Cukes are Cool

At this time of the year my garden and the farmer’s markets are full of the bounty of summer.  I love seeing all the tomatoes, corn, and zucchini and thinking of the things I can make with them.  Another summer vegetable that I look forward to are cucumbers.  I’m sharing two recipes with you today.  One is an old favorite that I have tweaked a bit and the other is a new one I tried recently that everyone seems to like.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

It wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t make a batch of these almost weekly.  The original recipe calls for white sugar.  There’s  nothing wrong with sugar in small quantities but I almost never have it in the house. Last year I tried substituting agave syrup but the flavor was rather flat. This year I tried honey and I like the results.  This recipe will just about fill a one quart mason jar, depending on how tightly you pack the cucumbers.

  • 1 large or two small cucumbers, peeled and sliced (I like to leave some of the peel on the cucumber – it looks prettier and adds crunch besides retaining the fiber and nutrition in the cucumber peel.)
  • 1 small white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup white sugar or other sweetener
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Begin by combining the sweetener, water, vinegar, and salt in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer and stir until the sweetener is dissolved.  It doesn’t have to boil.


Let this cool and preferably chill in the refrigerator before moving on.  Layer the cucumber and onion in a jar, alternating each and packing tightly until the jar is full.  Pour the cold vinegar and water mixture into the jar until the liquid covers the cucumbers.  Put the lid on it and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

These easy pickles are a favorite of my husband’s.  I hope you enjoy them, too.

Cucumber Salsa

It might surprise you that I do not own a large food processor.  I’m perfectly fine using a knife to do all of my chopping but I was demonstrating this recipe in a park recently and I wanted it to move along a little faster. I went online looking for a vegetable chopper that did not require electricity and found this little darling

It’s rather small, just 4 cups, but it was big enough to make one batch of salsa.  The round green button is a knob that pulls a cord to rotates the blades.  I was doing the demonstration at an event geared toward kids and this device was a big hit. Everyone wanted a turn at pulling the cord.  One thing that I have noticed about kids is that if they are involved in the preparation of a meal, they are much more likely to at least taste the results and this time was no different. We all got a workout, too!

Here are the ingredients for the salsa:

  • One medium cucumber, cut into large chunks
  • One medium bell pepper, cut into large chunks
  • One small white onion, cut into large chunks
  • One medium tomato, cut into large chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cilantro, or to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 large lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the harder vegetables (the cucumber, pepper, and onion) in first and process those a few times before adding the tomatoes.

Add the tomato and process until everything is uniformly diced. Add the jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro last and process a few more times just to blend everything together.

After everything is processed transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the lime juice, dill, salt and pepper. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Of course you could use a regular food processor for this, or just chop your vegetable with a knife.  I wouldn’t recommend a blender, though, as this is meant to be a salsa and should have some chunkiness.

I have eaten this with a spoon but it also goes great with tortilla chips and here’s the other thing.  I try not to keep large bags of chips in the house because they are a weakness of mine.  It works better for me to make my own chips and make just enough for a single portion or two.  To do this cut corn tortillas into triangles, arrange them on a baking sheet and spray or brush them with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt or seasoning and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until crisp.



Cucumber salsa makes a nice, fresh tasting alternative to regular salsa and it’s a great way to use all of the vegetables that are in season right now.

Please let me know if you enjoy these recipes.


A Toast for Summer

Bruschetta (brew-sketta)  is an Italian dish of toasted bread with toppings. It can be eaten as an appetizer, a light lunch, or even as breakfast or dessert.  Although there are many versions of bruschetta that can be prepared at any time of the year my favorites are perfect for summer time.  Here are two recipes that I love.

Classic Bruschetta

In this iconic version the toasted bread is rubbed with a clove of garlic as soon as it comes off the heat.  The garlic melts into the bread and the tomato, onion, and basil topping is spooned over.  Warm crunchy bread topped with cool herbed tomato makes for a mouthful of delicious.

  • 2 cups assorted tomatoes cut into large dice. I usually use Roma tomatoes but almost any type will do. Some people like to squeeze the seeds out of the tomatoes.  I usually leave them in.
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (aren’t the little red onions from my garden cute?)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 loaf rustic Italian or French bread cut into 1/2″ slices.
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, halved

Combine the tomatoes, onion, 3 tablespoons olive oil, basil, and balsamic vinegar in medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. You can make this a couple of hours in advance and leave at room temperature. Stir it occasionally.


