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Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick Warm Chili Cheese Dip

A quick and tasty dip.  Adapted from Sharlene Campbell.

8 oz. of cream cheese, softened
1/2 chopped onion
1 can chill with beans and meat (we like Trader Joe's chili)
1/2+ shredded cheddar cheese

In a glass  9x9 pan or a pie dish soften the cream cheese in the microwave and spread across the bottom.  Top with a layer of chopped onion.  Then spread 1 can of hormel chill on top.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  Serve warm with chips or hearty crackers for dipping.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Grilled Asparagus with Poached Eggs

A favorite quick brunch or breakfast for dinner dish.  Adapted from this recipe.

1 bunch asparagus (pencil or standard)
Extra-virgin olive oil or Wegmans basting oil
Kosher salt
4 to 5 ice cubes
2-3 tablespoons white vinegar
3-4 large eggs

Preheat grill to medium high for 10+ minutes.  Holding the tip and stem of each asparagus spear, snap the asparagus where it will naturally break. Discard the ends. Toss the asparagus with oil and salt to taste. Grill the asparagus until slightly charred and pliable on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes for pencil or 5 to 7 minutes for standard.

Fill a bowl with cold tap water and the ice cubes. This will be the holding area for the eggs after they have been poached. Keep the bowl near the stove.

Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds of the way with water. Add the 2-3 T vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat on the burner until the bubbles in the water have subsided. Gently crack and drop each egg individually into a ramekin or small bowl and then slip it the water. Cook the eggs for 3 to 4 minutes. When done, the whites will be cooked through and the yolks will be warm but still liquid. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the saucepan and place in the bowl of cold water.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

No-Bake Protein Granola Bites

This is a favorite snack of the girls.  They prefer tiny teaspoon size bites.  Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

2 cups quick oats
1 cup Rice Krispy cereal
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup ground flaxseed
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2-2/3 cup honey or agave nectar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (optional but really yummy!)

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, mixing gently so the crispy rice cereal doesn't get crushed. Mix until well-combined.

Using a cookie scoop or spoon drop rounded portions onto a parchment or wax paper lined cooking sheet.   You can round the balls between your hands.

Refrigerate or freeze on the cookie sheet for 1-2 hours. At this point you can serve them or put the chilled granola bites in a large tupperware-type container or ziploc bags. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or for a few months in the freezer.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Banana Bran Muffins

These are a new family favorite!  They combine two of our favorites--raisin bran muffins and banana muffins.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 T baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup oil
1 egg (or 1 T flaxseed mixed with 3 T water and a pinch of baking powder, pre-mix & set aside)
1 1/2 cup bran flakes or raisin bran
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
cinnamon sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees, grease muffin pan.

If using egg substitute mix flax seed, water, and baking powder in a small bowl.

Combine dry ingredients with wire whisk.  Stir in milk, oil, and egg (or flax seed mixture) until batter is moistened but still lumpy.  Stir in cereal crushing slightly with a spoon or your hand and mashed banana.  Spoon into muffin cups.   Sprinkle the top with chopped pecans and/or cinnamon sugar if desired. Bake 18-22 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Makes 12 muffins.

*Note we've also tried these with cinnamon chips mixed in or even chocolate chips.  Both are tasty...but I would recommend only 1/2 cup brown sugar or less for those options.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

These are our favorite mashed potatoes.  From America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup 2 percent lowfat milk, warmed
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoon low fat sour cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large saucepan, add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart (the tip of a paring knife can be slipped into the center of a potato with no resistance), about 15 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan on the still-hot burner. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until just a few small lumps remain. Fold in the milk, sour cream, butter, Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Ranch Version:  At the end fold in 3 minced scallions, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 2 T fresh minced parsley.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
Prep Time: 10 min.      Total Time: 35 min.                 Serves 6

1 c. sour cream
1 ½ c. chicken broth (maybe add a little more)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (or honey mustard)
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 ½ c. instant rice, uncooked (can use instant brown rice)
1 to 1 ½ c. diced, cooked chicken
1/2 to 1 c. ham, cut into pieces
4-6 oz. of sliced Swiss cheese shredded
1 c. corn flakes or ritz crackers, crushed
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375.

Whisk together sour cream, chicken brother, mustard and black pepper in a large bowl until smooth. 

Add rice, chicken, ham, Swiss cheese and peas; stir to combine.

Pour mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish and spread evenly.

Mix together crushed corn flakes or cracker crumbs with the Parmesan cheese and melted butter in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over top of the casserole.

