Archive for ‘Recipes’

March 18, 2014

Balsamic Maple Dressing and Salad

IMG_4543A friend of mine and his wife are very dedicated to good health and nutrition.  He often takes a picture of the salad he is having for lunch and posts it on Facebook.  They always look delicious!  One day I asked him about the dressing on his salad, and his wife was kind enough to give me the recipe.  Months later I finally made it, and it is really great and so completely easy to make and remember.

Balsamic Maple Dressing

The main thing to remember is it is equal parts maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  The following recipe is perfect for a bag of spinach:

1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
sprinkle of salt and pepper

Blend by hand or with a blender.

I initially thought it was too heavy on the balsamic flavor, but when I mixed it with the sweet ingredients, it was perfect.  Here is how I made my salad:

1 bag of spinach
2 chopped apples
1 small container goat cheese
3/4 cup candied pecans (to do this check out the instructions in this post)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of Craisins
You can really do anything you want though.  Here are some other ideas of what to add to your salad:

  • walnuts, pine nuts, or almonds
  • Havarti cheese or blue cheese
  • pears or peaches
  • baby kale, purple cabbage, or other greens
  • bacon, chicken, or steak

As you can see, the options are really endless.  Just toast or candy any nut, pick a cheese, a fruit, maybe even a dried fruit as well, add some greens and maybe even some meat, pour on this amazing dressing, and you have yourself a delicious salad!

January 24, 2014

Perfect Steel Cut Oats

IMG_4631Steel cut oats and I have a love/hate relationship.  I absolutely love them whenever anybody cooks them but me.  For some reason, whenever I cook them they are gluey and pretty much subpar.  I have tried probably 5 recipes over the last 5 years and thought I would just give up and stick with my beloved oat bran.  Which, as a side note, I think everybody should try–it is faster to cook, has the same amount of protein, and has more fiber than steel cut oats.  But I digress…I have discovered that steel cut oats have a nutty flavor and a wonderful texture if cooked correctly.  Since all of my previous attempts involved a crock pot, I wanted to try something else.  I knew I wanted an overnight option because I would never find the time to cook them in the morning since they take roughly 30 minutes to cook.  Then I found this recipe at and my heart is all aflutter.  I am in love with this recipe!  You actually toast the steel cut oats in coconut oil before adding water!

I did, however, add a few ingredients that I think really add to this recipe.  I have a dear friend who grew up in Guyana and ate ‘porridge’ almost every day.  She was kind enough to let me try her recipe, and it was delicious.  She adds dried fruit.  That day she had dried apricots and raisins in her porridge.  It was wonderful!  I added those to this recipe as well, but you can add any dried fruit that sounds good to you.  Also, I toasted some nuts in just a little bit of maple syrup before serving.  This recipe makes a big batch, but it stays good for a week and is a great option for packing your breakfast for work.

2 cups steel cut oats
2 T coconut oil
5 cups water
1 t cinnamon
1-1.5 cups dried fruit (I added raisins and chopped dried apricots; other options are Craisins, dried apples, dried mango, currants, prunes, etc.)
1-2 cups milk

Nuts, maple syrup, and fresh fruit (optional)

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot or skillet that has a tight-fitting lid.  Once it has melted, add the steel cut oats and stir them around until they are toasted.  This will take a few minutes and they will look and smell, you guessed it, toasted.  As you are stirring, make sure to get the 5 cups of water ready to add.   That way you can quickly add the water when the oats are toasted to avoid having burning them.  Once you add the water, bring it all to a boil.  Then add the cinnamon and dried fruit.  Stir it all around.  Place the lid on the skillet or pot and leave until morning.  Turn off the heat. Your house will smell heavenly.

When you wake up in the morning, add 1-2 cups of milk as you warm the oats until they are the consistency you like.  Don’t be alarmed if the oats are stuck together as you pour in the milk.  Just break them up with a wooden spoon.  As you are warming the oats, you can toast some nuts (I prefer pecans or walnuts) in a skillet with a drizzle of maple syrup to coat them.  You can dump some directly on your perfect steel cut oats, and cool the rest on parchment paper.  Once they have cooled, put them in an airtight container and you will have them to serve on your oats for future breakfasts that week.  If you like, you can also add a little more milk, fresh berries of fruit, brown sugar, or more maple syrup.

December 11, 2013

My Daughter’s Delicious Hot Chocolate Recipe

IMG_4336I really don’t think an adult could come up with this concoction; I actually thought my daughter was crazy at first.  I thought that peppermint candy cane and cinnamon Red Hots belong in separate categories, and never the two shall meet.  But I was wrong.  Together they produce the taste of Christmas in your mouth, and I dare you to try it.

