Archive for the ‘Healthy Cooking’ Category

Is it just me or when you’re away for a few days you come home to find little bits and odds and ends of stuff in the fridge? Does anyone see these things and think to eat them? Are they still edible? Have they turned into a giant hunk of mold in the container? I hate to waste so I always try find a way to use what I have on hand.

My favorite thing to do with odds and ends in the refrigerator is make a pizza.   The danger with using lots of veggies on your pizza is that it’s easy to have a soggy crust.  Read along and I will tell you my tips and tricks for using up your leftovers on a pizza and keeping the crust crispy.

I few days ago, I made my way in to the unknown….the back recesses of the fridge to find all of the these ingredients:  sauteed escarole, oil packed sun dried tomatoes, pitted stuffed olives, cooked mushrooms, pepperoncini, roasted yellow pepper strips and grated parmesan cheese.  I was also lucky enough to find a container of my Mom’s nut free pesto in the freezer.  She makes it at the end of the summer and its delicious.  We had been to the store the day before and stocked up on some fresh veggies as the fridge was more than kind of empty since I had been gone.  We got some chopped kale and some more mushrooms, both of which I sauteed in a large batch to have some to put in my eggs the rest of the week.  I also had some shrimp in the freezer (we love shrimp on our pizza) and some four cheese pizza blend.

You might be afraid to put so many veggies on your pizza for fear that it will never crisp up but the secret to using high water content vegetables is as follows:

  1. Roast veggies on the top of the pizza (as I will do with the kale)
  2. Cook out most of the water (which is what I did with the mushrooms, slowly over medium heat and did not salt them until they were mostly cooked, which roasts them and enhances the flavor)
  3. Literally squeeze the liquid out of the greens (which is what I did with the escarole and do with spinach)
  4. Pat dry anything that is in liquid or oil (the pepperoncini, olives, roasted peppers and the sun dried tomatoes)




The next trick to a crispy crust is a pizza stone or an overturned large baking sheet if you don’t have a pizza stone and a very high oven temperature.  Long before you start building your masterpiece, put the pizza stone in the oven at 450 degrees to heat all the way through.  It’s going to take a good 25-30 minutes to heat to 450.  If you are using a baking sheet overturned, it only takes about five minutes.  The key to a crisp crust is sliding the dough on to a hot surface to set it right away.

If you have a pizza peel, use it.  If you don’t, you can use a second overturned baking sheet in it’s place.  Cornmeal.  Cornmeal is the key to success with all pizza but especially a heavy one laden with deliciousness.  Sprinkle your peel (or second baking sheet) with a generous amount (at least 2 tablespoons) of cornmeal and spread it around to the edges of the peel.  Stretch your dough as thin as possible, leaving a nice edge for the crust and lay it on your pizza peel.  Now shake the peel.  Does the crust move freely back and forth?  If not, lift up the crust gently where it’s stick and through some cornmeal in there.  Shake it again…does it move?  You’re in good shape.

The next step is to layer appropriately.  I start with the pesto (obviously) in a very thin layer and then the dried vegetables that don’t need to be cooked, just heated including the escarole, sun dried tomatoes, olives and roasted peppers.  It’s important NOT to put anything that needs to be cooked (such as raw chicken, shrimp, raw mushrooms etc) under the veggies and cheese on the pizza because by the time the crust is crisp and the cheese is melted the raw food will not be cooked through, it will steam being trapped under the cheese and veggies and will cause the crust to be soggy.  Now is time to shake your crust again to be sure it moves freely.  If not, through some more cornmeal under the crust.  This is going to be a heavy pizza with all of the stuff on it so periodically, make sure it moves.





The next layer is the remaining veggies, all but the kale, the cheese and the raw protein.  Keep in mind, however, that unless chicken, for example is cut very small it may not cook through, even on the top of the pizza.  Seafood, shrimp and/or scallops are a good bet because they cook so quickly as is any other cooked protein.  Time to add the shrimp and then sprinkle with some grated parmesan.

And finally the kale.  I love crispy kale so it’s the perfect veggie to top the pizza.  Cooked broccoli is also a good bet as both kale and broccoli get very crisp when exposed to high heat.  Then some dried rosemary/oregano/ thyme or whatever you have on hand and some kosher salt and pepper.


