Recipes


Quick Minestrone Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your tastes; we like lots of garlic)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tablespoon organic beef base (optional)
2 cups tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade
3 cups cooked chickpeas or any other cooked bean you prefer
4 cups thinly sliced dinosaur kale
2 cups frozen cut green beans
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute the garlic, crushed red pepper, and dried basil in the olive oil until the garlic is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the beef base, tomato puree, and vegetable stock.  Stir to combine.  Raise the heat to medium-high, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer the broth for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chickpeas, kale, and green beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes, just to wilt the kale and warm the chickpeas and green beans through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.


Tomato-Poached Eggs
6-8 eggs, preferably organic and/or pastured
4 cups marinara sauce

Heat marinara sauce to boiling in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat.  Turn the heat down to a simmer.  Carefully, one at a time, drop the eggs into the simmering marinara sauce, keeping a space of at least 1/2 an inch between them.  Poach the eggs in the sauce for about 4 minutes; then cover the pan with a securely-fitting lid and continue cooking the eggs for an additional 3-4 minutes, just until the whites are fully set and the yolks are soft and runny.  (You can continue to cook them an additional minute or two if you prefer firmer yolks, but remember that they’ll continue to firm up a bit even after you remove them from the heat.)  Spoon the eggs and a generous portion of sauce into individual bowls (we give 2 eggs per adult) and serve alongside bread and hearty greens.


Vegetable Frittata
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 cups sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
2 medium tomatoes, cubed
salt and pepper
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like)
Preheat your broiler.  In an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent.  Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened (about 3-5 minutes).  Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook an additional 3 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to break down slightly.
Pour the beaten eggs over the vegetable mixture and stir to combine.  Add the cheese and mix to incorporate, then let the frittata cook on the stovetop until the sides and bottom are set, about 3-5 minutes.  Put the frittata under the broiler for an additional 5 minutes or so, until puffed and golden brown.  Remove, let cool slightly, then turn out onto a cutting board and slice into wedges to serve.


French Toast Muffins
8 cups diced (1/2-inch cubes) day-old crusty bread, any variety you like (we used whole-wheat sourdough; it took about half a loaf, but it would be awesome with something like cinnamon raisin)
3 cups shredded MacIntosh or Cortland apple (don’t bother peeling, it’s too much effort)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup apple cider
6 eggs
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, toss together the bread cubes, shredded apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cider, eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.  Pour over the bread mixture and stir to thoroughly combine.  Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 1 hour, or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375.  Lightly grease (or line) 18 muffin cups.   Fill the prepared cups with the soaked bread mixture — you can fill them all the way to the top for this recipe, since the “muffins” won’t expand much.  Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until nicely set and golden brown on top.  Let cool a few minutes, then run a butter knife around the outsides of the “muffins” before removing from the pans.  These are best served warm, whether it’s fresh from the oven or heated in the toaster.


Crispy Pork and Vegetable Wontons
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, whatever you choose), plus more for brushing later
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, whites and light green parts only, finely minced
1/2 large red bell pepper, finely minced
1 cup finely minced carrots
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 pound ground pork
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons silken tofu
12 egg roll wrappers

In a large, heavy skillet over high heat, stir-fry the garlic, green onions, bell peppers, carrots, and ginger in the canola/vegetable oil and sesame oil for approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add the crushed red pepper flakes and ground pork, breaking the meat up with a spoon or spatula into fine crumbles.  Continue to stir-fry until the meat is cooked through.  Add the soy sauce and silken tofu, stirring until the tofu has dissolved into the meat mixture.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease two sheet pans.  Cut the egg roll wrappers in half to make 24 long rectangles.  To assemble, place a tablespoon of the pork filling in the center of the bottom third of a rectangle.  Moisten all the edges of the wrapper with water, then fold the wrapper over the pork filling.  Press your fingers directly around the filling to force out air bubbles, then press firmly around the edges to seal.  Place the stuffed wontons on the sheet pans.  Continue until you’ve assembled them all (you should get just about 2 dozen).  Brush the wontons very lightly with oil and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.  Serve with peanut dipping sauce.

Peanut Dipping Sauce
Substitute sunflower butter to make a nut-free version.
1 cup creamy peanut butter (preferably natural)
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons honey
1/4-1/2 cup water

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the water.  Pulse until the mixture is combined, then, with the blender running, stream in as much water as necessary to make it smooth and creamy.  It should be the consistency of a dip — not watery, and thick enough to cling to the wontons, but still somewhat pourable.  Serve alongside the crispy wontons.


Pepperoni-Spinach Calzones
1 recipe whole-wheat pizza dough
4 oz. nitrate-free pepperoni
1 1/2 cups good quality ricotta cheese
12 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Good quality marinara sauce, preferably homemade

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly grease a sheet pan.  Dice the pepperoni and set aside.  Squeeze the spinach in a clean kitchen towel until you’ve wrung out as much moisture as possible.  In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, and nutmeg, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble the calzones, cut the pizza dough into eight equal parts.  Roll each piece into a small ball, then flatten into a circle about 4-6 inches in diameter.  Spread 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce in the center of each circle, then top with 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and a sprinkling of diced pepperoni.  Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges firmly to seal.  Place the calzones on a greased baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.


Lamb Meatballs
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 medium onion, finely grated (I use a microplane)
3 cloves garlic, finely grated (yep, microplane again)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of allspice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.  In a medium bowl, mix together the lamb and all other ingredients until well-combined.  Form into small meatballs — we like to do miniature ones, which yields about 20.  Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.  Serve with pita bread.


Slow Cooker Apple-Barbecue Pork Shoulder
3-4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 bottle (very scientific, yes) of ketchup, preferably organic (or at least free of HFCS)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
3 medium apples, quartered and cored (don’t bother peeling them)

Place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Pour the vinegar, stock, water, and ketchup over the pork.  Add the brown sugar and spices.  Nestle the apple chunks around the pork shoulder.  Cover and cook on Low for 12-14 hours.  Remove the pork from the sauce and shred with two forks.  If desired, either strain or quickly puree the sauce in case there are any apple skins left in it (they tend to break down completely, but you can check).  Return the pork to the sauce, toss to coat, and serve warm — it’s especially great in a whole-wheat tortilla with apple-cabbage slaw.


Apple-cabbage Slaw with Honey Lime Dressing
3/4 head of red cabbage, shredded
2 medium apples, julienned
6 green onions, finely sliced (whites and light green parts only)
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the cabbage, apples, and green onions in a large bowl.  Whisk together the lime juice, honey, yogurt, salt, and pepper, and pour over the salad.  Toss to coat.  Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.



Apple Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Greens
3 oz. good quality prosciutto, thinly sliced
2 small apples, any variety (I used early Macs because they’re in season here)
2 cups mixed greens
2 tsp. pure maple syrup
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, saute the prosciutto until it becomes crispy and curls around the edges, about 3-5 minutes.  Set aside.  Toss the apples and greens in a medium-sized bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup, vinegar, and oil, and drizzle over the the apples and greens (remember; you can always add more dressing, but you can’t take it out, so start slowly).  Toss to coat, taste, and adjust the seasonings.  Add the prosciutto and toss gently until everything is combined.


Prosciutto Flatbreads
1/2 recipe homemade whole-wheat pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced thinly
12 oz. cremini or mixed wild mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/4 pound good quality prosciutto, sliced thinly
2 oz. goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  On a greased cookie sheet, stretch out the pizza dough into a thin free-form rectangle — it should be almost the size of the whole pan when it’s done.  Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, saute the onions and mushrooms in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil until the onions are soft and golden brown, and the mushrooms are tender (about 7-10 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.  Evenly distribute the onions and mushrooms over the dough.  Drape slices of prosciutto over the onions and mushrooms.  Bake the flatbread at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and crunchy at the edges and the prosciutto is beginning to crisp. Crumble the goat cheese over the top right before serving.



Slow Cooker White Bean Soup
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cups water
2 cups dried cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups roughly chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons herbs de provence
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Rind of parmigiano cheese (optional; I happened to have one hanging around, so I used it)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the chicken stock, water, beans, carrots, onion, and garlic in a slow cooker.  Add the salt, pepper, herbs de provence, and bay leaf, and stir to combine.  If using the cheese rind, add it to the mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours, until the beans and carrots are very tender.  Once the soup is cooked, add the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, and puree with an immersion blender or in a conventional blender until you achieve the desired consistency (we liked ours mainly smooth, with a few whole beans left here and there).  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper before serving.


Potato Pancakes
These are delicious topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs, or eaten just on their own (my kids like to dip them in ketchup).  You can also substitute sweet potatoes for the Yukon Golds, though they’ll be a little crunchier in the middles; I’ve also enjoyed switching out half of the potato for shredded zucchini.

