Tasty Treats and Tips


     I collect recipes.  I have TONS of recipes that I've pulled out of magazines (yes - I'm the one that pulled that page from the magazine you were trying to read at the dr's office!), or off the internet.  And I have LOTS and LOTS of cookbooks.  I love to look through them on a dreary, drizzly or snowy day while I'm sitting in my favorite chair with a hot cup of coffee or mint tea, looking for ways to warm up our house and make it smell and feel cozy.  On the other hand,  you might also find me on a bright summer morning looking for something light and not too complicated to serve for dinner on our deck, while we enjoy a nice breeze and the beautiful view we have.  I LOVE family dinners on our deck in the summer!  Food is a great way to connect with people, inspire conversation, and show you care!

     You can scroll down to find some of my favorite recipes here each month - family-friendly, and (usually) healthy!  You'll also find at least one apple recipe each month.  I'm obsessed with apples.  Maybe because I'm allergic to them and can't eat them unless they're cooked.  They're also my favorite color - red.  Maybe, also, because they go so well with cinnamon, which is my favorite spice! Anyway, I have lots of apple recipes to share!

     Feel free to let me know if you enjoy my recipes, or email me your favorite recipes at http://llyons@laurenscs.org !


"All great change in America begins at the dinner table. " Ronald Reagan




With the meat issues due to Covid-19 still in the news, I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite seafood meals.  The last I checked, the issues with the meat plants and distribution was not affecting our seafood supply.  The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise us to eat at least 8 oz. or more of seafood per week, and at least 250 mg per day of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with brain health and help reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease, they are good for your cell membranes and  help to control blood clots.  They're also linked to a reduction in Alzheimers, and so many other things.  One of the recipes I'm going to share with you has salmon as one of the ingredients, which is a good source of Omega-3's.  I've made both of these recipes is the last week.  Both of these recipes are also sheet-pan recipes.  They take less time to prepare and pretty much contain your whole meal!

The Sheet-Pan Salmon recipe (which I got from a Hannaford Fresh magazine issue) calls for smoked paprika.  If you've never used it, you should really try it!  It gives the recipe almost a mesquite / barbeque flavor.  If you don't have it, you can use regular paprika, but I would try to get the smoked if you can.  It's in the spices area of the supermarket   I usually buy frozen salmon fillets when they're on sale at the supermarket, sometimes you can get them on a Buy 1 / Get 1 Free sale.  When that happens, I'll get a few and keep them in my freezer for quick dinners like this one.  The recipe also calls for green beans, but I have substituted asparagus and that works great, too.  Shallots, another ingredient, are a milder version of onions.  They're smaller and give a subtler flavor.  I almost always have shallots on hand now, since I come across so many recipes that use them.  The last ingredient you may question are the capers.  You can buy them in small jars.  They give a little bit of a tangy flavor.  

The Peppered Shrimp recipe is slightly sweet.  I buy the shrimp the same way I buy my salmon - when the supermarket has a coupon or a Buy 1 / Get 1 Free sale, then I buy bags and put them in my freezer.  This recipe is delicious served with rice pilaf (I buy the box mix) to soak up some of the sauce (we are a sauce family - I usually double the sauce for any recipe I make!).  I think this recipe came out of an Eating Well magazine.  Enjoy!

Sheet-Pan Salmon and Vegetables with Smoky Caper Vinaigrette - Serves 4

  • 1 lb. fingerling potatoes halved lengthwise (I haven't been able to find fingerlings in the supermarket in a while.  I just substitute russets, or whatever I have on hand, and 8th them lengthwise)
  • 6 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 TBSP capers, rinsed and chopped coarse
  • 1 TBSP minced shallot
  • 4 (6-oz) skinless salmon fillets
  • 12-oz. green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 C. slivered almonds (optional)
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley leaves (optional)

1.  Place a rack in the uppermost part of the oven and heat to 425º.  Toss potatoes with 1 TBSP olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until slightly browned but not cooked all the way through, about 12-15 minutes.  

2.  Meanwhile, to make the vinaigrette, combine vinegar, honey, paprika, mustard, and garlic in a blender and purée until smooth.  With blender running, slowly pour in 1/4 C. oil until thickened.  Stir in capers and shallot, then transfer half of the vinaigrette to a small bowl and set aside.

3.  Nestle salmon fillets on top of potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and brush with remaining vinaigrette.  Toss green beans and almonds (if using) with remaining TBSP oil, season with salt and pepper, and arrange around salmon.

4.  Return pan to oven and roast until salmon flakes easily with a fork and centers are slightly translucent, 10-12 minutes.  Drizzle reserved vinaigrette over vegetables and fish, garnish with parsley (if using) and serve.