Preheat grill or broiler. Lightly oil the bread slices on both sides.  I use this handy sprayer to get a light, even coating of oil.

Place the bread directly on grill (or under the broiler as I did here) and toast; watching carefully so that it does not burn.  Turn and toast the other side.  Take the bread off the grill and immediately rub one side with the peeled garlic clove.

Top toasted bread with tomato mixture and serve. (Alternately you can cut an entire loaf of bread in half crosswise. Toast just the cut side; rub with garlic and top with the tomato mixture. this makes a nice presentation for parties and you can cut slices at the table.)

One variation of this classic dish adds white cannellini beans to the tomato mixture which would make it a perfect light lunch.


Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I tried this slightly sweeter version of bruschetta recently for a weekend breakfast.  It was easy to put together and I could have made it even easier by toasting my bread in the toaster.

There is really not much of a recipe involved. The ingredients are simply:

  • Toasted bread slices
  • Goat cheese
  • Sliced Strawberries
  • Balsamic vinegar (You could boil some balsamic vinegar to reduce it and make a thicker, syrupy topping but I used a bottle of espresso balsamic from one of those fancy vinegar and oil stores.  It was thick enough!)

Toast your bread, spread with a thin layer of the goat cheese, and top with sliced strawberries.  Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the top and garnish with thinly sliced basil.  Lovely!

By the way, did you know that the best way to store any extra herbs, like basil, is to keep them in a glass jar with a little water in the bottom in your refrigerator? It will last for several days like this.

If you’ve never tried bruschetta before you do not know what you’re missing.  Please let me know if you enjoy these recipe.


Let Me Eat Cake!

  • Hot Fudge Cake

I was looking for a healthier cake recipe for Mother’s Day. I wanted something that didn’t have white flour or white sugar and it had to be chocolate! I found this recipe from the EatPlant-Based blog and had to try it.  I substituted coconut sugar for the brown sugar and still got good results.  (You know that most of the brown sugar sold is just white sugar with a little molasses added, right?)



The assembly is rather strange.  There is no sweetener in the cake batter other than the natural sweetness of the applesauce.  The sugar all goes into a hot water mixture that is poured over the cake batter in the pan.


As the cake bakes the batter rises to the top and a pudding forms in the bottom.  Once the cake cools you invert it and serve with the pudding on top (no frosting required!)  Here’s the finished cake.

One note – it’s best to cool the cake completely and then leave it in the pan until it’s ready to serve.  I tried flipping it over onto a plate while it was still slightly warm and the pudding ran all over the place. I ended up flipping it back in and chilling it until the next day. That’s why there are no pretty pictures of it being served.  It was still good!

Stand Up to Diabetes and Heart Disease

Think about how much time you spend sitting down. If you are like many Americans you spend hours every day in front of the television or the computer, in the car, on airplanes, in classrooms, and at your desk or in meetings at work.

Sitting or being inactive for long periods of time is referred to as being “sedentary” and it can have serious health implications. It increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. There are several studies that show that more time spent sitting means a shorter life overall.

If you are sitting down you are not exercising your heart, lungs, and muscles but you may also be damaging your blood vessels. Excessive sitting constricts the arteries in your legs.  This means blood flow is blocked and that can raise blood pressure and contribute to heart disease.

I used to believe that this would never be a problem for me because I am good about exercising but studies show an increased mortality risk related to sitting for long periods of time even in people who also engaged in regular physical activity.

I’ve been working at “not sitting” for a while and here are some of the things that have helped me reduce time spent on my butt:

Set an alarm – I have a fitness tracker with an inactivity alert that reminds me to get up and move. You could do the same thing with your phone, an alarm clock, or a kitchen timer.  Set the alarm for 60 minutes at the most (30 would be better). Every time it goes off stand up.  You could even take a little walk.

Walk and watch – Instead of just sitting in front of the TV, stand up and watch or walk around. I sometimes do laps around the basement while listening to the news. You’d be surprised at how little you miss even if you aren’t watching the screen constantly.

Stand up for other things – I am lucky enough to have a standing desk at work. In fact I am standing as I write this.  I’ve also found that, with a little creativity, I can read while standing by placing my phone or tablet on a shelf in the kitchen.

It doesn’t take much effort to improve sedentary behavior and reduce your health risk. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym or even move much.  You just have to stand up!


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.

Image result for pb2

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?