, you might want to attend a cooking class at Publix Apron’s Cooking School if you have one nearby. We’ve been to many of these classes before and this experience was just as enjoyable. We prefer the demonstration-style class rather than a hands-on lesson so we can sit and enjoy the food without any effort. The chefs offer tips and tricks as they show us how to make the various dishes, and a different wine accompanies each course. It’s the best bargain out there for a gourmet meal.

   

Our welcome wine was a Hawks Crest Rose that was a golden rose color and had a light body. It was not a favorite of mine. A toast to our friends, Es and Rick Cohen, for sharing the evening with us.

   

The first course was Grilled Pear and Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Bacon and Honey. I thought the bacon and cheese flavors overwhelmed the pear but overall, the tastes blended well. The topping was melty while the bread was crispy toasted. The chef used a ceramic knife instead of a metal one for the fruit so it wouldn’t discolor when exposed to air. This first course came with a KungFu Girl Reisling that tasted slightly fruity and had a pale-yellow color. It would be good to sip alone or would go great with baked Brie and crackers.

     

 

Next was Seared Salmon Sliders with Tarragon Aioli and Watercress. Using fresh salmon, this dish would require some effort to make and would be just as good without the bread. The aioli added a nice flavor to this tasty and substantial dish. The wine was a 14 Hands Pinot Grigio with a golden color. It paired well with the salmon.

The main dish was Maple-Lacquered Duck Breast with Roasted Apples and Brussel Sprouts. I’d forgotten how much I like duck until I bit into this tender meat. Yum, it was so good. I miss French restaurants with duck and orange or cherry sauce. This paired with a Chateau St. Michelle Merlot in a deep burgundy color and a medium body. I like this brand of wines that we’ve had before.

     

Last was the dessert, a Rainier Cherry Crumble topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Lip-smacking good! This sweet treat was accompanied by a Chateau St. Michelle Red Blend wine.

  

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We came home with the recipes and the glow of good times with friends.

Dining Around the World

We had a wonderful day at Disney World’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival as we strolled around World Showcase to sample the foods. My writer pal and critique partner, Ann Meier, accompanied us. It was a trek from the parking lot without the trams running and around the new construction obstacles past Planet Earth. We detoured to go on one of my favorite rides at The Land pavilion. I love the boats that glide through the plant and hydroponics gardens where you learn about new growing techniques.

Our first stop was for the Beer-Braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes at Belgium. This was a tasty dish, although the meat could have been more tender.

The Griddled Cheese with Pistachios and Honey at Greece was delicious. The flavors were unusual and reminded me of melted Brie with jam on top. The honey and chopped pistachios were inspirational.

Who wouldn’t like the Wild Mushroom and Truffle Tart at the Rotunda Bistro in the American Adventure? It was a perfect melding of sauteed mushrooms atop a puff pastry shell.

At the Alps, Richard had a wine flight, and I had the Blueberry and Almond Frangipane Tart. Since I love marzipan, this was a yummy dessert. The portion was large enough for us to share.

   

And how could I pass up the Traditional Macaroni and Cheese with Herbed Panko at Mac & Eats? If you’re a mac and cheese fan, you’ll want to make a stop there. Creamy with a slight crunch from the topping, this dish is the ultimate comfort food.

We were lucky to have perfect weather, partially cloudy in the low seventies, before a cold front came through the next day with heavy rain. It wasn’t terribly crowded at Epcot, which made for almost no waits in line anywhere. There were still other foods I might have liked to try but I got too full to eat anymore. The lower temperature and drier air made walking pleasant as we strolled around World Showcase. I achieved over 12,000 steps this day but counteracted it with all the extra calories consumed.

 

 

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Birthday Bounties

We were fortunate to have three family birthdays fall during Magical Dining month in Orlando. That makes it simple what to do to celebrate. Go out to eat! Here are the birthday dinners we attended and the delicious meals we consumed, along with one we did on our own. Never mind the added sugar and cholesterol consumption. I’ll deal with those later.

The Tap Room at Dubsdread
Buffalo Shrimp
10 oz. Herb Encrusted Prime Rib
Key Lime Pie

Buffalo Shrimp  Prime Rib  Key Lime Pie  

Le Coq Au Vin
Tarte l’Oignon

Beef Bourgignon
Crème Brulee

Tarte L'Oignon  Beef Borgignon  Creme Brulee         

Delaney’s Tavern
Roasted Mushroom and Burratta Flatbread

Almond Crusted Salmon
Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Mushroom and Burratta  Almond Crusted Salmon Peach Cobbler

Fig’s Prime
Goat Cheese Croquette
9 oz. Filet Mignon
Rum Chocolate Torte
Goat Cheese Croquette  Filet Mignon Rum Chocolate Torte

If you could wish for your favorite meal, what would be your appetizer, entrée and dessert?

Enzo’s on the Lake

We had a delightful dinner at Enzo’s on the Lake courtesy of a special friend (Joan, you know who you are). This restaurant is located at 1130 South U.S. Hwy. 17-92 in Longwood, Florida overlooking Lake Fairy. The original house was built as an Italian-style villa on the lake in 1955. Enzo and Jo Anne Perlini purchased the property in 1980 and converted it into an Italian family restaurant. Be warned to expect complimentary valet parking. There didn’t appear to be a self-parking option unless we missed it.

