Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tricks for Your Treats...

Tricky Ingredients Make Healthy Treats

If you like peanut butter as much as I do, you're going to love these recipes! I came by my peanut butter addiction honestly. There's always a jar of peanut butter mixed with honey on the counter at home. In my mind, peanut butter falls under the 'kids meal' category, but my heart knows better. Peanut butter is a food mildly tolerated by kids and only sometimes enjoyed. My peanut butter palate didn't fully mature until I was also enjoying other more adult foods. Maybe that's because there was nothing smooth about peanut butter when I was growing up. It was a challenge to spread it without tearing the bread—but no more!

Good peanut butter has a satisfying depth of flavor, and there are so many delicious pairings. Remember your first Reese Cup? Chocolate and peanut butter: a memory worth savoring. And how about jelly? I've experimented with some interesting flavors, but grape jelly continues to be my first choice. Many love the peanut butter/honey combination. I can't deny that it does have its own special appeal. If you're really hungry, with only time for a bite, nothing is more lasting or satisfying than a big bite of peanut butter.

I first published this recipe in 2007 as a healthy lunch box choice for kids as they were going back to school. When I saw the cover of Cooking Light this month sporting banana bread with peanut butter, I decided to dig this out of my recipe archives and compare. By combining the two recipes, I was able to add some yogurt, remove some butter, losing a little fat, and produce some pretty darn good cupcakes. Truthfully, they're more like muffins, and don't need the frosting, but don't tell the kids.

The second recipe is a homemade health bar with lots of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, but if you don't tell, no one will know they're eating something that's really good for them.

So, take a little time and make healthy treats for the goblins this year.

Banana Cupcakes with PB & J

One and one-half to one and three-fourths cups mashed, very ripe bananas

Tip: if your bananas aren't very soft, cut them up and microwave for one minute on high. If you have a 'muddler' it's a good tool to use to mash your bananas.

2 large eggs

One-fourth cup vanilla yogurt

One-fourth cup creamy peanut butter

2 T canola oil

3 T melted butter

One-half cup white sugar

One-half cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Salt

One and one-half teaspoon baking soda

One and one-half cup plain flour


One-fourth cup creamy peanut butter

One-fourth cup grape jelly

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix bananas, eggs, yogurt peanut butter canola oil and melted butter until well blended. Add white and brown sugar and mix to thoroughly combine.

Stir the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together, and then mix it into banana mixture.

Swirl peanut butter and jelly together gently, without thoroughly combining.

Put cupcake liners into muffin tins.

Fill each liner about two-thirds full. When batter settles into liner, add a heaping teaspoon of the peanut butter/jelly mixture. Then cover with a little more batter, smoothing with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely before frosting.


4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 T butter, room temperature

1 heaping T grape jelly

One and one-half cup confectioners' sugar

Cream cheese, butter and jelly. Add confectioners' sugar a little at a time until all incorporated.

Store in refrigerator.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Tip: I used my nonstick wok to mix this, and it worked nicely. Also, you can substitute or add extra nuts and dried fruit as you desire.

One cup honey

One-half cup white sugar

One-half cup brown sugar

One and one-half cups smooth peanut butter

1 (15oz.) box of your favorite granola-like cereal (shouldn't be sweet)

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dried cherries

One and one-half cups 60% chocolate cacao chips

Preheat oven to 325°.

Heat honey, and both sugars in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring.

Remove from heat, add peanut butter, and stir until completely combined. Immediately add cereal, pecans and dried cherries and stir to combine.

Pour into parchment lined 9 x 13 inch pan, and spread evenly.

Pour chocolate chips evenly over top.

Place in oven just for a minute to let chocolate melt. Remove and smooth chocolate over top with an offset spatula.

Set aside and cool completely.

When cool, slice into bars and store in zip lock bags.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Weeknights Around the Table--Cubano Tenderloin

Cubano Tenderloin (or Pork Chop) and Black Bean and Sweet Corn Salsa with Lime Slaw
It's another weeknight-winner! In a little more than 30 minutes you can have this on the table, and your family enjoying a healthy meal. Planning is key. Begin with doable recipes and make a specific grocery list, noting the items you already have in your pantry. It really speeds things along if you have a time line, even if it's only a 30-40 minute one. I always check my recipes, and then make a list:
1)preheat oven and make sauce;
2)make ham/cheese/pickle packets;
3)slice tenderloin or chops, coat with seasoned flour and brown meat;
4)place ham packets into pockets, put in baking dish, drizzle with sauce and bake;
5)drain beans and corn;
6)slice tomatoes, chop cilantro and mix with beans, corn and sauce;
7)toss slaw with remaining sauce;
8)remove meat from oven, mix mustard with pan juices; and
One last tip: make 2 tenderloins and you'll have some outstanding sandwiches the next day!

Cubano Pork with Black Bean Corn Salsa and Lime Slaw

(4 servings)


One-half cup orange juice

Juice from two limes (or ~ one-half cup lime juice)

Zest from limes, optional

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Mix all sauce ingredients together and set aside.

1 pork tenderloin (~ l lb.) or 4-6 center cut chops

1/2 cup seasoned flour (salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, chili powder)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hot sauce

8 thin slices of deli ham

4 slices of swiss cheese, halved

8 thin pieces of dill pickle

2 tablespoons mustard

1 can black beans drained

1 can sweet corn drained

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 package (10oz.) angel hair cabbage

2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 400°

Make 8 slices into the tenderloin on a slight angle without slicing all the way through (or make pockets in chops).

Add olive oil to pan over medium high heat. Dredge meat in seasoned flour and sear on all sides.

Place one-half slice of cheese on each piece of deli ham. Fold in half, then fold again. Set aside.

Place seared meat into oven proof pan or casserole dish.

Put a ham and cheese packet and a piece of pickle between each slice of pork. Drizzle hot sauce mixed with 2 oz. of citrus sauce over top of meat, and place in oven for about 20 minutes, until desired doneness. When meat is done, pour pan drippings into a small bowl, add the mustard and whisk. Serve meat slices with mustard sauce.

While meat is cooking, mix beans, corn, tomatoes and cilantro together. Add half the remaining sauce (should be about one-fourth cup). Stir to combine and set aside.

Mix remaining sauce (another one-fourth cup) with the mayonnaise. Combine this dressing with the cabbage, and toss to combine.

Serve pork slices with bean salsa and slaw.

The leftovers make a fabulous sandwich—so good I made two tenderloins to assure the second meal!