Shake your pizza on the peel once again and if it moves freely, you are all set.  If not, you know what to do.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until shrimp is cooked through and crust is golden brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and let pizza sit for 5 minutes for the cheese to set up and so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth because you’re going to want to eat this pizza as soon as possible!




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20160127_195207.jpgI usually work night and have been traveling quite a bit lately for work and cooking adventures so I was very excited about a night at home and time too cook a meal for my family!  Here’s the perfect recipe even for the pickiest of eaters.  Hands on time is quick, cooking time is fairly fast and you don’t have to do much to have a wonderful dinner that the leftovers are as good as the meal, easy to reheat and simple to make for a small crowd.

I adore chicken thighs.  They are inexpensive (12 pc for 7.20 at Market Basket), delicious, meaty, moist and tender and usually I use my good friend Doug Keiles’ line of rubs (http://www.ribswithin.com/products/) on the meat and put them on the grill or in the oven on a sheet pan and all is right with the world.

Tonight however, I decided that I wanted to make something to go with pasta with Meyer Lemon Oil, parsley and spicy roasted broccoli, which are two favorites in my family and I had the pleasure of not only my immediate family for dinner but Famous Chicka (my niece, Sarah) and my daughter’s best friend Ashley who is a culinary student at Lily’s school for expert assistance.  It’s remarkable how fast you can get things done with extra hands chopping, slicing and stirring!

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Meyer Lemons and Olives

2 tablespoon olive oil

10-12 bone in skin on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons dried Italian Seasoning

2 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed

1 cup dry white wine

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup pitted brined olives (use whatever you have on hand)

2 Meyer Lemons (or regular if you don’t have Meyer), one thinly sliced and seeds removed and one zested and juiced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

With a knife or kitchen shears, remove any excess skin from chicken.  Season chicken liberally with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, Italian seasoning and crushed rosemary.

In a large, heavy Dutch Oven (I use the Le Creuset 9.5 quart French Oven) over medium high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering and nearly smoking.  Place chicken thighs, six at a time, skin side down in hot pan and brown for 5-6 minutes until skin is browned.  Remove from pan to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining chicken.

Drain all but 3 tablespoons fat from pan, reduce heat to medium and add wine to the pan, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan while stirring.  Add shallots and cook until shallots are softened, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.  Add olives and Meyer lemon slices, zest, juice and chicken broth to the pan.  Add chicken back to the pan, skin side up in a single layer.  Cover pan with lid or aluminum foil and place in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until chicken is cooked through and reaches 165 degrees F.

Remove from oven and set aside, uncovered, for 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

I served mine with spicy broccoli (toss bite sized broccoli pieces in olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, place on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees F for 8-10 minutes until slightly charred and softened) and pasta (I used the high protein) tossed with Meyer lemon oil, fresh parsley, freshly cracked pepper and topped with parmesan cheese.

Another veggie that I thing is under appreciated is escarole.  If you sautee it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and some garlic, its initial bitterness and then sweetness on the palate is the perfect accompaniment to the meal and I often toss it with the pasta.


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Quick Brined Pork with Blueberry Rosemary Pans SauceHello friends!  I was approached by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to create a recipe that challenged me to experiment with different and interesting flavor pairings for blueberries beyond the typical pairing of blueberries with lemon.  I was “berry” excited to take up this challenge because I love blueberries all year round!  Not only are they delicious, but the nutritional content of blueberries is reason enough to eat them by themselves.  Check out the website littlebluedynamos.com for more delicious blueberry ideas!  This is an easy to make but pretty enough for your holiday table recipe and you will be asked for this recipe…trust me!  This sauce would also be amazing on chicken.  Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


Quick Brined Pork Tenderloins With Blueberry Rosemary Pan Sauce

pork blueberry rosemary brine photo

First, make the brine:

2 cups apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1 large sprig rosemary
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Pour hot mixture in to a non-reactive bowl.   Fill a large measuring cup or bowl with four cups of ice and top ice with cold water to total five cups.  Pour ice and water in to hot brine mixture and stir.  When ice is melted, add pork, cover and refrigerate for two-three hours.

pork rosemary blueberry brine pan seared

2-1 pound pork tenderloins, cleaned
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup tawny port
1 cup apple cider
1 large rosemary sprig
2 cups frozen highbush blueberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons salted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a baking sheet lightly brushed with olive oil in the oven on the middle shelf.

