Monday, April 29, 2013

Bananaberry Cookies

Monday! Need a cookie!

So far, today has been fabulous. After a weekend with Matt (the first Friday and Saturday in a row that we've both had together...and not a LONG time...maybe ever), I am off today and living it up. Workout with a friend, wandering around a mall, very relaxing. I've noticed (and Matt has, too) that having a job {at a church} that I love, living in a lovely neighborhood, and feeling sunshine most every day has really livened my spirits. Life is too short to be unhappy or just be content, and I'm very thankful that this is a season in my life where things are pretty darn awesome. You know what I mean? Life has ups and down, of course, so I'm trying to relish in the moments when there's a lot to smile about. I hope that for you, too.  

Here are a couple of fun photos:

Waldport, OR

Our front yard

See Mt Hood in the middle?

Front yard again

Rose Garden in roses yet, but these cuties are blooming!

Our side yard...granted, we live on a church campus, so we take NO CREDIT for the gorgeous flowers!

Now on to butter, strawberries and bananas. To be honest, cooking/baking bananas is a pretty weird concept to me, but usually tastes good. These cookies are pretty tasty. For those who aren't obsessed with chocolate, these are a nice alternative--quick and easy, too. This is my cousin Cindy's cookie dough base recipe, and I've tweaked it a little to allow for the strawberry and banana.

Bananaberry Cookies!
Makes 15-18 medium-sized cookies
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup white sugar

1 stick butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped strawberries (about 4 large)

1/3-ish cup chopped banana (1 small banana)

step one: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix first four {the dry} ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a second bowl, combine butter through vanilla.
step two: Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and combine until lumps are out, but don't stir forever. Fold in strawberries and banana.
step three: On a nonstick baking pan, scoop 1 tablespoon worth of dough and space apart by an inch or two (they spread a little). Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until non-jiggly and a little brown on top. Let cool for 2 minutes or so before transferring to a cooling rack or before devouring. Enjoy! 

Happy eating!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Easy Yogurt Dip

Matt gave me cheery flowers. Aren't they cute? Thanks, Matt.

Yesterday was my lifelong friend, Melissa's, birthday. We're exactly 2 months apart, to the day. Weird, right? But I'm older. :) She is such a fun, fabulous lady. Those around her love her and are grateful for such a selfless, caring, hilarious person. And Melissa, among her charming quirks, loves dip. All kinds of dip. And she likes the action (verb) of DIPPING. Not tobacco, mostly cheese, salsa, bean, chocolate, or any tasty snack variety. So here's a dip for you, Meliss, and the rest of us that is fun and fancy free.

Now for a cheery snack...fruit and yogurt...the ultimate guilt-free, filling snack/dessert.

Easy Yogurt Dip
serves 2, but easily doubles/triples
  • 6 ounces plain, unsweetened yogurt (Greek or regular)
  • Drizzle of raw agave nectar or another honey/sweetener (1/2 teaspoon of agave)
  • 1 TB sunflower seeds
  • 1 TB flax seeds
  • 1 TB of __________ (Whatever you like...chopped chocolate, pecans, almond butter, etc.)-->optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon ( a dash or two)

Mix all of the ingredients together and serve cold. Cut up some fruit (bananas are divine with this), and serve!   

Happy eating!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tempeh Fried Rice

I've had this glorious pack of tempeh sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It's the 3-grain kind from Trader Joe's, and I think I've finally found a good purpose for it...fried rice. [Note: Tempeh is a superfood of sorts, has 20 grams of protein per serving, and it takes on the flavor of whatever sauce you mix it with. Plus, it's cheap--$1.99. Faboo!]

Chicken fried rice or anything fried rice is so tasty, and when you make it at home you can cut back on preservatives (the non-pronounceable) and fat/calories (the oily piles of the takeout version). You can also add any protein you like, so leftover chicken, pork, bacon, or shrimp are all good options. But equally as tasty are black beans, tofu, edamame, extra eggs, or tempeh. Mix and match. This is also a fun thing to make for a group or kids event, because you can set out the warm ingredients, along with a large bowl of rice, and they can top the rice with the ingredients they wish.

  • 1 large bowl of rice
  • 6 small bowls (scrambled eggs; cooked broccoli, cooked carrots, green peas, water chestnuts, sprouts, edamame, chopped bell pepper, onions, etc.)
  • Bottle of soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or sweet & sour sauce at the end of the 'buffet'

OKAY, getting back to fried doesn't have to be oily and one shade of can be fun a colorful!

