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Oatmeal Pie Knock-offs


Oatmeal Cookies and Oatmeal Pie

Yesterday, I needed to make something for my daughter to take on a school trip, something sorta healthy, but also a treat. I have also been looking for cookie recipes that include oats, for heart health and coconut oil, because I read it is better for you than shortening or butter. Plus, I love the rich coconut flavor coconut oil adds to my breakfast smoothies, so I thought it might do the same with baked goods. Finally, I have a penchant for Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Pies. So imagine my delight at finding a recipe for chewy oatmeal raisin cookies that used coconut oil instead of butter, margarine or shortening? I made them last night, cutting down on the white sugar by 1/4 cup. They turned out delicious and even better, I sandwiched one large marshmallow in between two cookies to make oatmeal pies! Sent my daughter off with six pies and six cookies, not to mention a few homemade Rice Krispy treats, lucky kid.

By the way, in order to get the marshmallows to soften enough to sandwich between the two cookies nicely, I placed one cookie, flat side up, with one marshmallow on top, into the microwave for 5-6 seconds. After I take the cookie and marshmallow out of the microwave, I immediately placed a second cookie on top, flat side down, and gently pressed down until the marshmallow hit the edges. I know the Little Debbie’s are not filled with marshmallow, but trust me, in a pinch, this does the trick!


Impromptu Smoky Chili


Bowl of chili with shredded cheese

                          Impromptu Smoky Chili

It is getting colder up here in northern Michigan, time for some comfort food. My dad’s chili recipe is a family fav, but alas, the cupboards did not contain all the ingredients! So I improvised, as usual. It turned out quite well. So well, I have been snacking on it all night, which is probably not going to help my efforts to lose weight before my trip to Tucson in January. I think it turned out well enough to share the recipe, so if you are in the mood for something a little different, give it a try. I should add that my husband has to start watching his cholesterol intake, quite recently, making the addition of barley one of creative necessity. However, it really helped to make the chili thicker than usual, in a good way. I used the beans I had on hand, so feel free to use whatever you have in your pantry. If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

*Note: the addition of smoked butter really makes this chili sing. However, you might not be able to find it, since it is a local specialty item, from Boss Mouse Cheese. If you can’t get the smoked butter, I would try using 1/2 tsp smoked paprika or liquid smoke. If smoky isn’t your thing, just skip it.


  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 med-lg onion, diced small
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots (small dice)
  • 1 lb ground beef (chuck, round, sirloin, whatever)
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbls double concentrated tomato paste
  • 3 cans of rinsed beans, all the same or a mix  (I used black beans, dark red kidney beans and HEB brand Borracho beans with beer – these are a bit spicy, but worked great in this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked barley (I used Mother’s quick cooking barley and used beef broth instead of water for extra flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbls chili powder (or more if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt (two of my cans of beans were low sodium, so I used more salt)
  • 12 oz water
  • 1 Tbls smoked butter (optional)
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

Cook barley according to directions on box, bag or internet. I used a quick cooking barley, which cooked in 12 minutes. Once the barley is cooking, over medium heat, in a large heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil and add onion, garlic and carrots. Cook until onions are translucent. Once onions are translucent, add ground beef and cook until meat is cooked through. Add cumin, black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder and salt. Stir to combine. Next, add the tomato soup, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are cooked through. Add all the beans and barley, stir gently to combine. Let all simmer for 5 minutes. Just before serving, add the smoked butter to the pot and gently stir to melt and mix in well. Ladle chili into bowls and top with shredded cheese of your choice (I used sharp cheddar) or sour cream, or both if you want to throw caution to the wind.

Benjamin Twiggs Cherry Garden Salsa

     I just discovered my new favorite salsa, Benjamin Twiggs Cherry Garden Salsa! This stuff is incredibly delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it. If you are not lucky enough to live where it is sold, you can order it online and have it shipped. But I warn you, one jar will not be enough, not by a long shot!

Florentine Pasta Recipe Shuffle

Image of dinner plate with text What's for Dinner???

