Happy New Year!- New Year's Food Traditions



There's a little bit of pressure to make the last post of the year a "good one."  On this day and throughout the last week, people have shifted focus from Christmas to the New Year, and the whole out with the old, in with the new mentality. 

I thought about posting a recipe, but wondered if it'd all be lost in the shuffle.  Instead, I thought it might be fun to talk about New Year's traditions.

What about you?  What is your new year's resolution?

How do you plan to celebrate tonight and tomorrow?  What do you eat on New Year's Day?

Post in the comments section- I'd love to hear what you do!

Of course, New Year's Eve is legendary for its parties, and the next day is the day to eat specific foods to usher in prosperity and good fortune.

I'm from the South, so I grew up eating pork- usually pork chops or ham, which was supposed to bring prosperity.  Alongside the pork were collard greens, which represented green money.  There were also black eyed peas, which were symbolic of coins, so you were covered all the way around with money. 

Now that my husband and I no longer eat pork, we will opt for black eyed peas and greens with a sweet potato.  No symbolism there, just good nutrition. 

Whatever you do, and however you celebrate, be safe, and


Chex Mix- the original recipe


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The finished deliciousness

If you're like me and you've had homemade chex mix all your life, you're probably slightly disappointed with this post because it's old news.  Preaching to the choir.  If you have been eating bagged chex mix your whole life, you're probably slightly disappointed with this post because it's unnecessary.  Fussy, even. 

My crazy mix- Aldi Brand cereals mixed with nuts, broken Pretzel Crisps, and bagel chips.  So good!

Well, to the choir, I am sorry.  This post isn't for you, unless it's so you can agree whole-heartedly with me and spread the good news.  To the bagged chex mix eaters, don't eat that bagged mess any longer. 

Where it all begins, folks.

Chex mix, is for me, synonymous with Christmas.  Like peanut butter balls or buckeyes as others know them, it's something that was present at every family Christmas gathering, and oddly, only at Christmas. 

At the beginning of the baking
Homemade Chex Mix, however, should not be relegated only to one time a year!  Yes, Christmas has come and gone, and so has the Chex Mix, but it's great for New Year's, football games- whatever.  It's also versatile.  Use what you have on hand or keep out the things you don't like.

About halfway into baking...
I recommend the oven instructions, although you can find microwave instructions here.  I am also posting the recipe as I made it rather than the original.  Use that same link to get to the original mix.

Homemade Chex Mix
from General Mills

3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Rice Chex
1 cup Cheerios
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bagel chips, crushed into bite sized pieces
1 cup pretzels
6 Tb. butter
2 Tb. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder

 Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Mustard- Dill Salmon


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Salmon, dill and mustard are a pretty classic combination, but not one I make very frequently...maybe ever.  I found this whole grain mustard at Aldi for a great price and picked it up.  One night when I had no idea what to make for dinner, slathering some salmon with this mustard and dill just seemed like a good idea, and it was.  It's tasty and quick, and requires only three ingredients.  I will definitely be making this again.  Served with a salad or baked potato/sweet potato, you've got a great meal.

Since Drew and I are the only ones for whom I almost ever make salmon, I am used to making a 2 person portion- I don't try to have salmon leftovers because they're not the best.  If you have more people to feed, this recipe is so easily adjusted.  Just add more mustard and dill. 

Mustard-Dill Salmon
serves two

1- 4 inch (maybe 1/2 lb) piece salmon
1/4 cup good quality mustard (whole grain, dijon, etc)
1 tsp dried dill

Mix the dill and the mustard together and spread in an even layer over the top of your salmon.  Bake the salmon at 400 F for about 8-10 minutes, checking for doneness after 8 minutes.  For a crisper crust try broiling, but watch it carefully! 

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup- Pinterest Find


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Are you on Pinterest yet?  It's fascinating how this particular social media site has influenced the food people make, the DIY's people attempt, and the party ideas people use.  As if I didn't have enough sources for new recipes, I have pinned over 80 recipes to my own food board.  I pinned this one a while back- the pictures from the original post were so enticing! 

