Best Creamy Banana Pudding

Best Creamy Banana Pudding

1 cup milk*

1 ripe banana, sliced

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 egg yolk

Pinch salt

¾ tsp vanilla

Place milk and banana slices in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Remove saucepan from heat, cover and allow milk and bananas  to steep for a minimum of 4 hours of or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Return milk mixture to the stove and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Drain through a wire mesh strainer into a heat-proof bowl. Discard banana slices.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in the saucepan, then whisk in egg. Slowly add in milk, whisking constantly. Return to the stove and heat over medium low heat until steaming, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Turn heat up to medium and bring to simmer, stirring constantly.

Remove pan from heat, cover and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla and salt, then transfer pudding to individual bowls and cover tightly. Serve warm or chill in the refrigerator. Pudding will thicken as it cools.

Leftovers can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

*Evaporated can be substituted in this recipe

2 servings, 210 calories per serving



Quick and Easy Homemade Pancakes

Quick and Easy Homemade Pancakes

1 cup flour

2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp melted butter

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

Heat a large skillet or griddle on the stove over medium heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together vanilla, butter, milk and egg. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and whisk just until moistened. Do not over mix (a few lumps are fine).

Coat skillet with cooking spray and pour batter by ¼ cupfuls into the pan. Cook until the surface of the pancake has some bubbles that have just begun to pop (about 2 minutes). Flip pancake and cook until the other side is browned (1-2 minutes). Pancakes will quickly over brown so don’t leave them unattended!

Serve warm with syrup, jam, sugar or other desired toppings.

6 pancakes, 165 calories per pancake

Hack: Pancakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Allow to cool, lay on a baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes or until frozen. Transfer to freezer-safe bag or container and seal tightly. Reheat from frozen using oven, microwave or toaster.



What To Cook When You Don’t Have Time To Cook

We’ve all been there.  Heck, some of us are there every single day.  You had to work late.  You have to be somewhere early.  Your son has football practice and your daughter has soccer.  You got a flat tire on the way home.  Whatever it is, it’s left you with no time but guess what?  You still have to eat.  

It’s tempting to just hit the drive-thru or order delivery but you’re trying to eat healthy, right?  There are some healthy things you can do to eat healthy…even if you don’t have the time.  Here are a few ideas about what to cook when you don’t have time to cook. 

Grab It and Go

Sometimes the best strategy is to have some prepared foods on hand so you can just grab it and go, especially if you know you’re going to be short on time in the coming days.  

Leftovers.  Don’t toss the leftovers!  Break them down into serving-sized portions (even if it’s only one serving) and put them in the fridge or freezer for another time.

Make It Ahead of Time.  If you know you’re going to be rushed in the morning, overnight oats are a great breakfast that you can just take with you.  Breakfast cookies can be prepared in a short order of time and then stored in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick snack. Sometimes I bake this cauliflower casserole and package it into serving size pieces for easy meals during the week. 

Keep Healthy Snacks On Hand.  Nuts, dried fruit, baby carrots, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, whatever tickles your fancy. 

Quick and Easy Meal Ideas

Plan Ahead.  Naan dough is easy to throw together and it keeps in your fridge (ready to bake) for up to 3 days.  Throw on some topping to make a flatbread pizza or spread on some peanut butter, granola and honey.  

Dust Off Your Slow Cooker.  There’s nothing better than coming home to find that dinner is ready.  You can use a recipe like this pulled pork or do your own thing.  Throw in some meat and veggies (get the precut veggies from the produce department or use frozen to save time).  Add a little broth or some sauce, turn it on and walk away.  

Make It Quick.  Things like spinach feta pitas and this pasta dish are super easy and come together super fast!  Scramble some eggs with veggies and cheese for a light meal or whip up some scallops in less than 5 minutes.

Or Don’t Cook At All

Have A Sandwich.  What’s in your fridge?  A piece of leftover chicken or pork tenderloin?  Slice it thin and throw it on some bread.  Fry an egg.  Cream cheese and olives.  Or make this veggie wrap.

Always Have Peanut Butter On Hand.  Spread it on toast or crackers, with apple slices, slathered on a banana or eat it right off the spoon!

Salad Days.  There are many different kinds of lettuce available, already torn into bite-sized pieces and bagged up in the produce department, ready to go.  Pair it with some cherry tomatoes, leftover meat or hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and your favorite dressing.  Dinner is served!!

