Linking Up to Some Great Recipes

Hi all,

Think I really like Halloween on a Saturday. I love the colorful, energetic foot-traffic that finds its way to our door every year. A few blocks away, Older Son and his friends did a haunted house. How fun to have a group of younger teenage girls I directed there ring my doorbell a second time. One plopped herself on my stoop as if she’d known me forever–I’d never met them before–to tell me “all about the haunted house” in that bubbly, giggly way girls do! They made my night.

jack-o-lantern-Nic-2015
Older Son’s work. Have a feeling Jack here is sporting Ray-Bans.

One day I’ll get back into a groove–lately all I do is school-related reports. Amazing the domino-effect created by one person’s good intentions. All the reports she sought to get done ahead of her maternity leave are already due for this school year–they just keep on coming. Very frustrating when one wants time to work on non-school-related endeavors.

So…in the interest of brevity, I’ll link you up with some of my latest go-to recipes. (Among the reasons I love oats and the internet!)

Over at bakerita.com, Rachel’s gluten-free banana bread (with chocolate chips and two minor tweaks by me) is absolutely delicious–moist and hearty every time! My tweaks: I replaced honey with brown sugar. (I rarely stock honey. We don’t use it, so it’s usually dried up whenever I go looking for it.) I also tried pumpkin in lieu of applesauce. That worked pretty well too, but I had to increase the baking time by 10-15 minutes. And this treat topped with a little Trader Joe’s almond butter? Breakfast is served!

Found this pumpkin chocolate chip cookie overnight oats this past Sunday morning. Simple and quick. Made it in a few minutes and gave it an hour in the fridge. This was more like a VERY yummy dessert, though I believe it’s meant for breakfast. Can I tell you how awesome it tasted over the pumpkin-banana bread (above) with a little shot of whipped cream? I’m sure vanilla Greek yogurt pairs nicely here as well. (BTW, I substituted brown sugar for the honey in this one too. Worked just fine.)

One more: cinnamon roll baked oatmeal. Easy. Quick. Elegant enough to serve at a brunch (or take to school for a holiday breakfast). My only change-up here was in the glaze. I LOVE cream-cheese glaze, so I searched for a simple one. (Yes, I found one, for cinnamon roll pancakes with cream-cheese frosting–my next venture. Sorry. I didn’t bookmark the site. That might not be a good thing, lol.)

Two more things I really liked about these recipes:

(1) each calls for staples that tend to be on-hand or easily obtained;

(2) each is gluten-free (but not necessarily CGF).

Do any of you have any go-to recipes to share?

Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. :) )
Love fall colors and weather! (Wish we could skip straight to spring, though. 🙂 )

Off to my next evaluation!

Have a wonderful day,

Joanna

Quinoa-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Hi everyone. So sorry I’ve been missing from here since before Mother’s Day. I managed a few posts at my alter-ego’s site, but even that’s been a tad sparse. End of the school year–which wrapped up on 6/23–got a touch busy. I’m already fully in our extended school year and that will take me through to the end of July. Then there’s tennis to keep one busy in between…

So Hubby’s garden has been far ahead of schedule this year—typically by now, he’d be harvesting a few zucchini blossoms and hoping to see a zucch or two beginning to form. Pumpkin flowers usually follow a few weeks later and an actual pumpkin doesn’t form until far later in the month.

Uh…not this year, folks.

zucch blossoms

Every morning brings the same question: where am I going to store all these blossoms? We’ve got them coming in like crazy from zucchini, yellow squash AND pumpkin plants. (That doesn’t include the multitude of zucchini I’ve been giving away–Hubby picked five yesterday afternoon. Maybe it’s the Miracle Gro he treats everything with faithfully. And perhaps I should get a permit for a roadside stand and sell them, lol. Even at $13/lb (or whatever the going rate is), it’s quite the return on the buyer’s dollar, lol. 😉

Anyway, the other night I made a platter of fritters to send to my neighbor’s. I still had some blossoms left to play with—the pumpkin variety, which are at least as big as my hand. These babies beg to be stuffed. (Had them with a ricotta filling for the first time last year—OMG. Just sayin’.)

pumpkin blossom-zoom

Luckily, I lacked ricotta, nor was I in the mood to get into that kind of fat and calorie count. I did, however, have cooked quinoa sitting in the fridge. (Quinoa is my new favorite ‘carb.’)

