Cucumber Finger Sandwiches

My daughter recently called to ask if I could share an easy appetizer recipe as she needed to assemble a quick item for a coworker’s going-away party. She had already looked through the recipes on my blog and couldn’t find one that she could easily make ahead of time and store in the fridge. My mind quickly turned to a simple recipe that I used to make when our children were young. I made this recipe for our annual St. Patrick’s Day Party when we lived in the southwest Chicago area. The yearly parade (and party) was always a fun event for all of the Irish families living in the neighborhood. Slices of pumpernickel cocktail bread are loaded up with a spiced cream cheese mixture and a thick slice of fresh cucumber. A quick sprinkle of dill adds a layer of flavor. Drawing the tines of a fork down the side of the cucumber before slicing, adds a unique design to the appetizer.

Cucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix

1 (1 pound) loaf sliced pumpernickel party bread

2 English cucumbers

2 teaspoons dill weed or dill seed

Mix cream cheese and Italian salad dressing mix in a bowl until well blended. Draw the tines of a fork down the sides of the cucumber before slicing (Make sure to pierce the skin of each cucumber.) Spread cream cheese mixture atop pumpernickel party bread and top each slice with a cucumber slice. Sprinkle with a light dose of dill weed or dill seed.

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Super Healthy Kids Whole Wheat Waffles

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M recently went on a cooking rampage and spent the day making healthy meals and snacks. She made several loaves of fresh zucchini bread, mini cupcake frittatas, and a load of flavorful whole grain waffles. One of her favorite go-to websites is called superhealthykids.com so M rifled through their pages to find what she thought would be a delicious breakfast recipe. She settled on the whole wheat waffle recipe. Earlier in the week, M and I had visited a local farm stand where we picked out loads of beautiful berries. She thought they could be used to add a bit of pizzaz to her breakfast accompanied by a hefty dollop of creamy Greek yogurt.
So if you’re in the mood, head on over to superhealthykids.com and check out this great recipe for waffles. Dress them up with your favorite healthy toppings. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer and pop one in the toaster for a fresh baked taste every morning. As you know, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day!

Super Healthy Kids Whole Wheat Waffles

2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs
3 cups fat free organic milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together, batter will be lumpy. Fill 1/4 measuring cup with batter. Pour onto hot, greased waffle iron. Cook batter until golden brown. Remove from waffle iron and top with berries, yogurt, peanut butter, or other fruit.
(Adapted from the recipe found on Superhealthykids.com

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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.

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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Overnight Breakfast Casserole

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Traditionally, this is the breakfast casserole that I make for early morning holiday meals throughout the year. What I really like about this dish is that it’s prepared the night before the occasion. I assemble things just before heading to bed, pop the dish in the fridge and pull it out early in the morning with little fuss or cleanup involved. Early the next day, I usually head into the kitchen well before anyone else is up, make myself a piping hot cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet first light of the new day.
This Easter was no different when prepping for the holiday brunch. A special treat, I was pleased to have our K home for the weekend. We will drive her back to campus later today but it’s always a blessing to have the family together on these special mornings.
Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are enjoying the warmth of the sunshine wherever you may be this lovely blessed day.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole

1 pound ground pork sausage
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
8-10 slices white bread, cubed
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 13×9″ baking pan. Crumble sausage into a medium skillet. Cook until evenly browned; drain.
In a medium bowl, mix together mustard, onion and garlic powder, salt, eggs and milk; set aside. Layer ingredients into prepared 13×9″ baking pan as follows:

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Evenly distribute bread in the bottom of pan. Next, layer in the sausage and then the broccoli. Pour egg mixture over entire dish, making sure to saturate all of the bread. Top with shredded cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover with foil and bake 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover, and reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for an additional 15- 30 minutes, or until set.

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PB&J French Toast

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Lately, M has been using the Ninja blender to make her very own homemade peanut butter. She loads up the machine with lots of unsalted peanuts and pulses the motor until the mixture forms a smooth, creamy spread. When we pair the freshly made peanut butter with our Concord Grape Jam and favorite French toast recipe, the combination makes for a killer breakfast treat.

PB&J French Toast

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
12 thick slices of bread

Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk until well combined. Whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, almond, butter, and vanilla extract and sugar until smooth.
Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until completely saturated. Cook bread on each side until golden brown.
Slather your favorite peanut butter over one slice of French toast. Spread your favorite jam or jelly on a second slice of French toast. Combine to make a sandwich and slice diagonally for corner to corner.

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Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes with Homemade Maple Flavored Syrup

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For the last several days, we have been experiencing record-breaking low temperatures in our part of the world. On the positive side, forecasters had given us plenty of warning, so I was able to head out to the local stores last week to stock up on lots of food before the arctic blast set in. All in all, I did pretty well. I purchased lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of oatmeal and other breakfast items, baking supplies to make fresh bread and a few goodies for my home bound troops.
Yesterday, M pulled out our set of Mickey Mouse egg rings and asked if we could make pancakes for breakfast. The rings are meant to mold eggs into the curved shape of a Mickey Mouse head but we usually use them to shape pancakes. We whipped up a batch of our tasty, satisfying Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes before heading out into the blizzard-like conditions to shovel the newly fallen snow.

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After dropping the first batch of batter into the molds, I checked to see if we had an ample supply of maple syrup for the pancakes. To my dismay, we only had a drop of syrup left in the bottle. “No problem”, I said to myself… “I will make a batch of my own maple syrup”.
I had discovered this recipe last year, around the Thanksgiving holiday, when we had sleep-over guests and had run out of syrup. I quickly scoured my cookbook collection for an appropriate substitute. I ended up making this adapted recipe and I also heated some of our Homemade Concord Grape Jam to act as a flavorful, delicious, topping as well.
I keep the syrup recipe close at hand for we always seem to be running out of maple syrup in this house. Enjoy the recipes and stay warm!

Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil

Combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, oil, and extracts. Stir into dry ingredients; just until moistened. Pour batter onto lightly greased, hot griddle. Flip pancakes when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Continue to cook until second side is golden brown.

Homemade Maple Flavored Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple flavored extract
1 teaspoon butter flavored extract

Bring the water, sugar, and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir in the maple and butter flavored extract; simmer 3 minutes longer. Serve warm. Refrigerate remaining syrup.