Toasted Pumpkin/Squash Seeds

'Tis the season! This works for any kind of squash seeds so keep and toast them whenever you use squash.This is Janice's recipe used at the Annual Johnson Pumpkin Carving Contest. You will only wish you had more seeds.

2 cups pumpkin or squash seeds, leaving some stringy pumpkin guts (don’t wash or rinse)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil OR melted butter
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder (optional)

Mix everything in a bowl, spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 for 1+ hour, scraping up and shifting seeds around every 15 minutes until toasty.


Pear Butter with Star Anise, Ginger, and Cardamom

A variation on traditional pear butter, this recipe emphasizes and compliments the more fragrant, flowery flavor of pears. Delicious!

8 - 10 lbs ripe pears, cored and chopped (remove any bruised parts, do not peel)
2+ cups sugar
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 star anise*
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Process pear chunks in a blender or food processor in small batches to get a smooth pureé. Pour pear pureé into a large, heavy bottom stock pot. Stir in sugar (1/4 cup for every cup of pureé), orange juice concentrate, ginger, star anise, cardamom, and nutmeg. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary.

2. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Reduce heat if mixture spatters a lot. Allow mixture to gently bubble as it thickens. Simmer for 45 minutes - 2 hours. (Pear butter is ready when a small dab on a chilled plate is not runny.) Remove star anise.

3. Ladle pear butter into hot, sterilized jars (a wide-mouthed canning funnel is oh, so helpful) and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the pear butter and the rims of the jars. Use proper canning procedures if you would like to store jars outside of the fridge. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (half-pints) or 15 minutes (pints).

* I double the star anise because I love the flavor.

The above recipe is a tweaked, simpler version of this recipe.

Traditional Pear Butter

This it a superb way to make use of an abundance of ripe pears. With these spices it tastes very much like traditional apple butter.

8 - 10 lbs ripe pears
2+ cups sugar
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Process pear chunks in a blender or food processor in small batches to get a smooth pureé. Pour pear pureé into a large, heavy bottom stock pot. Stir in sugar (1/4 cup for every cup of pureé), orange juice concentrate, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary.

2. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Reduce heat if mixture spatters a lot. Allow mixture to gently bubble as it thickens. Simmer for 45 minutes - 2 hours. (Pear butter is ready when a small dab on a chilled plate is not runny.)

3. Ladle pear butter into hot, sterilized jars (a wide-mouthed canning funnel is oh, so helpful) and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the pear butter and the rims of the jars. Use proper canning procedures if you would like to store jars outside of the fridge. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (half-pints) or 15 minutes (pints).

The above recipe is a tweaked, simpler version of this recipe.


Crock-Pot Lasagna

Take your favorite lasagna recipe and cook in a crock-pot!! Or, you can use this one...

2-3 c. Sauce
**Use sauce that has more liquid in it. If you're using a thicker sauce, add 1/2 cup water to your sauce before layering.**
2 boxes Lasagna noodles
2 c. Cottage cheese
Parmesan cheese
2-3 Zucchini sliced in 1/4 inch slices

-Place some sauce on the bottom, then layer uncooked noodles, then cottage cheese, shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Next another noodle layer, then sliced sautéed zucchini, then spinach, then sauce. Next add another noodle layer, cottage cheese and shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Keep layering until you're about 3/4th to the top and finish with sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

-Cook on high for at least 1 hour, then on low for 3 hours or longer until you're ready to eat.



Plum Cobbler

Love apple cobbler, what about peach? Then try this variation today!

3/4 cups sugar
7 plums, sliced (~4 cups)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup milk

1. Mix first four ingredients together and place in an 8 x 8 square pan.
2. Mix the next four ingredients together in a separate bowl. Cut the butter into the dry mix using your hands or a hand mixer so the mixture is crumbly and the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
3. Add the 1/4 cup milk and mix together with a wooden spoon. Drop the batter on top of the plum mixture in the 8 x 8 square pan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes*.

*Since plums are in season during the summer, you can consider using the toaster oven for this recipe. It is much more efficient and it doesn't heat up the house. However, consider adding a few extra minutes to the baking time.


Fennel & Sausage Salad

This hearty, tasty salad serves 2.

