Berry Good Finds – Triple Berry Parfait

Last week I was so excited when I received an email from the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) that they were open for raspberry picking the next day (one day only!), which happened to fall on my Friday off from work.


I had never picked raspberries and I thought it would be a fun excursion for my kids and I. We had a great time picking and eating berries right from the vine (with permission of course, and I’m sure you can guess that with two toddlers I did most of the picking and they did most of the eating), but I have to say that the most interesting part of the day was discovering YELLOW raspberries.  Not under-ripe, but actually yellow at maturity.


Personally I think they taste a bit sweeter than the red variety, though my husband says they taste the same to him.

Yellow raspberries were just the first of this week’s discoveries. I found two other new (to me) berries at a local store – kiwi berries and dried mulberries.  A kiwi berry is a small variety of the kiwi fruit that is about the size of a grape with smooth skin. You actually eat them whole, which means you get the juicy kiwi flavor without the hassle of peeling.



Dried mulberries are chewy and dense in texture, more similar to a dried currant or fig rather than a raisin.  The taste is mellow with a slightly spiced undertone. You can use them interchangeably for other dried fruit in recipes, or just eat them by the handful like me, using their “superfood status” as an excuse to hide the fact that they are just as addictive as candy.


I couldn’t choose between the three berries this week so I decided to throw all of them into a yogurt parfait.  I wanted to be able to fully enjoy the flavor of the berries, so I left the yogurt flavor light.  I stirred a bit of apple pie spice and honey into plain non-fat yogurt and topped it with a generous portion of my triple berries.  I only wish yellow raspberries were easier to find so that I could enjoy this treat more often!




Classic Banana Bread with Elvis Presley Frosting

I started collecting recipes long before I actually had the opportunity to get in the kitchen everyday and tinker. One of my early acquisitions was my grandma’s Joy of Cooking Cookbook. An odd momento for an 18 year-old to keep, but at the time it seemed such a true representation of her and the love-infused meals she created. As I turned to this trusted book once again for a favorite recipe, I realized what a perfect keepsake it is.


I have kept all of her book markers that were in the volume, which are both place holders and reflective of her character. For example, the place markers include:

  • An Easter Card with the verse “ He is Risen” (Matt 28:6) on the front, a representation of her faith that she expressed daily.
  • Scratch paper with shopping lists and recipes. Much like my grandma (and very unlike my age) I write down my shopping list and recipe interests as they hit me, often on scratch paper in my vicinity.
  • The start of a letter to a “dear friend” – who was this friend? Did they share her passion for cooking? What made her start the letter in the midst of cooking? Questions I’ll never answer, but interesting none-the-less.


One of the recipes I make often from this cookbook is the quick banana bread. There is nothing fancy about the banana bread, just flour, shortening, banana, sugar, egg, and baking powder.


While I would generally use bananas that were more ripe than the photos show, my 3 year-old heard me mention that I wanted to make banana bread. This means that I heard her ask every half hour, “Are we were going to make banana bread?” until we did, regardless if the bananas were that perfect shade.


We mashed, mixed, filled the pan, and finally baked our loaf . . .




achieving a lovely golden crust, and buttery inside.


The motivation to make banana bread was actually tied more to my kitchen experiments. I am sure you have heard of the “Elvis Presley Sandwich”, which is a fried banana, peanut butter, and bacon sandwich. Honestly, the idea of the sandwich falls in a gray area for me – it is either going to be surprisingly tasty or absolutely unpalatable. My cheater version is to make banana bread and make what I am calling Elvis Presley Frosting.

The frosting is a sweet-savory concoction of peanut butter, powdered sugar, milk, and bacon. Much to my surprise, it actually tastes good!





Elvis Presley Frosting

½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup original flavor almond milk
4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp and cooled


Stir together the peanut butter, sugar, and almond milk until smooth. Crumble the bacon and stir into the peanut butter frosting.  Serve on top of thick slices of banana bread.


Quinoa Tabouleh

A fresh, brightly colored salad is hard for me to resist. Both the vibrant hues and the variety of ingredients make me almost forget that it is in fact already October, ushering in cooler weather. A favorite in my household is tabouleh, a dish originating from the Middle East, typically consisting of mint, tomatoes, and couscous or bulgur as the main ingredients. Today I’ve substituted quinoa for the couscous/bulgur to make a more gluten-free friendly version.