The verdict?  This meal is far from healthy- it's a little decadent, with no small amount of butter and half and half.  I did try to decrease the fattiness by decreasing the butter and the half and half measurements.  I think I could have taken it even further.  It's tasty.  It's a good, solid recipe.  There were three of us who ate it that day, and we all enjoyed it.  It takes a bit of effort.  Maybe more effort than I want to put into tomato soup.  It won't be my go steady recipe, but it's certainly worth another shot.  I made the crock pot version because I thought it'd be faster on the back end.  It wasn't really, and you miss the browned bits flavoring the soup further from when you saute the onion and celery, so I don't recommend the crock version. 

So, it's worth a try, if you're not dairy free or dieting.  Or if you don't mind a few steps in making a soup.  The link below takes you to the site that posts both the slow cooker and stovetop versions, so you can see both.  I'm posting the a modification of the slow cooker, because I finished it on the stove top.

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
from this site

Makes about 2 quarts (about 8 servings)
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
4 cups chicken broth
½ bay leaf
½ cup flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup butter
2 cups half and half, warmed (or skim milk if you’re trying to cut some calories)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.
3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. ***Add all into a medium to large pot. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed and simmer over medium heat, about 15-30 minutes, until soup is consistency and taste that suits you. 


  • The *** in the directions is where I deviated from the slow cooker recipe.  Click link to see original recipe.
  • After following the directions up to the point of deviation, the soup was a bit watery and bland.  I added some more salt- season to your taste and let it reduce on the stovetop through light boiling, which thickened the soup and concentrated the flavor.
  • I used dried basil, and I won't do it again.  It was flaky and not flavorful.  I recommend fresh, frozen, or even stirring in some pesto for the basil flavor. 

Creamy Salsa Soup



I've had my eye on this recipe since I saw it in the Sept 2011 issue of Everyday Food.  So easy, and so quick.  Affordable, and novel while not remaining too much a departure from the norm.  Think spicy tomato soup, and you basically have salsa soup.  We crushed up tortilla chips to go into the soup and served it with quesadillas- you can see an example of our finery in the picture.  I really know how to stage food, don't I? 

Anyway, this recipe utilizes 1- 16 oz jar of salsa and less than 2 cups chicken broth, as well as some sort of milky liquid- skim milk to heavy cream, your choice.  I also had it ready in less than 15 minutes.  You will need your stovetop and a blender (immersion or countertop).  Here's the recipe:

Creamy Salsa Soup
from Everyday Food, September 2011
*serves 2-3

1- 16 oz jar of salsa- your choice
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 Tb heavy cream, half and half, etc.

In a small pot on the stovetop, heat the broth and the salsa over medium high until boiling.  Remove from heat and either use your immersion blender to make the soup smooth or pour the cream and broth/salsa mixture into a countertop blender.  Blend until smooth.  Serve with your favorite garnishes- crushed tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, etc.

  • A note on the milky liquid- I used half and half.  As I said, you can use any milk product, but the creamier the more the mellowing effect it has on the soup.  I use half and half in coffee so that was easy.
  • I have a blender I hate.  It will hold about 1 quart of liquid or a little more.  It is not a good idea to blend all of the soup (measuring at just under 1 qt) in a blender that close to capacity unless your blender has a good lid.  Blend in batches if you have to!

Chickpea Stew with Pesto


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After going back and forth, I have decided to post this with my thumbs mostly up.  I sometimes struggle with what to share with you, because I don't want to get a reputation for being a stamp tramp. 

So this one was just OK- maybe it was me, or maybe it was just the recipe.  One thing- it does get better as it sits, so making it a day or two ahead is not a bad idea, and it is healthy and economical.  For those reasons, it's not a bad idea to give it a try if you're adventurous or a chickpea fan.  Just make sure you taste as you go, and don't oversalt- but it took quite a bit of salt for me to get it not too bland.  I didn't have a lot of pesto, so maybe with lots of pesto blended in is where it truly shines and I only let it have a dull glow.  Who knows?

This recipe comes from the September 2012 issue of Everyday Food, which I am sad to say will not be in print any longer. 

