“Homemade” Pumpkin Muffins, Compliments of Trader Joe’s

So I’m a week late for Halloween, but guess what’s right around the corner? You bet…it’s the Holiday season for sure. And man oh man do I have a short cut for you. Do you or your family enjoy pumpkin muffins/bread? This is THE best and easiest combination ever. And if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your hood, well guess where you can secure the mix…that’s right, from the Bezos machine. Quite convenient. Truthfully, it will delight you. I’m all about short cuts, and this is THE best one ever! Knock yourself out and enjoy!

All you need is:
1 box Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
Eggs
Water
Oil
Brown Sugar as a Bonus Mix ingredient.
Bake according to instructions.
Sprinkle with brown sugar immediately upon removing from oven.

Halloumi Za’atar Grilled Toast

Yummmmm…za’atar, that delicious Middle Eastern herb seasoning. I was first introduced to this seasoning at the Old Spice Souk in Dubai. The year was 2013 and we took an abra across Dubai Creek where a purveyor invited me to smell it. Then he sprinkled it on a slice of grilled halloumi and I was hooked for life. Join me on this journey half way ’round the world! This halloumi toast is terrific cut into small squares for an appetizer, or halve the whole piece of toast and serve it for brunch.

4 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 Tbs minced fresh oregano
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Za’atar seasoning
1/2 t ground pepper
8 oz halloumi cheese, sliced into 3/4” slices
4 slices hearty sourdough or strong wheat bread
1 clove garlic, halved
1 cup microgreens

Whisk together olive oil, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, za’atar, and pepper.
Brush both sides of halloumi and bread with oil mixture.
Grill halloumi and bread on both sides until charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Rub one side of bread with garlic.
Top toasts with halloumi.
Drizzle with remaining oil mixture.
Sprinkle with lemon zest and micro greens.
Serves 8 for appetizers or 4 for brunch.

To the left is pictured a brunch serving of this wonderful toast, cut on the diagonal. I added bean sprouts, and pink salt to jazz it up a bit.

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Canyon Ranch, be still my heart, soul, and body. I would like to write you a love letter, because you provided so much positive assistance to me; alas, I pause…sort of! I have a series of recipes based on my Ranch experience. They cook with uncommon creativity, making everything healthy and tasty. I’m revealing secrets from the premier health institute in the USA. Enjoy. This is a national treasure and I’m certain that this recipe (and more shortly) will become a staple on your spreadsheet. Hit the pause button and enjoy. Sending love, good health, and lots of happiness!

Medium spaghetti squash
Pinch salt
Pinch black pepper
Baking spray to prep baking sheet

Images: Top Left ~ Whole Spaghetti Squash – Top Right ~ Top half seeded, bottom half, not!
Lower Left ~ Face down on cooking sheet – Lower Right ~ Straight out of the oven

Preheat oven to 375°.
Spray baking sheet with small amount of canola oil.
Cut spaghetti squash in half.
Scoop out seeds.
Place cut side down on baking sheet.
Bake 45 minutes or until soft.
Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Shred squash with a fork into a bowl.
Makes 6 one cup servings.
35 cal per serving.

I add this baked version to a salad for extra flavor and fiber.
I really love this plain, warm out of the oven, room temp, or chilled.
The “add ons” can enhance the flavor if so desired.
You may add spaghetti sauce, maple syrup, Parmesan cheese, or top up a sandwich if you’re in the mood, just for extra fun. Pictured below is the squash topped with my homemade tomato sauce, along side a sculpture from my private collection by Jeff Kiefer.

Avocado Toast with Eggs and Tomatoes

Home from Cabo and happily back to life as Grand and GrandDad for the weekend. Tomorrow begins with a 5:50am wakeup call for Liam’s travel league baseball games, and then soccer matches for “the littles”. We will divide and conquer for the different locations; but we will all reunite in the Rock Dam Kitchen for a healthy brunch to refuel us all for the afternoon. Transfer the familiar into the fantastic. We’re taking all familiar ingredients and combining them in a wonderfully twisted way. So drop the mask for a few minutes to enjoy a meal…the stars are going to align on our taste buds and all the way down to our tummies! Here’s wishing all of you a happy, healthy, fun loving, athletic Saturday!

2 eggs
2 slices bread
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 avocado, gently mashed
1/2 lime, zested and juiced
Dash garlic powder
Dash onion powder
Fresh spinach
Gourmet Medley cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup Alfalfa sprouts
Drizzle of honey
Drizzle of olive oil

Place eggs in boiling water for 6 minutes to soft boil.
Lightly sauté tomato halves in olive oil.
Toast bread.
Spread with Dijon.
Mix avocado with lime, garlic, and onion.
Spread avocado mixture on top of Dijon.
Top with a few spinach leaves.
Top with sprouts.
Top with eggs.
Top with tomatoes.
Drizzle with honey and olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Caesar Salad Turkey Burger

Happy Almost Labor Day Weekend! Most people grill out at some point during this official “last” weekend of the summer. Of course, the don and I don’t own a grill…yes all of our friends joke about it! But we really enjoy cooking inside in a wonderful cast iron skillet. No matter how you cook, just cook; and try these burgers with a Caesar twist. After all, with everything going on in the world, let’s remember that food brings us together. Cook Better. Eat Better. Live Better. Booyah!

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey*
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 small sweet onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 small clove garlic, finely grated
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup Panko
Salt and pepper
1 romaine lettuce heart, chopped
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
Caesar dressing to taste**
6 burger buns, toasted

Sauté onion and green pepper in 1 Tbs olive oil until almost tender, about 3 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Mix together turkey, Worcestershire, mustard, egg, Panko, and onion, pepper, garlic mixture.
Form into 6 patties.
Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes until firmer.
Grill or sauté in skillet about 4 minutes per side.
Toss together the romaine, shaved Parmesan and dressing.
Place burger on bun.
Top with Caesar salad.
Makes 6 burgers.