One-Pot Wonder

Soup To Warm The Soul. Chicken Ramon and Vegetarian Tortellini Soup both come together in less than 30 minutes.  Don’t have all the ingredients?  No worries!  Simply put some broth in a pot and throw in what you do have!  Frozen, fresh or leftover veggies, pasta or rice and some protein, if desired.  Simmer it up until everything is cooked to your liking.  

The Rice Cooker’s Got You Covered.  This is one of my favorite quick and easy meal hacks.  Measure the appropriate amounts of rice and water into the cooker.  Follow that with some ground meat/poultry or nuts/seeds and chopped veggies. Turn it on and dinner is already almost done.  If you want to jazz it up even more, use broth instead of water and toss in a dried Thai pepper.  

Hearty Meals, Quick Clean-up.  Thai curry is warm and comforting while bacon asparagus pasta is a real stick-to-your-ribs dish that comes together quickly. Making a stir-fry is another sure-fire dinner plan.  Simply heat a little oil in a saute pan, put any kind of protein and veggie in and cook until everything is done as you like it.  Stir in or serve it over some cooked pasta or rice. 

Think Outside The Box

Many people feel hemmed in about what sorts of foods are for which meals.  I’m here to tell you to stop it.  Seriously.  Stop. 

If it’s good for breakfast, it’s still good when it’s time for dinner.  This breakfast burrito is easy to make and easy to take with you.  Oatmeal is a healthy choice for any meal and clocks in at less than 15 minutes.

A healthy snack can make a fantastic light meal.  Hummus and sugar snap peas, apples with peanut butter, yogurt granola cup…you get the idea. 

Dinner for breakfast?  Why not?  Last night’s baked beans will be great over toast.  That leftover pork chop and roasted carrots will be delicious in some scrambled eggs or an omelet!  Use leftover asparagus to make this delicious breakfast treat!

You Have What It Takes

You don’t have to use any of the suggestions I have listed above but I do hope I’ve given you some food for thought.  You have what it takes to come up with healthy meals in a snap if you open your mind to different possibilities!  

What about you?  What quick fixes have you come up with for mealtime?  Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below!

All My Best, 

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Chicken Pesto Naan Pizza

Chicken Pesto Naan Pizza

2 tbsp butter

1 small onion, thinly sliced

¼ of one naan dough recipe (¼ lb)

⅓ cup scallion pesto

⅔ cup cooked chicken, cubed or shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (4 oz)

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a skillet over low heat.  Add onions and saute until golden, about one hour, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450℉.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with cornmeal.

Roll naan dough into a ball.  Lay on parchment paper, sprinkle with cornmeal and, using a rolling pin, roll the ball into an 8” circle.  Coat the rolling pin with cooking spray if the dough begins to stick.

Slide naan (still on parchment paper) onto a baking sheet or cooking stone.  Bake for 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.

Spread pesto over naan.  Top with chicken, onions and cheese.

Place pizza back in the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper to taste.

3 servings, 450 calories per serving

Hack:  Pizza can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months.


Orange Glazed Pork Chops


Orange Glazed Pork Chops

Marinade:

  • ⅓ cup orange juice
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 4 tsp brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic

3 pork chops (5oz each)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

¾ cup orange juice

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

¾ cup brown sugar

½ tsp salt

Mix marinade ingredients in a sealable bag or flat container. Add pork chops and allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning occasionally.

Before cooking, remove pork chops from the refrigerator. Remove from marinade, pat dry and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place pork chops in a skillet and allow to cook until the internal temperature reaches 140℉, turning once (4-8 minutes, depending on thickness). Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Mix orange juice, mustard, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add to pan and cook over medium-high heat until thickened, about two minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour orange glaze over pork chops and serve immediately.

3 servings, 600 calories per serving

Hack: Leftover orange juice can be frozen for up to 12 months. Pour orange juice into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer until solid. Transfer to freezer bags or freezer-safe containers for storage.



Unicorn Brownies

Unicorn Brownies

 

10 tablespoons butter, melted

½ cup dark chocolate chips

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

¼ cup powdered cocoa

½ tsp salt

1 cup sugar

¾ cup flour

2 cups unicorn (or white) chocolate chips, divided

 

Preheat oven to 350℉.  Line a 9”x9” square pan with parchment paper or prepare a brownie pan.

