Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pumpkin Spice and Cranberry Breakfast Cookies


At a staff meeting today at work, we shared our favorite things about fall.  Where do I start?  Fall is my favorite season of the year and not the least of reasons why is the food.

Who can resist the kitchen scents of autumn?

And among my favorite fall-y foods is pumpkin.  Pumpkin muffins.  Pumpkin tea.  Pumpkin pancakes. 

Yeah, I love pumpkin so much that I even posted my 8 Great Pumpkin Recipes.

This delicious pumpkin recipe is uber-healthful and full of all those awesome autumn scents…cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  Based on a recipe from the Preppy Paleo, I played around with the recipe to convince my sweet peas to love these pumpkin cookies as much as their mom.

Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies (Gluten-Free)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup almond butter
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 egg
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, almond butter, maple syrup, egg and vanilla, stirring very well to incorporate all the ingredients.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, stirring well to fully incorporate all the ingredients.

Combine the dry ingredients into the large bowl of wet ingredients, mixing well.

Place 1 tablespoon sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet, pressing to flatten slightly.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Shaved Brussels Sprouts

It's a rare thing that I look at a menu, see an item with the main ingredient of brussels sprouts and say to myself, "yes, I think I'll order that!"

It's probably just as rare that you ask your server what they think of a brussels sprouts dish and have them respond, "ooh, that's one of my favorites!"

But that's just what happened when SPH and I had a dinner out at Catch 54 Restaurant recently.

Maybe it was the setting of where we were eating:

or the fact that SPH and I were alone, without the boys.  Maybe those things helped, but honestly, they were the best brussels sprouts I'd ever eaten.

Once we were home, I started thinking about how I might replicate the recipe when, during my "restock the kitchen post-vacation shopping trip" I found these:

I bought the bag, brought it home, and got crackin' on coming up with a recipe.  I think this comes pretty close, although my kitchen can't hold a candle next to the view at Catch 54.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts

1 - 16 ounce bag, shaved brussels sprouts
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup shelled pistachios

Mix the brussels sprouts, vinegar, oil, honey, salt, pepper and red onion in a bowl:

Let marinate either overnight or at least 1-2 hours before serving.

Before serving, add the cheese and toss well:

Add the pistachios, if desired, and serve:

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Life is sweet,

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Banana "Ice Cream" (Vegan, Gluten-free)

I'm not a huge banana fanatic, but do like a good slice of banana bread and love a good ole' frozen banana dipped in chocolate.

I had heard about the idea of pureeing frozen bananas to create "ice cream," but was skeptical.

I am no longer a skeptic.

Super easy and a sweet, guiltless treat, frozen banana "ice cream" is a refreshing summer alternative to frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Here's the easy way to make it!

Frozen Banana "Ice Cream" (Vegan, Gluten-free)

3-4 over-ripe bananas
optional:  1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
toppings:  salty peanuts, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, etc.

Freeze the bananas overnight or for a few hours:

Prepare your food processor as you allow the bananas to thaw about 5-10 minutes:

Peel the bananas (snapping them in half will help) and place the chunks in the food processor, along with the vanilla, if desired:

Process for a minute, scrape the sides and continue to process until smooth:

Scoop into a bowl, and enjoy!:

Serves 2-3.

Life is sweet,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Lentil Salad with Balsamic Glaze (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

Lentils can be lovely, but if you don't cook and prepare them with the right ingredients, their inherent earthiness can overwhelm a dish.

This lovely lentil dish boasts lots of fresh, bright flavors to wonderfully balance the earthiness of the lentils.  As an added bonus, take the extra 5-10 minutes and simmer down some balsamic vinegar and create a homemade balsamic glaze.  This step transforms this dish from really good to off-the-charts good.

Don't love lentils?  Give 'em another try.  They're a rich source of fiber, protein and other great-for-your nutrients.

