Category Archives: Food and Recipes

Strawberry-Kiwi-Banana Smoothie

For me, summer is smoothie weather and I love having them for breakfast! It’s always fun trying out different flavors. Strawberries, kiwifruit, and bananas are a great combination, and this smoothie uses frozen banana slices to help thicken it and make it creamy. This smoothie is good and easy to make. And using a slice of kiwifruit as a garnish adds a nice colorful touch! Try this out for breakfast or for a healthy afternoon snack.

STRAWBERRY-KIWI-BANANA SMOOTHIE by NancyC

Makes about 2 cups

1 medium size banana, sliced and frozen

  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (or substitute a dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup milk (you can use low-fat, soy, or almond milk)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground flaxseed
  • Optional: a slice of kiwifruit for garnish

Add frozen banana slices, fresh strawberry slices, kiwifruit slices, yogurt, honey, milk, and flaxseed, if using, into a blender. Blend mixture for 1 minute or until smooth and creamy. Pour into a glass, add a slice of kiwifruit as a garnish, and enjoy!

This smoothie is a real treat and it’s nice that it’s healthy, too! I love making things with fresh fruit–especially strawberries! Are you a fan of strawberries, too?

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday.

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The Easiest Sweet Cornbread

This cornbread is so good, you’d never guess it was so easy! If you’ve ever been to a restaurant called Tippins (as far as I know, there’s one in Kansas City, Tulsa, and Dallas) and had their delicious sweet cornbread, this recipe tastes a lot like that. It’s great with chili or just on its own, warm and served with honey butter.

A friend had told me about this cornbread recipe after I talked about how good the Tippins cornbread was. And when I made this for a potluck, everyone wanted the recipe. They couldn’t believe how easy it was. It’s made with a blend of cornbread mix and cake mix. I typically like to make things from scratch, but I do like to make this every so often. If you’re not crazy about baking with mixes, this recipe may not be for you. But it is really, really good, so you might want to make an exception and try this out!

THE EASIEST SWEET CORNBREAD WITH HONEY BUTTER by NancyC

Makes a 9×13″ pan

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9×13″ baking pan or line with parchment paper; set aside.

In large bowl, blend the dry Corn Muffin Mix and Golden Yellow Cake Mix. Add the eggs, milk, and water, blending everything well. Beat mixture for 2 to 3 minutes.

Bake at 350˚F for 20-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

This cornbread tastes really good with honey butter! (see recipe below)

Note: You can make cornbread muffins with this batter if you prefer–baking time will be about 15 minutes.

HONEY BUTTER:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons honey

Mix softened butter and honey until well-blended; spoon into a small serving dish and serve with cornbread.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? If you need something quick and easy to make for a large meal or gathering, keep this cornbread in mind!

Sharing at Inspire Me MondayFiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck

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Salad Burger

Just about everyone loves a good burger! I thought I’d try a making a healthier burger after I received some samples from Hilary’s. Their products are made with minimally processed ingredients and are free from common allergens. They sent me their Worlds Best Veggie Burger and Curry Veggie Burger, and I really liked them both. You can actually see bits of the fresh veggies these are made with, which make them seem even healthier than your average veggie burger. Hilary’s also sent me a few salad dressings to try: Spicy Island Dressing, a creamy,  tangy, slightly spicy take on Thousand Island dressing, and Beet Vinaigrette, a slightly sweet vinaigrette with some balsamic vinegar mixed in. Both flavors were very good and low on calories–30 per serving for the Spicy Island and 50 per serving for the Beet Vinaigrette.

I created this Salad Burger using the Curry Veggie Burger and Spicy Island Dressing, along with items I like to put in salads–cucumber, tomato, onion, banana pepper, black olives, and avocado. If you’re not into veggie burgers, you can use a beef burger cooked your favorite way–the toppings go great with beef, too! It’s a reeeaaallly good burger, so I hope you get a chance to try it this soon!

SALAD BURGER

Makes 1 burger (for larger servings, multiply the ingredients by the number of burgers you want to make)

  • your favorite cooked hamburger patty (you can use a veggie or beef burger-I used Hilary’s Curry Veggie Burger)
  • 1 whole wheat roll or hamburger bun
  • 3 to 4 thin slices of cucumber
  • 3 to 4 slices of banana pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of mashed avocado
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced black olives
  • Romain lettuce or your favorite lettuce/salad mix
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons creamy salad dressing, like a Thousand Island or Ranch flavor (I used Hilary’s Spicy Island Dressing)
  • slice of tomato
  • slice of yellow or red onion

Put the top and bottom of a hamburger bun face up on a plate, or slice a large roll in half and place both sides face up on a plate.