6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and shredded (I just use a box grater)
1/2 a medium onion, grated
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Canola and olive oils (or another neutral oil and some olive oil), for frying

Place the shredded potatoes in the center of a clean, sturdy dishtowel.  Wringing the towel over a sink, squeeze out any moisture in the potatoes.  Put the dry potato shreds into a large bowl and add the grated onion, flour, eggs, salt, and pepper.  Mix thoroughly with a fork until everything is evenly combined.  In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm a mixture of canola oil and olive oil — just enough to have about 1/4 inch coating on the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, it’s time to cook the pancakes.  Form the pancakes with a level 1/4-cup scoop; pat each one down firmly with the back of the measuring cup to spread the pancakes out into 4-inch-diameter rounds.  Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side; drain on paper towels, season again with a little coarse salt, and serve warm.


Overnight Chicken Soup with Rice
About 4 lbs. of bone-in chicken parts (legs and thighs are best)
2 cups diced leeks
4 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 cups water
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. dried thyme (you could use any herb or spice you like, but I think the thyme is nice)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups cooked wild rice

Place the chicken pieces in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Sprinkle the leeks, carrots,  and celery over the top.  Pour in the chicken stock and water.  Season with the salt, pepper, thyme, and vinegar.  Cover and cook on LOW 2-3 hours.  Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for an additional 8-9 hours (I started mine at 7 p.m., added the mushrooms at 10 p.m., and turned off the slow cooker at 7 a.m.).
Turn off the slow cooker and remove the chicken pieces from the soup.  Shred the meat from the bones; discard the bones and skin, and return the chicken meat to the broth.  Add the cooked rice and stir thoroughly to combine.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve hot.


Carrot-Apple Snack Cake

Carrot-apple cake

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated MacIntosh or other cooking apple, unpeeled
2 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use 1 cup each all-purpose and whole-wheat flour)
1 tsp each salt, baking powder, and baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan.  Cream together the butter, yogurt, brown sugar, and maple syrup until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each addition.  Fold in the grated carrot and apples.
In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, until everything is just combined.  Fold in the vanilla.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch.

Thermos Queso Dip
When we tested it, I swear, this stuff stayed warm and pliable in a preheated thermos for four hours.  It just needed a very quick stir and it was ready for dipping!
FOR THE VEGGIE PUREE:
1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/4 inch) carrots
1/2 cup water or chicken stock
Boil the carrots in the water or chicken stock until very tender (I confess I did this one in my microwave for convenience — it took about 7 minutes).  Use a blender, food processor, or immersion blender to puree until smooth.
FOR THE QUESO BASE:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
3/4 cup chicken stock
Veggie Puree (recipe above)
1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices (about 2 oz.) muenster cheese
1 tsp. salt
pinch black pepper
1/2-3/4 cup salsa, any brand you like

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a paste.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly pour in the milk and chicken stock, whisking, until all the liquid is incorporated and there are no lumps.  Turn up the heat to medium-high and let the sauce bubble for about 5 minutes, until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Turn the heat to medium-low, add the veggie puree and cheeses to the sauce, and stir until the cheeses are melted and everything is combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup of salsa and mix thoroughly.  Taste and add more salsa if you prefer.  Serve immediately with chips, or pour into a preheated Thermos and pack in a school lunch.
Queso variations: Stir in 1 cup of leftover chili, 10 oz. of chopped frozen spinach (squeezed dry), or 1 cup of black beans cooked with 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, 1 tsp. each cumin and chili powder, and 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes.

No-Cook Gazpacho

No-cook Gazpacho


We served this with grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches for a quick dinner, but it’s also lovely just by itself with a few tortilla chips as a light lunch.
8 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
6 scallions, chopped (whites and light green parts only)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 cups strained tomatoes or tomato juice, preferably salt-free
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro (optional)

Working in batches, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, garlic, strained tomatoes, and olive oil in a blender or food processor.  Puree to your desired consistency; I leave mine just barely shy of smooth to make it palatable for the kids.  Pour into a large bowl and stir in the vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve cold, garnished with chopped cilantro leaves.

Zucchini and Corn Tacos
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, cut into half-moons about 1/4 inch thick
3 ears corn, kernels cut off the cobs
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil (you could also use cilantro or parsley; we accidentally ran out of cilantro and I used basil on a whim, but it was a good discovery)
8 flour tortillas, preferably whole-wheat
Garnish options: Salsa, avocado, sour cream, strong cheese (we used extra-sharp cheddar and thought it gave just the right amount of richness and bite)

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the garlic and scallions in the olive oil and butter until translucent.  Add the zucchini and cook for 2 minutes; add the corn kernels and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes or until the zucchini is softened and the corn is cooked.  Adjust the seasonings to taste and stir the basil in at the last minute, right before serving.  We had ours in homemade whole-wheat tortillas with a quick fresh salsa of chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, onion, and lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese.

Zucchini-corn taco with quick salsa and cheddar cheese

Chocolate-Pretzel Granola Bars (Regular Readers, please note: I’ve “floated” this recipe to the top because while my page is still not searchable, I wanted to highlight this particular granola bar recipe for a specific audience.  If you haven’t tried it, do!)

These bars came out chewier and softer than a traditional granola bar, probably because of the banana in the binder.  Make sure to let them cool almost completely before cutting them so you don’t have a mess on your hands.
1/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 large ripe banana, in chunks
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2-3/4 cup crushed pretzels
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the oil, maple syrup, honey, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until the honey begins to melt and the mixture comes to a simmer.  Add the cocoa powder and banana and cook for 2 additional minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Puree the mixture (I used a hand blender; you could use a traditional blender) until completely smooth.
Add the oats and pretzel chunks to the liquid mixture and stir until coated thoroughly.  Add the chocolate chips and mix to combine.  Spread the granola mixture into a lightly greased 9×9-inch baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until set and slightly dry around the edges.  Remove from the oven and immediately run a sharp knife around the sides of the bars to prevent sticking.  Let the bars cool almost completely before turning out of the pan and cutting into squares.  I got 16 servings from one pan.

Blueberry-Peach French Toast Casserole
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 lb. frozen sliced peaches
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
Roughly 1/2 a loaf of day-old sourdough bread (or any other sturdy bread you’ve got)
2 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

In a 13×9 glass baking dish placed directly on the stovetop, melt the butter and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Stir over medium heat to melt the sugar and combine into a caramel-like sauce.  Add the two tablespoons of half-and-half and stir vigorously until smooth.  Pour in the peaches and berries, stir to coat, and let cook for 2-5 minutes, until the fruit is all thawed and evenly coated.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices and arrange over the top of the fruit mixture, filling the gaps as tightly as possible while keeping it in a single layer.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon until evenly combined.  Pour evenly over the bread and press down to fully soak the bread in the custard mixture.  Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the casserole, covered, for 35-45 minutes, or until the bread is tender and the juices from the berries and peaches begin to bubble up around the sides.  Serve immediately.

Backyardigans Chicken Kiev
I have no idea whether or not this is anywhere near authentic, but it was good.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded out to 1/4 inch thickness (or you can get cutlets, provided they’re large enough for rolling)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs, seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper
Vegetable oil and butter, for cooking

Mix the softened butter with the garlic, dill, chives, and salt until well combined.  Wrap the butter in plastic wrap and shape into a small log; place in the freezer for at least 3 hours, or until hardened (I did mine overnight).  When ready to assemble the chicken, unwrap the butter and slice into four equal rounds.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the beaten eggs in a shallow dish; place the breadcrumbs in a second shallow dish.  Place one disk of the garlic-herb butter in the center of each piece of chicken.  Wrap the chicken securely around the butter, tucking the ends as best you can, and secure with toothpicks or kitchen twine.  Roll each piece of stuffed chicken in the beaten egg, then coat completely with breadcrumbs.
In a deep skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of butter with about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until very hot but not smoking.  Brown the chicken rolls on all sides in the oil and butter, then transfer to a baking sheet.  Bake the chicken at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until cooked through.  Serve immediately; when you cut into the chicken, the butter in the center should be just melted and will pour out to create a sauce on the plate.

Go-To Grilled Chicken
I call this “go-to” because it’s what I usually default to when I want to make a quick, flavorful piece of chicken for salads, sandwiches, or just a last-minute meal.  The kids love the flavor, which is bold but not too spicy, and I find it works in just about any dish.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded out to about 1/2 inch thick
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Combine the seasonings — oregano through pepper — and sprinkle evenly over both sides of the chicken pieces.  Brush the grill with olive oil and cook the chicken for about 6-7 minutes per side, until cooked through but not dried out.  Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Tabbouleh Salad
There are lots of recipes out there for tabbouleh.  I have no idea how authentic mine is, but this is how I’ve taught myself to make it, and it’s how we like it.
1 cup bulgur wheat, soaked for about an hour in 1 3/4 cups tap water (the wheat will expand after soaking and will yield 2-3 cups of softened bulgur for the salad)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup diced English cucumber (I use English cukes because they have fewer seeds)
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

After soaking the bulgur wheat, transfer it to a large bowl, straining first if there seems to be excess water.  Add the garlic, onion, parsley, grape tomatoes, and cucumber and toss to combine.  Season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well.  Add the olive oil gradually, starting with just a couple of tablespoons, and keep tasting as you mix the salad to determine whether or not you’ll need more oil.  I usually like more than I think I’ll want, just to keep it really moist and to round out the flavor.  Just make sure to use really good extra-virgin olive oil.  Let the tabbouleh sit for at least 15 minutes before serving — an hour or more is even better.

