Archive for the ‘Great Dishes’ Category

Corn Griddle Cakes

We have a lot of corn-on-the-cob in this house. The kids love it, but I tend to over-buy the ears at Costco. Today, listening to this interview on Fresh Air by two chefs I admire, I was inspired to turn a couple of those ears of corn into corn cakes. I looked at a few recipes and made something that worked great for our family. We served it as break-fast-for dinner with veggie sausages, blueberries and yogurt, but it also makes a great side dish for a more typical dinner. You can add chives or herbs, but I left ours plain for easier acceptance at the table by my children.

Makes 6 Corn Cakes


2 Ears of Corn, shucked

1T melted butter

¼ C skim milk

1 egg

¼ C cornmeal

¼ C flour

½ t Kosher salt

2T shredded parmesan or gruyere cheese


  1. Grate the corn on the large holes of a grater, or cut off the kernels and process in a mini-processor. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Beat together grated corn, milk, egg and butter.
  3. In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients, plus cheese. Add to wet ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Heat the griddle to medium and spray with canola or vegetable oil.
  5. Cook as you would a pancake—about ¼ C mix on the griddle per cake, flipping when edges are cooked.

Grilling out on the 4th—with Pizza

I checked out a cookbook from the library on a friend’s recommendation—The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman—and one page immediately caught my attention.  The Grilled Pizza recipe in the “Pizza and Pasta” section seemed too interesting to pass by untried. I have a pretty good gas grill, a garden full of tomatoes and basil, and pizza dough in the fridge (The recipe does include a section on making the dough, but I wanted to try out the quick-and-dirty version).  The results?  Tastes great, less pretty. First, I made a grilled pizza for the kids that was basic sauce and cheese. While it was simple and quick to make, it looked hideous. The kids didn’t seem to care, though, since it tasted wonderful.


Margherita pizza on the left, kids pizza on the right


Learning from the first pizza (always best to experiment on the under-developed palates first), I changed things up a bit for the tomato-basil Margherita version and it came out considerably more pizza-looking than the first. Here is the gist of what I learned: when using refrigerated pizza dough, do not separate it into halves and leave it in an oiled bowl for an hour as the recipe suggests. Roll it out with some flour, oil it, and throw it on the grill.

Side note: The Mom 100 Cookbook is a good one, so far. I like the way Workman separates the sections by need—i.e., potluck, mixed company dinners, bake sale. It’s easy to navigate, and she calls out recipes for picky eaters and ways to bring the kids into the kitchen to help prepare the meal.

Next time, I’ll either make the dough myself or buy a hunk from a nearby pizza place. But in a pinch, the pre-made stuff works fine. If you are hosting people this 4th of July, why not provide an alternative to burgers and dogs, especially for the vegetarians? After all, how many veggie patties can a person eat in one lifetime? Grilled pizza will, at the least, provide some additional conversation starters at your cook-out.

Grilled Pizza (serves 4)


1 can of refrigerated pizza dough

Olive Oil

Cornmeal or flour

1C tomato sauce

2C (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese (fresh is best)

1.5C toppings

1/4C slivered basil leaves (optional)


  1. Roll out pizza dough on a surface with flour. Stretch or pull it into a 12-inch rectangle or circle. You’ll need to give the dough some breaks in between stretches. It will puff up on the grill, so don’t worry if it’s only ¼-inch think or if there are holes in some parts.
  2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high
  4. Pour tomato sauce into one bowl, cheese in another, and toppings in another. Bring bowls, oil, pastry brush and baking sheets with dough to the grill.
  5. Brush the top of the dough with oil.
  6. Swiftly pick up the dough and flip it, oil-side-down, onto the grill grate. Close the grill cover and wait 3 minutes.
  7. Once grill marks have formed, brush uncooked top side with oil and turn over the crust. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  8. Carefully brush surface with tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and add toppings.
  9. Close the cover and cook for 4 minutes more. Once cheese is completely melted and crust is brown on the underside. Remove the pizza from the grill, sprinkle with fresh basil, and cut into pieces.

What are your favorite vegetarian grill-out meals? Tell us what you are planning to cook for the 4th, and have a great holiday!

End-of-the-School-Year Party Snacks Solved

I don’t know how I made it all these years without knowing about Monkey Bread, but I’m glad those days are over. My first introduction to this carbs-cinnamon-sugar-butter concoction was via Paula Deen (Natch).  I borrowed one of her cooking-with-kids books from our local library last year, and one of the recipes my kids and I made was Monkey Bread. It made more than we could handle, and we brought some to the soccer team the next morning for an after-game snack and still had enough to bring to the baseball team that afternoon for the same purpose. So, as end-of-season sports parties are upon us, I made a batch for the Spitfire’s season-ender.

When the kids find out we’ve brought Monkey Bread we either receive blank stares or cries of “Yes! I love Monkey Bread!” from the assembled masses. Introducing kids to this treat is a real pleasure. It works well for these functions because, while it looks like a lumpy cake, it is a pull-apart treat. And sure, there is sugar all over it, but’s less sugar-high-inducing than the usual cupcakes.