1 turkey sausage link, sliced
1/2 fennel bulb*, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
dash salt
dash pepper
2 Tb bleu cheese dressing
2 Tb balsamic vinegar

1. Place olive oil in a pan and saute fennel, onion, salt, and pepper for 6 or so minutes. Add the sausage and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
2. While that is cooking, mix the bleu cheese dressing and balsamic vinegar together in a small jar or cup to create a creamy dressing.
3. Place spinach in two serving bowls. Top each with half of the fennel/sausage mixture. Drizzle dressing on top and enjoy

*you can use the fennel stalks instead of the bulb


Peanut Butter Balls

This sweet treat will always please. While the original recipe calls for 1/4 of a large paraffin wax bar, I have cut it back significantly. If you prefer, this recipe can be made without the wax, however, the chocolate will be thick and coating the peanut butter balls will be a task that requires patience. I am open to finding another method of thinning chocolate that requires something other than wax (p.s. butter does not seem to work as I've tried that already).

1 12 oz package chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)
1 Tb paraffin wax
3 + 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups peanut butter
3 cups rice crispies

1. Melt chocolate and wax in a double boiler.
2. Mix cereal, sugar, melted butter, and peanut butter and form into balls up to an inch in diameter.
3. Remove the double boiler from the burner, but leave the chocolate mixture pot sitting in the hot water to keep it liquidy. Put in one or two balls at a time and lift out with a fork, shaking off excess chocolate. Place on wax paper to cool.


Artisan Bread

I had wanted to make a crunchy-crust-chewy-crumb artisan bread for so long but it always seemed to be beyond me and my kitchen. Then I heard about the no knead recipe that was getting rave reviews. However, I'll be honest, I can't wait 24 hours for a loaf of bread. So when an alternative recipe that took a fraction of the time came out I gave it a try. Here is is with a few tweaks that make it easier, not to mention even better. The crust may not be as crispity-crunchy as the no knead recipe but I have bread by lunch time the same day.

3 cups warm water (about 100º)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp salt
5 - 5 1/2 cups flour
cornmeal or parchment paper for lining the pan
1. In a large bowl (I use a Bosch mixer but you can also do it by hand), mix water, yeast, honey and salt. Let proof for about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and mix/knead for 10 minutes. Cover with a towel. Let dough rise at a warm room temperature until double in size (1 - 3 hours).
2. Turn the dough - scraping out the bowl - onto a work surface that has been sprinkled with flour. Form two long french loaves or three short loaves by kneading slightly and rolling into a snake (they can be a bit lumpy and asymmetric). Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper OR greased and generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Dust the loaves with flour and (optional) slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Let the loaves rise 40 - 60 minutes in a warm area. In the meantime, fill an oven-safe pan or dish half way with water. Place on the bottom oven rack. Heat oven to 450º degrees (you want the water to get hot enough to make steam and your hot oven will make a nice warm room for the loaves to rise).
3. Place loaves on the middle rack. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the bread immediately from the cookie sheet to a wire rack to cool.
Dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for as long as two weeks.

To heat up a loaf (toasty warm for dinner) later on, place loaf directly on oven rack. Start oven heating to 350º, leaving the loaf in for 10 minutes total, including oven-heating time.

Four Loaf Batch
4 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp salt
7 1/2 - 8cups flour


Fresh Strawberry Cake

Shown here as cupcakes, this recipe uses real, fresh strawberries to give it its scrumptious flavor. Naturally delicious!

1 3/4 cups cake flour
4 large eggs, room temp
1/3 cup milk, room temp
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
2/3 cup fresh, crushed strawberries*
1 recipe strawberry frosting (below)

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350º. Generously grease two 8- or 9-inch round pans and line with parchment or wax paper circles. Grease paper circles and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a bowl and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer and beat for 30 seconds to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly with some pieces the size of peas after all the butter is added.

3. With the mixer still at the lowest speed, add approximately one cup of the egg mixture then increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the strawberries and remaining egg mixture. Stop mixer, scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat again a medium high until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.

4. Divide batter equally between two pans; spread to the side of the pans and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light gold and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 22-25 minutes (add ~5 minutes for 8-inch rounds). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen. Invert cakes on to a large plate, peel of the paper and reinvert to cooling rack. Cool completely before icing. Let icing set up for about 20 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Icing
1/4 cup butter, softened
3+ cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup fresh crushed strawberries*

Beat butter in a small bowl until light a fluffy. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, salt, 1 tablespoon milk and vanilla. Mix slowly as the sugar incorporates then faster as is becomes smooth. Add another cup of sugar, a tablespoon of milk, and strawberries; mix. Add remaining sugar and milk and repeat mixing. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add more sugar or more milk to achieve desired consistency (but no more than 1/4 sugar or 1 tsp milk). It will be a thinner icing due to the strawberries.