Baked Penne Florentine
1 lb. whole-wheat penne, or other short pasta
1 1/2 cups good-quality ricotta cheese
12 oz. fresh baby spinach
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
For the red sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 6-0z. can tomato paste
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
For the white sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk, cream, or a mixture of the two
salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  First, make the red sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the garlic and crushed red pepper in olive oil for about a minute, just until fragrant.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine thoroughly; cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the paste starts to “rust” and release an orangish oil into the pan.  Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine.  Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.   With the red sauce simmering, you can make the white sauce: in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil together.  Add the flour and whisk until it makes a paste, then cook for about 2 minutes, stirring.  Gradually pour in the milk or cream, whisking the whole time to prevent lumps.  Once all the milk is in the pan, bring the sauce just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Let the sauce simmer gently until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5-10 minutes.
While the white sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions, but drain it about 2 minutes prior to being fully cooked (you still want a little extra bite to it, since it will be baked in sauce and will cook more in the oven).  Drain the pasta thoroughly, then toss with the red and white sauces, spinach, and ricotta cheese, reserving about 1/2 cup of the red sauce.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and drizzle the remaining red sauce over the top, then cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and place the sliced mozzarella evenly over the top.  Bake, uncovered, an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

S’mores Cake
This batter recipe will make a sort of odd amount of batter — it’s enough to bake a 9×13 sheet cake, as well as either 2 miniature or 1 standard-sized loaf cake.
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon each baking soda and baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups very hot water
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed graham cracker pieces
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish and a loaf pan, or whatever combination of pans you intend to use.  In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt) until combined.  Add the hot water and stir quickly until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil until combined.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix gently until the batter is smooth and evenly combined.  Fold in the graham cracker pieces and marshmallows.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Corned Beef Hash
4 medium Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, peeled, diced, and cooked until tender(about 4-5 cups; I cooked mine the night before and popped them in the fridge)
About 4 cups of cooked corned beef, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 cup finely diced onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the potatoes and corned beef; set aside.  In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil together.  Add the peppers, onions, and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the corned beef mixture to the pan.  Stir to combine everything thoroughly, then spread the mixture out evenly in the skillet and press it down with the back of a spoon.  When it’s even, place a large, heavy pot on top of the hash and weight it down (I used a full tea kettle for weight, but you can use large cans, too).  Allow the hash to cook under the weight for about 7 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn; the weight will help develop a nice crispy texture.  When the hash is deeply browned and crunchy on the bottom, flip it over and repeat the process until it’s cooked and crisp on the other side.  (I couldn’t manage to keep it all in one cake, so don’t worry about that — just do the best you can.)  Serve immediately, preferably with runny poached eggs over the top.

Slow Cooker Mom’s Meat Sauce
1 medium onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic (depending on your tastes), minced
1 pound lean ground beef (we use grass-fed), or beef, pork, and veal mixture
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine the onions, garlic, and meat in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Mix together all the remaining ingredients, pour over the meat, and stir to combine, breaking up the meat with a spoon.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.  Stir well before serving.  This recipe will make enough sauce for 2 pounds of pasta.

Mock Muesli
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
3/4 cup nuts of your choice (I used almonds and pecans)
1/2 cup crushed unsweetened banana chips
1 cup mixed berries (I used blueberries and blackberries, both frozen)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well.  Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving.  (I made this in a large tupperware container, shook vigorously, and brought it to work with me; by the time I’d finished dropping the kids off and got to the office, it was perfect.)  Makes approximately 4 generous servings.

Ultimate Breakfast Bread
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 oz. low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 ripe banana, peeled
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a loaf pan.  Cream together butter, yogurt, banana, and maple syrup until smooth.  Add the eggs, beating well, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, oatmeal, and almonds.  Gradually add to the wet ingredients, mixing just until everything is incorporated.  Gently fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake at 400 degrees for 60-75 minutes (you may need to cover the bread with foil if it begins to get too brown before it’s cooked through).  The bread is done when a wooden skewer inserted in several places comes out clean.  Allow the bread to cool completely before cutting.

Pistachio Pudding
2/3 cup shelled pistachios
3 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons water
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a blender or food processor, combine the pistachios, 1 tablespoon of honey, and water until they make a smooth paste.  In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of honey, salt, and cornstarch and cook, whisking constantly, until the egg yolks are pale and thick (about 5 minutes).  Add the pistachio paste and cinnamon and stir vigorously for 1 minute.  Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly.  Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 10-15 minutes).  Let the pudding cool to room temperature, then cover and chill until ready to eat.  It will continue to set in the refrigerator.

Split Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups dried split peas (yellow or green), rinsed and drained
2/3 pound ham (I used nitrate-free ham steak), cut in 1-inch cubes
4 cups water
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (you could use all water, but I like the richer flavor you get from stock)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine the onions, carrots, and potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker; add the split peas and ham and stir.  Pour the water and stock over the vegetables and add the seasonings.  Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours; stir well before serving.  We served ours with homemade rye bread and sliced oranges and apples.


Asian Barbecued Pork Lettuce Wraps (Slow cooker recipe)
2-3 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder (I actually found bone-in pork shoulder steaks on sale at Whole Foods and used those – worked great)
2 cups water
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
pinch of red pepper flakes

Whisk together the water, soy sauce, ketchup, molasses, sesame oil, and rice wine.  Place the pork in the bottom of your slow cooker and pour the marinade over the top.  Add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes to the mixture.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, place the slow cooker on Low and cook for 8 hours.  Remove the bones and shred the pork, then return it to the sauce in the slow cooker and mix.
To serve, spoon a couple of tablespoons of pork and sauce onto a leaf of butter or bibb lettuce.  Top with shredded carrots, julienned red bell peppers, thinly sliced scallions, and sliced toasted almonds.  Roll up and eat like miniature tacos.  We also served steamed snow peas and sliced apples and oranges with this meal.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothies
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
1/2 ripe banana
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons raspberry jam or preserves
3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
3 cups milk

Put the raspberries and banana into the bottom of a blender; add the peanut butter, jam, and yogurt.  Pour the milk over the top.  Blend at high speed for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

Cracker-Crusted Cauliflower
1 large head of cauliflower, washed, dried, and cut into large florets
1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large pan, steam the cauliflower florets until just shy of al dente (if you pierce them with a fork, there should still be a bit of resistance).  Drain and transfer to a 9×13 baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, cracker crumbs, cheese, and pepper until it holds together in clumps — it should resemble streusel topping.  Scatter the topping evenly over the cauliflower.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and crunchy.


Slow Cooker Lentil Stew
This recipe is very flexible and adaptable.  You can substitute any kind of sausage you like for the kielbasa; use any sort of stock or broth you prefer; and mix in different vegetables that you may want to use up.
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 large carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 link high-quality kielbasa, sliced into half-moons about 1/4 inch thick
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
5 beef bouillon cubes (or 2 tablespoons granulated bouillon)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
black pepper, to taste
3 cups water
3 cups stock, any kind you like (we just used our homemade chicken stock, and it was perfect)
1/2 cup white wine

Put the vegetables, kielbasa, and lentils into your slow cooker.  Scatter the seasonings (bouillon through pepper) on top and pour the water, stock, and wine over everything.  Stir briefly to combine.  Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.


Sweet Potato Gnocchi
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato (I baked the potatoes, then cooled them, removed the flesh, and smashed it with a fork — you’ll need about 1 medium and 1 small sweet potato)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for dusting (the amount of flour may vary slightly, so be sure to have a bit more handy)

In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato, egg, olive oil, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Beat quickly until it’s mainly smooth (a few small lumps are okay) and fully combined.  Add the flour and stir to bring it together, then turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to quickly work it into a dough.  You want the dough to be smooth and slightly sticky — it should stick to your hands just a bit, but not so much that you can’t work with it.  (Add more flour as needed to achieve the right consistency.)  Roll the dough into a long rope about 1/2 inch thick.  Use a small, sharp knife to cut the rope into 1/2 inch sections.  At this point, the gnocchi can be cooked as they are, but for better presentation and to help sauce cling more effectively to the gnocchi, roll each one gently over the tines of a fork, using slight pressure, until they have soft ridges in them.  To cook gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil just as you would for pasta.  Put the gnocchi into the water and cook until they float to the surface, about 3-4 minutes.   Drain, toss with sauce of your choice, and serve.


Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos
2-3 lbs. bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, or drumsticks will work)
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (or to taste — these aren’t spicy)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Place the chicken pieces in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Cover with the onions, garlic, and peppers. Mix together the spices (salt through oregano) and sprinkle evenly over the chicken and vegetables.  Mix the vinegar, tomatoes, and stock, and pour over the contents of the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours.  To serve, remove the chicken from the sauce.  Take the meat off the bones and shred.  Discard the bones.  Return the chicken to the sauce (or pour the desired amount of sauce over each portion of chicken; my kids don’t like as much sauce as we do).  Use the chicken and sauce as the filling for flour tortillas; we top ours with avocado and a little sharp cheddar cheese, and serve alongside corn, beans, greens, and fruit.