Place butter and dark chocolate chips into a microwave-safe container and microwave for 1 minute or until melted.  Stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, crack eggs and beat until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Stir in cocoa powder and salt.

Add chocolate mixture slowly, stirring constantly.  This will keep the warm chocolate from cooking the eggs!

Add sugar and flour, mix to combine.  Stir in 1 cup unicorn chips.

Put brownie mixture into the pan and smooth it to the edges.

Bake for 30 minutes for a square pan or 15 minutes for a brownie pan.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with remaining unicorn chips.  Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before removing them from the pan.

 

24 servings 158 calories per serving

Hack:  Brownies are best eaten within 2 days.  They can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

Supermarket Tricks of the Trade

So you’re going shopping.  You’ve worked out a food budget, made a meal plan and wrote up a shopping list.  You confidently go through the store, pick out the items you need and proceed to the checkout.  

As the cashier rings up your order, you become increasingly horrified as you watch the total go up and up…and up.  Sure, you picked up an extra thing or two.  Those cookies were on sale (a bargain, really).  The canned anchovies were a threefer…so you got 3.  Ok, six.  Because you’re sure you can come up with a great way to use them.  They don’t go bad, right?  And that cake on the clearance rack was too good of a deal to pass up.  Someone will eat it.

You leave the store wondering what went wrong.  Where did you lose control?  How could this possibly have happened?

Don’t beat yourself up.  It’s not your fault.  You’ve just been marketeered. 

Supermarket Tricks of the Trade

It’s a fact.  Supermarkets literally pay people to figure out how to get you to buy things you don’t need and never intended to purchase using money that should have gone towards the light bill.  Just like any other business, they are out to make as much profit as they possibly can.  

Sound devious?  Sure, but here’s the problem.  You still have to shop there.  You’re gonna need to eat. The only way to avoid the pitfalls is to learn how to spot these supermarket tricks of the trade so you can steer clear.

The More You Know

Celebrity endorsements. Food manufacturers will often court celebrities to endorse a certain product with the hope that, if you like that person, you’ll buy the product  Sometimes the celebrity simply endorses it, or sometimes it’s a line of products with their name on it  The one thing you need to remember is this:  Most endorsements are simply a way for celebrities to make a quick buck.  It doesn’t mean that they use those products and it’s more likely that they don’t.

Background music.  Music affects what or how much consumers buy.  Slower and nostalgic music is relaxing and tends to make people linger longer in the grocery store.  And the longer you linger, the more you buy.

Clearance Tags. The definition of clearance sale is, “A sale of goods at reduced prices to get rid of superfluous stock or because the shop is closing down” so check the actual discount before you fill up your basket.  You may be surprised to find the “clearance price” is often a very small percentage off the regular price.

10 for $10.  As luck would have it, these are usually shelf-stable products with a long life like canned tomatoes or tuna so why not save some $$$ and get 10, right?  But how much are you really saving? Often not much.  Sometimes nothing at all.  Take a minute and see how they cost at full price.

Samples.  That tiny sample is not going to fill you up…instead, it’s going to trigger your hunger response and actually make you buy more.  It’s the store’s way of making sure you go shopping while you’re hungry.

The Smell of Bread Baking.  For the same reasons as above.

All Staples to the Back, Please.  Notice that the last time you dashed into the store for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, you felt like you’d run a marathon by the time you got to the register?  Staples are routinely scattered about in the far corners of your favorite market.  That’s so you can walk by and be tempted by all those things you don’t need to get to the few things you do. 

And those lines!! When was the last time you left a store because the line was too long?  Probably never.  Stores walk a fine line between losing a customer and having you wait long enough to be tempted by all the impulse items they have laid out for you.  Magazines, gum, candy bars, tables full of cookies and cakes.  The longer you have to look at it, the more likely you are to buy it. 

Limit 3 Per Customer.  This has taken on more meaning during the Pandemic but it’s a tool that’s been used for a long time.  When you’re limited, it automatically makes you want more.  And if it does sell out?  You’re more likely to come back later to get the item you missed.  Oh, and you’re also likely to buy more groceries on that trip too. 

BOGO.  If this was on your list, by all means, take advantage.  But “Buy One, Get One” is intended to be a hook to get you to purchase something you hadn’t intended to buy and probably don’t need.

