Cranberry Almond Spinach Salad

Want a quick but elegant and delicious side salad? Look no farther, this spinach salad only takes minutes to prepare. A simple bed of spinach with toasted almonds and dried cranberries tossed with an amazing dressing that completely makes this salad. This recipe is for a larger salad, but very easy only to prepare half. Enjoy!


16 oz. baby spinach
1 C. almonds, toasted
1 C. dried cranberries

Sesame Seed Dressing

1/4 C. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 C. olive oil
3-4 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. finely minced shallot
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds (optional)

For the dressing: In a bowl or jar whisk together all ingredients until mixture is well blended.

For the salad: Add spinach, almonds and cranberries to a salad bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss. Serve immediately after adding dressing.

Yields: about 8 servings

Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad

Israeli couscous looks like little pearls, and it’s made from semolina or wheat flour. It has a slightly chewy texture, similar to barley, and because it is toasted, it has a slightly savory flavor.

This dish makes getting dinner served quick and easy by grilling your veggies along with your chicken, steak, pork or fish, and only 12 minutes for your couscous to cook. A great accompaniment that is simple and easy for a busy weeknight or a relaxing weekend. Feel free to change-up the veggies to what you have on hand or to your families liking. Enjoy!

2 Tbsp. plus 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 C. Israeli couscous
3 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise into planks
1 orange, red and yellow bell pepper, cored and quartered
2 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 C. crumbled feta
1/2 C. chopped fresh mint

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the couscous and toast until golden brown. Add 1-1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Set aside.

Prepare a grill for medium heat. Toss the zucchini and peppers with the oil and some salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables, flipping occasionally, until just tender and lightly charred, about 20 minutes. Remove from the grill and when cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch pieces. Mix the grilled vegetables together with the couscous.

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Toss the lemon vinaigrette, feta and mint with the couscous salad. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe courtesy of Tiffani Thiessen

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

When I first made this bread I wasn’t expecting it to wow me, but I was wrong and it has become a popular snack in my house. A rich moist chocolate bread with a tender crumb. If you have never made a zucchini bread and are concerned with tasting a vegetable in your desert, don’t worry, you can’t even tell that it’s in there. In this bread you have chocolate from the cocoa powder and the chocolate chips and sweetness from maple syrup, yum. This can easily be a gluten-free snack by using a gluten-free flour. Enjoy!

2 C. grated zucchini
1-1/2 C. all-purpose four (or flour of choice)
1/2 C. almond meal
1/3 C. cocoa powder (try to find cacao powder)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. maple syrup
2 eggs
2/3 C. melted coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×5 loaf pan. Place grated zucchini in a colander, allow to sit for 5 minutes and squeeze excess water out. In a small saucepan on medium heat or by microwave, melt coconut oil and maple syrup together until combined. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together until combined, pour into the maple syrup mixture and vanilla and stir well. Add this mixture to the drained zucchini and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and chocolate chips and stir. Combine this flour mixture with the wet mixture and zucchini, stir until well combined.

Pour mixture into greased loaf pan and smooth out top. Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before taking out to rest on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or wrap with foil and freeze for later To thaw, simply put in the fridge or set out on the counter top.

Serves: 10-12

Chicken Wing Seasoning

No matter what flavor of chicken wing you enjoy, or the level of heat, this seasoning is a good “foundation” to start with. I am one that has a problem with cooking meat and not seasoning it. The end result of your dish is much more flavorful and delicious when seasoned properly. This recipe makes enough for about 3 pounds of wings, so if you do not plan on cooking that many, it keeps great in an airtight container. Feel free to use on any other meat protein you’d like. Enjoy!

1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin

Combine all ingredients and keep in an airtight container.

Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli Bake

This easy side dish of cauliflower, broccoli and a delicious cheese sauce can also become a main dish by adding either cooked chicken or ham. Pimientos and Dijon mustard are added to a traditional cheese sauce, and panko bread crumbs tossed in butter are sprinkled on top of the casserole. Since this is a large side dish, I simply cut it in half for my husband and I. Enjoy!

4 C. fresh cauliflower florets
4 C. fresh broccoli florets
1/4 C. salted butter
1/4 C. all-purpose flour (or flour of choice)
2 C. whole milk
1 (4-oz) jar diced pimientos, drained
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 (8-oz) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 C. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 Tbsp. salted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray and 11×7 inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large Dutch oven, bring cauliflower and broccoli to boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well.

In Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk; cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in pimientos, salt, and mustard. Stir in cheese until melted. Stir in broccoli and cauliflower, and pour into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, stir together bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle onto casserole. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Roasted Cabbage with Onion Dijon Sauce

Roasted cabbage slices drizzled with an onion-Dijon sauce are quick, simple and delicious. If you’ve never roasted cabbage this could be a game changer for you. Roasting vegetables brings a different taste and texture to them with caramelization and crispy edges. Add a complimentary sauce of butter, onion, Dijon and garlic and you have a delicious dish to serve to your family. Enjoy!

1/2 medium green cabbage ( about 1 1/2-lbs)
1 Tbsp. garlic-infused olive oil (or regular olive oil)
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced fresh onion
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
pinch (1/8 tsp) each salt and pepper
optional: chopped chives or parsley for serving

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone or spray with cooking spray. Cut cabbage half into 1-inch slices and set on prepared baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to coat the cut side of each slice with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn slices and repeat. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes. Flip the wedges and roast until nicely browned, 6-8 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by adding all the sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is completely melted. Keep warm. To serve, place the wedges on a plate and drizzle with the sauce. Sprinkle with chives or parsley, if desired.