Hmmm.

I searched a few recipes, started here and wound up concocting something of my own.

Here we go. (Sorry, all amounts are approximates. I made this up as I went. Posted the finished product on Facebook and someone (Hi, Deb!)  asked for the recipe. I did my best to oblige!) 🙂

6-8 intact blossoms (I always remove the stem and pistol or stamen—the part inside the center at the flower’s base—male or female flower, respectively.)

For the filling:

½- ¾ cup cooked quinoa (I had flavored mine with olive oil, a spoonful of butter, parsley and garlic salt)

¼- ½ cup of bread crumbs* (or crushed pre-seasoned stuffing cubes/mix)

Fresh parsley and/or basil (as much or as little as you like)

Grated cheese (I used a mix of romano and parmesan)

Feta cheese (to taste—maybe a ¼ cup?)

Salt and black (pepper to taste)

A squeeze or so of lemon–optional (something tells me this will all work nicely together)

A (table)spoonful of chia seeds–also optional, but why not bump up the fiber and protein count some more?

Mix all the above together and set aside. (If you include the bread crumbs, sauté everything except the basil in hot oil. Stir in basil after the mixture has cooled a bit.

Note: Making the filling a day ahead will increase the flavor big-time.

For the batter:

½- ¾ cup of flour

Grated cheese

Chopped parsley and/or basil (to taste)

Salt and/or pepper (to taste)

½ tsp baking powder (optional)

Water

1 egg

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium to large bowl. Add water, enough to create a creamy, thin (but not watery) pancake-like batter. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. The mixture should be similar to a tempura batter.

Carefully fill each blossom with a spoonful or two of the quinoa mixture. Fold the flower closed as best you can. Dip and roll it in the batter. Pan-fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

quinoa-stuffed zucch blossoms

These are best served immediately but are fine a little while later (i.e., several hours). I wouldn’t make these a day ahead. They’ll be heavy and oily.

*I plan on eliminating bread crumbs next time, to keep the carb count down. Don’t think you really need them.

And for dessert…

ooey-gooey choc chips

More to these than meets the eye, and fodder for a future post.

Have a great day and enjoy those special summer delicacies while they last!

Joanna

Tis the Season! (For a Jersey Tomato Recipe ;)

Happy Monday, friends. I know, it’s the first day of the work week for many of us—me too—and it’s just easier to grumble. Given the current horror and/or terror show going on in too many parts of the world, I choose to be grateful for my ‘ordinary world’. (That would be ‘writer talk’ for a character’s starting place in any story: his/her normal, every day status quo, before something big happens to rock the boat and change that world forever.)

Looking forward to watching the final match of the US Open Tennis Championships later today. Sorry to not be seeing Roger Federer or Novak Djokavic there, but the tennis guards appear to be changing, one emerging champion at a time. We shall see.

School is underway. Spent this past weekend scrambling to get some cleaning done, school supplies purchased for kids, etc. I’m also working hard at keeping bigger projects manageable by working on them a little at a time.

Somehow, those smaller efforts do add up. I tend to make lists that are far too long anyway. They often end up missing, but (usually) I find them buried in a paper pile. More often than not, a lot of the items can be crossed off b/c I’ve gotten them done, frequently in bits and pieces. (It all counts, right?)

Anyway, four paragraphs later, here’s a super-easy salad recipe for those of us who LOVE summer fare. Tis the season for tomatoes—Hubby always grows a slew of them—so here’s a way to use them up.

20140827_083711(0) Just a sampling of Hubby’s garden fare. There are many more tomatoes coming, and the brussels are about to sprout.

You’ll need: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, hummus, pesto, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and sea salt. (BTW, the latter two ingredients are optional, but they really bring the flavors together.

Cut tomatoes and cucumbers into chunks, any size you like, and put in serving bowl. (You can remove seeds. I am too lazy to do so.)

