Tag Archives: easy to make

Blueberry Chocolate Amazeballs


At least that is what my grandkids would call them.  These yummy treats are easy to make, and very good….and, amazingly, good for you!  There is a simple ingredients list with a lot of options.  No baking necessary!


24 almonds (or pecan or walnut halves…heck even macadamia or cashews would do!)

1/2 cup raisins (or craisins, or chopped apricots, or cherries, or currants)

1 pint blueberries (if you absolutely can’t find them…used dried)

12 oz. dark chocolate chips, melted

flake sea salt


Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers.  Dry roast nuts in a skillet until fragrant – 3-5 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Sprinkle cooled nuts, dried fruit and blueberries into muffin cups about half way up.  Spoon 2 T (about 2 oz.) dark chocolate over each fruit and nut cup and allow to harden.  At the last minute, sprinkle flaked sea salt on top.  Let cool completely before removing from cups.   Makes 12. 


Watch out!  These will go fast!

At The Beach

Just back from my beach vacation…boy was it great.  And a great opportunity to enjoy some light, refreshing meals, some new recipes from my “almost family” reunion!







I have a close friend who invites me to her beach time share every summer in San Clemente.  Having lived for many years in San Diego…it is a great way to connect with some old friends nearby and to enjoy the laid back Southern Cali lifestyle for a few weeks!  Along with all the sun soaked Vitamin D I absorbed, we enjoyed barbeque on the San Clemente Pier’s famous Oyster Bar at Happy Hour, Giant Shrimp Shooters and Beet/Goat Cheese Salad at the Newport Beach Yacht club, salmon  and grilled corn on the cob on our own patio grill, papaya and pineapple smoothies, turkey avocado Panini, watermelon lemonade, peaches to die for from the farmers’ market, strawberry banana frozen yogurt, and a lot of liquid sunshine! Swimming everyday and all that wonderful food was a true taste of luscious summer.







This year my friend had asked the members of her family living close by to come over for a big family barbeque at the beach!  They came from far and  near…two generations of them…all very healthy happy people.  They were kind enough to adopt me into their fold!  As with many reunions, everyone brought a dish to share, and, frankly, since it wasn’t MY family reunion…I didn’t experience the “same old” recipes.  So this was fun on many levels!

Several of Lucy’s family live on or near the beach, and many are life long surfers.  Healthy, fit, tanned and full of life.  There are several generations of surfers here from ones in their 60s to the youngest in their teens.  And they brought with them  healthy, mostly vegetarian dishes…except for our own BBQ ribs, and Shrimp on the Barbie. But the ubiquitous summer potato salad, hot dogs, and hamburgers was missing.  Instead they brought dishes like cous cous mango salad, black bean and corn salad, Chinese slaw with fresh ginger, lentil and celery salad, and my favorite….banana oatmeal cookies!


We were treated to this banana delight from one of the 20 something surfing couples who raved about them.  They are simple, delicious, and good for you….yet will fulfill that sweet tooth!  I have affectionately named them “surfer cookies” considering their source.  So simple, and something that I am definitely planning to make with the grandkids!

These cookies could also be made in large batches and frozen.  They’re great for breakfast, pack your own lunches, as energy bars, and definitely after surfing!…or just about any time!  You only need 3 ingredients!  


2 Ripe (brown speckled) bananas

1 cup quick oats (must be the instant kind)

1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds…all good)

Optional Additions:

cinnamon, raisins, craisins, blue berries, chocolate chips (this is particularly good)

Preheat Oven to 350.  Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Mash the bananas with a fork (or a food processor), pour in oats and nuts.  Stir till well blended.  (Add any additions).  Scoop (I use a melon baller for small ones) by teaspoons onto cookie sheet.  Makes 8 cookies or 16 small ones.

Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned.

93 calories (for 2 small ones or one regular), fat 3.5 g, carbs 15 g., Protein 2 g, Sodium 0.4 mg.

Kowabunga, dude….surf’s up! Enjoy!

Strawberry Season

AH….my favorites!  Love strawberries, and this time of year I get to combine two things I really love!  My own granny’s scones (she pronounced them scuns) which are very much like shortcake…and some fresh home-grown strawberries!  Yummy!

My good friend and neighbor, Lucy, has a prolific strawberry patch, and she has been gathering strawberries for about a month now…and up here in the Pacific NW…they seem especially sweet!  Maybe it’s just because she gifts them to me about once a week during strawberry season!  What a friend!


