Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stuffed Acorn Squash

 This is another attempt to cook healthier! And I have to say , even though I had my doubts about this, I am so glad I persevered.  This was a delicious meal and I would make it again in a heartbeat!!


adapted from Skinny Taste

2 large acorn squash, cut in half
olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup uncooked pearl farro, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb. raw Italian chicken sausage
1/2 T. olive oil
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
parsley for garnish.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush the cut side of the acorn squash with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet  and pour 1/4 cup water on the bottom of the sheet.  Cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minuted, depending on the size of the squash.  Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.  Remove from oven.

Roasted fresh from the oven

While the squash is in the oven, start cooking the farro in chicken groth, according to the package directions.

At the same time cook the chicken sausage in a large saute pan over medium heat, breaking up hte meat into small pieces while it browns.  Set aside when it is thoroughly cooked.

Add olive oil to the pan and add the onion, saute 1 minute, add the celery, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the celery is soft, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring 5 minutes, then cook covered for 2 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juice and are cooked through. Return the cooled sausage and and the cooked farro to the saute pan and mix well.

Farro Stuffing

Divide the farro stuffing evenly between the roasted acorn squash and serve.

Healthy and so very good!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Inside-Out Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins - low sugar and low fat

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have been cooking a lot of soup lately, but it just didn't seem right share something that didn't have a connection to Thanksgiving, so luckily I have just the right thing!  I made these earlier in the week and they were delicious. I had picked up a container of Philadelphia cream cheese recently at the store - it was a limited edition flavor. Yes that was all it took for me to grab it - I had to try it before it was gone! And with a label of "brown sugar and cinnamon" - well how could I pass it up?  That's right - I couldn't!

I really had no idea what I was going to do with it but then a series of events occurred.  First of all, I had cooked some sugar pie pumpkins and had that wonderful fresh pumpkin just waiting to be baked into that perfect something.  And of course I have a thing for muffins  - they are just the ideal breakfast food... easy to eat, tasty, and filling.  And they complement a cup of coffee perfectly!  So it was inevitable that the pumpkin (the first I have ever cooked!) and the cream cheese blended to make this fall treat.

A new favorite!


adapted from the King Arthur website

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (or canned)
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. applesauce
1/4. cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 1/2 c. regular brown sugar)
1/4 cup boiled cider (King Arthur)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1.4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. baking spice (Penzeys Spices)
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda (if using Splenda blend; decrease by 1/4 tsp if using regular brown sugar)
1/3 cup milk (I used vanilla Coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 container of spreadable brown sugar-cinnamon Philadelphia cream cheese
2 packets Truvia for a little extra sweetness

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line a muffin tin or spray with a non stick spray.

For the batter, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, Splenda baking bland, applesauce, boiled cider, and all of the better ingredients except for the flour..  Mix until well combined.

Add the flour and continue mixing until completely blended.

For the filling, I just took the flavored cream cheese and stirred it until smooth and then added t packets of Truvia in order go sweeten it up just a little.

Take about 2 Tbsp. of the batter and spoon it into each greased or lined muffin cup. Be sure it covers the bottom of the cup. Then drop a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese filling onto the center of the batter, then cover with the remaining batter, about another 2 tablespoons each.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.   These muffins taste even better the second day The pumpkin flavor seems to intensify upon standing.

The healthy ingredients!

Fresh sugar pie pumpkin!

The batter with cream cheese filling. More batter went on top before baking.

A plate of goodness...

A sneak peek ...

This picture says it all.....

I wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings - and am so very grateful for my family, my friends, and the many blessings in my life that brighten each and every day.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Different Chicken Soup

We are finally getting a little more Fall like weather in southern CA., so it's time for more comfort food.  I love making pots of stew and soup and beans and just about anything that simmers for a while and fills the house with those intoxicating smells that transport you back to wonderful memories and make your tummy growl!

This is one of those recipes. It is a modern version of chicken soup.  You can certainly use noodles instead of the farro, but I love the nutty, earthy flavor that it adds, and it's good for me too!