Remove pork tenderloins from brine and pat dry.

Preheat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat with two tablespoons olive oil until oil is nearly smoking. Season pork lightly with salt and pepper. Sear pork on all sides and place in oven to cook fully, about 15-20 minutes.

When pork is cooked to at least 145 degrees (for medium) allow pork to rest for at least five to ten minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, reduce heat to medium low and deglaze hot pan with port and cider, holding the rosemary sprig with tongs and scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan while stirring.

blueberry pork sauce 11
Reduce heat to med low and add blueberries, stirring occasionally, and cook until liquid is reduced by half.

blueberry pork sauce 1

Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 4 tablespoons butter to pan and stir until mixture is thickened and syrupy and butter is melted, stirring again with the rosemary sprig and allowing it to cook in the pan with the blueberries.  Some rosemary leaves will fall off of the sprig and in to the sauce–that’s ok.

blueberry pork sauce 1111Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

blueberry pork sauce dinner

Slice pork on the diagonal for a lovely presentation and drizzle sauce over sliced pork. Serve immediately.  I served roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach with garlic with the pork and it made for a wonderful meal.  This pork and blueberry sauce combo is also excellent over a spinach salad, topped with crumbled goat cheese…YUM!



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The US High Bush Blueberry Council challenged me to make a blueberry recipe for Christmas.  Have been intrigued with the idea of making a Pavlova for a very long time because of my love for meringue cookies at Christmas time so I thought–how about adding some lovely blueberries and one of my favorite holiday treats, Meyer lemon to the mix–my wonderful friends from the West and South send me them in the mail–that means the world to me.  This is an impressive yet very very easy dessert that you can make ahead of time and assemble when you are ready to serve.  Although it takes some time, it is not active time so you can get a lot of other holiday “business” taken care of while it cooks and rests.


5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8th teaspoon salt
1 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 oz chopped white chocolate
1 cups frozen High Bush blueberries
2 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons) zested & juiced
Sweetened whipped cream
Confectioner’s sugar for garnish

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Draw a 9” circle on a piece of parchment paper with a pencil (I used a small plate), turn the paper over and place on a baking sheet.  Set aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (save the yolks for making shortbread cookies for Santa!) and beat the whites and salt on high speed until the mixture is stiff and holds a firm peak.

With the mixer on high, slowly pour in the sugar and beat until whites are thick and glossy.

By hand, fold in vanilla extract, vinegar, cornstarch and white chocolate until mixture is well blended and streak free.

Spoon mixture on to the prepared baking sheet in a circle and form a peak in the center.

Mixture will be very thick, like marshmallow cream.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Turn off oven and allow pavlova to sit in the oven until oven is cool.

Meanwhile, combine blueberries, Meyer lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan.  Over low heat, simmer blueberries until they are bright red and syrupy, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add remaining two tablespoons sugar to mixture and continue to simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.  Taste blueberry syrup and add a bit more sugar if necessary as tartness varies in both blueberries and Meyer lemons.  Set syrup aside to cool

When ready for dessert, gently carve the top few inches off of the top of the pavlova (a serrated steak knife works well).

Fill the center with the blueberry mixture, drizzling some over the edge of the pavlova.  Top blueberries with whipped cream and place cut out top over whipped cream and crown with a bit more berries.

Your friends and family will be so impressed!  This dessert is light and sweet yet satisfying and is a great way to incorporate nutrient rich blueberries in to the dead of Winter!

For more fabulous blueberry recipes, go to littlebluedynamos.com

Happy Holidays!

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Admit it, resistance to these rolls would be futile!  But that’s ok when these delicious rolls are made from hearty and healthy whole grain flours and products from Hodgson Mill!  I have been challenged by this wonderful company, Hodgson Mill,  to create a holiday recipe for their blogger contest entitled “Have A Grain Holiday” so instead of making cookies or cake, a pie or something sweet, made rolls.

