Crunchy Granola – Sweet and Simple

  • Peanut Butter Granola
  • Crunchy Quinoa Granola

You may remember that I am a huge fan of oats. I consume them in some form or the other almost every day.  At this time of year I tend to switch from my usual hot oatmeal to granola.  Granola from the store can get pretty pricy, not to mention that it often contains too much sugar or other ingredients I’d like to avoid, so I started making my own long ago.

Homemade granola is dead simple to make and you might already have all the ingredients you need at home.  For a long time I used a recipe that required boiling the liquid ingredients in a saucepan and pouring over the dry ingredients but recently I’ve tried a couple of new, easier to prepare versions that I can wholly recommend.

Peanut Butter Granola
I made this granola recently as a treat for my husband instead of the peanut butter cookies I’m sure he would have preferred.  I think this is my new favorite and I may have forgotten to tell him that I made it for him.  I found the recipe at the  Table for Two website and I love it that it’s only 5 ingredients. I doubled the recipe and it turned out great!

  • 4 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats NOT quick oats


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Add peanut butter to a large bowl pop in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds until the peanut butter is melted. Stir in the honey and then add in the cinnamon and vanilla extract.
(Note: the original recipe calls for microwaving the peanut butter and honey together but my local honey expert says that microwaving honey is a NO NO!)
Add in the oats and stir until they are completely coated with the mixture.
Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. It may take more or less time to turn a golden brown. I like to mix it up and move it around a bit about halfway through the cooking time so that it browns a little more evenly. The granola will still look soft when you take it out but it will  harden as it cools.  Here’s my before and after baking shot.

Here is how I have been eating this.  I microwave a cup of frozen, mixed berries and top it with the granola.  It tastes just like a fruit crisp. Yum – I am all about dessert for breakfast!

Crunchy Quinoa Granola

Quinoa is becoming more and more mainstream in the US.  It’s a high protein “pseudo” grain (meaning that it is actually a seed but has similar nutrition to grains) that grows well in poor soils.  Therefore many countries around the world are attempting to cultivate it as an answer to food shortages. There are several varieties of quinoa.  I like to use the red; not because it tastes any differently but because it is more colorful.


This recipe from Iowa Girl Eats uses raw, uncooked quinoa.  You will want to rinse your quinoa in a fine wire mesh strainer.  Quinoa has a natural coating that some people find bitter and washing removes this. It can go right from the strainer into the recipe; no need to dry it.

I really like this recipe because the quinoa adds not only additional protein but a nice pop, crackle, and crunch; hence the name.

  • 2 cups gluten-free or regular old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons flax seeds (I used ground flax as whole seeds don’t get digested well)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients except raisins in a large bowl then stir to combine. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet then bake for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until golden brown. TIP: watch closely at the end to make sure granola does not get too dark. Granola will not be crunchy right out of the oven. Stir in raisins when granola is cool and store in an airtight container.

Please note: I have substituted maple syrup for the honey and canola or sunflower oil for the coconut oil with good results. And by all means leave out the raisins if you are a raisin hater.  You can substitute dried cranberries or serve with other fruits as you will see I did with the next recipe.

Making your own granola is a great way to save money and control your intake of processed sugars.  Try one of these recipes and let me know what you think.


Freezer Burn

Black Bean, Mango, and Avocado Salad

Have you ever found something in your freezer that you couldn’t identify?  It rarely happens to me because I’m pretty good about labeling things and I do try to check over my freezer every month or so to see if there is anything I need to use up. However, here’s an example of how you can get “burned” if you don’t do that.

Last week I was doing freezer inventory and came across a bag of orange “cubes”.  I thought it was butternut squash so I decided to make squash and black bean enchiladas. I put the cubes in the microwave for a minute to thaw. Then I popped one of the cubes into my mouth and discovered that what I thought was squash was actually a very ripe mango.  Probably not good enchilada material.