Enzo's on the Lake  

We started out with a Caprese salad with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I might have liked the addition of balsamic glaze for more flavor, but this version satisfied our appetites. ($12.50). It was more than enough for two. We each had one big tomato slice with soft mozzarella cheese, and we split the third one that came on the plate.

Caprese Salad

Bread service included a crusty Italian bread, plus bread sticks and another sort-of flatbread. These came with the meal.

My main course was Gamberoni Alla Griglia. This grilled jumbo shrimp was butterflied and topped with a sweet pepper and garlic vinaigrette, accompanied by smoked mozzarella risotto. ($29.50) The shrimp easily came out of the open-faced shells and had a distinct flavor. I really liked the risotto. This dish also came with broccolini.

Richard had the Scallopine Al Agrodolce. This was veal scallopine slices sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with a prosciutto, garlic and Pinot Grigio sauce. It came with peas. My husband’s only complaint was that for the price ($28.50), he would have liked some potatoes. And peas aren’t too fancy either for an expensive restaurant. I agreed that this selection could have come with better side dishes.

We don’t always get dessert, but since we hadn’t been inside a restaurant for so long, we splurged. I got panna cotta so I could try this light, vanilla flan-type dessert, and Richard got the chocolate Chambord cheesecake. His choice was rich and chocolatey and more strongly flavored than mine.

After dinner, we strolled outside to view the lake and the gardens before exiting. The grounds are lovely and make this setting truly special. This restaurant is a perfect choice for a special occasion. The ambiance is romantic and intimate, and the service is excellent. Outdoor seating is extremely limited and should be reserved in advance.

 

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Adventures in Dining Orlando

This year for my birthday dinner, I chose to eat at Boma, the African buffet restaurant inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World. The lobby is impressively massive with a huge Christmas tree at this season.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

We arrived early to stroll outside and view the animals roaming the plains within range of our cameras.

Then we headed to the check-in desk at Boma. After reaching our seats, we gave drink orders before heading to the buffet. What an amazing array of choices! I started with a salad, a corn muffin and a spoonful of hummus on pita bread. Since I’d had soup for lunch, I bypassed this selection.

Next I joined the line for a slice of carved prime ribs and a piece of barbecued chicken. I skipped the turkey since we’d be eating this soon for Thanksgiving. Although I’d eaten shrimp recently, I couldn’t help a few of the peel and eat shrimps on display.

The accompaniments were varied and with an African theme. I had mashed sweet potatoes, a corn pudding, corn and peas, macaroni and cheese, a pearl couscous dish, rice with coconut milk and peanut sauce, a mushroom egg soufflé, and more that I can’t remember. It was SO good that I would definitely return, although the $49 per person price is a bit steep. You do get a 10% discount as a Disney passholder.

Desserts are the to-die-for variety. Here’s a sampling of what we had. Bread pudding with vanilla sauce was one dish, plus all the brownies or cookies you could eat. I liked the novelty items, which tasted divine.

It’s not a meal you can have too often, though. I probably gained a few pounds this night. The pumpkin pancakes I ate for breakfast the next day at KeKe’s didn’t help, either. Now we are home and I am eating healthy until our next trip to Orlando.

Coronado Springs Resort Dining

Continuing our tradition of trying new places to eat in Orlando, we dined at Toledo, the new rooftop restaurant inside Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. A magical elevator takes you to the top floor where you emerge into a spacious lounge area. You can come for drinks and the view if you don’t care to stay for dinner. Here we are gazing toward Hollywood Studios. You can see the new Star Wars land under construction and the Tower of Terror.

View from Toledo

Inside the restaurant, we were led to a quiet table among the bustle. We began our meal with an olive medley and flatbread with melted cheese for appetizers.

I ordered tilefish for my entrée and was pleasantly surprised by the tasty dish. Dessert was the best, a couple of chocolate concoctions that we all shared.

Dessert at Toledo

Our other days in Orlando were taken up with family visits. On this night, we were celebrating our son’s birthday. We’ll soon have a lot more to celebrate as my husband and I become grandparents for the first time later this year.

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Epcot Flower Festival

We spent a couple hours at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival the other weekend. Construction is going on at the front entrance, so we veered around the barriers to the package inspection station. From here, we headed into one of my favorite spots, the building with free cola drinks from around the world. I like the raspberry-flavored one the best.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Next we ventured outside and to the right toward Canada. One of our party had the Citrus-Poached Salmon at the Flavor Full Kitchen. I tried the Roasted Beets with Cashew Cheese. It was delicious. Between this dish and the beets we ate recently at a Publix cooking class, I could make a meal from this vegetable.

salmon

At the Honey Bee-Stro, we sampled the Roasted Cauliflower with Carrot Puree, Rice Pilaf and Asparagus. It was good, but I like my roasted cauliflower recipe better. Also from this booth, a member of our group had the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread. It looked good, although maybe not as crispy as I like flatbreads.

flatbread

Our kids sampled the Fruit Sushi called Frushi from Hanama in Japan and a few other items. By now, I was too hot to eat any of the meat dishes and the heat had sapped my appetite. We finished our rounds and left for the day.

fruit sushi

Later, my husband and I visited Disney Springs. We had lunch at Paddlefish. While enjoying a lovely view of the lake, we ate New England Clam Chowder and the Crabcake appetizer with corn relish that was more than enough for a meal. We watched the amphicars glide past from the Boathouse Restaurant.

clam chowder

amphicar

Others meals we had were at Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze. And now that we’re home, it’s time to go back on our healthful diets.

Seasons 52   Bahama Breeze