Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

These are very easy to make and even easier to devour. Just stir everything in a small bowl and freeze overnight, then cut into bars, sandwiched between graham crackers. With the fat-free yogurt and large dose of fruit, these could be a healthy snack, a healthy dessert, or even a treat at breakfast. You can skip the graham crackers and eat the bars on their own, too — though your fingers will get cold and you won’t get the fun crunch of the crackers.

I adapted the recipe from this one at WW. I used a larger pan, because it made for thinner pieces that were easier to bite into. I added the graham crackers on a whim.

Makes 6 sandwiches

1 lemon
1 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt (I have used both Greek yogurt and a mixture of Greek with regular yogurt)
1 Tbsp. agave syrup
1 cup fresh blueberries
13-14 graham cracker rectangles

Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper that hangs off the sides, so you can easily lift the yogurt out later.

Zest and juice the lemon. You need 1/2 tsp. of zest and 1/2 tsp. of juice. Mix the zest and juice into the yogurt with the agave syrup and blueberries.

Crush 1-2 graham cracker rectangles (amount depends on your preference). Spread half the crumbs onto the parchment, then spread the yogurt mixture evenly on top. Scatter the rest of the crumbs over the yogurt, pressing down gently, if possible, to make sure it all adheres.

Freeze overnight. When ready, lift it out of the pan and cut into six bars. Sandwich each bar between two graham cracker rectangles. Enjoy.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

The bit of crunch from the cucumbers and pine nuts combines with the flavorful fresh ingredients to make a wonderful salad or side dish. Definitely use fresh lemon juice and herbs — there is no substitute in this dish. The quinoa provides protein and a nice texture.

I don’t remember where I got this recipe, but it must have been while living in London because of the metric measurements. The equivalents are listed below.

Serves 4 as a main course salad; 6 as a side dish

250g (8 3/4 oz.) dried quinoa
3 red tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Handful of pine nuts or roughly chopped walnuts
Bunch of mint, chopped
Bunch of parsley, chopped
Lots of salt and pepper
Sprinkling of cinnamon

Put quinoa in a pot with 500 ml (2 cups) water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

Mix the quinoa with the rest of the ingredients, then place in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

Black Bean Salad with Ginger Tamarind Dressing

A very easy, healthy, and filling salad full of flavor. This keeps well in the fridge, so it’s perfect for lunch over several days. It would also be nice as a side dish at a cookout or pot luck.

3 15-oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup corn
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 Tbsp rice wine (mirin)
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. tamarind paste
1 tsp. sesame oil

In a large bowl, mix the beans, celery, corn, and shallot. Put the rest of the ingredients in a small jar and shake until blended. Pour over the beans, mix, and serve.

More on tamarind paste:
Tamarind paste comes from the fruit of the tamarind tree and has a subtle, citrusy, sour flavor. It is used around the world but is especially popular in Asian cooking. I use it in this recipe for Malaysian Rendang Curry.

The consistency of tamarind paste can vary widely depending on the brand. Some are runny and others are thick (my curry recipe actually calls for tamarind “pulp,” which simply means a thick tamarind paste). Don’t worry too much about the consistency, however — if it’s too thick, you can always thin it in water; too thin, and you can just use more.

In a recipe like the black bean salad, the amounts are entirely up to you. Change the amounts or even the ingredients based on what you have or can find.

Tamarind paste is available at Asian grocery stores and farmer’s markets, online, and even in the international section of some grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can substitute lime juice mixed with brown sugar.

Simple Bruschetta

A wonderful summer appetizer or side dish that really only requires red, flavorsome tomatoes, garlic, and a good-quality rustic Italian bread or French baguette.

The slices should be toasted first, whether in the toaster or on the grill, so the juice of the tomatoes can sink in and the bread will hold up. Rub the toast with a cut clove of garlic or the cut side of a tomato before putting the mixture on top.

You’ll find many variations online, and more classic versions may include capers, grated Pecorino or Parmesan, olives, or even prosciutto. Add whatever you like, whatever you have fresh. This basic version is delicious on its own.

4-6 servings

4 ripe medium red tomatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves — one cut in half to rub on the toasts, the other two minced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil, chopped, in any amount (start with a few sprigs if you’re not sure)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (be liberal!)
1 loaf of Italian bread or French baguette, sliced and toasted just until golden

Toss all ingredients except the cut garlic clove and the bread in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for at least half an hour. Rub the toast with the cut clove of garlic (or a cut tomato, if you have some left over). Spoon the mixture on top and serve immediately.