In the back of my mind I remembered seeing recipes that combined black bean and mango so I headed to the internet for inspiration and found recipes like this one from I  didn’t have all of the ingredients but it was enough incentive for me to experiment on my own.  Here’s the recipe for the salad I put together:

  • 1 ripe mango, cut into cubes (see my instructions below)
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup cooked or canned black beans
  • Juice of one fresh lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tajin seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Combine the mango, avocado, beans and onion in a bowl.  Sprinkle the lime juice and Tajin over the mixture and toss gently to combine.  Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serves 2

This super simple combination packed a big flavor punch.  Sweet, spicy, tangy, creamy, and crunchy.  I can’t wait to try the other recipes I discovered using these ingredients.

While I am on the subject of mangoes I thought I would add some advice about slicing and preparing this delicious fruit.  In many parts of the world the mango is eaten out of hand just like an apple but most of us here in the USA prefer to skip the skin.

My method requires the careful use of a knife. Mangoes have a large flat pit in the middle and most of the flesh is found on either side of the pit.  I usually cut off a slice at the bottom so that I have a flat surface for stability.  Then I slice off each of the “cheeks”

I lay each mango half in the palm of my hand and use a small sharp knife to score it in both directions, getting as close to the inside of the skin as possible (without slicing open my hand!)

Once the flesh is scored you can turn the whole thing inside out and slice the cubed fruit off the skin. This is sometimes how a mango is presented for serving on buffets, etc. when you are traveling in countries where it is more commonly consumed.

While I’ve seen this video on the internet that shows mango halves being peeled using a drinking glass I can envision the glass breaking and slicing my wrist.  I’ll stick with my tried and true method rather than risk mangocide.

Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think of my salad.




Someone Likes it Hot

I used to think I didn’t like spicy foods but as I get older I find myself appreciating them a bit more.  Here are two recipes I’ve tried lately that really bring the heat:

  • Chipotle Lentil Pasta
  • Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower

Chipotle Lentil Pasta

If you’re bored with the same old spaghetti and ready to try something different you might enjoy this recipe for Ziti With Chipotle Lentil Tomato Sauce from the Vegan Richa blog.

I’ve written about my love for chipotle peppers before. There’s something about this sweet, smoky, and spicy condiment that hits my taste buds in all the right places.


The recipe calls for fresh tomatoes.  You could make it with canned tomatoes but I am lucky to live in a town that has the only indoor year round farmer’s market in my state.  Local growers are producing tomatoes and greens all year long and I was able to purchase fresh tomatoes here in the Midwest in the middle of March.  I love that!

I added a generous amount of sliced sweet mini peppers to increase the veggie content and used shells instead of ziti because that’s what I had on hand. If you wanted to make a non vegan version you could substitute cooked ground beef, turkey, or chicken for the lentils.

Like many savory stew and soup recipes this tasted even better the next day.

Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower

Cauliflower is enjoying a moment these days. Many people are using it as a low carb substitute for potatoes or rice. Yes, it’s white and although we’ve been taught to “eat the rainbow” cauliflower doesn’t pale in comparison to other vegetables. It’s a surprisingly good source of vitamin C and protein. It also belongs to the “cruciferous” family of vegetables that may protect against cancer.

In this recipe from The Fitchen, cauliflower florets are glazed with a combination of Sriracha (another very spicy and popular condiment I am learning to appreciate), maple syrup, and soy sauce before baking in the oven.  One word of caution – the sodium content is a bit high here.  You can balance that by making sure that the rest of your meal is very low sodium and watching the sodium level in other meals during the day.

I used a large Ziploc to combine all the wet ingredients.  Add the cauliflower, zip the bag, and toss everything around to coat the florets evenly before spreading on your sheet pan.


These two recipes will definitely warm you up.  If you try them let me know how you liked them.


Making a Flap

While oatmeal is my breakfast of choice I do occasionally crave a pancake.  I started making my own years ago using a recipe from the Good Housekeeping cookbook I received as a wedding gift. That recipe contained white flour, sugar, and oil so of course I had to find something healthier. Here are two that I have enjoyed recently:

Peanut Butter Pancakes

These pancakes feature PB2 powdered peanut butter which is one of my favorite products. Yes, it’s technically a processed food but just slightly so.  The peanuts are pressed to remove much of the oil and dried into a peanut flour which is high in protein but lighter in calories.  I love to stir it into oatmeal and use it in smoothies.  It can be reconstituted with a little water and used as a spread or to flavor Thai inspired sauces for noodles, etc.