Spinach-Mushroom Quiche
You could put anything you wanted into these quiches, really — we just used what was on hand, but this is a recipe that begs for personalization.
1 pie crust, cut into 8 equal pieces
6 eggs
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 cup low-fat milk (we used 1%)
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup diced cremini mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheese — we used cheddar, but you could use anything you like

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly grease 8 muffin tins with cooking spray and gently press a piece of dough into each, forming a rustic, free-form crust.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs vigorously, then add the yogurt and milk and beat until frothy.  Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, garlic, and spices until the spinach is broken up and evenly distributed.  Fold in the cheese.  Ladle the mixture into the prepared crusts, filling them to the top (you may have some filling left over).  Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until the quiches are slightly puffed, golden, and feel set but still quite soft.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Chunk Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tablespoons hot water
2 full-size candy canes, crushed
12 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (depends on your preference)

Icing:
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3-6 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
PLUS 8 more candy canes, coarsely crushed, for decorating

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until combined.  In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to the butter mixture.  Stream in the hot water and mix thoroughly.   Fold in the crushed candy canes and chocolate chips.  Form the cookies by rounded tablespoons on greased cookie sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes, until starting to brown around the edges.
While the cookies are cooling, gradually add the milk to the confectioner’s sugar, whisking vigorously until you achieve a glaze consistency (you may need more or less milk).  Add the vanilla extract and combine.  To decorate the cookies, dip the tops of cooled cookies into the icing, then sprinkle with the crushed candy canes.  Set the cookies aside to dry for about 30 minutes before storing.  (These freeze really well!)


Cranberry-Raspberry Crumble
1 lb. frozen raspberries
3/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce (I make mine)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tblsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup half and half
Topping:
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9×9 baking dish.  Combine berries, cranberry sauce, flour, sugar, spices, and half and half in a bowl; pour into the baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix oats, flour, and brown sugar; using your fingers, rub the butter into the mixture until it becomes crumbly, with some large pieces and some small.  Scatter the crumble mixture over the berry mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.  Serve warm.

Mistletoe Bars
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dried cherries
2 cups coarsely chopped salted shelled pistachios
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 glass baking dish.  Combine the cracker crumbs and melted butter, then press firmly into the bottom of the greased dish.  Evenly distribute the white chocolate chips over the crust, followed by the dark chocolate chips, cherries, and pistachios, in that order.  Pour the condensed milk evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Nutella-Orange Sandwich Cookies
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Filling:
3 cups mini marshmallows
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups unsweetened whipped cream
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together butter, Nutella, and sugars until smooth.  Add the zest, juice, and vanilla, then the eggs; mix until incorporated.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add to the Nutella mixture until just mixed.  Spoon the batter onto greased baking sheets by rounded teaspoons, about 1 inch apart.  Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until set.  While the cookies are cooling, make the filling.  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and marshmallows together.  Working quickly, scrape the hot marshmallow into a mixer bowl and beat at high speed for 2 minutes to cool slightly (you must keep the marshmallow moving so it doesn’t stick and harden).  Add the whipped cream and beat at high speed for about 5 minutes, until you see the mixer starting to leave tracks in the cream (the heat of the marshmallow will melt and deflate the cream quite a bit, so it will seem soupy for a while).  Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and beat at high speed for an additional 5 minutes or until thickened and fluffy.  Chill.
Once the cookies are completely cool, spread a teaspoon of filling onto the bottom of one cookie and press another gently onto the top.  The filling may start to get runny as you work, but it will harden back up in the refrigerator.  When all the cookies are filled, refrigerate them immediately to set the filling (they’ll also need to be stored in the fridge to keep them fresh and keep the filling together).

French Toast Casserole
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
6 medium apples (MacIntosh or similar), peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup craisins or raisins
About 1/2 of a day-old baguette or similar bread, sliced in 1/2-inch slices
8 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

In a 13×9 glass baking dish, melt together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Stir until smooth.  Add the apples and craisins and combine until evenly coated.  Spread the fruit out evenly across the bottom of the dish.  Top with a single layer of the bread slices, filling cracks as much as possible (I trim leftover bits and stuff them into the cracks).  Whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla, and pour evenly over the bread.  Press the bread down to get it completely soaked.  Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator overnight, or for a minimum of 8 hours.  The next morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Uncover the casserole and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the liquid is absorbed.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm.


Sweet Potato Bisque
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
7 cups peeled diced sweet potato (about 1 inch cubes)
1 cup diced carrot
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. orange zest
3/4 cup half and half

In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil just until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the sweet potato, carrots, and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken stock, tarragon, salt, pepper, and orange zest; cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Add the half and half and heat gently for another 2-3 minutes.  Working in batches, pour the soup into a blender and puree until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Maple-Pecan Granola
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the oats and nuts in a large bowl.  In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, honey, syrup, cinnamon, and salt.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s just beginning to bubble around the edges.  Pour the hot syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir well, until everything is evenly coated.  Spread the granola onto a greased sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes.  Stir, then bake for 8-10 minutes more, until the oats and nuts are golden brown and toasted.  Let the granola cool before removing it from the pan.

Thanksgiving Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
Hershey’s kisses

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixer, cream together the butter, pumpkin, sugars, and maple syrup until smooth.  Gradually add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the spices, salt, flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Gradually add to the wet ingredients, mixing just until blended.  Spoon by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheets and bake at 375 degrees for six minutes; working quickly, press a Hershey’s kiss into the top of each cookie, then return the cookies to the oven and bake for 6 minutes longer, until the cookies are golden brown and set.  (Makes about 3 1/2 dozen)

Fruktsoppa
16 dried apricots
16 dried plums
1 cup golden raisins
5 tablespoons tapioca
6 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup peeled, diced apple
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raspberry juice (see Note)
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Combine the dried fruits, tapioca, and water in a heavy-bottomed pot and let soak overnight.  Add the apple and cinnamon stick to the soaked fruit and place over high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the tapioca is clear and the fruit is very tender (it should take about a half hour or so).  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and juices.  Classically, fruktsoppa is served chilled; it’s also delicious warm, if you can’t wait (we couldn’t).
NOTE: Because pure raspberry juice is not easy to find, the best thing to do is to purchase some frozen raspberries and heat 2 cups of the berries with about 1/2 cup or so of water.  When the berries are thawed and slightly softened, place them, with the liquid, in a sieve over a measuring cup.  Using a spoon, mash the berries through the sieve until you’ve extracted everything you can.  If you are slightly shy of 1 1/2 cups at that point, you can always top it off with a little apple cider or other juice as needed.

Chicken Pot Pie with Pumpkin Crust
You can make this pot pie one of two ways: either as a skillet pot pie with a biscuit crust (using the Pumpkin Biscuit recipe on this page), or as a more traditional pot pie with a rolled pastry crust. I prefer the biscuit method because it’s easier and makes for a quicker dinner, but either is good!
Filling:
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil, or a combination (I use a combination)
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 medium carrots, finely diced
1 medium sweet potato, finely diced
6 oz. mushrooms (button, cremini, or any mixture you like), quartered
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Slow Cooker Chicken Stock (you could also use store-bought)
4 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup frozen peas, unthawed
1/3 cup half and half
Crust:
Pumpkin Biscuits OR:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup very cold butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp nutmeg
6-10 tablespoons ice water

To make the crust: Combine flour, salt, and nutmeg in a food processor; pulse to mix.  Add the pumpkin puree and butter and pulse until the crust starts to come together (it will still be somewhat crumbly).  With the machine running, add the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to make a ball and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide in half, and pat each half into a disk.  Wrap the dough in plastic and put in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes-1 hour.  (You’ll only need a top crust, so I’d freeze one of these, or find another use for it.)  When you’re ready to use it, take one of the disks out of the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Place over the pot pie filling and bake as instructed below.
To make the filling:
In a large skillet, melt the butter/oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and celery and sweat for about 3 minutes, until they start to soften.  Add the carrots and sweet potatoes and sprinkle with a little salt.  Cook for about 8 minutes, until all the vegetables have started to soften slightly and release a bit of liquid.  Add the mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes more.  Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes (the flour will start to form a paste).  Gradually pour in the chicken stock, using a spoon to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan; cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes to keep the sauce from getting lumpy.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the vegetables and sauce cook together for about 5 minutes, until the sweet potatoes and carrots are tender and the sauce has started to thicken.  Add the cooked chicken and the frozen peas and stir to combine.  Simmer over low heat for an additional 5 minutes to warm the chicken and peas through.  Stir in the half and half to add richness and creaminess to the dish, taste, and adjust the seasonings as needed.  At this point, you may either top with warm biscuits and serve, or pour the filling into a 2-quart casserole dish, add the top pastry crust (cut a few steam vents in the crust to prevent explosions), and bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes (watch carefully to be sure the crust doesn’t burn).


Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
1 chicken carcass (from a 4-5 pound chicken)
4 carrots, quartered
4 celery stalks, quartered
2 onions, peels on, quartered
6 cloves garlic, skins on, crushed slightly
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried thyme or rosemary (or a sprig or two of fresh)
12 cups water

Place the chicken carcass, vegetables, and seasonings into a slow cooker.  Add the water.  Surround the slow cooker with kitchen towels to catch any splatter.  Cover and set on Low for 10-12 hours (I like to do it overnight).  When the stock is done, let cool slightly, then strain through a mesh sieve into a large bowl or pot, using the back of a wooden spoon to press the moisture out of the solids to get as much stock as possible.  Discard all solids.  You can use the stock immediately, but I like to let mine cool in the refrigerator so that any fat rises to the top and solidifies.  That makes it easy to scrape the fat off the top.  This recipe makes about 8 cups of finished stock, which freezes perfectly.

Crispy Chicken and Broccoli Flatbread Pizzas
4 6-inch flour tortillas (the whole-wheat kind would be great, too)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 1/2-2 cups of diced cooked chicken
1 cup diced cooked broccoli
2 cups shredded cheese (I like to use a blend of mozzarella and cheddar, but use what you have)
Optional extras: diced tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, olives, or any other veggies you like

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly brush the tortillas on both sides with a little olive oil.  Place the tortillas on a cookie sheet.  Top each with about 1/2 cup chicken, 1/4 broccoli, any other vegetables you’re using.  Sprinkle each with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  Bake the pizzas for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the tortillas are crispy.  Cut into wedges and serve.

Pumpkin Risotto
This is not at all a sweet risotto — it’s really the savory side of pumpkin.  I used homemade stock, which considerably cuts costs and improves the flavor.  The goat cheese is optional (we didn’t give any to the kids), but J. and I both agreed that the tanginess of the cheese really balanced out the dish.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, diced, white and light green parts only
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (we buy ours in bulk)
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 cups pumpkin puree (I used fresh roasted pumpkin and pureed it with a tablespoon of olive oil for smoothness; you could certainly use canned)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
salt and pepper, to taste
a few ounces of crumbled goat cheese (optional)

In a wide, deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a gentle simmer and leave warming over very low heat.  Add the leeks to the butter and saute for 3-4 minutes, until softened but not browned.  Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes.  Pour in the wine and stir constantly until the liquid is nearly absorbed.
Add a cup of the stock and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the liquid is nearly absorbed.  From this point on, you’ll just repeat the process, adding 1/2-3/4 of a cup of stock at a time, stirring, and letting the rice absorb the stock.  It should take about 20 minutes or so for the rice to cook this way.  As you add the last 1/2 cup of stock to the rice, stir in the pumpkin puree, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese.  Let the risotto cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s slightly thickened and the rice is cooked (it should be soft but still have a little bite to it, like al dente pasta — you don’t want it to be mushy).  Add the sage and stir; if you’ve used canned pumpkin, I’d also add a tablespoon of olive oil at this point for richness and a little fruity flavor.  Serve with a green salad.  We liked some crumbled goat cheese over the top of our risotto.

Chocolate-Pretzel Granola Bars
These bars came out chewier and softer than a traditional granola bar, probably because of the banana in the binder.  Make sure to let them cool almost completely before cutting them so you don’t have a mess on your hands.
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 large ripe banana, in chunks
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup crushed pretzels
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the oil, maple syrup, honey, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until the honey begins to melt and the mixture comes to a simmer.  Add the cocoa powder and banana and cook for 2 additional minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Puree the mixture (I used a hand blender; you could use a traditional blender) until completely smooth.
Add the oats and pretzel chunks to the liquid mixture and stir until coated thoroughly.  Add the chocolate chips and mix to combine.  Spread the granola mixture into a lightly greased 9×9-inch baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until set and slightly dry around the edges.  Remove from the oven and immediately run a sharp knife around the sides of the bars to prevent sticking.  Let the bars cool almost completely before turning out of the pan and cutting into squares.  I got 16 servings from one pan.

Apple Butter Muffins with Cinnamon Glaze
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups apple butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
For glaze:
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. each allspice and cloves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease 18 muffin tins (I only got 16 muffins, but I sort of over-filled mine).  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, apple butter, and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs and mix well.  In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.  Gradually add to the wet ingredients until everything is just incorporated (don’t overmix or the muffins will be tough).
Pour the batter into the prepared tins and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean.  While the muffins cool slightly, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze (you may have to adjust the amount of milk slightly to get a pourable, but not runny, consistency).  Spoon about 2 tsp. of glaze over the top of each muffin while they’re still warm; allow the muffins to cool completely, then apply another layer of glaze before serving.

Breakfast “CousCous”
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup orange juice (100 percent or freshly squeezed; not from concentrate!)
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
milk, for serving

Combine bulgur wheat, orange juice, honey, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan; cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning and sticking, or until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is tender but not mushy.  Stir in the almonds and serve hot, with a little milk poured over the top.

Breakfast Animal Crackers
1/2 cup each all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. dried apricots, finely ground (I used a food processor)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons canola oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  In another bowl, combine apricots, honey, and vanilla.  Using a fork, work the apricot mixture into the dry ingredients until fully combined.  Add water and oil and mix (I used my hands) until it forms a soft dough that holds together when squeezed.
Turn the dough out and pat it into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle.  Using small cookie cutters, cut out shapes (I used both animal shapes and some slightly larger flower and star shapes, but nothing larger than 2 inches diameter) and place the crackers on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and set.  The crackers will become more crisp as they cool.

Cinnamon Chicken Tenders
12 chicken tenders
1/2 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.  Toss the chicken tenders together with all other ingredients in a small bowl and allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the baking sheet; bake for 10 minutes, until cooked through.

Honey-Wheat Rolls
You could make sandwich bread with this recipe, too — it should make two good loaves.
3 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups warm water (should feel like baby’s bathwater)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
4 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
Combine the wheat flour, bread flour, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir together the yeast, warm water, honey, molasses, and canola oil; let stand for 3-5 minutes to proof.  Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and mix well, until it forms a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Pour a few teaspoons of oil into the bottom of a clean, large bowl.  Put the dough into the bowl and turn to coat; cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled.
Punch the dough down and divide into 24 small balls.  Place 12 balls in each of two lightly greased 9-inch cake pans; cover with clean towels and let rise again, about 45 minutes, until doubled in size.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, until golden brown.  A toothpick should come out clean with no resistance, and the rolls should sound hollow when tapped.

Pumpkin Biscuits
I intended to make these using a low-fat recipe I once had, but I couldn’t find the recipe.  It was a happy accident, since I never was fully satisfied with the outcome when I followed the specifications, so I made my own version.  These were delicious and not at all sweet — the hint of spice just makes them taste more like pumpkin.
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch allspice
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices into a large bowl.  Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until you achieve coarse crumbs (like large breadcrumbs).  Whisk together the milk, pumpkin, and honey.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well.  Using your hands, bring the ingredients together quickly until you have a soft dough (don’t overwork it — you don’t want to melt the butter with your hands).  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to slightly less than an inch thick.  Cut with a biscuit cutter (I don’t have one, so I used one of the kids’ small cups) and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  I got about 18 biscuits.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and puffed.

Spinach Pies
This is a recognizable knock-off of spanikopita, but the last time I made classic spanikopita, the kids didn’t seem crazy about feta cheese or about the big hunks of spinach that kept falling out.  This time, I tried to tame the flavor by using milder cheeses; simplified the process of making the filling; and tried to make the texture of the filling a little easier for the small ones to handle.  They were a big hit.
8 oz. frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator
About 8 tablespoons olive oil or melted butter (or a combination)
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
1 package frozen spinach, cooked, cooled, and squeezed dry in a kitchen towel — really get it good and dry!
1 cup ricotta cheese (part-skim or whole milk)
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese (or a blend)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic until minced.  Add the spinach and grind for a minute until the spinach is finely chopped.  Add the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and blend until the mixture is creamy and fully combined, but the spinach is not totally pureed.  Scoop into a bowl, fold in the shredded cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
Working quickly to keep the phyllo from drying out, lay one sheet of phyllo on a work surface and brush lightly all over with butter or oil.  Lay a second sheet on top of the first and repeat.  Keep going until you have four sheets of phyllo stuck together.  Cut the phyllo crosswise into three rectangular sections.  Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the upper left corner of the phyllo rectangles.  Fold the corner over the filling to create a triangle; then continue as though folding a flag, wrapping the filling up in the dough, until you have a neat triangle.  Place the finished triangles on a lightly greased baking sheet, then continue the process with the remaining phyllo dough and filling (I got exactly 12 pies from this recipe).  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, until the phyllo is golden brown and crispy.

Broccoli Bread Pizza
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (should feel like a baby’s bathwater)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
4 cups steamed broccoli florets, finely diced
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 cups mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, blitz the flour and salt until just combined.  Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add to the flour mixture with the processor running.  Keep the machine working until the dough starts to come together in a ball.  Turn off the machine, add the olive oil, and pulse a few times just to incorporate it.
Take the dough out of the processor and knead it quickly on a lightly floured surface, just until it’s a smooth ball.  Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl and set the dough inside it, turning over a few times to coat.  Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel.  From here, you can either allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or put it in the refrigerator and let it rise for 24 hours.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and pat it out into a rough rectangle or circle.  Pile the broccoli and garlic in the middle of the dough and begin kneading it in, folding the dough around the filling and pressing down to incorporate the broccoli into the dough.  Keep working until the dough is studded throughout with broccoli (it will take a few minutes to incorporate all the broccoli — be patient!).  Press the dough out onto a lightly greased sheet pan into a large rectangle, about 8×14.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown; add the grated cheeses for the last few minutes of baking.  Cool slightly before cutting into squares.