Now those are delicious ingredients...

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP (minus the noodles!)

Adapted from "In the Kitchen with David"

2 Tbsp. garlic olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large leek, halved and sliced  (include the light green part too)
1-2 cups baby carrots, sliced in thirds
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups rough chopped spinach
1 - 3 lb. rotisserie chicken, deboned, skinned and shredded or chunked
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. fresh lemon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup farro, uncooked.
2 tsp. salt or Borsari salt (my preference)
2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Cook the farro according to package directions and set aside.

In a large stockpot, heat the garlic olive oil and saute the onion, leek, carrots celery and garlic until the vegetables are soft, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the chicken, broth, cooked farro, thyme and bay leaf and simmer until the mixture is hot and flavors have blended.  Season with the salt and pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.  Remove the bay leaf and ladle into mugs or bowls.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with warm bread.

**This soup can be made with 8 oz. wide egg noodles, rice, barley, orzo, or anything else that you like.

I served the soup with toasted hearty grain bread with melted gouda cheese

I was thrilled that this lasted several nights. And I have some waiting for me in the freezer 
when another craving hits...

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Banana Toffee Streusel Muffins

I have had a large quantity of bananas in my kitchen lately and I keep forgetting to use them before they get too ripe. I love them when they are right at the in between stage of not too green and not too yellow. I kow that is weird, but I never liked eating really ripe bananas .  However, the benefit of a very ripe banana is that you can peel them and put them in the freezer to thicken smoothies, or just put them in the refrigerator after peeling . They will keep at least a week and make fabulous baked goods. So perhaps I am ignoring them on purpose so I HAVE to bake something yummy?  Hmmmm.........

Well however you end up with overripe bananas, this recipe is a must try.  If you don't have muscovado sugar, just use regular dark brown sugar. But let me just say - you haven't had your taste buds tantalized until you have tried this deeper, darker, molasses laden sugar.  I was prepared not to like it.  The scent of molasses was a bit overpowering when I opened the box and I was afraid it would overpower the muffins. But I could not have been more wrong.  It added a depth of flavor that made me want to savor each bite.  It was one of the best muffins I have ever made (until the next one!)

Cast of characters


adapted from Table for Two


2/3 cup muscovado sugar (I use Billington's)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 medium ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla bean crush or vanilla extract
2 cups white-whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Look at those decadent toffee pieces in the topping mixture.  I could eat the whole bag!!


1 cup flour
1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the muffin tins with non stick cooking spray or line with baking cup; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and muscovado sugar until creamy and fluffy.  Add the bananas, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat well until well blended.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Spoon batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins.

Partially filled muffin tins.

To prepare the streusel, combine all of the topping ingredients except the toffee bits.  Mix well then stir in the toffee bits.  Generously spoon the mixture over the tops of the muffin batter and gently press into the batter.

Batter with the topping in place!

Bake 18-25 minutes or until light golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before removing muffins from the pan.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Fresh out of the oven.

A closeup of that streusel goodness.  The muffin and topping are equally delicious!

A plate of muffins to share!

And one left for!!

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gorgonzola Cheese Ball and Chocolate!!

No I am really not recommending that you eat the two together!  But they were served in one within a few hours of each other, which I am sure makes the title more palatable!

This cheese ball is a hit whenever I bring share it with friends or family and it is SO easy to make.  The original recipe calls for toasted pecans which add a delicate nutty flavor, but since I had guests that were not crazy about a nut coating, I used chopped chives, straight from the garden.  I love being able to pick fresh herbs as I need them.

So this is how the evening began...... I cannot even find the words to tell you how tantalizing (and somewhat addicting!) this is.

Disclaimer:  Yes I blew it. I was so intent on getting everything done that I totally forgot to take pics of the ingredients and all of the steps for both recipes.. So feel free to use your most vivid imagination!