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There are other brands of powdered peanut butter out there but I’ve found them to contain more added sugar than PB2.

Here is the recipe.

  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed meal
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup PB2 peanut butter Powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk (any kind will do, I used almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener (I used honey but you could use white or brown sugar or a smaller amount of stevia, etc.)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter

Combine flax seed and water in a small bowl. Set aside for at least 5 minutes.  Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and stir together. In a separate cup or small bowl combine the milk, sweetener, and peanut butter. A whisk is really the best way to do this.


Whisk the flax mixture into the wet ingredients until well incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until the batter is smooth.  You may need to add more milk or water to get it to the right consistency. (Pancake batter should be just thin enough to pour; if it’s too thick you will get a heavy pancake that doesn’t cook all the way through.) Heat a small non stick fry pan over medium heat. You can spray with cooking spray or brush on a little oil but I found that I didn’t need either with my pan. Measure out a 1/4 cup of the mixture and drop onto the pan.  Cook until the bubbles in the center of the pancake start to pop.


Flip and cook for about one minute on the opposite side.  Serve with pure maple syrup or sliced bananas.  Next time I make these I might try mashing some banana and adding it to the batter.  These were good!


Oatmeal Pancakes

Oatmeal in a pancake is the best of both worlds for a dedicated oatmeal lover like myself. I used this recipe from and didn’t change a thing.  I talked about making oat flour in a recent post.  It’s so easy.  Here I used my small food processor but I think the high speed personal blender works better.


Here is a close up to show just when pancakes are ready to flip.  See the bubbles in the middle? when they start to pop it’s time to turn them over.


I mixed some cinnamon into organic, low sugar applesauce and used that to top my pancakes.  A sprinkle of sliced almonds was perfect finishing touch.


I hope you will try these recipes the next time you decide to make a flap (jack).






Cookies for Breakfast

Banana Oat Breakfast Cookies 


I love to bake but I am baking a lot less than I used to because cakes and cookies full of sugar and butter don’t do much for my waistline or my cholesterol numbers. When I do bake I want it to be something I can enjoy without guilt. That means low or no sugar treats that contain healthy ingredients like fruit and whole grains.

I stumbled upon this recipe for a breakfast cookie made with just two ingredients – banana and oats and it gave me ideas.  I have modified the original recipe to add a bit more fiber and healthy fat.

  • 1 Tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup plain oats (either old fashioned rolled oats or plain quick oats, either one will work)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine flax seed meal with water and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Mash banana in a small mixing bowl until there are no large chunks remaining.  Add flax mixture, vanilla, and cinnamon and stir to combine.  Add the oats and stir until everything is well mixed.  Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or non stick foil.  Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until set.  (I make 3 large cookies so it takes about 15 minutes.)


I love this recipe because I can eat the whole thing and it’s only about 300 calories. I sometimes add raisins or cacao nibs; add-in’s will obviously raise the calorie count.




Scratching the Can

  • Homemade Vegetable Stock
  • Mexican Cabbage Soup

Everybody loves a nice bowl of soup but most canned soups come with an unhealthy amount of sodium.  The can itself can also be an issue if you are trying to limit your exposure to certain chemicals. These are just two of the reasons that I make a lot of my own soups.

I’ve recently discovered how easy it is to make my own vegetable stock as well so my soups are about as  homemade as you can get.  Here’s how I make the stock and following that you will find a recipe for a Mexican Cabbage Soup I made recently.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to start with canned broth or stock if I’m hoping to avoid sodium and BPA. A money saving bonus here is that I use vegetable scraps that might go down the garbage disposal otherwise.  I just keep a quart size bag in the freezer and any time I cook something with onions, celery, or carrots I save the peels, leafy parts, and scraps in the bag.  When the bag gets full it’s time to make stock.


I add the contents of the bag and any additional vegetables I need (usually an extra carrot or two since I eat carrot peels) to a stock pot with 8 cups of water. I put in about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a bay leaf (or two depending on size), and 6-8 whole peppercorns.  Bring the whole thing to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat so that the contents are just simmering.  Let it simmer for 60-90 minutes or so.