Buy One, Get One Half Off.  BOGOs less popular cousin is still a downfall for many.  Again, if you were going to buy two anyway, go for it but if not, steer clear.  Keep in mind that it’s only a 25% discount.  If that item was $4 then the second is $2, which means that you only saved $2.  This also means you just spent $2 (or $6) more than you intended to.  

Shopping carts at the Entrance.  And those carts get larger all the time so it‘s easy to throw that extra thing in.  And then another.  Before you know it you have to leave because you can’t fit anything else in there without crushing your eggs.  Next time you only need a thing or two, just grab a basket.  Better yet, leave the basket and then you’ll be limited by how much you can carry in your hands.

There’s a Reason That Stores Keep Getting Bigger.  Yes, they can carry more items but it’s also because people don’t like to be crowded.  It makes us uncomfortable.  We’re more relaxed and will stay longer if we feel that we are being given enough personal space.  

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!  Whatever time of year that is for you, it’s a period when people are in a good mood, often have time off and are looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Your favorite supermarket is here to help you celebrate with seasonally-themed foods, decorations and music in an effort to encourage you to overspend.

Eat Well and Spend Less

These are just a few of the supermarket tricks of the trade that entice you to spend more than you wanted to.  I hope it helps the next time you have to shop. Remember,  the more you know, the easier it is to eat well and spend less.  And if you do have buyer regret once you get home?  Just return the items for a credit or refund.   After all, the store is the one who fooled you into buying it in the first place.

What about you?  Has this opened your eyes to any strategies that have caused you to buy something you hadn’t intended to buy?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best, 

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Old Fashioned Apple Butter

Old Fashioned Apple Butter

20 Macintosh or Cortland apples

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 ½ tbsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla

Peel apples and cut chunks directly off the core and into a large saucepan.

Cover pan and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.  Add sugars, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Stir to combine.

Continue to cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and cook another 30-60 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.  To test consistency, place a small amount on a plate.  If no liquid separates from the apple butter, the correct consistency has been achieved.

Stir in vanilla.  

If desired, allow to cool for 30 minutes and then use a blender or stick blender to smooth apple butter.  

Serving size: 2 tbsp.  60 calories per serving

Hack:  Apple butter will last in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or can be frozen for up to a year.


Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

½ cup vegetable shortening

¾ cup creamy peanut butter

1¼ cups brown sugar

3 tbls milk

1 tbsp vanilla

1 egg

1¾ cups flour

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375℉.

Cream shortening, peanut butter and brown sugar until well combined and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla and egg. Mix just until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture and stir to combine.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Dip a fork in sugar and press lightly twice on one cookie, flattening it slightly to create a crisscross pattern. Repeat for each cookie.

Bake for 7-8 minutes until set and just beginning to brown on the edges. Do not over bake, as cookies will continue to cook on the hot cookie sheet after removing from the oven.

Allow cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Yield: 3 dozen, 100 calories per cookie

Hack: Store cookies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Hack: Cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the freezer until completely frozen. Remove to a sealable freezer bag and place in a freezer safe container. To thaw, remove the desired number of cookies from the bag and place on a paper towel lined plate. Allow to thaw completely before serving.



Milk and Cereal Bars

Milk and Cereal Bars
(Published by Pampered Chef)

2¼ cups Cheerios™

2 tbsp creamy peanut butter

¼ cup honey or agave nectar

½ cup freeze-dried strawberries

½ cup yogurt chips or white chocolate morsels

Combine the cereal and strawberries in a large mixing bowl.

Microwave the nut butter and honey in a small microwave-safe bowl on HIGH for about 1 minute, or until bubbling. Pour over the cereal mixture and mix well to combine.

Use the Large Scoop to transfer the mixture into wells of the Snack Bar Maker and press down with the Mini Nylon Serving Spatula. Chill the tray in the freezer for about 10 minutes, or in the refrigerator until the bars are set.

Heat the yogurt chips in a microwave-safe bowl until they’ve melted and drizzle over the bars.

Let the bars set in the refrigerator or on the counter.

Yield: 12 servings of bars

Nutrients per serving: U.S. nutrients per serving: Calories 110, Total Fat 3.5 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 50 mg, Carbohydrate 19 g, Fiber 2 g, Sugars 12 g, Protein 2 g