Peanut Brittle

This recipe comes from a community cookbook published in Atlanta in 1985. It’s the kind of cookbook bound with plastic rings and with the names of the people who submitted the recipes below each one. I love these kinds of cookbooks — they give a peek into people’s kitchens and the recipes they love to make. This particular cookbook is where I got my candied pecan recipe, which I make during the holidays, and it’s also the source for this peanut brittle.

You do need a candy thermometer. I tried making it without one, but it was a failure — it took too long and I got impatient, and the result was bendy and stick-to-your-teeth chewy. With a candy thermometer, the process is easy.

The key to brittle is baking soda: It forms bubbles that make the brittle light enough to break apart and eat. The baking soda reacts with the melted sugar and foams up, in the same way it reacts with acids like buttermilk, vinegar, or lemon juice to make baked recipes light. Here’s a great article about brittle, if you want to learn more.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 bottle (8 oz.) light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water
2 cups unsalted peanuts
2 tsp. baking soda

Butter a 9×13-inch baking sheet.

In a very large pot, mix sugar, syrup, water, and peanuts. Have the baking soda measured and ready in a small dish next to the stove.

Cook at moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the candy thermometer reads hard crack (just above 300F, or exactly 150C degrees). Remove from heat and immediately stir in baking soda. Pour out quickly onto baking sheet and let cool. Then break into pieces and serve.

Notes:
— Use a large pot because the mixture will foam up more than you may think. I used a 4-quart pot.
— Do not try to flatten the mixture after you pour it on the baking sheet, or you’ll break up some of the bubbles that are key to making it brittle.

Recipe originally from Melba Lehman.

Vertamae Grosvenor’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Vertamae Grosvenor was a national treasure. I learned about her from her PBS program in the late 1990s, “America’s Family Kitchen,” when I was really getting going with my cooking and saving every interesting recipe I saw. Her show was about the food of the South Carolina Low Country, and I remember seeing her standing in the studio kitchen, smiling and speaking with authenticity about the culture, flavors, and ingredients.

In the days before everything was put on the internet, I had to scribble down the recipe quickly as she said it on air. That’s why it’s in the step-by-step format below. Based on a couple of versions I’ve seen online, I think I got it mostly right — but regardless, the recipe I wrote down is delicious and one of my favorite healthy dishes.

Vertamae died in 2016. She worked for many years with NPR, and they wrote a beautiful tribute describing her fascinating life. The delicious food she wrote and spoke about was only part of the cultural legacy she left behind.

Serves 6-8

Mix in a large bowl:

1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced yellow pepper
1/2 cup diced orange pepper

Add, a cup at a time:

6 cups canned black-eyed peas, drained (4 15-oz. cans)

Mix gently so as not to bruise the peas. Then mix in:

1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped scallions/salad onions (I tend to omit this)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. basil, cut or torn into large pieces
Salt to taste (generously is OK)
1/2 cup Italian dressing (I substitute red wine vinegar and olive oil)

Marinate overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a sprig of basil and 1-inch pepper rings.

Fusilli with Basil, Mint, and Mozzarella

It was the offer of fresh herbs from my mother that inspired this recipe — big bunches of mint and basil that I was determined to make good use of right away. I thought of using them together over pasta, and I took inspiration from a New York Times recipe for the addition of fresh mozzarella and fusilli pasta. While at the store to buy the pasta, I saw grape tomatoes I wanted to use. That’s how I came up with this recipe, an easy one that is great for warm weather, when we don’t want heavy sauces and don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen.

I can’t give exact amounts of the herbs, but I recommend using a whole lot. I had about six sprigs of garden-grown mint that, when chopped, yielded a large pile on the cutting board (if I could have scooped it up, it would have been a giant handful). Same with the basil. I had maybe three stems of organic basil that were huge and gave me about the same amount as the mint. But go with what you have, or whatever amount you prefer.

16 oz. fusilli pasta
1 punnet (about 1 pint) grape tomatoes
16 oz. mozzarella pearls (I used these from BelGioioso) or balls of mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
A lot of mint, chopped
A lot of basil, chopped
Garlic powder (about 1/2 tsp.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop the tomatoes in half width-wise (if they are especially long grape tomatoes, cut them in thirds). Place them in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, mix and let sit at room temperature while you cook the pasta.

Cook the fusilli until al dente, then drain and add to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Mix well and serve.