Hearty Chickpea Stew With Pesto
from Everyday Food

 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
5 sprigs oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 thick slices stale rustic bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
1/4 cup basil pesto, for serving
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden, 10 minutes. Add oregano and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until onion is tender, 5 minutes. Add chickpeas and bread and simmer until thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with pesto.
I didn't do this, but in hindsight, I'd maybe add more tomato paste. 
Make sure you simmer that stew after you put in the bread!  It takes time to get it to thicken.
Cut the onion into half slices or something- the full slivers were a bit too much for a spoon.

I'm sick!



Sickness has hit the Givens house, and if you're anything like other people/families I know, you've probably had to deal with it recently, too.  If you have, my condolences!

It's why there's been no posting since last week, and only one last week at that. 

More recipes will be coming your way soon, but in the meantime, I want to share with you my favorite "sick" recipes.  As Hippocrates said, let your medicine be your food (paraphrase). 

My all time favorite "sick" soup is this one- Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup.  The chicken broth/stock is very good for you, and the lemon helps soothe and clear your throat, too.  The combination together is not only tasty, but healthy. 

Next up is Sopa De Pollo- like the Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup, the combination of chicken stock or broth and lime juice will soothe and comfort.

The base for these soups is chicken stock, and making your own will give you the best health benefits.

I hope you feel better soon (and that I do too)!

Maple Pumpkin Butter- just in time for Thanksgiving!


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Gosh, it's one of the biggest food days of the year and no posts to date!  Today that stops. 

I am still the kid in my family, so I don't have any Thanksgiving dishes of my own to contribute to the big family meal, which is kind of nice because it allows me to make whatever the heck I want.  A few years back I discovered this little gem- not a lot of work and big rewards!  It's delicious on bread or biscuits, and I bet it'd be a nice filling for something too. 

Pumpkin butter is like apple butter, so you start with a puree of the basic fruit, add some things, and cook it down until it's silky smooth and just delicious.  You will start a new Thanksgiving trend.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan and I found it in a newspaper insert so it's hard telling if it's been published elsewhere. 

Maple Pumpkin Butter
from Dorie Greenspan

1- 29 oz can pumpkin (not pie mix, just plan pumpkin)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put all ingredients in a large, heavy, ovenproof casserole and stir to blend. Place the pan over medium-low heat and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. Lower the heat and, still stirring, cook 5 minutes more.

Slide the casserole into the oven and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until the pumpkin butter has thickened and there is no liquid around the sides of the pan, 1 to 2 hours.

Cool the pumpkin butter, then cover and chill. Packed airtight, it will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer


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I saw this pinned several weeks ago and was skeptical.  I had tried to make my own creamers before using half and half and flavored syrups, and they weren't any more economical and not even as tasty as the store bought ones, but still the potential was there, and isn't the original picture so pretty?  I gave it a try.

This creamer is delicious!  I mean, on its own, it's a treat, and it really works well in coffee.  It only takes about 10 minutes to throw together, but it's not super cheap, so use your own discretion in making it.  It does, however, allow you to control the ingredients in your creamer, and it really does taste great.  Have you ever read the back of an International Delight Bottle?  No thank you. 

I halved the recipe, and it's lasted about a week and a half with just me drinking it.  Because it contains real pumpkin and spices, you do have some settling of the creamer, both in its container and at the bottom of your own coffee.

I'll post the recipe below as I made it.  Click on the link below the recipe title to see the original. 

Homemade Pumpkin Coffee Creamer
from Next to Heaven Blog
**half recipe of original blog
1 cup half and half
2 Tb. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tb. real maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring

Pour all ingredients except vanilla into a small pot and whisk together.  Heat on stovetop over medium heat.  Don't let it get to boiling- just allow all ingredients to warm, the spices to infuse, etc.  Add vanilla and stir to combine.  Turn off heat.  Pour mixutre through a fine mesh strainer and into a jar or small pitcher to store.  Store in refrigerator.  Makes approx. 10 oz. creamer.