1 serving of your favorite mint cocoa, prepared*
1 t crushed peppermint candy cane
5-10 Red Hots
1 dollop whip cream
Mix and enjoy.

* We like Stephen’s Candycane Cocoa and in second place comes Stephen’s Chocolate Mint Truffle.

December 5, 2013

Apricot Pecan Oat Bran

I came up with this recipe completely by accident.  I bought some unsweetened canned apricots for my baby that he did not care for.  Somehow, the opened can in the fridge inspired this breakfast recipe that I have now made 3 times.  It is good hot, cold, and even a few days old. My husband likes it when I send this for his breakfast at work.  I really feel that apricots and pecans were meant to be together; I’m just happy to be a part of uniting them into this romance of deliciousness.  (To learn more about the health benefits of Oat Bran, check out my post here.)

To Cook the Oat Bran:

1 can unsweetened apricot halves
¾ – 1 cup oat bran (depending if you like it soupy or firm)

Blend one can of apricots in your blender until smooth, pour in a microwave safe dish. Mix in the oat bran. Cook for 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Let it sit until it the pecans are ready to be mixed in.

To Make the Candied Pecans:photo

1 T butter
¾ cup chopped pecans
2 T brown sugar
1 T maple syrup

While the oat bran is cooking, get out a small non-stick skillet and heat to medium-high.  Warm the butter and the pecans until the nuts are coated.  Sprinkle on the brown sugar and maple syrup.  Mix until the liquid dissipates a bit.  You do not have to stir them all the time, but you do need to watch, because they can go from yummy to burned in just seconds. When they start to look coated and candied, pour them directly onto the cooked apricot oat bran.  Stir and enjoy.  If you will not be finishing this in one meal, you may want to store the pecans separately.  To do this, spread pecans on tin foil and cool. Then, store them in a container and you can sprinkle them on the oat bran before eating.  Separate storage will help keep them crunchy.


December 5, 2013

(Even Healthier) Chicken Soup with Rice Recipe & Song

photoSometimes when we go on car trips, I stop by the library and pick up some books on tape and DVDs.  This past summer, as we were on our way to Mt. St. Helens, we were lucky enough to hear this song sung by Carole King based on the book by Maurice Sendak.  We stopped at a random Mom and Pop place in the mountains for lunch, and what do you know, the soup of the day was…that’s right, Chicken Soup with Rice!  That was enough to seal the deal with my kids.  They love this soup!

Although this soup is not necessarily unhealthy, I couldn’t resist trying to come up with a healthier version.  I have tried it a few times now, and my kids do not detect the added nutrition.  Instead of making a roux from flour and butter, I puree 2 cans of white beans.  And instead of white rice, we use a healthier grain.  We have tried brown jasmine rice, brown basmati rice, and even millet.  All of them have worked for us.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.  And by all means, you must listen to the song.  It is a treasure!

(Even Healthier) Chicken Soup with Rice

1.5 cups dry brown rice or other whole grain
2 chicken breasts (or equivalent canned or precooked chicken)
1-2 T olive oil
1 onion
4 carrots
3 celery ribs
2 cartons low sodium chicken broth (8 cups)
2 cans low sodium white beans
salt and pepper to taste

Start by getting the rice cooking.  Then start boiling the chicken breasts.  As those two things are cooking, dice an onion.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pot.  Add the onion and start cooking it.  As it cooks, peel and chop the carrots and add them to the onions.  Slice the celery and add that to the mixture.  As the vegetables cook, drain the two cans of white beans and puree them in a blender with some of the chicken broth.  Add the bean puree and the remaining chicken broth to the onions, carrots, and celery.  As they simmer together, shred the chicken and then add it.  Lastly, add the cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste.  I don’t serve this soup with bread or crackers, because my kids will eat it on its own.  And I want their tummies to be filled up with the nutritious stuff.

March 19, 2013

The Science Behind Making the Most Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I was a teenager, I attempted to make cookies and misread the amount of baking soda.  I thought it said ‘1 cup’ instead of ‘1 teaspoon’.  When I came to the realization that the cookies were inedible, I decided I was no good at baking and didn’t really give it another chance for about a decade.  IMG_2966Now fast forward those 10 years to when I tried a bite of my friend Kelly’s chocolate chip cookies.  They were amazing, and she generously invited me over to make them with her.  That kind gesture gave me the confidence I needed to give baking another shot.

