About Nana Clare

Cookie baker, brownie maker for 50 years. Mom to three, Nana to five. Married to Mr. Right for 36 years. I'm also a sister to seven women - no brothers - and daughter to parents who have been together for 64 years. I love to bake breads, cookies, muffins, rolls, bars and did I say cookies? I make all kinds of jams and jellies and have a killer hot fudge recipe that goes back several generations in my family. Paired with my husband's homemade ice cream it's always a winning combo. Oh Yes! I also enjoy making soups, stews, stir fries and other munchies. I worked full time when my children were young and discovered many short cuts so that I could still provide healthy meals (most of the time). Catholic for life and loving it. BA in theater and speech, costuming/ Broadcasting school graduate/ MS in journalism and mass communication, emphasis in public relations/ Graduate of the Institute for Children's Literature - beginning and advanced classes - yes, I love to learn. And a graduate of many decorative painting schools. See my page on decorative painting in my home.

Blueberry Muffins – healthy


Blueberries don’t have a lot of flavor, but they do have sex appeal. Those plump dark purplish berries just call to me. Break into a blueberry muffin and if you see lots of warm, gooey blueberries greeting you, it’s going to be a good day. OK, not as sexy as chocolate, but right up there. I try not to eat chocolate for breakfast (TRY) so blueberries are the next best thing.

blueberries inside

And if they are a bit healthy and very flavorful – so much the better. I think I’ve been searching for a GREAT blueberry muffin most of my life. Some are too doughy, or too cakelike or oily or too sweet. Some fall flat – either in texture or flavor.

I’ve been messing around with this particular recipe for over a year and when Ken (da hubby) bit into one this morning and said, “Oh Wow!” I knew I had to take notes. Ken is the strong silent type who usually only grunts his approval. A full-on “Oh Wow” is a homerun.

Healthy blueberries muffins

First a note about the berries. I used frozen, but I let them sit in a bit of water for 2-3 minutes and then drained them for 10 min. I have found that putting completely frozen berries into batters confuses the batter. The batter surrounding the frozen berries takes longer to bake and the rest gets overly done. Not ideal.

One more note – about the orange juice. We typically don’t drink fruit juices, because we are told that we should just “eat the fruit.” But I do keep a can of frozen orange juice concentrate in my freezer to use in recipes like this one. I just use a ratio of 1 part frozen juice concentrate to three parts water. For example, if you want 1/2 cup orange juice, use 2 TBS concentrate to 6 TBS water.
Enough about the notes, here’s the recipe.

great texture

Ingredients for Healthy Blueberry Muffins
2 scant cups flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
2 TBS vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup sugar or stevia
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup nonfat Greek Yogurt (vanilla or plain)
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
2 TBS canola oil
3/4 cups blueberries

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set the aside.
Whisk the eggs and wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
Stir in the dry ingredients until everything is incorporated.
Fold in the blueberries.

Drop into muffin cups or greased muffin pan.
Bake at 350 for 15 – 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins.

Cacao Nibs and Chocolate Drops with Palm Sugar

chocolate drop

It’s January and in America that means that all chubbies must diet to make up for the sugar binges of the past three months. (Our holiday celebrations start in October with the purchase of giant bags of candy for Halloween. I purchase mine at the beginning of the month and then invariably have to repurchase several times by the time Beggar’s night arrives.)
I’ve now been off sugar (except for a few small handfuls of dark chocolate and a bite of a coworker’s peanut butter pie) for TWO DAYS! Call the Pope because I think this makes me a candidate for sainthood.
But like any true addict, I’ve found a way around my cravings that could still be called “clean eating.”

cacao nibs

Cacao Nibs were all the rage last year when I bought a container of them at my local health food store, Wheatsfield. They were roasted, to bring out the chocolate flavor. Gotta love that, right? I tried them plain and it was like chewing on twigs dipped in sand. No yummy chocolate mouthfeel, just grit in my teeth.
I took them to my daughter who is a self proclaimed chocoholic. She tried to love them, but in the end rejected them as bitter.

Internet searches told me to put them into cookies and muffins. Done. I ruined several batches of cookies and muffins realizing that they still tasted like gritty twigs, surrounded by better baked batter.

They sat in my cupboard. And they bugged me. For a year. Recently I realized their expiration date was near and decided to at least extract the chocolate from them.

coconut palm sugar

Just as I was preparing to do this, Dr. Oz announced that we should be eating Coconut Palm Sugar because it won’t spike blood sugar. He must have forgotten that he told us that last year. Which is why I had a neglected one pound bag of the expensive sugar sitting on my shelf with the sad cacao nibs.

coconut oil

Perfect, a pairing. And since coconut oil is still in favor this year (stay tuned, as that may be the next ingredient to hit the dust) I decided to make it a trio.

coffee grinder

I cleaned our coffee grinder well and set about whirring the nibs in small batches. I sifted the cacao and reground what remained to make sure it would be lump-free. It yielded about 2 cups of what I thought would be unsweetened cocoa powder. Well it was, sort of. It was impossible to grind it as fine as the unsweetened cocoa powder in the store. So while I was in the grinding mood, I ground the palm sugar too, which had developed lumps that looked like inverted cellulite from my thighs.

cook into a sauce

Not to be discouraged, I dumped it all into a pan to whip up something yummy – and healthy. I won’t say the results are anything that I could sell to make my fortune online. I first started with a sort of sauce, but it was still too “chewy” (read gritty). I decided that if I added another textural element, then the grittiness of the sauce would be in good company. I tossed in toasted pecans. Perfect. Then I put spoonfulls into a mini-muffin pan that was supposed to be “non stick.” I’m so trusting.

