I made these with my son the other night (he did most of the work!) and they were absolutely delicious. Everyone got two, and we served them with Mexican Tomato Soup. These are easy to make and fun to eat, too.

5 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup canned and drained corn
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup refried beans
8 6-inch corn tostadas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (coriander), whole or chopped

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix tomatoes, corn, oil, chili powder, and salt. Spread it in a large baking pan and bake until the tomatoes are soft, 20-25 minutes.

Spread refried beans on the tostadas and place them on foil-lined baking sheets. When the tomato mixture is done baking, spoon it evenly on top of the tostadas. Place in oven until the beans are warm, about 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle the cheese and cilantro on top. Serve immediately.

The recipe is from “The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs,” published by America’s Test Kitchen.

Party Cheez-Its

Boost the flavor of Cheez-Its with ranch seasoning in this delicious party snack. Store it in the freezer, but it’s so yummy that I guarantee it won’t last long.

Cheez-Its aren’t sold outside the United States and Canada, though you can get them online. If you can’t find ranch seasoning packets, you can make your own — here’s one recipe.

3/4 cup canola oil
1 package ranch seasoning
4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 7-oz. boxes of original Cheez-Its

Mix the first three ingredients well in a large bowl. Add the Cheez-Its, then stir with a spatula until absorbed. Leave them for 10 minutes, then stir again, and do that twice more. Store in 1-gallon bags in the freezer.

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.

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.

Cheesy Ranch Popcorn

This seasoned cheddar popcorn is easy to make and deliciously addictive. It uses a little more than half of a regular bag of microwave popcorn, so use that as your guide to how many people it will serve. For us, it was enough for 3 people. (No judgments if you think it serves 1!)

For the cheddar cheese powder, you can just use the packet from a box of macaroni and cheese and save the macaroni for another recipe.

7 cups popcorn, plain or lightly salted
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large Tbsp. ranch seasoning (about half of a 1 oz. packet — this is the one I used)
2 tsp. cheddar cheese powder

Put the popcorn in a large bowl. Melt the butter, pour it over the popcorn, and mix. In a small bowl, mix the ranch seasoning and cheese powder, then pour it over the buttered popcorn and mix well.

Homemade Granola Bars


Granola bars are my latest breakfast. They’re also one of my children’s favorite snacks, so we go through a lot of them. I wanted to try to make some myself so I didn’t have to keep buying them all the time, and so I could make a slightly healthier alternative than the sugary processed kind. But it’s not easy to replicate the chewy texture that still sticks together as a proper granola bar. I’ve tried making them before and they either fall apart or they’re more like a dessert.

Finally I found this recipe, which has great ingredients such as whole oats, nuts, honey, and healthy add-ins like shredded coconut. It uses a little butter and sugar, which is not ideal for a totally healthy granola bar, but it helps to make it all stick together. And it does stick together.

Thanks to the blog with the great name Bless This Mess Please for the recipe (which I only slightly adjusted).

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cups total extra mix-ins (such as coconut flakes)

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees. Line a 9- or 8-inch square baking dish with lightly greased parchment or foil.

Place the oats and nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly toasted. Place the nuts and oats in a large bowl.

While the oats are toasting, put the honey, butter, and brown sugar to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. When butter mixture is ready, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Pour this mixture over the oats and nuts and stir to combine. Add any extra ingredients and stir to combine. Make sure none of the oats are dry.

Place in prepared pan and use a rubber spatula or the back of a greased spoon to press mixture into the pan. Put in refrigerator for at least two hours, then cut into bars.

Other suggested mix-ins include dried fruit, miniature chocolate chips, and sunflower seeds, but you can play around with ingredients and add whatever you’d like.

Tomatillo Salsa


The green tomatillo salsa at Moe’s is my favorite, and for a long time I’d wanted to try making my own. The guys at Moe’s said it was easy and told me the ingredients but I didn’t think there was any way I could come close. I’d never used tomatillos, for starters.

