Friday, October 9, 2015

Two Harvest Salads and The World According to Bella

Welcome to Healthy Friday 

Apple Harvest Salad
Cook's notes: Light, healthy and packed full of fiber and protein, this apple harvest salad is perfect for lunch or dinner. Recipe adapted from Life Made Simple serves 2
  • 3 c. lightly packed spinach or spring mix greens
  • ¼ c. cooked quinoa
  • 1  medium apple, cut into chunks (try Honeycrisp or Sweet Tango)
  • 3 TB. pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 TB. pecans (halves or chopped)
For the vinaigrette:
  • 1 tsp. minced shallot
  • 2 TB.. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 TB. extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Add greens to a large dinner plate or salad bowl. Top with the cooked (and cooled) quinoa, apple chunks, pepitas, dried cranberries and pecans.
  • To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot and vinegar in a small mixing bowl, whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil by pouring in a steady stream, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.
  • Optional: Adding in slices of chicken, roasted butternut squash or crumbled blue cheese.

Harvest Salad
Cook's notes: This salad was previously published on Ever Ready but worth repeating.
Recipe adapted from Serves 4
  • 1 small bag of baby spinach leaves
  • 3 cups butternut squash cubes 
  • 3 TB. pomegranate seeds
  • 3/4  cup glazed walnuts or glazed almonds
  • 1-2 cups diced pears 
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread cubed butternut squash on pan. Drizzle with olive oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast until tender about 20 minutes.
  • Mix spinach leaves, cooled butternut squash and diced pears. Sprinkle in pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Let festive Pomegranate Vinaigrette dress your favorite salad greens. Not only does the vinaigrette lend seasonal color, it's also made with flavorful, antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice.
Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • 1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • 5 tsp. honey 
  • 1 TB. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp.Dijon mustard 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Bring pomegranate juice to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Transfer to a small bowl. Cool completely (about 30 minutes). 
  • Add all ingredients in blender and mix well. 
The World According to Bella

Today was what Mrs. S calls a "red letter day". First I went to the doctor to get weighed. On my way in I saw Dr. Steve. He said I was lookin' good. I wish Mrs. S would have taken off my leash, collar and orange scarf. It might have helped make the number be lower. But still I was happy to hear that in a month I had lost 1.75 lbs. 
But my really best news is that my blog site is now done. You can sign up to receive postings so you won't miss a thing. So far in 8 days I have 134 followers. You can comment on my posts and follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google and Pinterest.  At the top of the page there's even a link to Mrs. S's blog. 
Check out my latest posting 
Love, Bella

Thursday, October 8, 2015

French Apple Cake

French Apple Cake or Marie-Helen's Cake
Cook's notes: One of my favorite cookbook authors Dorie Greenspan has written "Around My French Table." It is a collection of recipes from Dorie’s time in France. The book is filled with outstanding savory and sweet dishes. This apple cake recipe comes from Dorie’s friend, Marie-Helene, who is the type of cook who doesn’t like to measure ingredients. Dorie fell in love with her apple cake and asked for the recipe, but her friend couldn’t give her the exact measurements. Dorie played around in the kitchen and figured out the recipe on her own.

French Apple Cake is made with chunks of sweet apples nestled in a tender, buttery rum cake batter. It is delicious and extremely simple to make. The cake is loaded with chunks of apples. There are almost more apples than cake, which I love. Dorie highly recommends using different apple varieties so you get a little bit of everything-sweet, tart, crisp, and soft. I used Honeycrisp and Sweet Tango for this cake but Gala and Fuji could also be used. The cake is moist and can be served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I did dare to put my own spin on it. I added cinnamon and decreased rum from 3 TB to 2 TB. I didn't want the rum taste to overpower the cake batter.