Peppered Shrimp and Green Bean Salad - Serves  4

  • 12 oz. fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise (quartered, if large)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 lb. fresh green beans
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozed peeled and deveined medium shrimp, thawed
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. thinly sliced shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP sherry vinegar
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 TBSP snipped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 TBSP toasted pine nuts

1.  Preheat oven to 400º.  LIne a large shallow baking pan with nonstick foil.  In a large bowl toss potatoes with 1 TBSP of the oil.  Spread potatoes in the prepared pan.  Roast 10 minutes. 

2.  In the same large bowl, toss green beans with the remaining 1 TBSP oil.  Add green beans to potatoes in pan.  Roast 15 minutes more or until vegetables are tender.

3.  Meanwhile, rinse shrimp; pat dry.  In a large skillet heat the 1 tsp. oil over medium heat.  Add shallots and garlic; cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until shallots are tender.  Add shrimp and the next 4 ingredients (through salt).  Cook and stir 1-2 minutes more or until shrimp is opaque.  

4.  Combine roasted vegetables and shrimp mixture.  Sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts.  



I thought with meat packing plants recently shutting down and talk of a meat shortage in the news that I would find some of my favorite meatless recipes to share with you.  According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, a 2,000 calorie diet only needs 5 1/2 oz. of protein per day.  That's really not a lot!  The Dietary Guidelines also recommends reducing the amount of protein we get from meat, so other sources could be beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, and eggs.  Limiting the meat in our diets helps to reduce the amount of saturated fat we're consuming, which is another recommendation.  So, overall, adding a few meatless meals per week is not a bad idea for our health.  It's also easier on the pocketbook, as beans are typically cheaper than meat.

I have no idea where I got the first recipe.  I initially tried it because I was so intrigued by the flavor combinations listed in the ingredients.  Guess what - it's delicious!  This is one of my favorite meals and is super easy and fast.  A bonus is my kids love it, too!  I usually double the recipe so I can have some for lunch the next day.

Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Black Beans and Spinach - Serves 4

  • 4 lg. sweet potatoes
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 lg. lime, cut into wedges
  • 6 oz. nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • scallions

1. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high, turning over halfway through, until just tender, 16-18 minutes.

2. Ten minutes before the potatoes are finished, heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the beans, cumin, cayenne, and 2 TBSP water, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, tossing, until the beans are heated through, about 2 minutes.  Add the spinach, season with 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, tossing until beginning to wilt, 1-2 minutes; remove from heat.

3. Split the potatoes and season with 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.  Squeeze a lime wedge over each potato, then top with the bean mixture.  Serve with a dollop of yogurt, sliced scallions, and extra lime wedges, if desired.


This next recipe is one that my kids request often.  I serve it with Spanish Rice (I just buy the kind you cook from the package) and some fruit like grapes, cantaloupe, or sliced pineapple.  I like shredded or sliced lettuce on my enchiladas, so I'll put some of that on the table, too, and pile it on my serving!  If you like mushrooms, add a can of drained, sliced mushrooms to the spinach.  

Spinach Enchiladas - Serves 5

  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 C. sliced green onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (10-oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1 C. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 C. sour cream
  • 2 C. shredded monterey Jack cheese
  • 10 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • 1 (19 oz) can enchilada sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 375º F.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion; cook for a few minutes until fragrant, but not brown.  Stir in spinach, and cook for about 5 more minutes.  Remove from the heat, and mix in ricotta cheese, sour cream, and 1 C. of Montery Jack cheese.

3. In a skillet over medium heat, warm tortillas one at a time until flexible, about 15 seconds.  Spoon about 1/4 C. of the spinach mixture onto the center of each tortilla.  Roll up, and place seam side down in a 9x13 baking dish.  Pour enchilada sauce over the top, and sprinkle with the remaining cup of Monterey Jack.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is lightly browned at the edges.


I just recently found this next recipe, since we've been "social distancing" and trying to use up things from my pantry so I didnt' have to go to the store as often.  It's a Weight Watchers recipe and is worth 6 points if that matters to you!  My whole family loved it and went back for seconds!  It was so easy, and relatively fast for a slow-cooker meal.  I served it with a green salad and corn muffins.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice - Serves 4 (1 C. per serving) 

  • Cooking Spray (garlic-flavored if you have it)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 /2 C. uncooked white rice, converted-variety recommended
  • 1 1/2 C. fat-free chicken broth
  • 14 1/2 oz. canned tomato puree, roasted variety
  • 15 oz. canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 2 TBSP canned chipotle sauce (you can substitute tomato sauce and a dash of chile powder, if you prefer.  I did, and it was fine.)
  • 1/2 tsp. orgegano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 TBSP chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1 TBSP chopped (green part only) uncooked scallion

1. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic to skillet and sauté until slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place rice, broth, tomato puree, beans, bacon, chipotle sauce, oregano, salt and pepper in a 3-4 quart slow cooker; add sauteéd vegetables.  Cover and cook on low setting for       3 1/2 hours; stir in cilantro and scallion just before serving.  