Sprinkle feta cheese on. I use about a tablespoon or two for two medium tomatoes and one medium-sized (?) cucumber.

Add a tablespoon or so of hummus and/or pesto.

Stir.

(Optional) Drizzle with EVOO.

(Optional) Salt to taste with freshly ground sea salt.

tomato and cucumber salad The feta, pesto and hummus kind of blend together into a creamy dressing. (The EVOO and sea salt just bring it all together and make it decadent.) This fast, fresh, vegetarian combo is pretty danged healthy. It functions easily as a side or a main meal. If you need protein, like I do, add grilled chicken or tuna. (It’s also a ‘go-to’ dish almost daily until the tomatoes slow down. Trust me, we can only give away so many ‘Jersey tomatoes.’ Lots of folks in our areas grow them. 

So what is your go-to, summer veggie dish? Do you have a veggie garden? Have you been blessed fare made with Jersey tomatoes?

Have a wonderful day and week everyone!

Joanna

 

Sweetening Things Up A Bit Today!

Hi all,

So psyched about the Dancing with the Stars—yep, it’s back.  Season 18 is underway; congrats and welcome to Erin Andrews as co-host! The girl is rockin’ it from the get-go. Some folks just have it goin’ on. (Okay, so I is a junkie when it comes to this show. It’s feel-good and fun.)

Last week’s post was prompted by the daily prompt at WordPress. This week’s write-up ties into another one. Since these prompts bring music to mind, here’s the link to a video that bears the prompt’s title—remember this one? Some songs will always make you move.

Do you have a clue what the title of the WordPress prompt is yet?

Rather than write about my favorite sweet—seriously, how do I narrow THAT down?  Guess I’ll go with what came to mind first: a room-temperature square of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate.

Then I thought about the nicest compliment I got just the weekend prior.

I have very kind neighbors. The Vietnamese family on one side has sent the best egg wraps on several occasions since they moved in a little over a year ago. Filled with shrimp and Asian veggies, these are oh-so-yum and always a welcome surprise of a treat. (Somehow, the wraps come when I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. Go figure.)

My neighbor across the street has kept us supplied with ‘salt’ during the winter storms the east coast dealt us, this past stormier-than-usual winter.

I said thank you to both families with a tray of oatmeal-raisin cookie bars I make from scratch. Honestly, it’s one of my easy favorite recipes; love these things. They’re lightly sweet and can be crumbled into milk as breakfast.

One of the neighbors caught me as I was getting in the car and asked how much I charge for my cookies! How nice was that? He compared them to two bakeries I’d heard of, too. He also caught me a bit off guard, as I have never asked for any payment on something I very much enjoy doing. (And I get the—questionable—benefit of having fresh cookie dough to chomp on regularly, right?) Hmm. Maybe I can move into another career direction…

Anyway, figured I’d share the recipe. This is off the bag of brown sugar sold at Aldi’s, the market where we do most our family’s food shopping. Owned by Trader Joe’s, they are the best kept secret for feeding a small family and saving big $$$ on the grocery bill. And I can recognize most of the ‘name brands’ they contract with from the packaging. They also bring in weekly specials of food, household items, etc, most of which are excellent quality.

Oatmeal cookie aldi recipe

The original recipe, right off the bag.

oatmeal cookie bars

The finished product 🙂

So here is my version of the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup butter (=1 stick), softened, not melted (I use ONLY salted butter. Margarine works but will give a different texture)

1 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)

1 large egg

2 cups oatmeal (I always use regular, although the recipe calls for quick cooking)

1 cup whole wheat white flour (all purpose flour is fine, or you can come up with a mix of the two—your choice how much of each)

1 tsp of baking soda

1 cup of raisins (chocolate chips work too, should you prefer those or just in the mood for something different)

Equipment:

13 x 9 cake pan (foil, glass or metal all work)

cooking spray (or butter or margarine, to grease the pan)

waxed paper (optional, but SO worth it when spreading the dough)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F. (My oven has a Speedbake option that simulates a convection oven. I keep it OFF–I feel that it makes the finished product dry).

