Italian Sausage Seasoning

I use this seasoning often to make Italian turkey sausage which I use in my Italian Sausage Lasagna and turkey patties.  I modified the original recipe to reduce the heat factor (replacing red pepper flakes with a dash of cayenne.  I when I heard “this tastes just like Italian sausage!”, I knew we had a winner.

I’ve listed the ingredients as I use them for 2 pounds of ground turkey, with adjustments below for a 1.25 lb which I buy at Trader Joe’s.  For best results, combine the seasoning and meat in advance and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or overnight to allow the seasonings to incorporate and intensify the flavor. If you don’t have this time, it still tastes great!

For 2 pounds ground beef or turkey (or other ground meat):

  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1-1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. fennel seed (whole or crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic (fresh)
  • 1 tsp. minced onion (fresh)

For 1.25 pounds meat (the package size I buy at Trader Joe’s):

  • 1.25 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1.25 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp. fennel seed (whole or crushed; about the same as for 2 pounds meat)
  • 1/3 tsp. paprika
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1.25 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced onion

Favorite Banana Bread

I settled on this recipe in my search for “the best” banana bread.  All the others I tried were good, but this one scores high on taste as well as appearance, with a toasty-brown top that rises high from the pan.  The clincher was when someone told me “it was one of the best banana breads” she’d ever eaten. Score!

I started with the Sour Cream Banana Bread at Genius Kitchen and made a few modifications to make it my own. It doubles very easily, and I always freeze at least 1 loaf to save or give away.  I hope you’ll like it as much as we do!

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 3 small to medium bananas)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 1 large 9×5″ loaf pan.  Bring all ingredients to room temperature.

Combine the apple cider vinegar and milk and allow to sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.  Mash and measure the bananas.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl; blend well with a fork or whisk.

Cream the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Add the banana, nuts, and milk-vinegar mixture.  Mix well.

Pour into greased pan.  Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


  • I double the recipe and bake it in either 2 large loaf pans or 4 small pans + 1 loaf pan.
  • To freeze baked loaf:  Wrap tightly in foil or parchment paper, then wrap in plastic wrap to completely seal out the air.  Place in a ziploc freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, label it with a date, and store in freezer for 1-3 months.
  • To use frozen loaf:  Remove from freezer and allow to come to room temperature inside the wrapping.  Remove plastic wrap and place foil-wrapped bread in a 275-300F oven for about 1 hour to reheat.  Allow to cool before slicing.
  • To serve:  I like to cut smaller pieces by cutting it lengthwise down the middle, then cut each half crosswise into 12 pieces, yielding a total of 24 pieces.  If you want large gargantuan pieces smothered with peanut butter or Nutella, then go for it! 🙂

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

I found this recipe while hunting for a good cornbread made from scratch that contains butter (not oil).  I chose this one on the basis of the reviews and I trust Alex’s recipes.  I adjusted the ratio of cornmeal to flour, and reduced the sugar a bit so it’s not quite as sweet and cake-like as some. We loved it and now it’s our family go-to cornbread recipe. In fact, my sister-in-law makes it every single day and keeps it out to snack on throughout the day!

Adapted from:

Yield:  8-10 servings

  • 1-1/2 cups coursely ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. BP
  • 1/2 tsp. BS
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (substitute: combine 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. vinegar, let sit 5 minutes)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to heat while you make the batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, BP, and BS.  Whisk in the milk, buttermilk, and eggs.  Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 Tbsp. for the skillet later on.

Carefully(!) remove the hot skillet from the oven.  Reduce oven temperature to 375F.  Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter.  Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven.  Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and serve.


  • In our [48-year-old small] oven, it baked 20 minutes to done.  Then, I place it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to brown the top.  KEEP AN EYE ON IT, or your masterpiece will burn!

Jen’s Sweet Potato Casserole

“To die for!” “Awesome!” “OMG!” “You can bring this every year!”

Those are the comments I hear every time I take this dish to our family holiday dinners. Even Hubby, who does not like sweet potatoes, actually likes this dish! Amazing!

This recipe was inspired by Chef John’s Sweet Potato Casserole which I found by searching for a less-sweet healthier version using maple syrup instead of sugar.  I modified it by eliminating the sugar-based topping and reducing the amount of maple syrup, since sweet potatoes are fairly sweet on their own. I do not use artificial sweeteners, so that option was out. I wanted natural ingredients – real butter, real maple syrup, real sweet potatoes. The search ended here!

So, with many thanks to Chef John for the inspiration, may I present…..

Jen’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potatoes:
2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (I buy the 3# bag of organic potatoes at Trader Joe’s)
2 Tablespoons butter
2 large eggs
2-3 Tablespoons real maple syrup (to taste; see note below)
1/4 cup buttermilk (see note below)
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pinch ground allspice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch cinnamon

1/2 cup pecan pieces
1-2 tablespoons butter

Grease a 2-1/2-quart baking dish with butter or coconut oil.

Wash sweet potatoes, cut off any stems, poke with a fork, and bake in 350F oven for 90 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool a little for easier handling, then remove peel and scoop out potato into a large bowl.

Mash 2 tablespoons butter into the sweet potatoes and mix well to combine.

Whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk, milk, vanilla, and seasonings in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth.

Gradually add the mashed sweet potatoes into the egg mixture, about 2 large spoonfuls at a time, combining the mixture until all the sweet potatoes are incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the sweet potato mix into the prepared baking dish, spreading it to the edges.

Sprinkle the nuts across the top, and dot with butter.

Bake uncovered in pre-heated 350F oven until set, 25 – 30 minutes. Allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Gobble it up!


  • Adjust the amount of maple syrup to taste. On one occasion, I used the full 1/4 cup and almost everyone agreed it was too sweet. (For reference, our family loves sweets!)
  • An excellent substitute for buttermilk: For each 1 cup of milk, add 1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, stir, and allow to sit several minutes before using. For this recipe, I used about 1 teaspoon vinegar.
  • This dish can be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to bake. If frozen, allow it to thaw before baking.


Sweet[er] Potato Casserole

This is a family favorite among those who prefer a sweet version of this popular dish with sugar and marshmallows.

Source: Bon Appetit, November 1994

4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces*
2/3 C packed golden brown sugar
5 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
2 C miniature marshmallows
1/2 C sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375F. Arrange potatoes in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over potatoes; toss to coat. Cover dish tightly with foil.

Bake potatoes 50 minutes. Uncover; bake until potatoes are tender and syrup thickens slightly, basting occasionally, about 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500F. Top potatoes with marshmallows and nuts. Return to oven; bake until marshmallows begin to melt and nuts begin to brown, about 3 minutes.

*In recent years I’ve bought the bags of cubed sweet potatoes at Trader Joe’s.  Just empty the bag into the baking dish and proceed with the recipe.

Serves 8.