FYI your kitchen will have an amazing aroma baking this dessert.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 TB. Vietnamese cinnamon or 2 tsp. regular cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling over cake
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 TB. dark rum
  • 2 sweet baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I like Honeycrisp, Fuji or Sweet Tango. )
  • 2 TB. sugar mixed with 1 tsp. regular cinnamon 
  • Confectioners' sugar (optional), for decorating cake
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-inch springform or regular cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder , cinnamon and salt.
  • Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and rum. Don't worry if the batter looks grainy. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped apples.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly over cake batter 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Allow the cake to cool until just warm. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan if using. Using a fine sieve, dust with Confectioners' sugar (if using). Cake can be served warm or room temperature, with or without lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Healthy Mac and Cheese Makeover

Good things are coming down the road. 
Just don't stop walking. 

Fall, the time of year when comfort food cravings really settle in. There are creamy and hearty soups and chowders, cheesy lasagnas and casseroles drenched in cream-of-something soup. But that comfort often comes with a pretty hefty cost: lots of carbs and calories, fat and sodium. But it doesn't have to be that way, nutrition and food experts say. 

Tips for healthier cooking and eating
  • The fresher the produce, the better the flavor. Use lots of herbs, spices and flavored oils in your cooking. Add herbs at the beginning and the end of cooking as it brightens up the dish. You want to eliminate the salt and some of the fat, but still keep the flavor.
  • Roast vegetables or double up on them as it is an easy way to add flavor to your veggies. 
  • Substitute a whole egg in a recipe with two egg whites.
  • Replace white bread with whole wheat and/or sprouted bread.
  • Switch chocolate by choosing  dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa instead of milk or white chocolate.
  • Replace noodles in lasagna with grilled zucchini or eggplant. If a recipe calls for two cups of pasta, use one and add more vegetables.
  • Make macaroni and cheese with whole-wheat noodles, low-fat milk, and low-fat cheese for a healthy substitute.
  • Eat almonds if you are craving a salty snack as they are one of the most nutritious nuts. 
  • Keep creamy taste of mashed potatoes by using buttermilk If a recipe calls for two cups of pasta, use one and add more vegetables.
  • Replace one cup of sugar with 2/3 cup and add extra sweetness through vanilla, sweet spices and fruit.
  • Cut fat from baked goods by replacing fat or oil recommendations with Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin or applesauce.
  • Add thickness to soup by adding pureed beans or split peas. It’ll make your soup creamier, more filling and add fiber and protein.

Mac and Cheese Healthy Makeover 
Cook's notes: Mac and Cheese  recipe was lightened up by using less of the higher-fat ingredients, and substituting in whole grains and vegetables.  Recipe adapted from and serves 4.

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles, (2 cups)
  • 1-2 cups fresh broccoli florets – cut small
  • 1- 10 oz. bag of baby spinach or baby kale (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups 1% milk, divided
  • 3 TB. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Optional: dash crushed red pepper flakes to give it some kick
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain set aside in pot to keep warm. 
  • Add fresh broccoli to a pan over medium heat, saute with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt until slightly tender. Add kale/spinach towards the end and cook until the greens are wilted.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1-1/2 cups milk in another large pot over medium-high heat until just simmering. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture to the simmering milk; return to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in Cheddar, Parmesan and mustard until the cheese is melted.
  • Add pasta to the cheese sauce. Add your veggies into the pasta mixture, and heat through (on low heat) until everything is combined.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Quick and Fun Kid-Friendly Autumn Treats

Acorn Donut Holes
Cook's notes: Easy no bake autumn treat.
~ Glazed doughnut holes
~ Chocolate Sprinkles and/or Crumbled Toffee Bits
~ Pretzel Sticks
~ Nutella Spread (you can use peanut butter or chocolate frosting too)

1.) Spoon out Nutella, sprinkles, toffee crumbles, and pretzel sticks into four separate bowls.

2.) Dip the top 1/3 of the donut hole into the Nutella, then choose either the toffee crumbles or the sprinkles and dip the Nutella covered area of the donut hole into those
3.) Insert a pretzel stick in the top, center of the donut hole . . . this will be your acorn stem!
 Place on a lovely serving tray and there you go! 

Autumn Party Mix
You will need
1 bag of Autumn Mix
1 bag of Indian Corn
1 bag of Reese's Pieces
1 can of Party Peanuts
1 cup of Sunflower seeds
1 cup of Raisins
1 cup of Cran-Raisins
1 cup of Mini Pretzels

Mix and enjoy. 

