Monday, October 31, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you're carving a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, don't throw out the seeds. With a little work, they can be turned into a delicious snack!

  • seeds from 1 large pumpkin (about 1.5 C.)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (can also use 1 Tbsp. oil instead but I like the flavor of butter better)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika (can also use chili powder or cumin)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
When you're carving your pumpkin, set aside the seeds/stringy pulp. Rinse the seeds in a colander in the sink to remove all the gunk. Spread the clean seeds on a baking sheet and leave them to dry overnight. (You can skip this step, but I've found that the seeds toast much better when they've dried fully.) 

Melt the butter (I use the microwave), then add the spices and stir to combine. Add the seeds and stir until they are evenly coated. Pour the seeds back onto the baking sheet and spread into one layer. Bake at 300 for 20 minutes, stirring once.

Cool completely. The seeds can be stored in a sealed container for several days, but in our house, they usually only last a day. They are so addictive.

If you want to make a sweet treat, you can use cinnamon-sugar instead of the savory spices. Delicious!

Halloween Treats: Spider Cupcakes & Pumpkin Brownie Bites

These are two easy treats that I've made recently for Halloween parties.

Spider Cupcakes

These are so cute and easy to make. I made chocolate cupcakes (recipes from Emmy's blog). After frosting them, we placed an Oreo cookie in the middle of each. Then, we put a small dollop of icing in the center of the cookie. Then (and this is the most time consuming part), we attached 8 pieces of licorice for the legs. Then, we used a small amount of frosting to attach M&Ms for the eyes. They were such a huge hit!

Pumpkin Brownie Bites

A friend of mine posted the link to this recipe. The only modification I made was I used regular muffin tins and lined them with cupcake wrappers (it made enough batter for 12). I baked them for 20 minutes and they came out perfectly. Even my 5 year old was gobbling them up!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin French Toast

This is a tasty and simple french toast recipe. The pumpkin is added mainly for color; the spices are what really make it sing. Serve with maple syrup.


  • 8-10 thick slices of day-old bread (baguette, brioche, challah, etc)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk (can also use regular milk - I like the tang of buttermilk and usually have it on hand)
  • 1/3 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and/or all-spice
  • butter or oil, for the pan
  • maple syrup, for serving
In a shallow dish, beat the eggs and sugar. Add the buttermilk and pumpkin and stir to combine. Add the spices and set aside. 

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Grease with butter or oil, if desired. Dip each piece of bread into the milk mixture and allow to soak for a few seconds. Allow the excess to drip back into the bowl before putting the bread in the pan. Cook the bread 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown. Lower the heat if the bread is getting too dark.

Serve warm, with lots of maple syrup.

Spaghetti Squash

I had never had spaghetti squash before we joined our CSA a few years ago. If you've never had it before, once you cook it, the flesh becomes stringy just like spaghetti. It holds up very well and can be substituted for pasta in many dishes. My favorite way to have it is with wilted greens, olive oil, caramelized onions, garlic, and parmesan cheese.

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of greens - I used beet greens, but spinach, chard, or mustard greens would also be great
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese, for garnish

I find it easier to roast the squash whole. You can also use a sharp knife to slice it in half first to cut down on the cooking time.

Thoroughly wash the outside of the squash. Use a fork to poke holes all around the outside of the squash. Place in a shallow roasting pan and bake at 400 for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven to a cutting board and slice in half. If the flesh is still a little hard, put the 2 halves back in the oven for about 15 more minutes.

Once the flesh is tender, use a spoon to remove the seeds. Then use a large fork to scrape the flesh away from the skin.

Towards the end of the squash's baking time, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook slowly, until the onions begin to caramelize.

Add the greens and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until the squash is ready.

Add the squash to the pan and toss to combine. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with parmesan cheese on top.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Eating Down" the Fridge/Freezer/Pantry

Every so often, I go through my fridge, freezer, and pantry to use up the things that have been in there a while. This calls for some creativity on my part, having to throw together a meal with odds and ends.