Fast forward another decade and I have made her recipe many times over the years.  Sometimes it is amazing and sometimes it is flat and the texture seems off.  I always wondered what I was doing wrong. My chance to determine just that came by way of my girl’s school extravaganza project looking at the science behind making chocolate chip cookies. I had so many “ah-ha” moments helping them with this project I thought it was worth sharing.

Let’s examine what the ingredients do first (these concepts can be applied to any recipe), then I’ll share the recipe my family loves.

The Ingredients

Butter gives a buttery taste, helps the flavor of the cookie linger in your mouth, helps the cookie rise to make it light and soft, and it helps bind the dough together. Make sure to soften the butter by taking it out of the fridge one hour before baking.  Do not skip this step because doing this makes a big difference. Melting the butter in the microwave will lead to flat cookies.  

Sugar makes cookies sweet, adds moisture, improves texture, and helps preserve the cookie. White sugar makes your cookie crisper; brown sugar has more moisture and makes your cookie chewier.  Many recipes call for half of each.

Creaming the Butter & Sugar is so important to the baking process. The sugar rubs against the butter making air bubbles that the baking soda will find to help the cookie rise.  If the air bubbles are not there the baking soda will not be able to make the cookie rise. Beat the butter and sugar together for up to three minutes.  The color will actually become lighter, and the creamed mixture will become fluffy.

Vanilla does not give your cookies a vanilla taste.  It is actually a flavor enhancer. Using imitation vanilla when making cookies is totally acceptable and sometimes even preferred by taste testers.  It is when you are making cold items like frostings that pure vanilla extract is best.

Flour provides structure and allows the cookies to stay together.  Mix your flour (and other dry ingredients) in with a wooden spoon rather than a mixer, and be sure not to overmix. If you use a mixer more of those air bubbles created in the creaming process will be flattened than by using a wooden spoon.

Baking Soda helps the cookie rise. It also helps the cookie brown and gives it a chewy texture. It plays a very important role so I would not deviate from your recipe.

Salt enhances the flavor of the cookie. Most recipes call for 1 teaspoon, but that is just a bit too much.  So I just eyeball about 2/3 teaspoon and I find that tastes perfect.

Chocolate Chips make the cookie delicious.  I like to add about 85% of the bag.  The entire bag seems to be a bit too much.  But I think this is a preference issue, so play around with it.

Baking the Cookies comes down to preference. Most think that the cookies should look cooked before you take them out of the oven, which is only true if you want crisp, hard cookies.  But if you like soft and chewy cookies, take them out after 8-9 minutes. (I usually do 9 minutes.) They will not look totally cooked, but they will taste amazing after they have fully cooled. Let them cool on the sheet for 3-5 minutes.  Transfer them to a cooling rack that has been covered with tin foil.  The cookies will be fragile, and the tin foil will keep them from falling through the cooling rack.

Recipe for the Most Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

 Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Cream the following with a mixer until you see a color and texture change to creamy white (3 min):

2 sticks of butter, softened by taking them out of the fridge 1 hour before baking

2/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup white sugar

Once color and texture change has been achieved, add 1 teaspoon vanilla, mix

Add 1 egg (at room temperature, take out the same time as the butter), mix

Separately Mix:

2 cups of flour (can add up to ¼ cup more)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2/3 teaspoon salt

Add to butter mixture, stirring with spoon; do not use mixer. Try not to overmix.

Add 1 package or 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or less), gently fold into the dough.

Bake 8-9 minutes. They will not look done, but take them out and let them cool for 3-5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack (covered with tin foil). Delicious!

March 16, 2013

St. Patrick’s Day Fruit Rainbow

IMG_3100Well I finally joined Pinterest and just in time.  I found this cute St. Patrick’s Day Fruit Rainbow idea (you can see the original picture here).

We gave it a try today.  My girl’s were able to do everything themselves except cut the mango.  They even had the cute idea of making the pot of gold from black play dough.  Once we finally gave the go ahead to start eating, it vanished so fast I thought the leprechauns took it! Pair this with Irish Soda Bread and you are set for a fun St. Patrick’s Day.

March 16, 2013

Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day

When my daughter was three, she attended this awesome preschool co-op in Seattle.  For Saint Patrick’s Day (on my day to help), we made Irish Soda Bread.  I had never tried soda bread before.  After trying it warm from the oven I thought I have got to make this again for Saint Patrick’s Day.  Two years later and I’m finally doing it.  What makes this recipe so special is the mix of two ingredients I had no idea I liked – caraway seeds and currants.  I’ll be making this again year after year as well as the St. Patrick’s Day Fruit Rainbow.Soda Bread

3 cups sifted unbleached flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter ( ½ stick), softened at room temperature

¾ cup currants

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Thoroughly mix together sifted flour, soda, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in soft butter, working it in with your fingers until it is evenly distributed and the texture is a bit like corn meal. Stir in currants and caraway seeds. Beat egg, buttermilk, and honey together in a small bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, stirring briefly only to moisten evenly.  Do not overmix.