Yields: 4 servings

Hot Bacon and Blue Cheese Dip

This warm blue cheese dip will be one of your favorite appetizer recipes for entertaining. I can not tell you how insane it is! It is one of those appetizers that you just can’t walk away from. My husband who does not care for blue cheese even liked it. This is a great appetizer that you can put together ahead of time and then toss in the oven a half hour before your guest arrive. Serve with tortilla chips, bread, crackers or cut-up veggies. You can bake it in several small ramekins or a 1-quart dish. Enjoy!

8-10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8-oz cream cheese, softened
4-oz. blue cheese crumbles
1/4 C. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
4 Tbsp. chopped almonds

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook chopped bacon in skillet until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towel and drain oil from skillet, leaving a thin layer of bacon fat in the pan to cook the garlic in. Return bacon to the pan and add garlic; cook until garlic is tender–be careful not to burn it. Drain the garlic and bacon on paper towels.

Beat the softened cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add heavy cream, blue cheese and chives and beat well. Fold in the bacon-garlic mixture.
In a baking dish, spread the mixture and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in the preheated oven 25-30 minutes, or until dip is melted and bubbly. Serve warm.

Servings: 12 or more

Miso Honey Salmon

Miso is a new ingredient for me to cook with. I watched Tiffani Thiessen on the cooking channel use it in this salmon dish and thought I’d give it a try. I had to do a little research since I had no clue as to what I was looking for. I did have difficulty finding it at first but found it at Whole Foods. Miso Master Organics is the brand I purchased. Miso is made from fermented soybeans and is a thick-like substance. The most common use is for Miso soup, but it adds a unique burst of flavor to salad dressings, sauces and marinades, and vegetable dishes. In this dish, salmon is glazed with a sauce of honey, lime juice, miso, soy sauce and garlic then grilled till flaky. I found this only took around 5 or so minutes for mine so make sure to keep an eye on them. Enjoy!

1/2 C. honey
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. red miso
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (I used coconut aminos)
5 large cloves garlic, grated
2-lbs. salmon fillet, rinsed and patted dry
1 bunch scallions
1 Tbsp. oil of choice
Salt and pepper

Preheat a grill to 350 degrees over medium-low heat. Combine the honey, lime juice, miso, soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl and blend well. Place the salmon on the cedar plank and brush with the sauce to coat. Set the plank on the grill, over and cook until the salmon just flakes with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes.

Toss the scallions in the oil and season with salt and pepper. When the salmon has about 5 more minutes to cook, add the scallions to the grill and cook them until charred and softened, Remove the salmon from grill, brush with more sauce and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with the charred scallions.

Spiced Pecans

Although delicious anytime of year, spiced nuts are a great addition to your holiday entertaining and make a great hostess gift. There are many arrangements of spices you can use, increase or decrease any of them to suit your taste. Enjoy!

1 egg white
1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 C. raw pecan halves

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Combine the sugar and spices. Set aside. In a bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Slowly whisk in the spices. Toss egg mixture with pecans. Spread on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, gently stirring every 15 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Allow nuts to cool and dry out.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake

If you make no other desert for the holidays, this is it! I shared this with my neighbors and friends and everyone raved about it. What they had left over they ate for breakfast the next day! Two layers of moist pumpkin cake have a layer of spiced cheesecake in between them, with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting topping it all. Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove provide the season’s flavors both in the pumpkin cake and the spiced cheesecake. A tip I found helpful was to make the cheesecake a day ahead of the pumpkin cake since it takes a lot longer to cool. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake Layers:
3/4 C. unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. oil of choice (I used avocado oil)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg white, room temperature
2-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1-3/4 C. pumpkin puree

Spiced Cheesecake:
24-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 C. sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
4 large eggs, room temperature

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:
16-oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. butter, room temperature
8 C. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

To make the cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line the entire inside of a 9 inch cake pan with aluminum foil. Press it into the pan to get it as flat as you can. You’ll use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the pan when it’s baked and cooled.

In a large mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and flour together until combined. Use low-speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sour cream, vanilla extract and spices and mix on low-speed until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the lined cake pan. Place the cake pan inside another larger pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 30 minutes. Do not open the door or you’ll release the heat.

Crack oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes. This cooling process helps the cheesecake to cool slowly to prevent cracks. Remove cheesecake from oven and chill until firm, 5-6 hours.

To make the cake layers:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and oil and mix until combined. Add eggs and egg white in two batches, mixing until incorporated after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is combined.

Add the dry ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and mix until combined. Add the pumpkin puree to the batter and mix until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure everything is well combined. The batter will be thick.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 23-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes our with a few crumbs. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 3-4 minutes, then remove from pans to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

To make the frosting and build the cake:

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a large mixer bowl and mix until smooth. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and cinnamon and mix until smooth. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the two pumpkin cakes. Place the first layer of cake on a cake plate. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake layer. Use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the cake pan, remove the foil and place the cheesecake on top of the cake. Spread another cup of frosting evenly on top of the cheesecake, then add the second layer of cake on top. Frost the outside of the cake.

Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Cake is best for 3-4 days when frosted and in an airtight container.