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.

Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

Zucchini, a summer squash, grows abundantly in Iowa. While we think of it as a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit, a bland one that loves to be dressed up in cookies, breads, muffins, soups and stir fry recipes.
It’s not a fussy food. Just cut off the ends and the rest is fine to use – even the peel. No seeds to fish out. Just wash, then chop, grate or shred and it’s ready in a snap.

zucchini muffin

I got hungry for my old fashioned oatmeal muffins awhile back. You know, with cinnamon and walnuts. But I was disappointed that they weren’t more moist. Then when some young ripe zucchinis landed in my shopping cart, I decided to grate them and create a new recipe. It was the perfect addition to these muffins and I cannot wait to make them again.

If you are thinking that your kids will fish out, or question what the green stuff is, they won’t. The zucchini sort of disappears in the baking process. If they notice anything, you can always say they are “gummy worms” which kids seem to devour.

I cut back on the sugar and changed up the oil. I am certain you could use applesauce instead of the oil if you like. I also used part whole wheat pastry flour, but they would be fine with white flour.

I shared these Zucchini Oatmeal muffins with a family that had just had a new baby. The new mom’s comment was that “zucchini muffins are my two year old’s favorites.” Lucky kid to have such good taste so young.

Note on Zucchini: Pat out some of the water after you shred it. Then fluff it with a fork and measure the cup as a fluffed out mass. Do not pack the zucchini down or it will be too heavy.
12 muffins
Ingredients for Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2 eggs
1 cup coconut sugar – or brown sugar or white sugar.
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil (If you don’t have this, just use 1/2 cup butter – 1 stick)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup shredded zucchini – see note above.
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup walnuts (I roasted mine first.)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
six moreDirections
Spray a muffin tin or line with papers. Standard size 2 1/2″ muffins. Recipe makes 16 – 18.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat the eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla until fluffy.
Mix in the zucchini.
Add the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until blended.
Fold in the nuts and scoop into muffin pan.
Bake about 20 minutes.
bite of muffin

You’ll want to dive in as soon as they’re out of the oven. But give them 10 min to cool – if I had I wouldn’t have burned my tongue!

Easy Chicken Quesadilla’s and Taco Seasoning Mix

When I think of quesadilla’s, I think of my daughter as a youngster. She was about ten the first time we went to Mexico as a family. At every restaurant, she ordered a cheese quesadilla… the closest thing to her favorite grilled cheese sandwiches.

There are so many ways to make a quick and easy quesadilla. You can customize them for vegetarians or those who need gluten free. I typically use chicken, vegetables and cheese in mine, but you can adapt yours for the child that won’t eat a vegetable, or the one who doesn’t eat cheese. Take this as more of a process, than a recipe. Isn’t that the way most of us like to cook?
onions peppers

I’ll give you a basic recipe first and then will follow with shortcuts. Fair enuf?
Ingredients for Easy Chicken Quesadilla’s
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
3 TBS olive oil (or canola)
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 TBS salsa
1 TBS taco seasoning (Store bought or follow directions below.)
4 Wheat tortillas (or corn for gluten free)
1 cup cheese
2 TBS butter
Brown onion and red pepper in 1 TBS olive oil on medium high heat. Add half the spices. Remove veggies and set aside.
In the same pan, add the remaining 2 TBS olive oil, heat it and brown the chicken.
Add the vegetables back into the pan with the chicken and season with remaining spices. (Taco seasoning)
Add the salsa and a tablespoon or two of water, if dry.
Turn the heat down and let the mixture cook for 3-5 minutes to blend flavors.
chicken and veggies
begin cooking
Assemble the Quesadilla
In a clean skillet, turn heat to medium and melt 1 TBS of butter.
Place one tortilla into the pan and spoon on chicken and veggies. Don’t overload.
Quickly sprinkle on 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese, then place a second tortilla over the cheese.
Check to see if the bottom is golden and when it is, carefully flip the entire quesadilla over with a large spatula.
Brown second side – about a minute, then remove it and place on a cutting board.
Cut into six pie shaped slices.
Repeat the process.
add cheese
***Taco Seasoning If you want to make your own, it’s quite simple.
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp salt
add top and flip

*** I put ten times the amounts of each ingredient into an old glass spice jar.
Other items you may want to include: red pepper flakes, oregano, black pepper, white pepper. Suit yourself.
Now I can sprinkle a lot or a little onto anything.

Simplify the Recipe? Purchase a roasted chicken, instead of browning your own.
Pull the meat off and put into a pan on low.
Add 1/2 cup of salsa instead of the vegetables.
Sprinkle with packaged taco or fajita seasoning.
Cook together with a bit of water – 2-5 minutes.

Need Gluten Free? Use corn tortillas. Yes, they are smaller and will need to be handled quickly, but they can work.
Need vegetarian? Eliminate the chicken and just use veggies and cheese. Or skip the veggies. Or skip the cheese.
That’s it. It’s a wrap!

