Apple & Red Cabbage Salad


I love cabbage, but not when it is cooked. However, this red cabbage salad was an exception. I love the contrast of the plum color on a white dinner plate, not to mention the semi-sweetness of the apples. When served with BBQ pork or beef ribs, it’s outstanding; the flavors really compliment the meat.


  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped
  • 1 large apple, grated
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup turkey bacon, cooked and diced
  • Fresh apple slices to garnish, optional


Place chopped cabbage, shredded apple, vinegar, sugar and cloves in crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove to serving dish, add diced turkey bacon and garnish with apple slices.

IMG_8238The tang and sweetness of this salad is a great replacement for traditional green salads.

This recipe will serve 6 people as a side dish. A half-cup serving with an apple slice garnish is in the neighborhood of 115 calories.



Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs


One of the top foods on my ten year old grandson’s list is BBQ ribs. He isn’t a fan of dry-rubbed ribs, but that is what the wine guy prefers. So, I did a combination of a dry rub and tangy sauce to suit both tastes.

Lately, my lifestyle has become way more complex and I have little time to prepare meals. Crock pots have become a life-saver for meat dishes. Sides dishes are easy enough to prepare at the last minute. Meat dishes, however, especially ribs and roasts take considerable more time.

Prep time for the ribs was minimal (around 15 minutes). Plan on 3 hours of crock- pot cook time. Here is what you need to make these fall-off-the-bone ribs.


Dry rub:

1/4 cup paprika
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

The Rest:

2 1/2 pounds pork baby back ribs
2 cans of beer (24 ounces), or unsalted beef brothIMG_8195
18 ounces BBQ sauce
1/3 cup honey
5 quart crock pot
1/4 cup olive oil
Large skillet


Add olive oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. While it heats, generously rub the ribs with the dry rub. Place them in the skillet and brown for 3 minutes on each side.

Cut ribs into sections (3-4 ribs per section). Place in crock pot and coat with beer. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. NOTE: Shave139 calories per serving by using unsalted beef broth instead of beer.

Blend BBQ sauce and honey and pour over ribs. Place cover on crock pot and cook ribs for an additional 1 1/2 hours on high heat. Remove ribs to a serving platter. Thicken leftover crock pot juices and serve as sauce on the side.

IMG_8204This recipe serves four. A five ounce serving (about 4 ribs) is in the neighborhood of 505 calories.

To keep the calorie count to a minimum, it is best served with a salad or green vegetable. If you feel the need to add a starch, consider a 1/2 cup scoop of wild rice (150 added calories).


Rainbow Jell-O

Layered Rainbow Jello

My youngest grandson, Fischer, loves Jell-O. When he stays over on a school night, his first request for a ‘cold’ lunch includes red Jell-O cups. I took it a step farther and made rainbow Jell-O.

What was suppose to be a joint project with Fischer turned into an all day project for NeeNee while he went to the movies. I should have known he wouldn’t have the patience for this particular project. Four hours later, the colorful layers were ready to set-up for an additional two hours. Yep, you read that correctly. It took six hours to prepare this Jell-O dish.

IMG_7872So, unless you are attending a special event, forget making this particular Jell-O dish. My grand kids had little appreciation for the time it took to make dish. They saw a photo on Google and said, “NeeNee can make that!”

Leave it to stupid-o NeeNee to make good on that claim.


  • 4 (3-ounce) packages assorted flavored gelation
  • 6 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • Boiling water
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup cold water