Now don’t get all worked up and say “But I can’t bake bread, never mind rolls!  They are too hard…and I don’t know how to use yeast!”  Well guess what….below are step by step instruction with photos to go with them to make these delicious treats…….so relax and give it a try!

These are much more than dinner rolls.  Slightly sweet with a touch of molasses, these rolls are perfect for a celebratory dinner,  hot out of the oven,  for the holiday buffet (no one will know or care that they are eating healthy whole grains),  for lunch for using up leftover turkey or slices or holiday roast in a sandwich and the next day for a light breakfast–see what I made for myself this morning below!  Also super fabulous for a holiday brunch with a little maple butter (softened butter mixed with a few tablespoons pure maple syrup) served right next to them….the possibilities are endless!   They are sitting on my kitchen counter, all wrapped up, as I baked them yesterday….what do you think…..try making little French toast with them on Wednesday when I have time for a proper breakfast?  How about bread pudding end of the week if they last that long, which is highly unlikely as my Mom says they reminder her of her Mother’s oatmeal rolls growing up!

So without further delay, here’s the recipe and step by step how to guide:

First, assemble your ingredients:

2 cups cold water
1 cup old fashioned oats, plus one tablespoon for sprinkling
1/3 cup warm (100-110 degrees F)
1 package Hodgson Mill Yeast (great for whole grains!)
1/3 cup molasses
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Flour
2-3 cups Hodgson Mill All Purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk for brushing (optional if keeping recipe veg/vegan)

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil and add oats.

Cook and stir for 2 minute until oats are softened.

Remove from the heat; cool to lukewarm (I put mine outside for a quick cool down as it was 34 degrees!)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water with a drop of the molasses.

Allow to become foamy and active in a warm place, about 10 minutes.

To the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, in a food processor with the plastic kneading blade attached or in a large bowl, add the oat mixture, olive oil, molasses, salt and Hodgeson Mill Whole Wheat Flour and 1 1/2 cups of the Hodgeson Mill white flour; beat until smooth.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Continue to beat/process slowly until surface of dough is soft and elastic adding more flour little by little until dough is no longer sticky.

Knead about 3-4 minutes on low speed or turn dough on to a floured surface and knead by hand until ball of dough is smooth and elastic, about 7-9 minutes.

Place dough in a large bowl that has been lightly coated with cooking spray or additional olive oil (or just wash out the one you were using before) cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  This picture is of the dough before it has doubled in size….it literally does double in size–just be sure it is in a warm spot, out of drafts or the yeast will not be happy.

When doubled in size, punch dough down and allow to rest, covered for 10 minutes.

Spray or butter two 9” x 13” casserole dishes (preferably clear glass so you can see what is going on when they are baking) and set aside.

Shape dough into 30-two inch balls.

Tops of rolls will be smooth if you flatten the ball, and then pull the edges together like a purse, placing the gathered sided down in the prepared pan, 15 to a pan.

This is what the bottom of the roll will look like:

And this is the top of the roll:

Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (you can preheat the oven and put them on top, that would work) until doubled, about 45 minutes.   Brush tops of risen rolls lightly with milk and sprinkle with oats–this part is optional if you are making them vegetarian/vegan.

This is what they look like before the rise in the pan:

And this is what they look like after the rise:

See how they are touching and have again nearly doubled in size?

Bake at 350° in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. If you have an instant read thermometer and are nervous that they are not cooked through, the internal temperature of the roll in the middle of the pan needs to be about 195 degrees F and they will be perfect.

Yield: 30 rolls
This is what I had for breakfast…..toasted oatmeal rolls with goat cheese and holiday spiced pear and cranberry jam….so delicious!  These rolls also make excellent egg sandwiches with cheese and bacon.

And what about using them for the leftover roast or turkey sandwiches I mentioned earlier?  How about a beef and horseradish sauce sandwich with lettuce and cheddar?  Oh yes….that’s the ticket!

