Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Food, Toppings

Homemade Farmer Cheese

When my children were young, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking shows during their afternoon nap. I’d fold clothes, wash dishes, clean-up the toy rooms, or catch up on laundry while some of my favorite TV cooking personalities demonstrated current techniques along with new and unique recipes. When I saw a recipe that I wanted to try, I quickly jot down the main ingredients and search the library for similar recipes to combine and develop. One such recipe, Homemade Farmer Cheese…

I recently ran across this hand-written recipe in my recipe binder and decided to revisit the idea of making my own cheese. I had pots of beautiful fresh herbs that needed to be trimmed and used before the cold weather made its way to the Midwest. The result was a creamy, flavorful, spreadable mixture that beats the flavor of any store bought variety.

A word of caution… Don’t use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not curdle as needed for this easy recipe. Also, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk.

Homemade Farmer Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar

Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

When the milk begins to simmer and then reaches 190 degrees, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. The acid will make the milk curdle. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Line a sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. The solid within the cheese cloth is the cheese (curd) and the liquid released from the mixture is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Tie up the cloth to form a cheese ball or disk, refrigerate in cheesecloth for several hours. Remove from cloth and wrap in plastic, or place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Before serving, drizzle with good quality olive oil, sprinkle with course salt and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. I usually use basil, rosemary, and oregano. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes or chopped green onions. Serve on toasted Italian bread or hearty crackers.

For a sweeter flavor, drizzle with honey and serve with bagels, jam, and fruit.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Uncategorized

No-Bake Snacking Crackers

While enjoying the 4th of July holiday with family, we took advantage of all of the festivities happening around town. Local vendors celebrated by keeping shops opened late on Friday evening while providing live music, street food and a festive atmosphere. I love supporting local vendors so we headed over to the town square to visit all of the unique boutiques, bakeries, and kitchen shops. One of the shop owners had a few taste testing stations and a selection of dry mixes that could be combined to make various snacks and dips. I purchased one of the packets but I felt I probably could make a similar mix on my own. So when I returned home, I scoured some of my cookbooks and settled on a recipe that I changed up to work with ingredients that I had on hand. Boy oh boy, these crackers didn’t last long! Everybody loved the mild spiced flavor. I’ll certainly be making these again!

No-Bake Ranch Snacking Crackers

1 – 1 ounce package ranch dressing mix

2⁄3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon dried dill seed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (10 ounce) package oyster crackers OR 1 box Ritz crackers OR 2 boxes Premium Minis crackers

In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing mix, oil, dill and garlic powder. Mix well.

In a large air-tight container (Tupperware), pack crackers. Then, pour oil mixture over crackers and toss well until coated. Cover.

Flip mixture every 10-15 minutes for 2 hours. Store in the air-tight container.

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

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

As the temperatures rise and children return to outdoor play, this simple recipe provides a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. Adding a few tablespoons of local honey makes for a sweet and nutritious summertime treat.

If your family is anything like mine, these fruity popsicles won’t last long in the freezer!

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced (frozen bananas work best)

12 strawberries, cleaned, trimmed, and halved

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons honey

Combine fruit and honey in the food processor. Purée until smooth and creamy. Fill and cap popsicle molds. Freeze for four hours. Loosen popsicle molds by briefly running under warm water. Serve immediately.

Posted in Beef, Dinner, Uncategorized

Beef Salami

We recently had a substantial amount of local beef delivered to our home. One of my colleagues owns a beef ranch and I decided to try the product that so many often rave about.  The delivery came with a selection of cuts including various roasts, steaks, and ground beef.  As I looked at all of the individually wrapped beef packages, I was reminded of a recipe that I first spotted in a community cookbook that I’m fond of.  It’s an ole’ time recipe for homemade beef salami and the ingredients are few and common.  I substituted Lawry’s seasoning salt for the “tender quick salt” just because I didn’t have any on hand.  The beef salami turned out just fine.





As the holiday weekend approaches, I thought this might be a fun recipe to try as I’m often assembling plates of appetizers when friends stop by and the kids open the fridge constantly looking for something to munch on.







Posted in Baked goods, Baking, cookies

Peanut Butter Bites

For those of you trying to reduce the amount of refined sugar and processed white flour in your diet, this is a doozy of a cookie.  I stumbled on a version of this recipe several years ago when the only readily available sugar substitute on the market was Splenda.  Since then, the options are abundant when choosing sweeteners to add to baked goods.  For this particular recipe, I use a mixture of unrefined coconut sugar and a brown sugar substitute blend to sweeten the batter. The result, an absolutely delicious cookie that everyone is sure to enjoy. Tuck them away in a safe place after they’ve cooled or they’ll be gone in no time at all!



Peanut Butter Bites

1 16 oz. jar natural crunchy peanut butter (no sugar added)

1/4 cup unrefined coconut sugar (readily available in grocery stores)

1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar blend

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray two cookie sheets w/ cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, sweeteners, eggs and vanilla extract; mix well.  With a small round ice cream scoop, press the dough into walnut-sized balls and place 2″ apart on the cookie sheet.

With a tines of a fork, flatten the cookies in a criss-cross pattern. Bake 9-10 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown.  Wait a few minutes before removing from tray to cool on wire racks.  Store in an airtight container.

(Note: If you prefer a sweeter cookie, double the coconut sugar and brown sugar blend to equal 1/2 cup each.)



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.

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 Baked goods, Baking, breakfast

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars

Yesterday we enjoyed a mild, breezy day with low humidity.  I thought I’d do some baking before the rain and humid conditions make their way back into our lives.  

These bars are full of flavor and texture as they are chocked with delicious, sweet and crunchy goodies, sure to satisfy your mid-day cravings.  The bars are also great for an on-the-go breakfast.  If you take the train into work, forego the expensive coffee shop baked goods and pack up one of these little gems for a healthier breakfast choice.  Pull out the Keurig and brew your own cup of coffee and be on your way.  What a great way to start the day!

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup raisins (any dried fruit will do)

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cups skim milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla     

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray with cooking spray, a 13×9″ baking dish.  In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients, mix well.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients; stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle a handful of old fashioned oats over the top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

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, 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.