Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fruit and Nut Bars

4 PB&J, 8 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and 4 Apricot-Almond

I started eating Larabars a few months ago.  I really like them, but they are expensive!  I can get them at Sam's Club for a good price, but the flavors are limited.  My kids also enjoy eating Larabars.  Since they are pretty big, I usually split them in half and let the kids share one (or my daughter takes half of mine from me).  I looked into buying the smaller size, but they were expensive- especially since there aren't any in stores around here, so I would also have to pay shipping.  A friend of mine sent me a recipe from Enlightened Cooking for homemade Lara-Type Bars.  I found a good price on dates and decided to make my own.  I made PB&J, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Apricot-Almond.  When I made the PB&J, I wasn't paying attention and ended up adding more dried cherries and dates than the recipe called for.  I think I liked the texture better with the extra dried fruit.   The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Apricot-Almond would have been better if I'd used more dried fruit.  They turned out a little too nutty and crumbly.   I am posting the proportions that I plan on using next time. I really like the taste of all the bars.  If you are interested in other flavors, check out the Enlightened Cooking blog, she has a great list of flavors.

PB&J Bars

1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dates, chopped (you can also use raisins)
1/3 cup peanuts

1) In a food processor, chop the cherries and dates until they form a soft paste.  Move to a mixing bowl.
2) Place the peanuts in the food processor and pulse until well chopped.
3) Add the peanuts to the dates and cherries in the mixing bowl. Knead until the nuts are mixed throughout the dates and cherries.
4) Form into 2 large or 4 small bars.  You can also roll into balls.
5) Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them..

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

1/3 cup dates, chopped (you can also use raisins)
1/3 cup almonds
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon

1) Chop the dates in a food processor until they form a soft paste.  Place in a mixing bowl.
2) Chop the nuts and chocolate in the food processor, until they are very finely chopped. Add to the mixing bowl.
3) Add the vanilla and cinnamon to the bowl. Knead until the nuts and chocolate are mixed throughout the dates.
4) Form into 2 large or 4 small bars.  You can also roll into balls.
5) Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.

Apricot-Almond Bars

6 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup dates, chopped (you can use raisins)
1/3 cup almonds

1) In a food processor, chop the apricots and dates until they form a soft paste.  Move to a mixing bowl.
2) Place the almonds in the food processor and pulse until well chopped.
3) Add the almonds to the dates and apricots in the mixing bowl. Knead until the nuts are mixed throughout the dates and apricots.
4) Form into 2 large or 4 small bars.  You can also roll into balls.  
5) Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.

Cube Steak Sandwich

This sandwich isn't pretty, but don't judge it based on its looks.  This sandwich is very simple and tastes great.  I think that chicken-fried steak is still my favorite use of cube steak, but this sandwich comes in as a close second.  This recipe came from the Pioneer Woman's blog.  I came across the recipe in her cookbook and then I saw a friend post the link to this recipe on Facebook.  I love the Pioneer Woman because so many of her recipes are similar to things I grew up eating and her cooking style is very similar to mine.  I'm learning that if you didn't grow up in the Midwest, or have family that lives there, you probably didn't grow up eating a lot of cube steak.  Even though I grew up in Florida, I have family in Iowa and Oklahoma, so grew up eating cube steak occasionally at home and on vacation.  It really is a tasty cut of meat, and it is usually pretty inexpensive.  I used 3/4 pound of cube steak for 3 sandwiches, but you could easily use more meat. I decided to add some muenster cheese to the sandwich and I'm glad I did.  The sandwich was already really flavorful, but the cheese added a little something extra.  My 4 year old ate his half sandwich that I  made for him. I originally left the onions off of his, but he added some and ate them with the sandwich.  I didn't make my own bread for this sandwich.  I'm still learning how to shape bread, so I bought some really good steak rolls.  I am going to provide the link to the Pioneer Woman's recipe instead of typing it up on my own.  Her instructions are great and I didn't make any changes to her recipe, other than adding cheese and the amount of meat I used. Enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Roasted Veggie Sticks

I wanted to do something fun with roasted vegetables and dip for Meatless Monday.  I started thinking about how much fun it is to dip veggie sticks into dip...then I came up with this recipe.  It was very easy to make and tasted great.  This could be used as a main dish, side dish, or as an appetizer.  I chose the seasonings for the vegetables because they were the same seasonings found in the parmesan peppercorn ranch dressing I was using for the dip.  I also made a second dip using some green goddess dressing mix and sour cream that I had on hand.  Both dips were fun and went well with the vegetables.