Maple Pumpkin Pie Filling
I made this with the fresh pie pumpkin, which I roasted first; you could use canned pumpkin if you prefer, but it may end up being slightly sweeter.  I’m not including a crust recipe because I just blitzed up some graham crackers with a little melted butter, then pressed them into muffin tins to make hand-held miniature pies for the kids.  You could use whatever type of crust you’d like.

3 cups pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 can evaporated milk
2 large eggs, beaten

Using a mixer, blend everything on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Pour the filling into a prepared crust and bake at 375 degrees — I did my mini-pies for about 30 minutes, just until they were set and barely moist to the touch on top.

Pumpkin-Cider Ricotta Pancakes
I made these because I had so much leftover filling (the above recipe is only HALF what I originally made)!  So consider it a bonus recipe, if you’ve got leftovers of the pie filling, which you certainly may…
1 1/2 cups Maple Pumpkin Pie filling
1/2 cup apple cider
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (whole-milk would probably work fine, too)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Whisk together the flour and baking powder and set aside.  Beat the pumpkin pie filling, cider, and ricotta until fully combined.  Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until it’s the consistency of a slightly thick pancake batter (it may be just a bit lumpy, because of the cheese).  Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto a buttered griddle and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden and fluffy.  This amount of batter will make around a dozen pancakes.


Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can always adjust the texture — add more broth if you like it thinner, or make it with less for a thicker soup.  We like ours on the heartier side.
1 cup diced onion or leek (use only the white and light green parts, if using leek)
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil (I tend to use a mixture of both)
6 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash (large chunks; about 1 1/2 inches or so)
2 medium pears, peeled and diced (you can also use apples)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tsp. dried
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I use homemade chicken stock for this)
1/3 cup half and half or heavy cream (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the butter or oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Saute the onions in the butter until soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the squash, pears, and rosemary, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the broth, cover, and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup (I use a hand blender for this, but you can transfer to a blender or food processor) until smooth.  Add the cream, if using, and season to taste.  You can also add more broth at this point if you want a thinner soup.  I serve this with warm sourdough bread and a green salad, or with ham and cheese panini for a more filling meal.

Veggie Bread

2 medium sweet potatoes, skins on, quartered
1 large tomato, quartered
2 small red bell peppers, halved, seeds removed
2 packages active dry yeast
5-6 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup warm water (should feel like a baby’s bathwater)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing the bowl and dough

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the vegetables on a sheet pan, drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil, and toss to coat.  Roast the vegetables at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until tender.  Cool until they can be handled.  Remove the skins from the potatoes and peppers (they should peel right off) and place the potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes in a small bowl or food processor.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Puree with a hand blender or in the processor until smooth.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, salt, and 3 1/2 cups of bread flour.  Add the vegetable puree and beaten egg and mix thoroughly.  Pour in the warm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix until it becomes a soft, sticky dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding the remaining bread flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, just until you have a soft dough that is smooth, elastic, and only slightly tacky to the touch.
Use a little olive oil to grease the inside of a large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl and rub about a teaspoon of oil over the top of the dough.  Cover loosely with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 40-60 minutes, until doubled in size.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and punch down, then divide in half.  Grease two loaf pans.  Put one piece of dough in each pan, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise again until doubled in size.
Bake the loaves at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.  They should sound vaguely hollow when tapped.  Let cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out and allow to cool upside-down for another 20-30 minutes to prevent the bottom crust from getting soggy.

Apple Cider-Brined Pork Roast

8 cups cold water
2 cups apple cider
4 cups ice cubes
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons caraway seeds, crushed
1 center-cut boneless pork loin, approximately 3 pounds
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large, deep pot, combine the water, cider, ice cubes, salt, sugar, and crushed spices and stir until combined.  Set the pork loin into the mixture, cover, and let sit for anywhere from 3 hours to 24 hours (we did ours for about 6).  When you’ve finished brining the pork, remove the loin from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels.  Combine the garlic powder, black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sprinkle all over the surface of the pork loin.  Set in a roasting pan and roast at 375 degrees for approximately one hour; remove from the oven and let rest, covered with foil, for 15 minutes before slicing.


As I mentioned in the post, we used a Boston Marrow Squash for this recipe, but you could use any hearty winter squash.
6 cups of cubed day-old bread (we used sourdough; cut it roughly into 1 1/2 inch cubes)
5 cups of diced peeled pumpkin, marrow squash, or other winter squash (about 1/2 inch cubes)
4 slices center-cut bacon, diced
3 shallots, sliced thinly
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling the bread cubes and squash)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the bread cubes on a large baking tray and drizzle them lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to coat the bread.  Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy.  Transfer the bread cubes to a large bowl and set aside to cool.  Put the squash cubes on the baking sheet and toss lightly with a drizzle of oil, then roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until fork-tender but not mushy.  Add the roasted squash to the bread cubes.
In a nonstick skillet, cook the diced bacon over medium heat until it starts to brown slightly and render its fat.  Add the sliced shallots and cook until the shallots are soft and the bacon is crisp.  Remove the shallots and bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and add to the bread cubes and squash.
In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the mustard, honey, and vinegar.  Gradually add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, whisking continuously until the dressing thickens slightly and is combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the panzanella mixture and toss until everything is evenly coated.  Let the salad sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.  Serve room temperature.


Carrot-Raisin Soft Pretzels
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can certainly make this by hand.  Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never made a yeast dough before; this one is very forgiving.

1 1/2 cups warm water (I just heat it in the microwave for about 1 minute, until it feels like a baby’s bathwater)
1 package Active Dry Yeast
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup very finely shredded carrot (I used a microplane grater for this)
3/4 cup raisins
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the 1 1/2 cups warm water with the yeast, brown sugar, and salt.  Mix until everything is dissolved, then gradually add the bread flour, regular flour, and carrots.  Mix at medium speed until the dough just starts to come together.  Add the raisins and continue to mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl in a ball.  Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and elastic, then place on a greased baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for about 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
Divide the risen dough into 24 pieces (this is for miniature pretzels — if you want full-sized ones, divide into 12 pieces).  Roll each piece into a rope, about 6-8 inches long and less than 1/2 inch thick.  Twist into pretzel shapes.  In a large bowl, combine the baking soda and boiling water.  Using a slotted spoon, dip the pretzels into the water bath, then place them on a greased sheet pan.  Let the pretzels rise, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Brush with the melted butter, then combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the tops of the finished pretzels while still warm.

Crazy Pudding

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 ripe bananas, in chunks
1/4 cup mashed avocado
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a double boiler over simmering water, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick (you should be able to see the tracks the whisk makes through the mixture), about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and immediately add the avocado, lemon juice, salt, and bananas.  Using an electric mixer at medium speed, mix the ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Add the cocoa, vanilla, and cinnamon, and beat at low speed just until fully combined.  At this point, you’ll probably want to taste the pudding — I suspect the sweetness will depend on the bananas used, so you might have to adjust it a bit for your tastes.  Chill, covered, before serving.


Pasta Poulet

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed in bite-sized pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
4-6 scallions, diced (white and green parts)
About 1 1/2 -2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp. oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley (you could certainly also use fresh)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
olive oil
1 lb. pasta — angel hair or thin spaghetti work best; we use whole wheat when we can

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  While it’s cooking, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken cubes and cook until it’s just starting to brown on all sides, but is not quite cooked through.  Sprinkle the oregano, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper over the chicken, then pour the chicken broth over the top.  Simmer for about five minutes, then add the tomatoes and scallions.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes more, just until the tomatoes are softened a bit.  Serve over the pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, if you like.

Cocoa Granola Bars

2 1/2 cups quick-cook oats (you could also use regular; they may make the bars crunchier)

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 1/2 cups (about 25-30) pitted dried dates, pureed in a food processor

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons canola oil

2/3 cup honey

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Prepare a glass baking dish (either 8×8, which makes thicker bars, or 11×7, for thinner bars) by spraying with cooking spray, lining with parchment paper, and spraying the parchment again.

Spread the oats and sunflower seeds on a dry baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, just until the seeds are slightly golden and warm.  In a small bowl, mix the pureed dates, cocoa powder, and vanilla (I recommend using a fork) until they’re combined — the mixture will be dry and crumbly.  In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the oil, brown sugar, and honey, stirring until it’s melted together and is a thin syrup.  Turn off the heat and add the date mixture to the syrup.  In a large bowl, combine the toasted oat mixture and the date syrup.  Stir until everything is evenly coated.  With damp hands, press the mixture into the prepared pan and spread until it’s even.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, just until it’s set and the top feels nearly dry to the touch.  Cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and chill for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars.  We got 16 servings from an 8×8 pan.

