Sweet & Salty Banana Chips

We don’t usually have any problem going through a Costco sized bundle of bananas before they start turning all spotty, but occasionally there’s that rouge that hides or a son is gone and not eating his rations, and I find myself stuck with a couple spotted bananas that no one will even contemplate eating. Usually I will peel them and freeze them for baking, but this one time I went to put them in the freezer and realized I’d been doing that for oh, you know, a little bit and there were pleeeeeeeeeenty of the frozen fruits all ready in stock. What to do, what to do. I was in a pickle (or maybe stuck in a banana?). The hubs suggested banana chips. A sweet snack that’s easy on the hips, AND that all the sons love? We were in business.

These do bake  for a while, but the long baking time is necessary, because at this temperature the oven will act more as a dehydrator than an oven. Plus, you will love the sweet banana and cinnamon aroma that will fill your house! Baking times will vary some depending on how thick you slice your bananas and how crispy you prefer your banana chips to be. Some people don’t like the additions of salt. I don’t like cinnamon. And all that’s ok. Even plain, with no toppings whatsoever they’re still great. Also they’re diet and diabetic friendly 🙂

Sweet & Salty Banana Chips

 4 Sons 'R' Us: Banana Chips

bananas
lemon juice
water
cinnamon
kosher salt

Directions

1. Slice bananas thinly (1/8″), and then brush with the lemon juice mixed with just a little water. Sprinkle with cinnamon and kosher salt.
2. Bake at 250 degrees for about 90 minutes, then turn the slices, and continuing to bake another 30 minutes.
3. Let cool (the longer they cool the crispier they become) before eating.

Greek Spinach Feta Chicken Pockets

These little greek pastries are seriously to die for. No, really. They’re that good! I hadn’t even finished eating yet, but I still had half a pastry left, and the sons were already squabbling over who had called dibs first. Any meal that has the sons arguing over who deserves another helping of any leafy green is a win in my book.

These bring back a classic combinations, chock full of spinach and yes, two kinds of cheese- feta and mozzarella.  The feta adds a bit of saltiness, which means you don’t have to add any additional salt in making the recipe, and the melted mozzarella helps bind everything together nicely. The puff pastry, especially after the egg wash, bakes in  perfect toasty, crusty complement to it’s filling.  Of course, these are two of the best characteristics of baking with cheeses and with pastry – the salty addition and the toasty exterior.

Get your Greek on tonight with one of these bad boys.

Greek Spinach Feta Chicken Pockets

 Greek Spinach Feta Chicken Pockets

recipe adapted from Chef In Training

1 sheet Puff Pastry, thawed
2 oz. cream cheese softened
3/4 cup frozen spinach thawed and well drained
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken
2 green onions chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg + 2 tsp water, well beaten

Greek Spinach Feta Chicken Pockets 2

Look at all that melty, cheesy goodness!

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Carefully unfold (you don’t want it to tear) the sheet of puff pastry out onto a lightly floured surface.
3. Spread the softened cream cheese evenly over the pastry sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch of space along the pastry sheet’s edges.
4. Spread the thawed & drained spinach evenly over 1/2 of the puff pastry sheet (width wise), again leaving about a 1/2 inch of space along all the edges.
5. Next, spread the chicken and green onions evenly over the spinach, still saving a 1/2 inch space around the edges.
6. Finally, sprinkle the feta and mozzarella cheeses evenly over top of the chicken, still leaving a 1/2 inch space around edges.
7. Carefully fold over the half of the puff pastry that doesn’t have anything on it. Rub the edges with a little bit of water on your finger and press them together to seal them up nice and tight . Brush the outside with the egg wash.
8. Place the puff pastry ‘pocket’ on a greased cookie sheet, or one with a silicon baking mat, and bake for 15-20 minute or until the outside is a nice and crisp golden brown.
9. Cut into slices and enjoy!

