Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Chocolatey-Chippy, Sure-to-Get-Eaten Banana Bread

Probably everybody makes banana bread when you’ve got some extra ripe bananas that need using up, but my son Joel’s turns out so well that I asked if I could share his recipe. “But Mom!” he protested, “I just use your recipe, except I use half the sugar and add a package of chocolate chips.” Okay! We can do that. Here it is:

Chocolatey-Chippy Banana Bread

Cream together:
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

Then add:
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-4 bananas (whatever you have left over; the more bananas, the longer you’ll need to bake it)

Beat until smooth, then add:
1   12-oz. package chocolate chips for sure, and if you want
1 cup walnuts or pecans (totally optional)

Pour into a loaf pan and bake at 350°F. for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown on top and somewhat firm to the touch (starting to form a crust). We usually make banana bread for dinner (since it takes so long to bake) but serve the rest with breakfast the following morning. You can also make this recipe into muffins or glaze the tops with cream cheese frosting to make them into cupcakes, but then they’re undeniably a dessert rather than any semblance of a “bread” or morning “pastry!”  🙂

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel
” (Proverbs 27:9).

Spaghetti and Meatballs: Classic Favorite with an Attitude

On our first anniversary, I told Alan I’d make anything he wanted for dinner, assuming it would be something we couldn’t usually afford, like lobster or steak. Do you know what he wanted? Spaghetti and meatballs! It was then I realized he might be Scottish by heritage, but he has an Italian stomach! So, for the next forty-five years, if I really want to spoil him, I roll out that ever-lovin’ classic, spaghetti and meatballs! It’s so simple that you probably don’t think it’s even worth discussing, but I have found a few ways to add taste points that make it more memorable, and I’ll include those at the end. Meanwhile, here’s the basic:

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs
(serves 6± depending on how much you eat!!)

Add together in a large mixing bowl:
1 pound hamburger (or ground chuck, ground round, or whatever you like)
1 cup bread crumbs (make your own by toasting old bread and crushing the slices in a paper bag with a rolling pin, or buy some already made)
1 egg
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning (or your favorite)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (fresh is best, but you can use commercially prepared or even crushed, dried garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or 1 finely chopped onion if you’re an onion lover)
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper   Mix thoroughly (may as well get your hands dirty; it takes less time) and form into golf-ball-sized balls (or smaller, depending on your taste). Fry in a large skillet until well browned and cooked through, turning carefully just once or twice so they don’t burn. . . or fall apart on you.

Meanwhile, prepare your Pasta Sauce:

In a very large saucepan, saute with 2 tablespoons of butter:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large pepper, chopped (any color you choose; green works fine and provides good color contrast, but other colors are sweeter)
8 oz. chopped mushrooms (any edible variety you like!)
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s, but use whatever you like)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (There’s an old saying that families should eat their pasta together, and I’m quite sure it’s because good pasta is loaded with garlic, which tastes great going down but is sure to displease your friends if it’s on your breath but not theirs!)

Once the veggies are tender, add:
1 large can of stewed, diced Italian tomatoes
1 jar pasta sauce (your favorite; I use Prego flavored with meat, but there are a lot of good brands and varieties out there)   Simmer until all the ingredients are hot and well mixed, then add the meatballs  gently into the pot with the veggies and let it all simmer away for at least another half an hour (can be longer). If you’ve used hamburger, and there’s a lot of grease floating on top, spoon off as much as you can and throw it away. Grease=flavor, but it also=calories, so a little goes a long way.


While your meatballs are simmering in the sauce, cook the pasta. You can suit yourself as to the type you want to use, and just follow the directions on the side of the box. . .or make your own if you’re really a pasta aficionado! Theoretically, I’ve heard that Italians like their pasta “al dente,” which means “to the tooth” and refers to pasta that is neither too crunchy nor too soft, so that it appeals to your teeth when they bite into it! I don’t mind my pasta pretty well done, but the advantage of starting out al dente is that if you accidentally have any left over (which happens!), then if you rewarm it, the pasta doesn’t become too mushy to be good. But, it’s totally personal preference! My husband definitely wants his al dente!