So, just when you thought this blog post couldn’t get more delicious or interesting, there’s more!  Hodgson Mill is sponsoring a sweepstakes on their blog–the winner gets a great prize package filled with a ton of their wholesome baking ingredients and they are giving away 50–yes 50 of them so your chances are really good.  And they are drawing the winners on the 10th of December, just in time for holiday baking!  Here’s the link:


But wait, there’s more!  Last but not least, I am offering $25.00 worth of Hodgson Mill products to give away too!  Simply comment below before Friday, November 30th at 9:00 what you would make with delicious whole grain Hodgson Mill products, share my giveaway on Facebook and/or Tweet it for more entries and you might just win!  I will have the fabulous Lily draw the name out of a hat as usual!  And because the people at Hodgson Mill are in the holiday spirit, here’s the link to a printable $1.00 off coupon too!


Good luck to all and please, let me know if you make these yummy rolls!

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Hi Friends!  Get ready for a barrage of blueberry recipes coming at you.  I am participating a blueberry recipe contest for bloggers and have been creating some really fun dishes using this delicious and really nutritious fruit.

This recipe is great because not only does it use lots of blueberries, but when the salad is all put together, you have an explosion of color on your plate.   You might think that making your own marinade and salad dressing is challenging, but believe me, read through the recipe, gather your ingredients and try it.  I would love to know what you think.  So without further delay, here’s my recipe:

Summer Splendor Balsamic Blueberry & Pork Salad with Double Duty Blueberry Vinaigrette

For the Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3-4 teaspoons honey, to taste
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Zest of one lemon
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons white wine
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, combine shallot, mustard, honey, blueberries, lemon zest and juice, white wine and basil.  Pulse until combined and basil is finely chopped.  Drizzle in olive and canola oil until emulsified and dressing is bright in color.

Season with salt and pepper to taste–the mixture will be bright blueish pink and look delicious!   Pour one half of the dressing in to a zip top bag and set aside.  Reserve remaining dressing and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Salad:

1 1/4-1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, cleaned
2 cups fresh bluberries, divided
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1-10 oz bag mixed baby greens
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes

Place pork tenderloin in zip top bag that contains half of the blueberry vinaigrette and shake to coat.  Refrigerate pork for at least 2 but up to 6 hours.

In the meantime, about a half hour before serving, take pork out of the refrigerator, keeping it in the marinade, and allow to come to room temperature before grilling.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups blueberries, balsamic vinegar and sugar and bring to a simmer.  Cook until most of the blueberries have burst, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium high.  Remove pork from blueberry marinade, pat dry and discard marinade–yes, the pork will be a bit pink.

Brush the grill with vegetable oil. Place tenderloin on the center of the grill, cover and cook 12-15 minutes, turning every 2-3 minutes until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F.

Remove pork from the grill to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing in to 1/2” slices.

Toss salad greens with goat cheese, tomatoes and desired amount of blueberry vinaigrette and serve on one large platter or individual serving plates.  Top greens with sliced pork tenderloin, spoon balsamic blueberries over pork and sprinkle remaining fresh blueberries over salad.  Enjoy!  Serves 3

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Good afternoon friends!

Thank you all so much for coming out to see our food demos at the Expo on Saturday.  It meant a lot to have you there and I am so glad that both Lily and I made lots of samples to hand out–you guys were hungry!

So here is the recipe I promised you all.   Remember, if you and your family are not fans of a particular ingredient, feel free to substitute or opt not to add whatever it is.  Just as long as you like pasta, cheese and some spices and some type of veggies you will be ok!

Please feel free to email me with any questions and I will happily help you!  And if you make either of these, please let us know what you think.

Kid Friendly Southwestern Mac & Cheese 

4 tablespoon canola or olive oil, divided
1 cup diced red, green, yellow bell peppers (use whatever you like)
1 cup diced sweet onion
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon sweet chili powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1 cup corn kernels (canned or frozen defrosted is fine)
1 cup drained rinsed canned black beans
2-14.5 oz boxes Pasta Plus (yellow, purple or green box) Pasta
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups 1% milk
3 cups shredded reduced fat Mexican blend cheese
2 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 cup crushed reduced fat tortilla chips
Salt & pepper to taste

In a medium skillet over medium, heat one tablespoon of canola oil until shimmering.  Add peppers and onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add spices and toss or stir to coat, cooking for a few more minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in corn and black beans.  Set aside.

