Multigrain Pumpkin Pancakes with Speculoos Cookie Butter


If you’ve never had speculoos, or Cookie Butter, as they call it at Trader Joes, then you have not truly lived.  It is just what it sounds like, a spread made with ground up cookies.  The cookie, in this case, is a ginger spice cookie and pairs nicely with pumpkin.  It’s also great right out of the jar on a spoon.  As most truly yummy things go, though, it offers little nutritional value.  Don’t let the peanut butter-like consistency fool you into thinking that it’s healthy.   Just a little bit is all you need.

I made this recipe for my picky eater, Gabe.  Like most 3 year olds, he won’t touch a vegetable.  He will, however eat just about anything in pancake form.  The pumpkin in these pancakes adds vitamin A and fiber.  It also brings moisture to the pancakes, which can be on the dry side if made according to the package directions.

Speculoos can also be found in larger supermarkets in the world foods section if you don’t have a TJ’s nearby.  These pancakes would also be great with apple butter or maple syrup.

– 2.5 cups Multigrain Pancake Mix, (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
– 1 can Pumpkin
– 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
– 2.5 cups Milk, (approximate amount)
– 1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
– 1 tsp. Cinnamon
– Whipped Cream Cheese, optional
– Speculoos Cookie Butter, about 1 tbs per serving

1. Combine pancake mix, oil, pumpkin, spices, and milk in a large bowl and stir to combine. More or less milk may be needed depending on the pancake mix used, just add enough to get a good pancake batter consistency.

2. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls on to a preheated 350F griddle and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown (and orange, of course!).

3. Serve with whipped cream cheese and a smear of cookie butter.



Sausage and Potato Soup with Brussels Sprouts

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This is a spin on my mom’s “boiled dinner” (yes, it tastes as lovely as that sounds), but much simplified, and cooked low and slow in a crock pot to prevent the meat from drying out.   I used brussels sprouts, because I like them, but cabbage or kale could easily substitute here.   This also makes quite a lot, this recipe can be halved or quartered and cookedon the stove top (or small slow cooker).

  • 1 pound Smoked Polish Sausage (approximately 4 large links), diced
  • 1 large Onion, large dice
  • 1 cup Carrots, diced
  • 1 pound brussles sprouts, quartered
  • 2 quarts Chicken Broth
  • 1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Sesoning
  • 2 tsp. Allspice
  • 8 small Redskin Potatoes, large dice (or 4 medium-large size)

Combine all ingredients, except potatoes in slow cooker.  Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.  Add potatoes during the last hour of cooking, and adjust seasoning as needed.

Servings/Yield: 12 servings


High Protein Beef and Quinoa Burritos

I don’t have a picture of these because, well, they look kind of gross to be honest.  Quinoa really isn’t the prettiest ingredient unless it’s used in a salad or in a pilaf-style side dish.  That said, these are pretty tasty, and the quinoa helps to dilute the amount of fat contributed by the ground beef.  I used 90/10 ground beef for this recipe.  Also, if you’re new to quinoa, you can use less, just be sure to adjust the seasonings accordingly.  2 cups of cooked quinoa roughly equals the volume of 1 lb of cooked ground beef, so this is approximately a 50:50 mixture.  I make these on a weekend and freeze them for a quick lunch or dinner — just pop them in the microwave for about 3 minutes and they’re done!

I’ll post the nutritional info this weekend, once I get my MacGourmet fully up and running.

Yield: 8 burritos


  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 packages taco seasoning
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 2 cups shredded mexican style cheese
  • Water, as needed for taco seasoning (check the package directions)
  • 8 tortillas 8-inch flour tortillas
  • as needed salsa or taco sauce, optional


1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet, drain well.

2. Add cooked quinoa, taco seasoning, and water as needed (following package directions for taco seasoning preparation).

3. Assemble burritos using approximately 2 tablespoons of beans, 2/3 cup beef/quinoa mixture, and 1/4 cup shredded cheese.

4. Roll up and serve with salsa, chili sauce, sour cream, and other condiments as desired. For freezing, wrap in wax paper and place in a freezer bag.