I keep intending to make strawberry jam but they are so good plain and fresh…that I end up eating them all before I get anything made from them.  So to have my (short)cake and eat it too….this morning I had scones and strawberries for breakfast! lucys strawberries Yummy!

My granny’s scone recipe is pretty simple and I often add different things to it.  Sometimes I add nuts or raisins, currants or dried cranberries, some orange or lemon zest, etc….but today I made them just plain so as not to detract from the strawberry lusciousness!


I did put a bit of lemon rind in this batch to enhance the scones, but you can also make them plain.

Many folk like to cut them up into triangles, and although this is a very traditional shape, I don’t do it for a couple of reasons.  First, the corners of the triangles tend to burn before the center is done, and second…I’d rather use my granny’s cutter….it’s an old fluted biscuit cutter that makes just the right size scones for shortcake!

sour cream sauceI also do a variation on “cream” on top of the scones.  Granny used to serve them with strawberries and a tall glass of buttermilk…but that’s getting harder to find in stores these days, but I like the creamy tartness of buttermilk when you can get it.  Otherwise I use a dollop of sour cream sweetened with just a hint of brown sugar and that does the trick for me!

Before……and after!  Yum!

strawberry shortcake with creamlicked clean

Simply Spaghetti

My gkids are spaghetti lovers…are yours?  They like it simple. . . spaghetti, tomatoes, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper….and then sprinkle on the parmesan. (I like some red pepper flakes on mine).   Lovely.  Simple, quick, good, filling, a kid pleaser.


Yes they love meatballs too…but that is another story.

If you are making simple spaghetti, you want to make sure these few ingredients are the best you can possibly use.  I personally like mine with fresh, vine ripened, garden tomatoes…but up here in the Northwest…those are as rare as hen’s teeth until around the end of August.  And with our short growing season,  big, ripe, juicy tomatoes at the end of summer are not guaranteed even then!


If your tomato supply is scarce….or the ones available in your area are the “shipped in” ones (to me these taste like cardboard!)  then my suggestion is:  POMI

Yes, Pomi Tomatoes are THE BEST.  I used to have to import them from Italy (where they are grown and processed) but now I can find them in my local organic market.  But even if you can’t find them there….you can always order them on line. there are now several stateside distributors.    Pomi Tomatoes come in a box…so they are not subjected to the “tinny” taste you can get from many canned tomatoes and they are sealed in BPA-Free packages.  I have also recently read that many of our canned tomatoes – even the organic ones –  are processed using chemicals to take off the peel.  Pomi tomatoes are 100% organic, natural garden-ripe Italian tomatoes.  steam peeled, Fat Free, Gluten Free, no preservatives, no added salt or other ingredients.  As a matter of fact under Ingredients…it says:  Tomatoes.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Pure vine-ripe tomatoes!  Best you can get!  1/2 cup serving is only 28 calories too!  pomi tomatoes

pomi side of box







Of course you can add whatever else you like. I personally like garlic, torn basil leaves, a few olives…and the aforementioned red pepper flakes…but keeping it simple, fresh and quick is a real treat for the cook as well as the diners!   My gkids like to make it with me too.  Cooper is our head chef….and Olivia likes to get her fingers into it.

cooper chef

Liv's fingers






And frankly…my grandkids think I am magic….they even tell their mom they want “Nana Spaghetti”….nice!





Happy Pi(e) Day

Yesterday was officially Pi Day…you know the 3.1415926535… kind of pi. Lots of clever word games with pi out there.

3_14-pie-small But of course…we made it into Pi(e) Day. So postmodern! Our version was the berry kind.

This was the cooking lesson chosen by unanimous consent.  First, as I picked up the gkids from school for one of our cooking days, the lobby of their private church school was filled with all kinds of pie.  Seems there was a fundraiser going on, and Pi Day was also Pie Day for the kids.  Resisting the very gorgeous homemade pies of all stripes….the only way to satisfy these kids’ sweet teeth was to make one of our own.

Besides…daddy was coming to the dinner we were about to prepare together, and Daddy looooves pie.  So pie it was.  I had some early Washington strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in the fridge (I try to keep stocked up on these superfruit) but what we really needed was cherries!  But cherries are pretty much out of season, so what’s a Nana to do?….stalk the canned fruit aisle to see if there were any good canned organic cherries.  I considered frozen ones, but they are usually those dark sweet cherries…and we needed pie cherries.

tart%20cherriesI have very mixed feelings about cherries because as a kid, I used to raid Grandma Ruby’s cherry trees for these sweet treats.  I have had my share of green cherry belly aches, scraped knees from trying to skinny up or falling out of her trees,  but also have her wonderful cherry pie recipe that is so delicious, you can’t resist it.  So I definitely felt we needed cherries to represent!  But I was looking for “pie” cherries – those smaller, tart, paler cherry cousins to the lush dark red sweet ones I usually find in the grocery store.  I have not found fresh ones here in the Northwest.

