Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sausage and Brown Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

I was a bit sad to pick up my CSA today, as it was the last bag for the season.  I love getting my fresh-from-the-farm veggies, and though I felt it was a bit of a challenge to figure out what to do with everything when I first started to get the CSA, now that I have a number of go-to recipes to use, I love having the produce dictate my menu.  Our CSA had an awesome crop of squash this year, so I have been working on a number of recipes to use them.  One great thing about squash is that it has a shelf life that is way longer than typical produce; if I don't use them right away, they are still great.  I love all of the flavors in this recipe, and I love that when I made it, my kids said, "You know, I really like squash!" As if they wouldn't. ;)

  • 2 acorn squash 
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage (bulk if you can find it, otherwise remove casings)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves (fresh) (or use 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (I use the microwavable bags)
  • Shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Halve squash and remove seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on the baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook rice.
  3. Brown sausage over medium heat, adding the onion, garlic, and pepper just when the sausage begins to brown.  Saute until sausage is browned and veggies are tender, add the rice and thyme.
  4. Once squash is roasted, spoon the sausage mixture into the halves until they are overflowing.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over each half.  Return squash to oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown slightly.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: a bit more than an hour, total
Source: adapted from

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I am both happy and dismayed to have found this recipe early this summer. Happy because it was a huge hit at every get together that I took it to; Dismayed because I had NO self-control when it came to eating it. I am a person that posted on Facebook years ago that there should be Reece's Peanut Butter Cup flavored gum. I would buy it by the case. This recipe has just the right combo of ingredients to strip away all of my will power.  Don't let that discourage you, though.  You DEFINITELY want to make this for your next get together.  (Just make sure you have some people to share it with.)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter, smooth
  • 2 cups (about 1 pack or 9 grahams) graham crackers, broken/crushed
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate chips plus 2 tbsp vegetable oil to help melt the chips
  1. Spray or line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Break or crush the graham crackers into smaller pieces. (I put the crackers in a plastic bag and rolled them with a rolling pin to make a fine crumble.  You may like yours more chunky.  You really can't go wrong here.)
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter and peanut butter together, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the crushed graham crackers and powdered sugar. Once mixed, add in the peanut butter mixture, and mix to combine.
  5. Spread the peanut butter graham cracker mixture evenly into the pan.
  6. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and oil.  Microwave on medium for a minute at a time, stirring in between, until melted.
  7. Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter layer.
  8. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until they are set.
  9. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Difficulty: easy
Time: about 1 hour, including cooling time
Source: adapted from

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Asian Stuffed Cabbage

"These aren't too labor intensive for a birthday meal, are they?"

When my husband asked me that question when I served these for dinner the first time, I knew I had hit the jackpot. I was already fairly certain. After all, the recipe has some of my favorite ingredients in the Asian-inspired sauce - sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce - and I have always loved stuffed cabbage. The thing is that prior to this recipe, I had never actually made stuffed cabbage. In my head, it was way too labor intensive. In reality, for me, the most labor intensive part was cleaning the cabbage leaves. And really, that wasn't a big deal. I did have to watch a video to make sure I was rolling them right (I found this quick one to be helpful: but beyond that, this recipe is surprisingly easy. And offer the sauce as a dipping option. It was a huge hit.

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa (I used quinoa)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili or chili-garlic sauce (found in the Asian section of your grocery store)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • leaves from 1 large head of Napa cabbage

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare your filling by gently combining uncooked beef (or turkey), shredded carrots, cooked rice (or quinoa), garlic, ginger, onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili sauce and a pinch of salt and black pepper in a large mixing bowl.
  3. To make your leaves easy to roll, use a rolling pin to flatten to make leaves more pliable. If you find that your leaves are on the smaller side, use two to roll, overlapping both ends to make one big leaf.
  4. Spoon your filling to each leaf. Carefully roll each leaf tightly and place side by side in a large baking dish. Pour 1 cup of water over stuffed cabbage rolls and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes or until completely cooked through.
  5. Serve with juices from baking dish and additional chili sauce.

Difficulty: easy-medium
Time: about 50 minutes total

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Asian Pork and Veggies (Slow Cooker)

I have sort of been on an Asian food kick these days, and when I was looking for something new to make for my Sunday Slow Cooker meal a while back, this recipe caught my attention.  I did modify the original recipe a bit - not all intentionally, but we loved the results.  In fact, my husband said "This is the best slow cooker meal you have made in a long time!  It is really, really good."  Not one to hold back what he thinks, I will take that as a true compliment. It has made its way into the permanent rotation.