Not only is quinoa a gluten free grain, it is also a great option for meat-less meals. It is considered a total protein since it packs all eight of the essential amino acids. In addition, it has a high fiber content and is touted as possessing anti-inflammatory properties.


Quinoa starts out as hard, smooth, tiny grains that after boiling become fluffy with a more translucent center and outer white ring.


In addition to the quinoa, I filled the salad with plenty of other scrumptious things, such as avocado,


red onion, tomato, parsely, garlic, and pine nuts.


A light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice is poured over the salad,


and then you are ready to eat.


One other interesting fact about quinoa is that while it is grouped with cereals (like wheat) based on it’s typical use, it is actually a member of the spinach family. Maybe in a modern day “Popeye the Sailor Man” cartoon, quinoa would be his fuel of choice!


Quinoa Tabouleh
1 ½ cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes
¾ cup diced red onion
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, roughly minced
¼ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, diced
3 oz olive oil
1 ½ oz lemon juice
Place water and quinoa in a large sauce pan and bring to a vigorous boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender and chewy (white ring will apear on the outside of the puffed up grain), aproximately 15-20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, red onion, parsley, garlic, avocado, and pine nuts, then add the salt, oil and lemon juice and stir until combined.


Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwich

A few years back, a good friend of mine brought a house warming gift when she visited me at my new home. It was a simple gift, but perfect in selection, since she new I loved to tinker in the kitchen and try new things.


It was a jar of Malaysian Seven Seas Curry made by Spice Appeal, which she found at a craft and specialty food event. I absolutely LOVE the flavor, and often put it in my chicken or tuna salad, which I thought I would share today.

The contents of the little jar have long been gone, but I managed to snag two industrial sized jars of it online to make sure I never run out again. Weighing in at a pound a piece, my replacement jars will make a ton of Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwiches.

For this spicy sandwich, I like to mix in celery, grapes, green onions, and cashews,



Along with mayonnaise and a generous amount of the curry.


You might think the grapes are an odd addition, but they add a nice sweet compliment to the heat of the curry.

Once it is stirred together it gets served in pita pockets, and then you let your family rave about your delicious lunch.


Can’t wait to try it? Stop on by – once you taste it I’m sure you will run out to find some for your spice collection!


Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwich

(2) 7 oz. Cans of tuna packed in water, drained
1/3 cup cashew halves
½ cup diced red seedless grapes
½ cup diced celery
2 green onions, diced
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Malaysian Seven Seas Curry
4 Pita pockets, cut in half and opened to make 8 pockets

In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, cashews, grapes, celery, green onions, mayonnaise, and curry. Stir until well combined and them evenly stuff the pita pockets. Serve immediately.


Cappuccino Chia Seed Pudding

I know, I know, chia seed pudding is an “in” thing right now, but have you tried it? It is definitely worth the hype, since it has the trifecta of great taste, easy prep, and good-for-you benefits.


Chia seeds are a power house of nutrition, with a high fiber content, protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. One of the other amazing attributes of chia seeds is their hydrophilic tendency – they can hold on the order of 10 times their weight in fluid! This fact means I can turn a few simple ingredients, such as almond milk, cappuccino powder, and chia seeds into a pudding once the chia seeds expand and form a gel.


I added a bit of extra flavor with some caramel sauce and raspberries. Eating this for breakfast makes me feel like I am cheating and eating dessert, but I can’t think of any better way to get the nutrient boost mentioned above.


OK, I agree, having the raspberries sit in a pool of caramel probably doesn’t count as a “healthy” breakfast, but it sure is tasty!



Cappuccino Chia Seed Pudding

6 tablespoons powdered French vanilla cappuccino mix
2 cups original flavor almond milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
caramel topping

Stir the French vanilla cappuccino mix into the almond milk until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds and refrigerate for at least one hour. When ready to serve, evenly divide between four small bowls and top with caramel sauce. If desired, serve with fresh berries.


Cocoa Peanut Squares

Do you have a favorite treat from your childhood? Sometimes the simplest ones – like Rice Krispies Treats® and brownies served on hot dog day at school – are the treats that you can’t wait to eat. The extra special Cocoa Peanut Squares my Grandma use to make were something I really looked forward to when we visited her.

