Duck Fat Bread

Duck Fat Bread

Today would be my Mom’s birthday. I still miss her. I thought I would share some of her favorite recipes this week. She was a great cook and I learned a lot from her. Here is a bread she was famous for in our family.

My Mom used to make this wonderful sweet bread. Made it for every family occasion. The recipe uses butter. She was a very frugal person. One day, she decided to render the skin from a duck she was using in soup. She didn’t want to just toss it. Too wasteful. Once it was cooled, the duck fat looked like butter. She was making her sweet bread and substituted the duck fat for the butter in the recipe. When my brother-in-law, Bob, tasted it he declared it was the best bread yet. My Mom told him what the secret ingredient was, and from that day on, we always called it duck fat bread, even when it was made with butter. Here is the recipe- wonderful even if made with plain old butter.



Mom’s Butter Coffeecake Braids aka Duck Fat Bread

4 1/2 c. flour

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

½ c. butter or 1/2 c. cooled rendered duck fat

1 packet yeast

¼ c. warm water

2 t. sugar

1 c. evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten

Combine flour with sugar and salt. Cut in butter or duck fat and set aside. Dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar in warm water. Dissolve yeast in warm water mixture and set aside. Allow to become bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Combine milk with eggs. Stir in yeast mixture and add to flour mixture stirring well. Knead dough in bowl until smooth, about 10 minutes. Place on lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1½ hours. Divide dough in half and then each half into thirds. Roll dough into ropes and braid three ropes together. Repeat with remaining 3 ropes.  Place braids in 9×5 inch greased bread pans and cover with a towel. Place in a warm, draft-free place and allow to rise until doubled, about 1½ hours. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. If you like glaze loaves while warm with a mix of powdered sugar, a little milk, butter, and vanilla. Toasted almonds or walnuts can be added, if desired. Makes 2 loaves.

Note: You can also refrigerate the dough after kneading it if you would prefer. Just place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Roll and shape dough into braids when cold from the fridge.  Rise, covered, until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours. Bake as directed.

Note: You can also place loaves on a greased baking sheet for a longer, flatter bread rather than in loaf pan.

Mushroom Dressing and Gravy- Vegan

Mushroom Dressing and Gravy

Not everyone at the Thanksgiving table will be eating turkey. If you are like me, you have friends and family who are vegetarians. That was the inspiration for this dish. Just because a person doesn’t eat meat, does not mean they can’t enjoy the other traditional foods of the holiday.

I’m not a fan of “fake meats”, so a simulation of turkey was not what I was going for.  I wanted to make a dish that was normally part of the regular menu, but minus the meat.

This is a dish everyone can enjoy together. Thanksgiving is about bringing us together, after all. I used mushrooms as the base for both the dressing and the gravy. The end result is rich and very tasty.


Mushroom Dressing and Gravy – Vegan

The Gravy:
3 T. oil
2 onions, diced
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped- try to use a couple of different types
¾ c. diced celery
¼ c. chopped parsley
1 t. oregano
½ t. thyme
4 T. flour
2 c. vegetable broth
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

In skillet, heat oil and cook onions until golden. Add mushrooms and celery and continue cooking until mushrooms also start to turn golden. Toss in the parsley and herbs. Remove about ¾ of the onion mixture and set aside- it will go in the dressing. In skillet, with the remaining onion mixture, add the flour and stir in. Cook over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the broth and bring to a low boil, stirring often, until thickened and bubbly. Add vinegar and hot sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. You can let it simmer a few minutes longer, if you like it thicker. It cooks down quickly. Makes 2 cups.

The Dressing:

6 c. bread cubes, toasted
Reserved veggies from the gravy
½- 1 cup vegetable broth
2 T. oil
Extra parsley, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste
½ t. crumbled sage, optional

In medium bowl, combine the bread cubes with the veggies and stir to mix well. Pour the broth over the bread cubes, tossing to coat. Use more or less broth, depending on how moist you like the dressing. Drizzle in the oil and season to taste. Place in a casserole dish, cover and bake until heated through- about 30 minutes. Remove cover after 20 minutes if you like a crisper dressing.

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts are always a big hit when I make them. People can’t seem to get enough of them. The combination of salty and sweet, with the smokiness of the bacon, a little heat, and the crunch of the water chestnuts is a flavor explosion.