  • There is a tip on the blog post that suggests the flavor intensifies after letting sit- I totally agree- it's best to wait a few hours before using, but it's still good right away.
  • I used vanilla flavoring (i.e. no alcohol and no actual vanilla) because it's what I had on hand.  If that's what you use, then you can add it in at the beginning with all the other ingredients.

DIY- Microwave Popcorn


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Are you ready to have your world rocked?  You can make popcorn in the microwave, and it doesn't have to come from Act II or Orville!  Make your own for just pennies a bag, and it's all natural!  Since my first attempt a couple weeks ago, I've made it several times with some pretty exciting success. 

What I've learned:
1.  Unless you like plain (i.e. no butter, salt, additional flavorings) popcorn, you will want to spray or drizzle some oil on your popcorn.  I had an old spray bottle of white truffle oil that I use but really anything will do.  I bet a misto would work great here.

2.  This is super easy and I don't plan to return to the old way of buying the bags in the store filled with something made in a food science lab.

Microwave Popcorn
Makes 1 generous or 2 smaller servings

1 lunch sized brown paper bag
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
Oil or butter
Salt or other flavorings

Pour kernels into bag.  Fold bag over at least twice, creasing well after each fold.  Pop in microwave, 2-3 minutes or until a few seconds elapse between pops.  Spray or drizzle oil or butter over popcorn and sprinkle salt/other flavoring over.  Stir or shake to combine well. 

  • I have seen online where people popped the popcorn in a microwave safe bowl with a cover, and added the oil or butter right in.  I haven't tried this because I've always made it at work, where I do not have access to a bowl. 
  • A Misto spray bottle or even a storebought bottle filled with oil would work well here- just don't put melted butter into a spray bottle. 
  • I use the spray oil I mentioned and popcorn salt (extra fine), but get creative- try herbs, parmesan cheese, pepper, lime, etc. 

Vegetarian Chili


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I was thinking about reviewing some of the soups I had posted about in the past for an "in case you'd missed it" sort of thing when I realized two things:

1.  I do a lot of chilis. 
2.  Today's recipe was not yet among the posts. 

Maybe I'll get to that review post, but in the meantime, enjoy this vegetarian chili recipe. 

Vegetarian chili is perfect for people who are intentionally meat free or who are on a budget, or pretty much anyone who enjoys a satisfying meal without killing the calorie count.  Did I mention it's also quick and easy?  I love recipes that fit that entire description!

Today's recipe comes from the October 2011 issue of Everyday Food and I've been making it for about a year now.  Go ahead and add this to your meal plan.  Unless your family hates beans, they will likely love this.  Both Drew and I are big fans.

Serve this chili with cornbread, tortilla chips, or over rice/baked potato.  Top with any of your favorite chili toppings- sour cream, onion, jalapenos, or avocado. 

Vegetarian Chili
from Everyday Food, October 2011

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 poblano chile, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles
4 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, poblano, and garlic; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in green chiles, chili powder, and cumin and cook 3 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes and juice, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and chili is thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Cheesy Pesto Bread


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This blog post is brought to you by Pinterest and my love for almost anything involving pesto.  To me, pesto is a quintessential summer flavor, but transcends seasonality at the same time.  It's great with a bowl of tomato soup on a cold winter's night or spread over spring and summertime vegetables.  Those Italians really know what they're doing.

While playing around on Pinterest one day, I found this recipe and almost ruined my keyboard drooling over it.  Just kidding, but I knew I had to make it, and soon.  I had some pesto I had made several weeks ago, just sitting in the fridge, waiting for this recipe.  I also had leftover grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese from where I made the pizzas

I served this with parmesan crusted chicken breast (highly recommended) and warmed up some marinara sauce for dipping.  Drew and I ate practically the whole loaf by ourselves.  In our defense, it was a smaller loaf than originally called for, and that counts, right?

This recipe, since it involves bread that is already baked, is quick and easy, and I have a feeling that if you made this with guests around, they'd think you had Giada de Laurentis in your kitchen. 

