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.

5 minute Hummus

hummus with sun dried tomatoes

It’s summer in the Midwest. The months we dream about during sledding months. And even during lumpy sledding months. But summer is not to be taken for granted.

veggies and hummus

Trying to hang onto summer is like trying to hang onto an eel in an oil slick.

Impossible.
The solution is to simplify life and squeeze as much fun as you can out of these blissful warm months.
Easy meals and quick cooking.
How does hummus fit into the picture? With a few veggies and an oatmeal cookie, you could call it lunch. At least that’s what I did today.

What is Hummus?

Official definition: a paste of pureed chickpeas usually mixed with sesame oil or sesame paste and eaten as a dip or sandwich spread – Merriam Webster online dictionary

Well, not quite that simple. I like to jazz mine up to make it more interesting. I make a big batch and put it in smaller containers in the fridge. This way, we can bring a bit to work with raw veggies for lunch or snacks.

chickpeas


Chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans. If you add them to your soups, they’ll hold their shape and not become mushy, so they are a favorite of mine.
Sesame paste is also called Tahini.

Why Eat Hummus? To add a bit more protein to a meal or snack. As a scoop for raw veggies, it will help you – and yours – munch a bunch more vegetables. Something we all need, right?

Dip other foods into it as well: pretzels, crackers, chips.
Spread it on your taco before you load on the other toppings. It’s also delicious as a layer in a Panini sandwich….between layers of cheese, apple, bacon or whatever you like.
I make my own because I shun those unpronounceable ingredients often found in store bought foods. Same reason I make my own bread, soups, granola, cookies, muffins, etc. Easy, simple, pure.
You will notice that I add plain Greek yogurt to my recipe for two reasons:
1. Adds a bit of tanginess
2. Adds a creaminess that I really like
You can also go wild with the spices – add your favorites. So this is a starter recipe which you customize according to what you like.
I also use a food processor; however, a powerful blender should work as well.

ingredients

Ingredients for Big batch of 5 Minute Hummus
2 cans salt free chick peas, rinsed and drained
½ cup Tahini paste (stir it well before you measure it.)
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp garlic powder
Directions
Put into a food processor and blend for 3-4 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Divide into containers or store in one large covered bowl in the fridge. Snack Away!

For spicier hummus, add curry powder, basil, black or white pepper or any Mrs. Dash spice blend.

Hummus made without the tomatoes will have a lighter look, but it’s still delicious.

Hummus

Cookies for a Queen-Sized Sweet Tooth

Creating the perfect cookie is my life’s dream. I recently heard myself tell my chubby hubby that if I could only discover the right cookie recipe then it would revolutionize our diet and catapult us toward health. A cookie so nutritious it would clean our intestines, remove cellulite from our thighs, give us whiter teeth, add years to our lives and increase the value of our home.
Eating well’s Healthy Cookie is one example.

Clare’s healthy little bite


I’ve used this argument since man landed on the moon. I’m actually over the moon about chocolate and sugary treats. Dipping into a bag of dark chocolate chips makes me smile, but baking them into treats with peanut butter, pecans, coconut or oats really floats my boat.
In fact of the nearly 290 recipes on this blog, there are 67 recipes for cookies or bars.

Recently I grabbed my Betty Crocker Cookbook circa 1972. It fell open to the only section I’ve used – the “scratch and taste” cookies and bars pages. But for the first time, I noticed this quote:

shortbread cookie with wafers

“And always cookies in the cookie jar! Is there a happier symbol of a friendly house? Cookies for children to share with their friends. Cookies for the family watching TV. Cookies for an afternoon tea. Cookies for a hike, cookies for a picnic, cookies to comfort a boy who’s had a bump, cookies with a glass of milk. Cookies ‘just because.’”

This was the philosophy I grew up with. Later, when I was a mother of three, I read about a family who fed their children green peppers and water for after school snacks. No cookies? Scandalous! Akin to child abuse!

Cookies have always occupied more than a nutritional place in my life. When I was five, I bribed a boy to walk me home by offering him cookies. An older boy was hounding me and I wanted protection. My mother found me elbow-deep in the cookie jar and I had to confess the goodies were my way of dealing with life’s problems. A pattern that has never changed.
By ten, I learned to bake and became my family’s official cookie maker. With seven sisters, I had lots of tasters who encouraged me to dabble in dough. This may partly explain the weight problem that has plagued me since I was 13 and stopped growing – upward at least.

haystack


As a teen, I recognized that perhaps if I stopped baking and eating cookies, I might shed enough weight so that my thighs wouldn’t create friction as I walked to school. But my plans to reform always had a parachute – usually a sweet, edible one. Somehow even on a diet, I convinced myself that if I could reward myself every day with a few light treats, this would keep me on track. I would know each morsel’s calorie count, so I purchased wafers with crisp, thin layers sandwiched between vanilla, chocolate or strawberry flavored icing. The first day my diet consisted of a boiled egg for breakfast, a grapefruit for lunch and skinless chicken and veggies for dinner.
But while doing homework in my room that evening, those wafers called out to me. “It’s OK,” I cooed to no one but me. “They’re only a few calories and I’ve been so good all day.” When half of the “diet” wafers were gone, I stuffed the remaining cookies into my sock drawer, only to awaken in the night and devour the rest of the bag.

In my twenties, I swapped out sugar for honey, thinking this would shine my halo. I baked softer cookies that may have been healthier but didn’t budge my pudge.

honey chip cookies


In the 1980’s science revealed that fat was our problem, not calories. If we ate fat, we got fat. That news propelled food manufacturers to crank out fat-free foods by the fistful. I embraced the new nutrition information with glee and hunted for cookies which promised to clean my arteries and undimple my thighs. I tried box after box of crater-like cookies, but my weight kept creeping upward.

black bean brownies

Wading into the waters of sugar-free cookies – the next big revolution – calories didn’t matter; sugar was the only evil. With the freedom of sugarless goodies, I thought I could indulge to my stomach’s content. I brought home bags of the wonder treats and ate to abandon. Signs of “intestinal distress” soon crashed on my dreams; my stomach swelled up like a baby Buddha and an unpleasant grey cloud lingered above me. I researched the chemicals contained in these noxious treats which confirmed what I didn’t want to admit: sugar- free was not for me.

My quest has brought me full circle. I’m now baking cookies “for my grandchildren.” At least this is what I tell myself. I add wheat germ, a little flax seed, and whole wheat pastry flour, to assuage my conscience. But I’m still on a quest for a sweet treat that I can call “healthy.”

Maddy and Liam tasting “Greenies”

Gluten free cookies have found their way into my repertoire – at least flourless. Flourless Peanut Butter-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookies Looking for treats to appease my son and friends who cannot eat gluten.

Peanut butter oatmeal chippers – flourless

But what about the daughter who abhors animal products? Cookies without eggs or butter?

Oatmeal banana bars – vegan

More experiments continue as the challenges of the modern diets evolve.

Chia Seed Chipper

“And always cookies in the cookie jar! Is there a happier symbol of a friendly house?”
(Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 1972)