Cheesy Roasted Potatoes

all doneYou say potatoes, I say – YES! We do love our potatoes – baked, fried, roasted, mashed, or au gratin. Potatoes are the single most popular vegetable eaten in the US. Technically they’re a veggie, but a nutritionist would say they are a starch. These are like fries, but better. And easier than au gratin potatoes, but just as cheesy. And I mean that in the nicest way.
Last week, some cheesy potatoes were the top post on Pinterest. A blog called Crème De La Crumb was drawing people like flies to a picnic.
I decided to make a “clare-ified” version of them. Of course the ones on Pinterest looked as if a food stylist had been involved. And a talented photographer, which she is. Instead of me.
She used Russet potatoes, which are the large ones. I prefer smaller red or Yukon Gold potatoes, so my potato wedges were petite and not as well ordered as the pictures of hers. (Read messy) But oh were they tasty. And that counts.
I used a few different spices and grated parmesan cheese instead of shredded. This gave me larger cheese pieces that created little cheese crackers from the run off. I was just obsessed with the cheese. They were fabulous! Even if they’d never be a magazine cover, there were no complaints from the hubby.

Usually when I roast potatoes, I add other veggies, but this time, it was a solo act. They were the star.
ready for oven
I did not measure spices, so these are approximate. This is a “shake and bake” recipe so adjust to suit your taste.
Ingredients for Cheesy Roasted Potatoes

4 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges. Leave the skins on.
3 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp parsley – fresh is best but use what you have
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
cheesy taters
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place a piece of parchment on a rimmed baking sheet.
Use a one gallon sized baggie and dump in the potatoes and all the ingredients.
Shake to mix.
Dump onto the baking sheet.
Bake 25 – 35 minutes until they are golden, as in heavenly.
tater heaven
If you have left overs, heat in a frying pan for lunch – add more cheese. But you won’t have many left over. Promise.

Aunt Kitty’s Rhubarb Dessert

b serve with whipped creamSpring=rhubarb in the Midwest. It grows in ditches and gardens in abundance. I wonder sometimes if we enjoy foods because of the memories they evoke of childhood pleasures. If you didn’t have rhubarb as a child, would this doom you to shun it forever? I have a friend who was raised in the south and he has no appreciation for rhubarb. Of course, this particular friend also detests ginger, so I think it’s a personality flaw in him. Sorry friend. Really! Who doesn’t love a good ginger cookie? or ginger bread? or ginger muffins? Ohhh, I digress. If I don’t stop myself I’ll have the oven on making ginger cupcakes and this is about rhubarb.

Rhubarb is the long skinny vegetable with the huge poisonous leaves. Yes, vegetable. Cut it off about one inch below the leaves. And then sweeten either by pairing it with a sweet fruit, such as strawberries, peaches or cherries, or by adding a boatload of sugar. Or a combination.

During my Weight Watchers years we made a rhubarb sauce by steaming it on top of the stove with a touch of water and some cancer-causing sweetners. After eating, it left a bitter taste and a sense that it stripped the enamel off my teeth. I tried to tell myself I liked it, but the love affair was brief.

Last year I modified the old recipe and made a strawberry rhubarb sauce that was simple and used real sugar. Easier on the enamel and the pallate.

strawberry rhubarb sauce

strawberry rhubarb sauce

When I was first married, I polled relatives for their favorite rhubarb recipes. I faithfully tried each one. From cobblers to crunches to coffee cakes they were all delicious, but this one has remained one of my hubby’s top two choices. My Aunt Kitty is my father’s little sister. And I do mean little. She’s a petite 5 feet tall and weighs nothing. Her secret after birthing five children: she allows herself one chocolate from a quality box of chocolates after lunch each day. That is a habit I can embrace.

I have blogged about several other rhubarb recipes in the past, such as the Apple Cranberry Rhubarb Crunch with the oatmeal topping.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

And the Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler – my hubby’s favorite.

Aunt Kitty’s dessert has two layers – but don’t let that stop you. It goes together quickly with little clean up. (Just keeping it simple.) The bottom layer is a shortbread, which you bake first. The top layer is a custard, which tames the sharp rhubarb flavor, but doesn’t hide it.

You pour on the custard topping onto the bottom layer while it is hot and continue baking. It swells up and then deflates after it comes out of the oven which creates a crunchy, sweet topping, so it feels as if you have three layers. Let me explain.
b press crumbs into pan
Ingredients for Crust
1 cup flour of choice
5 Tbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
b whisk topping
Ingredients for Topping
2 eggs – beaten with a fork
1 1/2 cups sugar (or a bit less)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups rhubarb cut into 1″ pieces
b pour topping over hot crust

Directions -
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8″ (or 9″) square pan.
Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and sugar for the crust.
When it resembles crumbs, dump it into the greased pan.
Press the crumbs down until they are even. I use the bottom of a glass for this.
Bake the crust for 15 minutes. It will be very light in color.
b golden
While it is baking, mix the ingredients for the topping together in the same bowl.
Stir in the rhubarb last.
Pour the mixture over the hot crust and bake another 25 minutes.
This time the color will be golden and bubbly.
Serve warm with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream.
It will still be wonderful served cold, but warm is best.delicious