Cheesy Pesto Bread
inspired by this pin

1 boule (round loaf) of bread
1/4-1/2 cup pesto (varies based on loaf size and your own love of pesto)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or italian blend cheese (or more, depending on loaf size and your own love of cheese)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Using a serrated or bread knife, cut your bread into one inch cubes, stopping about 1/4" short of slicing all the way through the bread.  In other words, you want to almost cut all the way through it but you want it to still stay together.

Spread the pesto in beween the slices/cubes and then sprinkle the cheese between the cubes and on the top of the bread.

Wrap in aluminum foil and bake 10-12 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned and cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Serve while still warm, plain or with heated marinara sauce for dipping. 

Peter Reinhart's Neo Neapolitan Pizza Dough


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This is the crust recipe I used for my most recent homemade pizza venture.  Besides the cheesesteak pizza, we made a marinara sauce based pizza with cheese, zucchini, sliced roast beef, peppers, and onions.  It, too, was quite yummy! 

I usually use Emeril's recipe for dough, and it serves me well, but I have wanted to try an overnight- rise dough for a while now.  I have two, so I chose to try Peter Reinhart's Neo Neapolitan Pizza Dough from his book, Artisan Breads Everyday.  I hate to say it, but as far as taste and texture are concerned, I didn't really notice much difference between Emeril's and Peter Reinhart's.  One thing I do like about this particular dough recipe is that it makes enough dough for five pizzas.  Last week we made three pizzas and I was able to store two dough balls in the freezer for later use, which is kinda nice. 

If you are newer to making your own doughs, this one is not hard to start out with, but in comparison to other doughs I've made, this dough was a lot wetter and more slack (as in, didn't keep its shape), and so I am left feeling like maybe I've done something wrong.  If you know, please post in comments or contact me!  Either way, the end result was pleasant, so I'm not complaining.  I'd definitely use this recipe again.

Neo Neapolitan Pizza Dough
from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday

5 1/4 cups (24 ounces by weight) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz.) kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz.) instant yeast (or 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast dissolved in the water)
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoons (1/2 oz.) sugar or honey (optional)
2 1/4 cups (18 oz.) room temperature water (less if using honey or oil)

You can mix this by hand with a big spoon or in an electric mixer using the paddle (not the dough hook).

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix for one minute, to form a coarse, sticky dough ball.  Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute to make a smooth, very tacky ball of dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight ball. Repeat this again, two more times, at 5 minute intervals. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and immediately place in the refrigerator. The dough can be used anywhere from 6 hours to three days after it goes in the fridge.

When ready to make the pizzas, pull the dough from the refrigerator two hours prior to when you plan to bake. Divide the dough into five 8-ounce pieces (if there is any extra dough divide it evenly among the dough balls). With either oil or flour on your hands, form each piece into a tight dough ball and place on a lightly oiled pan. Mist the dough balls with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan inside a large plastic bag. Give the dough at least 90 minutes before making the pizzas. If you don’t plan to use them all, place the extra dough balls inside of an oiled freezer bag and keep in the refrigerator (for up to three days) or in the freezer (for up to three months).

If using a pizza stone in your home oven, preheat the oven to the highest setting
one hour before you plan to make the pizzas. If using a wood-fired oven, you know what to do for your particular oven. If you do not have a baking stone you can bake the pizzas on a sheet pan.

Top with your favorite toppings--this dough can be stretched thin (12-13 inches) for Roman-style pizzas, or 10-11-inches for Naples-style.

Bake at the highest setting your oven will allow for 10-15 minutes until your pizza crust is golden brown and your toppings are nicely cooked.

Cheesesteak Pizza


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If you are a pizza purist, I am sorry.  You can quit reading now.  Wait for Thursday's post, which will be on the homemade crust.  If, however, you're a little more relaxed on your pizza philosophy, keep reading, because I think you'll like what I have to share. 

Drew and I like to support area restaurants, and one of the two we visit most in town is Papa's Pizza to Go.  Yes, it's a chain, but this particular franchise might as well be its own business, with the personability of the owner and staff.  Anyway, one of our favorite pizzas there is the philly cheesesteak pizza, which expectedly has either roast beef or thinly sliced steak, onion, and mushroom.  All is topped by mozzarella cheese and is based by a thin crust and white sauce.  We wanted to replicate it at home. 

