Saturday, February 13, 2021

Kicking the Starbucks Habit

After a long hiatus, I'm back and working on getting healthy, which includes losing weight. For the past year, I've "fallen off the wagon" and indulged myself in a Starbucks frap every morning with predictable results. It's a new year, and I'm back to working on improving the old me.

First, I'm not criticizing Starbucks! As a business model, they have it all figured out. But, apparently, I am addicted to sugar and their fraps have plenty. They are yummy. But I cannot have them regularly, so I must look for alternatives. I've been tinkering with a smoothie recipe and have made it even easier.

The key for me, however, has been finding a smoothie cup that fits my old, old Osterizer blender. It's absolutely wonderful, but sort of short on good accessories for the smoothie craze. Yes, there is a cup, but the reviews are awful. One of the wonderful things about my beloved Osterizer blender is that the blade assembly is the same size as a regular mouth canning jar. You can see where I'm going here. Being the cautious soul that I am, I tried it, but I made sure that I surrounded the jar with a heavy dishtowel while blending, just in case. Try at your own risk, folks, and practice safe blending.

To make it even more special (and to get those lids with the straw hole in them) I treated myself to sapphire drinking jars by Pioneer Woman for my long commute. They are a perfect size, with the exception of not fitting in the cup holders in my car. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Sugar-Free Stevia Chocolate-Banana Smoothie
1 c. unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk
2 t. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
1 banana, frozen in 1-inch chunks
4-5 drops Sweet Drops liquid stevia (chocolate and toffee flavors for me)

If you use any tinctures or other healthy additives, put them in before blending. Blend on low to grind the bananas, then pulse on high to whip air into your smoothie. Yum!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Whipping Up a Sweet Treat

Well, it's summer, which means I'm on another weight-loss kick. One of my biggest temptations is a Starbucks frappuccino. Calories, calories, calories! So, I'm experimenting at home with stevia drops, a sugar-free sweetener. My first few attempts were okay, but not quite right. Today's effort is the closest yet, and here is the recipe:

Sugar-Free Stevia Smoothie

1 c. 365 unsweetened organic almond milk
1 t. Hershey's cocoa
1/2 banana
1/8 t. Watkins vanilla
6-9 drops Sweet Drops liquid stevia
4 cubes ice

Blend until frothy. On its own, the almond milk taste a little thin. The banana gives it a creamier texture. This may become my morning commute treat!

What's cooking in your kitchen?


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ghee, It's Been a Long Time!

Yes, it's been months since I posted. Between family, work, school, and church, I've been on the run constantly. Life has finally slowed a bit, and I took the opportunity to do a tiny amount of cooking yesterday. Mind you, the Resident Dragon is still the primary cook, but, ghee, I was inspired.

I've been wanting to try cooking with ghee for a while and intended to pick up some at the grocery yesterday. Then I saw the price: $13 for 12 ounces. Well, it was grass-fed and organic, but $13! I quickly looked up a few recipes and priced a pound of unsalted butter: $2.50 (not grass-fed and not organic). I decided to take the chance.

My goodness, how easy it was! Ghee is, basically, clarified butter. You melt the butter over medium heat until the water boils off and the milk solids brown. Then you strain it through a cheesecloth. The remaining oil will, supposedly, keep for a month unrefrigerated, but I am not taking any chances.

Of course, I had to try it, so I scrambled some eggs. They were buttery and delicious. Now I'm on the lookout for other recipes where I could substitute ghee. I wonder how sauteed mushrooms would taste?

So, hope this finds you well, and you find this useful.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Super Savory Summer Squash Casserole

One of the things I love about this time of year is the way friends and neighbors trade produce. A friend gave me a few yellow squash and I could not resist making a casserole. I've become quite a lazy cook, so I took advantage of a few shortcuts. Here's the result.

Super Savory Summer Squash Casserole

4 summer squash, washed and thinly sliced
1/2 bag (14 oz.) Pepperidge Farms stuffing mix
1 pint half and half
5 eggs
Salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave (or cook on stove top) seasoned (salt and pepper to taste) squash with about 1/4 cup water until done, 5-7 minutes. While squash is cooking, prepare shallow casserole dish. In a mixing bowl, beat together half and half and eggs.