  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 11-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces soba noodles (alternatives: somen noodles, rice)
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 2/3 of a bag of frozen sugar snap peas (or use fresh, or use snow peas)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch


  1. In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, oil, ginger, and crushed red pepper. Add the pork and toss to combine. Cover and cook until the pork is tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total cooking time).  (If using frozen sugar snap peas, put in fridge to thaw at this time.)
  2. With 15 minutes to 1 hour left in the cooking, add red peppers and peas to the slow cooker.  (My family likes our veggies soft, so I added them 1 hour prior to the meal being done when cooking on low.  If you like your veggies more crisp, see the alternative in step 3.)
  3. Fifteen minutes before serving, cook the soba noodles (or alternative) according to the package directions.  (If you prefer crisp veggies and haven't added them to the slow cooker, add the bell peppers and snow peas to the water during the last minute of cooking the noodles.)
  4. Mix together 1 tsp cornstarch and 1 tsp water in a small bowl.  Stir mixture into slow cooker and cook on high for 5 minutes to thicken sauce slightly.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 4-8 hours cooking (slow cooker)
Source:  Based on a recipe found at

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cake

The faculty room is a place of gathering in our building.  Our staff enjoys monthly thematic potluck days; this month, we had a baked potato bar in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. I signed up for salsa.  Early morning baking doesn't really agree with me.  One of our amazing staff signed up to make this chocolate chip cake.   When I carried on about how good it was, she replied, "I whipped it up in 5 minutes; it's one of my mom's recipes."  The next day, I found the recipe on my chair (if you are trying to give something to a teacher, put it on the chair; the desk usually is covered in piles of stuff).

After reading the book Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, I started following her suggestion of celebrating holidays with a fun breakfast.  Her suggestions included buying colorful paper plates and something simple like coloring the peanut butter.  I have enjoyed making a special occasion and breakfast for my family.  But this year, the time change hit me hard. I went to bed on 3/16 thinking, "Well, we can use the green polka dotted plates.  And there will be a few chocolate coins."  At 4:00 AM, the dog decided he needed to go out. As I stumbled around the kitchen, I figured I'd make something for breakfast since I was up.  I could find nothing.  Then I remembered Jill mentioning that there were few ingredients and the cake was fast.  So...I needed to find the recipe.  In my teacher bag. Pre-coffee, it took me more than 5 minutes; I still wouldn't say early morning baking agrees with me.  But the kids loved it!

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  1. Grease 9 x 13 dish.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add sour cream, vanilla, and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon. 
  5. Pour half of batter into the dish. Sprinkle half the sugar mixture and 1/2 bag of chocolate chips.
  6. Pour remaining batter on top.  Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and sugar.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.

TIME: 10 minutes prep; 30 minutes baking
SOURCE: Jill, my awesome coworker

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Black Bean Feta Quinoa Bowl

I don't often get the time to shop (other than for groceries), but due mostly to Easter shopping, I have been in a few stores recently.  What have I noticed?  Bathing suit buying season is upon us.  Who in their right mind wants to stand in front of a mirror under fluorescent lights in March after a comfort-food induced hibernation period?  Scary stuff, if you ask me.  But, my latest trip to the store did give me a bit of a reality is time to start being a bit more mindful of what I am eating.  I am so looking forward to the fresh veggies of my CSA this summer, but in the meantime I am trying out some new flavor-packed recipes that have a bit of a healthy spin.  No sacrifices here...I love quinoa, black beans, corn, and anything topped with Feta.  This was a hit with my family (especially when I served it with multi-grain tortilla chips).

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup golden quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • One 12-ounce bag frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed
  • Two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, torn, for garnish
  1. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and saute until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes more. 
  2. Add the stock and quinoa and mix until fully combined. Add the cumin, cayenne, and some salt and pepper.
  3. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the spinach and gently toss with the quinoa until wilted.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the corn and black beans. Crumble the feta over the top and garnish with cilantro.

Difficulty: easy
Time: ~35-40 min total

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Slow Cooker Beef and Mushrooms

There is something about cooking on Sunday evenings that I just don't like.  Usually, I am in the midst of a family related activity that I just don't want to interrupt to go make a nice meal.  BUT - Sunday mornings are another story.  I have no problem getting up a bit early so as to throw a meal together before any other events of the day.  Often, I prep dinner after breakfast (and while my kids are making their lunches for the week).  If I've really got it together, any chopping that has to happen for the week happens at this time, too, which saves me a ton of time during the week.

I have enough slow cooker favorites at this point to have a nice rotation, but I felt that it was time for some new ones.  Over the past couple of months, I have experimented a bit.  This was a great one that my whole family enjoyed.  The meat was so tender, with nice flavor, and the ingredients were simple enough to make it an easy hit from all standpoints.