*The method I used: hull and dice the strawberries into a bowl. Use a pastry cutter to crush the strawberries into rather small bits. It was slick.


Oatmeal Cookies

with only one stick of butter (instead of the two that chocolate chip cookies require), you'll feel like you can eat 10!

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (at room temp)
1 cup sugar (this can be all white sugar or half white and half brown sugar)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (if using quick oats, only use 1 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup Craisins

1. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Mix butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, then the vanilla.
3. Mix the dry mixture from step 1 into the wet mixture from step 2.
4. Mix the in the chocolate chips and Craisins.
5. Bake for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.


Steamed Tilapia

A friend of mine from Hong Kong told me how she prepares her fish (whole) and I adapted it for fish fillets. Simple, healthy, and good.

1 4oz. tilapia fillet
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/8 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. powdered ginger

1. Place last four ingredients in a small frying pan. Stir.
2. Place tilapia in frying pan and cover with lid. Turn heat to medium.
3. Allow fish to cook for about 8 minutes (depending on fillet thickness). The fillet should be nice and white inside but easily broken when poked with a fork.

Serve with rice and vegetables.


Spiced Shrimp with Green Beans and Lime

Who could pass up cilantro, lime, and shrimp? Not I. This fresh and delicious way to eat shrimp will keep you coming back for seconds and thirds.

1 c. long-grain white rice
1/2 c. fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. green beans, halved crosswise
4 cloves garlic
1 to 2 red jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. pealed and deveined large shrimp
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 c. fresh lime juice

1. Cook the rice according to the package directions. Fluff with a fork and fold in the cilantro.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Add the green beans, garlic, jalapenos, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and add to the skillet.
4. Season the shrimp with the chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and add to the skillet.
5. Cook, tossing occasionally, until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and serve over the rice.

Recipe and photo from Real Simple magazine.


Pasta with Lemon and Olive Oil

I got this recipe out of my complimentary issue of Cooks Illustrated and since you can't get their recipes online unless you subscribe, this is a black market recipe. I've made a few slight changes just to avoid a guilty conscience. Ha ha. It's a great variation on hot nakeds.

1 lb pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)*
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tsp lemon zest, depending on how lemony you like it
juice of one small lemon (2-3 Tbsp)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese + more for serving
ground black pepper
fresh basil, chopped

* If you don't have a shallot, use 2 Tbsp minced onion and 1 Tbsp minced garlic.

1. Boil pasta in a large pot according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water and drain pasta and set aside.
2. Return pot to stove. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 cup of pasta water and cream into the pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, return pasta and stir until coated. Stir in remaining oil, lemon zest and juice, and cheese.
3. Cover and let pasta stand 5 minutes tossing a couple times and adjusting consistency with remaining pasta water. Stir in fresh basil. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

Makes great leftovers too!


Spanish Shrimp, Orange & Olive Salad

Simple and fresh, this light salad is a perfect fit
for your New Year's reslolution.

3/4 lb. medium shrimp, peeled, tails removed, and deveined
Salt and pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 oranges, pealed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced Spanish green olives (optional in reality)
1 tsp. finely grated orange peel
1 bag (5 oz.) baby arugula

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle in the pan. Add the garlic and shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally until the shrimp are opaque in the center, three to five minutes. Set aside and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette (see below).

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp, orange slices, olives, orange peel and baby arugula. Add the vinaigrette to taste, and gently toss. Serve immediately.

1 green onion, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. wine vinegar
6 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and Pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the onion, mustard, and vinegar. Slowly add the olive oil in a stream, whisking to emulsify. Season with salt an d pepper to taste. Makes about 1/2 cup.

original recipe from Experience Life magazine with minor changes

Red Lentil Stew

This red lentil stew is a hint of Bombay House in your own home. Use pita bread in place of naan for a quick substitute.