In a large pot, cook pasta in well salted water.  Drain, toss with a bit of oil to prevent sticking and set aside.

In a large sauce pan, combine remaining 3 tablespoons of oil with flour and whisk over medium heat until lightly browned.  Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking constantly.  Reduce heat to low and slow incorporate all of the shredded cheese.  Stir until smooth and creamy.  Add white pepper and check seasoning of sauce–add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked pasta and vegetables to the cheese sauce and stir to combine.  Stir in chopped cilantro and top with crushed tortilla chip crumbs (if ready to serve).   Serve immediately or transfer to an oven safe dish, wrap tightly and freeze.  Enjoy!

And now for Lily’s fabulous:

Chocolate Strawberry Goodness Pie

One package chocolate graham crackers (about 10 crackers), crushed to yield about 1 1/2 cups
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
l-large box instant chocolate fudge pudding (uses 2 1/2 cups milk to make the whole box)
2 1/2 cups 1% milk
8 oz (one cup) semisweet chocolate
5 whole strawberries plus 2 cups chopped
Whipped cream 

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in the food processor or in a large bowl and mix well until combined.   Press into 9” pie plate.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.  Cool completely.
Combine pudding mix and milk and whisk until combined.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and stir until smooth and creamy.  Paint the cooled crust with the melted chocolate and dip the whole strawberries in the chocolate to coat.  Set berries aside on parchment paper to harden and cool.

When ready to assemble pie, spread sliced strawberries over chocolate coating on pie crust.  Spoon prepared pudding over strawberries and smooth.

Decorate pie as desired and garnish with chocolate covered strawberries and whipped cream.

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As it often happens, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season ends with my girl sniffling and blowing her nose, wrapped on the couch in quilts and this year was no exception.  When I asked her what she would like for dinner she said corn chowder so I figured the least I could do to make her feel better is whip up a batch.  So here is the end result:

Corn Chowder for Lily

8 cups chicken broth
3 pounds potatoes, washed and diced
8 oz bacon, diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4-15 oz cans corn, drained
2-15.25 oz cans creamed corn
1/2 gallon 2% or whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup Wondra flour (optional)
White pepper to taste
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, bring diced potatoes to boil in chicken stock.  Allow to cook until fork tender but not soft.  Be sure to check doneness after about 7 minutes.

Set yourself up a colander with a bowl or pan underneath to catch the chicken broth when you drain the potatoes.  Drain potatoes and set them and the cooking broth aside.

In the Dutch oven render the bacon over medium low heat until the meat is crispy.  Remove the meaty bits with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Increase heat to medium and add the onion, celery and thyme and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in the flour and allow vegetables to cook down until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add drained corn to pan and stir to combine.  Cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the reserved chicken broth and the creamed corn to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the milk (you don’t have to add all of it) and the heavy cream.

At this point you can slowly whisk in the Wondra flour by sprinkling it slowly in to the liquid, whisking constantly.  The Wondra flour will give the chowder a lovely “velvety” consistency–I learned this little trick from Gail “ The Chowder Lady” Matthews.

Bring the chowder to serving temperature, add some white pepper if you want to and re-season with salt and pepper and use the crispy bacon as garnish in individual bowls or just put it back into the pot and stir.

And look at that–Lily is feeling better–I think the soup helped!

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Once in a while an offer comes along that is too good to refuse.   I have lots of foodie friends who keep me connected when there are contests and giveaways to enter, especially when there is free food involved.  To that end, Marx Foods (http://marxfoods.com/) offered food bloggers 5 wonderful sample packs of their dried mushrooms if they agreed to participate in their Blogger Mushroom Recipe Challenge (http://marxfood.com/mushroom-recipe-challenge/).

You know me, never one to back down from a challenge so this is what I came up with, bearing in mind four things:

1.  Lil and I have a crazy life lately–like that is something new, right?–and having something I can freeze part of to eat at a later date works for us

2.  The weather is getting cooler at night and some comfort food was on my agenda to make anyway

3.  I had lots of odds and ends of cheese in the fridge that needed to be used

4.  I have sneaky ways of making comfort foods much healthier than the traditional version but still very very delicious!  I love a good mac and cheese but adding the reconstituted dried mushrooms and a bit of the mushroom “broth” gave this classic a whole new dimension of deliciousness!  And not one person can tell that I slipped in the high fiber pasta for the traditional

Multi Marx Mushroom Mac & Cheese!