We made them in cooking class the other night. It was the last dish out of the oven. Everyone was waiting for them. Let’s just say there were no leftovers.

What is it about the smell of bacon cooking? Maybe for you, like me, it is a childhood memory. We never had bacon for breakfast during the week. Not even every weekend. But on some magical Sunday mornings, I would wake up and smell bacon cooking. No one slept in on those mornings. Mom or dad would be frying the bacon in the cast iron skillet. If we had pancakes or waffles, I would dip my bacon in the syrup on my plate.

This recipe combines some of those flavors. You can assemble them ahead of time, then just cook when you are ready. You can also cook them a day or two ahead, then reheat before serving. I have even been known to freeze them. They are easy to make, too.

So here is the recipe that I use. You can adapt it to suit your taste. Perhaps make them spicier? I hope you try them for a party soon.


Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

20 slices bacon cut in half

40 water chestnuts, whole

Hot sauce

Maple syrup

Brown sugar

Roll ½ a slice of bacon around water chestnut and place rolls in a baking dish. Cook in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until rolls are well-browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Return rolls to baking dish. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with brown sugar and hot sauce. Return to oven and bake until caramelized. Makes 40.


Cindy’s Butternut Squash Pie

Cindy’s Butternut Squash Pie

At first glance you would think my sister made a pumpkin pie. It looks like pumpkin pie. It also tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. When I was a kid, and tasted this pie for the first time,  it was the first time I liked “pumpkin” pie

My sister has been making this squash pie recipe for years. I love it. It is part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Cindy made it clear, from the beginning,  that she used cooked butternut squash for her pie and not pumpkin. She liked the flavor better. I can’t argue with her success. The pie is yummy.

Of course, you could use pumpkin or other winter squash, if you like. I use Hubbard sometimes. The recipe has the right mix of spices and just enough sugar without being too sweet. What ever squash you use, I am sure this pie will be a hit with your family, too.


Cindy’s Butternut Squash Pie

1 (9″) unbaked pie shell brushed with 1 egg white
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups (1 lb.) cooked, butternut squash (mashed or pureed)
3 Tbsp molasses
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz can)

Combine filling ingredients and pour into shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 55-60 min., or until custard tests done.

Cindy added: I find this to be a very generous recipe; could make 2 smaller pies or just bake the extra custard in a baking cup. I suppose it could be frozen and used in another recipe, but I’ve never tried to freeze the raw filling, so I don’t know.
This can be used with pumpkin, too.

Cindy’s Squash Rolls

Cindy’s Squash Rolls

I love these dinner rolls.  I think you will, too. The addition of squash is what makes them so special. The squash adds beautiful color to the rolls. It also creates a soft texture and an earthy sweetness.

These rolls are wonderful for any fall or winter dinner or holiday. They are especially nice for Thanksgiving.

We have them every Thanksgiving. My sister Cindy always makes them, and has been making them for years. They are rich, soft and sweet and make a perfect addition to the dinner table. Even with all the other foods at Thanksgiving dinner- you always save room for these dinner rolls.

While I use cooked butternut squash in mine, pumpkin could be used, as well as other winter squashes.

The recipe makes a pretty big batch. You can bake them, then freeze some for later use.

I love slicing them in half, and making mini turkey sandwiches with them the day after Thanksgiving.



Cindy’s Squash Rolls

1 c. milk

4 T. butter

½ c. sugar

¼ c. brown sugar

1 t. salt

1 pkt. Yeast

4-5 c. flour

1 ½ c. cooked butternut squash, strained, or 1 (16oz.) can squash or pumpkin

2 eggs, room temperature

Scald milk and butter. Place sugar and salt in large bowl and pour in milk mixture. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and 2 cups of flour. Beat at medium speed with mixer for 2 minutes. Add squash and eggs and mix until smooth. Add flour gradually to form a stiff dough. Knead on floured board for 7-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning dough to coat evenly. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled. Punch dough down and shape into rolls. Dough can be placed in a greased cake pan where they will touch each other as they rise making softer rolls. You can also place them in muffin tins, or shape into rolls and place on greased baking sheet for crispier rolls. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Butter tops while warm. Makes 2 ½ -3 dozen.