Set a colander into a large bowl and pour in the stock.  I use a potato masher to press down on the veggies and push out as much of the moisture as I can.  My stock can then go in the refrigerator for a few days or into the freezer if I’m not going to use it right away. Here’s my big bowl of homemade stock.  I usually end up with about 6 cups.


Mexican Cabbage Soup

EatingWell is one of my favorite recipe sources so when I saw this recipe I had to give it a try.  Between the cabbage and the beans this soup is full of fiber.  The chipotle pepper, spices, and tomato paste give it a nice deep flavor.  I didn’t have any fresh peppers so I used a can of green chiles.


Fair warning: the chipotles add a lot of heat so go easy if you don’t enjoy that. I mince them them up using one of my favorite kitchen tools; this handy chopper from Pampered Chef.

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The colors of this soup are so pretty if you use the red cabbage and especially if you top it with some cubed avocado (which I recommend because it provides a nice cooling contrast to the chipotle heat!) I also sprinkled on a bit of Mexican enchilada cheese.

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Soup and stocks from scratch are so easy and so healthful.  Why not join me in kicking the can?






Oh, Oh, Overnight Oats

I eat oats almost every day.  Old- fashioned oats, steel cut oats, quick cooking oats; I like them all. Sometimes I even grind up oats in my high speed blender and turn them into flour to create baked goods. The fiber in oats, a great deal of which is soluble (absorbs liquid) has been shown to help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels and to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Here’s my favorite brand of steel cut oats:


Overnight oats are a great way to get a head start on breakfast.  You can make cold versions by soaking oats and other ingredients with milk or yogurt but at this time of year I like to throw my oats in the slow cooker and have a nice hot breakfast ready when I get up in the morning.

Here are a couple of slow cooker oatmeal recipes that I love. These recipes make 2 servings each. I have a small slow cooker (1 quart) that I use to make this amount. If you only have a larger slow cooker you may want to multiply the recipe by 2 or 3 to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Oats

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed (I buy no sugar added variety)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons sweetener of choice (I use maple syrup)
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups water

Add all ingredients except cherries to crockpot and cook overnight on low heat.  Just before eating stir the cherries in. You can top this with coconut, almonds, and your choice of milk.



Banana Bread Crockpot Oatmeal

  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 2 very ripe bananas – mashed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in crockpot. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours. The cinnamon will rise to the top so stir thoroughly before serving.

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One kind of oats that I never buy are the packets of flavored instant oats. While they may be convenient they often have too much sugar and other ingredients I’d rather avoid.  You can save money and control what you put in your body better by buying the big tub of plain old fashioned or quick cooking oats and adding your own fruits and flavorings.

There is no magic to “instant” oats.  I get good results by cooking 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats and one cup of water in the microwave for 90 seconds. Here’s a tip to control portion sizes. Keep a measuring cup (1/2 cup size) in the oat container so you always serve yourself just the right amount. 


Curry Favorites

I love the flavors of curry but oddly enough, I did not make an actual “curry” until just last year. In India “curry” refers to a stew like dish that can be made with almost any kind of meats and/or vegetables and is flavored with a number of highly aromatic spices; which Indian cooks blend themselves.  For these recipes I used a curry powder from the spice shelf at the grocery store. It’s a blend of cumin, coriander, chili powder, and turmeric, among other spices.

My curry powder collection!


Curried Couscous Salad with Dried Sweet Cranberries

This was the first recipe I tried several years ago using curry powder and one that I still enjoy today.  It comes from chef Dave Lieberman and can be found on the Food Network website.

  • 1 (5.8-ounce) box instant couscous*
  • 3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 orange, juiced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on an angle
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Freshly ground pepper

Stir the couscous, cranberries, curry powder, salt, and sugar together in a heatproof bowl. Bring water (amount will be listed on package directions) to a boil and pour it over the couscous. Add the orange juice. Give it a big stir, cover the bowl tightly and let it stand, giving it a big stir once or twice, until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 5 minutes.

Fluff up the couscous with a fork. Add the olive oil, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, and walnuts. Stir around until everything is distributed evenly throughout the couscous. Make up to 2 hours ahead of time and keep at room temperature until you’re ready to serve. Check the seasonings just before you serve the salad and add salt and pepper, to taste.