1/2 cup dried Marx Porcini Mushrooms

1/2 cup dried Marx Black Trumpet Mushrooms

2 cups low fat milk

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 pounds light or reduced fat cheese, cut in to small cubes or shredded–I had about four ounces Muenster, mozzarella, a bunch of sharp cheddar and American in the fridge so that’s what I used, all light or reduced fat versions except the Muenster

2 -one pound boxes pasta–I used one box of Pasta Plus (the pasta in the yellow box) and then I found a new type of pasta–it is in a green box and it is multi colored–orange/tan/green veggie pasta with a full serving of veggies in every serving and full of vitamins and fiber but you can use regular pasta too!

1- 6 oz package fresh sliced crimini mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt  & pepper to taste

Place dried Marx mushrooms in separate small bowls or cups.  Cover mushrooms with boiling water and set aside to reconstitute while you are getting everything else organized.

In a large pan, whisk together milk and flour.  Bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally–mixture will thicken slightly:

In a large pot cook pasta in well salted boiling water–drain when cooked to al dente and set aside–be sure to read package directions as the whole grain pasta cooks differently than traditional.   When drained, pour pasta in to a large bowl and set aside.

Drain dried mushrooms through a fine sieve, reserving liquid.  Pat dry, chop and set aside-these are the black trumpet mushrooms.

When milk and flour mixture is at a low boil, reduce heat to medium low and slowly stir in cheese, a little at a time until melted.  Add more cheese and continue until sauce is thick and velvety.  Whisk a few tablespoons of the mushroom liquid in to the cheese sauce to spread that rich mushroom flavor all throughout the dish.  I froze the rest of the mushroom “broth” and can’t wait to use it the next time I make soup.

In the meantime, in another pan melt butter in a large saute pan and brown mushrooms over medium low heat.   Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

When all of the cheese is incorporated in to the sauce, pour over cooked pasta and mix well.  Add all mushrooms and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I divided this batch up into three casserole dishes, put crumbs on two, wrapped them well and froze them.  At this point you can add seasoned and buttered cracker or bread crumbs over the top if you wish.  We ate the rest very happily two dinners in a row without the crumbs–delicious!

And there you have it–rich, delicious, earthy, comforting, nutritious, easy, cheesy and YUMMY!

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Good Morning Friends:

I have a contest entry in the LeCreuset True Memories contest and need your support–here’s the link to the post and for those of you who noticed how cool it is the AM and started thinking that a nice pot of soup might be nice in the near future, here’s the recipe for the soup I referred to in the entry–If you would be so kind as to go and vote for my entry, in return I give you this delicious and healthy soup recipe~:


Hearty Southwestern Fire Roasted Tomato Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
4 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
8 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons jarred or homemade roasted garlic
3-14.5 oz cans Diced Tomatoes
2-14.5 oz cans Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1-14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies
1-14.5 oz box whole wheat or high fiber white pasta
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt & pepper to taste plus additional salt for pasta water
Reduced fat sour cream (optional)
Fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)

On the stovetop in a large Dutch, combine onions and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Cook slowly over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes.  Add roasted garlic, red and green peppers and 2 teaspoons cumin and cook until peppers are softened, about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

With an immersion or conventional blender, puree cooked vegetable mixture until smooth.  Return puree to the pan and add chicken broth, Diced Tomatoes, Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes and Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies and stir to combine.  Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

While soup is simmering, sprinkle remaining cumin and chili powder over chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper.  Saute chicken with one tablespoon olive oil until cooked through, about 10 minutes, depending on thickness of breasts.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes and cut into cubes.

Meanwhile, in another large pot filled with salted boiling water, cook entire box of pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

After soup is simmered, add diced chicken, pasta and fresh cilantro.  Reheat if necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top individual servings with one tablespoon sour cream and fresh cilantro springs, if desired.

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