Fried Rice
6-8 servings
  • 4 cups cooked rice (use your favorite kind)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of your favorite protein (tempeh, chicken, shrimp, tofu, beef, pork, etc.)
  • 3 large eggs, whisked
  • 1 16-oz bag of stir fry veggies (or use fresh)
  • 1 fresh veggie (a zucchini, bell pepper, cucumber, broccoli, etc.)-->This is optional, but really adds color and freshness to the dish. 
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of hot sauce (optional)
  • wok/large saute pan & a wooden spoon + a bowl and fork/whisk for the eggs
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews (optional)
1: Heat the pan on medium-high heat. Add the oil, garlic and onion and let saute. Then, add the 'protein' to cook it through.

2: Add the eggs and let cook/scramble. Add the veggies, cover, and let cook for 7 or so minutes.

3: Add the cooked rice and heat, seasoning with soy sauce, black pepper, hot sauce and any other spice you like. Top with cashews or crunchy noodles for a little crunch.

Serve hot. Makes great leftovers.

Happy Woking!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Homemade 'Bisquick'

There's no shame in making your life easier.

From simple home organization to major changes (like moving closer to your work and social activities), most of us try hard to make life a little less crazy/time-consuming/chaotic. Bisquick, the beloved baker's shortcut, was created in the 1930s and is still used. The problem: hydrogenated oils, pricey for what you get, etc. If you make a big batch of homemade 'baking mix,' you can use a cup here and two cups there in all sorts of ways for meal/snack shortcuts. Here is how I use it:

  • Garlic cheese biscuits
  •  Pancakes
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Breading for chicken or shrimp
  • Pies
  • Muffins
  • Scones
  • Etc, etc, etc...

 So here are the ingredients in the big Yellow box:
Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Dextrose, Salt.
 (courtesy of

Ick. But here are two homemade recipes:

Homemade Bisquick Mix 
Thanks to Pennies & Pancakes for her recipe
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter 
 Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or the back of a fork, chop up the butter in the same bowl and combine it with the flour mixture.

Transfer to an airtight container and keep in your fridge for up to 4 months. Scoop out the mix as needed.

Homemade Wheat Bisquick Mix
Thanks to Thrifty Housewife for her recipe
  • 4 Cups unbleached flour
  • 4 Cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 Cup baking powder
  • 4 Teaspoons salt
  • 1 Cup shortening or oil
  • 1 1/3 Cups dry powdered milk

In large bowl, blend unbleached flour, salt, and baking powder. Add shortening (or oil) and mix until crumbly. Stir in powdered milk, and then the whole wheat flour.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months; refrigerate if made with the oil.


 And, on that note, a simple Bisquick recipe...that I've been making since high school.

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits (like from Red Lobster)
Makes 8, but easily doubles
2 cups Bisquick mix (either regular or wheat version)
3/4 cup milk (or 1 cup milk for wheat version)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 t. garlic powder
2 TB butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except butter.

Spoon out small 'biscuit-sized' portions of dough on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden on top.

Once you take the biscuits out of the oven, quickly brush the melted butter on top of them. Serve warm or at room temp. 

*These go great with anything, but we usually serve them with pork, ribs, stew, or something hearty. If you're serving with fish, you might want to add 2 dashes of dill to the dough.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mac 'n cheese. Can I have some please?

I kind of love that little rhyme in the commercial for the blue box Mac 'n Cheese...and the song.

An American staple. Semi-fake cheese powder mixed into starchy bleached noodles. We can do better than that, can't we?

So I turned to Martha. She knows. And her macaroni and cheese recipe is sorta famous. Yep, let's do this. I stayed pretty true to her recipe, even though I knew it would be a little richer than I'd normally prefer. Her version is quite delicious, and I figured that was the base. Then I could add veggies, turkey bacon, whatever I wanted when reheating leftovers. (And this makes 16 servings, friends, so we have had lots of yummy leftovers!!)

Martha's Mac and Cheese
Lightly adapted from Martha. This is creamy, dreamy and relatively simple to make. When you eat it, have it plain or add extras like broccoli, turkey bacon, asparagus, edamame, veggie sausage, etc.....
You can easily divide this recipe in half; use a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish if you do.