So the next best thing was Oregon Montmorency Cherries – great for pies.

We fixed other things for dinner..(green stuff for St. Patty’s Day) but we will get to that later!

Here’s a pictorial review of our process

oregon cherries20130314_160422_resized20130314_160926_resized

So we had our cherries.  I like to combine these with other fresh berries to make a very flavorful pie (with less sugar needed!).  So into the pie plate we dumped a pint ofraspberries and a pint of blueberries along with 2 cans of our cherries.  We opted to make more of a cobbler (one crust) but we decided it still counted as pi(e)!  We added 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 4T of organic cornstarch, and a splash of lemon juice mixed into the berries.  Next, dot 2 pats of butter (cut into tiny squares) over the top of the berries.

20130314_162021(0)_resizedNext we made pie crust in the food processor.  1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup cold butter cut in small cubes, 1/2 t salt, and about 1/4 cup ice water.  Pulse the butter into the flour and salt until it is crumbly and well mixed.  Dribble enough cold water through holes in the lid while spinning until dough just comes together in a ball. It may or may not be exactly 1/4 cup.  Don’t over blend.  The dough will be crumbly. (For the old fashioned 2 crust recipe, see the recipe section).

Turn out on a floured surface and form into a flat disk.  Refrigerate in plastic wrap for 30 minutes (this is really important for flaky crust).

When chilled, roll out, starting in the center and pushing outward, into a rough circle.20130314_162312_resized  When sized appropriately, roll up on rolling-pin and transfer to the pie top.  Cut some slits in the top crust and crimp the edges.  Kids love this part!

Sprinkle the pie top with a pinch of sugar and bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until crust is browned and pie is bubbly!


Can I just say….Pi(e) Day was a big hit!


The Great Food Adventure

imarenegade_350In teaching my gkids how to cook some of my old favorite recipes…I’ve updated many of them to make them a bit more healthy but I am always up for a bit of adventure.  Having lots of recipes and cooking experience in my head helps me to keep things fresh, interesting, and challenges me to be more creative.  In my own food journey, I have embraced the buy local, organic, and sustainable food logic.  And this is an excellent thing to pass on to my gkids (and yours).

I have it easy because these kids have been eating healthy food since they were born.  Their mom and dad are both fans of whole, healthy food, and don’t indulge their every sweet tooth and fast food fantasy.  Not to say any of us are perfect, we all succumb to the occasional burger and/or pizza, but mostly, we try to keep things healthy.

So I was thrilled when I found Food Renegade.  This helpful website has a million ways to eat better with recipes, tips, and all around good food advice!  One of their features is Fight Back Fridays. What is that?  Well their description is: “bringing together another collection of recipes, tips, anecdotes, and testimonies from members of the Real Food Revolution”.  You will find a lot of fellow adventurers on this site.  Please go and check them out.  So many helpful hints!

veggies 6-7-2011   Early_Spring_Blossoms_lg

In that vein, I am in the process of converting lots of my family’s old favorite recipes into healthier versions.  As I’ve mentioned before, I learned a lot about down home cooking from my Grandma Ruby, and expanded my repertoire as I traveled throughout our time in the military. My own mother likes ready-made food and is good at shortcuts. For me, living in lots of different states and lots of different countries made me appreciate being adventurous with food, cooking local, growing your own, and applying what I learned to cook to what I find on the spot and trying to adapt to healthier alternatives to old favorites.

Central Market Florence  Ceramic olive oil bottles on display, Central Market, Florence, Italy

The best food tip I learned living in Italy is to buy what’s fresh that day and make a meal out of it.  I learned quickly not to decide on a recipe and then try to find ingredients.  It might not be in season, or in Italy, especially, I either didn’t know the word for what I wanted or it was hard to find.  Have you ever tried to make chocolate chip cookies in Italy without chocolate chips and without an oven?  Ha!   “Scuzi, hai pezzi di cioccolato per al forno?”  Blank look.  Pointing next door.  (Thus I discovered the local pastisseria – bakery).