Over the Labor Day weekend I visited family and my mom made the Cocoa Peanut Squares for our family barbecue. I’m pretty sure I ate a sizeable portion of the pan by myself. I don’t know the origin of my Grandma’s recipe, and it varies from a version shown on the Rice Krispies® website. Google and Pinterest also pull up quite a few variations, so I encourage you to have fun with this super easy recipe.

Simply heat up corn syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan until bubbly and then stir in peanut butter.


One smooth, add your Cocoa Krispies®.


I also decided to stir in some raw chocolate bits.


Finally, pat into a 8 x 8 inch square pan or a 9 ½ inch diameter pie pan, then let cool and cut into squares (or wedges).

I guarantee these will disappear at lightening speed.



Cocoa Peanut Squares

1/3 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups Kellogg Cocoa Krispies®
¼ cup raw chocolate bits (optional)

Combine corn syrup and sugar in medium sized sauce pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently until mixture bubbles. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Add Cocoa Krispies® and raw chocolate bits, stirring until well coated. Press into a buttered 8×8 inch pan or pie pan, cool, and cut into squares or wedges.



Chile con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

I have been waiting all summer for fresh roasted chilies from my local farmers market. While I could roast peppers myself, you just can’t beat the chilies roasted over coals in a hopper. Last week I was informed that there was only one more week of waiting, so I put my name down for two bags of their medium Anaheim roasted chilies, assuming it was the quart sized bags they had last year.

What I hadn’t been told was that the list wasn’t for small bags of chilies, it was for bushels. BUSHELS. I had ordered TWO bushels of roasted chilies. I ended up leaving the market with one bushel, with the assurance that the other would go fast (which I have no doubt, seeing as how many people ask for them).

In case you are wondering, this is what a bushel of roasted chilies looks like . . . Getting through the entire fifteen pound bag may take a while, and will be why chilies may be a frequent ingredient in future postings.


The first thing I wanted to make with my chilies was Chili con Queso, surprisingly with a cheese substitute – Cashew Cheese. Cheese makes up a generous portion of my diet, which is why eliminating dairy from my diet temporarily to rule out a food sensitivity was difficult, and the few dairy-free cheeses I tried didn’t satisfy my craving. Thankfully, my cheese famine was short lived, though I’m always on the lookout for a good alternative, since some of my good friends have had to maintain a longer dairy hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when at a food event this April I stumbled upon cashew cheese.The unique aspect about the Beyond Better® product I picked up is that it is the only dried version on the market, making it a simple option to pack with you that requires only water for reconstitution. It is a diary-free, gluten-free, organic cheese substitute that actually tastes like cheese!


To make my Chili con queso, I cooked ½ pound of ground beef , then added the cashew queso dip and water,



then I added a bit of the diced freshly roasted chilies and some diced cherry tomatoes . . .



for a hearty, kid & husband approved, lunch of queso and blue corn chips.


Now I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 14 ½ pounds of chilies. . . .


Chili con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

½ lb ground beef
4 oz package of Beyond Better® Spicy Queso Dip
1 ½ cups water
½ cup freshly roasted chilies, diced
½ cup diced cherry tomatoes

Cook beef in a skillet over medium heat until fully cooked and browned, breaking it into small pieces. Add the queso dip and water and stir until no clumps remain. Heat for 1-2 minutes longer, until thick and bubbly. Stir in the chilies and tomatoes, and then remove from the heat. Serve with corn chips.


Tisane Punch

Having a refreshing drink prepared ahead of time and ready to serve is one of tips you will often see from party planners. My Tisane Punch is a variation of a the classic Arnold Palmer and just what you need to add to your Labor Day celebration.

An Arnold Palmer is equal parts lemonade and unsweetened iced tea, perfectly blending the sweet and earthy tastes. While you can’t go wrong with this drink, why not mix-up the lemonade and tea choice?

To give my drink a fruity background I have went with a tisane – an infusion of herbs and spices that doesn’t included any tea leaves, creating a non-caffeinated (usually) tea-like drink. I used a wild berry tea, and used four tea bags steeped in 2 cups of boiling water. Once it was finished brewing, I removed the tea bags and added another 2 cups of cold water.