I wanted to give you an example of a meal I made after finding the following things I wanted to use up: chicken tenderloins (freezer), marinated hearts of palm (pantry), cucumbers (last of the crop from our garden), risotto mix (pantry), carrots (fridge).

Here's what I came up with: Baked Chicken with Onions, Hearts of Palm, and Feta Cheese; Risotto with Vegetables; Honey-Glazed Carrots; and Quick-Pickled Cucumbers. Recipes below.

Baked Chicken with Onions, Hearts of Palm, and Feta Cheese


  • 1 lb. chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into equal-sized pieces (and pounded slightly if necessary)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jar of marinated hearts of palm, mostly drained
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese
Pour the oil into an 8x8 baking pan. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Sprinkle the onions, garlic, and hearts of palm over the chicken. Season with pepper to taste. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the chicken over. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes more, until the chicken is no longer pink.

Risotto with Vegetables

I had a box mix for risotto, which was easy to make. Towards the end of the cooking time, I threw in some frozen vegetables. I read somewhere that adding frozen vegetables to boxed rice dishes or frozen pasta dishes  helps decrease the amount of sodium per serving and also gets more veggies on your plate.

Honey-Glazed Carrots

These are cooked on the stove-top, but they turn out nice and roasted.

  • 1 bag of carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the carrots for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. If you don't want the carrots to be very browned, turn the heat down lower. Before serving, drizzle the carrots with the honey and season with salt and pepper.

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

  • 1/2 C. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp.pickling spice (or combine whatever you have on hand: dill, mustard seed, peppercorns, garlic, etc)
  • 2 small cucumbers, chopped
In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices over medium-high heat until boiling. Remove from the heat and add the cucumbers. Set aside to cool. Pour off the pickling liquid and spices before serving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple and Delicious Pumpkin Muffins

This is my go-to pumpkin muffin recipe. I think they're great as-is, but they are easy to gussy up, by adding nuts to the batter or a streusel or cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. Or if you're my 5 year old, you could add chocolate chips to the batter because, in his opinion, everything is better with chocolate chips.


  • 1 1/2 C AP flour
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and/or all-spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C. vegetable oil
  • 1 C. pureed pumpkin
In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs, then add the oil and pumpkin and mix until combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and  stir until just combined. Grease 12 muffin tins and fill each with batter until about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 muffins.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I created this recipe to use up some things from last week's CSA box (acorn squash, mustard greens, and apples). This is one of those recipes that is easy to customize based on what you have on hand. Instead of bulgur wheat, you could use quinoa. Instead of mustard greens, you could use kale, chard, or spinach. Instead of apples, you could used dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries.


  • 2 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 3/4 C. bulgur wheat
  • 1.5 C chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 bunch of mustard greens, washed and torn (large stems removed)
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • parmesan cheese, for garnish
Put the squash on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes, until tender. 

While the squash is baking, combine the bulgur wheat and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, and celery in a skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the greens and cook until wilted, then add the apple and cook for about 5 more minutes. 

Remove the squash from the oven. Scoop out some of the flesh of the cooked acorn squash, leaving enough to keep the shape of the shell. 

Add the squash to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bulgur wheat and stir until combined. Taste for seasoning.

Spoon the bulgur wheat mixture into the acorn squash shells. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese and heat everything through.

Concord Grape Juice & Jelly

One of the things I love about our CSA is that the family who owns the farm also owns a vineyard. That means for a few weeks every fall we get concord grapes. If you've never had homemade grape juice or jelly, it's really so much better than what you can buy at the store (in my opinion anyway).

Grape juice is pretty easy to make:
1. Rinse a few bunches of concord grapes.
2. Pick the grapes off the stems (it's okay if a few small ones are left) and put them in a large pot.
3. Add enough cold water to cover the grapes.
4. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes. While the grapes are cooking, periodically mash them with a potato masher or back of a spoon to help them break down.

5. Pour the juice through a strainer into a large bowl. You may need to mash and stir the grape pulp to get the last bit of juice to go through.
6. Chill the juice before serving.

Obviously, the grape juice is delicious to drink all on its own, but I like to mix it with some sparkling water to make it a little more special.