2 T. Olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garam masala
2 cups red or green lentils
5 carrots, chopped
2 large potatoes, chopped
1/2 lb. spinach, chopped
Cardamom or cloves, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Carmalize onion, garlic, and ginger in olive oil. Add cumin and garam masala and cook for 1 minute more. Add lentils, carrots, and potatoes, and over with water. Bring to boil on high heat and then reduce to low heat when foaming. Simmer until lentils change to yellow and begin to "disintegrate". Scoop out most of the carrots and potatoes and blend briefly; put them back into pot. Add spinach and remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Serve with basmati rice.

tips: add cilantro to your basmati rice as it cooks, you can also use sweet potato in place of the potato, and a handheld immersion blender works best of this recipe but is not necessary.

recipe by Naomi Green from Loaves and Fishes & other great dishes with minor changes

Squash Quinoa Soup

A delicious quinoa and butternut squash dish for any season.

12 oz. chicken or tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tsp. olive oil
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 5.5 oz. can apricot or mango nectar
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, halved,
seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1tsp. ground cumin
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
and cut into 1-inch pieces

In a saucepan, cook chicken and onion in hot oil over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth, nectar, squash, quinoa, and cumin. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Add zucchini. Cover and cook 10 minutes more or until squash and quinoa are tender. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper.

original source of recipe unknown with minor changes


Country French Bread

Nothing like the smell of fresh bread to make an evening (or a morning or an afternoon for that matter).

2.5 cups warm water
2 Tbs yeast
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
6 cups flour
1/2 oil (I like to use olive oil, but any oil works)

Place yeast and sugar in a bowl and mix with warm water. Add the salt and oil, then add the flour 2 cups at a time, stirring to incorporate it well. Knead the bread together and let rise. Stir the bread down every 10 minutes for an hour. Form into 2 loaves and place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal or flour. Bake at 400 degrees for about 37 minutes. This dough can also be used to make regular rolls or cinnamon rolls.

Recipe from Christine T


Eggplant with pasta

one of thee best vegetarian dishes I've made all year!

8 oz. rotini (or penne or bowtie, etc.) pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. roma tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
6 sticks of string cheese, sliced
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Cook pasta according to directions on box. Reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water, drain pasta, and return to pot.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and tender (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper and cook, tossing, until the tomatoes are softened, 2 to 3 minutes more.
3. Add the tomato mixture to the pasta along with the sliced string cheese and reserved cooking water. Toss to combine.

Recipe based on REAL SIMPLE recipe found here.


Turkey Burgers

Forget bread crumbs! This recipe gives you a nice, juicy burger that's hard to beat!

1.25 lbs lean ground turkey (I use 7% fat)
1/4 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

Mix all ingredients together with hands in a large bowl until well mixed. Form 4 thin, large circumferenced patties (remember they will shrink when cooked), and place in a frying pan. Cook first side for about 5 minutes then flip the burger and cook the other side for about 6 minutes. Serve on whole wheat buns with tomato, spinach, ketchup, mustard, and cheese, if desired.


Chocolate Bark

perfect for the holidays (easy too), but really good any time!

peppermint bark
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
22 mini candy canes, crushed

1. Line 9 x 11 pan or baking sheet with cooking spray, then line with waxed paper leaving an overhang on the ends.
2. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (a make-shift double boiler works well too; I use a saucepan with a smaller saucepan on top and it works superbly). Once melted, pour chocolate onto the waxed paper and spread, if necessary, with a rubber spatula.
3. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on immediately. Refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour). Remove from pan and waxed paper and break into pieces. Enjoy!

peanut butter bark
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz. milk chocolate chips
2/3 cup peanut butter (I used natural creamy pb and it worked superbly, I think chunky pb would be good too)

1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above.
2. Melt milk chocolate and peanut butter together in a double boiler. Drizzle mixture over semi-sweet chocolate and swirl with a toothpick. Refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour). Remove from pan and waxed paper and break into pieces. This bark will be a tad bit softer than the peppermint bark.

As you can see these are very easy recipes, so be creative, come up with your own toppings. Mint chocolate and crushed Oreos anyone?


Turkey Meatballs

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan (can be freshly grated or the shakeable stuff)
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (they are usually sold in this size, so no worries)
  • 16 saltine crackers (ritz works too), finely crushed (about 3⁄4 cup)
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and half the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree and paste, sugar, half the Parmesan, the oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1½ cups water. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the turkey, crackers, the remaining Parmesan, garlic, and oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Shape the mixture into about 24 meatballs.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add to the sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Serve with the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and oregano before serving.
For a simpler turkey meatball, make the meatballs only and simmer for 20 minutes in pre-made spaghetti or marinara sauce.

The recipe above is based on a REAL SIMPLE recipe with a few minor changes.