Lentil Salad with Balsamic Glaze

2 cups dry lentils, cooked according to instructions
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted (or just fresh) red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/4 cup rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Cook the lentils according to the package instructions.  Drain and mix with the tomatoes, bell pepper and red onion.  Add the vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil and stir well:

Let cool in the refrigerator while you simmer the balsamic vinegar over medium-low heat, until it reduces to 1/4 cup (about half its original volume):

When ready to serve (the lentils taste best if allowed to marinate in their dressing for at least 1 hour), drizzle with a teaspoon or two of the balsamic glaze:

Serves 6-8 as a side, 4 for a light lunch.

Life is sweet!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My favorite (spring) things--and a favorite asparagus recipe too.

Raindrops on broccoli and fresh, new sweet pea plants;

Tried to grow broccoli from seed last year without much success; this year, plants were in order!

I heart sweet peas.  :)

Strawberry plants not attacked by bunnies or gross ants;

Hoping the trench and chicken wire contraption will keep pests at bay!

Cilantro sprouts and asparagus make my heart sing,

Taco Tuesday, here we come!

Who knew growing asparagus was so fun?  Thanks Stacy for the tips!

These are a few of the sure signs of Spring!

(Can you name that tune?)

Things are popping up in the Sweet Pea garden and I couldn't be happier.  The other night I used fresh mint and chives in a dish and I think I heard my heart singing.  Spring has sprung!

As for the yummy asparagus in our yard?  Here's my fool proof favorite asparagus recipe:

As for my delay in posting?  The Sweet Pea crew has had an eventful spring!

Life is sweet,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Baked Salmon with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce

Salmon.  You know it's good for you, but maybe you find the strong flavor a bit off-putting.  

This may be the salmon recipe for you.

The creamy Greek Yogurt sauce that accompanies this salmon recipe is fresh, bright and both complements and subdues the fish-y flavor of the salmon.

In other words, this could be your family's answer to a picky salmon eater.  (Take a note from my playbook:  call it fish with ranch dip--works great for my G).

Baked Salmon with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce

1 1/2 pounds salmon
1 cup low fat Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped capers (optional--if you omit, add extra 1/4 teaspoon salt)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry the salmon, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the salmon is fully baked (flakes with a fork, but not dry--cooking time will depend on the thickness of your salmon).

While the salmon is baking, assemble the remaining ingredients and make the quick and easy sauce:

Combine the yogurt, red onion, garlic, dill weed, lemon zest and lemon juice:

Add the salt and pepper and stir well:

If desired, add some capers (or salt):

Add some horseradish (optional):

Once the salmon is baked, top with some of the creamy lemon dill sauce and a lemon slice, if desired:

Serves 4.

Salmon.  It's what's for dinner!

Life is sweet,

Monday, March 10, 2014

Two Crust-y Solutions

They are a common site in kitchens with kids (and probably some grown-up kitchens too):

Chances are, if you are a mom, dad or have ever fed anyone under the age of 10, you know that for some kids, crusts rank right there between brussel sprouts and mushrooms in the category of "you don't expect me to actually eat those, do you?"

Since R has never been a fan of sandwiches, the issue of crusts never really arose.  But my sweet G is a huge PB&J fan.  He eats a lot of PB&Js, but PB&Js without the crusts, of course.  Which leaves me with lots and lots of bags of crusts (yes, I know, you can make the sandwich with crusts and hope that your kiddo eventually says "hey, these crusts taste okay!" and I do try this periodically, but we have yet  to hear G say this.):

Since I'd rather not waste the crusts, especially the crusts of rather pricey gluten-free bread, and since gluten-free breadcrumbs and croutons are expensive, how about a quick way to put your crusts (gluten-free or otherwise) to good use?

There are two easy and tasty solutions to the crust conundrum:  Croutons and Breadcrumbs (which taste waaaay better than canned or store-bought breadcrumbs!).