Once you have fresh grape juice, it doesn't take much more to make jelly. Unlike making jam from stone fruits, you will need pectin to get the grape jelly to gel. I prefer to use liquid pectin, so these are the directions for that. Double check the directions on your box of pectin before proceeding.


  • 4 C. grape juice
  • 7 C. sugar
  • 1 envelope of liquid pectin
In a large pot, mix the juice and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Use the largest pot you have, as the juice will foam and quadruple in size when it starts to boil. I've had some success adding a pat of butter to the liquid to limit the foaming. Do NOT walk away from the stove or you will end up with grape syrup all over the place!!!! Once the juice and sugar is at a full boil, add the pectin and boil for 1 more minute, stirring continuously. 

Remove from the heat and ladle into sterilized jars - you will need about 8 small mason jars. If you want the jelly to be shelf-stable, you need to process your jars using a hot water bath. One of these days, I'll get all the equipment I need for canning and give it a try. For the time being, I just store the jars in the refrigerator - they will keep for about a month.

I have had good success cutting this recipe in half (using only half of the liquid pectin) to make a smaller amount of jelly. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Best Pumpkin Pancakes Ever!

I find that pumpkin pancakes can often be heavy. But with a few tweaks to my Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes recipe, I was able to create the fluffiest, lightest pumpkin pancakes ever.


  • 1 C. AP flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or allspice
  • 1 C. buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 C. butter, melted and cooled slightly

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, egg, and pumpkin and then add to the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and mix only to combine. It's okay for there to be small lumps - if you overmix, the pancakes won't be fluffy. Set the batter aside while you heat the griddle.

Heat the griddle (or a large pan) over medium heat. Grease lightly with oil or melted butter. Pour about 1/3 of a cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook for just 1 minute more. 

Keep warm until ready to serve. Spread with butter, if desired, and serve with maple syrup.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin Scones

Back to my pumpkin kick. Today actually feels like fall (after a month of cloudy, humid, rainy weather). I am obsessed with scones, so I decided to try my hand at pumpkin scones. They turned out fantastic, like fall on a plate.


  • 2 C. AP flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or all-spice
  • 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 C. pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 C. confectioner's sugar, for the glaze
  • 2 Tbsp. milk, for the glaze
  • pinch each of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and/or all-spice, for the glaze
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (you can use a mixer or food processor to do this, but I prefer to do it by hand - I use a fork, but you could use butter knives too - or buy one of those fancy pastry blending tools).

Add the pumpkin, milk, and egg, and mix until combined. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the dough in the center. Using lightly floured hands, pat the dough into a rectangle. Use a knife to cut the dough into 8 wedges. 

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, until the scones are golden brown. Meanwhile, mix the confectioner's sugar, milk, and spices in a small bowl for the glaze. Once the scones are out of the oven, drizzle them with the glaze and allow to set for 10 minutes. I usually can't wait that long and end up with sticky fingers. Best when served warm.

Note: Canned pumpkin can be difficult to find, especially when there has been a lot of rainy weather like there has been this year. It is easy to make your own pureed pumpkin (from the pie or "sugar" pumpkins that you can find at this time of year) and freeze it. Look for an upcoming post on that. Another good substitute: butternut squash - it is very difficult to tell the difference, in my opinion. In a pinch, you can use "pumpkin pie mix" that comes in a big can in the baking aisle. It is basically pureed pumpkin with the sugar, salt, and spices already added. So just omit those ingredients and it should work.

Homemade Granola

I have been on a granola kick recently. I know lots of people eat it for breakfast, but I like to sprinkle it over a bowl of fat-free greek yogurt and fresh fruit for a super-filling afternoon snack. Homemade granola is simple to make and it tastes so much better than anything you can get out of a box. And it's easy to customize it to what you have on hand.

