Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Veggie Wednesday: Fiddlehead Ferns

Raw Fiddlehead Ferns
Raw Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns, so named for the shape they grow into, are a delicious addition to your spring vegetable repertoire. Similar in flavor to asparagus, with a slightly bitter finish akin to broccoli rabe, they have a wonderful texture and bite to them and have become something I look forward to each year.

Before you dive head-first into a patch of sprouting ferns, there are a few bits of information that will be beneficial to you.

Some fiddlehead ferns are classified as 'toxic' and supposedly the ostrich fern is the least so. The general consensus is that they can cause gastrointestinal upset if too many are eaten. I haven't had problems with them, though, so I feel that the ostrich ferns are just fine. Go easy if you're trying them for the first time just to be on the safe side.

One thing you don't want to do is forage for them yourself unless you are very skilled at foraging. Look at Whole Foods or local farmers' markets during the month of May and you will likely find decent specimens. They can sometimes come with a sort of covering on them that resembles very fine garlic skin, but brownish in color. Simply give them a good rinse in clear water and you should be good to go.

Cooked Fiddlehead Ferns
Cooked Fiddlehead Ferns

Although they can be eaten raw in salads, I've not done so, preferring the change of texture once cooked. If you boil them, do so for 5 to 8 minutes only, any longer renders them mushy and flavorless. I like them sauteed in butter and garlic with a bit of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, but I've also had them in a quiche with ham and cheese. Gently coddled by the cooking egg and cream, they are kept from overcooking and still have a nice crunch not unlike that of a lightly cooked fresh green bean.

Quiche with Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead Quiche

1 c  milk
1/2 c  light cream
3   large eggs
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 clove garlic-minced
2 T green onions-sliced
1 c  grated cheese-Swiss or Gruyere
18   fiddlehead crosiers, cooked
2 slices ham-chopped
grated nutmeg, to taste
1    8" pastry shell, unbaked

Beat milk, cream and eggs well. Add salt, pepper, garlic and onions.
Sprinkle half of the cheese in the bottom of the pastry shell.
Arrange fiddleheads and ham over the cheese.
Pour in the egg mixture, add the remaining cheese, and grate fresh nutmeg over the top.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Whatever you do with them, don't limit yourself - they are really something everyone should try once and I promise you it's worth it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Orange Pork Cutlets and Baby Bok Choy

Orange Pork Cutlets and Baby Bok Choy

Baby bok choy is the smaller and more tender version of regular bok choy. It cooks quickly and does not need to be separated or chopped to cook.

Orange, soy and garlic combine in a delicious sauce that coats pork chops and baby bok choy perfectly. If baby bok choy is not available, use the more mature version and cut into large chunks. Serve alone or with rice or rice noodles.

Orange Pork Cutlets and Baby Bok Choy

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4


1 1/2 pounds thin cut boneless pork chops - about 8
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
juice and zest from 1 large orange - about 1/3 cup juice
1 large clove garlic - minced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
4 to 8 heads baby bok choy (we eat 2 each because we love it)


1. Combine flour, cornstarch and salt in a shallow bowl.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add chops. Brown chops for 6 minutes per side and set aside.
3. In the same pan add garlic, soy, juice and zest. Simmer for 2 minutes and add bok choy to pan.
4. Cook for another 4 minutes and push to the side. Add chops back into pan to coat with sauce.
5. *Optional* Serve with rice or rice noodles.

**Note: Any citrus will yield more juice if you first roll it back and forth, using medium pressure, on a firm surface.

Friday, August 25, 2017

After School Snacks

By the time my kids walk through the door after school, they are nearly zombies owing to the fact that they're famished. I think they would eat just about anything at that point, and they tend to make poor choices because they are so hungry. They also eat too much and then aren't so hungry when it comes to dinner time. To keep them from consuming an entire package of licorice (yes, one child did this), I try to have healthier alternatives on hand. Each of these is a favorite and, yes, there is a pizza theme running through - what kid doesn't love pizza?

