A Shelter-in-Place Challenge For a Foodie

I was walking down the aisle where my grocery store displays the taco seasoning. There it was—a sign hanging next to the shelf tag where the taco seasoning would be. The sign was like many others posted throughout the store and apparently, taco seasoning was a high demand item.

This was my first trip to the store since my state’s executive order had been issued on March 24th. Taco seasoning wasn’t on my list (although toilet paper was because I was down to my last roll. That’s a story for another time). I needed something else in that aisle. I gotta tell you, that sign made me chuckle.

If you had quizzed me on what would be the highest demand items in the store, I would never have guessed taco seasoning. Taco seasoning? What? Is everyone now eating tacos instead of SpaghettiOs?

Anyway, this coronavirus pandemic creates all kinds of challenges. Especially for taco lovers, I guess.

Now, I like tacos as much as the next person, but being who I am, I don’t even buy taco seasoning anymore. It’s one of those things I mix up in my own kitchen from ingredients right in my pantry. If you’ve been reading my foodie blog posts at all, you know I cook/bake/create from scratch (and sometimes by-guess-and-by-golly). So, in case you want tacos and your store is out of pre-packaged seasoning, here’s a recipe for making your own.

Taco seasoning and pumpkin pie seasoning

Bonus? You’ll know exactly what’s in it. **

“Clean” Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 1/ 2 cup + 1 T. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp.  ground pepper (not coarse)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. oregano

Mix up all the ingredients and store the stuff in a glass container. It keeps as long as any spice would when kept out of heat or moisture. For each one pound of meat you use, add 2 1/ 2 Tbsp. seasoning. This recipe makes a small batch of mild seasoning. If you like it spicier, you can add a little more chili powder or even red pepper flakes. Use it to make your tacos just like you would the store-bought kind.

While we’re at it making homemade mixes, here’s one for making cornbread mix. Its taste is identical to commercial cornbread mixes and it doesn’t have weird additives. **

“Clean” Cornbread Mix

  • 1 1/ 2 c. flour
  • 1/ 4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/ 2 c. cornmeal
  • 1 1/ 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 3/ 4 tsp. baking soda

 Blend the ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Then, to make cornbread, mix the Clean Cornbread Mix with 1 1/ 2 cup milk, 1 1/ 2 cup vegetable oil, and 3 large eggs.

So when Taco Tuesday rolls around, you’ll have your own seasoning mix and all you need are your tortillas (or shells) plus all those fresh ingredients you like. And if you’re making chili, try your taco seasoning in that too. Just add it little by little until it comes out to your personal taste. Then make some cornbread because that always goes well with chili. Right?

Or you could have SpaghettiOs. Eat hearty!

** Small print. I check labels and this is what I found for two brand name prepackaged products you now have recipes for.

French’s® Taco Seasoning Mix. Spices and herbs, Salt, Corn starch, Dehydrated onion, Dehydrated garlic, Sugar, Citric acid, Paprika extractives, Silicon dioxide.

Jiffy® Cornbread Mix ingredients: Wheat flour, degerminated yellow corn meal, sugar, animal shortening (lard, hydrogenated lard, tocopherols preservative, BHT preservative, citric acid preservative). Contains less than 2% of each of the following: baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate, salt, wheat starch. Niacin, reduced iron, tricalcium phosphate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, silicon dioxide.

 

 

Trivia Buff Foodies

The better to see your food The perforated metal screen inside the glass of your microwave oven door is specially designed so that light (which has a short wavelength) can pass through the tiny holes, but microwave radiation (which has a longer wavelength) cannot.

Neapolitan The name of Three Musketeers candy makes a lot more sense when you discover that in the original version, the candy came with three bars: one chocolate, one vanilla, and one strawberry.

Candy Lands Due to licensing laws and contracts, all the Kit-Kat candy bars made in the USA are produced by Hershey’s and all the Kit-Kats made in the rest of the world are produced by Nestle.

Milk’s best friend Oreo cookies were introduced in 1912 and are the best-selling cookies in the United States.

Now you’re cooking with PAM Introduced in the early 1960s, PAM cooking spray wasn’t named after a woman named Pam. It was an acronym for the inventor: Product of Arthur Meyerhoff.

