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 Chips

zucchini chips


Dr. Oz had another quick fix for salt cravings. For those of us who love crisp and salty foods, he suggested zucchini chips. They looked quite simple and I just happened to have a zucchini in my fridge that was beggin’ for action. I went to the Oz site and followed their instructions.
I can’t say that if I had a bowl of kettle chips next to the veggie chips that I would pass the potato chips by. However, given only one choice, they were interesting and tasty.

slice thin

Directions
Preheat oven to broil.
Wash the zucchini and dry it. (Do NOT peel.)
Slice into very thin and even slices.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. (Next time I’ll spray the foil with olive oil spray.)
Place the slices on the baking sheet.
Spray with olive oil spray.
Sprinkle with garlic salt or garlic powder and salt.
Broil for 2 – 3 minutes until dark. Flip over and broil the other side 2-3 minutes until done.

flip over after 2-3 minutes

The Oz directions said to spray and salt both sides, but it was too much salt, even for this salt lover.
Also, eat them warm. I left some on the counter for an hour and they quickly lost their appeal.
As an interesting extra vegetable, they were a fun experiment.

However, it did not rival the Olive Oil kettle potato chips who were calling to me from the pantry. Sorry Dr. Oz. But I did try.

broil till golden

zucchini chips

Quinoa – Red Bean Casserole


Many of us grew up with casseroles – called “Hotdishes” in my mother country, Minnesota. They were dinnertime staples -a combination of a meat and starch bound together with cream of mushroom soup. I’ve been trying to create a healthier version and have been experimenting with substitutions for the protein and the soup. Not easy.

Especially for a slow learner. It took me about four years just to pronounce quinoa correctly – KEEN WAH. Or close enough.

I started playing with this protein packed grain and learned to make a few quinoa side dishes. As yummy as they are, I wanted to make something that I could call “dinner.” And perhaps a dinner with few animal products. Since I cannot seem to give up sugar I am limiting the animal products I consume and pretending that I am a vegetarian three days a week. Yes, a slow start, but comfortable for me.

My family all take turns visiting our youngest son and his family in Florida. In between rain showers and beach days, we watch various documentaries – usually about health. Last year we all watched one called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead about a man who discovered juicing fruits and vegetables as a way back to wellness. My daughter, son, husband and I all went home and bought juicers.

This year we all watched “Forks over Knives” about the importance of limiting animal products and their connection to cancer. The research was compelling. Naturally, I started experimenting with recipes when we returned home while my husband found an official cookbook to order. (We have cookbooks for every turn in the culinary road.) I created this recipe while waiting for the cookbook to arrive and I really enjoyed it.

After the cookbook arrived, I turned to the last chapter (desserts) and found they have cookie recipes! Watch for these in the very near future.

For this hotdish, I used red beans and quinoa for the main protein and quinoa can also sub as the grain. Instead of the cream of mushroom soup, I used almond milk and tahini paste (ground sesame seeds.)
Let me know what you think.
Ingredients for Quinoa Red Bean Casserole1 onion, chopped
1 TBS olive oil
4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Quart chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
15 oz can of red beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup tahini paste
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste.
1 cup dry roasted almond slivers for garnish.

Directions
Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onions until transparent – 3-4 minutes.
Add carrots, broth, and quinoa. Cook about 15 minutes until quinoa is almost cooked.
Add red beans and the rest of the ingredients and cook another 10 minutes until it is hot.
Garnish with almonds.

Quinoa red bean casserole


Other suggestions
Celery, peppers, or leeks would be great additions.
Adjust the moisture so that you have a cream consistency. Add more milk or broth if needed.
Garnish with any nut, seed or golden raisins for interesting flavor notes.

OK, so this may not be the most beautiful dish you’ve ever eaten, but it is delicious. Even though there is no chocolate involved.
A worthy experiment. But wait, I think I just heard the ice cream truck… Just this once I need to make a dash for it. Later!

“Quick” Steel Cut Oats

maple flavor and brown sugar

oatmeal with roasted walnuts

Quick steel cut oats? Sounds like a contradiction, right? I’ve found a painless way to have the best, yummiest oats in just a minute.
But you have to think about it the night before. Well, more than just thinking. A little bit of effort is required. Very little, I promise.

precooked oats


Why steel cut oats? In taste tests people seem to prefer their chewy texture. Even over old fashioned oats. Certainly over “quick oats” which I use only when I’m using oats raw, as in my peanut butter balls or no bake chocolate cookies.

Don’t get me started about “instant oats” which I consider pretend food. Honestly they look and taste more like food that someone has already chewed up and spit out. (Gross Clare!)

Easy to find

Steel cut oats are the natural oats before they have been flattened. Where can you find them? In grocery stores they are with the regular oats but they may be sold in bags. Health food stores may also have them available to measure out and weigh in whatever portion you like. But they are easy to find.

Ingredients for 4-6 servings of Steel Cut Oats
1 cup dry oats
4 cups water
1/8 tsp salt
maple or vanilla extract – optional but use one!

Directions
Bring the water and salt to a boil.
Add the oats. Stir and boil for two minutes.
Make sure they don’t boil over.
Turn off the stove top and leave the oats on the burner.
Add Maple extract.
Cover and leave overnight.

Splash of milk or cream


In the morning the oats will be done. If you want one serving, dish it up, put the bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute and you’re ready.

Oatmeal Garnish Options
Roasted walnuts (dry roast on a cookie sheet for 8 – 10 min at 325 degrees.) I keep a bag in the fridge ready.
Roasted pecans or almonds.
Bananas
Blueberries, or strawberries
Brown sugar, honey, agave nectar or maple syrup
Splash of half and half or milk
Sprinkle of granola for texture. Check out my recipe for granola.

OK – so what if you are reading this in the morning and you want oatmeal for breakfast? Just let them cook 30 – 40 min on the stove and enjoy.

The most delicious oats with not a hint of wallpaper paste. Chewy, rich and – did I mention healthy? That’s a side benefit. Don’t tell the kids. They’ll never know.

Secrets of Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of those veggies we’re supposed to squeeze into our diet at least one day a week. Right between the cookies and the chocolate.
I used to just steam Brussels sprouts for a few minutes and call it good. Then I started roasting them with onions and adding other flavors and I liked that. I’ve also had great luck sautéing them. The problem was there was often a bitter after taste.

So I’ve added a step and the results have been remarkable. It turns out that if you boil them just for two minutes before you sauté or roast them, it takes away that bitterness. Trust me! I learned it from Martha Stewart’s cooking show. I’ve been watching her every Saturday morning on public television as she instructs on everything from making your own fortune cookies to tackling tricky vegetables.

These Brussels sprouts make a great side dish and really are delicious.

Ingredients
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 onion cut into chunks
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

sprouts and onions


Directions for fabulous Brussels sprouts
First cut off the stems of a pound of Brussels sprouts and then cut them in half – stem to stern.
Boil a pan full of water and plunge the sprouts (and leaves that have fallen off) into the boiling water for 2 minutes. Set the timer.
Take them off the heat and drain the Brussels sprouts.
Heat 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium sized frying pan.
Cut 1/2 of an onion into chunks.
Put the onions into the hot oil and cook until they wilt – 2-4 minutes.
Add the Brussels sprouts, and sprinkle with garlic salt.
Add 1 TBS of balsamic vinegar.
Sautee 1-2 minutes and you are done. Serve ‘em up!

Guilt free. But don’t expect me to remember how to make that ice cream cone.