  1. Combine on package flavored gelatin and one envelop unflavored gelatin in a small bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water and stir until dissolved. Cool 5 minutes. Pour mixture into a deep baking dish of your choice. (I used a Bundt pan). You will want to spray a light coating of cooking spray inside the dish.
  2. Refrigerate 20 minutes.
  3. Combine condensed milk (scrape the inside of the can clean) and 1 cup boiling water in a bowl. Mix well using a wire whisk. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl and add 1/4 cup cold water. Sprinkle two envelopes of the unflavored gelation over the cold water. Let stand for a minute and then stir in 3/4 up boing water.
  5. Add the unflavored gelation mixture to the sweetened condensed milk mixture. Mix well.
  6. Remove the first gelatin layer from the fridge and spoon a layer of the creamy condensed milk mixture over the top. Return to fridge and let set for 25 minutes.
  7. Continue alternating layers of the flavored gelatin and creamy milk mixture. To keep each layer ‘pure’, make sure that you allow the dissolved gelatin to cool down before spooning over the previous layer.
  8. Chill each layer before spooning next layer. Top off the final layer with a flavored gelatin.
  9. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting and serving.

This Jell-O recipe will keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Freezing unused portions is not recommended.



Severed Witches Finger Cookies

Witches Finger Cookies

A friend of mine posted a picture  of severed witches finger cookies on Facebook. It prompted me to try own version with my grandkids. With Halloween just a few days away, this is a perfect recipe for the occasion. The fingers are shaped with shortbread cookie dough and the fingernail is an almond sliver.

Shortbread Cookie DoughINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Almond slivers
  • Red gel food coloring
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

Chill cookie dough for one hourHOW TO

If you own a Mixmaster of Kitchen Aid mixer, you will want to use it. You can mix the dough by hand, but it will take generous effort.

Mix together butter, sugar, egg and extracts. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments, add the salt. Mix together well. This is a shortbread dough, so it will firm and mold easily.

Remove dough from bowl and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Shaping the witches fingers

Now comes the fun part, shaping the fingers. The grand kids, ages 5 and 7, had a blast rolling out the dough and inserting the fingernail.

Keep your shapes the size of actual adult fingers to make them more realistic. I helped the kids shaped the knuckle areas and used a kitchen knife to make three slashes in each knuckle.

Making Witches Finger Cookies

Firmly press the almond sliver into the tip of each finger. Randomly dust cocoa powder over the dough and fingernail area. The cocoa powder is optional but I like the look it lent to the final cookie.

Place cookies on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. You can apply the red coloring gel before or after baking; I applied before. Squirt a very small amount under the nail bed and push down on the almond so that the red gel oozes out.

Bake cookies at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and set on a cooling rack.This recipe makes around 60 fingers. Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. The cookie dough can be refrigerated for up to one week.



Work with the dough in small batches. Cut the dough in quarter and work with 1/4 at a time. Keep the remaining dough covered in the fridge. You want the dough should cold when you work with it so that the fingers hold their shape when baking.


Don’t use sugar cookie dough because your baked cookies will come out looking like this:

IMG_6709Trust me on this one. A shortbread cookie dough is best because it is unleavened and will hold its shape.

Unfortunately, shortbread cookies are somewhat dry tasting which is why I served them with a red jam dipping sauce. You could sprinkle the fingers with white sugar before baking to help sweeten the taste. I noted  a few online posts that premade sugar cookie dough (the kind in a tube) works if you add in one cup of white flour. I haven’t tried it.

I’m not even going to give a guesstimate on the calories per cookie. Come’ on…flour, powdered sugar, butter…they are definitely not low fat; but, sometimes you just have to toss calories to the wind.

Beef Pot Pie

Homemade Beef Pot Pie

I don’t know what possessed me, but last night I was in a cooking mood. Maybe it was the cool, crisp air of autumn or the eminent presence of winter. Whatever inspired my spontaneous cooking spree, the end result was tasty. I made a beef pot pie.

There was leftover beef lunch meat in the fridge (from Costco),  a lone potato and carrot and half of an onion. That’s all I needed to get started. I shredded an almost expired zucchini and threw it in for good measure.

The only other critical ingredients was broth (I used vegetable broth), red wine and seasonings. There is certainly no shortage of red wine in our house and what I didn’t have in broth, I made up the difference in wine.

IMG_6665Ingredients for Filling

  • 10 ounces of thinly slice beef, cubed
  • 2 T vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T cornstarch

IMG_6670Pour off the olive oil into a deep skillet or soup pot. Add the onion, diced veggies and seasonings. Sauté for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer covered over low heat for 20 minutes.