Add any (but not all) of these to create memorable taste points:

*An extra pound of grilled and chopped Italian sausage
*A small jar of capers
*4-8 oz. of diced, sun-dried tomatoes
*1 cup chopped olives (black, green, or whatever you have on hand!)
* A small jar of smoked egg plants, diced
* “Primavera” refers to “in the style of spring” and usually means pasta served with a mixture of fresh vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, or zucchini. However, you can also add any of of a number of veggies to the basic sauce to increase the nutritive value and add color and texture. Just make sure you don’t overcook the veggies so that they become discolored and mushy. Add them in the last 5-10 minutes before you serve them.   Serve your pasta hot, and if you have any, have some grated cheese and crushed pepper available for people to add as they please.  The traditional meal includes a side salad, garlic bread, and grape juice. Okay, so maybe in Italy it’s wine, but at my house it’s grape juice! 🙂  Hope you enjoy!

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:9, ESV).


There’s Nothing Quite Like the Full English

When Alan and I were on the Norwegian Star‘s Central American cruise through the Panama Canal earlier this year, we had many delightful breakfasts, but one of the best was our perennial favorite abroad, “The Full English,” so I’ve decided to write about it today. However, I’m not really going to publish any particular recipes, as I usually do, because all the foods are standard, it’s just that the combination of “the perfect seven” ingredients makes for a memorable breakfast that can keep you fueled for a seven-hour hike across the moors of England…or a big day of exploring Asia, Central America, or anywhere else in the world!  Our first experience with “The Full English” was at a hostel under the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London many years ago. We affectionately dubbed this hostel “Mel’s East,” because it reminded us of the rescue mission where we often volunteered in Grand Rapids. Despite the humble and somewhat unkempt condition their dormitory-style facility (and people up all night chattering in foreign languages as they called their families in other parts of the universe), Mel’s East served us an incredibly hearty and surprisingly tasty breakfast, and from that day to this,  we have a soft spot in our hearts for “The Full English.”  Since then, we’ve enjoyed it at such classic venues as The Royal Highland Hotel in Inverness, Scotland (where the “Full Scottish” included haggis), the Cappabhaile House in Ballyvaughan, Ireland (in Ireland it’s called “The Full Irish” and may include soda bread), and historic places like the Talbot Inn and Buckingham Hotel in England (where “black pudding” [aka/ “blood pudding”] are popular additions). But, the “Full” breakfast is not just a favorite in the U.K. We’ve eaten the Full English around the world, even in remote areas of Africa and India! So, no matter who you are or where you live, the “Full English” will be a memorable feast for you and yours!

The Full English
(serves one or the world!)

The perfect seven ingredients include:
1. Fried eggs (can also be poached)
2. Fried bacon (English bacon is more like American ham)
3. Grilled tomatoes
4. Grilled mushrooms
5. Baked beans
6. Grilled sausages
7. Toast. We’ve had amazing toast grilled in butter and served hot, but normallyit has been toasted, buttered, and preferable cooled in a toast cooler (such as the one above) and served with an assortment of toppings, such as orange marmalade, marmite (for those who can stand it; I can’t), and fruit preserves. (Leave the nutella for the Italians, the cheeses for the French, and the meats for the Germans. We are not on the Continent now…)At the most wonderful B’n’B’s and fancy hotels, all this follows a first course of cold cereals, pastries, stewed fruits and juices. If you’re going to be truly English, this feast is served with a steaming pot of black tea with lots of milk (not cream) and sugar. Many places make accommodations for coffee lovers, however, and I’ve even been offered some great hot chocolates at times. There are also many delicious possibilities for extras, like friend potatoes, Tattie scones, or classic scones, but these are not part of the gold standard. Also, just FYI, this is not what the Brits eat every day for breakfast. This is what they eat for special occasions or serve to special guests, and it’s sometimes served late morning instead, like a brunch.            Ready to try? I guarantee, it’s even better than green eggs and ham!  🙂