Say Cheese Monterey Jack is named after a person–David Jack, the first person to sell it commercially–and a place, Monterey, Alta California, home to the 18th century friars who made the original cheese.

Pop goes the popping The popular brand of popcorn, Act II, was preceded by Act I—a product notable because it was made with real butter and required refrigeration.

How does your garden grow? The tomato is the most popular vegetable grown by American gardeners with 86% of gardeners planting it each year.

Food Snobs The iconic “Big Mac” McDonald’s burger wasn’t always known as such; invented and marketed in Pittsburgh, it was originally called “The Aristocrat”, then “The Blue Ribbon Burger.”

Airbag Potato chip bags are filled with nitrogen gas to prevent spoilage and soggy chips. The extra “air” also helps protect the chips from being damaged by rough handling during the shipping process.

Spicing things up When it comes to spice production, nobody can hold a candle to India. Around 75 percent of all the spices in the world are produced there and they out produce the next contender,  Bangladesh, by tenfold.

Anything worth waiting for Tabasco Sauce, that iconic spicy American condiment, takes three years to produce. Most of that time is invested in the fermentation process, which helps soften and break down the raw peppers without cooking them.

Eat Hardy!

 

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: 10 Ways to Use Herbs

Something great happened the day I decided to be brave and begin experimenting with herbs and spices. I still use recipes, especially for baking. But cooking “by guess and by golly” is generally pretty much how I do it. Now I enjoy cooking much more. I also enjoy the results more.

For instance, I never make my famous spaghetti sauce the same way twice. I may be using the same herbs, but never in the same amounts, and it always turns out tasty. More than one person has said I should market it.

However, knowing a little about which spices and herbs work well with different foods can help. It can also be a boon to have some spice blends on hand to use so you don’t have to buy those small bottles and packets with additives and cranked up cost.

Add These to This to Get That

  • To enhance the flavor of beef, use bay leaves, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper seasoning, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, or thyme.
  • When cooking with pork, which has a mild flavor, give it some oomph with basil, caraway seed, ground ginger, Italian seasoning, oregano, savory, rosemary, or garlic powder.
  • Where I live, we eat wild game. Enhance those flavors with marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, or onion powder.
  • Turkey is traditionally flavored with poultry seasoning or sage, but you can also try oregano, black pepper, herbs de Provence, onion powder, rosemary, savory, or basil.
  • Chicken and Cornish hens come alive with such herbs as dill weed, basil, ginger, oregano, thyme, chives, bay leaf, garlic and onion powders, paprika, rosemary, sage, or tarragon.

Make Your Own Seasoning Blends

If you need a little jump start to try some new herbs, here are a few blends you can mix up to experiment with.

  • Salad herb blend: 2 tsp. basil leaves; 1 tsp. dill weed; 1 tbsp. marjoram leaves; 1 tbsp. parsley flakes; 1 tbsp. tarragon leaves. If you like to add protein to your salad, match these ingredients to the list of which goes best with each herb.
  • Meat and vegetable blend: 1 tbsp. basil; 1 tsp. celery seed; 1 tbsp. marjoram; 1 tsp. onion powder; 1 tsp. thyme.
  • Taco seasoning: 1 ½ tbsp. oregano; 1 ½ tbsp. garlic powder; 1 tbsp. paprika; 2 tbsp. cumin; 1 tbsp. chili powder; ½ tsp. allspice.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and tweak the blends to your own taste. There’s no right or wrong combination. An advantage to using herbs and blends is that you can spice up your food without using salt.

What’s That Flavor?

Herbs naturally have different flavors. In addition, they fall into categories of mild, medium and robust. Chives and parsley are examples of mild-flavored herbs. Some medium-flavored herbs are basil, dill weed, marjoram, and mint. Stronger-tasting herbs are those like bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme.