Garlic Bread

Your kitchen is going to smell amazing when you make this. The delicious, salty garlic butter makes it so appetizing and it takes only minutes to make. I adapted it slightly from a recipe in The New York Times, mostly to reduce the amount of butter because even after I slathered the bread twice, I had a lot of butter left over. I still had extra when using a long, thin baguette — a wider and larger loaf might use up the full amount. If not, use it to spread on savory toast the next day!

1 French baguette
6 Tbsp. butter (3 oz. or 85g)
3 large garlic cloves
1 heaping Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese (definitely use more if you want)
Lots of salt (maybe 1 tsp.)
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Slice the bread into 1-inch slices, making deep cuts but not going all the way through. Transfer bread to a piece of foil.

Melt the butter, then mix in minced garlic, cheese, salt, and pepper. Generously brush the butter inside each slice, then brush the top of the loaf a couple of times. Seal the foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and open the foil, then bake for another 5 minutes.

Chocolate Croissant Bites

This is a quick little dessert that reminds me of chocolate-filled croissants from a nice pastry shop somewhere — the kind of place with small tables and a big window to the street, that smells more of sugar than coffee and has a display case full of desserts almost too beautiful to eat. (I really do miss visiting places like that.)

Gourmet thoughts aside, this is actually a simple back-of-the-box recipe I’ve had in my cookbook for ages. It was called Fudgy Brownie Cups, but to me that doesn’t describe it well enough. There is no rising agent in the chocolate mixture, and that’s what makes them fudgy, but they just don’t seem like brownies when they’re wrapped in the flaky layers of puff pastry.

All you need is a saucepan, a rolling pin and a couple of muffin pans and it’s ready in less than 20 minutes.

Makes 20

8 oz. (227g) sheet of puff pastry (half of a standard U.S. box), thawed
4 oz. (113g) dark chocolate (I used Lindt‘s 70% cocoa chocolate bar)
4 oz. (113g) unsalted butter (half a stick)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. all-purpose (plain) flour, plus extra for dusting countertop
Confectioner’s (icing) sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees.

In a pot over medium-low heat, melt chocolate and butter. Turn off heat and mix in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, then mix in flour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12×15-inch rectangle. Cut into 3×3-inch squares and press each one into an ungreased muffin cup. Fill with 1 tablespoon of chocolate mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden (you want to err on the longer side to make sure the puff pastry comes out crispy on the bottom, not chewy).

Immediately remove to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Cinnamon Rolls

“Yummy and tasty and good for the mornings,” says my daughter, and that’s the perfect way to describe these cinnamon rolls!

The yeast dough is easy to make, even for someone who may not be used to working with yeast dough. The recipe uses the equivalent of two packets of active dry yeast to shorten the rising time to just 30 minutes. That makes this a great brunch recipe, because you have just enough time after you wake up to prepare the rolls and have them ready for the eager people at the table who have smelled that cinnamon and rushed in to have some. I measure the ingredients and lay them out the night before to save myself time in the morning.

I clipped the recipe from the newspaper years ago. It came from a person named Pat Rising in Lawrenceville, Georgia, who said their father’s parents owned a hotel called the Rising House on New York’s Lake George — and their grandmother’s specialty was these cinnamon rolls.

As my son says, “It’s a great start for a good day.”

1 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
2 packages (0.25 oz. each) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs, beaten
5 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour, unsifted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. cinnamon

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s (icing) sugar
3 Tbsp. milk
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, scald the milk. Remove from heat and add the sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter, and mix until melted. Cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add milk mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour, and beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. (The dough may stick to your fingers at first, but as it picks up the flour on the board, it will stick less and less. As you knead, scatter a bit of flour on the board to replace what the dough picks up.)

Grease a large bowl with a small amount of canola oil or cooking spray and place dough inside. Turn the dough to grease the top, then cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Yes, those are crayons to mark the dimensions of the rectangle. Use whatever works for you!
Place the rolls in the pan and make sure they are touching but not squeezed together.

Heat the oven to 375F/190C degrees. Melt the remaining butter. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Roll it into a rectangle 12×24 inches. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture — all the way to the short sides of the rectangle — and drizzle with melted butter. Roll up jellyroll style into a 24-inch log. Cut into 1 1/2-inch slices and place in a 9×13-inch ungreased baking pan with rolls touching (don’t squeeze them in; just make sure they touch).

Bake 20 minutes. When the rolls are nearly done, mix the confectioner’s sugar, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Pour over the rolls when they come out of the oven and serve immediately.