Place your cooked burger on the bottom bun. Top burger patty with cucumber slices, banana pepper slices, sliced black olives, and mashed avocado.

On the top bun, spread the creamy salad dressing, then place a slice of tomato and slice of onion on top of the dressing.

Carefully put the bottom and top buns together and serve.

These burger toppings taste great together and you don’t need to use any ketchup or mustard–there’s plenty of toppings and flavor without those. It’s a great burger and very filling–perfect if you’re craving something really good and on the healthy side! Do you like veggie burgers or do you prefer beef?

Sharing at Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Fiesta Friday.

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Summer Squash Cake

Just about everyone I know who has a garden grows summer squash. Summer squash usually grows really well, so home gardeners often have an abundance of it. Which is really nice if you have lots of good recipes to use it in, like zucchini bread, for example, or a yummy squash casserole! Here’s another really good squash recipe that I found in my review copy of Farm-to-Table Desserts, which has 80 recipes with seasonal ingredients. If you’re a vegetable gardener or love to shop at your local farmer’s market, you’ll enjoy these recipes for yummy treats that you can make with fresh, organic ingredients. There are a wide variety of dessert recipes included in this book: pies, cakes, cookies, tarts, puddings, sorbet, cobblers, and more. And lots of great color photos of the recipes.

I decided to try this Summer Squash Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. The recipe calls for 2 cups of grated summer squash. I used 1 cup of grated zucchini and 1 cup of grated yellow squash, but you could use 2 cups of one or the other. If you use all zucchini, the cake will probably taste a lot like zucchini bread. I liked including some yellow squash because it adds a nice flavor to the cake. I’m sure it would be great if you used all yellow squash too. The cream cheese frosting is also really good–very creamy and rich! Here’s the recipe–hope you enjoy making the cake this summer!

SUMMER SQUASH CAKE from Farm-to-Table Desserts

Makes one 9″ or 10″ round cake

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated summer squash (I used 1 cup zucchini and 1 cup yellow squash)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I substituted light olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (you can add a little more if you want a thicker frosting)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch round pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, squash, sugar, oil, and vanilla extract well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until incorporated. Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. (Note: the batter fills up a 9″ round pan pretty much up to the top, so I placed my round pan on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven, just in case the round pan overflowed while baking-but it didn’t!)

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Sift the powdered sugar and set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 30 seconds to ensure no lumps remain. Add the powdered sugar all at once and mix on low speed until sugar is just incorporated. Scrape bowl well and beat on high speed for 10 seconds.

Remove cooled cake from pan (you may need to loosen the edges with a knife) and place onto a serving platter. Cut the rounded cake top off, if desired (I kept it on). Spread cream cheese frosting on top in a decorative design (you’ll have plenty of frosting to top the cake–you may even have a little left over). Store cake in refrigerator.

If you’re trying to cut back on calories, you could leave the cake unfrosted or just put a very light amount of frosting on top–or a thin glaze. So keep this in mind if you have lots of summer squash to use! Do you grow your own summer squash or buy it at a farmer’s market?

Sharing at Fiesta FridayWeekend PotluckMeal Plan Monday. Inspire Me Monday.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread

When you have ripe bananas and are craving something that’s chocolate and a little on the healthy side, this is a great recipe to try! This quick bread has lots of chocolate flavor and some buttermilk, Greek yogurt, and light olive oil to make it moist. It’s also made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with brown sugar and honey.

This Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread bakes up into a nice dense loaf of chocolate goodness, thanks to the mini semi-sweet chocolate chips that are mixed into the batter. It’s great if you like chocolatey things for breakfast or brunch, or it makes a great afternoon snack or even a simple dessert, maybe with some ice cream or frozen yogurt!

WHOLE WHEAT CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD by NancyC

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2 small)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour a 9×5″ loaf pan; set aside.

In large bowl, blend the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In medium bowl, blend eggs and brown sugar together until smooth. Add in the honey, mashed bananas, buttermilk, Greek yogurt, oil, and vanilla extract. Add this mixture to the flour mixture in the large bowl and stir just until all ingredients are combined. Fold the mini semi-sweet chocolate chips into the batter, stirring until they’re evenly distributed, then spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake at 375˚F for 42 to 44 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (if you overbake, the bread will be too dry). Let bread cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

It’s fun trying different flavors of banana breads–there are so many different ways you can make it! Do you have a favorite banana bread recipe?

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday, Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday. Inspire Me Monday, Hearth & Soul.

Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables

I eat raw veggies with dip every once in a while, but my favorite way to eat veggies is when they’re roasted. I just love them that way! They’re so easy to make–just cube or chop the veggies into bite-sized pieces, coat with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar/herb mixture, spread them out on a large sheet pan, and roast in your oven. I like using a variety of veggies–if you don’t like a particular veggie in this recipe, you can always substitute a different one. So this recipe is versatile as well as easy! If you’re growing a vegetable garden, this is a great way to use those home-grown veggies!

SHEET PAN ROASTED VEGETABLES by NancyC

Makes a large 13×18″ pan (about 8 servings)

  • 2 medium size potatoes, cubed (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini (slice 1/2-inch thick and cut slices in half)
  • 1 small yellow squash (slice 1/2-inch thick and cut slices in half)
  • 2 large carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2 to 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium size yellow or red onions (or 1 of each), quartered, with pieces separated
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil (use 1/3 cup for a lighter coating of oil or 1/2 cup for a generous coating)
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450˚F. Line a 13×18″ sheet pan with foil or parchment paper; set aside.

Chop vegetables as indicated and put in a very large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix rosemary, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour this mixture over the vegetables in the large bowl and stir until all the vegetables are coated.

Spread the vegetables evenly on the sheet pan and roast in the oven at 450˚F for 40 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes, until veggies are tender. Season with additional salt and/or pepper, if desired, and serve.

These veggies are so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. At least they’re healthy though, so if you eat a big helping you don’t have to feel quite so guilty! Are you a fan of roasted vegetables too or do you like eating your veggies another way?

Sharing this at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday.

Cookies and Cream Frappuccino

I’m a big fan of cookies and cream flavored things, even though I try not to have them too often. So I buy Oreos kind of sparingly and eat them kind of sparingly. Just the other week, I was down to 5 Oreo cookies, and it turned out to be just the right amount to make this Cookies and Cream Frappucino. I got the idea from a recipe on the Community Coffee blog site, but I ended up changing it quite a bit. One ingredient I added to give this frappuccino a rich chocolate flavor was some unsweetened cocoa powder. I also added some honey to enhance the sweetness. It’s a great dessert coffee to indulge in on a warm day!

You can use your favorite coffee to make this frappuccino, but I used Community Coffee’s Coffee and Chicory Blend (it comes in a regular or decaf blend). I had the chance to try out a few Community Coffee products that included chicory, which I’ve been wanting to try out. I’ve read that mixing coffee and chicory is a Southern tradition, especially in New Orleans, where it’s often served cafe au lait style with steamed milk. And I’ve also read that chicory is a great caffeine-free option to use on its own or mixed in with coffee if you need to watch your caffeine intake (I usually have to limit my caffeine to the morning hours). Since I used the decaf Coffee and Chicory Blend, I was able to enjoy this frappuccino later in the day and still get a good night’s sleep! 🙂 I really like the taste of the Coffee and Chicory Blend–the chicory blends in so well with the coffee you don’t really notice it–it just tastes like a great cup of coffee. I also tried the Ground Pure Chicory.  You’ll be able to taste a difference if you’re just drinking the pure chicory without blending it with coffee, but I actually thought it tasted good on its own. Some people I know prefer it blended with coffee, so it just depends on what you like.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try this frappuccino out for yourself!

COOKIES AND CREAM FRAPPUCCINO by NancyC, adapted from the Community Coffee blog

Makes 1 serving

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 Tablespoons light cream (Half & Half)
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cold, strong brewed coffee (any Community Coffee flavor works great, as well as their Decaf Coffee & Chicory blend or 100% Pure Chicory)
  • 4 Oreo cookies, crushed (or your favorite chocolate sandwich cookies)
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes or crushed ice
  • Whipped cream and 1 additional crushed Oreo cookie for garnish

In a blender, add milk, light cream, cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, coffee and 4 crushed Oreo cookies; blend for 45 to 60 seconds. Add in ice cubes and blend everything for another 20 to 30 seconds.

Pour mixture into a coffee mug, drinking glass, or mason jar. Garnish with whipped cream and 1 crushed Oreo cookie.

This is a real treat when you’re craving chocolate or something mocha-flavored! And it works well with coffee, chicory, or both! Have you ever tried blending chicory with your coffee?

Sharing this at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday, Full Plate Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things.

Easy Marinara Sauce

Good, simple recipes are the best, especially when they don’t take long to make! I found a lot of recipes like this in my review copy of Simplify Supper, by Krista Numbers (softcover). There are lots of Italian and Tex-Mex-style dishes, as well as all-American classics like BBQ Ribs, Southern-Style Baked Beans, and Chicken Noodle Soup. And great color photos of the recipes too. Overall, it’s a great cookbook to have when you want to make a delicious dinner that’s quick and easy.