Variation: you can also add ½ t. ground nutmeg, 1-2 T. chopped chives or 1 T. parsley flakes for a little different flavor.


New Day Cleveland- Thanksgiving

Had a great time on New Day Cleveland. Here is my appearance.



Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon

Pumpkin Chiffon

I fondly remember when my Mom used to make this dessert. I think of her whenever I make it. From a technical cooking standpoint, it’s not really a chiffon, but that is what my Mom called it, so I will leave it as  Pumpkin Chiffon.

It’s more like a pumpkin pie, without the crust. Super easy to make and quite tasty. I bake it in a casserole dish but you could also make it in individual  ramekins.  This recipe is always a big hit when I make it for friends.

You could use canned or fresh cooked pumpkin or winter squash, like butternut or Hubbard. I always cook up and freeze pumpkin and squash for later use, so frozen would work, too. Because there is no crust, it is also gluten-free.  I sometimes serve it with gingersnaps and whipped cream. It is a lovely Fall dessert.


Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon

½ c. applesauce
1 c. cooked or canned pumpkin or squash
¾ c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. salt
½ t. nutmeg
1/8 t. cloves
4 eggs, well beaten
1 c. half and half or evaporated milk
Stir together first seven ingredients. Beat in eggs and stir in milk. Place mixture in 1 ½ quart casserole and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve alone or with cookies. Serves 6-8.

Pumpkin Fritters

Pumpkin Fritters

These tasty fritters were an unexpected treat. I always have a collection of winter squash this time of year. I use them as decoration, then later, I cook them. I had a pie pumpkin I was planning on using at some point in the future. I was checking to see how the squash were holding up and I noticed a small spot on the pie pumpkin.  I knew I had to use it pretty quickly.

I cut it in half, cut out the soft spot, and baked it. I normally toast the seeds, too. This time I set them out as food for the birds. Once it was tender, I ran the cooked pumpkin through my food mill. I am using some later in the week, but I had some extra. I decided to make fritters with it.


It was a pretty simple recipe. I started with the cooked pumpkin. I added eggs, flour, baking powder and a few other ingredients, then fried them up in oil, and ended up with a pretty tasty fritter. Crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. I drained them on paper towels and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar while still warm. You certainly could use winter squash in this recipe, if you prefer.


Pumpkin Fritters

1 c. cooked, mashed pumpkin or winter squash

2 eggs

2 T. brown sugar

2 t. baking powder

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. salt

1 1/2 c. flour

oil for frying

cinnamon sugar for rolling- powdered sugar would work, too

In mixing bowl combine all ingredients, except the flour and beat until smooth. Stir in flour. Batter will be thick. Heat oil to 350 degrees.* There should be enough oil in the pan top be at least 1 inch deep- or deeper. To save oil I used a smallish pan and cooked 3-4 fritters at a time. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into hot oil and cook, turning once until golden brown on both sides. This will take about 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels then roll in cinnamon sugar while warm. Makes 24-30. Best served warm.

* Fun way to know when your oil has hit 350 degrees. Place an un-popped popcorn kernel in the oil. Popcorn pops at 350 degrees.

Cooking with Jade (Egg) Tofu

Pan fried jade tofu, served with oyster sauce

What is jade tofu? The simplest way to describe it, is that jade tofu is a custard, made with soy milk and eggs. It is also known as egg tofu or Japanese egg tofu.

If you have had any sort of custard before, you know the texture- smooth, creamy, tender. Jade tofu is creamy and soft. But it is not like the custard you might have had in the past.

In the west, custard is sweet, a dessert. That is the big difference here. Jade tofu is not sweet. Although, I could see it being used in sweet applications.

I first had jade tofu at a local Asian restaurant. It was in a dish with fried fish in a light, thickened sauce. Wow, I loved it. So did friends. I looked it up and even tried to make it once.  It did not go well. For starters, I accidentally bought sweetened soy milk . Then, when I put the heat on, it was too high and the custard curdled a little.

So on the advice of a couple of friends, I looked for it at an Asian grocery store. There it was!!! I was so happy. Now I could enjoy jade tofu whenever I wanted.

Jade tofu is sold in tubes. Kind of like slice and bake cookies. I first just pan fried the slices and served it with a dipping sauce. They sort of look like scallops on the plate. The texture is what it is all about. I really enjoyed serving that way. It makes a nice appetizer served that way.








