Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes - Breakfast For Dinner

There is nothing my kids love more than breakfast for dinner. With that being said, the question becomes, how do I incorporate vegetables with pancakes? My resolution has been to add the vegetable to the pancakes. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin and beets are great vegetables to add to pancakes. I found a great basic pancake mix that I have changed slightly to make it a tad bit healthier.

Sweet Potato Pancakes


1 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
2 tbsp of sugar

2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups of milk

2 eggs (slightly beaten) or egg substitute

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp of applesauce

1 splash of oil

1/4 - 1/2 cup of sweet potato

Cook sweet potato in microwave until a fork can be pierced thru. Set sweet potato aside to cool. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients . Combine all wet ingredients except sweet potato and pour into the well of the dry ingredients. Stir to combine.

Remove the sweet potato from the peel and mash or pulse in the food processor with a splash of milk. Add sweet potato to the batter. If the batter is too thick add a touch more milk.

Heat a non-stick skillet and pour 1/4 cup of pancake batter onto skillet for each pancake. Once the top has bubbles and the underside is golden brown flip to cook on other side.

I serve these with turkey sausage links, fresh fruit and yogurt.

If you are really pressed for time or do not have all the ingredients on hand you can also use the box pancake mix. Cook the sweet potato as the directions indicate above and then incorporate into the mix. If I use this method I still combine the box mix with vanilla and cinnamon. It just goes really well with sweet potatoes.

During the fall, I will make these with canned pumpkin instead of the sweet potatoes. Just remember not to use the canned pumpkin pie mix, it is super sweet.

*When making beet pancakes, I follow Jessica Seinfeld's Pink Pancake recipe that can be found in her book Deceptively Delicious. If anyone is interested in that recipe leave a comment below and I will try to post it as well.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Homemade Tahini

After talking to a friend of mine this weekend about making homemade tahini, I decided I have to give it a try. Although the jarred tahini does last us a month or so, I still wanted to discover a cheaper and fresher way of making it at home. The only two ingredients in homemade tahini is sesame seeds and olive oil. Sesame seeds in the supermarket are extremely expensive. Therefore, I decided to buy it in bulk from Amazon.com (with the subscribe and save discount) and give this homemade tahini a try.

The recipe for homemade tahini can be found here.

If you are not familiar with tahini it is ground sesame seed paste, used in dishes like hummus and baba ganoush.

I will keep you posted once I give this try. If you try it before me please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hummus Cucumber Tomato Sandwich

Sometimes you just have one of those days, when things just aren't going as planned. I had one of those days today. It was 4:30pm and I had no idea what to make for dinner, nor did I even feel like making anything. I thought maybe I would just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but that just did not sound good to me.

I came across a video recipe for a Hummus Cucumber Sandwich by Sandra Lee on Youtube. Our garden has produced so many cucumbers this year I thought this sandwich would be perfect. I made a few changes/additions, take a look.


Wheat or White Bread
Homemade Hummus or Roasted Garlic store bought
1 cucumber (I sliced them thin, but thick would work as well)
1 tomato - (I sliced these thin as well)
1 onion
dash of salt

Toast bread, and then coat one slice with hummus. Place cucumber over the hummus with a dash of salt. Add tomato and onion. Cut into four squares. I served with carrot sticks, freshly picked green beans (my kids like them in their raw form), and some light potato chips. It was so fresh and delicious!

For dessert we had Machine-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream. The recipe for this dessert also says that it is dairy-free, but I had to add milk to it to get the consistency we like. I also add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips too. What can I say I LOVE chocolate.

*Please note if you slice your cucumber and tomato thick instead of thin you may need to use more than one cucumber and tomato.*

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shells and Cheese with Broccoli - Quick Side

When my husband is not going to be around for dinner I usually don't plan an extravagant meal. I still try to make dinner healthy, but with much less effort. Tonight I knew I was going to have fresh garden green pepper strips and carrots for our vegetable side dish, but needed something with a little more substance. Neither one of my kids really "loves" macaroni and cheese, but I found a recipe online that I thought sounded delicious, Quick Macaroni and Cheese. I made some minor changes and additions and here is the result.
Shells and Cheese - Quick Side


7 oz of pasta shells
1 tbsp of butter (I used bestlife butter)

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tbsp of unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup of skim milk

1/4 tsp of salt

1 cup of reduced fat extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 small bunch of broccoli cut into smaller bite-sized pieces

Cook pasta shells according to directions (al dente). While the shells are cooking stem broccoli over the stove in a double broiler or in the microwave. If you steam in the microwave add about 1 tbsp of water.

In a medium sauce pan melt butter. Add garlic and cayenne pepper. Cook for one min. and then add flour. Cook for an additional min. and then slowly add the milk and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Simmer for about 2 mins. Reduce heat to low and add the cheese.

Place broccoli into a food processor and process until it is in very tiny bits (skip this part if your family likes the broccoli in small bite-sized pieces). Add broccoli and pasta to the cheese sauce and stir until coated.