 

Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

Lentils are such an understated legume. They’re cheap, tasty, and (don’t tell the kids) healthy! Previously, my favorite way to use them had been in a delicious, good-for-you soup. Buuut, a cheesy, skinny casserole?! Move on over soup, Mama’s got a new favorite in town.

Busy day, busy afternoon/evening? This casserole will come to your rescue! Casseroles are great like that, and this one’s no exception.

This recipe delivers a true Santa Fe-style experience straight to your taste buds with lots of cumin, a nice cayenne ‘kick’, and plenty of cilantro. That, combined with the lentils (which we can’t forget were cooked in, not water, but chicken broth!), tender pieces of chicken, and the perfect amount of melted cheese, you’ve got yourself an award winning combination. I promise!

Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

recipe adapted from ifoodreal

Lentils
1 + 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed & drained
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1/8 tsp salt

Chicken
2 lbs boneless & skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Cooking spray

Vegetables
1 large onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, crushed or 5 tsp minced garlic
2 large bell peppers, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix-Ins
14 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups corn, frozen & unthawed
2 cups  Tex Mex or Colby Jacks cheese, shredded & divided
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cup cilantro, chopped & divided, or 2 tbsp dried

4 Sons 'R' Us: Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole 2

Look at all those pretty little lentils. Can’t you just hear them calling to you. Eat meeeeeee….

Directions

1. In a medium pot, combine lentils, chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil on high, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Do not drain excess liquid. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat large skillet on high and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and draining any liquid if necessary. Add cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Return skillet to medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper and cook for 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
4. Transfer to the bowl with chicken along with cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, corn, 1 cup cheese, garlic powder, cumin and 1/2 cup cilantro (or 1 tbsp dried cilantro). Mix gently with spatula enough to combine. You may want to taste and adjust the spiciness/salt of the dish with extra cayenne/cumin or salt.
5. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish and press gently with spatula to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 50 mins. Remove casserole from the oven, cover with foil and let stand for half an hour before serving. Garnish with remaining cilantro, cut into 8 slices and serve hot.

*Healthy* Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Chocolate is a central part of my husband’s diet, a cornerstone to his livelihood. If there is chocolate nearby, he must have it. And it is one of the few things he finds really difficult to share (along with french fries and deodorant). But really. I always worry because he has no fuel gauge when it comes to the sugary sweet stuff. He would happily (and unknowingly) chocolate his way into a diabetic coma. This little recipe has become a staple. All the same great flavors he’s craving without all the calories and guilt?! Ok, well, it’s healthyish! It’s not an apple or a head of broccoli or anything, but the ingredients in this fudge are healthy. You shouldn’t eat a whole batch of it if you’re counting calories, but you’re better off eating a serving size of this fudge than a serving size of traditional fudge. Then again, what’s a serving size when it comes to chocolate? Your guess is as good as mine.

*Healthy* Chocolate Peanut ButterFudge

4 Sons 'R' Us: Healthy Chocolate Fudge

recipe originally from Creating Naturally

1/2 cup coconut oil (slightly melted, but not hot)
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup mild raw honey
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Prepare a muffin pan with 10 muffin liners.
2. Put all ingredients in the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse a few times until everything is smooth and nicely combined.  (It will be very liquid-y.)  Don’t over-mix.
3. Pour the liquid fudge into the prepared muffin liners dividing evenly between the ten of them.  There will be about a half inch of fudge in each muffin liner.
4. Place the muffin pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the fudge has hardened. (Sometimes I use the freezer and it only takes about 10 minutes)
Remove the muffin liners from the pan and enjoy your delicious, healthy fudge!  Store in the refrigerator.

Maple-Thyme Roasted Carrots

Maple. Syrup. Ahh, luscious maple syrup. It has a rich, earthy caramel smell with woodsy hints of vanilla. One sniff, one taste, and I am sitting in a cozy log cabin in the snow-covered woods. Inside, the fire crackles and I take lazy sips of hot tea, snugly in soft slippers while fluffy pancakes sizzle on a hot grill in the kitchen, and a tall pitcher of maple syrup waits on the table.