The recipes I have this week are ones that I use year long.  In the summer, I make the Slow-Cooker Barbecue Chicken so I don't have to turn the oven on.  Sometimes in the winter - usually in January or February, when we're sick of stews, soups, and casseroles and wishing it was summer - I'll have "Barbecue Night"   and make this recipe (printed in an old issue of First magazine) with some other barbecue foods.  To make it easy on yourself, grab some cole slaw mix from the supermarket and a can of Grandma Brown's Baked Beans.   The Yummi-licious Sweet Potatoes (from the Price Chopper website) I've been making for my kids since they were little, and I think it goes perfectly with the Slow-Cooker Barbecue Chicken.  It's sweet without having to add sugar.  The Strawberry Shortcake recipe (sally'sbakingaddiction.com) I've just recently found, thanks to the Corona Virus!  I've been trying to use up food from my freezer so I don't have to go to the supermarket as often.  I found some strawberries from last summer and thought Strawberry Shortcake would be a good way to use them.  I usually use the Bisquick Shortcake recipe, but all of the supermarkets were out of Bisquick - for weeks!  So I found this recipe to use the ingredients I already have at home - and I think it's going to be my go-to dessert bisuit recipe from now on!  My kids loved the biscuits so much they ate the leftovers toasted with butter.  Strawberry Shortcake is a perfect way to end a barbecue meal!  Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Barbecue Chicken - Serves 8

  • 24 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 C. barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 C. reduced-fat Italian dressing
  • 2 TBSP packed brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 TBSP low-sodium chicken broth

1.  Put chicken in slow-cooker.  In a bowl, combine barbecue sauce, dressing, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. 

2.  Remove chicken to a cutting board and shred with 2 forks.  In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and chicken broth.  Stir into sauce in slow-cooker.  Cover and cook until sauce is thickened and heated through, 5 to 10 minutes.  Return chicken to cooker, stir, and cover and continue cooking on low for 45 minutes.  Serve chicken on whole-grain buns, over brown rice or with baked potatoes.  


Yummy-licious Sweet Potatoes - Serves 4

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • cooking spray
  • 2 TBSP light olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 375°.  

2.  Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes.  Place the sliced potatoes into a large ziplock baggie.

3.  Pour the olive oil into the bag and reseal.  Squish the olive oil around until the potatoes are fully covered.

4.  Sprinkle the cinnamon into the bag and reseal.  Squish around the cinnamon until the potatoes are fully covered.

5.  Lay the sweet potatoes flat on a non-stick baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.   Sprinkle a light layer of salt over the potatoes.

6.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.  Serve warm.


Easy Homemade Strawberry Shortcake - Serves 10-12

Strawberries & Whipped Cream

  • 6-7 C. quartered strawberries
  • 1/4 C + 2 TBSP granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 C. heavy cream


  • 3 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C. unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 C. buttermilk (If you don't have buttermilk, use 1 C. regular milk and TBSP vinegar)
  • 2 TBSP heavy cream (or buttermilk)
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling

1.  Start with the strawberries:  Stir the strawberries and 1/4 C. sugar together in a large bowl.  Cover and sest in the refrigerator until ready to use.  This time allows the strawberries to release their delicious juices.

2.  Make the biscuits:  Preheat oven to 425°.  Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl or in a large food processor.  Whisk or pulse until combined.  Add the cubed butter and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or by pulsing several times in the processor.  Pulse until coarse crumbs form.  If you used a food processor, pour the mixture into a large bowl.

3.  Pour buttermilk on top.  Stir everything together until just about combined - do not overwork the dough.  The dough will look like shreds and be very crumbly.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently mold it together in a ball using your hands.  Gently flatten until it is evenly 1/2 thick.  Cut into 3-inch circles.  Re-roll any scraps until you have about 12 biscuits.  

4.  Arrange in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or close together on a lined baking sheet.  (Make sure they're touching).

5.  Brush the tops with 2 TBSP heavy cream (or buttermilk) and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown on top.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before assembling.  

6.  Make the whipped cream:  Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, 2 TBSP sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until soft-medium peaks form, about 3 minutes.  

* My personal preference is to use confectioner's sugar instead of granulated sugar in whipped cream - I think it whips up easier, has a better consistency, and tastes better!