Almost ready to be served....


adapted from Best of the Best Fast And Fabulous Party Foods and Appetizers

1/2 stick butter, softened
1 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened (I used the low fat variety)
1 - 8 oz. pkg. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 - 8 oz. can chopped ripe olives
1/2 cup. fresh coarsely chopped chives OR
1/2 cup  coarsely chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and gorgonzola cheese on low speed until very smooth. Stir in olives and chives and chill.

When firm, shape the mixture into a ball and chill until ready to serve (this can be done the day before).

Before serving, roll in either the chopped chives or toasted chopped pecans.  Because I had company who did not like nuts, I used the chives and it was delicious. It is equally delicious with the toasted pecans.

Serve with an array of crackers and apple slices.

Honeycrisp apples and multigrain crackers adorn the cheese ball. YUM!

After dinner we came  home to celebrate some special occasions.  I neglected to get photos as we cut into these delicacies because I think we were all too engrossed in watching the stream of chocolate 
flow out of these little indulgent cakes.  O.......M........G!!!

So forgive me for not including the luscious chocolate river..... but just use your imagination!

Delicious blend of ingredients.....


adapted from Best of the Best Recipe Hall of Fame Guilty Pleasures

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghirardeli - easy to find)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs, room temperature
3 egg yolks, room temperature
6 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. flour
Garnish with fresh raspberries and créme fraiche

Preheat oven to 375.  Butter and flour 6 - 6 oz. custard cups. Set aside.  In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate with butter over low  heat.  Let cool slightly.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs, egg yolks and sugar.  Beat until mixture is pale and a ribbon dissolves quickly when the beaters are lifted, about 10-12 minutes of med. high beating.  Add vanilla and salt.  Beat in flour.  Add chocolate mixture and beat until thick adn glossy, about 5 minutes.  Pour batter equally into the cups. (At this point the cups can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight or frozen for a short time.)

When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator or freezer, place on a baking sheet, and immediately in the preheated oven.  Bake until each cake is set around the edges, but moves slightly in center, about 10 minutes,, or 15 minutes if frozen; don't over-bake.  Let cool slightly.

Run a knife around the edges and invert onto dessert plates.  Garnish each with a spoonful of créme fraiche and fresh raspberries.

A Note...... at first bite we were all sort of disappointed. Our taste buds were expecting something sweet and fudgy and over the top rich. But instead we got a gentler, less sweet chocolate. It was almost disappointing at first.  It took a minute for the struggle between expectation and reality to settle down - and then bite after bite it just got better and better! Had it been a darker sweeter chocolate, it would have been too over the top and hard to eat. This was a happy surprise!

The perfect ending to any evening!

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kendra

Where did the time go?  I cannot believe my first grandchild is turning 13!  How can that be? I still remember so vividly the day she was born.  Should it be such a stretch to imagine she is now a teenager?  I have watched her grow up into a lovely girl, yet something about entering the teenage arena just seems unbelievable to me - and exciting and scary all at the same time.  I am also extremely grateful that I do not have to go through those tumultuous years again!  God bless her Mom!

So now to the card. I am sure some of you are going to look at this and go "huh"??  I know, it doesn't look like a card for a girl embarking on a journey into the TEEN years - it looks - well much younger.  But she loves Panda bears - I mean she REALLY loves them.  Halfway through the evolution of this card I called her Mom and said, "Are you sure I should to this?  It just doesn't look like a teenager's card!"  But we both decided to embrace the young girl that still  loves Pandas - as there are many teenage years ahead of her!

And I admit to cheating a little on this card. I "should" have colored this digi image, but with all of the cards I needed to finish for October, I just didn't feel I could do it justice .  So I chose a precolored image that I used for a print and cut on my Silver Bullet Professional . I love that machine.

The print and cut with the SCAL registration marks.

The cut out image - thanks to the Silver Bullet Pro!

And the bamboo is a traced design that I added.  Love the texture of the ruché paper from Paper Temptress.

You can see the texture in the blue ruché paper and the dimension of the panda and the balloon.

The finished card. (not perfect - I accidentally crumpled the balloon 
AFTER I had taped it down with pop dots. :(

Not every card is as perfect as I might like......


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