Graham crackers are a terrific source of 'hidden' whole grains. Kids don't have any idea they're better for them and topped with fruit spread and low fat cream cheese they have just the right combination of whole grain and protein to make the perfect after-school snack. They also taste just like fruit cheesecake!

Use whichever fruit spread you like and complement it with fresh fruit of the same type, or switch it up by adding a different fresh fruit to the top.

Cheesecake Snacks
Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 5 minutes
Serves: 4


6 whole graham crackers - split in half (Try Annie's Homegrown, or Back to Nature brands)
4 ounces low fat cream cheese
1/4 cup strawberry or other all-fruit spread (this is the stuff without sugar added)
sliced fresh fruit - optional


1. Combine cream cheese and fruit spread and stir until smooth.
2. Spread on graham cracker halves and top with fresh sliced fruit if desired.
3. Refrigerate for up to 1 hour, lightly covered.

An old snack standby in our house is packets of cheese and crackers. The kids love them but they can get expensive and there are usually too many preservatives for my liking. Making my own is not only economical, but healthier as I can control the fat content and the amount of preservative the kids are getting. Whip up the cheese ahead of  time and spread it for the kids or let them do it themselves with a safe knife.

Cheese and Cracker Snacks
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Serves: 8


4 ounces low fat or fat free cream cheese
1 cup low fat cheddar cheese - shredded (Shred your own! The pre-shredded stuff has fillers.)
1 Tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
96 snack crackers 1 1/2 to 2 inches in size


1. Combine cream cheese and cheddar in a blender with milk and pulse until very smooth.
2. Stir in salt and paprika to taste.
3. Spread evenly on 48 of the crackers. Top with remaining crackers and push down
4. Serve immediately or store cheese covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Little nuggets of energy never tasted so good! Change the add-ins to anything you'd like in the same amounts listed and customize to your liking. You can also roll these in coconut for extra texture.

PB Energy Balls
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield: 24


1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or chopped nuts
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips


1. Blend together peanut butter, honey, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon until smooth.
2. Pour in oats, rice cereal, seeds and cranberries and mix until coated well.
3. Refrigerate for 1 hour and roll into one-inch balls.
4. Put into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Kids love pizza, and these crackers are a great mini-version for after school snacks. Add whatever toppings you like, broil for a few minutes and you're good to go!

Pizza Crackers
Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 9 minutes
Yield: 24 crackers


24 crackers, about 1 1/2 inches in size
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup toppings such as, olives, broccoli, peppers, ham, pepperoni, sausage etc.


1. Preheat broiler and lay crackers on a baking sheet.
2. Top each cracker with sauce, cheese and desired toppings.
3. Broil 3-4 minutes or until cheese melts.

Pita Pizza Pockets
Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 6 minutes
Serves: 4-8


4 whole wheat pitas
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup pizza sauce
2 ounces sliced pepperoni


1. Cut pitas in half crosswise, making 2 pockets each.
2. Fill each pita half with 2 Tablespoons pizza sauce, 1/4 cup mozzarella and several
slices pepperoni.
3. Microwave for 30 to 60 seconds for 2 halves, checking after the first 30 seconds.
4. Cool briefly if necessary and serve.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Veggie Wednesday: Quinoa Stuffed Chayote Squash

Quinoa Stuffed Chayote Squash

Chayote squash (also known as mirlitons) are similar to other summer squashes, with a tender inside and edible skin. They can be found in most  any supermarket these days as can quinoa, a grain from South America and the highest protein grain one can find. The bright flavors of Italian  Parsley and orange play well with the mellowness of the squash.
 Serve 2 squash for a vegetarian main dish or one as a side to grilled chicken or fish.