Roasted Veggie Sticks

1 8oz package baby bella mushrooms
1 pound fingerling potatoes cut in half (you can also use red potatoes and quarter them)
4 carrots, cut into sticks
1 zucchini, cut into sticks (similar to pickle spears)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1) Preheat oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat (optional, but makes cleanup easier)
2) Mix the olive oil, salt, parsley, dill weed, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl.
3) Place the potatoes and mushrooms on the baking sheet and toss with half of the olive oil mixture.
4) Bake for 20 minutes.
5) Turn the potatoes and mushrooms. Add the carrots, zucchini, and remaining olive oil mixture.
6) Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until carrots are warm, but still a little crunchy.
7) Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.  I recommend parmesan peppercorn ranch dressing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


 I joined a "Seed of the Month" club last year and have enjoyed getting seeds in the mail every month.  Last fall, one of the packets of seeds I received was for peas.  I had some free space in the garden, so I planted them in early January.  I only planted 10 seeds and 6 of them sprouted.  Today I harvested 12 pea pods.  I will probably harvest more in a week or two. I shelled them and placed the peas in boiling water for 2 minutes.  They were delicious!  It was a small harvest, but I'm glad I tried peas.  Next winter I will be sure and plant more of them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Parmesan Peppercorn Ranch Dressing

Parmesan peppercorn ranch and bleu cheese are my two favorite salad dressings to get when I go out to eat.  I posted a recipe for bleu cheese dressing in December and have spent some time tweaking my parmesan peppercorn ranch recipe in the last few months.  The pink-ish color in the dressing comes from the paprika.  I love this on salads, but it makes a great dip for vegetables, too.  My son dipped fish sticks in it the other night and loved it.  He calls it "spicy ranch," even though it isn't really that spicy.  This will keep in the fridge until your buttermilk expires.  I will post a recipe on Monday for warm veggies that can be dipped in this dressing.

Parmesan Peppercorn Ranch Dressing

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon instant minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more) freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika

1) Mix all ingredients.
2) Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hour to blend flavors.  Stir well before serving.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lettuce Wraps

I made these lettuce wraps using vegetables that were in my fridge.  I wanted to have a fun dipping sauce to go with it, so I made the peanut sauce from my favorite stir-fry recipe.  These were really simple and tasted great.  I used iceberg lettuce for the wraps because I couldn't find bibb lettuce.  I think that the bibb would have been sturdier than the iceberg lettuce.  Feel free to use any stir-fry friendly vegetables you want, just make sure they are cut small enough to fit in the lettuce wraps.

Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package white mushrooms, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red cabbage, chopped
8 iceberg lettuce leaves (cut in half if they are large)
Peanut sauce for dipping

1) Heat olive oil and sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet. 
2) Add all vegetables and saute for 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
3) Place a small amount of the vegetables into each lettuce leaf.  
4) Dip in peanut sauce and enjoy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Garden

I thought I'd post a few pictures of my spring garden. It doesn't look like I will have any eggplant, tomatoes, beans, or peppers for the county fair next weekend.  I may have a cabbage and some carrots, but we really like eating those, so I don't know if I will submit anything this year.  The fair is a little early if you ask me!

Pineapple sage.  It smells just like pineapple and is great in fruit salads and salsa.

 Container Garden.  I'm in the process of harvesting the carrots, beets, onions, and lettuce.

 Recently harvested carrots. Yummy!

 Strawberries in my son's Earthbox.

 Heirloom tomato in my son's Earthbox.

 Square-foot garden with kale, parsley, marigolds, thyme, heirloom tomato, basil, hyssop, dill, pineapple sage, and beans.

 Red cabbage.

 Sweet potato vine.  I have 4 of these in the garden now.

 Cherry tomatoes and marigolds.

 Green cabbage.  I harvested this for St. Patrick's Day.

Celery.  It's my first time growing it.

Pound Cake

I am a cookbook junkie!  I have way too many cookbooks, but I love them all.  Some of my favorite cookbooks are collections of recipes put together by groups of people (churches, schools, family, etc.).  I have a family cookbook that my Great Aunt Helen gave me when I got married.  It is full of recipes from my Mom's side of the family.  Another cookbook I love is from the church I attended when I lived in Winter Park.  It is full of recipes that I ate at church suppers and brunches during my childhood...Things like hashbrown casserole, ambrosia (one of my favorite guilty pleasures), and quite a few desserts.  This pound cake recipe is from that cookbook.  I can picture the woman who submitted this recipe and smile when I think about her service to the church during the years I was there.  My mom always makes this when strawberries are in season and I remember having it as my birthday cake a few times when I was growing up (my birthday is during strawberry season).  This is an easy cake and I recommend making it while strawberries are in season!

Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1) Cream butter and sugar.

2) Add eggs, one at a time, beating as you go.

3) Add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time.

4) When thoroughly mixed, add extract.

5) Pour into a greased loaf, bundt, or tube pan.

