Posted in appetizers/snacks

Cinnamon Spiced Pecans (Low Carb)



I’m always looking for a crunchy snack that is low in carbs but high in flavor.  This treat fits the bill. The sweet cinnamon flavor and spicy cayenne pepper make for a winning combination. Throw the simple ingredients together and this recipe takes about 5-10 minutes from start to finish.  The aroma of cinnamon and nuts warming over the heat  is simply devine!  Eat them alone or sprinkle them over a bed of lettuce with sliced berries and a light vinaigrette dressing.  YUMMY!

Cinnamon Spiced Pecans (Low Carb)

2 cups pecan halves

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 packets of Splenda artificial sweetener (or to suit your taste)

4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter and add cayenne pepper. In a single layer, add pecans to skillet and cook over medium heat. Stir constantly just until they begin to brown.  Be careful to regulate the heat as not to burn the nuts or butter.  Stir in cinnamon, salt, and powdered sweetener.  Remove from pan and cool.  Adjust seasonings to suit your taste.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Food, Homemade Mixes

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts



As the cool winds blow down the length of Lake Michigan, they usher in autumn showers and chilly temperatures.  This weekend we are experiencing “lake effect rains” and the cooler temperatures have me searching through my files for all of my favorite “comfort food” recipes. 

This irresistible snack is great for a fall tailgate party or family get-together.  Roasted cashews mixed with a blend of sweet and spicy ingredients make this crunchy finger-food hard to resist.  Nearly everyone that has tried these spiced nuts find them irresistible.  Make a couple of batches because they’re usually gobbled up rather quickly.

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts

1 1/2 lbs. cashew nuts

1½ tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 teaspoons brown sugar 

½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spread cashews in a single layer on a jelly roll pan.  Roast the cashews for 8 to 12 minutes, or until lightly toasted and golden brown. 

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine fresh rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne, and salt; add melted butter, mixing well.Remove the nuts from the oven and carefully add hot cashews to the spice mixture.  With a large spoon or spatula fold in the nuts to completely coat with the spice mixture. Cool cashews in a single layer on a piece of foil or parchment. Serve warm or  transfer to an airtight container and keep at room temperature for a few days.

(adapted from the Food Network)

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Home Food Preservation

Apple-Apricot Fruit Leather

This week I decided to try my hand at making fruit leather.  I’ve had a great deal of success drying fruits and vegetables so I thought it might be fun to change things up a bit. My dehydrator comes equipped with various trays and supplies for drying fruits, vegetables, herbs, and leathers.  Using puréed fresh fruit, baby food, or applesauce make for quick and easy assembly.  Plug the dehydrator in just before going to bed and (in most cases) in the morning, you’ll have a delicious homemade treat that can be stored at room temperature for a few weeks in an airtight container.  You can also pop these treats into the freezer and they’ll keep for about 1 year.  

These were a big hit with my family.  I’ve got lots of fresh strawberries parked in the fridge so I think I’ll give this a try with puréed strawberries and honey next time.

Apple-Apricot Leather

1 (8 oz) jar puréed baby food

1-2 cups sweetened or unsweetened applesauce

In a medium bowl, mix applesauce with apricot purée.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes or until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.  Stir every few minutes.  

Cool slightly.  Spread mixture evenly on dehydrator fruit leather drying trays.



Drying times very depending on equipment, humidity in the air, and thickness of fruit.  Fruit leather usually requires at least 8 hours to set completely.  Follow manufacturer’s directions for specifics about varying drying times.  



Dry fruit at 140 degrees until no indentation is left when you touch the center with your finger.

While still warm, peel fruit leather from drying tray.

Quarter fold the fruit leather for slicing.

Slice into wedges or as desired.

Wrap well in plastic wrap for storage.

Store at room temperature in airtight container.



Here’s a great resource for important guidance when drying fruit…
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/dry/fruit_leathers.html

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Cake, Desserts, Food, Gardening

Apricot Snacking Cake with Crunchy Flax Topping

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The view out my window teams with an array of fall colors. The season’s best; deep golden yellow, burgundy red, and burnt sienna cover the trees as the leaves slowly fall and the cooler temperatures usher in the Midwest climate change.