Quinoa Stuffed Chayote Squash
Serves 3 as a main course or 6 as a side
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
3 chayote squash
1 Tablespoon Country Crock Spread
2 Tablespoons each red pepper, yellow pepper and orange pepper - finely diced
1 small shallot - minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of one orange - about 2 teaspoons
2 Tablespoons fresh Italian, or flat leaf, parsley - chopped fine

1. Cut squash in half and cook in boiling salted water until tender - about 20 minutes.2. While squash are cooking heat Country Crock in a small pan and saute shallots and peppers until softened but not browned.
3. Add quinoa and stir well. Pour in stock and orange juice. Stir and cover tightly. Turn heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until all  liquid is absorbed.
4. While quinoa is cooking and when chayote are tender, remove from water and drain well on paper towels. Remove seeds and most of flesh with a  spoon, leaving a 1/4 inch edge all around the inside of the squash. Keep warm.
5. Fluff quinoa with a fork and add parsley and orange zest. Salt and pepper to
6. Stuff squash with quinoa mixture and serve immediately.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Cucumber Melon Agua Fresca

Agua fresca is served at food stands throughout Mexico and is the perfect foil to spicy dishes. It's also one of the most refreshing drinks and excellent for cooling off on a hot summer day.

Cucumber Melon Agua Fresca
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 10 minutes
Serves: Makes about 8 cups


4 pounds of watermelon
1 large cucumber
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 cups water
Sweetener as needed (sugar, Stevia, etc.)


1. Remove rind and seeds from watermelon. Cut into cubes.
2. Peel cucumber and cut into chunks.
3. Puree fruit in a a blender until smooth - this can be done in batches if necessary.
4. Add water to fruit and stir well. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
5. Add lime juice to taste. Many times the fruit is sweet enough that very
little sugar is needed, use as you desire.
6. Serve over ice.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Blueberry Bruschetta

While bruschetta is most often served as a savory preparation, it also makes a lovely and lighter dessert. The smooth cream cheese is a perfect contrast to the sweet-tart berries. Grilling is fairly quick and can be done on a traditional grill or in a grill pan on the stove top.

Blueberry Bruschetta
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 15 minutes
Serves: 24


1 French baguette (about 18 inches in length)
1/4 cup butter - melted
8 ounces low fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
3 cups fresh blueberries, washed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Combine blueberries, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss well to coat. Set aside in
the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Slice baguette into 24 slices, about 1/2 inch thick. Slicing on the diagonal provides
more surface area.
3. Brush each slice with butter and grill until lightly toasted on both sides.
4. Spread cream cheese on each bread slice and top with a spoonful of blueberries.
Garnish with mint if desired and serve.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Veggie Wednesday: Summer Veggie Melt and Tribute

Summer Veggie Melt

This is both a tribute and an homage to the now-closed Moravian Book Shop Cafe. I was recently in Downtown Bethlehem after not having been for several years and was surprised at the new shops, the old ones that were still there, and the ones I loved that are now gone.

My oldest daughter and I went into the Book Shop fully expecting to have coffee in the back at the Cook Shop, but found ourselves instead at the Colony Meadery. As intrigued as I was, (and still am, and plan to purchase several types of mead there in the near future) I had a moment. It's like that moment when you realize your prized stuffed animal that you've had since you were a wee child has gone missing. I didn't cry, though I truly felt as though I might. I adored that place so much.

Not only did I spend many hours there with my mother when I was a child, all of my children have had lunch there with me at one time or another. In fact, this was where I took each of my girls for "just us" lunch dates where they had my undivided attention. This is also where I sat with Kathy Lauer-Williams of the Morning Call for my interview that led to a half-page article about my time blogging with Disney.

I could write on and on about this, but I won't. I will share with you my recipe for the melt I had there each and every time I visited.

Summer vegetables are something we look forward to each year and this melt is full of garden-fresh goodness. Topped with cheese and only lightly cooked, the vegetables retain their crispness and the herbed mayo adds a layer of flavor underneath. They may look very 'handy' but a knife and fork is in order for eating them.

Summer Veggie Melt

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 12 minutes
Serves: 4


4 whole wheat pitas - uncut and unsplit
4 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon freshly snipped herbs such as dill, basil, oregano or thyme
1 medium zucchini - thinly sliced
1 medium summer squash - thinly sliced
1 medium green bell pepper - thinly sliced
1 large tomato - thinly sliced
1 small red onion - thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded, about 1 cup
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese


1. Combine mayo and herbs and stir until well blended. Spread 1 Tablespoon on top of each
2. Layer each pita with squashes, pepper, tomato and onion. Top with a 1/4 cup of
shredded carrots and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.
3. Microwave on 50% power for approximately 2 minutes, or until cheese is just melted.