My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.” (Proverbs 24:13-14)

Carrot Cake Waffles with Creamed Cheese Syrup

Alan and I had “carrot cake waffles” at one of our favorite restaurants in Lower Michigan not long ago. Since we both love carrot cake, we thought the waffles would be amazing, but we were both totally disappointed. I think they were probably made from a carrot cake mix, but they were definitely too bland and lacked character…like a beautiful person with a limp handshake. So—of course—I embarked on a journey to come up with a recipe that would please the palate even more than the eye, and then I tested it last weekend on my family, including two sons, a daughter-in-law, and their three little girls. The little girls preferred plain waffles, but the carrot cake waffles were a hit with the adults, so if you like carrot cake and entertaining adults, try this recipe for a new twist on breakfast sometime!

Carrot Cake Waffles
(makes 8  4″square waffles)

Add together in a mixing bowl:
2 cups pancake mix (I use Aunt Jemima Buttermilk, but suit yourself!)
1.5 cups  chopped carrots, finely grated (which might become less than 1.5 cups after grating)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter (or bacon fat)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Beat with mixer until well blended. Pour into a hot, buttered waffle iron and bake until golden brown. 

Serve with:Creamed Cheese Syrup
(serves 6-8)

Add together in a small pan:
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
Boil until it starts to thicken slightly (about 3 minutes after all the sugar has dissolved)
Add 8 oz. creamed cheese and stir until it’s completely mixed. Turn the heat off and add:
1/4 teaspoon vanilla, then whisk for a minute or two to make sure there are no lumps left and it’s completely creamy. Pour out and serve warm!This may not look at lovely as what we ate at the restaurant that day, but they were bursting with flavor and had real (tiny) chunks of carrots and walnuts, so every bite was warm and memorable!

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

Pineapple Pancakes with Creamy Coconut Syrup

          In Honolulu, we ended up eating at several really fun restaurants,  and my favorite breakfast was at Hatsuhana’s Japanese Restaurant at the Waikiki Hilton Village Resort, which consisted of pancakes, bacon, tossed salad, papaya, hard-boiled egg, and green tea, all for $9.99, which is an incredible deal in Hawaii! Not only was it one of the most unusual breakfast combinations I’ve eaten (outside Asia), it was truly delicious, and one of the highlights was their unique coconut syrup. If you’ve been following along with my recipe blogs, I hope that you—like me—are starting to say, “I could make this!” when you find something you really like. I’ve been making home made and berry syrups from childhood  ( ) so it wasn’t hard to  adapt what I already knew in order to make a very refreshing coconut syrup:

Creamy Coconut Syrup
(serves 6-8)

Add together in a pan:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes until it just barely reaches the soft-ball stage (about 115°F if you’re using a candy thermometer, although I just go by the look; it starts looking thicker than water).
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
Light sprinkle of salt
Keep simmering and use a whisk to stir until it’s all milky white and uniform in consistency. Let it cool. It doesn’t need to be warm so can be prepared a little bit ahead, although warm is always nice. It should thicken slightly when it’s sufficiently cool.

Another item I saw advertised at a different restaurant but never tried was pineapple pancakes, which also sounded good, so I worked out a recipe that met with high approval from both husband and son last weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It made us all feel a little like we were back in Hawaii! 🙂

Pineapple Pancakes
(serves about 3…at least we ate them all!)

Mix together:
1 cup pancake mix (I use Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk, but suit yourself!)
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil (or melted butter, or bacon fat)
1 cup milk
1 cup crushed pineapple

That’s really all there is to it! Fry on a well-buttered skillet at about 325° (medium heat…not as hot as regular pancakes, because they take a little longer to bake through). If you really want Asian fusion, I guess you could serve it with hard-boiled eggs, papaya, and tossed salad, but we opted for a more traditional American flair, and even stuck with black tea rather than green.                            However you like it, I hope you’ll try it…and like it!

Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezekiel 3:3-4).