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I stepped outside a few minutes ago, to enjoy another beautiful autumn Sunday. As I made my way across the deck, I was greeted by the aroma of a wood fire. Neighbors in the area are taking advantage of their fire pits as they rake leaves and clean up garden beds for it is time we put the backyard to sleep for the coming winter months.

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A fitting autumn treat, Apricot Snacking Cake, bakes in the oven as we hope to enjoy a relaxed evening munching on this delicious, pudding-like, dessert with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream. (Even better, a steamy cup of tea will accompany this scrumptious autumn treat just perfectly.) I’m hoping the mild temperatures will hold on as the autumn sun begins to set. What a delight it might be if we can enjoy this delicious dessert outdoors as the soft breezes blow and the leaves delicately dance to the ground.
Afterwards, I’ll slice up the left over cake into serving-sized squares and pack it in an airtight container to make for a quick morning bite, as we hurry out the door to start another busy work week.

Apricot Snacking Cake with Crunchy Flax Topping

1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 12 oz. cans apricot pie filling (I use Solo brand)
1 serving sized packet – steel cut instant oatmeal with flax

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 9×13 baking pan.
In large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil, eggs and pie filling. Stir until well combined. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with one serving sized packet of instant oatmeal.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake tests done. Drizzle with icing, if desired.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Canning, Food, Gardening

Preserved Apple Slices

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This week I had the opportunity to attend a series of Master Home Food Preservation classes in central Indiana. I can’t even express my excitement over the valuable information that was shared during the week long certification class. We learned of techniques for freezing, water bath canning, drying, pickling, and pressure canning through PowerPoint slides and hands-on lab time.
It was a long, sometimes exhausting, week where I spent time with other classmates testing various techniques for preserving the best of the season. One important point that I would like to make about home food preservation is one that focuses on food safety…Never use a recipe that has not been tested by a reputable entity such as the USDA or Ball Canning. Use recipes that have been developed no earlier than 1995 as food science and technology specialists have shared new information that focuses on current food safety practices. The USDA is one of the only sources I use for my canning recipes. Here is the link for the National Center for Home Food Preservation/USDA canning recipe book.
You can download the whole book for free. The recipe for apple slices is on page 7. I can’t stress how important it is to use a laboratory tested recipe. It’s a matter of life and death! Botulism is no laughing matter so it’s important that you follow tested recipes exactly as they are written. Do not alter ingredients or quantities. Process as directed. I recommend using recipes as advised and then after you have opened a jar to serve the contents, make your adjustments to spice things up to favor your preference. Then, refrigerate and use up the quantity as directed.
For more information about home food preservation, visit the National Center’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Main Dish

Garden Fresh Focaccia Bread with Tomatoes and Basil

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Last week, M called my cell phone to ask if I had a quick pizza crust recipe. She and K had gathered lots of fresh basil and a few ripe Roma tomatoes from the garden and wanted to make a crusty bread base for the garden fresh toppings.
I asked her to search the pantry shelves for a pouch of Betty Crocker pre-mixed pizza crust ingredients that I often buy when I see the pouches on sale. Both girls looked though the pantry shelves and came up empty. I suggested they find my recipe for focaccia bread in the kitchen file. It’s a great recipe as it always turns out perfect and the mix, rise and bake time is pretty reasonable for a quick meal. When I returned home from work, the smell of Italian bread filled the air and the half eaten focaccia sat on the counter. It seems no one could resist the incredible aroma and tummies were filled straight away. The girls had chopped tomatoes and basil while the bread was baking and sprinkled the chopped toppings on the bread as soon as it was removed from the oven. A pinch of course kosher salt added to the flavor.
I usually serve this crispy, flavorful crust with a lite salad and we are never disappointed.

Garden Fresh Focaccia Bread

2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first nine (dry) ingredients. Mix in the vegetable oil and water.
Pull dough together and turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Punch down dough and place on greased baking/cookie sheet. Pat into a 1/4 to 1/2″ thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, top with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Continue to bake for more 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Optional: After removing from the oven, top with sliced tomatoes and basil.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Gifts, Kids in the Kitchen

Italian Nut Medley

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When looking for a salty snack, I usually reach for a jar of nuts on the pantry shelf. Recently, I scoured my cookbooks for a recipe that might change up the taste of my everyday snack staple. Most recipes I found included a good dose of sugar which was definitely not the direction I was headed. I stumbled on a recipe in my Best of Country Cooking Cookbook from 1999. I had all of the ingredients on hand so I whipped up the quick recipe. What a yummy, crunchy, surprise! The four ingredient recipe calls for a mixture of Italian spices, a bit of butter and soy sauce mixed in with a few cups of quality nuts. After tasting this flavorful crunchy mix, I’m sure this will become a staple recipe in my snack folder.