In a bowl (or large measuring cup) mix together all your dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a separate, larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg and beat until lightened in color and fluffy. (An electric mixer is very helpful to make this step go quickly.)

vintage mixer

My momma’s vintage GE mixer. She loaned it to me ages ago and wound up buying another one for her. This baby is still kickin’ batter-dough’s butt. She might have gotten it by collecting Green Stamps. (Yes, I just dated myself. Oh well, guess if I’m not my age, I am not.) 

Hand-stir in the dry mixture, about 1/3 of it at a time, mixing until the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated. (Try not to over-mix. It could make the finished product tough. Also, this tends to be a thick dough and requires some strength to mix. For this step, you might consider employing someone with strong arms—whenever hubby or one of my boys is around, I do. If I’m the one doing it, I figure it will only benefit my forehand in the end! 😉 )

Stir in the raisins or chocolate chips. (Heck, add both if you like. I’m thinking a li’l bit of coconut would add to the yum-value here. BTW, hubby wondered if you can just add the raisins or chips to the dry ingredients and do everything in one step. You probably can, though most cookie dough recipes typically add them separately.)

Spread dough into your pan. This dough is pretty thick. (I spray a pan-sized piece of waxed paper with cooking spray and use that to press the dough all the way to the corners of the pan. Makes this step ridiculously easier.)

Bake for about 18 minutes then check for doneness. Edges should be browned. Bake about 5 minutes longer if you prefer crumbly (vs. chewy) cookie bars.

Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. (I then cover the pan with foil or a flat cookie sheet—makes for treats that are a tad more moist and chewier.)

Cut into bars when cool. (A pizza cutter works well here.)

Done!

I know, I know. Seems like a lot of steps, but once you know them this is a quick, go-to recipe you can make in a pinch. All things considered, it’s pretty wholesome too. Crumble a bar or two into oatmeal, add milk and eat cold. I promise it works! Cut them up and arrange in a pretty basket or baking dish for an elegant display.

Do you have a favorite recipe? I’m always open. Feel free to post a link to it here, or post at your place and let me know. If you feel so inclined, please share. (And don’t forget to dance a little to Def Leppard.)

Have a great week,

Joanna

Keeping Things Hot in the Cold (With Nutella and Potato Soup!)

What????

Happy Tuesday to all. Hanging in there and hope each of you is doing the same or better!

Okay, I happened by a Nutella recipe that I’m sure I will try at some point, assuming I remember I have it saved in a Word doc, lol. BTW, it’s for a bread-spread. I’m thinking Nutella-potato soup might be a bit strange even for me 🙂

We’ve been dealing with some serious cold snaps here on the east coast, and everybody knows frigid temps bring out the soup-maker in everyone, right? (Huh? Nobody else got that gene?)

So  I’d been wanting to try my hand at creamy potato soup for the longest time. Finally got myself in gear a few weeks ago and looked up recipes online. Came across Ree Drummond,The Pioneer Woman This blogger has a really fun way of delivering the how-to. Actually, pretty sure I stumbled on it a few weeks prior while searching for a quick sweet-n-sour chicken recipe—uh that one is pretty awesome too (but not Ree’s). Uh, now that my brain went back into a cohesive mode, I found a great chicken tenders recipe at PW’s website. Yep, I get a little confused. Too many websites, so little time…

Yes, Joanna is working very hard to stay focused.

I linked you to PW’s potato soup recipe, but you might want to make note of a few easy changes: I skipped the bacon, used 1% lowfat milk and about ¼-cup light cream. I also went very easy on the cheese (sharp cheddar), tossing in a handful or so. Chicken broth I made myself. Liked the milder flavor the soup had using mine. Second time I made this I didn’t have homemade broth, only bouillon cubes. Still tasty, but a tad salty. (BTW, the second time, I tossed all the foods in the processor vs. julienne, chop and all that tedious prep-by-hand that so annoys me during cooking. Worked jes’ fine, folks.)

potato soup

Let me tell you, this was GOOD–nah, it was excellent.  As with any soup, it was that much yummier the next day, after all the flavors got a chance to come together. And yes, it’s starchy, but far creamier tasting than the nominal amount of fat in it.  (The actual fat content has to be pretty low.)