6) Place in a cold oven.  Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes.  Check after 40 minutes, not before.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Black Bean Frittata with Taco Potatoes

This frittata recipe came from my friend Shelley.  She likes to make it when she is going to a brunch and wants to bring a high-protein dish that is vegetarian-friendly (Shelley is not a vegetarian, but she thinks that everyone deserves a high-protein dish at a brunch).  This was my first time making a frittata on the stove-top.  I ended up putting it under the broiler for a few minutes, just to set the top.  I had some potatoes that needed to be used, so I made some roasted potatoes with taco seasoning.  They turned out great!  I was worried about how my 4 year old would feel about eating a frittata, so I told him we were having "cheesy scrambled egg casserole with black beans."  He tried it and loved it.  I prefer this frittata with rotel or salsa inside, but since I wanted my son to eat it, I put it on the side. 

Black Bean Frittata

2 tablespoons butter
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese
1 small can of rotel
optional: green onions and sour cream added to the top before serving

1) Heat a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add butter and brush bottom and sides of the skillet with the butter.
2) Mix the eggs and milk until well-blended.  Stir in the black beans, cheese, and rotel.
3) Add the egg mixture to the skillet.  Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to cook covered for 8 minutes.
4) Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes, or until the center is set.

Taco Potatoes

3 gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
2 tablespoons taco seasoning, or more, to taste
salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 425.
2) Toss potatoes in oil, taco seasoning, salt, and pepper. Place on a well-greased baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat.
3) Bake for 20 minutes, stir, and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Marble Rye

I will be honest and say that this recipe is a lot of work...but it is worth it if you like good marble rye bread.  In my opinion, marble rye bread means rye bread and pumpernickel bread swirled together.  Two very different flavors coming together to make one yummy loaf of bread.  Lately I've noticed that most marble rye is rye dough with caramel color added to half of it.  It just tastes like rye bread.  There is no strong pumpernickel taste.  I decided to try and make my own marble rye read by combining my favorite rye bread recipe with my favorite pumpernickel recipe.  I used medium rye flour in the rye bread and pumpernickel flour in the pumpernickel bread.  If you can't find pumpernickel flour (I had to order mine), you can use dark or medium rye flour.  I am excited about the pumpernickel flour.  It is whole grain rye flour, so it is much more coarse than other rye flours. It also has a nice, strong, rye smell to it.  The recipe will make 2 loaves.  I froze the second loaf so that we can have corned beef and cabbage sandwiches on St. Patrick's Day. 

Marble Rye Bread
makes 2 loaves

1) Make rye dough and pumpernickel dough.  Make  rye bread dough first since it has a longer rising time than the pumpernickel.  After you mix up the rye, place it in a lightly greased bowl and cover it.  Once the pumpernickel is mixed up, allow both doughs to rise covered 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2) Divide each ball of dough in half.  You can use a food scale if you want to make sure your measurements are exact.

3) Roll out each ball of dough into an 8 x 11 inch rectangle.  It is OK if your rectangles aren't perfect. Place one pumpernickel rectangle on top of one rye rectangle. 

4) Roll into an 8-inch log and place the seem side down in a greased 8-inch loaf pan.
5) Repeat with the other pieces of pumpernickel and rye dough.  Let both loaves rise, covered for one hour, or until the top of the bread is about one inch higher than the top of the pan.

6) Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, tent each loaf with foil and bake for 20 minutes longer. Remove from pans and let the loaves cool on a wire rack.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I made these one night when I didn't really feel like cooking.  We had some leftover refried beans in the fridge, so I browned 1/2 pound of ground beef and added some taco seasoning to it.  I put a bunch of tortilla chips on the bottom of a platter and topped them with the beans, meat, and cheese.  The nachos baked at 350 for about 10 minutes.  When they came out of the oven, I topped them with olives, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.  It was an easy and fun dinner.  Sometimes I forget how good oven-baked nachos are!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

This is one of my favorite salads.  There was a time where I really didn't enjoy spinach salads.  There was just something about the taste that I didn't like.  Then I bought a salad dressing book that said to pair a light vinaigrette with spinach.  I had been putting ranch and bleu cheese on my spinach salads and the flavors were competing with each other.  I came up with this salad when my daughter was a few months old and I needed a quick lunch.  My favorite dressing for this is honey djion vinaigrette, which is honey mustard dressing without the mayonnaise.  I also like blueberry vinaigrette on this salad. I hope to post the blueberry vinaigrette recipe when Florida blueberries are in season.  It is really easy to make a large amount of this salad.  I like to make it for baby showers and lunch with my friends.  If you want something a little more hearty, you could add some grilled chicken to the salad.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad
(makes one serving)

2 cups baby spinach
5 strawberries, sliced
1 small apple, sliced
2 tablespoons pecans (I like to use the glazed ones)
2 tablespoons raisins (I like to use a mix of raisins, golden raisins, and craisins)
1 ounce gouda or manchego cheese, diced
2 tablespoons of your favorite sweet vinaigrette
optional: a few blueberries if they are in season