For the other main ingredient, the lemonade, I departed with yellow lemonade and instead have used a raspberry lemonade.


Finally, I mixed the two beverages together in equal parts. To serve, I place a few frozen berries (instead of ice cubes) in a glass, poured the drink over the berries, added a fancy straw and let my guests sip away.





Tisane Punch

4 cups raspberry lemonade

4 cups of berry flavored iced tea*

1 bag of frozen mixed berries


Add some frozen berries to a tall glass, then add equal parts of the lemonade and berry iced tea. Serve immediately.

* To make the berry flavored tea, use 4 bags of your favorite berry flavored tea, steep in 2 cups of boiling water for the recommended time, then remove the tea bags and add 2 cups of cold water


Key Lime Bites

Key Lime Pie is one of the decadent treats my husband loves and can’t resist when he sees it on a menu. I think it reminds him of sea & sand filled vacations, and all the great associated memories.

Despite his adoration for this dessert, I can’t remember the last time I made it for him. So as a special treat I made him Key Lime Bites, for a small dose of citrus-infused sugary goodness.

I started with a package of powdered sugar donut holes and cut them in half.



Then, I mixed together some sweetened coconut and lime zest.

Next, I channeled my inner Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade skills and dug into a jar of key lime pie filling . . . . putting a bit on the cut side of half of the donut holes. I recommend having something like a cutting board with a ridge to hold the holes in place before the next step, otherwise they can get a bit top-heavy.

Finally the key lime pie filling gets topped with some of the coconut, and the other half of the donut hole is placed on top to finish off the bite.


To keep them from rolling around, I like to thread them on a kabob skewer, which also makes for easy serving.


The quick and easy bites were a hit, and may have been eaten for breakfast as well as dessert.


Key Lime Bites

½ cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon lime zest
18 powdered sugar donut holes
9 teaspoons key lime pie filling

Mix together the shredded coconut and lime zest, set aside. Cut donut holes in half. place ½ teaspoon key lime filling onto one cut end, add some coconut and then sandwich with the remaining donut hole half. Set down on a ride in a cutting board or skewer with a kabob skewer. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Zucchini & Sweet Pepper Gazpacho

As is typical, I brought home a bounty of fresh vegetables from the local farmers market this week. Since there is no time like the present, I decided a refreshing gazpacho was in order for lunch.

Gazpacho, a chilled soup originating from Spain, typically consists of pureed tomato, chopped vegetables and a garnish of croutons or hard-boiled eggs. I’ve taken a more liberal approach to my version of gazpacho today, and replaced the tomato with zucchini and sweet peppers.


I started with two globe zucchini, two sweet red peppers (one Italian Bullhorn and the other Aconcagua) and one ear of Peaches & Cream corn.

I decided to serve the soup in the globe zucchini, so I cut the tops off the squash and scooped out the insides, saving the insides for the soup. Next I diced the peppers after removing the seeds and membranes, and then cut the corn kernels off the cob.


I reserved a bit of the peppers and corn to stir into the soup later, and placed the rest in a food processor with the zucchini meat and water and pureed until smooth. I then poured the soup into a large bowl, and stirred in the remainder of my ingredients, including green onions and horseradish.

To serve, I poured some into by globe zucchini bowls, making sure to include crackers on the side. This zucchini-pepper gazpacho was just as refreshing as the tomato-based variety, and a most tasty lunch!



Zucchini & Sweet Pepper Gazpacho

2 globe zucchini
1 ear sweet corn
2 sweet red peppers
3 green onions, diced
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons grated horseradish
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper


Cut off the top of the globe squash and reserve, then scoop out the insides of the squash, leaving about ¼ inch shell. Place the squash meat in a food processor and refrigerate the squash bowls and bowl tops until ready to serve. Remove the corn kernels from the ear of corn, and then remove the sees and membranes from the peppers and dice the peppers. Reserve ¼ cup of both the corn and peppers, and add the remainder to the food processor. Blend the squash, corn, and peppers until smooth, and then pour into a large bowl. Stir in the remainder of the ingredients and chill until ready to serve. Serve in the squash bowls, or cups.


