Saturday, October 8, 2016

Shirley's Snack Mix

We call this Shirley's Snack Mix because it came from Aunt Shirley. It's really delicious and really easy. AND you can customize it using the types of snacks you like. We use the big bag of plain Bugles, oyster crackers, Original Chex Mix, and Ritz Toasted Chips. But you can use up to five different types of your favorite crackers like Goldfish Crackers, Cheez-Its, mini pretzels, you get the idea. It makes a big batch so be sure that you have a large roaster to bake it in, like one you would use to cook a turkey that's big and deep. Don't think too much about how bad this is for you, just make a batch and share it. It's great for Super Bowl, birthday parties, New Year's, even bagged up as little homemade gifts for the holidays.  

Shirley's Snack Mix
1 bottle of Orville Redenbacher's Butter Flavor Popping and Topping oil
2 pouches of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing and Seasoning mix
5 packages of your favorite snacks 

Heat oven to 200°F. Pour the oil in a saucepan. Add seasoning mix. Stir over low heat until seasonings are relatively dissolved. Place all the snacks into a big roasting pan. Stir to mix. Pour oil mixture over the top. Stir to distribute. Place in preheated oven. Bake one hour, stir twice. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Keeps up to a week. 

(We use 1 big bag of Bugles, 1 big bag of Chex Mix, 1 bag of Oyster Crackers, 1-2 bags of Ritz Toasted Chips.)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ginger Snap Cookies

Ginger Snap Cookies © MarcyCanCook
I have been making these cookies since I was little. It is a pretty easy recipe and good starter recipe for a young baker. It makes about 4 dozen cookies and they keep well, if they last that long. It's a favorite at our house, during the holidays and all year round. It works well for us and my dairy-free husband because they are made with shortening (Crisco). And we like to go heavy on the spices so all the measurements for 1 tsp. we do as heaping. You can do a level teaspoon to start and see what you like. I use Penzey's spices so I like to double the spices and really kick up the flavor. Real molasses can hold up to the spice so bring it on! I bake for 8 minutes because we like a softer cookie, but by all means, if you like a snappy Ginger Snap, then bake for 10-11 minutes. You can't go wrong!

Ginger Snap Cookies
from my mom, Diane

1 1/2 c. Crisco (or other vegetable shortening)
2 c. white granular sugar
2 large eggs
7 Tblsp. molasses (use Grandma's it's the best)
4 c. all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon* 
1 tsp. ground cloves*
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 pinch of salt
Extra white sugar for rolling.

Heat oven to 350°F. Put the shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on high speed until the mixture is nice and fluffy. Add eggs, molasses and spices on medium speed until combined.  Then add flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix on low after each addition. Beat for about 30 seconds after flour is all incorporated. If dough seems a little sticky, you can chill for a while. You'll need to be able to handle it. With a small spoon, scoop a little dough and roll it into the size of a walnut. Roll in sugar and place on pan. Bake for 8 minutes for a softer cookie, 10-11 minutes for a real snap. You want the cookies to be golden and crackled on the surface. Cool for 2 minutes on the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. They also freeze well. 

(*here's where you can heap the teaspoons or double if you dare)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fresh Sweet Bing Cherry Crumb Bars

I had an over-abundance of fresh sweet Bing cherries this summer and I was looking for something to do with them all over the internet. I wanted a small batch of bars that I could adapt to dairy-free. This is my adaptation of a recipe I found (credits below) and it turned out wonderfully. It made just a small 8x8 pan, enough that my family of three could each enjoy three nicely sized bars. And enjoy we did. 

Fresh Sweet Bing Cherry Crumb Bars
Crust/Crumb Layers:
¾ c. all purpose flour
¾ c. ground almonds (I use Bob's Red Mill)
½ tsp. baking powder
½ c. granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg 
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract
½ c. cold margarine* cut into cubes.

Cherry Layer:
2 c. pitted fresh Bing cherries, cut in half (measuring after pitting)
3 T. white sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
1 T raw sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8x8 inch square baking pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, vanilla and almond extracts. Then, using fork or your fingers, combine the margarine and egg mixture with flour mixture until combined. Press 2/3 of the crust mixture in bottom of pan. Set aside the remaining for the crumb topping. 