Serves 16 (about 1 cup each)

6 slices wheat bread OR a hearty bread of your choice, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper OR chili powder
4 cups (about 16 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni (I used wheat macaroni; you can easily add 4 more ounces of pasta because there is so much sauce!)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish (or 2 smaller casserole dishes); set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet or wok over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

5. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Ok, not the best photo, but you get the idea!
***What I changed from Martha's:
  • wheat bread instead of white
  • wheat pasta instead of white
  • skim milk instead of whole milk
  • reduced amount of cheeses
  • Next time, I'll make it with 20-24 ounces of pasta and an extra 1/2 cup of skim milk, which would thin out the sauce a little and make a few extra servings for freezing.

Make this for your next dinner party, kids' event, fundraiser, potluck, or just for a week of yummy meals at home!!

Happy eating!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Monday!

Okay, so Mondays usually remind me of the Boomtown Rats song that Tori Amos later covered. I (usually) don't like Mondays. It is the death of the weekend and all of that. But I made cookies on Sunday and, seeing them on the kitchen counter the next morning, I instantly felt like today would be good. What can be bad when you have cookies with sprinkles!?

Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 20 cookies

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)
1 TB sprinkles (optional)

You'll need: 2 medium bowls, 1 large spoon, 1 teaspoon, baking sheet, nonstick spray/baking mat, oven

step one: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first four (dry) ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In the second bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. 

step two: Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and sprinkles. Using both spoons, form balls about the size of a golf ball and set on the cookie sheet. Repeat until 12-15 dough balls are formed. 

step three: Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven, let sit for 1-2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack or a cool plate. Yummm. 

By the by, check out my Recipage (link at the top right) to see some of my recipes by category/ingredient/etc. I'm adding more each day! Happy Monday!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Strawberry Black Pepper Sorbet

I'll admit great Aunt Betty (who's turning 80 pretty soon and is pretty awesome) gave us one of the coolest wedding gifts. An ice cream maker. And, while I LOVE LOVE LOVE ice cream and this gift in particular, 4 1/2 years have passed and the gift is still in the sealed box. Sorry, Aunt Betty. The positive? It's time to unleash the beast!! I'm so excited!

Strawberry Black Pepper Sorbet
Fresh fruit, a little sugar and a kick of black pepper mixes sweet with a little bite. Enjoy ripe red strawberries in late Spring or Summer, when they're naturally sweeter. From Cooking Light

1 cup water 
3/4 cup sugar
2 pounds strawberries (about 6 cups sliced)
2 TB lemon juice
2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns

1. DISSOLVE: In a medium saucepan, heat water and sugar on medium heat. Bring water to a boil, and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Stir in peppercorns and set the syrup aside.

2. CUT: Cut leafy tops off of strawberries and slice each strawberry in half (2 pieces). 

3. BLEND: In a blender, combine half of the strawberries, 1 TB lemon juice and half of the syrup. Blend until mostly smooth (I prefer a few strawberry pieces to remain). Pour the strawberry mixture into the freezer can of your ice cream maker, and repeat the process of blending the rest of the strawberries, lemon juice and syrup.

4. FREEEEZE: After all is poured into your ice cream maker, watch the magic happen! (And don't forget to put the stirring paddle into the bowl, like I did the first time.) Voila! A healthy, tasty, sweet sorbet treat! Scoop and serve.


Happy eating! Laurel

Peanut Butter Cookies

Any self-respecting baker has at least 2 dozen recipes for peanut butter cookies. They usually involve no more than 5 ingredients and vary little between recipes. But I have found one that works. And I did not create it myself. The Houston Chronicle, one of the 2 major newspapers I grew up with, printed a recipe in the early '70s that my grandmother clipped. I came across it the other day and decided to give it a whirl. Simple, easy peasy, my friends. This is one worth copying down.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside, these cookies are gluten free and taking big bites makes you super happy. 

1 cup sugar + 2 TB sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (or alternative)
1 egg
1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar and baking soda. Next, add egg and peanut butter and stir.

On a nonstick baking sheet, spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough, leaving at least 2 inches between cookies. (Cookies will spread out!) 

Sprinkle 2 TB sugar in a saucer or small dish. Grab a fork, dip it in water, then dip it in the sugar. Press each cookie down using the fork in an "X" pattern, repeating the "sugar and squish" process until all cookies are pressed down. 

Bake for 12 minutes. Cool cookies on a cooling rack. Eat some but share, too.

Happy eating!