Blueberry Basil Compote with Orange Cheesecake Drizzle over Blueberry Waffles

Did you know that July is national blueberry month? I wasn’t aware of this until recently, but I’ll happily celebrate an excuse to consume more blueberries.  Blueberries are high in fiber and vitamin C, as well as contain phytonutrients that are touted for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Combined with the perfectly sweet taste, it isn’t surprising to hear that North American consumption has nearly tripled in the last 15 years.

I’m always trying new ways to eat blueberries, both savory and sweet. Last year I sampled a blueberry jam that had basil in it, and I thought it was a great combination that would taste even better with fresh ingredients. The result was this tasty compote, that becomes the star on waffles.

Making the blueberry-basil compote is simple – just mash together fresh blueberries, fresh basil and sugar until a syrupy sauce is formed.





After making some gluten-free waffles and cheesecake drizzle ( cream cheese, sugar, and orange juice mixed together), I paired them all together for a special weekend morning breakfast.


Another interesting fact about blueberries is that the United States is the world’s largest producer of the blueberry. The sweet treat, is grown in quite a few states throughout the United States, from Washington and Oregon, to Michigan, New Jersey, and on down to Georgia and North Carolina. North Carolina is one of the main producers and they proudly promote their produce. In fact, they publish a yearly blueberry recipe collection as a special edition to the Our State magazine.  You can find my Blueberry Basil Compote with Orange Cheesecake Drizzle over Blueberry Waffles in this year’s edition, along with a variety of other blueberry recipes that I can’t wait to try.



Blueberry Basil Compote over Blueberry Waffles with Orange Cheesecake Drizzle

3 cups fresh blueberries
0.4 oz fresh basil (~10 large leaves) cut in chiffonade
¼ cup white granulated sugar

4 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup white granulated sugar

1 ½ cups all-purpose gluten free flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
¾ cup water
¼ cup dried blueberries

To make the compote, place the blueberries, basil, and ¼ cup white sugar in a large bowl and macerate with a potato masher. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the cheesecake drizzle, place the cream cheese, orange juice and ¼ cup of sugar in a medium size bowl and mix together with a whisk or electric mixer until no clumps remain; set aside.

Preheat a waffle iron. Mix together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and orange peel in a large bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the egg, melted butter, and water. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in the dried blueberries.

Pour mix into a waffle iron in batches (batter will make 4 waffles), cooking until golden brown according to the waffle iron instructions.

Once cooked, plate the waffles, topping with 1/4th of the orange cheesecake drizzle and then 1/4th of the blueberry-basil compote. Serve immediately.


Orrechiette with Sundried Tomatoes and Porcini

This pasta looks scrumptious, doesn’t it? You might be surprised to find it is a macaroni & cheese food hack.

I’m not going to lie – some weeks are really busy. At the end of an extra long work week (or day) I’d rather spend my evening playing with my kids than whipping up something elaborate in the kitchen. You might even get a deer-in-the-headlights stare when you ask what is on my menu for the weekend. Sometimes I stall my answer, since a truthful response might include either (1) macaroni & cheese or (2) an easy staple, which in this house means tacos, rotisserie chicken, or a loaded salad.

The first option is a sure kid pleaser, and there is no denying the ooey goodness of boxed varieties. Plain macaroni & cheese, however, doesn’t quite feel adult. That is why this recipe is a good compromise between a creamy packaged treat and grownup flavors of porcini and sun dried tomatoes.


I started by preparing a box or my favorite creamy white cheddar macaroni & cheese, which happens to be Annie’s, per the package instructions.


Once it was done, I stirred in some rehydrated porcini, as well as some sundried tomatoes and thyme, creating a dressed-up dish that can be prepared in the same amount of time as the plain version.

I grudgingly shared the dish with my husband, since I’m pretty sure I could have eaten it all by myself in one sitting.


I guess admitting that you are serving macaroni & cheese for dinner can be a good thing!

Orrechiette with Sundried Tomatoes and Porcini

6oz package of Creamy White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
butter and/or milk per package instructions
½ cup sundried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained
½ oz dried porcini, rehydrated per package instructions and drained
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Prepare the macaroni & cheese per the package instructions, then stir in the remaining ingredients and enjoy!