  • 3 C. rolled oats
  • 1/4 C. ground flax seed (optional)
  • 1 C. assorted nuts and seeds (I used a mixture of almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 C. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 C. honey

On a large cookie sheet, pour the oats, flax seed, and nuts. Mix with your hands to combine. In a small bowl, mix the salt, cinnamon, oil, and honey. Pour over the ingredients on the cookie sheet and mix with your hands to combine. You can mix everything with a spoon in a bowl first, but why dirty extra dishes?
Bake the granola for 30 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring the mixture every 10 minutes or so. Cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a sealed container and store for up to a week (if it lasts that long).

Peach Jam

This was a bumper year for peaches here in Virginia. Rather than making plain jam, I decided to add a few spices. It turned out fantastic. Sadly, we are almost through our last jar.  Luckily, I have some concord grapes that are just begging to be made into jelly. Look for that recipe soon.

  • 3 C. chopped peaches (peeled and pitted) - about 6 large peaches
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
To peel the peaches, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the peaches a few at a time and leave them in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds (depending on their ripeness). Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of ice water (alternately, you could use a colander and running water). Once the peaches are cool, the skins should come right off with your fingers.

Pit and chop the peaches and place them in a large saucepan, along with the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the jam begins to thicken. You may need to mash the peaches slightly to move things along. Cool the jam for about 10 minutes, then pour into a clean jar and cool completely before covering and refrigerating. The jam should last several weeks in the refrigerator.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Yikes. I have a lot of recipes from the summer that I never got around to posting. Sadly, the time for fresh tomatoes has passed, but this is a super simple recipe that is perfect for canning or freezing.

  • 6-8 regular sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
To peel the tomatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes a few at a time and leave them in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds (depending on their ripeness). Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of ice water (alternately, you could use a colander and running water). Once the tomatoes are cool, the skins should come right off with your fingers.

Slice the tomatoes in half and squeeze them over the sink to get rid of the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into large pieces and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring often. If the sauce begins to bubble too much, lower the heat to keep it at a simmer.

Butternut Squash and Kale Soup

If you've been a reader of this blog for a while, you must know by now that I am a huge fan of soup. I created this soup to use up some items from our CSA box. The best thing about soup is that it is super easy to modify based on what you have on hand. For example, instead of the beans, you could easily substitute orzo, brown rice, or bulgur wheat. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread, and you've got a super quick and healthy meal.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 C. vegetable broth
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 large bunch of kale, washed and torn (discard the tough inner stems)
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the oil, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the squash, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the kale and beans, re-cover, and simmer for 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a salad and crusty bread.

To peel and chop a butternut squash:
  • Use a large, sharp knife. My family makes fun of me for using a chef's knife, but it's the only tool for the job. You will cut yourself if you try to use a smaller knife. 
  • Slice the top and bottom off the squash so that it will sit upright on the cutting board.
  • Holding the squash vertically, cut the peel off in thin slices. Go slowly so you don't take off any of the inner fruit.
  • Slice the squash in half vertically and use a big spoon to scoop the seeds into the trash.
  • Chop each half into chunks.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee

I have seen many versions of this recipe across the internet, and of course, you can find it at your local coffee shop for $4 or more! This is my version. It is not as sweet as some other versions so you might have to adjust that for your taste. This makes enough for 4-6 coffees, depending on how big your cup is (and how much you add). Just refrigerate the leftovers and heat it slightly in the microwave before adding to your coffee the next day.


  • 1 C. pureed pumpkin
  • 1 C. milk or half-and-half
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. each of ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, and/or ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • freshly brewed coffee

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except the coffee. Heat on low, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are combined and heated throughout.

Add 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture to the bottom of your coffee cup, pour in the hot coffee and stir to combine. Drink immediately (otherwise the solids will sink to the bottom). If you have to reheat your coffee in the microwave because you are being constantly interrupted (ding ding ding), make sure you stir it thoroughly again before you drink it!

Pumpkin Crepes

Fall is in the air around here. And the first thing I think of when I think of fall is pumpkin! I have lots of great recipes for pumpkin (including a fantastic pumpkin pie - look for that in November), but today I decided to experiment and make pumpkin crepes. I enjoy pumpkin pancakes a lot, but this morning I wanted something a little lighter.

My go-to crepe recipe is my friend Emmy's, so I started tweaking that and here's what I came up with. I served it with some pumpkin butter that I happened to have, but if you don't have any, a little maple syrup would be great too.