*The Don and I prefer GreenWise All Natural Ground Turkey Breast.
**As far as a store bought Caesar dressing, I prefer Marzetti Simply Dressed Caesar.


Sausage, Egg, Cheese Strata

Happy Sunday to one and all. All of the hustle and bustle is fun…until it’s not. The Don was fortunate and received his Covid booster Friday (remember that lymphoma situation) and was feeling a tad run down yesterday, so we stayed quietly at home and I made this comfort strata. Perfect for our Saturday early supper, and brunch or supper any day for that matter. It’s early in the day; go grab what you need and whip this up for Sunday Supper. Think, a little denser than a quiche, and a little more comforting as well. Now here’s your breakfast/brunch giggle of the day thanks to comedian Steven Wright: “I went to a restaurant that serves breakfast during any time. So I ordered French Toast from the Renaissance; and they just looked at me!”

1/2 lb ground sausage, browned and drained
1 sweet onion, diced
12 eggs, slightly beaten
4 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, tossed with 1 Tbs melted butter
Sour cream for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a pie pan.
In large mixing bowl, using rubber spatula, combine sausage, onions, eggs, Gruyere, blue cheese, half cheddar, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Pour mixture into baking pan.
Add remaining cheddar, and then breadcrumbs on top.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until just set.
Let cool 5 minutes.




Fresh Corn, Cucumber, and Radish Salad

Here’s to Sunday evening, and looking forward to the bold new work week tomorrow. Let’s get it going with a simple side, starring fresh, in season ingredients for Monday dinner. This isn’t a particularly strong trick, but it gets the job done. So casually hit the pause button and enjoy. Eat fresh corn!
Starch Corn and Radish Salad
This is what you need:

Kernels of 6 ears of cooked corn
6 inch Persian cucumber, thickly sliced and quartered
5 radishes, thinly sliced
4 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs champagne vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 Tbs chopped dill
1  Tbs chopped cilantro

Stir together oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.
Add corn, cucumbers, and radishes.
Toss.
Add dill and cilantro.
Toss gently.
Serve room temperature.

Cheesy Pull Apart Bread

This house on “the Forest Hill” was packed with energy and festive events last week. I had the five year olds for Grand and GrandDad Camp, a childhood friend here from Shaker Heights, and the Queen Peggy’s 95th celebration of life! And in the midst of it all, the children managed to create a wonderful bread concoction! It’s play time, so follow the trail below…

16 oz round sourdough bread
Stick of butter
2  t minced garlic
1 1/2 t Italian seasoning (or equal parts of dried basil, parsley, and oregano)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3 Tbs chopped parsley, divided

Preheat the oven to 375°.
Place the bread on non stick sheet pan.
Cut a grid on the bread by creating vertical cuts, stopping before you hit the bottom crust. Repeat the cuts in a horizontal manner.
Place butter, garlic, seasoning, and half of parsley in small sauce pan.
Heat until butter is melted.
Drizzle butter into crevices of bread.
Gently stuff cheese deep into crevices of bread, and sprinkle of top.
Wrap bread in foil to cover.
Bake 10 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 12 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve.

Bread by Lucy, Parker, and Peg. Sculpture by Jeff Kiefer.

Wonton Cinnamon Crisps with Fruit

Happy Monday! I trust that this “Spring of Vaccinations” is bringing a freshness to you and yours…hope and recovery from 2020, and renewal, with positive refreshing energy changes. And speaking of energy, a couple of weeks back the grands and I joined forces for a bit of energetic fun in the kitchen to make these cinnamon crisps. It’s a “duck for cover” situation when you have 5 year olds mixing cinnamon and sugar free hand, but filled with smiles, love, and giggles. This house wasn’t built on gummy bears alone!

8 wonton wrappers, cut in half diagonally
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups fat free vanilla yogurt
1 cup mixed berries of choice
4 t honey

Preheat oven to 400°.
Mix cinnamon and sugar together in small bowl.
Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Arrange wonton wrappers on baking sheet.
Lightly spray wontons with nonstick cooking spray.
Sprinkle with cinnamon mixture.
Bake 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.
Set aside to cool.
Spoon yogurt and berries into dessert dishes.
Drizzle with honey.
Serve with cinnamon crisps.

Note: Cinnamon Crisps will last 3 weeks in zip top bag or sealed container.

Egg and Sausage Flatbread

Raise your antenna and begin a slow clap! This is a Southern agenda where flavors comingle. Boom…for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.

1 sheet Phyllo Dough Pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
3 Tbs Everything Bagel Seasoning
1 egg beaten
2 Tbs room temperature light vegetable cream cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
6 oz spicy sausage
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
Fresh tomatoes, sautéed
4 poached eggs
1 Tbs honey, for drizzling
Chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°.
Brown sausage and onion together until cooked through.
Drain on paper towel.
Fold all edges of pastry over 1/2 inch to form rimmed edge. 
Brush with egg.
Sprinkle with seasoning, and press to embed.
Spread cream cheese across pastry.
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Top the cheese with sausage and onion mixture.
Top this with sautéed tomatoes.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until browned.
While that’s cooking, poach the eggs.
Remove the flatbread, top with eggs, and sprinkle with Gruyere.
Bake in oven for 5 more minutes until cheese is melted.
Drizzle with honey.
Garnish with chives and serve!

*Author’s Note: the don prefers scrambled eggs to poached eggs. So you will notice in one of the photos above that I used poached eggs on one half of the flatbread, and scrambled eggs on the other half. Feel free to mix it up in any manner that you desire!