Coconut Snowballs: Elegant Sundae for Coconut and Chocolate Lovers

On our original honeymoon, 45 years ago, we had a “coconut snowball” for dessert one night at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor, and we’ve been enjoying them during getaways to Weber’s Inn ever since. However, it occurred to me that they would be very simple to make, and so I’ve developed my own recipe for this rather unique but classic sundae. If you’re a fan of coconut and enjoy ice cream sundaes, I think you’ll love this one!

Coconut Snowball
(Per serving)

Hot fudge sauce: Store bought, or make your own. My recipe is here:

Coconut ice cream: Buy it at the store (I like Hudsonville’s here in GR) or make your own by slightly softening vanilla ice cream, stirring in 1 heaping tablespoon of coconut per serving, forming into sundae-sized balls, and refreezing hard.

Toasted coconut: Bake at 350° for 5-10 minutes, but check it carefully, or you might end up with a fire higher than flaming cheese! (I made the mistake of trying to broil mine first try, and it was a total disaster!)

Whipping cream and maraschino cherries

1. Make or open your hot fudge first. It should be warm but not too hot when you prepare the sundae, so if you make it ahead, give it plenty of time to cool down to “warm.”  2. Toast shredded coconut in an oven on a baking sheet at 350° for 5-10 minutes (depending on how golden brown you like it). Place on a plate (so it doesn’t continue to brown) and let it cool completely. 3. Buy or make coconut ice cream and form into sundae-sized balls. Roll them in the toasted coconut until they’re well covered. Freeze hard.4. Fill the bottom of your sundae dish with warm “hot fudge.”5. Add your coconut snowball.6. Cover generously with more warm “hot fudge.” Cover lavishly with whipping cream and crown with a maraschino cherry. Enjoy!

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103: 1-5).

Old-fashioned Breakfast Special: Creamed Tuna on Toast

If you like tuna fish, here’s an old-fashioned breakfast treat that I’ve never seen served at a restaurant. In fact, I’ve never had it served anywhere beside my home growing up and in my own home. One of my sons asked me recently the origin of this family tradition, and I actually have no clue, but I did grow up with it. Maybe on the prairie in Colorado where my mother was born a hundred hears ago (literally), tuna fish was a rare treat for very special occasions. Or, maybe it’s such a humble dish now that no upscale restaurant esteems it anymore. Whatever its history, I thought it might be fun for you to try sometime, and if you grew up in a family where they served creamed tuna, or if you know anything about the history, please let the rest of us know, will you?

In our home, it was always served as for breakfast, although I think it could be made for any meal. It’s as simple as one, two, three. It’s also inexpensive today and relatively healthy. In my natal home, it was served on toast, but it can also be served on bagels, biscuits, rolls, or any bread that can be toasted. This morning I served it on English muffins.

Creamed Tuna on Toast
(serves 2)

1.  In a frying pan, heat until melted:
2 teaspoons butter (can substitute oleo or cooking oil) Turn off heat.

2.  Add:
2 tablespoons flour and mash into a paste. Turn heat back on low and add
2/3 cup milk, stirring with a whisk so it’s not lumpy.

3. Add:
1 small can water-packed tuna fish (5-6 oz)
Light to medium sprinkling of your favorite seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s)
Black pepper to taste (I like a lot, but that’s still only about 1/16 of a teaspoon)  Heat until it starts to bubble and is good and hot, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick.  If you work fast, you can start toasting your bread after you’ve mashed the flour into a paste so that everything is hot and ready at the same time, but to do that you’ll have to have your orange juice and coffee already made (or whatever else you’re going to serve) and the table set! Pour the hot tuna over the toast and serve immediately! It has to be hot to be really good. If you can’t get it all ready at the same time, turn the heat off and cover the pan. Then, just before you’re ready to serve it, turn the heat on high and add another 1/4 cup milk, stirring constantly until it’s good and hot again, which will only take a minute or two. The more milk you add, the thinner, but some people may like it a little thicker than others, so experiment!

“The Lord will give strength unto his people;
the Lord will bless his people with peace
” (Psalm 29:11).