Candy Corn Marshmallow Treats
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 16 ounces mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup candy corn, chopped coarsely
  • 1 cup M and M's
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal
  • Using the microwave melt peanut butter and butter together in a large bowl.
  • Toss marshmallows in the melted mixture and microwave at 45 second intervals until marshmallows are just melted.
  • Stir in 6 cups of crispy rice cereal followed by candies.
  • Press mixture into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9 x 9 inch pan.
  • Allow to set. Cut, and enjoy!
Tip:The most difficult task in this recipe, besides not eating the whole pan, is cutting the candy corn. You don’t need to chop it small, just run a large knife or chopper/scraper through a pile of them a few times.
Owl Treats
Check out this link for 12 kid friendly treats for fall

Monday, October 5, 2015

Today's Agenda and a Fall Dessert

Today's Agenda
Notes from a kindergarten volunteer: The morning agenda looked full to me-all to be accomplished between 9:45 to 11:45.  
Morning meeting
Practice name writing
Listen to a story on firefighters
Practice writing  the number 5
Practice counting numbers 6-10 using stickers 
Safety Presentation by two local firefighters 
Outside looking at firetruck and spraying water with fireman's hose
Singing and reading

Well  I'm happy to report their teacher managed to get through the whole list. 
Of course the highlight was lining up to use the fireman's hose.
Enjoy the photos


Remember the photos I took when they were pretending to be sleeping and dreaming?

Oh what fun,

the kindergarten class had today!
Cook's notes: A fall dessert Brandy Caramel Sauce that's easy to put together for any occasion. The sauce is creamy and decadent. It is versatile as can be served over pancakes, French toast, baked apples and ice cream e.g. maple nut, vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. Don't skip the brandy step as it elevates the sauce to a new level. Remember liquor stores carry mini-bottles that are perfect for when only a few tablespoons are needed in a recipe.
Makes 2/3 cup and was adapted from Southern Living September 2015  
Gingersnap cookie used in photo.
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  •  1/4 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1TB. brandy
  • 3-4 TB. powdered sugar
  • Bring brown sugar, butter, cream and salt to a boil over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute and remove from heat. 
  • Whisk in brandy and powdered sugar until smooth, free of lumps and right consistency for pouring.  
  • Cool 15 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Step Back in Time

Peter, Paul and Mary were an American folk-singing trio whose nearly 50-year career began with their rise to become a paradigm for 1960s folk music. The trio was composed of folk song writer Peter Yarrow, (Noel)Paul Stookey and Mary Travers.

They were signed to Warner Bros.and their first, self-titled LP was released in March of 1962. It was accompanied by a single, Lemon Tree, that rose to number 35 on the charts late that spring. This was a good beginning, but it was their second single, If I Had a Hammer, that marked their breakthrough. As topical songs go, its timing was perfect as in the late 1962, the civil rights movement was becoming a concern to a growing number of middle-class onlookers; If I Had a Hammer embodied this zeitgeist in its most idealistic form and, with its upbeat, soulful performance. The single hit number ten on the charts. It also won the trio their first two Grammy Awards, for Best Performance by a Vocal Group and Best Folk Recording. In their first six months of existence, Peter, Paul and Mary brought political concerns to the public through song. Their music had a decidedly serious edge, but it was to fun to listen to.

Yarrow, Stookey and Travers spent their years together as a group communicating personal, political and social imperatives by way of their chosen songs, personally crafted harmonies and unmitigated passion. Peter, Paul and Mary appeared on stage with Martin Luther King at the historic March on Washington - where they sang Blowin' in the Wind, establishing it as a Civil Rights anthem. Peter, of course, wrote many of the group's best known songs, including Puff, Day is Done, The Great Mandala  and one of my favorites, Light One Candle.

