Simple Vinaigrette

Once you start making your own salad dressings and marinades, you’ll never want to go back to the store-bought bottled stuff!  At least that is how it is for me.  I’ve been making my own dressings for years and love it.  It’s so easy that anyone can do it!

Start by choosing the type of vinegar that you want to use.  My pantry and fridge usually has a nice variety of vinegars just waiting to be used!

Distilled vinegar – no specific flavor, just the regular vinegar without any pop to it

Raspberry red wine vinegar – pleasant fruity vinegar

Apple Cider vinegar – rich, sweet flavor to the vinegar, mild fruity flavor

Balsamic Vinegar – very strong, bold taste


To make it easy on yourself, purchase one of those salad dressing cruets at your local market.  They sit on the shelf by the powdered dressing mixes in the condiment aisle at your grocery store.  On the side of the glass are raised markings showing you just how much vinegar or citrus juice, water and oil to put in your dressing.  Once you get really good at it, you won’t need the markings and can just whip up a dressing in a bowl.  I now use these to store my dressings when I make more than I need for just one salad.

This particular vinaigrette will be paired with a quinoa summer salad.  Keep in mind these measurements are all approximate as I don’t measure exactly.

Cyn’s Vinaigrette


1-1/2 tsp. minced onion

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. minced garlic or garlic powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

big pinch dried parsley


about 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

about 3-4 tbsp water

about 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil or your oil of choice

Whisk all together in a dish until well blended or place in a cruet and shake well.  Pour over salad greens and toss.



Vegetable Tian

What is tian, you ask?  During the summer there are plentiful tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and many other summer foods in abundance.  Provencal cooking celebrates the traditions of France’s countryside.  And a tian is a layered baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence.  Unlike a gratin, a tian does not include bread crumbs or cheese, which allows the juices of the vegetables to evaporate, thus allowing a deep concentration of the flavors.  Tian is usually served around the holiday Bastille Day during the peak of the summer when all the vegetables are readily available.

While I didn’t have all the ingredients of a traditional tian, I made my own version of it with the vegetables on hand and it was delicious!

Some tian calls eggplant, leeks, zucchini, plum tomatoes but I think you could take any of the summer vegetables that you enjoy and make this dish.  I only had summer squash, zucchini and potatoes on hand, so that along with onions and garlic is what I used.  The simplified recipe that I found follows at the end of this post, however, there are many more authentic recipes that can be found online.

First gather together the vegetables that you will want to use.  Finely chop your onion and sauté in extra virgin olive oil, adding your garlic at the end.  I pushed 2 large cloves of garlic through a press.

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While your onion and garlic sauté, spray an 8×8″-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray or lightly butter and set aside.

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Next, thinly slice all your vegetables, potatoes, whatever it is that you will be using. Since I used zucchini, summer square and potatoes, I sliced them into thin coins.  And since many vitamins and nutrients are found close to the skin, I did not peel my potatoes.  I just scrubbed them really well when washing.

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A friend of mine has an overabundance of vegetables in her garden this year and was nice enough to give me some and that is what I used in this dish.  Look at the size of the summer squash! 

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Spread the softened onion and garlic sauté into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  As you can see, the steam fogged up my baking dish!

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Now take the thinly sliced vegetable coins and neatly stack them, alternating between each veggie per row.  I stacked my vertically for a different look.  If you are using a round dish, layer in fans, working from the center.  Either way, it makes a beautiful display.

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Sprinkle with sea salt (I use Celtic Gray Sea Salt), freshly ground black pepper and thyme.  Now since I did not have any thyme, I used a little pinch of sage.  And because I like it, a nice sprinkle of paprika.

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Cover the dish with buttered parchment, or foil if you have that.  Bake in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  You can then add a sprinkling of cheese and bread crumbs if you wish, especially if you have kids or picky eaters in the house.  Traditionally this dish does not include it.


Vegetable Tian


1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tsp finely minced garlic – or 2 cloves pushed through a garlic press

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into coins

1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced into coins

1 medium potato, thinly sliced into coins

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

1 sprig of Thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup shredded cheese – optional

about 2 handfuls Panko bread crumbs – optional

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.  Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic.  Sauté both in a skillet with extra virgin olive oil until softened.

While the onion and garlic sautés, thinly slice the rest of your vegetables.