It was a quick one-paragraph recipe from the Food Network that inspired me to try, and it was not only a success — that actually tasted like the Moe’s version — but it is one of my favorite dishes I’ve ever made. Absolutely delicious and addicting.

If you’ve never used fresh tomatillos before, do give it a try — I can tell you it’s easy and you canNOT beat the taste. The kind in jars simply does not compare. And you’ll feel good having made your own.

1 lb. tomatillos, husked and washed
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 jalapeno (optional)
1 cup cilantro leaves (fresh coriander)
Juice of 1 lime

Broil tomatillos, garlic cloves, and whole jalapeño (if using) until charred and tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool slightly; peel the garlic and remove the stem and skin from the jalapeño. Cut the tomatillos in quarters and puree them (skin on) with the garlic and jalapeño in a food processor with 1 cup fresh cilantro and the juice of 1 lime. Season with salt.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

20191228_164211Amazing, delicious, scrumptious, irresistible. I wanted all of these things when I went looking for this recipe and I got it, thanks to Alton Brown‘s glorious Food Network recipe. Their recipes are always trustworthy, I like his food, and the reviews were good. I’ve now made this twice in the past week and it’s my new food craving.

Based on one of the reviews, I tried a shortcut that worked just fine, opting for all of the package of frozen spinach rather than having to measure it. I also used a can of artichokes rather than frozen, which I’d never heard of and couldn’t find anyway. The recipe calls for a bit of red pepper flakes and I highly recommend keeping them. They do not make the recipe too hot — but they do make it special.

Try serving this with both crackers and raw vegetables. I tried it with carrot sticks last night just because we had some around, and it was fantastic. My son actually preferred it that way. (My daughter preferred it with crackers.) Yay vegetables! Yay amazing dip that I’m going to gobble up as soon as I can buy more crackers!

1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 can (8.5 oz.) artichokes in water, drained and chopped
6 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

20191228_163943Put the thawed spinach in a colander and press out as much water as possible. Place in a pot with the chopped artichokes and 1 cup of water. Boil until the artichokes are tender, about 10 minutes or to your liking.

In a colander, drain the artichoke-spinach mixture well. Place in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the cream cheese for about 30 seconds in the microwave, or until very soft. Add to spinach-artichoke mixture with the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve warm.

Trail Mix


Salted peanuts, raisins, almonds, cashews, and M&Ms are in this trail mix, a copycat of the prepared trail mixes you’ll find at the store. Bonus: Making it at home costs less, especially when you find some of these ingredients on sale.

This is a favorite of ours for lunch boxes, after-school snacks, and snacks at work.

Adjust the amounts here to your liking, but this mixture was the closest I came to store-bought. Just mix it all in a bowl.

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup cashews
3/4 cup M&Ms
1 cup raisins
1 cup salted peanuts

Moroccan Orange Salad with Cinnamon


This recipe is originally from Mourad Mazouz, the owner of the London restaurant Momo. It’s a wonderful, easy, and elegant way to serve oranges as part of a meal. Bonus: It can be plated up and made ahead.

We had a “breakfast for dinner” night and this was on the table with homemade pancakes and breakfast sausage. Everyone finished their plate, including my children, who devoured it. My son even enjoyed the garnish of fresh mint!

I have changed the recipe a little from the original, which I got at some point while we were in London. His calls for regular oranges that are seedless, which I couldn’t find at this time of year, so I used mandarins. His recipe said to slice the peeled oranges, which is difficult with mandarins, so I broke them up into sections and cut the sections into small pieces. That was more accessible for my children anyway.

Serves 4

5 mandarin oranges, peeled with pith removed
2 Tbsp. powdered (icing) sugar
2 Tbsp. orange juice (best if freshly squeezed)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 sprigs of mint leaves

Separate mandarins into sections, then cut each section into four pieces and divide them evenly onto plates. Sprinkle with sugar (depending on your preference, you may not want to use it all), then orange juice, then cinnamon. Put a sprig of mint on each plate. Serve chilled.