Category: Quick!

Here’s a quick dish I threw together last night. I wanted sweet potatoes but I don’t like plain sweet potatoes all that much. I considered a mashed sweet potato, then decided to try something new. As much as I hate to admit good things come out of those frozen meals, one of my favorite things from the frozen diet dinners is a sweet potato and apple mixture with craisins. It’s slightly sweet, the apples and craisins hide the sweet potatoes just enough for me to eat them, and it’s a good flavor alongside turkey, ham, pork or whatever that frozen stuff is next to it. 

You’ll be surprised how easy this is! It’s a very versatile dish. There are no exact measurements to it, so don’t stress about that. Instead, follow the guidelines in the recipe and adjust for what you have available and what you like. It can be scaled up or down by changing the amount of sweet potatoes and apples. It’s fairly healthy as I made it, but you can make it healthier by reducing the sugar and the butter, although I really didn’t use too much. Click for recipe.

This dish put out a wonderful smell while it was baking, the type that is particularly enjoyable on a cold evening. I’m sure I’ll make this again, and will probably make a few adjustments. For instance, I’ll probably throw some chopped pecans on top during the final baking period. I think the contrast of the crunchy nuts with the smooth sweet potatoes would make this even better. Adding craisins to the mix could add some good flavor as well. I may add a dash of salt or a bit of pepper, depending on what I serve it with. I’ll kick up the spice a bit if I’m eating it with something that’s not very spicy; and on the flip side of that, I’ll keep it somewhat sweet if I’m serving it with something that’s highly seasoned.  

I’m already looking forward to the next time!

Far be it for me to follow a recipe exactly as the directions and ingredients specify. After all, I know best, right? There are times when that’s worked for me and times when it hasn’t.

In general, cooking allows more deviation from the recipe than baking does. Baking requires more of a chemical reaction, and therefore the amounts and ratios of ingredients are important. I’ve learned that if I follow the “important” parts of the recipe as written (i.e., amounts of baking soda/powder, eggs and oils, liquid to solid ratios) the rest of my changes will probably work out.

Ready for the oven!

With that in mind, there’s no need to avoid recipes that have an element you don’t care for. If you don’t like a spice or herb in a recipe, switch it out for something you do like. If you don’t like nuts, leave them out. Or, in my case because I love them, add some in!

Today I tried a Banana Coconut Cupcake recipe I found on Sarah’s Place. The recipe calls these cupcakes, but they are more like a muffin and don’t need any frosting.

My adaptation has a couple of tweaks – one on purpose, and one because I apparently can’t read.  I substituted some whole wheat flour for regular white flour in an attempt to rationalize eating these during the final weeks before my black belt test. And I added all the coconut into the batter, even though I wasn’t supposed to. Oops!  So…success or disaster? It was a success! Click for my adapted recipe.

These didn’t require as much baking time as the recipe called for, but that could just be my oven, so be sure to keep an eye on them. Even with the whole wheat flour they baked up nice and light. No spices are needed – the banana and coconut flavor are quite nice by themselves. If I made any addition to this recipe, it might be some slivered almonds.

If you’re a new cook/baker, you’ll probably be more inclined to follow recipes as written.  But as you gain experience, venture out little by little. Add spices or ingredients you think would work well with the flavors. Tinker with a recipe you enjoy until it’s even better! Eventually you’ll have made changes that make a recipe “yours,” the ones that will become your go-to recipes when you need to cook or bake for friends or family. You’ll have successes and maybe a couple of disasters along the way, but the successes will be worth those few failures!

I have a couple of friends who don’t like chocolate. Weird, right? But I’m not sure which part is weirder – the fact that some people don’t like chocolate or that I can be friends with them!

Anyway, I was heading to a Christmas party where one of the hosts doesn’t eat chocolate. I was bringing a chocolate dessert for myself (well, I sorta shared it), and decided to bring this as well. It’s a simple recipe with great flavor, and despite its lack of chocolate I really enjoy it. It’s got a creamy lemon filling and a nice little crunch layer on top from the coconut. It’s quick to throw together and easy to take along!

Try it and let me know what you think!

Coconut Lemon Crescent Bars

from Pillsbury Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook, 1996

Stuff you need:
1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 cup sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Now what?
Heat oven to 375F. Unroll dough into 2 long rectangles. Place in ungreased 13×9-inch pan; press over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust. Frimly press perforations to seal. Bake at 375F for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine all other ingredients; mix well. Pour over partially baked crust. Return to oven; bake an additional 12 to 17 minutes or until light golden brown. [Ovens vary so use the time indicated as a guide. I baked mine a few minutes longer than the recipe called for – until the center didn’t wobble too much when I shook the pan.] Cool completely. Cut into bars.

Yield: 36 servings (1 bar per serving)
Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 70; Protein 1 g; Carbohydrate 9g: Fat 3g: Sodium 80 mg

Every once in a while I try to be a nice mom and send The Pretty One back to college with food. I’d hate to see the kid starve, ya know? Besides, it gives me a chance to make a batch of something I wouldn’t want to eat all by myself, like chili or pot roast.

When I found this recipe for Oreo-Cocoa Krispies Treats on,  I thought, “Oreos and cocoa krispies stuck together with marshmallowy goodness? Yes please!” (Click for recipe.)

I prefer Golden Original Oreos, but The Pretty One likes the traditional Oreo sandwich cookie, so I set out to buy the original cookies. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Double Stuf Heads or Tails cookies — half traditional, half Golden Original — and decided to use those. I thought they might lighten up the chocolate-ness of the recipe, since chocolate flavored crisped rice is used instead of regular crisped cereal. Wow. I can’t believe I thought the chocolate factor needed to be reduced in something. I must have had a fever at the time.

Anyway, other than substituting the Heads or Tails cookies for the traditional cookies, I actually followed the recipe, which is unusual for me. Since it was a new recipe, I had to taste-test them before they left the house. How would I know if they were any good or not if I didn’t? Turns out the hardest part of making this recipe was not eating them all myself. They’re really good! I managed to eat only one strip of the treats before they headed off to college, but I’m looking for an excuse to try them again!