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Avocado Cucumber Dip and Salad Dressing

This recipe is a great way to use avocados that are getting too ripe (besides guacamole), a wonderful dip for fresh veggies, or a tasty salad dressing.  Talk about multi-tasking!  It has a bright, fresh taste and a smooth texture.  You're gonna love it!

Avocado Cucumber Dip and Salad Dressing

1/3 Cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-4 Tbsp dried cilantro or 1/2 - 3/4 Cup chopped fresh cilantro (depending on your taste)
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and chunked
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chunked
1/4 Cup fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil and garlic into a blender; process until smooth.  Add cilantro, avocado, cucumber and lemon juice.  Blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate.


On Vacation!

I'm on vacation!  See you next week!  Michele


Orange Cole Slaw

I love cole slaw!  I have several different recipes for cole slaw (sweet, spicy, oniony) which I use depending on what I'm serving it with.  However, since my doctor has had me on a strict no-sugar diet, cole slaw has not been the same.  Commercial mayonnaise has sugar in it, and all of my recipes call for mayonnaise and include added sweetener of some sort.  When I tried making it with my own homemade mayonnaise and no added sweetener, I didn't care for it at all.  So, I began experimenting.  Was it possible to make it sweeter with things I was allowed on this diet?  The answer was yes!  So here's the recipe I created, which has given me back cole slaw and bonus! my husband loves it too.

Orange Cole Slaw

1/2 small head cabbage, sliced fine (about 4 cups)
2 oranges, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 Cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 rounded Tbsp finely grated orange peel (be sure it's just the orange part--no pith, which is bitter)
1/4 Cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Put cabbage and orange chunks into a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, orange peel and orange juice.  Pour over cabbage and oranges and mix thoroughly.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Refreshing, delicious, and good for you too!  Such a deal!


Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar

This isn't actually a recipe -- just my absolutely favorite way to eat fresh strawberries!  Since I've rarely run into anyone else who eats them this way, and since great strawberries are in plentiful supply right now, I thought I'd pass this on.  Take my word for it, these are totally addicting.  You may never look at fresh strawberries in the same way again.

Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar

Fresh strawberries, washed and drained, with the little green tops left on -- they make a perfect handle!
Sour cream
Brown sugar

Now for the fun part:  grab a strawberry, dip it in the sour cream, then dip it in the brown sugar, then pop it in your mouth and bite down.  Get into a rhythm, and mmmmmmm, strawberry nirvana!  I took this picture of one that had been dipped sitting on a plate because I couldn't hold it in my hand and shoot the picture at the same time.  But trust me, you'll never see another one sitting on a plate.  You don't even need a plate -- they just go straight from the fingers into the mouth, as fast as you can go, until you hit pure bliss.  Enjoy!


Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Scampi

If you love garlic and shrimp, you'll love this recipe!  Scampi has always been my favorite way to have shrimp -- but it's so expensive to buy!  Now that I have this recipe, which is so easy, I can have scampi whenever I want -- yahoo! 

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Scampi

 1 lb large raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails on or off, you choose
1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 tsp salt
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp grated lemon or lime peel
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice or lime juice
Lemon or lime wedges for garnish (opt)

If you buy frozen shrimp, thaw.  Prepare shrimp, wash under cold running water, drain well, and dry on paper towels.  Melt butter and combine with remaining ingredients (except garnish).  Arrange shrimp in single layer in a baking dish (a 9 x 13 casserole works well).  Pour garlic butter sauce over top.  Bake in preheated 350 oven 5 minutes.  Remove and turn shrimp.  Bake 8-10 minutes longer or just until shrimp turn pink.  Arrange shrimp on heated platter.  Pour garlic butter drippings over all and garnish with lemon or lime wedges.  Makes 4 servings.  Also good served over rice.

Dive in!


Banana Bread and Breakfast Cookies

Today's post features two recipes that call for overripe bananas.  I discovered today that I had four bananas that I needed to use or lose, so voila!  Recipes for the blog!  Blogs are handy that way :).

The first recipe is one from my mother that I've been eating as long as I can remember.  I had to change it a little to make it gluten free, but it's still delicious.  Instead of one big loaf, I made two small ones with the intention of giving one away, but my hubby devoured one between lunch and dinner, so I guess not! 

Banana Bread

1-3/4 Cups rice powder gluten free mix (look here for the basic GF mix recipe; make it using rice powder rather than rice flour for pastry-type baked goods)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 Cup soft shortening
2/3 Cup granulated sugar
2 eggs unbeaten
1 Cup mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla

With electric mixer at medium speed, thoroughly mix shortening with sugar, then add eggs, and beat until very light and fluffy (you'll know you're there when it looks like silky fluffy frosting).  Sift dry ingredients together.  With mixer at low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with bananas and vanilla, just until smooth.  Grease a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan.  Turn batter into pan.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until done.  If using smaller pans, decrease baking time.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, remove to rack.  Cool before slicing.  Chopped dates, nuts, dried apricots, or raisins may be added for variety.


The next recipe is a fun one.  It would be great for a birthday child's breakfast -- the child thinks they're getting cookies for breakfast, but mom knows they're actually getting something nutritious.  These are moist and don't keep well, so go ahead and let the kids eat them up while they're warm--that's when they're yummiest!  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Breakfast Cookies

1/2 Cup butter, melted
1 Cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 Cup dried fruit of your choice (dates, apricots, cherries, etc), chopped (this can be quickly done in a food processor)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp evaporated milk
1/2 Cup boiling water

Place in blender and mix well, or use beaters to mix thoroughly. 

