Roasted Turnips with Parmesan

Adapted from

2 lb turnips (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Drizzle turnips with oil. Place  on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Mix cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over turnips.
  4. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
  5. Arrange turnips in a single layer and roast until golden on both sides, 25 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
These did not get crispy, but they are very tasty.

Zuppa Toscana

based on Olive Garden’s
adapted from several recipe website posts,
my version has less meat and more veggies than most

pot of Zuppa Toscana
½ pound spicy Italian sausage – crumbled
¼ pound bacon – chopped
4 cups water
2 cans (14 oz) chicken broth
1 large bunch kale
4 large russet potatoes – cut in ½” cubes
2-4 garlic cloves – minced (I usually use 4)
1 medium onion – peeled, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup half & half (I use non-fat)
salt and pepper – to taste (I don’t usually add any – the spicy sausage adds enough)


  1. In a pot over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces; drain, set aside.
  2. Brown bacon; drain, set aside.
  3. Strip kale leaves from stems. Slice stems into ¼” pieces (like celery). Chop leaves coarsely.
  4. Add water, broth, kale stems, potatoes, garlic, and onion to pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
  5. Add sausage and chopped kale leaves; simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add half & half; season with salt and pepper if desired; heat through.
  7.  Sprinkle with bacon.
  • You can discard the kale stems if you prefer, but with a little extra cooking they taste great & I hate to waste them.
  • You can substitute Swiss chard, beet greens or spinach for the kale. Spinach will only need a few minutes cooking.


Corn and Black Bean Salad

adapted by Marissa Davis Hefner from Jodi T. on

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (not ground chile)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (I use unsalted)
1 (15 oz) can sweet corn, drained (I use unsalted)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup minced red onion or grated yellow onion

In a small bowl, mix vinegar, oil, salt, sugar, black pepper, cumin, chili powder.

In a medium bowl, stir together beans, corn, onion and cilantro. Toss with vinegar and oil dressing. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with cilantro.

Excellent as a dip with tortilla chips, also.

Vanilla Bean Paste

I am making vanilla bean paste today. Contrary to the name, it is not actually a paste, but a thick syrup holding hundreds of vanilla seeds in suspension. It combines the best of both vanilla bean and extract.  It’s like vanilla extract in its strength and how it is used but has the added visual benefit of the black seeds associated with a vanilla bean.

I found easy to follow written and video instructions on Master Pastry Chef. Since I wanted to make enough for me and both of my daughters, I decided to double the recipe.

Madagascar Bourbon Planifolia Extract Grade B Vanilla BeansI found a great deal on 1 pound of Madagascar Bourbon Planifolia Extract Grade B Vanilla Beans.

If you are like me, you might not know that “Bourbon” is not something that is added, but rather a particular type of vanilla beans.
Bormioli Rocco Country Home Assisi 17 Ounce Bottle
I also needed four 15-16 ounce bottles since my double recipe would make about 2 liters of delicious goo. After looking at dozens of varieties, I decided on some beautiful 17 oz bottles that came in a set of 6 for less than purchasing 4 separate bottles.

After the vanilla beans and bottles arrived, I got started (okay, it was a few weeks later). First I had to cut open and scrape the seeds from one pound of vanilla beans. Do you know how many beans that is?? Neither did I until I started. Since they are dryer, Grade B vanilla beans are a little smaller than Grade A, so there are more of them to the pound – about 140 to 160! Fortunately my younger daughter was able to help. We ended up with almost a cup of vanilla seeds!

Then I measured and boiled sugar & water, added the vanilla beans and seeds and boiled it for a few more minutes. You have to pull out the vanilla beans & let them cool, cool the syrup, pour it into the bottles (about half full), then put the vanilla beans into the jar one or two at a time – very time consuming. It makes you appreciate why this stuff is so expensive to buy. With the narrow necks of the bottles I chose, I had to cut the vanilla beans in half to get them all in. I kept the best looking ones and put them in a quart mason jar with the remaining liquid, so if I want to put a whole bean in something I have them ready to go.


Vanilla Bean Paste

recipe from Master Pastry Chef

1/2 lb (250 g) Vanilla Beans

3 1/3 cups (750 g) sugar

3 1/3 cups (750 mls) water

Juice of half a lime (this is not for flavor, the acidity stops crystallization)

  • Split each vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
  • Combine sugar and water and slowly bring to a boil.
  • Add vanilla beans and seeds to the boiling syrup.
  • Squeeze in lime juice.
  • Bring back to a boil, and boil for five minutes, then allow to cool.
  • Pull beans out of liquid and put into a separate bowl, cool completely.
  • Funnel liquid into a bottle or jar.
  • Put beans into bottle.
  • Makes about 1 liter (mine filled 4 – 500 ml bottles and a quart jar with the leftover beans that is half full of syrup)

1 tsp = 1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp = 1 vanilla bean

Save beans for next batch, using 1/2 the amount of new beans + the old beans.

He says that due to the nature of the paste it does not need to be refrigerated, but I am keeping mine in the fridge since I am a little paranoid about keeping a homemade sugar concoction in the cabinet.

The Master Chef says 1 liter of this syrup last him for about a year – I think I’ve got enough for several years!

He lists his cost as $61.60 – $60 for the beans and 50¢ for half a lime.  I think those items must be more expensive in Australia.

My total for twice as much was $39.03, $60.13 including the 4 bottles.

Vanilla Beans: $37.95
sugar                      0.73
water                      0.10
lime                        0.25
total                      39.03

4 Bottles:     $21.10 ($31.65 for 6)

I considered spending a little more to get larger Grade A beans if I did this again, but then I found out on that for the purposes of making vanilla extract, Grade B beans are preferable. “Why?”, you may ask. “Isn’t Grade A / gourmet always better?” These are the reasons they gave why this is not true:

  • Grade B beans have less water weight. You get more bean for the buck because you’re not paying for water. This also means that less water ends up in your extract – sounds good to me.
  • With Grade A you pay for appearance, which doesn’t matter when making extract or paste.
  • These are the same beans as Grade A, but at a fraction of the cost.

Vanilla Equivalency

Amount Vanilla product
1 inch bean
1 teaspoon extract
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon powder/ground
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

More on vanilla beans & making extract from