The very first recipe in the book, and the one I tried out, is Homemade Marinara Sauce and it is really good! It’s great served over pasta, but it also makes a wonderful dipping sauce (I enjoyed dipping my favorite store-bought Rosemary Sea Salt rolls in it!). This marinara sauce has a rich, tomatoey flavor and is thick and chunky. The seasonings, onion, and garlic all give it a great flavor. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out:

HOMEMADE MARINARA SAUCE from Simplify Supper

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and stir about 5 minutes until evenly caramelized. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook another five minutes until garlic is fragrant.

Add chicken broth and use to deglaze bottom of pot.

Add sugar, tomato paste, and undrained diced tomatoes. Stir to combine all ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce reaches desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I love tomatoey-flavored dishes–and this sauce is perfect for tomato-lovers! And it’s always nice when you can make homemade sauce. Do you make your own homemade pasta sauces?

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday.

Mocha Banana Pecan Overnight Oats

I’ve noticed lots and lots of recipes for overnight oats in the last few years and have been wanting to try making some. I finally got around to doing that after receiving some complimentary breakfast coffees from Community Coffee. They sent me one of their new products, Amber Sunrise Blend, along with their tried-and-true Breakfast Blend.

Amber Sunrise Blend has a smooth, bright, pleasant flavor and smells wonderful as you’re brewing it. As one of my friends said, “It’s a coffee you want to wake up to.” The light roast Breakfast Blend also has a nice smooth, mild flavor–a great coffee to start your day with.

So what do overnight oats and coffee have in common? Well, I came across an overnight oats recipe on the blog at the Community Coffee site that includes coffee as one of the ingredients–along with oats, cocoa powder, banana slices, and other yummy ingredients. I made a few tweaks to the recipe and added some chopped dark chocolate on top. It’s a special mocha-flavored treat for breakfast–or you can have it later in the day as a healthy snack!

MOCHA BANANA PECAN OVERNIGHT OATS by NancyC, adapted from Community Coffee

Makes 1 serving

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (or substitute the same amount of milk)
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed Community Coffee (I used the Amber Sunrise blend)
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped pecans (toasted or untoasted)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon chopped dark chocolate (72% Cacao works well in this)

In small jar or bowl with tight-fitting lid, combine oats, yogurt or milk, coffee, honey, cocoa powder, vanilla, and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Top with banana, chopped pecans, and chopped dark chocolate just before serving.

I used 72% Cacao dark chocolate when I made these overnight oats–it gives the oats a good rich cocoa flavor without making it too sweet. I can see now why overnight oats are such a popular breakfast item–they’re so easy and convenient to make! Have you tried making overnight oats yet?

Sharing at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Weekend Potluck.

Red Beet Hummus

Beets were never on my list of favorite foods as a kid, but I’ve grown to like them. And I especially like that they are so healthy and good for you. I make recipes with beets every so often–probably not as often as I should–and I had the perfect opportunity to make a beet recipe when I received a complimentary package of Gefen’s Vacuum-Packed Beets, which are organic and also pre-peeled, making them very handy and convenient to use.

These beets work great in everything from salads to smoothies. I decided to make Red Beet Hummus. I love trying different hummus recipes and hadn’t tried one with beets yet. I really like this hummus! It doesn’t have a super-strong beet flavor, since it just has about 1 medium-size beet in it. I think the mild beet flavor goes nicely with the other hummus ingredients, and adding beet to the mix makes this hummus so healthy! If you don’t happen to have any Gefen’s beets on hand, you can use precooked beets or roasted beets instead.

RED BEET HUMMUS by NancyC

  • 1 (15-ounce) can of Garbanzo Beans (also called chickpeas)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped, cooked (or roasted), peeled red beet (about 1 medium size beet)
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1 clove minced garlic (you can use 2 cloves if you want a stronger garlic flavor)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of paprika

Add garbanzo beans, chopped beet, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Puree until mixture is smooth. Add sea salt, pepper, and paprika and blend everything together. Add more seasoning to taste if desired. Serve with crackers or veggies or use as a spread on bread or bagels.

I’ve learned that beets are a great source of of vitamin C, iron, fiber, and essential minerals. I really need to get more beets in my diet! Do you make any dishes with beets?

Sharing at Fiesta Friday, Meal Plan Monday, Weekend Potluck, Inspire Me Monday.