Chilled Barley Salad

Summer is officially here, so it’s time for another salad, this time a bit heartier.

This recipe is also inspired by a salad offered at one of our favorite GR restaurants, The Winchester.  At the restaurant, the salad is served topped with a skewer of lamb kafta and drizzled with a cucumber-yogurt sauce.  I wanted something that would last in the fridge a few days, so I incorporated the sauce into the rest of the salad.  I’ve been eating it as-is out of the fridge all weekend, and it’s still just as good as the day I made it.

It’s a great hearty summer salad–fresh tasting, and filling without being too heavy.  Something a little different than the same ol’ macaroni salad doused in mayonnaise.

The important thing to remember when preparing the vegetables for this salad is to dice the onions and peppers very small, so that they are not much bigger than the barley.  It makes for a much more pleasant eating experience.

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4 cups cooked pearled barley

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 medium yellow or orange pepper, diced

1 small red onion, diced

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt

1 small salad cucumber, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

1 T fresh dill

1 T fresh mint (about 4-5 leaves)

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


Combine barley, olive oil, peppers, and onions in a medium sized bowl.  Set aside while preparing dressing.

To make dressing, blend 1/2 cup yogurt, herbs, and cucumber in a blender or food processor.  Gently stir cucumber mixture into the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt.   Stir yogurt dressing into barley mixture.  Salad can be served immediately or chilled overnight.  Salad will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator.

Grilled Caesar Salad

This recipe was inspired by a salad that my husband got last weekend when we were out to eat.  He was amazed at the fact that it is possible to successfully grill lettuce.  I took it as a challenge, and decided to give it a try myself.

Next time I will invest in some better cheese, some crusty bread, and maybe even some homemade dressing.  I played it safe this time and used cheaper accompaniments in case something got messed up in the grilling process.

Overall, this was one of the easiest dinners I’ve made ever, with some of the best results for time and effort spent in prep.

Here’s my husband finishing off some of the lettuce, man style:

Sorry, I don’t have exact measurements — but they really aren’t needed here.

I took three hearts of romaine, split them lengthwise, washed them, and patted dry with paper towel.  Then I made up some garlic oil by grating 3-4 cloves of garlic with my microplane, and adding about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  To that I added some cracked black pepper, and then brushed the oil liberally on the cut lettuce halves, making sure to get plenty of the garlic inside the leaves as well.

Romaine lettuce halves, before brushing with oil.

I then placed the oiled lettuce halves on the flaming hot grill (as high as it would go) and let them cook for about 2 minutes uncovered.  Just enough for the cut edges to get a slight char on them.  Any longer, and you’d have a soggy, wilted mess.

I sprinkled the grilled lettuce with flaked sea salt for some added crunch, and served with bottled dressing and parmesan cheese.

Grilled lettuce topped with flaked sea salt.

Mmmm good enough to be dinner on its own.

Low Fat Apricot Walnut Spice Cake with Vanilla Yogurt Sauce

This is a doctored up version of the “subbing applesauce for oil” trick.  I added dried apricots and some walnuts to give it more texture and flavor.  Super easy, yummy, and guilt-free!


1 box spice cake mix

1 1/4 c water

1/3 c applesauce

3/4 c egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)

1/2 c chopped dried apricots

1/4 c chopped walnuts

Yogurt Sauce:

2 cups plain yogurt

1/2 cup honey

1 t vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″ pan.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently to combine.  There will be some lumps, but do not overmix! Pour batter into pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and remove sides.

While cake is baking, prepare sauce by whisking together all ingredients.

Cake is best served warm with a dollop of sauce on the side.


Apple Crisp Cookies

I really wanted to bake something today but didn’t quite know what.  So, after raiding the cupboards I came up with these little yummies.

My husband said they taste like the best part of an apple crisp — the crunchy buttery sweet topping.  I think it fits well.


Apple Crisp Cookies


1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups flour

4 packets Apple Cinnamon instant oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg and molasses and mix until well combined.  Add remaining dry ingredients and mix.

