Cherry Berry Crisp is an easy dessert option

When you want a sweet ending for a last-minute dinner party or a busy weeknight, this recipe is a real winner.  It’s one of those open, dump and stir kinds of desserts that your family and friends will love- no crust to make and nothing to chill or assemble. Many quick berry and cherry crisp recipes just use canned pie filling but I think it’s way too “goopy” like that.  So I decided to mix up the pie filling with drained canned cherries. I think it has a better texture.  Bake the crisp while you’re making the rest of the meal and then serve it up warm with a scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream. You’ll see some smiles around the dinner table.


Mystery Basket Dinner

Well here I am at our lake place too wiped out from the week to make a 30-minute trip to the grocery store.  Besides, we’re not out of everything and I did raid my fridge at home before coming… tossing every bit of produce and dairy I could find into a cooler with no real menu in mind.  Just hoping I could cobble together a couple of meals before making the store run.  Even when you’re playing mystery basket dinner, it’s important to make a plan and gather all your ingredients before cooking… just like a real recipe.

Ok here goes… I always seem to have a half package of wonton wrappers left over from a cooking class just hanging around and teasing me into not letting them waste.   So let’s do something with that together with a half pound of ground beef and a link of Italian sausage.   I know, ravioli!  But wait… I don’t have any tomatoes or pasta sauce?  Let’s improvise.   Here’s what I ended up making and it was really, really good!

-Heated a little olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan.
-Sauteed some minced shallots (don’t need much for good flavor) until translucent, added some minced garlic and sauteed until fragrant, deglazed with a little red wine that has seen its better days, poured in a little beef broth, sprinkled some Italian seasoning, dumped in a leftover packet of marinara sauce from my son’s fast food mozzarella sticks along with a half can of tomato soup.  Ok that looks like a thin sauce.  I let it reduce down and thicken while I combined the meat mixture.  I took the sausage out of the casing and mixed it with the ground beef, some salt and pepper, an egg, a couple handfuls of arugula, the rest of a container of grated parmesan/romano cheese,  and some Italian seasoning.  Then I got out the wonton wrappers and encased little mounds of meat between them, using a little water to seal the edges.  I cooked them in a saucepot of simmering water and the rest of the beef broth.  They cooked through in 3-4 minutes.  I added them into the pan with the reduced sauce.  Tossed around a little and served with some reserved parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.  Voila!  A savory, delicious pasta dinner with a rather interesting sauce.  btw… I had more meat than wontons so I made up some meatballs, browned in a pan with olive oil, covered and simmered with the rest of the tomato soup until cooked through. My son was delighted to have his ravioli with a side of meatballs!  Let’s just say no leftovers this time!

Sometimes this mystery basket thing just works out.

Make your own Naan bread!

I have found some of my favorite recipes while developing cooking programs for kids. We recently made Naan bread during an international dinner class and Oh My Goodness was it good!!! We accidentally added about an ounce of yeast instead of the .25 ounce indicated in the recipe.  It still turned out great- The dough was fun to knead and very soft and smooth.  Proofs bigger and the texture  and taste of cooked bread may be a little different than if you use the recipe amount of yeast.  The students enjoyed rolling it out and cooking it (with butter!) on a grill pan.  I can see how this bread recipe could be adapted to include other spices and herbs along with the garlic that’s included.  This recipe is from




Banana, Carrot and Cantaloupe Smoothie Kids will LOVE

I love trying different smoothie recipes.  It’s such a great way to pack in those extra nutrients and use up leftover ingredients.  I found this recipe in my Vitamin book and tried it in a recent kids’ culinary class I was conducting (I did add a small amount of honey to be sure they would like it!)  It was a huge hit.  I mean every single kid liked it.  Give it a whirl for yourself this summer![amd-zlrecipe-recipe:8]

I Scream for Chocolate Ice Cream!

Ok I’m going to make this really simple.  If you own any kind of ice cream maker, go make your family some chocolate ice cream.  Just nothing like it.  This past week, I made two different kinds.  The ultimate Alton Brown’s chocolate ice cream and the “Frosty Style” Chocolate Soft Serve.  For the Alton recipe, I stirred in a couple handfuls of crumbled leftover brownies and popped in the freezer for a few hours to harden up.  Off the hook good!!  The only caution with this one is to pay close attention to the ice cream maker and turn it off as soon as the mixture looks like soft-serve.  There is so much cream in the recipe that it can quickly turn into chocolate butter.

Here’s the frosty style recipe. Tastes just like a Wendy’s Frosty.

-Combine 8 oz. sweetened condensed milk, 2 quarts chocolate milk and 8 oz. Cool Whip (thawed).  Stir it with a whisk to combine more easily.  Freeze like usual in your ice cream maker and serve right away.  Makes about 3 quarts. Kids will swoon!

Summertime calls for Watermelon Salad

I have several versions of this salad but here’s the most basic one.  This is the salad that keeps me awake at night.  I’ve literally gotten out of bed at 3 a.m. for a mad dash to the fridge just to scoop up a spoonful to sustain me until morning.  It’s that good to me.  That sweet, salty, herby, cheesy combo gets me every time.



Guac ‘N Turkey Rolls– great summer lunch

Who’s ready for a picnic!  ME!! The best part of the picnic is opening that basket  and finding some delicious bundles to enjoy as you lounge by the trees or the ocean.  Food tastes better out of a picnic basket for some reason.  I like to have fun with picnic food and do something a little more creative than just plain old sandwiches and chips.  Here’s an interesting alternative to a sandwich.  Wrap up a few of these and toss them in a cooler the next time you have hungry picnickers (is that a word?) to please.   I like this recipe because it can be eaten as a “wrap”or sliced into pinwheels for appetizer size portions. Tips: When making a wrap, try to spread all the layers evenly so that one part of the wrap isn’t thicker than the other.  Don’t fill it too full or it won’t roll properly and if you spread filling all the way to the top edge, it’s going to squish out as you roll.  Remember to keep the roll tight and even.


Healthier Ranch Dip for your Kids

Most kids love ranch, right?  Sometimes the only way to get them to eat a vegetable is to dredge it in ranch first.  Well that’s all well and good, but traditional ranch dressing is very high in fat and low on protein- almost negates the vegetable value. Here’s a ranch dip that gets a few more marks on the healthy scale.   You can adjust seasonings to your liking.



Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake- 16″

Here’s another cookie cake recipe using Crisco.  This is the best recipe for the longest “keeping quality.”  Cookie cake stays softer for longer.  Plus, cookie spread  isn’t a problem.  I know the measurements are weird in this recipe, but I’ve tested several times and these are the measurements that work the best for one thick 16″ cookie.



Amish-Style Pretzels

Who doesn’t love big, soft pretzels, right?  These pretzels taste kind of like a pretzel-bread stick hybrid.  They are easier to make than traditional “boiled” pretzels and my family loves them with honey mustard or cheese dip.  I recently baked a batch and put them on the counter, thinking that before I went to bed I should wrap them up or freeze them.  Well that was wasted brain power! The only things saying goodnight to me on that counter were a few crumbs and a dip-encrusted napkin! These are fun to make with your kids.  It’s one of my more popular kids’ party items.