As the filling is simmering on the stove, prepare the pie crust as follows:

  •  2 cups white flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup ice water

In a large mixing bowl cut the butter into the flour. Add the salt and baking soda. Gradually incorporate the ice water and form dough into a ball. Sprinkle with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.


Roll out the dough onto a clean surface generously dusted with flour. Reserve enough dough to cover the top of the pie pan.

IMG_6679Place a layer of dough into a pie pan. Pierce the dough with the prongs of a fork. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Remove the pie crust from the oven and fill with the beef filling. Roll out the remaining dough and cover the top. Using a knife, place slits in the top of the dough.

IMG_6686Bake beef pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you want the crust to brown, brush with an egg white.

Remove from oven and let cool. I suggest covering the pie with Saran or aluminum wrap and allow to set in fridge overnight before cutting.

Cut pie into eight slices and serve with beef gravy.








Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup

Nothing screams FALL more than squash and apples. The squash is falling off the vines and apples are dropping from the trees. In Michigan, we’ve had an overabundance this year and everyone is looking for ways to use up the excess. This recipe is a perfect fit.

This soup is ideal for soup sliders at tail-gating parties or when hosting sporting events. Keep it warm in a crock pot and serve up in small Dixie cups that you ‘slurp’ down like a Jell-O-shot.


  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 5 T butter or margarine
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 small apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh butternut squash, peeled and cubed (Costco offers a tub that is user-ready)
  • 2 T white flour
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (I used fresh, homemade applesauce. Jar applesauce will also work.)
  • 32 ounces chicken broth, low sodium (I use the broth in a box)
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • Chopped chives for garnish (optional)
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese (1 cup sharp and 1 cup mild)
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and diced

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup
How To

Melt 4 T butter in a large pot. Add onion, apples, potato and diced squash. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes. Add seasonings, flour and applesauce. Stir until thickened.


Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese SoupAdd the broth and milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Continue to cook until the squash, apples and potatoes are soft (about 15 minutes).

While the soup is simmering, heat 1 T butter in a skillet. Over medium-high heat, cook the diced prosciutto until crisp (like bacon). Remove from  heat and set aside.

Creamy Butternut-Applesauce-Cheese Soup

Add the cheese to the soup mixture and heat until the cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Remove the soup from stovetop.



Using a stick blender, mix the soup mixture until it is smooth and creamy. Taste to determine if any additional seasoning is needed.



Garnish the soup with crispy prosciutto and chopped chives.

This recipe makes eight 1-cup servings. Calories are in the neighborhood of 265 calories per serving.





Creamy Tomato Basil Zucchini Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

There is always an element of sadness when the last few basil leaves are picked from the garden. It signals the ends of the summer season. I was committed to making a pot of tomato basil soup to finish off the last crop of tomatoes and basil. Actually, it was more of a challenge. My husband didn’t think I would follow through on making the soup. He not only lost the challenge, but this soup topped the flavor list with garlic, onion, roasted tomatoes, olive oil and fresh basil. Heck, what’s not to like?


 2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, roasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1 T kosher salt
1 1/2 teas. ground black pepper
1/3 cup milk
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 quart chicken stock
3 cups fresh basil, packed, then finely chopped
1/2 teas. dried thyme or 1 teas. fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1  24-ounce jar organic crushed tomatoes (Kirkland brand from Costco)
– 1 small zucchini, shredded


Place 2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water. Let simmer until the skins begin to fall off. Immediately rinse tomatoes with cold water. When cool enough to touch, remove and discard the skins. Roughly chop tomatoes and place  on a cookie sheet. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over top. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

Creamy tomato basil soup

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Sauté the garlic and onions in 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup olive oil. When the onions start to brown, add the jar of organic tomatoes, chicken stock, shredded zucchini basil and thyme. Add the oven roasted tomatoes and any residual juices. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the milk, then using a stick blender, mix until the soup is smooth and creamy.
Serve hot or cold. Make 6-8 servings. In the neighborhood of 155 calories per serving.