Note: To toast the walnuts, spread them out on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree F oven until they turn a shade darker, about 8 minutes.

Image result for couscous cranberry salad

* Couscous is a pasta and there are two varieties. The Israeli variety looks like small pearls.  The quick cooking variety is more common in the grocery store and resembles Cream of Wheat or corn meal.  Like all pasta, couscous can be made with either refined white flour or whole grain flour.  Read labels carefully if you are looking for a whole grain product.

Curried Tuna Salad

A few years ago we offered the Tufts University “Strong Women Healthy Hearts” class here at the hospital.  Part of the class was spent in the kitchen teaching participants how to cook healthier meals and this recipe was included with the curriculum.  I’d never considered adding curry powder or fruit to a tuna salad before but believe me, it works.  I’ve even replaced the tuna with chickpeas to make a vegan version on occasion.

  • One 6 ounce can tuna packed in water
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons raisins (I use currants – they are smaller and I like their texture better)
  • 3 Tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)
  1. Drain the tuna
  2. Break up pieces with a fork. Mix in mayonnaise, add remaining ingredients, mix again.
  3. Serve on bread or lettuce leaves. Makes two servings.

The American Heart Association recommends a couple of servings of fish each week and this is a tasty way to get it.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry


So last but not least, here’s a typical curry dish.  I used this recipe from Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes.  I added the last of a bag of green peas and did not use any cilantro. I also throw in a few large handfuls of fresh spinach near the end of the cooking time.

I served this over brown rice. Isn’t it pretty?


Hope this post encourages you to give curry a try!




Comfort-able foods

  • Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup
  • BBQ Lentil Loaf
  • Potato, Cauliflower, and Spinach Mash
  • Applesauce

Cooler weather has me thinking of heartier fare but there is no reason your favorite comfort foods can’t also be lighter in calories. Here are some highly satisfying recipes I’ve tried recently.

Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup

Raw kale can take some getting used to but I have always enjoyed it in soups.  I started with this recipe for Vegetarian Kale Soup, from that packs a lot of nutrition into every bite.

Winter vegetables are still plentiful at our local farmer’s market.  I bought kale, carrots, turnips, and brussels sprouts there this week.  I used both the kale and the greens from the turnips in my soup.  That’s a lot of greens but as you can see here in my before and after shots they wilt down to almost nothing. The second picture was taken after only 2-3 minutes of cooking with lid on.

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I made a few substitutions and alterations to the original recipe in addition to the turnip greens. I substituted fresh chopped tomatoes for the canned and chopped bell pepper for the jarred roasted pepper. I also made my own vegetable broth for the first time using this recipe.  I am looking forward to eating this soup for supper for a few days!


BBQ Lentil Loaf

There are few foods more comforting than meat loaf. I make a pretty darn good one but I wanted to try a plant based version.  I know, I know, lentil loaf sounds like a total vegan cliche but trust me, you will be surprised by this recipe from one of my favorite sources; Brandi Doming’s “The Vegan 8”.

Her blog and website feature recipes with only 8 ingredients or less and she achieves tons of flavor with a minimum of ingredients. Her BBQ Lentil Loaf did not disappoint. I really like the barbecue flavor and the use of cornmeal and corn.  Lentils are one of the easiest legumes for cook from scratch because they do not require soaking but I think you could use canned lentils if you wanted to skip that step.

Speaking of skipping steps have I mentioned that I hate doing dishes?  Here is one trick I use that minimizes clean up.  After sauteeing the onion and garlic I just added all the remaining ingredients to the saute pan to mix. Brandi’s advice about lining the loaf pan with parchment paper also make clean up a little easier!

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Here’s the finished product served with the potato, cauliflower, and spinach mash recipe that follows.


Potato, Cauliflower, and Spinach Mash

I will sometimes make a quick meal of mashed potatoes with wilted spinach.  It’s not much of a recipe.  I just wash and cube a potato and steam the cubes for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes I throw a couple of handfuls of baby spinach on top, cover and steam for an additional 5 minutes.  Drain the mixture and remove the steamer insert.  At this point you can mash with a little milk and add salt and pepper to taste. You can add or substitute cauliflower – just steam the florets along with the potato. Sometime I will also add some feta cheese or nutritional yeast.