  • 3/4 C. pureed pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. each of ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, and/or ground cloves
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 C. milk
  • 1 C. AP flour

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, spices, and sugar. Add the eggs and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Then add the milk. While stirring constantly, slowly add the flour. I find it's easier to add by 1/4 cups, so I don't accidentally dump the whole thing in (something that would happen to me). Adding the flour slowly ensures that the batter isn't lumpy. You could also use a mixer, but I'm not about to drag that out early in the morning...

Set the batter aside for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add a small amount of butter to the pan and allow it to melt (alternately you can have a bowl of melted butter to brush the pan with). Once the pan is hot, add about 1/4 C. of batter to the center of the pan and immediately swirl the pan to coat. Cook about 2 minutes, until the crepe has set, then carefully flip it over and cook for 1 more minute. Fold into a triangle and put on a covered plate to keep warm. Repeat until you use all the batter. It should make about 8-10 crepes.

Serve with pumpkin butter or maple syrup!

I'm Back!

Wow, has it really been more than 2 months since I posted anything?

I promise I've been cooking all this time, but between having both kids home all day during the summer and then all the back-to-school madness, I haven't had time to type up anything! I have quite a few recipes that I'm hoping to post in the next few days, so get ready for an onslaught. :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Watermelon Cocktail

Here's a refreshing summer drink made with fruit that's in season. For a non-alcoholic alternative, substitute lemon-lime soda or lemonade for the tequila.

I got the idea for this from a Bobby Flay recipe, but as usual, I made a bunch of modifications.


  • 1/2 C. mint leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 2 C. cubed ripe watermelon
  • 1/2 C. blueberries
  • ice
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2-3 oz. tequila
Divide the mint into 2 glasses. Sprinkle the sugar. Use a wooden spoon to muddle the mint. Add the watermelon to each glass and crush it with the spoon until it is mostly liquified. Add the blueberries and lightly mash with the spoon. Add ice to each glass, leaving enough room for the lime juice and tequila. Pour the lime juice and tequila over the ice, then stir with the spoon until combined. Serve immediately.

Quick Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce

This is a super easy way to make falafel. I don't use a food processor, which saves on clean-up. The recipe makes about 8 small falafel, which only serves 2-3, so double the recipe if you need more. I served the falafel with cucumber, tomato, and feta salad and steamed green beans, all of which can be dipped into the tahini yogurt sauce.

For the falafel:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, for frying
Put the chickpeas in a bowl and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the onions, garlic, flour, cumin, and salt and mash until all combined. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Form the chickpea mixture into about 8 small patties. Carefully add them to the pan and cook for 3 minutes - do not move them at all. Flip them over and cook for 2 minutes more. They should be nicely browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels before serving.

For the tahini yogurt sauce:
  • 3 Tbsp. fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

We have no AC in our house right now, ugh. With a combination of closed blinds and oscillating and ceiling fans, it's not too bad. But what better way to cool off than a smoothie? This is a great mid-morning snack; it's super filling and healthy too! Here's a great tip. Use frozen bananas in your smoothies. Then you don't need to add ice. Whenever I have an overripe banana that no one wants to eat, I just stash it in the freezer until I'm ready to make a smoothie!


  • 1 frozen banana
  • handful of fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 C. non-fat plain yogurt (I used greek)
  • splash of milk
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed or wheat germ (optional)
Let the banana thaw slightly as you collect the other ingredients. This will make it easier to peel. Throw everything into a blender and blend until combined. Add a little extra milk if the smoothie is too thick. I have gotten so good at making these that I don't even measure anything - I just eyeball it!

Watermelon Salad

I never used to like watermelon. I found it to be ridiculously sweet (it is mainly sugar water, after all). But then I was introduced to the concept of pairing something salty with watermelon. What a revelation!

My friend Emmy's blog reminded me the other day of one of my favorite summer salads. Mine includes a few more ingredients, but it's the same basic premise. Don't bother making this salad if watermelon isn't in season. It just won't taste the same.