Spray your baking dish and spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the dish.  Arrange the vegetable slices, alternating them, in vertical rows.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and thyme.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes until tender.  Top with optional cheese and bread crumbs and bake until the cheese is golden brown.

Serve as a delightful side dish with rice or noodles and your choice of main dish.


Red Quinoa Breakfast

There’s been a lot of talk about it and I’ve seen it used in so many recipes but I had never tried it.  Many of my friends eat it for breakfast, some use it to make side dishes, veggie burgers and such.  Always on the lookout for good, healthy foods, I finally broke down and bought me a bag.


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Since my really good friend, Sandra, told me that she eats this for breakfast every day, I decided I would try it for breakfast first.  What better way to start using a grain than to have it to start my day? As you can see from the photo above, the little red grains are super tiny!  And the red quinoa is supposed to have a sweeter flavor to it than regular quinoa.  I wasn’t sure if I should have soaked them or not, but I decided to just follow the directions on the package and cook them.

When I make oatmeal, I like to add raisins or dried cranberries to them while cooking, thus eliminating the need for other sweeteners.  The benefits of these little seeds includes that they are quick cooking and high in fiber, very easy to assimilate and packed full of B vitamins, rich in folate and magnesium and is supposed to have the best amino acid profile of all grains.

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Cyn’s Organic Red Quinoa Breakfast

1-1/4 cups water, brought to a boil

1 cup Eden’s Organic Red Quinoa

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-2 pitted dates chopped small

1 tbsp Grandma’s unsulfured molasses (optional)

1 tsp Celtic Gray Sea Salt

Wash the quinoa several times in cold water and add to the salted boiling water.  Add vanilla, chopped dates and/or molasses. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Set for 5 minutes.

Stir and serve!

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I left mine a little “juicy” and ate it as it.  What a wonderful, nutty flavor that filled me up and with my piece for fruit and a slice of whole grain toast, stayed full for another 5 hours.  I think that I will try it in a burger or a salad next!

Bon appétit!

Grapenut “Meat” Loaf

Growing up, my diet was very strict and completely vegetarian.  While some may turn their noses up at such a lifestyle, many more are now adopting a plant-based diet as they attempt to be the healthiest that they can be.  More people realize that a diet rich in plant-based foods with less emphasis on meats is actually better for you.

This recipe is about 35+ years old, so there can be a lot of tweaking to bring it up to date.  Further, I personally know that earlier vegetarian recipes were often loaded with ingredients that a strict vegan would not consume and sometimes are not the healthiest of options either.

However, the flavors in this loaf are so full, that it makes a wonderful addition to any meal!Try this entrée on your next Meat-Free Monday!  You may find a new dish that your family will enjoy!

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Grapenut Loaf

1-1/4 c grapenuts cereal

1 c chopped nuts (I prefer raw pecans)

1 c chopped celery

1 large onion, diced

1 cup mushroom soup

1/2 tsp salt (may omit)

2 beaten eggs

2 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp Savarex (I find Bragg’s Liquid Aminos works well)

Combine all together in a large mixing bowl until well mixed.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 375F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Serves 6.


What I like most about the flavor is the crunchiness of the little celery bits and the full bodied nuttiness that the pecans provide.  Serve it like you would regular meatloaf and it’s also very good with a light brown sauce/gravy!  It’s also good by itself!


Healthier Red Velvet Cupcakes

One of my favorite shows to watch is “Not My Mama’s Meals” where Bobby Deen takes his Mama’s dishes and revamps them to lower calorie, healthier versions.  Since that is something I like to do as well, I feel in an odd sort of way that he and I have something in common!

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Since we keep getting teased for Spring by Mother Nature with some warm days here and there and my daffodils and crocus popping up, then a day or three of snow and ice….I wanted to make something that would just exude Spring.  What about cheery red velvet cupcakes with that fresh taste of spring?

So, here goes!  Yes, I altered this even more….couldn’t help myself.  Next time I think I will reduce the amount of almond extract.  It was a bit much in my opinion, but still very good. And those eggs are farm fresh eggs, which as you can see, I whittled down to just 2 from 4 in the recipe.  Isn’t the blue one beautiful?

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Bobby’s Red  Velvet Cupcakes

6- small roasted beets

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cut low-fat buttermilk

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp almond extract

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2-1/2 cups cake flour

1-1/2 cups raw granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt


1- 8oz pkg Neufchatel (reduced fat) cream cheese

1-1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar

1/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream

zest of 1 orange, reserve some for garnish

1/4 c. chopped pecans

1/4 c. toasted coconut

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For the cupcakes – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line cupcake pan with liners or spray with nonstick baking spray.