Creamy tomato basil soup

IMG_6382Add some crunch and texture by toasting baguette slices topped with cheddar cheese. Bake or broil in oven until cheese has melted.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut the baguette slices into crouton size shapes. Use to garnish the soup.



Leg of Lamb Bites

Leg of Lamb Bites

I can’t begin to count the number of friends and family member that shy away from cooking lamb. Leg of lamb is one of the easiest and tastiest meats you can cook. The secret is to trim away all the fat and cube into bite size pieces. At least that’s how we like to serve it at our house.

Lamb has a light gamey taste that is not overpowering. Don’t get this dish confused with the fast food gyro sandwiches you may have tasted. This dish can’t be compared to the often dry, sometimes grizzly lamb you may have experienced at a take-out place.

This dish is easy-peasy and will knock the socks off dinner guests who have never enjoyed lamb.


  • 1 leg of lamb (about 5-6 pounds; trim away fat and cut into cubes (Costco has great lamb)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry garden mint
  • 1 teaspoon dry rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4 cups beef broth consommé
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix spices and herbs into the flour. Toss cubed lamb in flour mixture and pan sear in olive oil until browned. Remove meat from pan. Add onion and cook until softened. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Add the beef consommé. Mix well and then return meat to pan. Simmer covered for one hour.

Remove from heat and serve over white rice. Generously serves 8-10 people.


Easy Black Beans & Rice Enchiladas


There are a few family members that are not fond of meat dishes. Whenever asked to bring a dish to family functions, I try to pick a dish that will fit the bill for both meat and meatless foodies.

These bean and rice enchiladas are always a hit. Best served hot out of the oven, but can be reheated in the microwave in short increments until heated through.


  • Zatarain’s boxed red beans and rice (family size)
  • Cheddar or white cheese, 2 1/2 to cups
  • 1 can prepared enchilada sauce
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup finely chopped lettuce
  • 1 cup chunky salsa
  • 9-inch flour tortillas, 12 count


Prepare Zatarain’s red beans and rice according to package directions. Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of the red beans and rice in the bottom of an 9 x 12 baking dish. Fill each flour tortilla with approximately 1/2 cup of red beans and rice and 1 tablespoon of chunky salsa. Sprinkle with cheese and roll into tortilla shape.


Once all enchiladas are rolled, sprinkle the tops with cheese, diced onion, tomatoes and drizzle with enchilada. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 27 minutes.



Remove from oven and allow to cool. With a spatula, cut each enchilada in half. You will have 24 servings which pair well with a taco or two.


OK. Let’s talk calories. Each 1/2 section of the enchilada is in the neighborhood of 190 calories fully loaded. You can dump plenty of calories by foregoing the melted cheese and using low fat sour cream instead (about 52 calories).


Mexican Pizza that Rocks


I am a sucker for Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza. That is now history. MY MEXICAN PIZZA rocks and I’m booting Taco Bell out the door.

Not only is this an easy dish to make (and filling), it is rather low in calories. The biggest calorie binge is the cheese, but even that can be purchased low-fat. The other thing I love-love about this meal is the portion size. You can make it a meal or make it an appetizer.

Mexican PizzaIngredients

  • (2) nine-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 cups Mexican mixed low-fat shredded cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped calamari olives
  • 1/2 cup refried beans in can
  • (1) medium tomato chopped
  • 1 cup heated crumbled Boco burger meat
  • 1/2 packet dried taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 1/2 cup minced sweet onion (add to the Boco burger)
  • Salt & pepper to taste


How To

Place two tortillas onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. Spread each tortilla with a layer of refried beans, burger and salsa.

Place a second flour tortilla on top and bake in the oven for 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.


Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then add a layer of salsa, cheese, green onion, black olives and tomatoes.

Return to oven and cook for another 8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing into quarter sections.