This is the brand that my store carries. I like that the soy milk is non-GMO.

Honestly, the flavor of jade tofu is pretty neutral. You add it to other ingredients to get flavor. It is a texture element in your dish.

I’ve served it to friends a couple of times now, to good reviews. I even made it the other night with fish, like at the restaurant. It came out really good. I used catfish, which was what I had. Other fish would certainly work, too.

Here is that recipe


Catfish with Jade Tofu

oil- I used avocado oil

1 tube egg tofu, sliced

salt and pepper

1 pound catfish, cut into 2 oz. portions


1 c. stock- I used shrimp stock, but chicken, fish or vegetable stock would work

soy sauce- to taste

2 green onions, sliced

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Add the tofu and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan. Add a little more oil, if needed. Season the fish with salt and pepper, then dredge in cornstarch to coat. Fry in skillet until  cooked. Add stock to the fish along with the green onions. Stir until sauce thickens. Return tofu to the pan. Adjust seasonings and serve.


For the pan fried versions, I just sliced the tofu and browned it in oil, in a medium-hot skillet. They are tender, so turn gently. You don’t want to break them.

Jade Tofu with Catfish

Pan fried, served with a sweet chili sauce

Dressing Versus Stuffing

Mushroom Dressing

This time of year, everyone seems to be planning for Thanksgiving. Most of that planning is around the dinner. There are people who make stuffing and those who make dressing. The difference between the two, is where you cook it.

When you stuff the bird, it is stuffing. Cooked outside of the turkey, it is dressing. Over the years I’ve had a lot of variations on both. My Mom always bought Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix as a base. The she added onions, celery, sausage and sometimes mushrooms. She also made a pretty darn good cornbread stuffing. I tend to use a good quality bread, often homemade, that I toast and combine with veggies and stock and then bake as dressing.

I love stuffing, too. The only problem is that by stuffing the bird you must increase the cooking time to be sure the stuffing has reached a safe internal temperature ( 165 degrees).  I prefer to stuff smaller birds, like chicken, where the cooking time isn’t as long. We always had stuffing when I was little. Eventually Mom switched over to dressing to make it faster to cook the bird. Keep in mind, my family normally had turkeys that weighed over 25 pounds. The cooking time for a stuffed bird of that size is pretty long.

There are also people who add eggs to their stuffing/dressing. That wasn’t something I’ve done. It is something I need to try at some point. The “eggers” swear by the moistness and texture of their recipe. I will admit to being intrigued.


So how do you make your stuffing/dressing? Eggs, no eggs? In the bird or out? I love to hear what others are doing. I have my recipe, which I will share with you, but I am open to trying something new.



Basic Bread Stuffing/ Dressing
1 c. sliced mushrooms
¾ c. diced celery
3 T. minced onions
2 T. chopped parsley
4 T. butter or margarine
4-5 c. bread cubes
salt and pepper to taste
¼ – ½ c. turkey or chicken broth if making dressing

Sauté vegetables in butter until tender. Add bread and seasonings and toss to coat. Stuff into turkey just before cooking or add broth and place in covered casserole, cooking for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees. When making stuffing allow ¾ c. per pound of turkey. You may want to stuff the bird and still make extra dressing for the next day. When making dressing be sure to cover the pan well to keep the dressing from drying out.


Oyster dressing: Add 12 ounces of oysters, cooked in their own liquid for 3 minutes and drained to the stuffing. For the dressing you may want to reserve some of the cooking liquid and add it in place of turkey broth.

Cornbread Stuffing: Omit bread cubes and add 4-5 cups of cornbread crumbs.

Fruit Stuffing: Omit parsley and add 1 ½ c. chopped tart apples and ½ c. chopped prunes.

Sausage: Add 1 cup cooked and crumbled sausage

Of course there is always the prepared stuffing mixes on shelves everywhere. I make no judgements. Time is a precious commodity. If you are going to use Pepperidge Farm or any of the other dry mixes watch what liquid you use as the mixes tend to be saltier and adding broth could make them too salty. Also when you use pre-seasoned mixes, add the same vegetables you would have added to homemade for a better taste. My mom always uses the Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix and by the time she adds all of her little touches it tastes great.