Turn onto lightly floured board and briefly kneed just to form smooth dough.  (You may have to press a bit to get it to feel ‘smooth’ and distribute the moisture.) Shape into a high, round ball. Place on buttered baking sheet. Slash vertically and horizontally about 4 inches long and ½ inch deep. (Don’t go too deep.)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-55 minutes.  Cool for about 20 minutes before slicing.

The Greyston Bakery Cookbook

February 8, 2013

Rice Krispie Apples

Today is my daughter’s V.I.P day in kindergarten, and she gets to bring any treats she wants to class (without peanuts, of course). She has been looking forward to this day all year.  I was thinking we could make pink rice crispy treats since they had no peanuts, and they would celebrate uIMG_2760pcoming Valentine’s day.  We searched together online for recipes and I came across this very cute and creative recipe. First things first, I’m not going to tell you this was easy or even fun to make.  It can better be described as sticky, messy, and I think I need to say sticky one more time.  But I will tell you it was a total hit with my daughter.  And even though they really look nothing like the original picture, she thought they were pretty great.

This is a once or twice a year kind of treat (because I think I am going to use this recipe to make pumpkins with orange Jell-O for my other daughter’s birthday in October).  And I’ve got to say, they are pretty darn tasty.  Adding Jell-O to Rice Krispie treats is nothing short of a revelation.

Here is the recipe with the changes I made:

– ½ stick of butter (4 Tablespoons)

– 1 bag of large marshmallows

Put the above in a large microwave-safe bowl and warm for 2 minutes.  Stir, and if it still needs more melting time, put it in a little longer (mine only needed 2 minutes).

– Stir in one small package of Jell-O (I used Cherry )

– Add a few drops of food coloring if you want to make a specific color, like a darker red

– Once you have the desired color, pour in approximately ¾ of a bag of Rice Krispie cereal.  Add a bit at a time and stir until it is the consistency you want.  The less sticky the mixture is, the easier it will be to make the balls.

– Roll out some parchment paper.

– Spray your hands with Pam or oil spray.

– Roll the mixture into balls a bit larger than golf balls.  This is the incredibly sticky part.  You may have to wash your hands a few times in between and put on some more spray.  I was able to make about 32 balls.

– Squash the balls down a bit and use your thumb to create space for the stem.

–  Use unwrapped Tootsie Rolls for the stem. I cut green licorice to look like a leaf, but you could use frosting, green air heads, green fruit roll-ups, or whatever you want. I kind of put them together in the hole and pushed the Krispie mix around them.

– Let the apples sit for a few minutes to harden.

I know we like to trick our kids with real fruit and call it “dessert,” but this time they will actully believe you!

July 3, 2012

Cinnamon Candy Popcorn – A Fourth of July Tradition

When I was a teenager, we lived in Lincoln, Nebraska.  There was this great popcorn store there called Colby Ridge Popcorn.  After all, Nebraska is known for its rolling fields of corn, so a popcorn store makes a lot of sense.  We would often spend our Fourth of July eating a mix of their red, white, and blue popcorn as we watched the fireworks.  I never forgot how the red popcorn was cinnamon flavored and absolutely delicious.

Years later, I ran into a recipe on by Pumpkie (that I can no longer find on the site).  I was excited at the idea of replicating one of my favorite Fourth of July memories.  My husband is actually the one who requests this nowadays.  He literally came home with a bag of Red Hots the other day and asked me to make this popcorn.  So here is the recipe for you and yours; hopefully it will be an enjoyable treat.

8 quarts of plain popcorn (I use an air popper)
1 cup of butter
1/2 cup light (not dark) corn syrup
1 (9 ounce) package of Red Hots candies (if the bag contains more, you can add up to 16 ounces and just have a stronger taste, which I like)

1) Place the popcorn in a large bowl

2) Combine all the ingredients except the popcorn in a non-stick saucepan

3) Boil for 5 minutes at a medium temperature. (I find you need to stir it often to break down all of the layers of the candies).

4) While it is boiling, set your oven to 250 degrees.  Also, grease two cookie sheets.

5) Pour over popcorn and mix thoroughly.  Be careful because it is very hot.

6) Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

7) Allow to cool, break apart and store in an airtight container for up to a week.