As a side note, making pizzas is a great way to make this junk food just a little less junky, and it's really fun for kids to get involved- they love being able to top their own pizzas!  Fun fact- kids who cook or help their parents in the kitchen tend to have a more expanded palate and eat healthier than those who don't. 

I made up the sauce for this pizza and the "ratios," so here goes!

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
1-12 inch pizza crust (size may vary)
3/4 cup shredded cheese- Italian blend suggested, containing provolone, mozzarella
1/2 cup white sauce, store bought or see recipe below
1-2 medium cut slices roast beef, cut into 2 inch ribbons
1/3 cup sliced onion
1/3 cup sliced bell pepper
1/3 cup sliced mushrooms

If you are using raw dough, top the raw dough with all ingredients.  If using a prepared crust, follow package directions.  Top the dough/crust with the sauce, then half the cheese.  Add all other toppings and top with remaining cheese.  Bake in a 400-500 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and crust is a golden-brown color. 

White Sauce
1 Tb. butter
1 Tb. flour
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a small saucepot over medium heat, melt butter.  Add the flour and stir, cooking for about a minute.  Slowly add in the milk and mayo and stir together.  Add in the grated cheese and stir.  Allow to thicken to a thicker sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

*  Note- you may need to increase other ingredients to taste/thicken.  All amounts are approximations.

  • While I am personally anal and use homemade crust/sauce, I am not the food police.  I don't care what you do- feel free to use store bought crust or alfredo sauce. 
  • Good pizza in the home oven (especially my home oven) is tough.  For best results, preheat your oven a long time and use a pre-heated pizza stone. 

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad


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I found Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian at Ollie's a while back and thought, "why not?"  I don't pretend to be a vegetarian or even super health conscious, but it's a good book to have for knowing about all meatless food categories and various food preparations.  A few weeks ago I made the salad I'm posting today as a lunch for Drew and me, and it is a hit.  I have a similar quinoa salad that I occasionally make that contains black beans, avocado, tomato, etc- a real Southwestern flavored dish, but I had never considered sweet potatoes, and they are wonderful here! 

I opted to make the Southwestern variation of this recipe because everything is better with avocado, right?  The salad takes less than an hour total time- maybe 30 minutes or less if you're efficient in the kitchen, and it can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.  If you have leftover sweet potato or quinoa, then it's a good fridge cleaner recipe.  Even if you don't, this is an affordable, healthy meal full of delicious goodness!

I am posting the recipe as I made it below, which is the Southwestern variation.  You can find the original recipe online or in the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book by Mark Bittman. 

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
from Mark Bittman

1 cup dry quinoa, or 2 1/2 cups cooked
1 lg or 2 med sweet potatoes, about 1 lb. total
1 red bell pepper, core, ribs and seeds removed and diced
1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
1 avocado, diced
Salt and pepper
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Juice of 1 lime
Chili Powder- 1/4 tsp

If using dry quinoa, cook according to package directions. 

Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and dice it into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces. Cook it in boiling salted water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes; drain well.

Toss together the potato, quinoa, bell pepper, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and onion; sprinkle with chili powder, salt and pepper. Whisk the oil and lime juice together and toss the salad with about half of this mixture; add all or some of the rest to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Cocoa- Nana Bread


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Do you ever have the bananas that are a little too ripe, and you want something new to do with them?  While you may have several tricks up your sleeve for old bananas, here's one that's a twist on an old classic- cocoa-nana bread.  The recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan and her amazing book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.  I found myself in that spot- just not sure what to do with the bananas, despite having several past ideas, from frozen banana slices to banana pudding to banana bread.  This particular recipe also utilized ingredients that I already had on hand.

As far as a review for this bread- it comes together easily, but actually starts out sort of like a cake rather than a quick bread because you cream the butter and sugars together as the first step.  I may have done something wrong, but this bread came out tasting just a little dry.  The combination of banana and chocolate is a nice one, and I was glad to use up old ingredients.  Others who tried this bread liked it OK but no raves.  I suppose it's up to you as to whether or not you want to try this bread.  I can't honestly give it a glowing review, but I'm not saying it's not worth a try in your kitchen.