Add the roasted beets and oil into a blender or food processor.  Puree until the mixture is a thick liquid.  Add the buttermilk, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract and eggs, pulsing until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together until well incorporated.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir/pulse until there are no lumps.  Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completed in the pan on a cooling rack.

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For the frosting – Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium then high speed until very smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  On low speed, add the confectioner’s sugar, sour cream, a big pinch of the orange zest (reserve enough to garnish tops later) and blend together about 1-2 minutes.

Frost each cupcake and garnish with pecans, coconut and/or orange zest.

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In the frosting, the sour cream was also omitted as I didn’t have any and I don’t usually add it to my frosting.  And I didn’t have any coconut or pecans on hand.  I also substituted some of the flour for whole wheat pastry flour. These were really good.  And my husband’s co-workers got to enjoy these since I sent most of them with him to work the next day!


Easy Leftover Lentil Cheddar Patties

Digging through my fridge, I came across some bits and pieces of items that needed to be used up and decided it was time for some homemade veggie burgers!  Since we had lentils a couple days before, it just made sense to use up the little bit that was left.

If you keep your refrigerator stocked and your pantry stocked with certain staples all the time, you can create something “new” for dinner!  So, as you may already know, I don’t measure when I cook, so these measurements are approximates and you may need to adjust for your taste.

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1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, sliced on the diagonal, julienned and chopped into small pieces

1/4 green bell pepper, finely chopped

1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup leftover lentil stoup (very thick soup)

3/4 of 1 package Town House crackers crumbled OR 2-3 slices whole wheat bread torn into fine pieces

1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese or whatever cheese you have

1/2 tsp. garlic powder or 2-cloves fresh garlic finely chopped

1/2 tsp. onion powder

large pinch parsley leaves, dried – if you have fresh, finely chop about 1/4 cup

(since the stoup and crackers are already seasoned, you won’t need to add any further salt)

2 farm fresh eggs

In a large bowl (see photo above) mix together all the ingredients until well blended.

Taking a quart size canning lid, spray with non-stick spray.

Spoon patty mixture into the canning lid. Press into the lid to shape the patty.

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Turn into a heated cast iron past that has been lightly oiled with pure extra-virgin olive oil.

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Cook on each side until lightly browned. 

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This recipe made me six patties that fit perfectly on a medium sized hamburger bun or as we did, eat it as your protein side-dish that can be served alongside a salad and dinner as pictured below.  This dinner plate has garlic shells and corn paired with the lentil patty.

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Cottage Cheese Pecan “Meat” Balls

My parents didn’t start out as vegetarians, but by the time my brother and I were toddlers, they had switched to a very strict, healthy diet of plant-based foods.  Truth be told, Mom said I never would eat any meat products, even as a baby.  Anytime she would try to feed me beef, chicken, hot dogs…whatever….I would spit them out.  So I guess I was “born” a vegetarian!

This dish is good several different ways when you’re looking to add a protein to your Meat-Free Monday meals.  If you are vegan, you can try substituting the cheese for tofu.  I personally have not tried to “vegan-ise” this recipe, so it would definitely be an experiment!  These meatballs are great in spaghetti sauce, bake them in a marinara or cream of mushroom soup sauce and serve as a side dish.  Or you can make “meatball” subs with them!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Large mixing bowl, large wooden spoon, raw wheat germ, 16 oz. container of fat-free cottage cheese, pecan meal, onion, eggs, seasoned bread crumbs and a square baking dish with a lid.

Cottage Cheese Pecan Meatballs

1 cup fat-free cottage cheese (8 oz.)

1/2 cup raw wheat germ

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs (Panko is great too)

1 cup pecan meal

3 eggs (I use 2-farm fresh eggs)

1 large onion, minced


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Combine all ingredients well and using a cereal tablespoon, scoop out into your hands and roll into balls.  The mixture will be thick, but very moist.

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Spray your baking dish with non-stick spray.

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I actually doubled this batch and made bigger “meat”balls even though they’re not exactly the same size! And because onions and my hubby are not friends, I substituted 1 tsp onion powder for the chopped onions to keep the flavor.

Cover and bake for an hour or until golden brown.

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Serve and enjoy!