As I mentioned, the Paula Deen version of this recipe made a lot—too much, for my taste. It was actually really hard to get it to bake evenly and I ended up splitting it into two dishes after the initial baking time, to finish it off uniformly. Most recipes call for 3 or 4 biscuit rolls, but using 2 cans of 8 should be enough for the usual kids gathering/potluck. We have another one this Sunday, and I’ll be making it again. It’s just so easy–to make, keep and serve.

Monkey Bread (serves 15)


2 cans of refrigerated, unbaked whole-wheat biscuits (8 per can)

½ C granulated white sugar

2T cinnamon

½ C brown sugar

¾ stick of butter


Coat a tubular cake pan with cooking spray or similar.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix white sugar and cinnamon on a plate (some recipes recommend shaking it in a bag and then adding the pieces in, a la shake-and-bake, to coat. I do not. The first many pieces will be coated only in cinnamon using this method.)

Separate the biscuits and cut each one in ¼ pieces.

Roll the pieces in the sugar mix to coat and drop each piece in the tube pan one-by-one. Continue layering until all the biscuit pieces are coated and in the pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the layered biscuits.

Bake 35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn it over to release the bread, and flip it again onto the final plate for serving.

What do you make for a group of kids for these end-of-year parties? I know not everyone brings a dessert treat—what are some of your best recipes that go over well with this kind of crowd?

The Perfect Smoothie

Every year in March I take a good look at what I’ve been hiding under winter clothing and realize it’s time to get things back in order for the hot weather. For me, that means a lot of fruits and vegetables, and smoothies once or twice a day. For this blog, it means fewer recipes. There are a lot of salads and sautéed veggies happening in my house right now for me, and a lot of pasta and grilled chicken dinners. Not so interesting. It helps that I freeze pureed veggies in 2T portions to add to sauces and smoothies, etc. Last week I added spinach and cauliflower to turkey meatballs and it was a great way to lighten them up. Having it on hand means I am more likely to get creative and bring them into recipes.

But I do think the smoothie is interesting. I’ve played around with this smoothie over the years and like to think I have it down to a fruit and veg art.

Make it, drink it, let me know what you think! And if you are gluten-free (as is this recipe), the next post or two should be up your alley–Passover is coming and wheat is going out the door.

Julie’s Perfect (Vegan) Smoothie


1C almond milk

1 scoop Amazing Meal Amazing Grass Chocolate Organic Chocolate Infusion

½ banana

1t almond butter

3-4 slices frozen peaches

5-6 chunks frozen mango (or strawberries)

2T pureed spinach  


Blend it all (I am partial to an immersion blender for smoothies), and add some ice if it needs it, or if you used fresh produce. The Amazing Grass tends to stick to the cup, so wash it out ASAP.

You are Totally Worth that Peanut Butter Pie

We had friends coming over for a Friday night dinner, and I needed a meal I could prep in advance 100%. So, with grilling in mind, I had marinated chicken, watermelon chopped veggies in a ziploc and corn at the ready for the main meal. I forgot about dessert until it was too late—I no longer had time in the morning to bake and cool something. Luckily, I had all the ingredients I needed to prep a peanut butter pie recipe I’d clipped from Shape or Self magazine before the turn of the century. It had been almost as long since I’d made it last.

It was one of their “make-over this recipe” articles where they take something delicious and make it mediocre but edible. My trick with this recipe was to return some of the fat, so it’s still yummy. It worked! Overheard at the kids table:

Spitfire: I’m not sure about the cream cheese taste.

Friend: I love the cream cheese taste!

Spitfire: Yeah, I like the peanut butter and the crust.

Friend: I love the crust!

Spitfire: This is a weird dessert.

Friend: It is weird.

I’ll take weird. As the Spitfire says, everyone is weird in their own way. The crust, FYI, is not the one from the recipe. I have never made a crumbled crust because I am perfectly happy to buy one. I used the same OREO crust as in our birthday ice cream cakes. This caused my children to believe it was an ice cream cake at first, but they managed to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and eat the pie.

You can scale the fat up or down in this version. Maybe it all depends on how much you think you deserve that peanut butter pie.


Peanut Butter Fudge Pie

Great for: prep-ahead casual dinners with company

Prep: 15 minutes

Chill: 4 hours


1 Chocolaty crust (if you want to make it, microwave 1/2C fudge topping, 1/2C chocolate chips until partially melted. Stir until smooth, then slowly add 2C crispy rice cereal until mixed. Using wax paper, press into 9-inch pie pan)

8-oz package light cream cheese (in this ingredient, don’t go fat free. Fat free cream cheese is the work of the devil).

2/3C peanut butter (I prefer creamy) at room temp

14-oz can condensed, sweetened, fat-free milk

3T lemon juice (I use bottled)

1t vanilla extract

1C light cool whip (or similar), thawed

Fudge topping


  1. Beat cream cheese in a bowl until fluffy
  2. Mix in peanut butter.
  3. Gradually beat in condensed milk.
  4. Add lemon Juice and Vanilla.
  5. Fold in whipped topping.
  6. Turn into prepared crust.
  7. Drizzle toping over pie. Use top of knife to swirl topping decoratively.
  8. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set.