Alternately, you can place the pitas under a broiler for several minutes or in a 350F
degree  oven until cheese is melted.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lemon Dill Shrimp Soup

I don't usually serve warm soups in the summer, but once in a while a day will present itself cooler than usual and then I feel comfortable serving this one. The bright flavors of dill and lemon complement the shrimp well. This can be served as a first course or as part of a light lunch.

Lemon Dill Shrimp Soup
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 20 Minutes
Serves: 4


6 cups chicken stock
1 cup uncooked farfalline (little bow ties)
1 medium lemon
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped dill
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
12 medium shrimp - shelled and deveined
salt, pepper and seafood seasoning to taste


1. Heat stock to boiling in a medium stock pot.
2. Cut lemon into slices and add to stock with pasta. Cook until pasta is tender - about
7 minutes.
3. Add herbs and shrimp and turn heat to low. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until shrimp is
4. Remove lemon slices and add salt, pepper and seafood seasoning to taste. Serve with 3
shrimp atop each bowl of soup.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fruit and Grain Bars

Fruit and Grain Bars

My kids love fruit and grain bars for after school snacks, but they can be quite pricey. This homemade version is a substantial savings over the store-bought kind, and because they're made at home, I'm more aware of exactly what's going into them. Try an organic cake mix and organic fruit spread. Don't be tempted to add more fruit spread, the amount called for is just right and too much will make the bars difficult to cut.

Fruit and Grain Bars

Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 35 minutes
Serves: Makes 20 bars


1 box yellow cake mix (oz.)
2 cups oats - quick-cooking
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large egg
1 cup jelly, jam, preserves or fruit spread


1. Mix together cake mix, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar
2. Add egg and melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
3. Divide batter in half and spread half into bottom of a greased 9x13 inch baking pan.
4. Spread fruit spread on top of crust to the edges.
5. Crumble the remaining cake mixture over the jelly and press lightly into jelly with
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until top is golden.
7. Cool well and cut into 20 bars.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Veggie Wednesday: Artichoke Bruschetta Topping

Artichoke Bruschetta Topping

I love bruschetta in just about any form and topped with artichoke is one of my very favorite. One made with pantry ingredients is even better. This one goes together easily with ShopRite Imported Artichoke Hearts, ShopRite Diced Tomatoes and a few other pantry ingredients to make one fabulous topping. Eat as-is with crusty bread or add to grilled chicken, fish or pork. Any way you serve it, it's sure to be a delicious addition to your pantry staples recipe repertoire!

Artichoke Bruschetta Topping
Makes about 3 cups


1 can (14.5 ounces) ShopRite Imported Artichoke Hearts - whole
1 can (14.5 ounces) ShopRite Diced Tomatoes with Oregano and Basil
1 clove garlic - minced
1 green onion - sliced, green and white parts
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
3 Tablespoons ShopRite Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
pinch of sugar
pinch of Kosher salt


1. Drain artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Chop artichoke hearts well.
2. Combine remaining ingredients, tasting for seasoning - only add sugar if necessary.
3. Refrigerate for at least one hour to let the flavors develop before serving.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Shrimp Rolls

Shrimp Rolls

There's nothing quite like a fresh lobster roll on the shores of Maine, but when you can't get there and you can't afford lobster to make them at home, shrimp makes a delicious second-best. Bright lemon zest and parsley combined with creamy mayo and spicy Old Bay are a most delectable way to serve up these shrimp rolls for a light lunch.

The mayo in mine is decidedly heavier-handed, but that's only because I have a few mayo addicts who wouldn't eat them any other way. Add mayo a tablespoon at a time until you find the consistency that you like.