Oh, and here’s the link to the Nutella recipe.

So who’s trying what? I’d love to know how you make out!

For tennis fans, here’s a link to Aussie Open Women’s 2014 Champion Li Na’s speech after being presented the trophy. Take a few minutes, and laugh at this lady’s hysterical way of putting it out there. When she retires her racquet, she might want to consider stand-up.

And congrats to “Iron Stan” Wawrinka, who took the title on the men’s side–all the best to the ATP World Tour’s new #3! 

Joanna

Easiest Cake. Period.

Hi all. Took three rounds of trying to get this post in place. Somehow the formatting wound up mixed up. I won’t fight with software, but I might have happened on some understanding about plain text vs. HTML. Honestly, almost everything I’ve ever learned about a computer has been incidental.

Let’s move on, folks. I’ll celebrate later.

Hope those of you who celebrate had a hoppin’ Halloween! With trunk-or-treat in my neighborhood, I didn’t see a somewhat steady stream of trick-or-treaters until almost 6:30 PM. And I never thought I’d miss taking kids out candy-seeking, but… 😦

Kids on halloween 2013 My older guy–2nd in from the right–and his buds turned a friend’s garage and lawn into the neighborhood haunted house and ghouled it all themselves. Have a feeling a lot of little kids lost sleep that night. Some though, walked right up for candy, no apprehension at all! 

So one of my favorite teacher friends brought in a cake for our teachers’ Halloween breakfast–ever eat pudding by holding it in your hand?

I’d say that’s almost what this was. A texture like I’ve never had. My teacher friend kept asking about how to top it.

 It.

Needed.

Nothing. 

Cake mix. Canned pumpkin pie mix. A ‘little’ evaporated milk.

Of course I had to try it. Of course I made my tweaks to the recipe. (Drives hubby nuts but he doesn’t eat most of my stuff anyway, whether I stick to a recipe or not.)

Then Stacey asked about it, so…

Here’s my version:

One box white cake mix (yellow tastes too strong for my preferences)

One 15 oz can of pumpkin. (Pumpkin pie mix is already sweetened. Figure using the ‘mix’ will yield a much sweeter dessert.)

I added, IDK, 1/8th cup of buttermilk to make it easier to stir?

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir until fully combined/incorporated. Batter will be thick. You’ll probably need to scrape one scapula with another to get the batter into a pan. (I used an OVAL 9 x 13 pan; didn’t have the 11x7x2 one of the recipes I read called for. It worked fine.)

Bake at 350 about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sprinkled brown sugar on top when done and covered with waxed paper to retain moisture. Tastes even better the next day, but then again, most things pumpkin do.

pumpkin cake I gave almost half away. Had to.

I’m thinking this would be awesome with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I mean, is there an easier dessert for Thanksgiving?

Have a great day,

Joanna

Red, White, Blue and Two Quick Desserts Too!

Happy Fourth all! Hope those of you who celebrate are gearing up to do something fun before the fireworks! We’re double-blessed with those around here. We can watch them from the yard and then come on in to catch the Macy’s display in HD. Love it 🙂

Anyway, this morning I threw together three easy desserts for my holiday happenings. These are so quick and easy I promise you could get either the cobbler or the cheesecake done in under 30 minutes, plus 35 minutes baking or at least three hours refrigeration time, respectively. (You can easily prepare either or both and bake or refrigerate while guests arrive or while you’re BBQing with family and friends! The cookies take 45 minutes tops, including time in the oven. Had son take a photo of the cookies, but for some reason, the email didn’t come through. (We’ll save those for another day.)

Anyway, here’s the cobbler. (Recipe is here.)

bluberry cobbler 2

And this cheesecake is one of my favorites! (Recipe here.)

no bake cheesecake

Have a great day, folks! Celebrate safely, don’t get in a car with anyone other than a designated driver and watch out for those who drink and drive. (Sorry, the mommy in me comes out.)

Enjoy!

Joanna