Tomato Muffins

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

2 eggs

2 cups pureed fresh tomato (about 3-4 medium ripe — See Note)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

3/4 tsp. each ground ginger, allspice, and cloves

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line or grease 24 muffin cups (or you could make mini-loaves; the recipe will make 4 mini-loaves).  Beat the sugar, yogurt, and oil until smooth; add the tomato puree and mix until completely combined.  Whisk together the dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet mixture until fully incorporated.  Pour into prepared muffin cups or loaf tins and bake at 375 for 30 minutes (muffins) or 45 minutes (loaves), just until set and a toothpick comes out clean.  These muffins are very delicate and may sink slightly in the centers, but will still be delicious.  I recommend storing in the fridge.

*NOTE: To make the fresh tomato puree, peel the tomatoes — the easiest way is to score the skins with an “x” on the bottom of each tomato, then blanch them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds and submerge them in cold water.  The skins should slip right off.  Then just use a food processor or stick blender to puree the tomatoes.

Surprisingly Sweet Beet Muffins

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

6 oz. plain yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup grated raw beets

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup very hot water

1/2 cup molasses

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. each cloves and nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare 18 muffin cups, either by greasing or lining.  Cream together the butter, yogurt, and sugar until smooth.  Add the beets and mix thoroughly; add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Dissolve the molasses in the hot water.  Add half the flour mixture to the beet mixture and mix briefly, then add half the molasses and water.  Repeat with the remaining flour and water, mixing just until all the ingredients are incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out nearly clean.

Mom’s Fish Dish

You could use any mild white fish for this recipe — I used haddock, but sole, tilapia, scrod, and even something sturdier like cod or halibut would all work.  Just be sure that if you choose a meatier, thicker fish, you adjust the cooking time.

1 1/2 pounds of haddock fillets

3 large tomatoes, chopped

4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (you could also use just about a tablespoon of dried dill weed)

4 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lay out four to six sheets of aluminum foil and drizzle a little olive oil onto the center of each — just a teaspoon or two is fine.  Combine the tomatoes, dill, parsley, and garlic in a bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Divide the fish into equal portions and lay one portion of fish onto each sheet of foil, directly on the oil (to prevent sticking).  Sprinkle the fish fillets with a little salt and pepper.  Spoon the tomato mixture over the top of the fillets.  Seal the aluminum foil around the fish, making individual packets — be sure to seal tightly so they don’t leak.  Place the packets on a baking sheet and cook at 375 for about 15-20 minutes, just until the fish is cooked through (it should flake easily with a fork and look opaque in the center, but not be turning to mush).  Serve over rice or cous cous.

Granol-io Crumble

2/3 cup plain Cheerios

2/3 cup quick-cooking oats

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven (a toaster oven works fine for this) to 350 degrees.  In a small pan, combine the oil, honey, maple syrup, and cinnamon.  Bring just to a boil, stirring, and remove from the heat.  Pour the hot syrup mixture over the Cheerios and oats and stir to combine.  Spread the mixture onto a greased baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes, just until golden brown.  Allow it to cool slightly before handling.  While still warm, remove from the pan and crumble it into small pieces.  Use to top apples, yogurt, or anything else you’d like — or just eat it as a snack on its own.

Popcorn Peas

2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen (see note)

2 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

*Note: if you use frozen peas, thaw them first under cool running water, then dry them thoroughly on paper towels.  If they’re wet, the recipe won’t work.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a large baking sheet, toss together the peas, olive oil, and kosher salt.  Scatter the peas evenly over the baking sheet.  Roast them for 15 minutes, then check them.  If they’re a deep golden brown color, crisp in texture, and smell slightly nutty, they’re done.  If not, continue roasting them and checking every few minutes.  Once the peas are done, you can either just cool them and eat as they are, or you can toss them with any sort of spices you like while they’re still warm (wasabi powder comes to mind, if you’re a fan of wasabi peas).


Sunday Chicken

We always make two chickens when we have Sunday chicken — it seems like a lot, and it is, but it means that a) you’ll be prepared for unexpected guests; and b) you’ll have enough leftovers to make several lunches, or to pop into a whole second dinner (chicken pot pie, anyone?).  I also save the carcasses for making homemade chicken stock, so nothing goes to waste.

2 whole roasting chickens, approximately 4-5 pounds each

3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced, or 1 tablespoon of garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste (remember to be relatively generous with the seasoning — you’re salting and peppering two whole chickens)

Optional: Herbs — fresh or dried — any combination you like.  We often like dried herbs de provence in the wintertime; for fresh herbs, rosemary, thyme, parsley, fennel, and even basil or dill can be used.  You’ll need a few tablespoons of minced fresh herbs, or one tablespoon of dried.

Something to stuff into the cavities of the birds — we usually quarter a lemon, an orange, and a whole onion (don’t bother peeling anything), and stuff the cavities with a mixture of the fruits and onion.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Remove giblets from the cavities of the chickens.  Rinse inside and out with cold water, then dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Place them breast-up in a large roasting pan (or two smaller pans, if you don’t have a big one).

In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs.  I run my fingers between the skin and the meat of the chicken to loosen it, then rub half of the butter mixture under the chicken skins and half over the top of the chickens — the butter on the meat itself, locked under the skin, keeps the meat really juicy and flavors it nicely.  Rubbing herb butter over the skins browns them well and makes the skin nice and crisp.

Stuff the cavities of the chickens with the lemons, oranges, and onions.  Roast the chickens at 400 degrees for about an hour and a half, depending on the size of the birds.  The way I figure time for this is to take the average weight of one of the chickens (say, 4.5 lbs) and calculate 20 minutes per pound (that would be 90 minutes for a 4.5 lb chicken).  Then, because I’m roasting two chickens together, I add about 10-15 additional minutes onto the cooking time — making it about an hour and 40 minutes for two 4.5 lb chickens.  After cooking, let the chickens rest on the countertop, covered with foil, for about 15 minutes prior to carving.

Rosewater-Cardamom Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup raspberry-rosewater syrup (see below)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and cardamom.  Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the cream and syrup.  Mix just until everything is incorporated.  Using a 1/4 cup measure, drop the scone batter onto the baking sheet — you should get about 8 scones.  Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and set.

Raspberry-Rosewater Syrup

1 cup wildflower honey

1 cup water

6 oz fresh or frozen raspberries

Combine all ingredients in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the raspberries start to fall apart, about 8-10 minutes.  Strain through a sieve, pushing the raspberries through with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Chill before using in the scone recipe.  (You’ll have lots of leftovers too…I’ll let you know what to do with the rest of the syrup later this week!)

Veggie Nuggets

Makes 18-24 nuggets
For the nuggets:
3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup grated carrots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (white or yellow)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

For the coating:
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp olive oil

Lightly steam the broccoli and grated carrots (this can even be done in the microwave – I recommend about 3 minutes, just until the broccoli is slightly tender but not mushy). Cool slightly. Chop the broccoli very finely — you could probably even pulse it in a food processor to do this, though I haven’t bothered, but it might be helpful.  In a large bowl, mix together the vegetables, garlic, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper, until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it into a ball.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Toss together the breadcrumbs and olive oil for the coating. Form the broccoli mixture into walnut-sized balls and then pat into “nugget” shapes. Set the nuggets into the coating mixture, turning gently and patting until they’re lightly coated with breadcrumbs. Place on the greased cookie sheet. Bake the nuggets for 12-15 minutes, until pale golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

Quick Ginger-Peach Upside Down Cake

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar, divided

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 cups peach sauce (scroll down to find the recipe below)

1 egg

1 cup low fat milk

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 1/2 cups heart-healthy Bisquick or other low fat pancake/biscuit mix

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a glass baking pan, 11×7 inches (you could also use a 9×9 square) with cooking spray.  In the bottom of the prepared baking pan, stir together the melted butter, peach sauce, ginger, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar.

Using a mixer on medium speed, blend the banana, milk, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and egg until smooth, then turn the speed to low and add the pancake mix, beating until just combined.  Evenly spoon the batter over the peach sauce mixture (be careful not to swirl the two together).  Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and springy, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool before serving.

Cinnamon Fruit Chips

As mentioned on the blog, I’ve tried other people’s methods for these, but this is the way that it works best for me.  You may have a different experience.  I just think that my way — which is lower and slower, even, than most recipes — really gets the moisture out of the fruit and keeps it crunchy, while also eliminating most of the chance of browning and tasting burned.

About 2 apples — I prefer MacIntosh, Fuji, or Gala

1 slightly under-ripe banana (you want it to be somewhat firm)

Cooking spray

1 tsp. each sugar and cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.  Slice the apples very thinly, about 1/8 inch thick, stopping when you get to the core.  Slice the banana on the bias, also as thinly as possible, using a very sharp knife to get a clean cut so you don’t smash the banana and have a big mess on your hands.

Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray and lay the apple and banana slices on it in a single layer, not overlapping or touching at all.  Bake at 200 degrees for about 3 hours, checking and turning after 2.  The chips are done when they are very dry to the touch, seem crunchy, and move easily when you shake the pan.  Let them cool completely.  Put the cooled chips into a ziploc bag with the cinnamon and sugar, shake to coat, and leave in there for storage.  They should last up to a week.