To take this to the next level you can use this recipe for Kale and Cauliflower Casserole from Paula Dean’s son Jamie.  I tried it a couple of weeks ago, using green onion in place of the leeks.  I skipped the oil, sauteed the onion and kale in water, and used soy milk. My husband didn’t know the difference and said I could make it again.

Crockpot Applesauce

Apples were on sale this week so I grabbed a couple of bags to make homemade applesauce.  This is so easy to do especially if you leave the skin on the apples as I do.  They add fiber and nutrition.


I don’t add any sugar to my applesauce. My “recipe” consisted of one 3 lb. bag of Honeycrisp apples cut into cubes, 1/2 cup of water, and the juice of one lemon. Combine everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 4 hours.  Then use a potato masher (I like this handy tool that I bought from Pampered Chef) to mash to the consistency you desire.


The cooked applesauce will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or you can freeze up to several months. You can add cinnamon or other flavoring if you like but I left mine plain because I may use it for baking later – applesauce makes a great substitute for oil in muffins and quickbreads.

Hope you enjoyed these recipes.  Let me know if you have any questions or comments.


It’s Chili in Here!

If you are a purist who believes that chili should be made only with ground beef and tomatoes you may wish to stop reading. But, if you have an open mind and are willing to accept that chili might be defined as any hearty stew spiced with chiles in fresh or dried form, then follow me as I broaden your chili horizons.

  • Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili
  • Vegetarian Chili Verde

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili

I love the combination of southwestern spices with the sweet flesh of pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato.  I chose to make this chili with butternut squash but it really could be made with any of the three.

Preparing a butternut squash can be daunting.  I usually just split them in half, clean out the seeds, roast the whole thing in the oven, and then scoop out the flesh. For this recipe I wanted to start with raw squash so that required peeling. I started out by trimming each end of the squash with a heavy knife so I had flat surfaces to work with. Set the squash upright with the heavy end at the bottom.  Start the knife at the top and use both hands rock the knife back and forth, working it down the length of the squash. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.

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Now you can lay the flat side down on your cutting board and use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind.  Once that’s done it’s easy to cut into cubes. This was a huge squash so I had more than enough for chili.  I roasted a portion in the oven (about 40 minutes at 375 degrees) for a lunch side, saved another portion that I steamed and mashed later in the week, and still had enough left to stick in the freezer for another time.  What a bonanza from a $2.00 farmer’s market purchase!

Here is the recipe which I adapted from Cookie and Kate, one of my favorite sources:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 banana or bell peppers, chopped (I used a combination of yellow banana peppers and bell peppers from my garden)
  • 1 small butternut squash (1½ pounds or less), peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 small can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, including the liquid
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (divided)
  • Salt, to taste


In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, warm 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth until simmering. Add the onion, bell pepper and butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are turning translucent.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic, chili powder, chopped chipotle peppers, cumin and cocoa powder. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the black beans, tomatoes, and broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Taste and add salt if needed. I topped this with some chopped avocado which complemented the heat nicely!


Vegetarian Chili Verde

Remember the green salsa I made back in August? I still had a couple of jars left in the freezer and it gave me an idea. A few years ago I tried a chili recipe that used jarred red salsa in place of tomatoes and I wondered what would happen if I used my stash to create a Chili Verde? I found this recipe at The Washington Post website and adapted it to fit what I had on hand.  Here is my version:

  • 2 large poblano chili peppers; seeded and diced
  • 8 ounces red potatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups green salsa (this is where all the heat comes from so choose according to your taste.)
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cans (14 or 15 ounces) no-salt-added white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Heat 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the poblanos, the potato, onion, green salsa, and garlic, stirring to combine. Cover and cook until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the cornmeal, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper, then add the remaining broth, the corn and the beans, stirring to incorporate. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook until the potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, 10 to 20 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed.


The best thing about these recipes is that they are both made with things that are easy to find and not too scary for the meat eaters in your household.  No tofu or TVP just fresh, frozen, canned vegetables and spices from your pantry.