I learned a long time ago that my love affair with maple syrup isn’t just limited to fresh pancakes, it’s so much bigger than that. Maple syrup can seriously make so many things that much better. For instance… carrots. These carrots, with the help of a little time thyme, some syrup, and a little love become the perfect side to complement any Winter meal.

Maple-Thyme Roasted Carrots

4 Sons 'R' Us: Maple & Thyme Roasted Carrots

recipe originally from Life Currents

 6-8 large carrots, scrubbed and peeled
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
a generous pinch of salt
2 tbsp maple syrup

Directions

1. Depending on the size of your carrots, cut them in half lengthwise, and possibly in half or thirds width-wise. You want your carrot pieces to be roughly uniform in size so they all cook at about the same rate.
2. Heat oil in a heavy, oven proof skillet. Either cast-iron or a dutch oven should work well.
3. Once the oil is nice and hot add carrots, sauteing for 4-6 minutes until they begin to brown.
4. Don’t over-stir. The longer they’re touching the bottom of the skillet, the quicker they will brown.
5. Sprinkle with thyme and salt.
6. Pour maple syrup over the top and give the carrots a quick stir.
7. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and roast for 8-9 minutes.
8. Serve.

Healthy Ham & Lentil Soup

I love my Christmas ham. I truly do. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas dinner without it. Even more than a good ham, I love all the leftovers! Typically I dice them up and bag them in meal-sized portions and stock my freezer with them. Even the fat and bone gets saved for flavoring beans and the like. This healthy ham and lentil soup is one of my favorite recipes to use leftover ham in. Hearty and heart-healthy, it’s a perfect after the holidays meal. Once you’re done chopping, walk away while it simmers and relax as the flavors slowly combine. Are you sticking with yoga pants after indulging just a little too much in the past week? Lentils are low in fat, but high in protein and fiber. A perfect way to fill up and fuel up without worrying. Take a deep breath, enjoy a warm bowl of soup, and smile. You’ve made it through another chaotic holiday intact.

Healthy Ham & Lentil Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ham & Lentil Soup

recipe originally from Closet Cooking

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion,chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups ham broth, chicken broth or chicken stock
1 cup lentils
2 cups ham, diced
1 ham bone (optional)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
pepper to taste
1 bunch spinach, rinsed, trimmed and roughly chopped

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan.
2. Add the onions, carrot and celery and saute until tender, about 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, a few minutes.
4. Add the stock, lentils, ham, ham bone, oregano, bay leaf and thyme and simmer, covered on low heat for an hour.
Remove from heat and stir in the spinach.

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

Grilling season, yes it IS a season, is my favorite time of the year. For those precious few months, I get to sit back at dinner time and take a break from cooking the family meal. Instead, my loving husband gets to slave away over the grill. It’s wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I’ve never bothered to learn how to operate the grill myself. I’m sure I could figure it out, but that might prove self-destructive to my seasonal dinner breaks. This recipe is incredibly simple, but the marinade gives the chicken an out-of-this-world flavor. The sun is shining, so pull out some chicken breasts, fire up that grill, and give these kabobs a try!

Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs

  • 5-6  bonesless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 sweet bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions

  1.  In a large bowl, add oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper. Stir to combine evenly.
  2. Add chicken to the bowl. Make sure all chicken is submerged in the marinade.
  3. Let marinade in the refrigerator at least two hours. Keep in mind the longer it marinates the better.
  4. Preheat your grill to high heat.
  5. Drain the chicken and discard the marinade.
  6. Thread the chicken and the vegetables alternately onto the skewers.
  7. Lightly oil the grill grate.
  8. Place skewers onto the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.
  9. Remove from the grill and serve on the skewers or off.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Honey Chicken Kabobs