Bake uncovered on center oven rack for 25-30 minutes until heated through and topping is golden brown.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ultimate Banana Bread

From Cooks Illustrated.  The extra steps of extracting banana juice and reducing it are definitely worth it.  This truly takes banana bread to a whole new level!  Be sure to use very ripe heavily speckled or even back bananas.  You can also use 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they don't need the microwaving in step 2.  The bread is best when eaten fresh but it can be stored for up to 3 days--let cool completely and then cover tightly with plastic wrap.

1 3/4 cup flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 t granulated sugar

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.    In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

2.  Place the 5 bananas in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife.  Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have release liquid about 5 minutes.  Transfer bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl.  Allow liquid to drain, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes until you have 1/2-3/4 cup liquid.  Place mashed bananas that are left back in the bowl.

3.  Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Pour liquid from pan onto mashed bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Whisk in melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4.  Pour banana mixture onto the flour in the large mixing bowl and stir until just combined, with some streaks of flour remaining.  Gently fold in nuts, if using.  Then pour batter into prepared pan, scraping sides of bowl with spatula.  Sprinkle granulated or coarse sugar evenly over the top of the loaf.

5.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.   Then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ice Cream Crunch Cake

1 1/2 quart container of vanilla ice-cream
1 9-ounce package of chocolate wafers (like Nabisco Famous) or chocolate sandwich cookies (like oreos)
1 7-8 ounce bottle of chocolate magic shell ice-cream topping or hot fudge
1 1/2 quart container of chocolate or other ice-cream flavor topping
3-4 cups whipped cream
sprinkles for decorating (optional)
1-2 cups of more whipped cream or buttercream frosting for decorating (optional)

Put a 9-inch spingform pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile let the vanilla ice-cream soften at room temperature.

Remove pan from freezer, spread ice-cream in an even layer on the bottom of the pan.  Freeze until firm about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the cookies in a food processor to break into large crumbs.  Add the chocolate shell or fudge topping and pulse until all the crumbs are moist about 5 pulses; set aside.

Remove pan from freezer after 45 minutes.  Spread chocolate crumb mixture over ice-cream and return to freezer for 45-60 minutes.

Let second ice-cream flavor soften at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Remove pan from freezer and spread final layer of ice-cream over crumb layer, packing tightly.  Smoothing the top.  Freeze until firm about 2 hours.

To unfold the cake, wipe the outside of the springform pan with a hot cloth.  Also you can run a hot knife around the inside ring, then unlatch and remove the side.  If the cake is too soft, return to freezer for 20-30 more minutes.

Spread 3 cups of whipped cream over the top and the sides of the cake working quickly.  Smooth with offset spatula.  Return to freezer until set about 20 minutes.  Put the remaining whipped cream or buttercream frosting in a pastry bag to decorate.  The star tip makes a nice border on the edges of the cake, decorate with sprinkles.  Return to the freezer.

Before serving let the cake sit at room temperature 15-25 minutes, slice with a hot knife.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Amazing Burgers

Adapted from this burger recipe and Chef Gunyan's cooking class.  Chef insists that to make a good burger/sandwich you have to think about each of the components.


Pickle slices
Lettuce slices
Tomatoes--slice thin and season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Set aside while making burgers
Pickled red onions
Ketchup or fry sauce

Quick pickled red onions
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 clove of garlic (slice or diced)

In a small saucepan mix all the ingredients, stir and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add thinly sliced red onions.  Stir.  Cover with pot lid.  And let sit for 20+ minutes while making and grilling burgers.


  • 2 pounds ground beef (we like 90/10 the recipe recommends 80/20)
  • 2 t seasoned salt
  • 2 T A-1 sauce or BBQ sauce
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
In a small bowl mix all the ingredients together until well combined (I usually use my hands).  Form the beef into patties about 1/2-inch thick and slightly larger then the buns.  Refrigerate covered loosely with saran wrap until ready to grill.

Preheat grill over high to medium-high heat for 15+ minutes.  Turn heat down to medium high and grill about 6 minutes on each side (this is for just the slightest bit of pink).  If you want to toast the buns, during the last 2 minutes of grilling butter the inside of the buns and place on the grill to toast while the burgers finish cooking.  

Serve on a toasted whole wheat bun and top with lettuce, amazing tomatoes and pickled red onions (see above).