 Tips for Keeping Herbs and Spices Fresh

  •  Avoid storing spices near the stove, dishwasher, sink or a window. Dried spices don’t spoil, but they can lose strength. Moisture and heat contribute to this. Be sure to never sprinkle or pour spices directly into a steaming pot since the steam introduced into the bottle hastens loss of flavor and aroma. It also results in caking. For the same reason, if you’re measuring from the bottle with a measuring spoon, be sure the spoon is dry.
  • Some folks like to use fresh herbs for everything and that’s a great idea. You can always substitute dried herbs for fresh if you know how, and vice-versa. Check it out here.

Next week, you’ll get ideas for enhancing other foods like pasta, vegetables and seafood. We’ll also have suggestions for substitutions, cooking tips, and a recipe or two.

Bon appetite!

25 Simple Foodie Pleasures

We putter around the kitchen. We experiment with new recipes. We share a recipe with someone. When the kids are hungry, we get busy and feed them. Over the years, we accumulate cook books, gadgets and experience.

Foodies are usually well-versed in culinary activities. We share kitchen tips with others who enjoy baking and cooking. We’re also really fun to be with.

How many of these Simple Foodie Pleasures do you enjoy? Which ones would you add?

 

 

 

  1. Finding a new recipe that requires ingredients you already have in the pantry
  2. Using place mats and cloth napkins when having someone over for lunch
  3. Washing fruit, then seeing those pretty, clean colors mingle in a clear glass bowl
  4. Experiencing a new flavor or an ethnic dish never before tried
  5. Finding the bay leaf in a bowl of stew
  6. No-bake cookies
  7. Baked macaroni and cheese
  8. Anything homemade, especially pie
  9. Eating an occasional mushroom Swiss burger and the juices drip down your chin
  10. Slow-roasted rather than slow cooker
  11. Enough counter space in which to work
  12. When the bread rises just right
  13. Good conversation around the table
  14. Sharing a recipe with someone. Then they share it with someone
  15. Hasselback potatoes that come out just right
  16. At least 5 things you can do with a bountiful crop of zucchini
  17. Wearing a favorite apron
  18. Preparing some finger-licking good southern fried chicken
  19. A steak grilled to the exact doneness you like
  20. Greek kebabs and pita wedges with tzatziki
  21. Learning how to make perfect fried green tomatoes
  22. Pie crust that rolls out nicely and turns out flaky
  23. Buying fresh veggies from the local farmers’ market
  24. Eating some flaky beignets, baklava, or croissants (better yet, knowing how to make them)
  25. Eating well, but not getting stuffed

Eat Hearty

Foodie Cookie Exchange

If you’re one of the special (and lucky) people who participate in holiday cookie exchanges, I’ll bet you’ve already begun to haul out the mixing bowls, cookie sheets, and wooden spoons.

My experience with cookie exchanges is like this: “Help!”

Okay, to be fair, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also worth it. My ladies’ small groups met one winter night to bring cookies, fudge, and brownies to share. The idea was to bring a dozen (or more) cookies to share and we all got to select a dozen (or more). The tables were so full and the choices were so varied. How do you make up your mind?

I guess that’s another opportunity to say, “Help!”

I’m sure you have favorites you like to make, including the traditional choices and family must-haves. If you want to try something new, try these. I especially like the coal ones because it’s such a cute idea and I like chocolate, of course. These are richer than the usual crispy treat variety, don’t look as dark, and take a bit more time, but again, worth it. Both recipes require a dough from the fridge or freezer. The shortbread cookies require baking, but maybe you want the oven hot so it’s all nice and cozy while you sip hot chocolate.

Funfetti Shortbread Bites

  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. red and green nonpareils or sprinkles

Cream together the sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter until combined. Add the flour and mix well. Transfer dough to a large bowl and knead until it’s nicely formed. Add nonpareils and knead again to combine them well. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 325º.

On waxed paper, roll dough into a 1/2″-thick square. Freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2″ squares and transfer to a large baking sheet. Bake until cookies are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Oreo Coal Cookie Bites

  • 40 Oreos
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. semisweet or melting chocolate
  • 1/3 c. Oreo cookies, crushed or cocoa powder, for dusting

Grind the Oreos into crumbs, using a blender or food processor. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, and mix together. (A fork works well for this.)