  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs stewing beef, cubed
  • 8 oz package of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 Tbs. Coconut oil
  • 1 beef bullion cube
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  1. Brown meat, mushrooms, onions, and garlic in coconut oil in a skillet.  (Do not drain.)
  2. Dissolve bullion cube in hot water; Add to meat mixture.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients; mix well.  Pour into slow cooker.
  4. Cover.  Cook on high 3 hours (or low 5-6 hours) or until meat is tender.  Serve over rice or noodles.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 15-20 minutes prep; 3 hours in slow cooker on high (or 5-6 on low)
Source: Adapted from a Fix It and Forget It recipe of the same name

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Three Bean Vegetable Chili

We love chili!  My husband orders it anytime we go out to dinner. I always make a big batch so we can enjoy leftovers throughout the week.  Adding those leftovers to a baked potato, some whole grain pasta, or quinoa really makes a filling and flavorful meal.

Lately, John and I have been trying to follow a more vegetarian diet in order to keep cholesterol low; we have been researching a few different eating plans designed by physicians to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. While this recipe has more ingredients than I usually like, it is very worth it.  I used my food processor to chop all of the vegetables, so I didn't have too much time in preparation.

My husband was shocked when I told him there wasn't any meat in the chili. Also, he isn't a huge fan of cauliflower or zucchini, but he had no clue. This healthier version of chili is now our go-to winter Sunday meal.  Next time, I plan to try it in a slow cooker.


  • 1 pound firm tofu, defrosted
  • 3 T chili powder
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 10 oz. onions, frozen
  • 3 cups frozen broccoli, thawed and finely chopped
  • 3 cups frozen cauliflower, thawed and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can no-salt added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can no-salt added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can no-salt added red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes 
  • 1 can mild green chilies, drained
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels
  • 2 large zucchini, finely chopped
  • Vegetable broth, if you'd like a thinner chili
* I have made this without the tofu; we enjoyed it both ways and found it to be quite filling.

  1. Squeeze excess water from tofu; crumble into soup pot. Add spices. Brown.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 hours. 

TIME: 20 minute prep; 2 hours cooking time
DIFFICULTY: Medium (lots of ingredients)
SOURCE: adapted from Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Banana Walnut Green Tea Smoothie

In the last couple of months, I have noticed my skin has been awful - like teenage angst awful with a pre-midlife crisis twist.  My history with medications and creams for my dermatological issues is not all that great and my mode lately is to try to reduce chemicals as opposed to adding more, so I have been on the hunt for a more natural remedy.  I have done a decent amount of reading and am pretty confident at this point that too much sugar and not enough exercise are the biggest factors contributing to my current issue.  An injury is partly the cause of my lack of exercise (but only partly) and the sugar, well, let's just say that I wasn't at my best this holiday season but my sweet tooth certainly was.  My body alkalinity is all out of whack and my plan is to attack it with some high antioxidant leafy greens, low sugar fruits, and healthy nuts (Omega 3s) and seeds to name a few.  This shake fits the bill nicely...with others to follow.


  • banana (frozen if you prefer)
  • 6 oz green tea (I let mine cool a bit but am generally too impatient to cool it all of the way when I brew the tea myself)
  • 1/8 cup of walnuts
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla
  • handful of baby kale
  • 1/4 tsp chia seeds
  • honey (optional)
  • ice (optional - if you used cool tea and a frozen banana, you may not need ice)
Place all ingredients into a high powered blender and blend until smooth.  (I use a Vitamix and gradually increase speed from 1-10 and then to high for about 45 seconds.)

Difficulty: easy
Time: a couple of minutes
Source: a combination of several ideas I found when researching 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

For Christmas, my daughter's class created a class cookbook.  This is part of the opening:

When it's cold outside and there is nothing to do.
Open this cookbook and out of the blue
You will find many yummy treats, 
Delicious recipes you will love to eat.
Instead of turning the television on, 
We can make something good that will not last long.

We have had a great time picking her friends' recipes; she has a story to go with each recipe.  I hope she will share a story each time we use it (like I do when I hang my student's ornaments on my tree).

We plan to make these, package them in cellophane, and tie with red ribbon as a small gift on Valentine's Day.  I will be taking all of those leftover Reese's cups that were in stockings, on cookie trays, and on sale counters; they will all go in the freezer until February when I make them as small gifts.

Photobombing Emma!  
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. Add egg, milk, and vanilla.  Mix well; add peanut butter. Mix.  Add dry mixture. Mix.
  4. Form dough into 1 inch balls. (i used a cookie scoop...but kids can do just as well :) )
  5. Roll in sugar, place in mini-muffin pan.
  6. Using end of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the center about half way down.
  7. Bake 8-12 minutes.
  8. Place peanut butter cup in hole when you take them out of the oven.  Let cool 10 minutes before transferring to rack.

TIME: 25 minute prep, 12  minutes baking time
SOURCE: my daughter's first grade teacher