My husband and I have been interested in canning our own garden vegetables and local farmer's market fruit for quite some time. Well, I applied for the "Discover You Can House Party" sponsored by Ball. Much to my surprise I was chosen out of thousands to host a canning party. I received my party pack full of canning supplies on Saturday and started canning on Sunday. It was much easier than I thought and now we can enjoy fresh food all year long. If you are interested in canning here is a simple recipe to make applesauce and who doesn't like applesauce!

This recipe can be found in the
Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Which I will be giving away at my canning party on Saturday.

How to Can Applesauce


2 1/2- 3 1/2 pounds of apples per quart


Sugar (optional)

Wash apples; drain. Core, peel and quarter apples. Cook apples until soft in a large covered saucepan with about an inch of water (enough to prevent sticking). Puree using a food processor/blender. Return the apple pulp to saucepot. Add 1/4 cup sugar per pound of apples or to taste, if desired. Bring applesauce to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Maintain temperature at a boil while filling jars. Ladle hot sauce into HOT jars, leaving about 1/2" headspace. Please remember to keep your jars hot either in hot water or hot dishwasher until you are ready to use them. Remove air bubbles with a non-metallic spatula gently pressing food against the opposite side of the jar. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints and quarts 20 mins. in a boiling water canner. I used the Ball Discovery rack with lifter and it worked perfectly.

I followed these instructions and used 1/4 cup sugar per pound, but I think next time I will probably only use a tbsp or so (to retain color). It was a little sweet for our taste.

Happy Canning!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Super Quick Tuna Balls

Sometimes I find myself in a pinch for dinner. It's 4pm and I have no idea what I am going to serve. This recipe is perfect for just that type of scenario. Most people already have all the ingredients right in their pantry. This recipe does have tuna in it and my oldest son is not a fan of tuna, but guess what he loves these tuna balls!

Super Quick Tuna Balls

1 can of tuna packed in water (drain)
10 fat free saltine crackers

2 egg whites

1/4 cup of fine yellow cornmeal
2-3 small red potatoes or 1 medium size baking potato (this is optional)

If you decide to use the potato cook in the microwave until you can pierce a fork through the potato. Set potatoes aside to cool down. In a medium size bowl mix tuna and egg whites together. Add crushed crackers and 1/4 cup of cornmeal.

In a separate bowl, peel cooked potatoes and mash. Add the mashed potatoes to the tuna mixture and combine well. Add a small amount of oil to the frying pan and heat. Make balls that are about 1-2" and place into hot oil. Cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

I usually serve these with
Melissa D'arabian's Broccoli Parmesan and homemade fries.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thai Chicken in Peanut Sauce

Now it's time to post some recipes that are not vegetarian.

Before my husband and I had kids we used to prepare Thai Chicken in Peanut Sauce at least once a week. It is still a favorite of ours, however the kids do not like the curry flavor. Therefore, we now serve this recipe minus the curry. Boy how things change once you have kids!

If you are allergic to peanuts you may be able to substitute the peanut butter for sunflower butter (Trader Joe's has awesome prices on sunflower butter). I have to admit, I have never tried this recipe with anything other than peanut butter though. Let me know how it turns out if you make this substitution.

Thai Chicken in Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 - 1 cup of dry white wine or vermouth
  • 4 boneless chicken thighs or boneless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 4 cups of broccoli
  • 3 cups of lite coconut milk
  • 4 Tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 6 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3 tsp curry powder
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Heat wine/vermouth in skillet. Add the cut-up chicken and cook in wine on medium heat until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Add broccoli to the skillet, cover and simmer for about 10 mins. While the broccoli is steaming prepare the sauce in another saucepan. Heat saucepan and whisk in the coconut milk, add sugar, salt, peanut butter and bring to a boil - stir occasionally. If you desire, add curry powder and cayenne pepper to taste. Add sauce and chicken to the skillet with the broccoli. Cook low for about 5 more minutes just to merry the flavors.

This is perfect served over rice.

*We sometimes add potatoes to this recipe. Potatoes really pick up the flavor of the sauce. If you decide to add them, peel and cut them in small bite sized pieces and add to the skillet with the broccoli*

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homemade Hummus

Although, this is not a dinner recipe I thought It was worth sharing anyway. In our house, we have hummus at least once or twice a week for lunch. I usually send my oldest son to school with homemade hummus, crackers and carrots for his lunch.

After spending an enormous amount of money each week buying hummus I decided to research recipes and come up with one that I could make at home for less money.

Homemade Hummus
  • 2 cloves garlic (press with a garlic press)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) of chickpeas or garbanzo beans (save the juice - see below)
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • couple dashes of cumin
  • 1/4 cup of the chickpea juice from can
Pour garbanzo beans/chickpeas into food processor. Place lemon juice, tahini, pressed garlic, salt and a couple dashes of cumin in food processor. Blend until creamy and well mixed. Pour some of the juice from the jar into the food processor.

Use a little juice if you like your hummus thick and a lot of juice if you like your hummus thinner. We like ours thinner so I use almost 1/4 cup of chickpea juice.

Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate. If you are serving right away for guests I would suggest sprinkling 1 tbsp of olive oil on the top. It adds moisture and tastes great.

Serve with pita bread cut into triangles or pita chips. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about this hummus.

*Please note that you should not substitute peanut butter for tahini in this hummus recipe. Tahini is ground sesame seeds. It is a lot like peanut butter, but in this recipe peanut butter would not work as a substitution.*

Monday, June 13, 2011

Taco Seasoning Mix (without all the salt)

We eat Mexican style food at least once a week in our house. Most of these dishes require Taco Seasoning. I love the flavor that the taco seasoning packets give our food, but not the extra salt and MSG. After researching online I came across several recipes for taco seasoning and decided to make my own by using some of the ingredients from each of the recipes.

This recipe is probably equivalent to 2 or 3 taco seasoning packets you would buy in the store, however I have never measured it to be sure.

Taco Seasoning Mix (without the salt)


6 tsp chili powder
5 tsp paprika
4 1/2 tsp cumin
3 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients above in a small bowl with an airtight lid and shake. Now you have taco seasoning all ready to go whenever you need it. Since this recipe does not have salt, you will probably need to add salt to the dish you are preparing. If you like your meals spicy (which I do), you can always add 1/4 tsp of cayenne. I have to leave it out because it would be too spicy for the kids.

Avocado Spread

My youngest son loves guacamole...did I say love, I mean he is infatuated with guacamole. Jessica Seinfeld came up with a great, delicious recipe for an avocado spread in her book "Deceptively Delicious". I have tweaked this recipe just a little to make it easier for those of us who can not make "purees" ahead of time.

Avocado Spread


2 ripe avocados mashed in food processor or by hand with a potato masher
1/2 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp Smart Balance Light Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp of Lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

I have a Pampered Chef Avocado Peeler that I absolutely adore. If you don't have one you can use a knife to cut all the way around the avocado. Open the avocado and take the large seed out. Take a spoon or avocado peeler to get between the skin and the flesh. Remove the flesh and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse the processor a few times and then add all the other ingredients listed. Pulse again until you have reached the consistency you desire. You can also add more yogurt if you like. This spread must be refrigerated in an airtight container so it will not turn dark.

Homemade Refried Beans - Another Family Favorite

Let me just start out by saying once you have tried these homemade refried beans you will not buy canned refried beans again. These are flavorful and just as delicious as the ones served at the Mexican restaurant. The only difference is these are a healthier version (no lard or oil).

My oldest son asks for these refried beans at least once a week. Let me know what you think.

Homemade Refried Beans


  • 2 cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic (we use two because we love garlic)
  • 1/4 cup of onion
  • 2 Tbsp - 1/4 cup of vegetable (chicken) broth (this will vary based on what consistency you like)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp of taco seasoning mix or homemade taco seasoning
  • 4 Tbsp salsa
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • Salt to taste (only if you use the homemade taco seasoning)
Chop cilantro, set aside. Mince garlic, set aside. Heat a nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat. Saute the onion for a couple of minutes and then add garlic, sauteing for an additional 30-60 seconds. (if the onion starts to stick you may need to add a splash of olive oil)

Add the beans, vegetable broth, spices, and salsa. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, covered, for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

Place the cooked bean mixture into the food processor and pulse until you reach the consistency you desire. You may also mash beans with a fork or potato masher until smooth. Add salt to taste.

I serve these with cooked brown or white rice, homemade tortillas, Jessica Seinfeld's avocado spread and fresh tomatoes slices sprinkled with oregano.

Pesto Pasta with Spinach - A Family Favorite

Pesto Pasta with Spinach

Every afternoon I get that same age-old question, "What's For Dinner?". My boys are completely different when it comes to likes and dislikes regarding food. I am sure every household struggles with what to prepare for dinner that pleases all family members. It has been a real challenge for me to come up with a healthy dinner menu that truly pleases, but I have managed to find a few. 

I thought I would begin by sharing some of them with all of you. I hope you enjoy! This recipe is an absolute family favorite. 

Although, our family is not vegetarian we try to eat vegetarian meals at least 3 times a week.

Pesto Pasta with Spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic or about 1 clove
  • 1 cup of pesto sauce (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 3 Tbl capers, drained or chopped green olives
  • 1 package (16 ounces) Penne noodles or any noodle you like
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, cut into small pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded Parmesan cheese to taste
In a large stockpot, boil the water for the pasta. 

 Meanwhile, in a large serving bowl, combine the garlic, pesto, olive oil, and capers. Wash the spinach leaves, tear off any stems, and cut into tiny bit size pieces (kids seem to like it better if you cut the spinach). 

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it according to the package directions until it is about 1 minute short of being done. Add the spinach to the water for the last min. of cooking.  

Drain the pasta and spinach immediately.  Add to the pesto mixture and toss to coat. Season it with salt and pepper and top each individual serving with Parmesan cheese. 

I serve this pasta with a side salad and fresh homemade garlic rolls.

*Do not leave out the capers! I have left them out before and it is not as good. If you do not like capers you may be able to substitute green olives or something with a salty nature.*