Form balls using about one tablespoon of the Oreo mixture, making them misshapen like a lump of coal. Place them on a plate and into the fridge for about 30 minutes, up to 1 hour to become firm. Microwave the melting chocolate or morsels in 10 to 15 second increments until smooth.

With a fork or toothpick, dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate, then set onto parchment paper. Sprinkle immediately with crumbs from Oreos. If using cocoa powder, once the balls are chilled and firm, dip your fingers into the cocoa and lightly rub onto Oreo balls to complete the “coal” look. Store balls in the fridge until ready to serve.

Stay safe and sane and enjoy your holiday season. Eat hardy.

Foodie Sipping Hot Chocolate

It’s that time of year In my neck of the woods, now and all through winter, we like to drink hot chocolate. I like mine made from scratch (naturally). It’s easy to mix up a batch from a container of baking cocoa, sugar (or your choice of sweetener), and milk.

In the Midwest, we might still be having bonfires in our  back yards or that of a friend. Think “s’mores.” Think “roasted marshmallows on a stick.” Think “hot chocolate with roasted marshmallows.”

But try to think in a different vein.

If candy manufacturers can add a twist to their chocolate confections, why not do the same to your cup of hot chocolate? I like chocolate with raspberries or cherries and I’m game for just about anything when it comes to chocolate. Try giving your hot chocolate a little zip with one of these suggestions.

Caramel: A tablespoon of caramel sauce can do wonders for hot chocolate. Spoon in your favorite brand and give it a good stir right before you take your first sip.

Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla extract: A 1/4 teaspoon of any of these adds that homespun flavor.

Orange Zest: Carve three 2-inch long strips of orange rind (the skin) and let them steep in your drink for a while before tasting. That citrus flavor is a delight. It reminds me of the chocolate “oranges” in the fancy Christmas packages.

Espresso or Coffee: You can either add a tablespoon of fresh-brewed coffee or espresso, or you can use the instant stuff.

Peppermint Stick: Drop a peppermint stick or even one of those peppermint candies you picked up at your last restaurant visit. It adds great flavor, and a great smell. This version is nice if you’ve got a cold. Peppermint also calms an upset tummy.

Peanut Butter: If you’re crazy for peanut butter, take a tablespoon or two and mix it into your cocoa. Just be sure to mix well until it melts. Chunky or ‘natural’ with the oil on top is probably not a good idea, right?

Habanero Pepper or a Shot of Hot Sauce: Got a hankering for something hot and spicy? A dash of your favorite hot sauce kicks a hot chocolate into high gear. You can even drop in 2 slices of a fresh Habanero pepper into your cocoa and stir the flavor in. I like hot sauce, but admit this choice isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hot Cherries: Nearly everyone has that just-in-case jar of maraschino cherries sitting in the fridge, so drop two or three teaspoons of the juice into your drink, along with a cherry. It tastes like drinking a chocolate cordial.

Coconut Milk: Put a tropical spin on your hot chocolate by substituting some of the milk required with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Maple Syrup: It’s not just for waffles and pancakes! A squirt of the unique taste of pure maple syrup livens up ordinary hot chocolate.

If you’re interested in making a single cup of cocoa for yourself, Epicurious has a recipe for that.

Make your own hot chocolate mix to have on hand whenever you want a cup. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe which is easy and makes a really creamy concoction you can share as gifts.

So, cozy up in your chair or in front of the fireplace with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Boy, I think I’ll go make a cup right now.

Foodies Talk About Food

I know how you are. I listen when I’m out with you. I overhear you doing it. I watch and see you doing it on social media. You all like to talk about food.