Frog Slime Meatballs

1 pound ground turkey (you can use whatever ground meat you like, but we prefer the turkey for this)

2 cloves garlic

1/2 small yellow onion

3 cups loosely packed spinach leaves

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves (you could also use parsley or any other green herb, or a combination)

2 eggs

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

About 1/4 cup of olive oil

About 2/3 cup dry breadcrumbs

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin tins with cooking spray.  In a food processor, finely chop the garlic and onion.  Add the spinach and pulse until very fine.  Add the eggs, salt, and pepper, and pulse to mix.  With the processor running, stream in the olive oil a little at a time until you have a smooth puree.

In a large bowl, add the puree to the meat and mix thoroughly.  Gradually add the breadcrumbs until you have a soft mixture that will just hold together (if you put a ball into the palm of your hand, it should sink a little — envision a shape like a scoop of ice cream).  Scoop the mixture into the muffin tins and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.


California Chuck Roast

3.5-4 lbs beef chuck roast

Assorted vegetables: I used about 6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces; 3 or 4 stalks of celery, prepared the same way; 2 red bell peppers, in unscientific large-ish chunks; and 8 small-medium red potatoes, quartered.  You can also use sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, etc…..

Sauce:

1 medium yellow onion, diced finely

3/4 cup finely diced celery

1 cup ketchup (we use a brand without high fructose corn syrup)

3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons each: brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 tsp black pepper (I usually use a little extra, though, because I like it)

In the insert of a slow cooker, mix all the ingredients for the sauce until combined.  Add the meat and vegetables and ladle some of the sauce over the top of everything to coat well.  Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.  This should definitely be served with some sort of bread for soaking up the sauce, or cornbread if you’re feeling super-domestic.

Peach Sauce

Less of a recipe, more of a method – but a tasty, easy way to present fruit to little ones (and adults — J. ate a spoonful every time he passed the bowl).

8 small MacIntosh apples, quartered — peels, cores, seeds, and all

12 small yellow peaches, halved, pits removed — but leave the skins on

Water

Sugar, to taste — I recommend about a heaping 1/4 cup, but it depends on the sweetness of your fruit and your individual palate

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

Toss the cut-up fruit into a large pot.  Run cold water into the pot until there’s about an inch in the bottom.  Cover and set over high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the fruit for about 20-30 minutes, until it’s really tender and starting to break down.

Set a food mill fitted with a medium blade over a large bowl (if you don’t have a food mill, get one immediately).  Working in batches, spoon the fruit and juice into the mill and grind it through.  The food mill will catch any bits of seed or peel that shouldn’t go into the finished product.  Once the fruit is all pureed, add the sugar and spices and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Let cool before eating, if you can stand to wait.

Banana-Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. almond extract or 1 tsp. vanilla extract (both are good, but if your kids’ school is nut-free, go with the vanilla)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease baking sheets with cooking spray.  Cream the butter, bananas, and sugar together until smooth.  Add the eggs and extract and mix thoroughly.  Combine the dry ingredients.  Add the flour mixture gradually to the banana mixture until fully incorporated.  Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets by rounded tablespoons (you’ll get about 3 dozen cookies) and bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown and set.

Sweet Potato-Banana muffins

Sweet potatoes and bananas go great together.  I have a habit of using sweet potato or pumpkin as the base for lots of different muffins — I like how they both add moisture and flavor to the muffins, while giving a lot of nutritional value to the finished product.  Although I sometimes substitute yogurt for some of the oil or butter in a recipe, I haven’t done that yet with these — I think they benefit from the buttery taste.

2 large sweet potatoes, baked, mashed, and cooled slightly (skins removed)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 bananas, mashed

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tsp. each baking soda and baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare 14-18 muffin cups (this recipe makes just over a dozen, but not always a dozen and a half…go figure!)  Beat the first six ingredients (sweet potato through vanilla) at medium speed until smooth and silky.  Combine the dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Parmesan Salmon Fingers with Avocado Dip

I’ve seen other people make versions of this recipe — I got the original idea a couple of years ago from watching the Food Network, so it’s hardly my invention.  I do give myself credit for thinking to pair the avocado dipping sauce with the salmon fingers, though.  So, with a nod to all the other salmon-finger-loving cooks out there, this is my version of a great, healthy twist on fish sticks.

1 lb salmon filet, skin removed (check carefully for bones)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

salt and pepper

4 eggs, beaten (you may need more or less egg, depending on the size of the eggs)

All-Purpose breading mix (see below)

Avocado Dip (see below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray or rub with olive oil.  Cut the salmon into “fingers,” roughly 1/2 inch thick by 2-3 inches long.  Combine the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Lightly coat the salmon fingers in the seasoned flour — this will help the eggs and breading stick to the fish.  Pat off any excess flour, then dip the fish fingers in the beaten egg, roll in the breading mixture, and place on the baking sheet.  Bake the salmon fingers at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, just until golden brown and cooked through.  Serve with the avocado dip.



All-Purpose Breading Mix
(which I also use on chicken cutlets, various vegetables, etc.):

1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs, white or whole wheat

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried basil

pinch of black pepper

Combine all the ingredients, tossing well to make sure the cheese doesn’t clump up and fall to the bottom of the breading.

Avocado Dip:

2 ripe avocadoes

1/2 cup plain yogurt

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Scoop the flesh out of the avocadoes and place in a blender or food processor with the remaining ingredients.  Puree until smooth and creamy.  This dip is great on almost anything you can think of, but I think it pairs especially well with the crunchy salmon.

84 Responses to Recipes

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  48. Erica says:

    B.-
    I want to use up some mashed sweet potatoes that I made this weekend. About how many cups of mashed potato do I use for your sweet potato-banana muffins? They have a little orange juice and orange zest in them, will that make the muffins taste funny?

    • Erica, great idea and great question! My best guess is that it’ll be about 2 cups of mashed sweet potato that you want; one large sweet potato should yield about a cup of mashed. I would imagine that the orange juice and orange zest will make the muffins taste GREAT! Let me know how they turn out!

  49. Erica says:

    B. , seriously, that glaze for the apple butter muffins is divine. I would have gladly basted myself in it if I had enough powdered sugar. I used it to glaze some pumpkin muffins that I made.

    • 🙂 So glad you liked it! I know, J. and I were licking the plate after the glaze dripped off the sides of the muffins and pooled underneath them. I bet it was DELICIOUS on pumpkin muffins. I haven’t made pumpkin muffins in a long time — you just gave me an idea!

      • Erica says:

        I was going to send you the recipe and see if you would gussy it up for more nutritional punch. I was definitely disgusted at how much sugar it called for, but it didn’t stop me from making them since they weren’t staying in my house for me to consume the whole batch. I know, I know. I’m contributing to the downfall of the school staff.

      • I’m terrible that way — I always contribute to the downfall of other adults! Recently a member of the office wellness committee proposed that we enact a ban on people bringing their leftover sweets etc. from home to share with the office, and I actually thought “Are you kidding me????” It was partly because I felt like, as with the vending machines, we’re all adults and we can all make our own decisions about treats; and partly because I completely confess to using the office kitchen as a handy escape route to get excess sweets out of our house! I usually use a pumpkin bread recipe that I got years ago from Cooking Light, which turns out pretty well, but I’ve been thinking of other ways to re-invent that too, so I’d be happy to take a look at your recipe and see what we can do with it!

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  63. D C Ellis says:

    just happened upon your blog. very interesting read and looks like some good recipes as well. one question. have you ever tried using agave nectar for sweetener? i have seen it in the market, but have not tried it yet. just wondering.

    • Hi — Thanks for reading! As to the agave nectar thing: I have not tried it, nor will I, but I support everyone’s right to make their own decisions about sweeteners. My reasons for avoiding it are:
      1) I try to use mainly ingredients that either would have been used/recognized by my great-grandparents (ala Michael Pollan’s work); or ingredients that are whole foods. For example, my great-grandmother wouldn’t have had the faintest clue what to do with an avocado, but at least it’s a whole food product.
      2) Research on high levels of fructose, which is present in agave (depending on the brand, agave is anywhere from 55-95 percent fructose — often more than HFCS, according to various reports), shows that it can be damaging to the kidneys and liver. I’m sure in moderation, as with anything else, it might be fine for someone whose liver and kidneys are in perfect working order, but my husband has a mild genetic liver disorder which may have also passed to our boys, so I feel it’s wisest to stay away from high-fructose products to avoid accelerating the damage to his liver and theirs.
      3) Anything that has that much controversy swirling around it — think trans fats, saccharine, aspartame, red dyes, HFCS — generally proves to be a problem after enough research is done. I feel much more comfortable using sugar, honey, and molasses in moderation than introducing a product that is the subject of so much debate.

      However, as I said, that’s how I made my decision. Your decision may be entirely different, and if you do choose to try it, let me know how it goes!

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  76. Erica Preus says:

    Just tried the Banana-Oatmeal cookies. Kid approved and gives me another avenue in which I can get A. to eat bananas. Both A. and K. loved helping make them. Thanks!

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