First, Homemade Crust Croutons:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Take the crusts and cut into fairly uniform, bite-sized pieces.

Add some ground pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dried basil (about 1/2 teaspoon each to about 6 cups bread pieces--or adjust for your amount of bread):

Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, toss well and spread evenly on a baking sheet, avoiding overcrowding (use two baking sheets if necessary):

Bake 20-30 minutes, turning in pan one time while baking:

Voila--croutons way better than any you buy in the store!  Store in an airtight container a room temperature, or freeze to last longer.

Next up:  Homemade Bread Crumbs:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Then, use a food processor or coffee grinder:

Simply process until the desired fineness is reached:

Place on a cooking sheet or stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until desired brownness is reached:

Store in the freezer until you're ready to use!

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No More Brown Guacamole

"Ugh, my guacamole always turns brown!" could top a list of First-World problem statements I've caught myself saying.

You've heard of First-World problems, right?  They're some of life's minor complaints and irritants that those of us who have been blessed beyond measure find ourselves uttering because we have it so.  crazy.  good.

Things that folks in many places around the world couldn't even comprehend saying because they have much bigger, larger or more urgent worries.  

So while browning guacamole is far from a catastrophe, it is something that I've tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer for years…until now.

Sweet Pea Husband gave me an idea a few weeks ago, and ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to share with you that it is a fool-proof, easy and simple solution.

The answer?


Yes, just water.

(Isn't it cool that many of life's issues, whether large or small, often have very simple solutions?)

Here's how it works:

Make up your fresh guacamole.  Need a recipe?  We like making this simple guacamole:

Eat what you want, share what you want or keep it all for later.  Place in a lidded container:

Smooth the top:

Cover with water so no part of the guacamole is exposed:

Refrigerate until you're ready to eat or serve, then remove from the fridge:

Simply pour off the water, stir in any minor residual water and enjoy!:

Same guacamole, one day later!

Because avocado has a lot of healthy oils in it, the water doesn't seep into the guacamole (oil and water don't mix, right?) and any trace of water you mix into the guacamole doesn't change the texture or flavor.

Pretty cool, eh?

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Really Natural Mint Chocolate Chip Snow Cream

Here in Sweet Peaville we're experiencing our sixth, yes sixth, calamity day.  Not sure how I feel about the term "calamity" day since most of our days were far from a calamity; no huge snow or ice event, just cold, cold, cold.

But today our calamity is snow and ice that made a mess of our roads and driveways. With R and G home from school, I tried to employ their strength in clearing our driveway.  While they were helpful, the snow and ice that accumulated last night is so heavy that when I put my first shovel scoop throw the mass and tried to lift, it was too much.

This is the type of snow that causes weather forecasters to say on the television, "don't over exert yourself!" and "make sure you're up for shoveling."  It is heavy snow, seemingly having the weight per square inch of lead.  This is only a slight exaggeration.

Today also marks the beginning of the "Blizzard Bags" that many Ohio schools are using as a way to compensate for being out of school so much this winter.  R and G brought theirs home yesterday which was rather foreboding since I still held out hope that there would be school today (ha!).  In G's packet he had an assignment to make snow cream.

In classic G form, he took a look at the recipe for vanilla snow cream and asked, "what if we added peppermint and chocolate chips and make Mint Chocolate Chip Snow Cream?!"

I loved this idea.  It was really tasty, and since many of my readers probably have some white stuff in their yards, I share this recipe to inspire!  What flavor combination will you try??

Really Natural Mint Chocolate Chip Snow Cream

4 cups fresh, clean snow (as G said, "avoid yellow snow!!")
1 cup milk (we used almond milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
a few drops peppermint essential oil (we love DoTerra Peppermint Oil)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Gather your snow:

Add the milk, vanilla and peppermint oil, and stir well:

Add the sugar and chocolate chips and stir again:


G, sporting his recently lost tooth-gap-y grin

Makes 4 cups snow cream.

Life is sweet,