Category Archives: Easy Cooking

Short ingredient list, things you usually have on hand, very little preparation.

Energy Balls


1 16 oz jar Almond Butter

2 oz Agave syrup

1/3 cup chopped dark Chocolate

1/2 Raisins

1 cup dry Oats (divided in half – or 1/2 cup oats and 1/2 cup sweetened coconut for rolling)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon

Combine everything except 1/2 cup oats and thoroughly mix. Form into balls and roll in 1/2 dry oats (or sweetened coconut), coating exterior. Keep in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to eat.


Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies


Start with buttery crackers already filled with peanut butter, small or regular size (Ritz Bits is my personal choice or make your own peanut butter sandwiched between crackers using your choice of crunchy or smooth peanut butter between two crackers).

Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate or white, your preference) slowly over a double boiler or in a microwave oven in a microwave safe measuring cup (some recipes suggest adding 2 teaspoons or tablespoons of oil to make it thinner but I used chocolate alone and it works). Dip each sandwich cookie one at a time and coat thoroughly with chocolate and remove with a fork or chocolate dipping tool. Place on a tray lined with wax paper and leave on the counter to set. If the weather is too warm for them to set up quickly, place in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Once firm they can be placed in airtight container with wax paper between layers until ready to eat.

Baked Penne with Spinach & Ricotta



I had pasta sauce in the jar left-over from a previous meal and about 1/2 a small container of ricotta cheese and fresh spinach so I put this together for a meal for two.


half box of whole grain penne pasta (boiled in salted water, slightly undercooked)

1/2 small container of ricotta cheese

dash of dried basil and oregano

dash of salt and pepper

1 egg, slightly beaten in a small bowl

1/2 jar pasta sauce of your choice

two handfuls of fresh baby spinach


While pasta is cooking prepare other ingredients. Do not pour pasta water down the drain, spoon pasta out with a strainer and set aside when it is done.

Spray one medium size baking dish (or two large ramekins) with vegetable oil.

In small bowl with egg, add ricotta, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir with fork to combine and set aside (you could add parmiggiano reggiano to it at this point if you like).

Drop two handfuls of fresh spinach into hot (almost boiling) pasta water and allow to blanch while you  add pasta sauce to cooked pasta and stir. Place half the pasta and sauce in bottom of baking dish. strain spinach and place on top of pasta with sauce. Then add the ricotta mixture. You can also add grated mozzarella cheese at this time or on top. Add the rest of the pasta covered in sauce and top with cheese of your choice (I added a little grated parmiggiano reggiano and a slice provolone).

Place ramekins on a baking sheet (or place larger baking dish directly on oven rack) and bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to rest slightly before serving. Quick yummy meal for two, perfect with a glass of red wine of your choice.

Italian Vegetable Soup, with ground turkey (adapted from Sunset All Time Favorite Recipes ‘Garden Fresh Vegetable Soup’)




4 slices center cut bacon, uncooked, diced

1/2 lb ground turkey (or hamburger) optional

3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil (if not using bacon)

1 large onion, chopped

2-4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

6 cups of prepared vegetables (such as diced or sliced celery, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, potatoes, peas, corn, zucchini, or yellow squash, etc)

2 quarts beef broth

1 can (15 oz. kidney beans) (I didn’t use these)

1/2 teaspoon each dry basil, dry oregano and dry rosemary leaves (I used smaller amount of dry and added fresh of each of these at the end)

1 can tomato sauce (I used half a small can of tomato paste instead, it was left from another recipe)

2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I used one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes in their own juice)

2/3 cup dry elbow macaroni (I used dry whole wheat angel hair pasta broken into small pieces)

2 cups shredded cabbage, chard or spinach (I used 2 large handfuls of large spinach leaves roughly chopped)

salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Cook minced bacon over medium/low heat to render fat, remove when crispy and set aside leaving fat in bottom of large soup pot.

Add ground turkey and break up as it begins to cook. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms and stir as they saute and begin to brown over medium/high heat. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to loosen browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add broth, dried herbs and reserved bacon and beans if using, and bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and pasta cook for another 10 minutes. Add cabbage or spinach and cook until wilted. Add fresh herbs (if using) and remove from heat. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan Cheese. Great with crusty french bread and red table wine.

Crater Cake (Banana Chocolate Chip)

This recipe came from my future Son-in-law’s family. The recipe was submitted in the Jr. High School cookbook by the mother of one of Ryker’s  schoolmates.
Preheat oven to 350

1 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 c sour cream
3 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c chocolate chips

Grease a 9×13 pan. Cream butter and sugar. Add beaten eggs, vanilla, and bananas. Mix. Then mix baking power, baking soda, and flour in a separate bowl then add to butter sugar combo gently then add sour cream. Blend well. Pour half the batter into the pan, sprinkle with half of combined brown sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate chips. Repeat. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check with toothpicks around the edges but the center will still be moist. As it cools the center will drop making the ‘crater’.


Black and Tan for St. Patrick’s Day Dinner


I make these Black and Tans every year to go with our St. Patrick’s Day Dinner (even though I have read they may not  be a true Irish thing). Usually it all kind of blends together instead of having distinct layers. But this year they turned out perfectly for some reason.

I started by chilling the glasses in the freezer. I used Stella Artois as the Lager (I learned it’s supposed to be Irish Ale like Bass Pale Ale for true Black and Tan) and poured that into the bottom of the glass. Then I slowly poured the stout (Guinness of course) over the back of a large spoon so that it gently hit the side of the glass before floating on top of the Lager. Beautiful, fun and tasty.

Corned Beef in Crock Pot


Corned Beef (beginning of cooking time in Crock Pot)






This is a pared down version of my St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, using the Crock Pot (Slow Cooker).

