Savory Crescents with Brie, Apples and Date-Berry Sauce


These crescents are a great way to turn leftovers into a light meal or snack. Homemade Date-Berry sauce gives these Apple-Brie bites a rich and mildly tart bite. The recipe give you lots of leftover date-cranberry sauce to enjoy on top of cooked chicken, toast, or over creamy yogurt.

Savory Crescents with Brie, Apples and Date-Berry Sauce
Copyright 2017 by Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 1 hour
Baking time: approximately 10 minutes
Makes: 8 Crescents plus 2 cups date-Berry sauce

30 pieces Dates, pitted and chopped small
12 ounces Whole cranberries (1 bag)
1/2 cup Brewed black, chai, or pumpkin spiced tea
1 Cinnamon stick
2 Star Anise
1 tablespoon Vanilla extract
1 Tube Crescent rolls of choice
8 Slices Brie
1/4 cup Blueberries
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced thin
Bring the cranberries, dates, vanilla, tea and spices to a boil, then simmer until the cranberries have burst and the dates are softened, and the mixture thickens slightly.Remove the cinnamon and star anise, and cool. Then, pulse the mixture in a food processor.Next, line a sheet pan with parchment, pop the crescent roll tube and lay out the pieces onto the sheet pan.Lay one to two slices of apple on each crescent, depending on the thickness. Divide the Brie and blueberries among the 8 crescent pieces. Place 2 tablespoons of the date-cranberry mixture into each crescent, then roll each crescent. I usually roast the rest of the apple slices for a snack, they usually fit on the same sheet pan.Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, rotate once and watch carefully as you might need to add or decrease the time to melt the Brie and get a golden color on the rolls. Enjoy!


Meet My Monster (Sandwich and Dip, That Is 😉)

I love the savory, creamy goodness of a spinach and artichoke dip, and wanted to find a way to make it healthier so I am able to indulge more often 😃 This recipe’s creaminess comes from puréed beans/hummus, with some Parmesan cheese to bring that familiar salty, savory bite.

This is a really versatile dip! Serve with firm veggies like carrots and peppers sliced into planks and/or crackers of choice. Top baked chicken or fish — even bake the protein nestled into the dip for more savory goodness! Toss with cooked pasta or rice for a yummy side dish. Use as a base for pizza or calzone filling. Spread on your favorite bread when making your favorite sandwich. Or, as I show below, turn it into your new favorite sandwich!

Meet My Monster (Sandwich and Dip, That Is 😉)
Copyright 2017 by Lauren Bradford
(aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: approximately 1 hour (either recipe)
Serves: Monster Patties (5) or Appetizer Dip (10)


1# bag chopped frozen spinach (no need to thaw or squeeze out excess liquid!)
2 15-oz cans artichoke hearts, chopped fine
2 cups puréed white beans or hummus (plain, red pepper or garlic)
1 cup shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium red onion, diced small
2 tablespoons each garlic and onion powder
1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon oil of choice
4 tablespoons flax seeds, ground and reserved


1. Coat the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish with the tablespoon of oil and set aside.

2. In a very large bowl, thoroughly combine all but the ground flax seeds.

3. Transfer all but 2 cups of the mixture into the baking dish, cover with a piece of parchment and then foil. There are plenty of options here:

– If you want to make the dip immediately, heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake until hot, about 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

– If you are making it one day ahead, place in the fridge. The next day, leave it on your counter for half an hour prior to heating your oven and baking at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through.

– If you freeze the dish for later use, place it in your fridge the day before baking to thaw it out a bit, and leave it on your counter for an hour prior to heating your oven and baking at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring at 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, place the reserved ground flax seeds and the remaining 2 cups of mixture together in a microwave-safe bowl. Combine, cover with parchment and warm through at the defrost setting for 5-10 minutes, and then let rest for 5 minutes so the flax can work its magic.

5. Divide into five equal portions and form into patties. (In the picture above, I made extras into bite-size balls as well as patties, fun for dipping!) Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Here, you can also bake immediately or freeze for later use (or bake, cool and freeze for quick sandwiches during the work week). If baking immediately, place in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then, flip over gently, place back in the oven, turn off the heat and let rest for 15 minutes.

Assemble your sandwiches with whatever toppings you like, these savory patties are very flexible! Here, I use roasted red peppers, tomato slices, fresh greens and a fried egg. I also eat them with extra cheese melted on top, with a side of greens.


Vegan Pad Thai-Inspired Noodles


‘I think I’m going to need a bigger bowl.’

Somewhere along the halfway cooking point, I realized I’d overdone things as usual, and what I intended as a little rainy day snack had turned into a meal fit for a party. With two types of noodles, 4 cups of chopped and shredded vegetables, multiple entries from the bean family, as well as peanuts two ways, I suspect this dish will supply me with lunch and dinner for a week, with plenty packed in the freezer for later.