For example:

You show us where you’re eating right now. You take pictures of that great meal you cooked. You share recipes. Yes, indeed, we like to eat and talk about eating. Listen to these folks who are just like you and me. See what they have to say, whether in a light-hearted way or in all seriousness, about food, cooking and eating.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
― Orson Welles

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

“Wait. Why am I thinking about Krispy Kremes? We’re supposed to be exercising.”
― Meg Cabot, Big Boned

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

“Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It’s a grain. It’s like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.”
― James Patterson, The Angel Experiment

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”
– Erma Bombeck

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
― Sophia Loren

“My wife and I tried to breakfast together, but we had to stop, or our marriage would have been wrecked.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“I’m pretty sure that eating chocolate keeps wrinkles away because I have never seen a 10-year-old with a Hershey bar and crow’s feet.”
― Amy Neftzger

“The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it… If you’re convinced that cooking is drudgery, you’re never going to be good at it, and you might as well warm up something frozen.”
― James Beard

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

“Cakes are like books: There are new ones you want to read and old favorites you want to reread.”
― Ellen Rose

“I will not eat them in a house, I will not eat them with a mouse, I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox, I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere, I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.”
― Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

 

Foodies For the Birds

Right now, in my neck of the woods, fall is coming. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and I’m blessed I get to experience four of them in the Midwest. Today, we’re veering from human food to food that’s literally “for the birds.”

Because I’ve lived in an apartment for so long (some place or another), I don’t always get to have things like patio furniture, lawn ornaments, or bird feeders. If I could, I’d definitely be feeding the birds from at least two feeders. My dad kept them and one of his favorite things to do while relaxing in his recliner was to watch the birds in their feeders outside the living room window.

Since we associate this season as one of bird migration, we should remember that some birds benefit from feeders all year long. Birds have a year-round need for reliable, steady food sources. They get the bulk of their food from natural sources, but knowing what food types you should feed during each of the four seasons enables you to help backyard birds stay alive and healthy all year.

Another school of thought is the opposite of whether to and what to feed birds during winter. People sometimes think it’s unnecessary to keep feeders in summer. They take the feeders down in the summer months because they think it should be easier for birds to find food then. According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are good reasons for not putting the feeder away during the warmer months. The bonus with that idea is you get to enjoy the birds all year long.

Plus, with the soaring summer temperatures, it’s easy for birds to become dehydrated so in addition to plenty of food, they need fresh, clean water. Placing a bird bath and cleaning it regularly provides a place for birds to cool off and get a quick drink during blistering summer days. Cleaning your bird bath regularly in summer helps to avoid the spread of illness and disease. And you wouldn’t want to bathe in or drink icky water, would you?

These are some birds I get to enjoy even during my Michigan winters. —–>

Here in the northern hemisphere,  autumn can be the best time to see a wide variety of birds at your feeders. Many birds migrate in the fall and feeders provide a welcome place to refuel their energy along the way. During this time, birds need foods high in fatty oils and calories to replenish themselves during their incredible marathon flights. Some of the best options are:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Nyjer® seed
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Nectar (Hummingbirds need to refuel as well)

These choices are also ideal for birds that do not migrate for winter. Establishing a reliable food source in the fall will ensure your backyard birds are kept fed in the rough winter months. They’ll return to places where they’re used to finding a regular food supply.

Since some birds remain in the same location year round, winter is one of the most pertinent times to feed the birds. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates, or when temperatures drop to freezing. These birds require high calorie and oil-rich foods to survive shorter, colder days. Winter birds benefit from foods such as:

  • Suet (especially good in winter, high fat content)
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Black oil sunflower seeds (contains twice as many calories as striped sunflower seeds)
  • White Proso Millet

Other ideas for feeding your feathered friends with stuff you have right in your kitchen are:

Baked eggshells They provide calcium, which can be essential for females during nesting season. It’s extremely important that you wash and bake the shells to kill any potential pathogens. After you bake them, crush them and add to the bird seed or just sprinkle them on the ground. They work well in a standard platform feeder.

Nuts If you have some roasted nuts past their prime, put them out and see which birds take a bite. Salted nuts are okay too but put them in a bag first and shake as much salt off as you can. Or clean them with a moist paper towel, then dry them in a flat pan. A little salt won’t hurt them, but too much isn’t good for birds. Don’t use whole nuts. Break them into pieces. This is crucial during summer because mother birds may feed them to their chicks with disastrous results. The idea is to aid the bird population, not harm it.