If your family is anything like mine right now, we're all looking for some comfort food, between the weather (more snow!!!) and having our world turned upside down by Covid-19.  I'm sharing three comfort-food recipes that my family loves: Pasta Fagioli, Double-Decker Cheese Sandwiches, and my Chocolate Chip Cookies.  The Pasta Fagioli recipe came from Gino's Italian Restaurante and Pizzaria, which was a restaurant we used to go to in Sharon Springs.  (I think the restaurant has since moved to Canajoharie.) The cheese sandwich recipe came from the wonderful "Taste of Home" magazine.  And the chocolate chip cookie recipe actually came off from the back of a package of generic chocolate chips.  I tweaked it a little so it was more to our liking.  Enjoy!

          Pasta Fagioli 

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • A few cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 15-oz. cans stewed tomatoes, undrained (I use diced, Italian-style)
  • 3 C. chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 15-oz. can white beans (cannellini or great northern)
  • 1/4 C. chopped flat-leaf parsley, fresh (I use dried parsley and it tastes fine!)
  • Fresh basil, or 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
  • Black pepper
  • 4 oz. small pasta (ditalini, shells, etc)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; saute' onions and garlic for a few minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, broth, beans, parsley, and basil leaves (if using dried).  Add a few shakes or grinds of pepper, to taste.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.  Uncover and add pasta; simmer until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.  If using fresh basil, add it a few minutes before serving.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Double-Decker Cheese Melt - Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 C (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 C. butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp. onion salt
  • 6 slices bread
  • Paprika, optional

In a food processor, blend cheese and butter.  Add the egg, garlic salt and onion salt.  Process for 1 minute or until creamy.  Spread 2 TBSP on each slice of bread.  Stack 2 slices of bread, cheese side up, for each sandwich.  Sprinkle with paprika if desired.  Cut each sandwich in half diagonally.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 400º for 12-15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Makes 6 dozen

  • 1 C. shortening, margarine, or butter (I usually use butter)
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 2/3 C. unsifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 - 12 oz. pkg (2 C) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375º.  Cream together shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda and stir into creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.  (1 C. chopped walnuts and 1 C. shredded coconut may be added if desired).  Drop from a teaspoon 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10 minutes.  (Or spread dough in ungreased 9x13 pan.  Bake for 15-25 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool completely.  Cut intobars.) 



September is such a busy time for families.  School and after-school activities are starting, and families are trying to get used to a new schedule again after the more relaxed, up-late-sleeping-in days of summer.  One of the easiest meals I make for our family is Chicken Tacos.  I also have a great Black Bean Taco Filling recipe for those who don't eat meat.  Sometimes I make both!  Leftovers are great for toppings on nachos, or fillings for fajitas or quesadillas!

Chicken Tacos 

  • 2-3 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (How many depends on how many people you're feeding.  I use 2-3 for our family of 5, knowing I'll have some left over for the kids to make nachos later)
  • Large jar of salsa - mild, medium, or hot, whatever your family prefers

Put the chicken breasts in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Dump the jar of salsa over them.  That's it! The chicken doesn't even need to be fully defrosted.   Start this in the morning before school / work.  Let them cook on low all day, 8 hours or so.   When it's time to eat, shred the chicken breasts with 2 forks.  They will literally fall apart!   Mix together with the salsa in the pot.   Serve on soft or hard tacos, use pre-shredded cheese and shredded lettuce, chopped avacados,  and sour cream and more salsa if you like!  I serve it with Spanish Rice (yes - I use the fast mix!) and tortilla chips.  You'll have this on the table in less than 1/2 hour after getting home!  

*If you forget to put the chicken in the crock-pot, no worries!  Boil, or poach, your chicken breasts in some water in a saucepan on the stove.  When done, drain the water, shred the chicken, add some salsa, stir, and heat.  Still on the table in about 1/2 an hour!

*I generally serve Mexican food with some kind of fruit.  For me, it balances out the spicy flavors.  We like grapes or melon with Mexican food.  Just wash, slice, or whatever, and serve as a side!

Black Bean Taco Filling - Serves 4

  • 1/2  medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

In a non-stick skillet, saute' onion and garlic in oil until tender.  Stir in the beans, tomatoes, chilies and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer uncovered, for 3-5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.  Enjoy!

Applesauce Muffins - Yield: About 1 1/2 dozen

These would be great for a quick breakfast!  Make some and put them in the freezer, then pop in the microwave before heading out the door:

  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C butter or margerine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C applesauce

In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Combine dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture alternately with applesauce.  Mix just until combined.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

I add chopped apples to this recipe sometimes and it's delicious!

*Easy way to fill muffin cups: Use an ice cream scooper - the kind with the thing that pushes the ice cream out when you squeeze it!