Oven Fries

  • 2 to 4 potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds total
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • nice sea salt or table salt for seasoning at the end
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 475ºF.  Wash (and peel if you want) the potatoes.  Cut them into equal wedges (about 16 per potato using a medium size russet).  Note: really small pieces will over crisp during the baking.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes into a large bowl and cover them with hot tap water. Let them soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet. Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a tea towel. Dry out the bowl they were just soaking in. Put the potatoes back in and toss with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the teaspoon of kosher salt. If you want pepper, season the potatoes with pepper here, too. 
  4. Arrange the fries in a single layer on the baking sheet and cover the sheet tightly with foil. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes to ensure even browning.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using a firm spatula, loosen the fries from the bottom of the pan and flip.  Continue to bake until the fries are golden and crisp, about 5 to 10 minutes longer.  Rotate the pan as necessary to help them brown evenly. 
  6. Remove from the oven, and season with more sea salt and/or any other seasonings you wish. Serve immediately or as soon as they are cool enough to eat. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vegan Banana Flaxseed Muffins

These are some of the tastiest egg-free, whole wheat muffins I've ever had!   They crumb is light and not gummy like so many egg-free muffins.  They have a great blend of spices and just the right hint of sweetness.  Adapted from this recipe:


    For Flax Seed Egg
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
    For the Muffins
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil  (or coconut oil, melted)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    For the Streusel Topping
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans (optional)
  • 2-4 T dark brown sugar
  • 1 T margarine  (I used dairy-free margarine)


  1. First make the flax seed egg. In a small bowl stir together ground flax seeds, water, and baking powder. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease muffin pans with non stick spray.  (This recipe made about 12 regular size muffins and 12 mini muffins for me).
  3. Mash bananas in ziplock bag with a rolling pin.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, flax eggs, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, and  oil until thoroughly combined. 
  5. In a separate medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir in the pecans. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until  no flour bits remain at the bottom of the bowl.
  6. In another bowl mix the oats, nuts, brown sugar.  Then cut in the margarine using a pastry cutter.
  7. Divide the batter between the muffin cups in the prepared baking pan. Top each muffin with a sprinkle of streusel topping.   Bake for 9-10 minutes for mini muffins, 18-20 minutes for regular size muffins.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for few minutes before putting on a cooling rack to cool completely.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Country Pork Ribs

A super tasty and quick dinner.  These quickly became a favorite of EVERYONE even my pickiest eaters.  From my friend Miquelle.

2-3 lbs. country style pork ribs
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. packed brown sugar

Combine all ingredients except the pork in a small saucepan. Heat, but do not boil. Put ribs in crockpot and pour sauce over the ribs.  Cook in crock pot for at least 3-4 hours on high. (I usually do 6-7 hours on low so they are more tender). Pull off bones and shred pork.  Serve over rice.

Cinnamon Chip Scones Recipe

These scones are melt in your mouth delicious!  The buttermilk keeps them moist and tender.  And the cinnamon chips are amazing!  They are also great with mini chocolate chips instead of cinnamon chips.  Slightly modified from a recipe given to me by my friend Shelly who got the recipe from Taste of Home.
  • 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (can do half white whole wheat)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  •  3/4-1 cup of cinnamon baking chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 T coarse sanding sugar or regular white sugar for dusting

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Fold in chips. 
2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 10-12 times or until dough is no longer sticky. Divide in half; gently pat or roll each portion into a 7-in. circle. Brush with butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar. 

3. Cut each circle into 6-8 wedges. Separate wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 10-13 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve warm.  

TOTAL TIME: Prep: 25 min. Bake: 10 min.   YIELD:12 servings

Friday, February 13, 2015

Overnight Raspberry French Toast

This is the perfect breakfast for cold winter mornings for a crowd or for a brunch.   Half the recipe in a 9x9 pan for a delicious and special breakfast (or breakfast for dinner) treat.  The raspberries make it great for Valentine's Day!  I'm not sure if I like this raspberry version or the blueberry pecan version best.  They're both sooooooo yummy!  Adapted from Six Sisters Stuff.  Prep time:  8 hours, Cook time:  40 mins.  Serves: 8-12

12 slices french bread or texas toast (I like to use 50% whole wheat french bread)
6-7 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk

2 cups of frozen raspberries (about 10 ounces)

¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white whole wheat flour

½ cup chopped roasted almonds (optional)

1. Grease a 9x13" baking dish. Arrange the bread in two layers, with six slices of bread on each layer.  You can fill in any big gaps with other piece of bread.
2. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk. Whisk until blended (but not too bubbly).
3. Pour the mixture over the french toast, making sure to cover them evenly, as well as in between the slices as well.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and place a couple of small bags of rice or beans on top to help press down the bread.  Refrigerate for 8+ hours (or overnight).
5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Remove from refrigerator and sprinkle with raspberries.
7. In a small bowl, cut in butter, flour, and brown sugar until completely incorporated and crumbly. Sprinkle over french toast.  Sprinkle almonds on top (optional).

8. Bake 35-40 until slightly puffy and golden.  I like to increase the oven temperature the last 5 minutes to about 425 so the top is really nice and golden.