Mary Travers died in 2009 The cause was complications from chemotherapy associated with a bone-marrow transplant she had several years ago after developing leukemia, After more than 50 years, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey and in the spirit of Mary continue to perform and advocate for social justice together and solo. 
Friday October 2, they took center stage at St Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis, MN 
What a pleasure and privilege to hear their music.  
The musical benefit was for Operation Respect. This non-profit education and advocacy organization is dedicated to transform schools, camps and other youth-serving organizations into safer, more respectful, bully-free environments for children and youth. It was founded in 1999 by Peter Yarrow and Dr. Charlotte Frank, Senior Advisor at McGraw-Hill Education. 
Operation Respect disseminates its own classroom based curriculum, the "Don't Laugh at Me," Program, free of charge to thousands of schools in the United States and internationally. Operation Respect's inspiring music, social-emotional learning curricula, multi-cultural videos and highly-regarded professional training provide adults with the tools they need to help children express their feelings constructively, resolve conflict peacefully, celebrate diversity, and engage with each other in a spirit of caring, compassion and cooperation. 
Yarrow hopes that this organization will educate a new generation on the importance of singing together to create the sense of community necessary for social change.

The concert featured the music of their 50 years together as a group. Song favorites If I Had A Hammer, Blowing in the Wind, Puff the Magic Dragon and Light A Candle brought the sold out crowd to their feet with a standing ovation. It was an amazing evening as some 50 years flashed before my eyes reminiscing over their music.  
Bella's latest Up North Adventure htttps://

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Weekend Round-Up

Some of the Week's Best Autumn Side Dishes
Cook's notes: After the recent Buttermilk Brownie splurge need to get back on track with some healthier recipes. This side dish has bold flavors and textures and serves 4-6.
Recipe adapted from and  
Orange Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Butternut Squash and Cranberries

  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, rinsed
  • 3 cups cubed butternut squash 
  • Juice of 1 large orange about 1/4 cup
  • 2 tsp. orange zest 
  • 2 TB. olive oil or Blood orange Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp. honey or agave (agave for vegan recipe)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup pecans 
  • salt and ground pepper
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove any discolored leaves. Cut the sprouts in half if they are large sprouts. If you have small sprouts you can leave them whole.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together fresh orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, and honey. Add the Brussels sprouts and butternut squash to the bowl. Toss until they are well coated. Pour them on a baking pan. Arrange sprouts cut side down. 
  • Season with salt and black pepper. Roast for 35 minutes until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly. Last 5 minutes of cooking time add in cranberries and sprinkle with pecans. 
Sausage, Red Pepper and Mushroom Risotto

Cook's notes: This sausage, pepper and mushroom risotto is a hearty meal - just add some Italian bread and a big salad! A time saver is making the sausage earlier in the day, crumbling it in a food processor and placing in a plastic bag. Chop onion, mushrooms and peppers and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate all items until needed. Recipes serves 4-6 and was adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis 
  • 5 cups chicken broth-low sodium
  • 1-1/2 TB. butter
  • 2 cups cooked Italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 1 cup red and green mini bell sweet peppers, diced 
  • 1 cup white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp.salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice, dry
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 -1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 TB. chopped Italian parsley 
  • Add the broth to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Set aside but keep warm.
  • In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onions, peppers and mushrooms stirring occasionally and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in cooked crumbled sausage.
  • Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. 
  • Add ½ cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. 
  • Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese to pass at the table. 

Cranberry -Apple Chutney
Cook's notes: Serve this versatile sweet and tangy condiment as a relish with slices of pork or turkey or use as an appetizer spooned over brie or cream cheese. Showcase the chutney in your best glass dish. Recipe from Mary Ellen Gilbert, NH

  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package fresh (12 oz.) or frozen cranberries
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled and finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (1cup)
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  •  1/2 cup brown sugar
  •  1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 TB. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. ground Saigon/Vietnamese cinnamon or 3/4 tsp. regular cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice 
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat bring granulated sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Stir in cranberries, apples, onions, raisins, brown sugar, vinegar, orange juice, salt and spices.
  • Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20-25 minutes or until desired thickness, stirring occasionally.
  • Just before serving add in walnuts. Serve warm or cold.  
Follow this link to some amazing Weight Watchers Dinners