When squash is done, layer it with stuffing mix starting and ending with the stuffing. Pour egg mixture evenly over squash. Sprinkle a light layer of stuffing crumbs over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Road Trip Back to the 50s: Kokomo's 50s Diner

One of our favorite things to do is, of course, eat. One a recent trip I spotted a copy of Anita Musgrove's Tennessee Back Road Restaurant Recipes: A Cookbook and Restaurant Guide. It has a selection of small-town restaurants separated according to the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee. A quick look gave me the idea to use this as a sort of road map for some Saturday afternoon road trips.

One warning about the book: be alert as you read. We were looking for dishes made from the recipes in the book but discovered that some of the restaurants list "family favorites" and "local favorites" instead of actual restaurant recipes.

We took the first today, heading toward the Tennessee River. Our first stop was a the Toll House Restaurant in Savannah. My open-faced steak sandwich was unremarkable, but Jim ordered a loaded baked potato with chopped chicken and barbecue sauce. It was huge and he really enjoyed it. We were surprised to find they were out of desserts at Saturday lunch, so we headed to another place featured in Musgrove's book, Kokomo's 50s Diner in Adamsville, Tennessee.

What a great surprise! First off, we were greeted with the aroma of luscious hamburgers and decor straight out of, well, the 50s! Since we were only there for dessert we ordered a caramel sundae and a hot brownie cake sundae. Wow! They were a perfect treat on a wickedly hot day.

It was a lovely trip, showing us, again, the value of eating at local restaurants.

What about you? Where is your next gastronomic road trip?


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Zucchini Undercover: Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Freeze pureed or shredded zucchini
 in recipe-sized batches.
Around this time of year, the zucchini is in full crop. In fact, some folks have reported finding bags of zucchini abandoned on their doorsteps! Okay, maybe not, but if you're wondering what to do with all of that zucchini goodness, try this Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It's based on recipes from colagal at and the Cooking Channel. I've sort of spruced them up and here's the result:

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

3 cups pureed zucchini
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup olive oil (NOT EVOO)
2 t. vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 t. baking powder (low-sodium, aluminum-free)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups chopped pecans (optional-reserve 1/2 cup for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil 2 loaf pans.

Whisk eggs, buttermilk, olive oil and vanilla extract until well-mixed, then mix in zucchini. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt. Add zucchini mixture and stir until just mixed. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans, then turn into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle nuts over loaves.

Two loaves fresh from the oven (no, there are no pecans).
Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. Cool pans on rack for about 30 minutes, then turn loaf onto rack. Wrap well and store in refrigerator for up to a week (I guess; we've never had a loaf last that long!) or freeze.

Who would have thought that zucchini could be so yummy! Enjoy!

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Individual Tiramisu Cakes

Individual Tiramisu Cake
One of the things I enjoy most about the holidays having time to cook things that are a little more time-consuming.  As I do every year, I sent out a family text soliciting menu requests.  Of course, many were the usual turkey, ham, broccoli casserole and the like, but one request harked back to several years ago:  Tiramisu Bowl Cake.

Given that our family has begun eating less, rather than prepare an entire bowl cake, which presumes that we would eat the entire thing in one sitting, I decided to prepare individual servings of Tiramisu Cake.  I searched (um, Googled) far and wide for a recipe that had the wonderful taste without some of the more excessive time requirements and found a delicious Tiramisu Layer Cake by bettina on

Rather than repeating the entire recipe here, I'll list my adjustments:

  • White Cake Mix (Duncan Hines, of course):  
    • use olive oil (NOT extra-virgin!!!) instead of vegetable oil
    • use 2 whole eggs rather than 3 egg whites
    • bake in self-supporting muffin/cupcake papers (which gives room for the topping) for 15 minutes
  • Cupcakes may be made several days in advance
  • Fill the cupcakes with the marscapone mixture (any large tip--I used Wilton 1G) after soaking with coffee liqueur.
  • Dust the top of the filled cupcake with cocoa.
  • Frost with flavored whipped cream and dust with cocoa.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Freeze leftovers to enjoy later!
These are a beautiful and delicious addition to any holiday table!

What about you?  What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?