  • ripe seedless watermelon
  • salt
  • sliced cucumbers
  • chopped mint leaves
  • sliced sweet onion
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • balsamic vinegar (splurge on the good quality stuff - you won't be disappointed)
Dice the watermelon and place into serving bowls. Sprinkle with salt. Add the cucumbers, mint, onion, and feta. Drizzle with the vinegar, toss gently, and serve.

Baked Potato Slices

I hesitate to call these potato chips because they don't get as crispy as ones fried in oil. Still, this is a great accompaniment to burgers. I used red potatoes but any type of potato will work - sweet potatoes also work well but don't get as crispy.


  • 3-4 red potatoes (or any potato), thinly sliced
  • spray oil
  • salt and pepper
Try to slice the potatoes as thinly and evenly as possible (use a mandolin if you have one). Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and spray them with oil. 

I do NOT use the aerosol cooking spray because it has such a weird odor. My grocery store sells spritzer bottles of oil that I buy instead; kitchen supply stores also sell little refillable pump-type oil mister bottles, but mine clogged and I haven't bought another one.

Sprinkle the potatoes with a little salt and pepper, then flip them over and spray them with oil on the other side.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Cool slightly and serve.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Homemade Pesto

I love basil so much that I am growing a huge pot of it on my patio. It is ridiculously easy to grow, but to keep it growing well, you need to prune it judiciously. So what to do with all that basil? Make pesto, of course!

Traditionally, pesto was made with a mortar and pestle, but I don't have time for that. Cue my Vitamix (a food processor or mini-chopper also works well). Most pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but it is harder for me to find them now, especially since I don't want to buy the ones from China. So I used almonds instead and the result was just as delicious.

Pesto can be used in all sorts of recipes. This recipe makes about 8 servings worth, so the first night, I used half of it to top some cheese tortellini. Then I spread some on tortillas to make veggie wraps, mixed some into egg salad, and added some to scrambled eggs. It's also delicious on white pizza, as a topping for grilled chicken or fish, or as a spread for a crusty baguette topped with fresh tomatoes. Yum!


  • 2 C. basil leaves
  • 1/2 C. slivered almonds
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 C. crumbled cheese (pecorino, parmigiano reggiano, romano, etc)
  • 1/2 C. good quality extra-virgin olive oil (do not skimp on this)
  • pinch of salt
Add the basil, almonds, and garlic to a blender or food processor and pulse for several minutes until chopped finely. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until combined. Taste and add salt as desired. Store covered in the refrigerator - it will keep for a few days.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken / Grilled Zucchini

Here's a yummy healthier alternative for the grill. It's super easy to prepare, and if you don't feel like firing up the grill outside, you can use a grill pan or broiler.

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken - this marinade/sauce is so simple but tastes amazing


  • 1/2 C. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 C. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breast halves)
Cut each chicken breast in half (across) so that you have about 8 relatively equal sized portions and place them in a shallow dish suitable for marinating. In a small bowl combine the mustard, honey, oil, and worcestershire sauce. Pour half of the sauce over the chicken and reserve the other half for basting later. Refrigerate the chicken for several hours.

Heat your grill (or grill pan or broiler). Grill the chicken for 6 minutes, flip and grill for 6 minutes more. Baste with the reserved sauce and grill for 3 more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Grilled Zucchini - this method works for lots of different vegetables: peppers, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, or asparagus

  • 2 zucchini, cut in half (across), then sliced lengthwise into rectangles
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, basil, and flat-leaf parsley)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil over the prepared zucchini and turn to coat. Grill the zucchini for 8-10 minutes, turning once. Meanwhile, mix the balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Remove the zucchini from the grill and drizzle with the dressing before serving.

Summer Side Dishes: Cole Slaw and Green Bean Salad

Here are two quick and yummy seasonal side dishes that are perfect for a BBQ or picnic. These are best made in advance and refrigerated for several hours to let the flavors meld. And here's the best part: all of the produce and herbs I used were from the CSA, farmer's market, or my own backyard!