Form dough into roughly 1″ balls and bake 7-8 minutes.

Cooking Poor #2 — Indoor “BBQ” Whole Chicken

Whole chickens are a great option for cooking on a budget.   I got mine on sale this week for a little over five bucks, and even at regular price it is a much better value than buying pre-cut pieces.  Plus, since I’m only cooking for my husband and I, there are lots of yummy leftovers which can be used later for soups, casseroles, pizza, or (what usually happens) midnight snacks.

We usually love to grill on the weekends, even in the winter months, although today I was a bit wary.  Grilling whole chickens certainly can (and should) be done, but it requires close monitoring to ensure that all parts cook evenly without drying out.  However, I wanted lots of crispy, sticky, caramelized skin.

This recipe achieved a nice, evenly cooked, moist chicken with a smoky-sweet crust.  Success!


1 whole roaster chicken

1/4 cup sesame oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 tblsp  mild fish sauce (optional)

2 tsp turmeric

1 tblsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground mustard

1 tsp dried chili flakes

2 tsp sesame seeds

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and ground black pepper to taste


Remove giblet package from chicken, if included.  Turn chicken breast side down and cut down either side of the back bone to remove.

Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into a 1-gallon plastic bag.  Place chicken in bag and marinate for 1 hour, turning to coat every 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 425F.  Cover a 1/2 sheet pan with aluminum foil and place a baking or broiling rack on top.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Remove chicken from bag and lay flat on baking rack.  Place remaining marinade in a small sauce pan.


Roast at 425 for 10-15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and cover with foil.  Continue to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken reaches 160F.

Bring reserved marinade to a boil, then remove from heat. Baste chicken with marinade before serving.

The resulting crispy, sticky, caramelized skin:


Dinner, under 10 bucks total:


Cooking Poor #1 — Tuna Burgers

Screw cooking light.  The economy sucks, so here’s to making a tasty dinner on the cheap.

Oh, and this one is kind of light, too.  Bonus!

This recipe is also highly substitutable — I used what I had in the cupboards at the time, which included using crushed Honey Nut Cheerio’s as the binder.   If you’re normal, and have bread crumbs or crackers to crush up, use those.  The cereal worked surprisingly well, though and added a touch of sweetness to the burgers.

Tuna Burgers

Makes 4 burgers


2 pouches hickory smoked tuna

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup crushed honey nut O’s cereal

1/2 small onion, diced

1 tblsp olive oil

4 slices American cheese (optional)

4 small sandwich buns

Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and Old Bay seasoning to taste


Crush cereal (or crackers, if using) in a blender or food processor.

Combine egg, cereal, tuna, onion, and seasonings in a small bowl.  Mix with hands and form into four equal sized patties.   Shoo cats away.


Heat large saute pan over medium heat, add olive oil.  Shoo cats away again.


Add burgers to pan and cook about 5-6 minutes per side, flipping once.  Avoid excessive handling, the burgers will be slightly fragile.   Lock cats up in basement.

Place cheese on top of burgers, if using, and top with bun half.  Cook until melted, then place burgers on bottom bun halves and serve.

Light Banana Muffins with Chocolate Drizzle

I’ve been drooling over the beautiful cupcakes in this community for awhile now and have been dying to make some of my own.  However, I don’t have a special occasion coming up to make them for, and if I don’t share them my husband and I will eat them all, thereby blowing our New Years diet plans.

This is what I came up with to satisfy our collective sweet tooth for now:

Light Banana Muffins with Chocolate Drizzle

1 pkg Reduced Sugar White Cake Mix
2 ripe bananas
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or sub 1 tsp vanilla extract)
2 squares (2 oz) dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare muffin pan by using paper cups or spraying with cooking spray.  Mash bananas and milk together using mixer on low speed.  Add vanilla, cake mix, and baking soda and mix until just combined.  Scoop batter into prepared muffin panand bake for 20-25 minutes.

When muffins are cool, drizzle with chocolate.

For the record, I’m not sure if the baking soda was necessary.  All in all pretty tasty, just enough sweet to keep us going 🙂