Toss cherries with the sugar, cornstarch and water. Then sprinkle evenly on crust, then top with remaining crumb mixture. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The topping will be lightly brown. Allow to cool completely. Cut into squares.
* Smart Balance also makes a great dairy-free butter that works wonderfully in baking. Check it out here:

(This was adapted to dairy-free from I thank Fiona for the inspiration for these bars that were a huge hit in my house!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Fresh Peach Crumb Pie

I had to dig through the old church cookbooks to find a good recipe for fresh peach pie. So many recipes use canned peach pie filling or require a double crust. I was looking for something different and WOW! did I find it. It's exactly the peach pie I would have been looking for had I known what I was looking for. This one I found in a church cookbook from the St. Paul's Lutheran Church of New Ulm published in 1983! I made only slight adjustments to the original recipe (which peeks out a bit in the photo). I cut back a little (a lot!) on the sugar and the almond extract (1 tsp extract in the original recipe which I moved from the filling to the crumb topping!) The final result is honestly in the running for the top spot as our family favorite, the #1 ranking pie in front of apple pie with streusel topping. It's amazing. Get peaches that are ripe and ready to eat and you won't be sorry. 

Fresh Peach Crumb Pie
One unbaked pie shell (I use Pillsbury refrigerated crusts!) 
5 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. white sugar
Crumb Topping:
1/4 c. white sugar

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter cut into cubes
1/2 c. flour (may need extra flour to make the topping crumbly)
2 drops (yes drops) almond extract

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place pie shell in glass pie pan. Folding over the edges so they are a little thicker. In a large bowl, combine peaches, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Pour into unbaked pie shell. For the topping, combine sugar and butter using a fork or your fingers, add extract, then add enough flour to make a rough crumb that is not sticky. If sticky add a little flour at a time. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over filling. Put pie pan on a large cookie sheet in case of any spills. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° and bake 50-55 minutes. The edges and crumb topping should be nicely golden brown and the filling thick and bubbly. Remove from cookie sheet and cool completely.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Super Bean Salad

This is a super easy, super awesome summer salad. No cooking required. A little chop-chop, mix-mix, and you've got a potluck-worthy salad that won't wilt or spoil in the heat of a summer picnic! It's light and refreshing and has a healthy dose of protein to fuel your summer adventures. I hope you enjoy it. 

Super Bean Salad
1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans (15oz), drained and rinsed 
1 can kidney beans (15oz), drained and rinsed 
1 can garbanzo beans (15oz),  drained and rinsed
 ½ c. sweet Vidalia onion, diced 
2 celery stalks, diced (approx. ¾ c.) 
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced (¾ c.) 
1 c. cut sweet corn, cooked and cooled
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp olive oil
Juice from half a lemon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

In a large bowl, mix the beans, onion, celery, bell pepper, and corn. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients (or add to a mason jar, put on the lid tightly, and give it a shake). Pour dressing over the bean mixture. Chill a few hours to let the flavors meld. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Coconut Banana Bread

Okay, you have to like (LOVE) coconut to enjoy this recipe. I mean really love. I took a heritage recipe and updated it for my dairy-free home and added coconut to complement the subtle flavor that the coconut oil adds to this recipe. I included the original ingredient information in (parenthesis) so you can use those if you like a traditional banana bread.

Coconut Banana Bread

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (butter)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste (extract)
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream (sour cream or Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (chopped walnuts)
2 medium ripe bananas, smashed (sliced) 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, stir together the melted coconut oil and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the oil and sugar mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the Tofutti sour cream, coconut shreds and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Vanilla Bean Mini-Cheesecakes

I have tried many times to make a full-size cheesecake. Epic fails every time. The complex instructions some recipes provide with the promise of a no-fail cheesecake never yielded a perfect outcome. I have been collecting cheesecake recipes for a long time. I thought I'd try some mini cheesecake recipes. I figure the smaller size and therefore shorter baking time would reduce the margin of error. I was right. I found some recipes that had the right elements but not a perfect combination all in one. Like some suggest oreos for the crust, or include lemon juice or zest in the batter. And I didn't want to make a big batch of 24 mini-cakes since it's just me and my daughter eating them. (Husband doesn't eat dairy and these are the real deal.) So after some recipe research I developed this recipe entirely in theory. When I finally did make it, I was in heaven. Perfect. Easy. Foolproof. I hope you like it. 
Vanilla Bean Mini-Cheesecakes 
(Makes 12 in a standard size cupcake pan*)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners. Spray papers a little to help with removal later. 

Graham crust: 
2/3 c. crushed graham crackers
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. butter, melted
Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Using a large spoon, scoop the crust mixture into the cupcake liners. Try to include about the same in each one. Using the plastic lid from a can of Pam spray, press the crust firmly into each cup. 

2 packages (8 ounce) cream cheese, full-fat, allow to come to room temperature. 
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (I use Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste for ALL vanilla extract needs)
2 large eggs

Beat cream cheese and sugar. Add vanilla paste. Add eggs and mix until just blended. Scoop filling on top of crusts, filling almost to the top of the paper. Tap the pan a little to help level the filling.  
Bake for 20-22 minutes. The cheesecakes will be puffy and firm. Allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecakes from cupcake pan and refrigerate 3 hours. Top as desired, or just eat plain. I love how the crust turned out it's like a buttery cookie. Just perfect.

* use plain aluminum pans, not non-stick or dark. I LOVE Nordicware pans best. Their pans are perfect for even heat and bake up perfect cookies, bread, cupcakes, whatever you can make they can bake.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Three-Animal Meatballs and Marinara

Three-Animal Meatball and Marinara, right. Left is Alfredo and pasta.
If you're not into meat, I'll just suggest you skip this post. This is a meatball recipe and features the meat from three different animals: beef, pork, turkey. I didn't want to call it 3-Meat Meatballs. That just sounds funny to me. So Three-Animal Meatballs it is. Meat is from animals, you know. As I was researching some ideas for my meatball recipe, I found a number of them out there that call for veal. I don't use veal in my cooking. It's just hard to get where I live and when it comes to cooking I like to use what is readily available. So instead of veal, I use turkey. And I buy meat from local farmers and organic whenever possible. I like to know where and who raised the animal. I grew up on a farm so I know how it all works. Enough on that topic. On to the meatballs. These are great. Seriously. You can make a big batch like this, freeze some and have them on hand for quick dinner. I happen to love meatballs with sautéed cabbage. And actually this Three-Animal Meatball is adapted from my own Spinach Meatball recipe posted here. Meatballs are really quite easy to make and the marinara, a snap. You can make the sauce and while it simmers, make the meatballs.

Homemade Marinara
2 quarts Roma tomatoes*
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
a couple of basil leaves
pinch of red pepper flakes, opt.
Heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté quickly for just a minute. Add tomatoes. Simmer on low 2-3 hours until reduced and oil is dark orange on top. Add basil chopped at the end.

Three-Animal Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork (or a seasoned Italian sausage would work fine here too)
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup spinach leaves chopped into small pieces (or if you freeze it ahead, it crumbles easily in a zipper bag)
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. garlic powder (or one clove crushed)
1 tsp. oregano leaves
1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper (try Penzey's pepper! Best ever!)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. bread crumbs (Italian seasoned if you use plain pork, or plain crumbs if you use Italian sausage)

Heat oven to 400°F. Combine all the ingredients with your hands until well blended. Prepare two cookie sheets by coating with some pan spray. Using a spring scoop (size 20) form meatballs and arrange 12 each on a pan. Bake about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and carefully add to marinara. Simmer about an hour or longer. 

*The best tomatoes are the ones canned at home if you are able. If you buy, go for organic San Marzano DOP Authentic Plum Tomatoes. I think these are the best you can get. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Homemade Alfredo Sauce and Fresh Pasta

Alfredo sauce, left, marinara over 3-animal meatball, right.
I won't go into the boring details about why I finally decided to make my own Alfredo sauce, but I am really glad I did. I will never buy it in the jar again. This is really easy, has few ingredients, none of them are too fancy and it flies together pretty quickly—so you have no excuses. I can't believe I haven't done this sooner. You can adjust the garlic to your personal taste. I adapted this from a recipe I found but changed to accommodate what I had on hand. I didn't have the 2 cups of Parmesan cheese it called for. Or heavy cream. So I used flour and whole milk (dairy-free hubby was not eating this dish!), less cheese, plenty of garlic and my favorite black pepper.Very easy and very pleasing! Hope you like!  If you are making your own pasta, you have to start that about 2 hours before you plan to eat it, or if you are making the dough ahead, refrigerate it until ready to use. Allow about 20-30 minutes for rolling, cutting, drying and cooking.

Homemade Alfredo Sauce
1/4 c. butter
2 T. all purpose flour
1 tsp. black pepper (more to taste)
1 tsp. salt
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 close garlic, smashed
2 t. parsley

Melt butter on low heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk until fully combined. Heat on LOW heat about 5 minutes until just starting to thicken. Stir constantly to avoid lumps or scorching. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper. Add cheese, garlic and parsley. Stir until cheese is melted. Serve immediately over fresh pasta.

Fresh Pasta Dough
1 lb. flour (part semolina, part all-purpose) *see below
4 large eggs plus one yolk
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 T. warm water.
Using a large stand mixer with dough hook (Kitchen Aid) put flour, eggs, oil, salt and water in bowl. Mix on low until combined. Stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally. Continue mixing on medium speed until dough starts to pull into a ball. Add water if too dry, flour if too sticky. Run on medium speed to knead dough about 8-10 minutes. Stop occasionally and pull dough off the hook and set to mixing again. When smooth, coat a bowl with olive oil, place dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest one hour. (Refrigerate if not preparing right away.) When ready to prepare, divide dough in two parts. Knead lightly and dust with flour. Run through pasta maker** to flatten, first on the thickest setting, then progressively thinner to desired size. Add flour to surface of dough as needed. Cut into desired shapes. Dry on a wooden rack if you have one, or lie them flat for 10-15 minutes. Boil a big pot of water and salt generously. (Salty as the sea, I have heard it said.) Boil for 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of your pasta. Drain and return to pot. Serve immediately with alfredo.

*Flour Note: Using a food scale to weigh .4 pounds semolina flour and .65 all-purpose flour 
If you don't have a food scale, you could start with 1 c. semolina and 2-1/3 c. all-purpose flour

**Pasta Maker:  I use a Marcato Atlas 150 Stainless Steel Manual Pasta Maker. It's hand cranked but it gives you all the control over speed and pressure. Safer on fingers than a mixer attachment.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Swiss Breakfast Oats

This is a little make-ahead breakfast that I first tasted at a little coffee shop in downtown Chicago four years ago. I searched for recipes but didn't find any that were quite the same taste as I remembered. So after some trial and error and modifying recipes from all over the web, I came up with a version that is exactly what I hoped for. This breakfast oat mixture is made before bedtime so it's ready to eat in the morning with very little prep. I hope you enjoy it. It's a bit like rice pudding and is adaptable to whatever mix-ins you like. I use walnuts, but pecans are also good with dried blueberries. Always add bananas at serving time. For a little variety, I mix half old-fashioned rolled oats and half rolled rye flakes from Eden Organic. Rye flakes work just like rolled oats even for cooked breakfast cereal and have a nice nutty flavor. Be sure you don't use quick cooking oats!

Swiss Breakfast Oats
1 c. old fashioned rolled oats (or half oats/half rye)
1 c. plain lowfat Greek yogurt (or vanilla, then skip the honey)
1 c. milk, almond milk, or other milk substitute. (I use almond milk)
1/2 T. honey 
1 apple, cored and chopped (you can peel if you like, but I like the color and texture of the peel)
2 T. chopped walnuts (+/-)
2 T. raisins (optional)

1 banana, sliced

Combine the oats, yogurt, milk, honey, apples, walnuts, and raisins in a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 8 hours. Add banana to the oats just before eating. If you only plan to eat a portion of it, slice bananas on top of your serving, as pictured, and garnish with some more walnuts. The oats keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days. It never lasts that long in my house.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Grandma Lally's Cottage Cheese cake (Schmierkuchen)

Don't get me wrong, I love a good New York style cheesecake as much as anyone. More than anyone, really. But when I want a soul-satisfying comfort food dessert, I think of my Grandma Lally's cottage cheese cake, or Schmierkuchen. Every time I visited she'd have one in the freezer for me to take home. I think of her when I make these. They are primarily cottage cheese and prunes, so not for the faint of heart. But if you like a rustic style dessert with a custard like filling and warm cinnamon flavor, this is for you. You could use a frozen sweet bread dough for the crust, but trust me when I say, the batter-style crust in this recipe is easy and totally worth the extra step. Plus you don't have to plan ahead to thaw a loaf of frozen dough, which I am all for.

Grandma Lally's Cottage Cheese cake
3/4 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 c. soft shortening
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk (2% or whole)
1-1/2 c.unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 lb (24oz) cottage cheese
1 c. granulated white sugar
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk (2% or whole)
Pinch of salt
1 lb. bag of pitted prunes, quartered

Simmer the prunes in a small sauce pan with a little water. Heat just to softened, cool and drain. Set aside.

Mix sugar, shortening and egg with your stand mixer until fluffy. Stir in the milk. Sift together all the dry ingredients. Stir into batter. Butter the bottoms and sides of two 9" cake pans (You could also use pie pans). Divide the batter in two equal portions and spread evenly in the bottom and sides of the cake pans.

Mix together all filling ingredients. Pour an equal amount into each of the two crust-lined cake pans. Dot with an equal amount of the cooled prunes on each pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until set. The outer edge of the crust will be a nice golden brown. Serve warm or cold.