2-1/2 Cups brown rice gluten free mix (same mix as above, only made with brown rice flour rather than white rice flour or rice powder)
1/2 Cup rice bran
1/2 Cup powdered milk or instant nonfat dry milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 Cup chopped nuts (opt)
1 Cup raisins (opt) (you may be able to get your kids to eat them if you chop them up in your food processor so they're not recognizable :)

Mix into liquid mixture until blended.  Spray a cookie sheet with Pam.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.  They don't brown much, so don't wait for them to look browned or they'll get too dry.  Serve immediately.  Makes two dozen.

I used chopped apricots and whole raisins in these.  A festive breakfast!


Pasta Salad

Happy Independence Day!  Today's recipe is a natural at Independence Day picnics -- healthy, easy to fix and transport, pretty to look at, and always popular.  I don't think I've ever had leftovers to take home after a picnic.  OK, I know most everyone has their own version of pasta salad and that you can buy them at delis everywhere, but you have to agree that it's one of the most versatile dishes on the planet and therefore worth talking about a bit.  The good news for those who have to eat wheat free is that there are now great wheat free pastas available.  (Look here if you're searching for one.)  And, there's no better way to use up leftover vegetables or clean out your refrigerator than a pasta salad -- virtually anything works in it!  The trick is putting together good combinations.  So here's some suggestions of how to get started, and then some variations.

Pasta Salad

1 12-16 oz pkg brown rice pasta, your choice of shape, cooked, drained, rinsed with cold water, drained again
Chopped vegetables -- the following are basic to all recipes:
celery, sliced
radishes, sliced
green pepper, diced
carrots, cut small
zucchini, diced
cucumber, diced

For an all-vegetable pasta salad, you can add any or all of the following:
green onion, sliced, or red onion, diced
broccoli, cut small
cauliflower, cut small
mushrooms, sliced
avocados, ripe but firm, diced
canned beans of your choice, drained and rinsed well

To make it super easy, just use your favorite gluten-free Italian salad dressing as the sauce for it.  Add some, stir, taste, add more and keep going until it's to your liking.  If you make it a day ahead, be sure you stir and taste before serving -- you may have to add more dressing as the pasta absorbs some while it sits.  If you'd like to make your own dressing, here's a good one:

1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste

Whisk together in a bowl.  Pour over pasta salad and stir.  Add additional salt to taste, if desired.

For a vegetable/fruit pasta salad, you can add any or all to the basic recipe:

pineapple chunks
mandarin oranges
fresh oranges, chopped
grapefruit sections
apple chunks
kiwi fruit, chopped
fresh berries or strawberries if serving immediately (they turn everything pink if left overnight)
raisins, craisins, dried cherries, or other dried fruits

Here's a light citrus dressing I love for a fruited pasta salad:

1/2 Cup orange juice
1/4 Cup lemon juice
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender, cover and process until blended.  Pour over salad, stir and taste, adding salt as desired, until it tastes right to you.  Refrigerate any leftover dressing.

Mayonnaise thinned with a little fruit juice also works well as a dressing.

Nuts or seeds can be added for additional crunch and good taste. If you want to make either salad into a main dish salad, just add cooked, chopped meat:  chicken, turkey, ham, shrimp, beef, or pork.

The variations are endless!  Get creative and have fun.  Here's a picture of a pasta salad I made today -- it's just the basic recipe with chopped fresh orange added and the citrus dressing.  Yummy!



This recipe is in honor of our daughter Afton, whose birthday is this week.  This was her favorite dinner growing up, and now she makes it for her kids.  It's a little more work than some of the shortcut methods of doing lasagne or buying it ready-made, but according to Afton (who's done both of those) this tastes much better and is worth it :).  So here it is -- happy birthday sweetie!


1-1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 medium-sized onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or mashed
2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 Cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
Rice lasagne noodles (for a good brand look at this post--they make lasagne noodles too), enough for a couple layers in your casserole (you can figure this out by laying the dry ones in your casserole dish)
1 lb ricotta cheese or small-curd cottage cheese, or substitution (see note below)
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with water, add salt, and bring to a boil.  Cook noodles in boiling water according to directions on package. 

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan that has a cover, cook ground beef, onion, and garlic together, stirring, until meat is brown and crumbly and onions are soft.  Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, and water.  Add salt, oregano and pepper, stirring until mixed.  Cover pan and simmer slowly until lasagne noodles are done.
When noodles are done, drain, rinse with cold water, and lay on clean kitchen towel to drain, dabbing top with paper towel to remove excess moisture. 

Arrange a layer of noodles on bottom of casserole dish (I use a 9x13).  Spread 1/2 of the meat mixture over the noodles; top with 1/2 of the ricotta and 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Arrange another layer of noodles on top of cheese; use remaining meat mixture on top of noodles, then remaining ricotta and remaining mozzarella.  Top with Parmesan.  Bake uncovered in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.  If casserole is very full, place it on a cookie sheet before putting in oven as it may bubble over the sides of the casserole.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Makes 6-8 servings.

A note about the cheese:  as I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband is allergic to milk, but we have discovered that it is only the whey he's allergic to, since he tolerates cheese just fine.  However, I have recently found out that ricotta cheese is made from whey (and cottage cheese, of course, has milk in it), so I substitute shredded sharp cheddar cheese for the ricotta.  With allergies, substitution is the name of the game!  The lasagne still tastes great.

I don't know how they get those perfect looking squares of lasagne in magazine pictures -- they must be frozen!  This is how real, just-out-of-the-pan, hot lasagne looks moments before being devoured by my husband.  Enjoy!