1 cup coarsely chopped onions (plus additional onions cut in wedges with stem intact so that they hold together, to eat with meal, up to 1/2 lb, optional)

1 cup coarsely chopped carrots (or washed and peeled baby carrots), (plus additional, up to 1/2 lb cut in larger pieces to be cooked at the end and served as vegetable, optional)

3-4 lbs Corned Beef Brisket (flat cut) with seasoning packet

1/2 cup Malt Vinegar

4 oz Irish Stout

1/2 Tablespoon whole Mustard Seeds

1/2 Tablespoon whole Coriander Seeds

1 teaspoon whole Black Peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole Dill Seed

1 teaspoon whole Allspice

1 large or 2 small whole dry Bay Leaves

1 1/2 lbs whole cabbage, cut at the last minute into serving size wedges, with the stem intact so that they hold together after cooking)

1 1/2 lbs small red potatoes, scrubbed, cut larger ones in half so that they are fairly uniform in size

Place chopped onions and chopped carrots in the bottom of the crock pot. Add brisket with all it’s liquid and seasoning packet. Add the vinegar, stout and spices with enough water to almost cover the meat (follow your crock pot instructions, do  not fill more than 3/4 full). Cover and set timer for 8-10 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

I don’t have room in my crock pot to add the additional vegetables so I’m going to cook them in a large sauce pan (covered with lid) with some of the juice from the crock pot and additional water, vinegar and stout the last hour of cooking time, adding the cabbage the last 20 min. or so.

With a slotted spoon scoop out vegetables onto warm serving dishes, cover with foil and place in warm oven. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, remove beef to cutting board. Cut off and discard fat. Slice meat across the grain (thinner if you plan to use in sandwiches later). Place on a serving tray deep enough to handle some of the liquid to keep it moist, wrap with foil and place in oven with veggies while the last minutes preparations are made. Serve with mustards and black and tans (stout and lager layered in a glass) or your favorite beer (we like Newcastle even if it is English instead of Irish:)

Best with Irish Soda Bread, see recipe here:

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Crock Pot version)


2 whole large chicken breasts (about 2 lbs), skinned and boned

1  14 1/2 oz can beef broth

1 qt chicken broth

1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes (with or without green chilis added)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh green pepper (bell pepper)

1  4 oz can diced green chilis

1 11 oz can of corn (or 1 1/2 cup frozen corn)

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

hot sauce to taste (Tabasco chipotle is our favorite..several shakes in recipe and more at the table will make it spicy)

Tortilla chips broken into bits or fresh corn tortillas cut into bite sized strips and fried crispy in oil while soup cooks

1 1/2 cups (or more) shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Mexican cheese blend

1 (or more) avocado diced (sprinkle with lime juice if cutting ahead of time so it doesn’t brown)

1 lime cut into wedges

1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro

sour cream (optional)

Pour broth, canned tomatoes, onion, and green peppers (both canned and fresh) into crock pot or large soup pot on stove (bring to boil if on stove, set on high with slow cooker).

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes and add to pot. Add chili powder, cumin and pepper (and tabasco if using) to pot. On stove cover and cook over med heat about 10 min. In slow cooker cook for two or three hours. Add corn and stir to mix. Simmer on stove or keep warm in crock pot until time to serve.

Meanwhile, cut and fry corn tortillas or crush tortilla chips, place in a serving bowl. Wash and chop cilantro, place in serving bowl. Slice limes and dice avocados, set on the table.

Ladle soup into bowls. Each person can add avocado, cheese, cilantro and a squeeze of lime before added crispy tortilla strips and hot sauce to taste. You can also add a dollop of sour cream if you desire. Enjoy.

(You can add black beans or other vegetables if you want a heartier soup)

Makes about 8 small servings or 4-6 larger servings.

Baked Eggs in Cream (Oeufs en Cocotte)


1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 eggs

1-1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Salt & freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream (aprox)

1/4 Comte` or Gruyere cheese, shredded (aprox)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (aprox)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Bring a teakettle filled with water to a boil.

2. Place four 3/4 cup (6 fl oz) ramekins or custard cups in a large, deep baking pan. Place a generous dab of butter in the bottom of each ramekin, and then break 2 eggs into each ramekin. Sprinkle the eggs evenly with the chives, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle evenly with the cream. Top each ramekin with a sprinkle of both cheeses.

(I didn’t have the right size ramekins so I put three eggs in a larger dish and one egg in a smaller one.)

3. Pour boiling water into the baking pan to reach about halfway up the sides of ramekins and cover the pan with a large baking sheet or aluminum foil. Bake the eggs until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft and runny, about 10 minutes. To test for doneness, softly touch an egg with your fingertip, or shake a ramekin gently. If the egg wobbles slightly, it is ready. If you prefer firmer eggs, bake them for 1-2 minutes longer.

4. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, then quickly and carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath, serve at once. Makes 4 servings. (I served with tomato slices and warmed baguette)

Note: I may have put more cream than I should have, which made it hard to tell when the eggs were done (next time I will touch the yoke to test instead of jiggling the dish). I overcooked them but the flavor was still amazing. Next time I will use the right size dish and cook the amount of time called for or only a min or two more.

From Williams-Sonoma Paris: Authentic Recipes Celebrating the Foods of the World.


Sand Tarts (Lenny’s Favorite Cookie)


1 cup butter

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups sifted cake flour

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of salt

Confectioners sugar

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar. Mix in flour, pecans, vanilla and salt. Roll into balls or shape into crescents. Place on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned. While cookies are still warm (but not hot), roll in additional confectioners’ sugar and finish cooling on wire racks

Food Editors’ Favorites, Desserts

Louis Mahoney, The Richmond News Leader, Richmond, VA