We have always enjoyed having breakfast-for-dinner, and for the last year, I’ve tried to make it a regular item on the menu (once or twice a month), instead of just an occasional treat. But I definitely didn’t want to make the same meal over and over, so I’ve tried to expand our breakfast-for-dinner options to include things like omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, breakfast casserole, breakfast burritos, shakshuka, and French toast, in addition to the traditional bacon and eggs. I also often make smoothies to go with dinner, and that has been a huge hit…we’ve really enjoyed trying different fruit, juice, and yogurt combinations. One thing we haven’t had, though, is pancakes, which seems like a weird omission…I should probably work on that!
If you’ve never had a Chicago-style hot dog, you’re really missing out!
What makes a Chicago dog so special? It’s an all-beef hot dog topped with mustard, white onions, a pickle spear, sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, neon relish, and celery salt (in other words, you “drag it through the garden”), and served on a poppy seed bun (which are hard to find around here, so I had to settle for plain old hot dog buns this time). The most important step? Never, ever put ketchup on your hot dog! I’m not a huge fan of regular hot dogs, but there’s something really fantastic about the flavors of the Chicago dog…I’m very thankful I can usually find most of the ingredients locally!
I adapted this recipe from Mount Vernon’s website…their recipe is for a more sweet carrot fritter, and I wanted something a bit more savory…no matter how you look at it, though, they’re basically carrot donuts!
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. salt
- juice of one lemon
- 1 cup cooked, mashed carrots
- vegetable oil for frying
Mix together flour, baking powder, egg, salt, lemon juice, and carrots. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Carefully drop mixture by spoonful into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, turning once. Drain, sprinkle with additional salt, and serve.
I don’t have a lot of occasions to make punch (really, just for confirmation celebrations), but when I do, it’s the perfect punch. I’ve been making it so long, I don’t even remember where or when I found the recipe, but I sure am glad that I have it! I think the lemon juice is what makes it really special, and the Jell-O is another unusual and delicious addition!
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar
- 6 cups water
- 2 3 oz. packages strawberry Jell-O
- 1 46 oz. can pineapple juice
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 quart orange juice
- 2 2-liter bottles 7-Up or Sprite
Bring sugar, water, and strawberry Jell-O to a boil in a large saucepan; boil for three minutes. Stir in the pineapple, lemon, and orange juices. Divide mixture between two containers (I like to use a bundt pan to get a nice ring shape) and freeze.
Combine one container of frozen juice mixture with one bottle of soda in a punch bowl and allow to become slushy (you want to prepare this at least an hour before you plan on drinking it). Repeat with remaining portions, or save for another event.
One final monthly wrap-up to round out a full year of pandemic cooking. Well, a year-plus. I stretched this one a little long, because I wanted to come full circle with the two birthday celebrations that were part of the beginning of the pandemic last year, and celebrated within the last week this year. I can only hope that by the time March 2022 rolls around, we’ll have a more “normal” set of birthdays!
We tried a few more new recipes in the last weeks (I made picadillo and gnocchi for the first time, as well as carrot fritters!) , and had several celebrations, including Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, a dinner for Washington’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, and Turkey’s and Chickadee’s birthdays. We also indulged in both Beast Craft BBQ and Wing Runner.
I made lots of desserts and baked goods this month, too, including Oreo truffles, my first attempt at homemade pączki, a cherry pie, popovers, Frango mint brownies, a cannoli cake, pies for Pi Day, a Guinness cake, more cookies than I can count, and birthday desserts in the forms of a trifle and an elephant cake. We also had a Green River Soda cheesecake shipped from Eli’s, and it was amazing!
So there it is…a full year of cooking through a pandemic. I’ve pushed myself hard over the last year to make more special meals for my family, because it was one of the few things I could actually do for them. I also worked hard to try new things, because it was something exciting in the midst of a very dull time. When I look back on this period in our history, I hope I’ll remember the special meals and weekly cookie-baking sessions with Bunny as one of the bright spots in an otherwise dark time!