     When my daughter wandered into the living room and asked me what was for dinner tonight, I realized I needed to come up with something on the quick side, using what I had on hand. I found a recipe for Chicken Florentine that sounded promising, except all my chicken is currently frozen solid. However, I had fresh spinach, a few last cloves of garlic, two cans of chopped baby Portabella mushrooms (which my husband brought home one day when I asked him to pick up fresh mushrooms), a can (yes, a can) of cream of chicken soup, a small carton of heavy cream and some shredded fakebutwilldoinapinch (Kraft) Parmesan cheese. Basically, I shuffled the deck, removing a couple of cards and adding a few cards of my own. The verdict: Jackpot! The fam loved it, which is all I need to hear, though I loved it too. I reeeeally needed this, especially after the recent Pasta with Seafood and White Wine Sauce Fail this past Sunday! I have redeemed myself with my loved ones (at least for the moment), so I’m a happy cook.

Pasta with Seafood and White Wine Sauce, Fail!

     Epic. Fail. I just hate when that happens. Valentine’s Day dinner for the family is usually a lovely event, with heart shaped bits here and there. This year, I was craving a shrimp and crab pasta with a buttery white wine sauce. Sounds good, right? If you love seafood, it should sound good. I found a recipe online with four and a half stars, which made me believe it was worth trying. Unfortunately, at my house, it did not rate even one star. The white wine actually made the sauce taste beer-like, in a harsh way, and with just the lemon zest but no lemon juice, it didn’t have enough depth. I doctored it up as best as I could, since the seafood was very fresh and the heart shaped pasta was so cute, but the sauce, ugh, I will never use that particular recipe again. Major bummer, but it happens. Luckily, tomorrow is another day…

Pumpkin Tomato Meat Sauce

     About a year and a half ago, I bought a jar of Butternut Squash pasta sauce at our local Aldi Market. It was so good, crazy good, so I went back the day after we had it and bought the ten remaining jars on the shelf. Unfortunately, those ten jars
PumpkinTomatoMeatSauce2were the last I ever got my hands on, because it never reappeared on the shelves! Still, it did make me reconsider all my ideas about what makes a good tomato based sauce. I’ve tasted and made a variety of tomato sauces, including Mexican, Italian, Greek and Indian, so I know that a good one can have any number of herbs and spices. Adding coconut milk to a tomato curry sauce adds lovely depth of flavor and makes it a little creamy. Adding red wine also adds depth, as does chicken or beef stock. With all this in mind, I decided to make a pumpkin tomato meat sauce today. The verdict…victory! The family and I loved it! It was not a copy of the sauce from Aldi, that wasn’t my intention, but it was absolutely delicious and I plan to make it again.

The recipe


  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 4 med cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 2 C fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground allspice (I used 1/2 tsp, but I love it)
  • 2 tbl fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 C red wine
  • 4-5 C tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 C pumpkin
  • 1 C vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt to taste


Heat olive oil in large skillet, add onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent. Add chopped tomato and continue cooking until tomatoes are very soft.Put mixture into a bowl and set aside. Add meat to the pan and cook through, using a utensil to break the meat apart and mix it up together well, if using more than one type of meat. Once the meat is cooked through,  put meat into a larger pot, add the tomato-onion mixture and stir to combine over medium heat. Once well combined, add all the ingredients from the oregano  to the stock, stir to combine. Cook over med-low, stirring often, until the sauce starts to bubble, then turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring and tasting (add salt if needed), every so often.

*This is a thick, creamy and substantial sauce. If a thinner sauce is desired, consider adding another cup of stock.

Serve over your favorite pasta and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese (I almost always use Parmigiano-Reggiano), if desired.

Makes approx. 2 quarts (8 cups)



Leftover Reinvention Update

LeftoverRiceVeggieBake2     I am happy to report the leftover reinvention was a success! The family and I enjoyed it and even had seconds, the real test of how much something is enjoyed at my house. I added white cheddar cheese and a couple of eggs to the bechamel sauce sauce on top (so it was a bit of a savory custard), and lightly sprinkled it with shredded dill Havarti cheese, making the entire dish creamy and rich, though I did use skim milk. It was a great Meatless Monday dish. I usually end up making rice pudding with leftover rice, because I love it so much, but this dish has inspired me to reconsider my options the next time I have some on hand. Anyone else have some inspired leftover magic to share?

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