This dish starts as Vegan, but easily lends itself to the cooked proteins and scrambled eggs associated with more traditional Pad Thai dishes. You can make this completely gluten-free using Tamari in place of the Soy Sauce. I love the peanuts in this dish, but for those with nut allergies, toasted and ground sunflower or sesame seeds bring a similar richness to the dish.

Vegan Pad Thai-Inspired Noodles
Copyright 2016 by Lauren Bradford
(aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 15-20 people


15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

5 scallions, each rinsed, ends trimmed and cut into three pieces

1 cup diced butternut squash

1 package edamame noodles (I used Explore Cuisine’s organic brand, available at Market Basket in the pasta aisle)

1 package rice noodles

4 cups water

2 tbsp PB powder plus 1 tbsp peanut butter

3-5 cloves of garlic depending on size, sliced

3 tbsp peanuts plus more for garnish

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 package tofu of choice, water pressed out and chopped into small dice

1 package (about 3 cups) shredded carrots

1 each zucchini and summer squash, spiralized

1 package (about 4 cups) bean sprouts
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 tablespoons Sesame oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tbsp garlic powder (half for the pasta water)
1 tbsp salt (half for the pasta water)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and scallions, trim and cut the scallions into three pieces each, and place on one sheet pan.

3. If you purchase pre-cut butternut squash, cut into even pieces if needed and place on the other sheet pan. If you have a whole squash, cut in half width-wise and then length-wise, and remove the seeds. Peel one of the quarter pieces and dice into relatively even size. The pieces and quarters will cook fine for these purposes all together on one sheet pan.

4. Coat the items on both pans in 1 tablespoon of the oil, enough just to coat, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each of the salt and garlic powder.

5. Roast at 350 degrees, with the chickpeas and scallions being done in about 15 minutes and the squash in about 25 minutes. Reserve on the sheet pans, you can even keep them both in the oven with the oven off.

6. While these items roast, in a large pot bring the water to a boil with 1 tablespoon each of the salt and garlic powder. Cook the edamame noodles to package directions but don’t drain, just remove the noodles, place on your serving platter and toss with 1 teaspoon each of the soy sauce and sesame oil to prevent sticking.

7. Then, place 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, and the two tablespoons of peanut butter powder in the pasta water and stir to combine. Place the rice noodles in this mixture, pressing gently to submerge the noodles. Cover, turn off the heat, and let the noodles sit.

8. After about 5 minutes, the noodles should be done and most of the pasta liquid will be absorbed. Test the noodles for doneness, then stir to combine everything fully. Transfer the rice noodles and all remaining liquid (it will be absorbed by the still-warm pasta) to the platter with the edamame noodles and combine.

9. Scrape down the sides of this same large pan, so the rice starch doesn’t burn, and now place in it the remaining 3 tablespoons of the sesame oil, garlic, lime zest, and peanuts, remaining salt and the red pepper flakes. Cook on a medium-low heat until the garlic is softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

10. Add the tofu cubes, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and the lime juice, and continue cooking until the tofu is warmed through. Then add the zucchini, summer squash, carrots and sprouts, and with two large spoons begin tossing to cook them evenly, about 10 minutes.

11. Add in the squash, chickpeas and scallions, and toss to combine.

12. Remove from the heat and spoon onto the platter. Top with additional roasted peanuts, if desired.

Bright Summery Veggie Cucumber Bites

These bites are an old friend, my first and favorite way of enjoying salad fixings.

Take an English cucumber and cut into 2-inch slices. Scoop out some but not all of the seeds and center, so you create cups. 

Fill with diced veggies of choice, either sautéed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, or cold and tossed with a light, citrusy vinaigrette.

Toasty Quesadilla with Charred Corn, Sautéed Romaine and Veggies

It’s a hot and rainy Summer day, and I had all sorts of wonderful things for making a salad. But I’ve been eating cold salads for days now, and wanted to find a way to have the same ingredients a bit warmer.

Romaine is a cookable green that can act as a substitute for Escarole, either sautéed or added to a soup. There’s been an abundance of gorgeous Romaine at the local market, and I went a little overboard this weekend, so I started thinking of what I could make that would be a substantial meal while still being Summery.

This quesadilla enjoys the flavors of colorful carrots, peppers and corn, but any veggies and grains you prefer work great as well! 
Toasty Quesadilla with Charred Corn, Sautéed Romaine and Veggies

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 cloves garlic, sliced or minced

1 small onion, rough chop

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 stalk celery, rough chop

1/2 bell pepper of choice, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 teaspoons dried herbs, such as chives or dill

1 medium head Romaine lettuce, thoroughly soaked and rinsed, then chopped

1 cup corn kernels (off the cob or frozen work best)

2 tortillas of choice

1/2 cup grated melty cheese, such as pepper jack, Monterey, cheddar, or mozzarella

One small frying pan

One large frying pan

1. Place your corn in the small frying pan with no oil, and toast on medium heat until charred. Set aside in a bowl.

2. In this same pan, now add the carrot and pepper and also toast on medium heat until charred. Add to the bowl with the corn.