Cole Slaw - I have been tweaking this recipe for a while and I think I finally have it perfect


  • 1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 onion, grated
  • 1/3 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. fat-free greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tsp. celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, and onion. In a separate bowl, mix the mayo, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, dry mustard, and celery seed. Pour over the cabbage mixture and stir thoroughly. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Chill before serving.

Green Bean Salad - Be careful not to overcook the beans. You want them to be a little crisp.

  • 2 C. fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 C. chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 C. quartered cherry tomatoes 
  • 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Steam the green beans in a small amount of water for 5 minutes - they should be a bright green color and still crisp. Immediately drain the beans and run cold water over them until they are cool (this stops the cooking process). Dry the beans and place them in a bowl. Add the olives, tomatoes, and cheese and toss gently. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, so that the garlic infuses into the oil. Remove the garlic from the oil and discard. Allow the oil to cool slightly, then mix it with the lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the green bean mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Blueberry Crumble

This crumble recipe is the best! It works well for all sorts of summer fruits: berries, peaches, pears, plums. It is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


  • 2 C. blueberries
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 C. AP flour
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 C. rolled oats
  • 1/2 C. chopped pecans (or other nuts)
Butter the bottom and sides of an 8x8 baking pan. Add the berries, 1/4 C. sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla to the pan and stir to combine. In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugars. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Stir in the oats and pecans. Pour the crumble topping on top of the blueberry mixture. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, July 1, 2011

CSA Week 5: Yellow Plum Jam

This week's CSA box contained yellow plums, lettuce, onions, beets, a lemon balm seedling, and cabbage.

Yellow plums are small and a little tart. They can be eaten out of hand in just a couple bites, but they also make a delicious jam. The skins have plenty of pectin so you won't need to add any.

Some day I'll learn proper "canning" methods, but for the time being, when I make jam, I just make a small quantity that I know will be eaten quickly. This recipe makes one jar of jam, which probably won't last more than a week in my house!


  • 2 cups of chopped yellow plums (pits removed)
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/3 C. water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low to keep the mixture at a simmer. Stir constantly for about 20 minutes, until the skins have dissolved and the mixture begins to thicken slightly. You need to watch the pan constantly or it may boil over. 

Pour into a mason jar and allow to cool before refrigerating. Note: The jam will resemble a syrup when it's done cooking, but will thicken to the proper consistency as it cools.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Easy Homemade Chocolate Pudding

One thing that I've been trying to do more is make homemade versions of things that I would buy pre-packaged or use store-bought mixes for (granola bars, muffins, brownies, cakes, breads, etc).

Next to be tackled was chocolate pudding. This is an easy, relatively healthy dessert. And it's a great recipe for kids to help with.


  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 C. corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 C. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium-sized saucepan, mix the sugar, cocoa, corn starch, and salt. Turn on the heat to medium and slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly so that no lumps form. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and is starting to bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Allow the pudding to cool completely before serving or refrigerating. The pudding will thicken more as it cools, so don't worry if it still looks a little thin. If you have some of those small reusable containers, it's great to store the pudding in the fridge in those. Makes 6-8 servings.

CSA Week 4: Beets

We got one of my favorite ingredients this week: beets! If you've only had pickled beets and didn't like them, reserve your judgement until you've had fresh beets. They are so yummy. And the beet greens are probably my favorite green - simply saute them like you would spinach.

The rest of this week's box: cilantro seedling, blueberries (already used them for muffins), spring onions, lettuce, and kale.

I think beets are best when served simply, like this fantastic salad with beets, maple-glazed nuts, and goat cheese.


  • 2-3 beets, trimmed and halved (save the greens for another use)
  • 1/4 C. walnuts or pecans
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • vinaigrette of your choice (I used my favorite maple balsamic vinaigrette)
Put the beets in a small saucepan and cover with water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the beets have softened. Meanwhile, toast the nuts in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the maple syrup and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring to cover the nuts. Set aside to cool. When the beets are finished cooking, drain them in a colander and run cold water over them. When they are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to remove the skins - they should come off easily. Slice the beets and arrange them in bowls with the nuts and goat cheese on top. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.