Cocoa Nana Bread
from Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1/2 cup store-bought chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from over baking.)

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about a minute, until softened. Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. At this point, the batter may look a little curdled -- it's okay. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Still on low speed, add the buttermilk, mixing until it is incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting too dark, and continue to bake for another 40 to 45 minutes (total baking time is between 70 to 75 minutes) or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the bread and unmolding. Invert and cool to room temp right side up.

Morning Glory


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Fun fact- Morning Glory Muffins get their name, not from any ingredients or hippie roots, but from the Morning Glory Inn, where the inn's proprietor served them to her guests.  The first editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine stayed there and liked them so much that he published the recipe in Gourmet. 

Does that fun fact make you enjoy these more?  Maybe or maybe not, but these dense, moist muffins are great for this time of year, when pumpkin spice everything is running rampant and there's a slight chill in the air. 

I had written earlier about Dorie Greenspan's version of these muffins, and, while I love Dorie Greenspan and most of her recipes absolutely hit the spot, I felt they were lacking when compared to my mom's recipe.  After about a year of asking for the recipe, I finally got it and now they're made.

These muffins are among the more involved because they require grated carrots and grated apple.  You can't just buy the shredded carrots in the store either.  They're too thick.  A food processor's grating disk comes in handy here, or you can use the good ol' handheld.  I used the food processor.  I'm not that dedicated.  The recipe comes together pretty much like any other muffin, so no need to explain there.  I'll post the recipe below as it is written and post my changes in the notes section.

**Oh, and hey, guess what?!  We have a "pin it" button- click on the blog post title to be taken to the individual post page.  The pin it button is at the bottom of the page!

Morning Glory Muffins
from the Willow Creek Lutheran Church Cookbook, Dell Rapids, SD

1/2 cup raisins
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large tart apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup coconut
2 cups grated carrots
3 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla

Soak raisins in hot water for 15-20 minutes.  Drain the water off.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line two- 12 cup muffin tins.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir in drained raisins, apple, walnuts, coconut, and carrots.  Beat together eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Stir in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Fill muffin cups and bake 18-20 minutes.  Makes 24 muffins. 

  • I used slightly less sugar (maybe 7/8 cup)
  • I cut the cinnamon in half but in hindsight it'd be fine to add the full amt or even sub in pumpkin or apple pie spice
  • I omitted coconut entirely
  • I slighly reduced the oil (between 1/2 and 2/3 cup)
  • I filled the muffin cups about 3/4 full and got about 18 muffins.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips


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I have a few recipes in the queue to share with you, but today calls for a short and sweet post.  I don't mean to sound dramatic, but I feel like my snack food making has been revolutionized.  First came the kale chips and I loved the thought of making something kind of weird but more like a packaged snack food, like chips.  Then I saw these sweet potato chips on Pinterest and decided to make them this weekend.  They were half eaten before I could even take proper pictures!  These tasted like commercial sweet potato chips I've had and they were baked, so I at least believe that they're healthier. 


So, here we have it.  The recipe came from the blog, busy at home via Pinterest.  I do recommend using a mandoline or v-slicer for the chips.  Uniformly cut, very thin slices are what you're after.  You can purchase these at most any store that sells household kitchen equipment. 

Baked Sweet Potato Chips
from "Busy at Home"

1 large sweet potato, washed and any strings removed.  Peel optional
2-4 Tb. olive oil
Salt, to taste

Preheat your oven to 250.  Using a mandoline or v-slicer on the thinnest setting, slice your sweet potato into thin rounds and place into a large bowl.  Add olive oil (a little at a time is good) and toss to coat.  Arrange chips in a single layer on anywhere from 2-4 baking sheets that have been prepped with either cooking spray or parchment paper.  Sprinkle with salt and any other flavoring you'd like (I used chili powder on one sheet).  Bake in oven for 25-35 minutes until crispy and lightly browned.  Store in an airtight container, if they last long enough for you to not eat them as they're coming out of the oven.