3. In the large frying pan, place the oil, garlic, onion, salt and spices. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until the garlic has gotten fragrant, at least 5 minutes.

4. Add the celery and chopped Romaine and cook until the celery is a bright green and the Romaine has wilted. Add to the bowl, and stir to combine.

5. Place one tortilla into the smaller frying pan, add 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 cup of the veggie mixture to one half of the tortilla, and fold tortilla over.

6. Toast for one minute or until golden on each side of the tortilla.

7. Repeat with the second tortilla. 

Any leftover veggies are perfect served with chicken, beans and rice, or tofu.

Spiced Peanut-Curry Veggie Noodles with Sweet Peppers


Happy 50th Anniversary!!!! Or, at least, Happy 50th Post-versary. 😘

In honor of this ”monumental” occasion, I’m making veggie noodles for my work lunches. For some reason, I love pairing veggie noodles with peanut sauces rather than tomato or cream, and I recently got a delicious curry spice blend that goes really well with peanuts or, in this case, peanut powder.

This sauce goes equally well with the zucchini, summer squash and pepper ‘noodles’ as I did here, or with rice or traditional pasta.

Aren’t you glad you’re here for all of this excitement?

Spiced Peanut-Curry Veggie Noodles with Sweet Peppers
(c) 2016 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Yield: approximately 1 1/2 cups


~ 2 tablespoons olive oil
~ 1 large clove garlic, sliced
~ pinch red pepper flakes or more to taste
~ 1 teaspoon each turmeric and curry spice blend
~ 1 teaspoon salt
~ 1/4 cup peanut butter powder
~ 1/2 cup water, stock or unsweetened tea
~ 1 each zucchini and summer squash, sliced thin with a vegetable peeler or spiralized
~ 1/2 cup bell peppers of choice (I used four mini sweet bell peppers)


1. Place the oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, turmeric and curry powder in a medium size frying pan. Cook on low-medium heat until it becomes fragrant, stirring continually to keep the garlic from burning.

2. Add in the liquid, salt and peanut butter powder and stir to combine, adding more if needed. Raise heat to medium and get a gentle bubbling.

3. Toss in the veggies and stir to combine and coat. Cook until heated through, about 3-5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh parsley, serve immediately or cool and enjoy cold!

UPDATED! Chocolate-Dipped Triple PB-Bacon Cookies with PB Banana Chia Filling

I had just made some really yummy peanut butter cookies for my gentleman friend, where I substituted puréed sunflower and walnuts for the butter (mainly because that’s what I had) and they were incredibly good…
…but they weren’t quite enough, so I started puzzling over what else I could add to them, which John loved to eat, to make them special.

My first thoughts turned towards bananas, but then I realized that I needed some flavor and texture contrasts to this sweet and soft cookie. Chopped nuts as a topping and chopped cooked hickory-smoked bacon took these completely over the top.

But…I wasn’t done yet. I decided to use the banana as a filling for cookie sandwiches, enhanced with peanut butter powder, and to cover the sandwich halfway with chocolate and the chopped nuts. I admit, chia seeds entered the picture only because the banana-PB powder mixture seemed too loose to stay in a cookie sandwich, but they also add a little texture and nutrients. In fact, the banana-chia-peanut butter powder combination make a yummy pudding too!

The best part is its versatility! Homemade cookies or favorite box mix or even store-bought. Any type of chocolate. Any chopped nuts, and for that matter any type of nut butter. Bacon is optional…but it’s incredibly good here, and there are so many options nowadays–including Vegan–that this cookie can suit anyone’s needs.

I hope you try this and enjoy it as much as John has…and let me know how you make yours!


Chocolate-Dipped Triple PB-Bacon Cookies with PB Banana Chia Filling

Copyright 2016 by Lauren Bradford (The Food Puzzler)


*Cookies If Making*

– 1 cup peanut butter

– 1/2 cup peanut butter powder

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 1 large banana

– 1 egg

(or the dry ingredients from a favorite peanut butter cookie recipe plus the banana and egg, or your favorite store-bought)


– 1 large banana

– 2 tablespoons chia seeds

– 1 12-ounce bag chocolate chips of choice

-4 strips bacon of choice, cooked near crispy with excess fat blotted away, chopped small

– 2 tablespoons chopped peanuts


1. Mash or purée the banana in a food processor (both if making the cookies and sandwiches, then divide between two bowls).

2. In one bowl, mix 1/2 the peanut butter powder, chia seeds and, if using pre-made cookies, chopped bacon*. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to an hour.

3. In the other bowl, if making your own cookies, add in the egg and combine completely. Then, add in the peanut butter, other 1/2 cup peanut butter powder, and baking powder.ncover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line sheet pans with parchment paper.

5. Using large spoons, divide the dough into 12 evenly-sized cookies, ensuring at least 2 inches separation from each other.

6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking after 10.

7. