Category Archives: Snacks

Chili Roasted Pineapple Fries

Some recipes are barely recipes.  They are more about me needing something to go with something, and well, I have this pineapple…

This dish defies any predetermined meal placement.  I served this with a side of BBQ chicken, but it would be just as good with a scoop of ice cream for dessert, or alongside a couple of scrambled eggs for breakfast.

One of my favorite Mexican restaurants is this little place in my home town, run by a Mexican lady who is always singing.  Last time I ate there, she gave me a couple of little tins of spices that she’s planning to start selling. I scored ground cinnamon and this wonderful ground chipotle pepper.  I’ve been putting it on everything!  You may think peppers and pineapples don’t go together, but you’d be wrong!  The kick from the peppers and the sticky sweet touch of honey is the perfect combo.

Chili Roasted Pineapple

Chili Roasted Pineapple

Chili Roasted Pineapple Fries

Fresh Pineapple
Ground chipotle pepper (or any ground chili/red pepper powder)

Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice pineapple up into whatever shapes you like.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lightly brush tops of pineapple with honey and sprinkle with ground chili pepper.

Cut into whatever shapes you like.  I prefer little stick shapes.  When I cook these on the grill, I do big sticks, the height of the whole pineapple.  Or you can do skewers of chunks if you prefer.

Cut into whatever shapes you like. I prefer little stick (french fry) shapes. 

Roast for 10-15 minutes, until just starting to turn brown. If you prefer grilling to roasting, these are perfect on the grill!

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Part 2

As always, Halloween speaks to me in craftiness, crunchy snacks, and way too many tiny candy bars.  To offset at least a few candy bars, I always have a big bowl of crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds handy.

This year I tried a few different crafty things with pumpkins, including painting, decoupage, and of course a little carving.  If you don’t carve you don’t get seeds!  See, this is one area where efforts are always rewarded.

My crafty little pumpkins.  So cute!

Getting jiggy with the pumpkins.

I like to experiment with different seasonings for my seeds.  This year I opted for Indian spices.  I just found a blend of tandori seasonings that I really wanted to try out and it worked great on this!  But you can really use whatever seasoning blend or combination of seasonings you like best.  Even a simple coating of sea salt is perfect.  Get fancy with it or keep it as basic as you like.

Crunchy, pumpkiny goodness!

Crunchy, pumpkiny goodness!

Indian Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from at least one pumpkin
Drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp. tandori spice mix
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried coriander

Wash your seeds and drain on paper towels.  For crispier seeds, you can let these dry overnight on a sheet of wax paper (don’t dry on paper towels, they tend to stick to it as they dry).  If you don’t mind them a tiny bit chewy, you can skip this step, or cook them a bit longer until they are as crispy as you like.

Toss seeds with a bit of olive oil and seasonings.  Spread out on a lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly brown and crispy.

To see how I did them last year, click here for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, part 1!

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Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

In my quest to use up a massive amount of zucchini given to me this summer I came across this gem of a recipe.

I have to say when it comes to baked goods, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the gluten-free, no flour, no sugar, no butter (no good stuff!) variety.  While there are some good recipes out there, most of them just can’t hold a candle to the real thing…in my humble opinion.  Now if you’re on a special diet and you have to go there, I understand but otherwise?  Why bother?  This recipe is worth bothering.  It’s every bit as good as something that has the sugar, butter and flour.  The fact that one of these brownies is just a fraction of the calories of a regular one AND are gluten-free just makes them easier to justify.  But the real reason to make them is because they are delicious!  And if you ask me, that’s the main reason for making dessert to begin with, am I right?

The original recipe only called for 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and you can use that amount if you want.  I am a chocolate fanatic so I doubled it, and used the big bittersweet ones.  Fabulous!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you?  Yep!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you? Yep!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
(slightly adapted from

1/2 cup all natural unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup dark chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×11 baking pan (or an ultimate brownie pan!) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place oats in blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect but it should take a few minutes. Mine still had some whole oats and pieces mixed in with the ground stuff.  Worked fine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl of electric mixer, cream together peanut butter, applesauce, honey and vanilla until smooth. Add in zucchini, cocoa powder, ground oats, baking soda, and salt; mix until well combined. Gently fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tooth pick inserted into middle comes out almost clean.

Cool brownies on wire rack then cut into squares. Yum!

Cooling brownies.  I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges!  The edges are my favorite part.

Cooling brownies. I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges! The edges are my favorite part.

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April’s Famous Salsa

I recently reconnected with my stepbrother after a number of years.  The first thing he told me (not kidding!) was that in all the years since we’d seen each other he had yet to find a salsa that measured up to mine.  A proud moment for me as a big sister, a cook, and a salsa lover.  🙂

And he’s not wrong.  Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little), but this stuff is pretty awesome.

You can make this chunky by just pulsing in a food processor, or smoother by using a blender.  For this batch, I used the blender.  During the height of tomato season I use fresh tomatoes, but most of the year canned tomatoes work just fine.  I especially like the newish “fire-roasted” diced tomato variety, for a little extra smoky flavor.  You can also roast the veggies before throwing them in for an extra smoky finish as well.

April's Famous Salsa

April’s Famous Salsa

April’s Famous Salsa

1/2 cup red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 jalapeno, (green or red or a bit of both – stemmed & seeded)
3-4 tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 handful fresh cilantro (about 1/3 – 1/2 cup)
1 can diced (fire-roasted or regular) tomatoes (or use 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped)

In a blender or food processor, add onion, jalapeno, garlic, tomatillos, lime juice and cilantro.  Pulse or puree (pulse for chunkier texture, puree for smoother salsa).  Scrape down sides and add tomatoes, salt and cumin.  Pulse to combine.  Check texture and blend more if you’d like it smoother.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Makes about 2 cups.  Store in an airtight container.  This will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks (if it lasts that long!).

April's Famous Salsa.  I eat this on just about everything.

April’s Famous Salsa. I eat this on just about everything.

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Quickie Greek Pizza

It’s hard to get much quicker than this little weeknight treat.  It’s so easy I’m not sure it actually qualifies as a recipe, but here it goes anyway.

I buy hummus from a stand at farmer’s market a pretty regular basis.  With so many varieties there is always a new one to try.  But beyond the dipping extravaganza, who knew that it would work just great as a pizza topping?  Well now we know.  Combined with a pita and Greeky sorts of toppings it was just lovely.  And pretty healthy too, gotta like that!

Quickie Greek Style Pizza

Quickie Greek Pizza

Quickie Greek Pizza

1 Greek style pita
2-3 tbsp. hummus, whatever variety you like best
Kalamata olives
Sun-dried tomatoes (I usually use the kind packed in olive oil)
1 tsp. pine nuts
Feta, mozzarella or queso fresco

As you can see from my stellar measurements here, I usually don’t measure anything.  Simply spread the hummus over the pita and sprinkle toppings on in whatever quantity you like!  Crumble some cheese on top and grind a bit of pepper on top.

Now of course you could just eat it like this.  But if you want it hot and crispy, cook it!

Now of course you could just eat it like this. But if you want it hot and crispy, cook it!

For a nice crisp crust, I cooked mine right on the oven rack.  About 10 minutes at 375˚ or until it’s melted and crispy on the bottom.

If you want it less crispy, put it on a pan first and don't cook it as long.

If you want it less crispy, put it on a pan first and don’t cook it as long.

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Greek Yogurt Soufflé

I have no intention of giving up dessert.  That being said, I am trying to eat healthier (most days anyway).  So I occasionally attempt a lighter dessert in my efforts to be good.  Sometimes you get pretty much what you’d expect.  Something okay.  Something less.  Less satisfying.  Less tasty.  Less what you were craving.

But sometimes you get a surprise.  A tasty, wonderful surprise.  That something “lighter” is still delicious and crave-worthy.  It stands on its own as a dessert and yells “EAT ME!”

These little beauties pass the dessert test in my book.  I love cheesecake but it’s about one of the most evil desserts on the planet.  These soufflés taste like a fluffy, delicate cheesecake cloud and are absolutely delightful.  And at about 140 calories each (vs. 500-800 calories for a slice of cheesecake), you don’t even have to feel guilty about it.

For the most impressive presentation serve immediately, as soon as they come out of the oven.  They start to fall as they cool but no worries!  Even if they do, they are mouth-watering.  You can also eat them the next day, although don’t be alarmed if they are about half their original size.

Greek Yogurt Soufflé

Greek Yogurt Soufflé

Greek Yogurt Soufflé

1 cup greek yogurt (original plain)
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
a little butter and sugar for prepping the ramekins
Berries and/or lemon zest for garnish

Preheat your oven to 375˚.  Rub the inside of each of 6 ramekins with a very light coating of butter.  Sprinkle some sugar in there and swirl it around to coat the surface.  Dump out any excess sugar.  Place prepared ramekins on a baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together yogurt, egg yolks, flour, salt and vanilla.  Set aside.  In another bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and continue to whisk or beat until soft peaks form.

This is about what they looked like right before I mixed them together.

This is about what they looked like right before I mixed them together.

Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the yogurt mixture and incorporate well.  Add in another 1/3 of the mixture and carefully fold it in, then do the last of the mixture.  You don’t want to mix too much, just fold until incorporated; you want to retain as much volume as possible.

Divide among your ramekins, filling about to the line (at least on the ones I have).

I use 8 oz. ramekins and this is how full they were.  A 6 oz. ramekin would probably work fine as well.

I use 8 oz. ramekins and this is how full they were. A 6 oz. ramekin would probably work fine as well.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Do not open the door to peek!  They should be lightly browned and puffed up nicely.  Remove from oven, garnish and serve immediately for the full effect!  They will begin dropping as they cool.  No worries, they will still be delicious, but not quite as impressive after they’ve fallen.

Just out of the oven.  Serve right away!

Just out of the oven. Serve right away!

Already starting to fall a bit after about 10 minutes, but still sooo good.

Already starting to fall a bit after about 10 minutes, but still sooo good.


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The Sleepover Solution: Build Your Own Pizza Bar

The giggling still echoes in my ears.  Four thirteen-year-old girls can make a lot of noise.  And apparently require almost no sleep.  In any case I know one thing:  A key element of a successful sleepover is the food.  The build your own pizza bar is one we’ve done a couple times and it’s always a rousing success.  Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a fun activity for the kids, no matter what age they are.

While this is perfect kid food, I’ve been known to do this with my grown up friends too.  Everybody gets just what they like, and it’s great if you have a group that includes vegetarians, or others on a special diet.  I love to use the little ciabatta rolls, or a french baguette cut into pieces. If you have gluten-free or low-carb folks in your group you can use gluten free buns, stuff toppings in a pepper half or toss with salad greens for a pizza salad.

We followed up with Frost Your Own Cupcakes for dessert. Yum!

Our masterpieces!

Our masterpieces!

Build Your Own Pizzas

Ciabatta rolls or French baguette, cut into 3-4″ pieces.
Pizza sauce
Pesto (I like to offer an alternative to tomato sauce in case of allergies, etc.)
Assorted pizza toppings of your choice.  We used:
Banana pepper rings
Sliced red & yellow peppers

The pizza bar.  It can be simple or elaborate.  Basic or gourmet.  It's up to you!

The pizza bar. It can be simple or elaborate. Basic or gourmet. It’s up to you!

Put all the ingredients out, make sure you have plenty of utensils for spreading and scooping ingredients.  Have everybody wash their hands first and then make their own pizzas.  Preheat the oven to 400˚.  Lay out a baking sheet or two on which to place the finished masterpieces.  I always recommend they put some sort of marker on their pizzas so they will know which ones are theirs, or just remember where they put it.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown on top.  Remove from oven and let cool a minute or so.  Clear out while the hungry horde descends.


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Jello Pinwheels

Jello is one of those things that’s fun to make, fun to play with…and that I usually have no desire to eat.  I’m not sure why that is.  Is it that I associate it with being sick and low-carb diets?  Maybe.  I don’t hate it, but I rarely go out of my way to have some.  My kids feel the same way.  That being said, occasionally we see a recipe that needs to be made, just for the fun of it.  So we’ve made the jello aquarium (complete with Spongebob and friends), we’ve pinned jello oranges, and now we’ve discovered jello pinwheels.

These jello pinwheels are easy to make, and they involve marshmallows, which in my opinion only improves the jello.  They are definitely a fun snack, especially for the smaller kids I think.  I’d love to tell you we gobbled them up like crazy but I think we had more fun playing with them and making them than actually eating them.  But if you’re a jello fan, they are a must.

Jello Roll-ups

Jello Rollups
(from Joy of Jello)

1 (3 oz) package of jello
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Lightly spray an 8 or 9 inch square pan with cooking spray.

Stir together water and jello powder and microwave for one minute.  Remove and stir to make sure all the jello is dissolved.  Microwave a few seconds more if needed.

Add marshmallows and return to microwave for 20-40 seconds, until marshmallows just begin to puff.  This is the key to a successful marshmallow layer! If you overcook the marshmallows they will just dissolve and you will not have two distinct layers.

Whisk quickly until marshmallows have dissolved.  Pour into prepared pan and chill in the fridge for at least 45 minutes, until well set.  The creamy marshmallow layer will float to the top.

Remove the pan from the fridge.  The jello should be very firm and easy to handle.  Gently pull one side away from the pan and lift the entire sheet onto the counter or other clean surface.  Starting at one end, roll up tightly.  With the seam side down, cut into 1/2 inch pinwheels.  An easy way to do this is with a piece of thread or dental floss.  Simply put the string around the roll, cross and pull. Makes 10-12 pinwheels.

Easiest way to cut the pinwheels.

Easiest way to cut the pinwheels.

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Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

I got a speeding ticket this morning.  And broke a nail.  One might suppose that this was the start to a rough day.  But I’m sitting here munching on a fabulous granola bar, one that transcends most granola bars as we know them.  And drinking a perfect mocha.  And watching a few rays of sun breaking through the clouds as I get ready to head to yoga class.  And I’m thinking life is pretty darn good.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs and thought, “oh those look good, and healthy too!”  And then when I was making them I thought, “hey, what if I add a cup of mini chocolate chips to them?” So…maybe mine are a little less healthy.  But you could still do worse.  I made some changes in the original recipe, based mostly on what was in my cupboard and a few flights of fancy.  And was also reminded that you should always read the recipe all the way through before starting.  My mini chocolate chips seemed like an inspired idea until I realized I would be pouring hot liquid on the mixture.  Um. I didn’t really think that through.  My chips melted.  Which really turned out to be wonderful, since the chocolate permeated the bars rather than staying in chip form.  It was unanticipated but quite delicious, and a contributing factor in the “gooey” description to be sure.  The end result is a chewy, gooey, indulgent (and still somewhat healthy) treat.  So take a moment, slow down, and eat one.

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars
(adapted from Chewy Cherry Granola Bars by

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup puffed rice (or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, which I happened to have)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Heat oven to 350˚.  Spread oats out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, puffed grain or rice, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  Lower oven temp to 300˚.

In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir one minute.  Remove from heat and pour over grain and fruit mixture.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined.  Line a 13 x 9 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Put mixture in the pan.  Wet fingers and press evenly and firmly into the pan.  Bake at 300˚ for 20-25 minutes.  Cool at least 2-3 hours (I know!  But seriously, you need to wait) before cutting into bars.  Cut into bars and store in airtight containers, using wax paper to separate the bars so they don’t stick together.  Makes 24 bars.  187 calories per bar.

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

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Peanut Butter Granola Bars

In my search for healthier snacks that aren’t rabbit food, I came across a simple recipe for granola bars.  This is what I would call a “guideline” recipe.  Take the basics here and add and subtract stuff you like.

I did two batches of these.  In one batch I was a little more generous with the peanut butter, and I added some extra peanuts and dried cranberries.  In the other batch I used chocolate peanut butter in place of the regular stuff, and added mini chocolate chips.  When I cut the bars I did have some crumbling, which resulted in some bars and some loose granola that was perfect for tossing on top of oatmeal or yogurt.  Adding a little oil to the recipe would probably help with the crumbling, but I was shooting for healthy here so I didn’t bother with it.

Homemade granola bars, two different ways.

Homemade granola bars, two different ways.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used natural PB with no sugar, I also did one batch with natural chocolate peanut butter – they make that!)
1/4 cup honey

Other mix-ins such as dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips!

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Melt peanut butter in microwave or on the stove.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, using your hands if necessary.  Add a little more honey or a drizzle of oil if it seems too dry.  Spray a pan with cooking spray and press mixture into the pan firmly.  Bake for 10-15 minutes (bake a little longer if you like them really crunchy).  Let cool a bit and cut into bars or crumble for loose granola.

Which one to eat first? Decisions, decisions...

Which one to eat first? Decisions, decisions…

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