Italian Nut Medley

2 tablespoons butter
4 cups quality mixed nuts ( cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add nuts; cook and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce. Sprinkle with salad dressing mix, stir to coat. Immediately transfer to a baking sheet and spread thinly to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Adapted from The Best of Country Cooking – 1999.

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Dinner, Food, Gardening, Salad, salads

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

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It’s always fun to use up fresh garden veggies by throwing them into a big bowl of tender, herb-spiced pasta. While I have a variety of fruits and vegetables planted in my summer garden, it will be a while before they are ready for harvest. In the meantime, I just love heading out to the local farmer’s market to pick up a healthy dose of garden fresh vegetables for some of my lite warm-weather recipes.
This recipe couldn’t be any easier. Use your favorite vegetables, cheese, or meat to mix into this cold pasta salad. A tall glass of iced tea and some whole grain crackers can round out the meal as the sun shines, the heat sets in, and we welcome the lazy days of summer.

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

14 ounces pasta, uncooked
1/2 cucumber, chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, parsley, and oregano, finely chopped
1 cup zesty Italian-style salad dressing
3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water, bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in pasta, return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain and cool by running cold water over the pasta in a colander set in the sink. Coat with a small amount of dressing to prevent pasta sticking together. Cool completely.
2. Combine pasta, vegetables, and herbs in a large bowl. Pour the remaining Italian dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese before serving.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Brunch, Food, Main Dish, Salad, Skillet Meal

Shrimp Bruschetta

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Recently, I bought some raw shrimp at the local market. Because of our crazy busy summer schedule, I needed to prepare the shrimp in a way that was quick and easy. Basil has been growing like mad in my garden so I thought it best to whip up a fast sauté with tomatoes, basil, shrimp and Parmesan cheese. As many of you know, I try to stay away from white flour and high carbs, so this fit the bill for a light Sunday brunch dish.

Shrimp Bruschetta

1 lb. shrimp, shelled, cleaned, and deveined
2 medium tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add olive oil and garlic. Sauté until garlic is lightly browned. Add shrimp and cook quickly until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Remove from pan. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and toss in the shrimp. Season to taste. Serve as a salad or pour it over lightly toasted crusty bread for a tradition bruschetta appetizer.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Kids in the Kitchen

Sweet and Creamy Fresh Fruit Dip

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Several weeks ago, my husband and I joined his extended family for a beautiful country club brunch. We had decided to plan the event without all of our children because their busy schedules seemed to foil all of our plans for actually getting together. Some kids were away at school, others had scheduled sporting events, and still others had obligations to employers and had to report to work. After days of shuffling schedules, we decided to have a quiet brunch, parents only.
Just before the day arrived, I headed out to the local kitchen store and picked up a few fresh new kitchen towels, wrapped them in tissue paper and popped them in gift bags to share with all of the woman attending the brunch. It seems we’ve adopted the custom of bringing little gifts to this annual event. We often bring flowers, or inexpensive jewelry, the latest gadget, etc., just to share some fun and celebrate Easter and the arrival of spring.
This year, one of the gifts that I received was a gadget called a Ratcheting Pineapple Slicer and I can’t tell you how wonderful this kitchen tool has turned out to be. The instructions that accompany the tool are fairly easy to follow and in no time at all, you’ve got a perfectly sliced pineapple with very little waste and cleanup is a snap.

Here’s how it works:

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As warmer weather begins to make its way up into the Midwest, communities welcome local farmer’s market vendors as they dust off their aprons and set up their wares in the bright weekend sunshine. Sweet colorful berries of every kind brighten the booths of local farmers.
This Sweet and Creamy Fresh Fruit Dip recipe is a nice addition to a plate of freshly washed and prepared fruit. The unique mix of brown sugar and honey make for a tasty brunch treat or after school snack.

Sweet and Creamy Fresh Fruit Dip

1 cup non-fat vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
1½ teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Plate with assorted fresh fruit.

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