Beast Craft BBQ currently has a delicious winter special on the menu…buttermilk fried chicken!
This item is a staple on the menu at Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ, and I’m happy that they’ve temporarily brought it over to the original Belleville location. It’s not your basic fried chicken, because it’s dusted with creole spices, which give it a delicious kick. The breading was perfectly crunchy…it didn’t get soggy on its journey from the restaurant to our house. And I love that they put a piece of white bread under the chicken to catch the spices and the drippings. The plate comes with four pieces of chicken, plus two sides, and of course if you’re smart one of those should be Beast’s amazing sprouts with pork belly, but there are plenty of other options, too (we especially love the bacon mac). I love seeing the new ideas the Beast family comes up with at all of their locations (check out their sandwich pop-up in the Grove, a perfect example of how they’re rolling with the punches and thinking creatively to make the best of a rough time for restaurants!), and I can’t wait to see what hits the menu next!
This is the penultimate month of a year of pandemic cooking. I certainly didn’t intend to do this for an entire year, but I also had no idea what a pandemic would look like or how long it would last when I began.
I guess after the last wrap-up, which was full of holiday meals, this one is pretty tame. We did celebrate a birthday and Burns Night in the last month-plus, and had a few family favorite dinners along the way, too.
Of course there wasn’t as much baking as last time, but we still made quite a few treats, including our traditional Epiphany baklava, a birthday truffle tower, and an amazing white chocolate lemon cheesecake:
Next month, I’ll finish up this year of pandemic cooking…I’ll probably cheat a bit, and wait until closer to the end of month to wrap things up, to make sure both of our family’s March birthdays get included in the summary!
Yesterday was one of my favorite lesser-known holidays…Burns Night! While we don’t celebrate the famed Scottish poet every year, it is always a day we look forward to it when we do celebrate it. Since you can’t really get haggis in America (and I’m not sure I could get everyone here to try it even if you could!), our Burns Night Supper is always cock-a-leekie pie according to the recipe used by The Scottish Arms restaurant in St. Louis, as it appeared in Sauce magazine. I was feeling a little extra fancy this year, so I used cookie cutters to give the puff pastry a wintry twist:
Our traditional Burns Night dessert is always sticky toffee pudding, made according to the Schlafly recipe…with apologizes to Robert Burns, I think this is the “Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin’-race!” The cake is so popular, I’ve also made it for birthdays in the past!
What fun and unusual holidays do you like to celebrate?
I know…Christmas is over. And I know…eggnog can be kind of controversial. It seems you either love it or you hate it. But here, we love it. I’ve made it several times since Christmas because we enjoy it so much. Over the past few years, I’ve tried to perfect my recipe, and I think I’ve finally got it just the way I want it.
- 4 cups milk
- 10 whole cloves (more if you like the taste of cloves as much as I do!)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 12 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 cups cream
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
Combine milk, cloves, 1 tsp. vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Raise heat and slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.
In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until fluffy. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into the eggs. Pour back into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow to boil. Strain to remove cloves, and let cool for about 1 hour.
Stir in cream, 2 tsp. vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight.
I often take a look back at the holiday baking I did from Thanksgiving through Epiphany; this year, I thought it would be fun to look back at all of the holiday meals and treats we’ve enjoyed, starting with Thanksgiving dinner:
We had our pick out dinner on Christmas Day this time:
And our fancy Christmas dinner on the Sunday after Christmas:
Of course we had our traditional New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar:
And a special New Year’s Day dinner to start the new year right:
And finally, our Ryan’s Birthday/Epiphany feast:
On to the baking. There were pies for Thanksgiving:
And several cakes throughout the season, for St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Jesus’ Birthday, the fancy Christmas dinner, and New Year’s Day:
We baked so many Christmas cookies!
And an obligatory “other” section, for things like lussekattes, coffee cake, and even some special holiday beverages:
I put in a little extra effort this year, to make up for the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere or do most of our normal Christmas activities. In the end, I think we’ll have a lot of delicious memories from this holiday season!