Shrimp Rolls
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 15 minutes
Serves: 6


1 pound shrimp in-shell
1/4 cup celery diced small
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon Old Bay or other seafood seasoning
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley - chopped
1 teaspoon salt
6 small potato rolls (hot dog size works best)


1. Cook shrimp in-shell in boiling salted water until pink - about 3-4 minutes. Drain and
rinse in cold water.
2. Remove shells from shrimp and cut meat into chunks.
3. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, seafood seasoning, lemon zest, parsley and salt and
stir well. Add celery and shrimp and toss to coat. Refrigerate up to 24 hours or serve
4. Spoon into rolls and serve.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Lunchbox Apple Pies

Lunchbox Apple Pies

It's closing in on school time and thoughts of packing lunches are upon us yet again. Before you purchase store bought hand pies for your child's lunch, give these a try. Not only can you choose what type of apples you really like and how much cinnamon you prefer, you totally are in control of the sugar content. Every mom likes that!

Lunchbox Apple Pies

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Ready In: 45 minutes
Serves: Makes 12 pies


1/2 cup butter - softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ice water
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples - about 2 medium
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar


1. Combine flour, salt and butter and mix together until crumbly. Add water and stir
until doiugh forms. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Set aside in the refrigerator.
2. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add apples and cook
until apples soften, about 5 minutes.
3. Add brown sugar to apples and cook and stir until sugar is dissolved and any juices
from the apples begin to thicken, about 5 more minutes.
4. Remove apples from heat and stir in cinnamon.
5. Let dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into 12 rounds with a 4-inch biscuit cutter.
6. Place dough rounds onto greased baking sheets. Top half of each round with a
tablespoon of apple mixture. Fold opposite end of dough over apples and seal with hands
or a fork.
7. Cut a small slit in the top of each pie to vent steam.
8. Combine egg, 1 tablespoon water and granulated sugar until well blended and sugar is
Brush on tops of each pie.
9. Bake pies in a 375 degree F oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool
completely before storing in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Recipes

Labor Day in the United States marks the last of the "Red, White, and Blue" summer holidays, and these recipes are perfect when entertaining even the most patriotic of people.

Red, White, and Blueberry Lemonade

Sweet blueberries and tart lemonade meet to make a very refreshing summer drink with patriotic garnish perfect for summertime Red, White, and Blue holidays.

Red, White, and Blueberry Lemonade

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8


1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup to 1 cup lemon juice (depending on tastes)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup starfruit slices (about 2 starfruit)
1 cup fresh sliced strawberries (about 6 large strawberries)


1. Combine 1 cup water, sugar and 1 cup blueberries in a small saucepan.
2. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved and blueberries start
to soften and leach their color.
3. Strain blueberries and cool the sugar water mixture.
4. Combine lemon juice with sugar water and add enough water to make 2 quarts of
5. Serve with the extra cup of blueberries, the starfruit, and strawberries for garnish. You can freeze blueberries as well to help keep drinks cool.

Cheese crackers never looked so good. White cheddar cheese flavors these easy
crackers. A simple paprika oil provides color, and served with the right dip, these are
just the right touch for any Red, White, and Blue party.

Cheddar Stars
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 25 minutes
Serves: 6-8 (2 dozen crackers)


1 stick butter - softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon paprika


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cream together butter and salt.
Add shredded cheese and blend well.
3. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon or hands until a stiff and smooth dough forms.
4. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with a 2-inch star-shaped cookie cutter,
re-rolling dough as needed.
5. Mix together oil and paprika.
6. Set crackers on an ungreased baking sheet and brush half of the crackers with the oil.
Bake for 8-10 minutes being careful not to overbrown.
7. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Eat within 1 week.

Red ripe tomatoes, creamy white cottage cheese and tangy bleu cheese crumbles
blended with bacon and horseradish make this one delicious dip. Serve with Cheddar Stars.

Red, White and Bleu Cheese Dip
Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 5 minutes
Serves: 6-8


2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 cup bleu cheese crumbles
2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 pound pork or turkey bacon - fried crisp and crumbled
1 large tomato - seeded and diced fine


1. Combine all ingredients and chill until serving time.