20130214_155934_resizedI know most modern families just don’t have the time to shop every day and cook from scratch, but most of us grandparents have time to do that every now and then!  I also know that for many, finding a farmer’s market open in Kansas in the middle of winter is a pipe dream.  But there are lots of ways you can still cook fresh and buy local foods.  Following that example, one of my favorite things to do with my gkids is to visit the whole foods/organic store in the area (everywhere has at least one) on our special cooking day, and let them decide what to cook based on what we discover there.  It’s always an adventure, and we get a chance to talk about food, where it comes from, how and where it grows, and how it sustains us.

20130214_160100_resizedAND they come up with some pretty amazing ideas!  Our menus are very adventurous, depending on what we find, and it tugs at my creativity to see what we can come up with.


It does take a bit of advance planning, but we try to be as spontaneous as possible. If we don’t have everything we need when we get home for our idea…we improvise with what’s on hand.  Improvising is something that is good for everyone to know and to practice.  We relax a little, and we remind ourselves we don’t have to be perfect.  Sometimes flops are the most fun. Figuring out substitutes and alternatives in a recipe is a good life-training skill and makes for some pretty interesting meals!

Here is what we found this week!

Free Range Chicken


Beets (red, golden, candy striped, garnet)…what a choice!

Blood Oranges

Red Potatoes

Stay Tuned for the recipes!

An All American President’s Day

postcard1321This week, the gkids and I decided to cook something worthy of President’s Day.  George Washington is known for not telling a lie about chopping down the cherry tree…so definitely something  cherry.  Also there’s Lincoln. Hmmmm….let me think.  Lincoln is on the penny, right?  My Grandma Ruby used to make something called Copper Pennies…carrots with tomato sauce…YUK!  But maybe I could come up with a carrot dish that will entice us all to eat more veggies And what could be more American than Meatloaf.  Yea, I know…pedestrian meatloaf….either you love it as great comfort food….or you hate it because your mom served up a rather lifeless one when you were young.  (Or maybe you’re vegetarian?…which frankly, this beef-eating girl from Kansas doesn’t really get…but OK).  Maybe I can make it so you will like it. Well, maybe not the vegetarians…3 kinds of grass fed meat, prolly not. But for the rest of you?  We’ll try.

The nice thing about cherries, is that they go so well with chocolate!  (well we ARE all choclaholics in my family).  So how about some Brownies! to go with those cherries? (Can you tell I love my heart cookie cutters?)  Or if you are strapped for time…there are things at the store called “Brownie Bites” these days…oh sure…just make it that much more CONVENIENT to add bulges to my thighs!  (These days I only make brownies at the gkids house…and I LEAVE them there!)

20130214_200738_resized  Browniebitetower

While those are baking…we will tackle the Meatloaf.  My grandma Ruby used to make this basic recipe, only she used saltine cracker crumbs which we put in a brown lunch bag and smashed with a rolling pin…talk about get out your aggressions?!  Well now we have Italian Bread Crumbs…which taste better to me…and are a whole lot safer.  You really don’t want Coop chasing Olivia around the kitchen with a rolling pin!

My gma also used to use only ground beef and Lipton Onion Soup Mix (dry) in hers…but I am trying to reduce the packaged food we all eat, and opted for a mix of grass fed meats, locally butchered:   ground pork, ground veal, and ground beef…but I also sometimes use ground turkey.  This adds a lot of flavor to the meatloaf.  And…the gkids love mushing it all together with their clean little hands!

20130214_174754_resized  20130214_174759_resized

EWWWW!  Nice and gooshy!  Cooper really got into it!  They were OK until we added the eggs…then it was Nana’s turn!

So the Lincoln Copper Pennies….yea, OK…so maybe they are only orange glazed carrots…but that’s what we’re calling them…and hey…they look like pennies, right? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  They did have fun peeling the carrots, and the small bit of orange juice I added made them very appealing!

20130214_180726_resized  20130214_181512_resized

For good measure, and for Cooper’s benefit…he loves mashed potatoes…we added those to our menu.  The kids love mashing them.  To make them special, I added sour cream.



And now for dessert.  First a brownie, then vanilla bean ice cream,  then our cherries jubilee (recipe here)  with just a drizzle of chocolate sauce!  YUM!  GEORGE WASHINGTON SMASHED CHERRY CHOCOLATE CHERRIES JUBILEE!  ta da!  As fun to name as it is to eat!


DECADENT!  And Very Presidential, don’t you think?

Enjoy and Happy President’s Day!