Roasted seeds Plenty of birds are seed eaters, so this one seems like a no-brainer. You might consider going beyond the commercial sunflower and safflower varieties. Keep the seeds from your fall pumpkins and squash and bake up a batch. Reserve a few for yourself and munch on seeds while you watch (out the window like my dad did) the birds enjoying a different kind of treat. Remember, your seeds can be salted, but add it to your portion after you’ve baked them. Northern cardinals (plentiful during a Michigan winter for me) and sparrows especially enjoy seeds.

If you’re new to feeding wild birds or even if you’re not, be aware of some common misunderstandings and mistakes we make when setting up feeders and keeping them stocked.

No matter how much you do, the simple act of feeding feathered friends in your backyard will make a monumental difference in the world around you. When you feed birds, you help more baby birds survive. Baby birds will then grow to adulthood and continue to strengthen the population. The improved and strengthened population of birds will eat more insects and help to keep those populations low, so you’ll need fewer chemicals to control them. Because you’re using fewer chemicals, the environment becomes healthier for you, your children, your pets, our water supply. And the wild birds.

Be a blessing to the birds today

Fun fact Saying that someone “eats like a bird” has a literal meaning and doesn’t apply to a human’s eating habits. (Probably) If we ate like a bird, we would consume five times our own weight in food each day. To keep them in flight, birds have a high metabolism rate. That’s why it seems they’re always feeding when you see them. They probably are because they’re trying to maintain their energy level.

 

Foodie Snacks at 100 Calories or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

That means I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes. Most of the time, anyway.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. My doctor isn’t into counting calories as much as making sure I stay with the necessary nutrients and portion size. Man, have I learned a lot about portion size.

This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer. You can find such help all over the internet by doing searches. I use MyFitnessPal.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread ¼ cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. Here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. They come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on 9 or 10 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Turkey Tartine A fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a tasty open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix ¾ cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with ½ cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine ¾ cup diced cantaloupe with ¼ cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen sampling reflects that. You know me: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!

Foodie Eats Her Cereal

Yesterday, March 7, was National Cereal Day. Since I hail from Battle Creek, Michigan, the “Cereal Capital of the World,” it was only fitting to celebrate on social media. Hashtags and everything.

Foodies today are going to answer a couple questions for me. What’s your favorite cereal? (Hot, cold, homemade, weird, whatever.) What was your favorite when you were a kid?

We’ve long been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I admit to enjoying breakfast foods any time of day. Sometimes when I was young, on a Sunday evening after being busy all day and having fixed a big Sunday dinner, Mom would say about supper, “Just have a bowl of cereal.”

Reading the side panels of cereal boxes, I learned to sound out big words. I had no idea what riboflavin was, but I knew how to pronounce it.

I have plenty of recipes for homemade cereals (and other traditional breakfast foods), but you might want to try this granola recipe from All Recipes. If you’re partial to pancakes and waffles for breakfast, try this strawberry syrup.

Battle Creek’s history with cereal production is well-known here in the Mitten State. At one time, there was over 100 different cereal companies operating in our fair city. For trivia buffs, here’s some cool information about cereal manufacturing and how it all began.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a German immigrant, began the cereal revolution in 1854 with a hand oats grinder in the back room of a small store in Akron, Ohio. His German Mills American Oatmeal Company was the nation’s first commercial oatmeal manufacturer. In 1877, Schumacher adopted the Quaker symbol, the first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal.

Granula, the first breakfast cereal, was invented in the United States in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, operator of Our Home on the Hillside, which was later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium in Dansville, New York. The cereal never became popular since it was inconvenient as the heavy bran nuggets needed soaking overnight before they were tender enough to eat.

The cereal industry rose from a combination of sincere religious beliefs and commercial interest in health foods. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg experimented with granola. He boiled some wheat, rolled it into thin films, and baked the resulting flakes in the oven; he acquired a patent in 1891. In 1895 he launched Cornflakes, which overnight captured a national market.

In 1906, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s brother, William K. Kellogg, after working for John, broke away, bought the corn flakes rights from his brother and set up the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. His signature on every package became the company trademark and assurance of quality.

Charles W. Post introduced Grape-nuts in 1898 and soon followed with Post Toasties.

Have a bowl of cereal for breakfast some time to celebrate a pantry staple that appears in one form or another all over the world. Eat hardy.