Cooking for the birds


I have a special affinity for birds.   My father, Earl Reitz, along with my grandfather Mathew Reitz, ran a successful feed company in Hammond, Indiana when I was growing up.   Making bird seed blends for various national companies was one of the many items the company produced.  As an homage to my late father and grandfather and a tribute to their company, MGR Feed, I frequently make homemade bird seed wreaths formed in, what else, a bundt pan.

You probably have seen decorative bird seed wreaths in fancy gardening catelogs or garden shops.    With a bag of bird seed, a packet of Knox-brand unflavored gelatin, a few tablespoon of corn syrup and some flour, you can make your own bird seed wreath with your trusty fluted Bundt pan.

The gelatin and flour mixture becomes an edible glue that, when mixed with your favorite bird seed blend, creates a mixture that gets tightly packed into the greased tube pan.   Let the wreath dry out for a minimum of 24 hours in a cool place in your home.   It may look dry sooner, but trust me, it won’t be ready.   A 5-pound bag of bird seed will yield 3 bird seed wreaths.

Once dry, simply unmold (I unmold mine on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper to pick up any excess bird seed) and tie with decorative ribbon.  A perfect gift for the bird lover in your family as well as a delicious treat for those backyard feathered friends.

20161219_205514405_iOSBirdie Bundt Wreath
Makes 1 8-inch wreath

1 packet (¼ ounce) unflavored gelatin
½ cup warm water
¾ cup flour
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 cups birdseed mix
½ cup dried red fruit like dried cherries or cranberries

  • In a large bowl, mix gelatin and water.  Add flour and corn syrup; stir with rubber spatula to form a thick paste.   Add bird seed; mix to coat all seeds.
  • Spray top and side of a 12-cup bundt or fluted tube pan with non-stick food spray.  Distribute dried fruit on bottom of pan.  Press seed mixture firmly into pan.
  • Place pan in cool area; let dry for 24 hours.   Carefully flip pan and remove wreath.  Tie ribbon on top of wreath.  Hang on tree branch for birds to enjoy.


Posted in Favorite Things, Holiday & Entertaining, Recipes | Tagged , ,

Thanksgiving Recipes and Tips


Thanksgiving is just around the corner.    Everyone seems to have their own opinions on what method makes the perfect bird.   Brining (both wet and dry), roasting, grilling, frying……. The list goes on.   And can be overwhelming for a “first timer.”

Take solace.   My “First Thanksgiving Menu” article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will provide with a complete menu along with tips to make your first Thanksgiving Day dinner perfect.   Remember, don’t try to go full Food Network on your first time.    Prepare a simple but delicious menu with lots of items that can be prepared ahead.

Don’t forget to check out my Turkey Day tip section in the article.    Beyond the menu you will need to remember decorations, place settings and kitchen items you may need.

Don’t know the difference between fresh and frozen, heritage and organic?   Fine Cooking Magazine has a great article explaining everything you need to know when selecting turkey.

Need more tips?    Here is a list of “hot line numbers” from turkey prep to cranberries.   A lot of them are open help on Thanksgiving!

To get you started, here are some photos and quick links to my “First Thanksgiving” menu.



Herb Butter Roasted Turkey


Quick Cranberries with Grand Marnier

close up dressing

Simple Dressing

pumpkin mousse

 Pumpkin Mousse with Gingersnaps



 Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables

Don’t forget the appetizers.   Cheese balls (yes cheese balls!) are making a comeback.    Since Thanksgiving and foot ball seem to go hand in hand, why not serve an edible “pigskin” by creating a cheese ball encased in crispy bacon.   Shape the cheese ball like a foot ball, complete with edible mozzarella laces.


Additional recipes for Thanksgiving Entertaining
Cast Iron Skillet Buttermilk Cornbread
use this terrific recipe as a bread for your Thanksgiving dinner or as part of your dressing/stuffing


Pigskin Cheese Ball

For an edible centerpiece, create my pine cone cheeseball.    Use toasted whole almonds to create the pine cone effect.   Present your cheese ball on a cake pedestal with fresh rosemary greenery and bright red cranberries.


Pine Cone Cheese Ball

Whole toasted almonds create the perfect edible centerpiece – a cheese ball pine cone!



Easy Appetizers – six in sixty minutes

Don’t have a lot of time for any extra appetizers?   Check out how to make six appetizers in sixty minutes.


Triple-Layer Pumpkin Cheese Pie
Layers of cream cheese, chocolate and pumpkin make a pie to please all!


Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

A switch-up on a traditional yeast roll.   Use sweet potato in the dough with a touch of cinnamon.

Posted in Desserts, Entrees, Holiday & Entertaining | Tagged , , , , ,

Are you ready for some cheese ball?


Cheese balls are back!    Try your hand at this fun pigskin cheese ball shaped like a football and encased in delicious, crispy bacon.    The recipe is below.  For hands-on training, take a look at the quick “how to” video above.

Go Packers!

The Pigskin

If preparing with your family, you may need a little more bacon for snacking during the cheese ball creation process!

Serves 16

2 pounds of sliced bacon, divided
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
20 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups shredded white Cheddar cheese
2 thin slices of provolone, white Cheddar or mozzarella
3 green onions, roots and tough top greens removed, finely chopped
½ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¾ teaspoon Creole seasoning


Preheat t oven to 400 degrees.    Lay the bacon sliced in even layers on two baking sheets.  Bake until crisp, about 12 minutes.   Remove from oven and drain bacon on paper towels.  When cool, coarsely chop and set aside.

Place the room temperature cream cheese and 1½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer.     Mix on medium speed until combined.

Add the green onions, ½ cup chopped cooked bacon, chopped jalapeno, garlic salt, white pepper and Creole seasoning.   Mix to combine.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on a work surface.   Place the cheese mixture in the middle of the plastic wrap and form it into a football.  Cover loosely with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

When ready to serve,  remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator and place on a work surface.   Cover the cheese ball completely with the remainder of the cooked bacon.    Cut the cheese slices into ¼-inch wide strips.   Place two longer strips down the middle of the football.   Place five smaller strips of cheese over the long strips to create the football laces.   Transfer to a serving platter.





Posted in Appetizers, Holiday & Entertaining | Tagged , , ,