Brunch Staples, Valentine’s Day Edition: Upside Pear Pancake

This pancake was the first brunch staple in my repertoire. I made it as a newlywed and have fond memories of serving it on anniversaries and other special occasions. I have not-so-fond memories of forgetting the potholder and burning my hand on the skillet handle. But, I continue to create it for those days that feel celebratory.  And because we have a pear tree in the back yard, I’m always grateful for an easy recipe with pears.  This is good option for a special Valentine’s Day breakfast or, as we like it, Breakfast for Dinner.  It pairs well with the biscotti, pink milk, turkey sausage and a heaping helping of scrambled eggs.

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day meal?

Upside Pear Pancake  (serves 4)


3T butter, divided

1+1/2 firm, ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears (about ¾#)

2t lemon juice

2/3C all-purpose flour

¼ C plus 3T sugar, divided

1t baking powder

½ t baking soda

¼ t salt

2/3C plain non-fat or 2% yogurt

2 large eggs

Maple syrup


  1. Peel and slice pears into ¼-inch slices and transfer to a small bowl.
  2. Add 1/4C sugar and lemon juice to pears; toss to coat well.
  3. Melt 2T butter in an oven-proof 10-inch skillet on low heat, tilting to coat skillet.
  4. Arrange pears decoratively in skillet (I tried to make a heart shape) and drizzle any remaining sugar mixture over them.
  5. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until just tender.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if you preheat at all—I rarely do and it makes almost no difference to the timing, but a nice difference to my gas bill).
  7. Combine remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add eggs, 1T melted butter and yogurt and whisk together until just combined.
  8. Pour batter over pears. Bake in middle of oven for 15 minutes or until top is golden and center is firm when touched lightly. Remove with pot holder. PLACE POTHOLDER ON HANDLE WHEN YOU REST IT ON THE STOVE.
  9. Place a large plate over the skillet, then USING THE POTHOLDER turn the skillet over to invert the pancake, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together. Carefully lift skillet off pancake and replace any fruit still stuck to bottom of skillet.
  10. Cut pancake into wedges, arrange on 4 plates and cover with 1T maple syrup.

Salmon Two Ways

Nothing tests the Homogeny-at –the-Table rule in our house like salmon does these days. The Spitfire has turned against it and getting her to eat a few bites can be a long process. And yet, I keep making it. The rest of us love it, and I’m hopeful that one day we’ll all be able to eat it in peace again, together.

A few days after serving this roasted salmon, I was reading All-of-a-Kind Family to The Spitfire. It’s a chapter book about a family with five girls in Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the turn of the century. The chapter we were reading that night focused on girl’s stubborn refusal to eat the soup served at lunch. The same soup was served to her at 3 successive meals until she finally took a bite, and then her mom gave her another meal—without vegetables to reduce the likelihood of a second fight. The Spitfire followed up the reading by saying “That is like me and you and the Salmon.” At last, our life has been captured in a novel, just not the part I’d imagined.

I like this recipe from Everyday Foods because it lets me make one easy prpe-ahead meal and then immediately I can prep for the next night’s meal. The roasted salmon was fine but nothing special. The Salmon burgers were amazing. AMAZING. I did not serve them to the kids, though. The adults ate after they went to bed, and thus we avoided another Salmon incident. If your kids like salmon, this will go over very well. I ended up with enough for 6 burgers, so I froze the other 4 patties.

Salmon the First Way: Roasted with Vegetables

Great for: Quick family meals

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Serves: 4


1.25# carrots, in 1-inch pieces

2 medium red onions, in 1-inch wedges


Coarse salt and pepper

2# skinless salmon fillets

2T chopped fresh dill

2T chopped fresh parsley

1T fresh lemon juice

½ # Orzo

2T unsalted butter

4 Hamburger buns


Preheat oven to 450 degrees with racks in middle and lower thirds.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss veggies with oil, salt and pepper. Roast on middle rack until tender and onions are golden, about 20 minutes, stirring after 10.

Line a second rimmed backing sheet with parchment. Season salmon with salt and pepper and roast on bottom rack until opaque in center, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook orzo according to directions. Drain, return to pot and toss with butter, dill and parsley, and lemon juice.

Transfer 4 salmon fillets and 1 cup vegetables to an airtight container; refrigerate, up to 3 days. Serve remaining salmon fillets and vegetables with herbed orzo.

I made the salmon burger patties that night, and cooked them the next day.

Salmon the Second Way: Salmon Burgers


Four leftover salmon fillets

Leftover roasted vegetables, finely chopped

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger (I used bottled)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

Nonstick cooking spray

4 lightly toasted hamburger buns

Bibb lettuce

Chinese mustard (optional)


In a large bowl, flake and mash salmon fillets.

Stir in roasted vegetables, egg white, ginger, and soy sauce until combined. Add flour and stir to combine.

Divide into 4 patties.

Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium; add patties and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Serve burgers on buns with lettuce and Chinese mustard, if desired.