I set the pan out in the cold to firm up and my “rescued” dog followed me onto the deck and escaped into the frigid air. Thirty minutes of frenzied pursuit followed until I finally convinced her we needed to go inside. By then my treats had firmed up and I needed a chocolate fix. Bad!
They stuck to the pan, but no true chocolate addict would let that stand in her way.
I will gladly scrape out the bottom of the little muffin cups because the result was a chewy, crunchy chocolate cup that satisfied my cravings and won’t raise my blood sugar.
A sort of success, right?

mini muffin pan

At least if you have a container of cacao nibs, you could try this. If not, use real cocoa powder and your result will be silky.

chocolate drops

2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder (or ground cacao nibs.)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or stevia or whatever you like to use)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup milk
1 cup toasted pecans.

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan except the nuts.
Heat slowly and mix well.
Bring mixture to a boil and take off the heat.
Add the pecans. Stir and drop by spoonfulls onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
If you use a minimuffin pan, spray it first.
Chill to firm.

chocolate drops

Sure, it was a process, but it yielded something that will keep me from getting into all the baking supplies I’ve hidden in the basement cupboards – at least until Valentine’s Day.
Let me know how yours turn out.

4 Easy “No Bake” Treats

Too flustered to turn on the oven? Don’t need one for these little goodies.

No bake treats

What you do need is chocolate – lots of chocolate for melting. Use either melting wafers, dark chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate bars. Semi sweet or milk chocolate will all work just fine.
Perfect for holidays, game days or when you need a chocolate fix.

Rolo pecan pretzels

Pecan Rolo PretzelsThese take only moments to put together. But first take ten minutes to gently toast your pecans in a 350 degree oven. This gives them the “snap” that is so delicious.
Rolo candies – unwrapped. (For those who live under a rock, these are small caramels that are dipped in milk chocolate.)
Small pretzels – use any shape you like.
Pecan halves – one for each rolo.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lay out pretzels on a cookie sheet or bar pan.
Place one unwrapped rolo candy on each pretzel.
Bake for 2-3 minutes until the candies start to melt.
Take them out of the oven and press a pecan onto the top of each caramel.
Cool, eat. That’s it.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzels

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Peanut Butter Treats

This is a new twist on the standard chocolate covered pretzels.
For this treat, look for pretzels that are filled with peanut butter.
Melt chocolate and toss in a handful of the pretzels.
Fish them out and place on a plate that has been lined with wax paper.
Cool, eat, that’s it!


These are old standby’s in the Midwest. Basically peanut butter balls covered in chocolate.
1 stick butter (or less – you could cut this in half.)
1 small jar of peanut butter – 15 or 16 oz.
2-3 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Dash salt
Dark chocolate (or semi-sweet – your choice)

Directions for Buckeyes
Mix everything except the chocolate until you have a very still dough.
Dip them out using a small cookie scoop – or about 2 tsp per ball.
Roll them into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.
Put in the fridge until firm. (Or outside if it’s winter in the Midwest.)
Melt some chocolate, being careful not to get any water into the chocolate.
Use a toothpick to stab a firm peanut butter ball and dip into the chocolate to coat all except the tops.
Let them set up. Don’t they look like Buckeye nuts? Sure they do.
Cool. Eat, That’s it!

Bonus –
Ritz Cracker Peanut Butter Treats

OK, if you don’t have rolos or pretzels, you probably have whole wheat Ritz crackers – right?
Sure, you’re trying to eat healthy, so you have the whole wheat ones.
Take two crackers and smear one with peanut butter (or almond butter). Make a sandwich by placing another on top.
Melt a handful of chocolate chips and coat the cracker-sandwich in chocolate.
Cool, Eat. That’s it.

Sure, we could do this all day, but this will get you started.
Happy New Year!

Pumpkin Pie Cake

This is the best of both worlds – pumpkin pie with a cakey/crunchy layer of pecans and other goodies on top. Pumpkin Pie with cake. What could be better?

pumpkin pie cake

I made this for a church potluck and I had intended to get pictures of people eating it. But it disappeared quickly. The great thing is that it easily serves 16 – or more if you cut the slices smaller. The rich sweet pumpkin pie on the bottom is topped with buttery pecans and it makes a wonderful combination. Trust me on this one. This is a heritage recipe that has been a family favorite for many years.

drizzle butter over cake mix

Ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Cake – the bottom
29 oz can of pure pumpkin
4 eggs (5 if they are only “large”)
1 1/2 cups sugar – brown or white. (I usually use brown and cut it back to 1 cup.)
12 oz evaporated milk (or 14 oz if your can has 14 oz)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
dash all spice
1 tsp salt

cover with pecans

Topping ingredients:
1 box of cake mix – white, yellow or spice
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups pecans – roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with baking spray – or butter it.
Put all the ingredients for the pumpkin pie bottom into a large bowl.
Beat for several minutes until well combined.
Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Sprinkle an entire cake mix over the top of the pumpkin – but do NOT mix it into the pumpkin.
Melt the butter (not margarine!) and drizzle it over the cake mix.
Scatter the pecans over the butter and very gently press into the cake mix.

Bake 70 – 85 minutes, depending on your oven.

pumpkin pie cake

The pumpkin pie will still be a bit wobbly, but should be set up fairly well. The pecans should be golden.
Serve alone or with ice cream or whipped cream. But do make this.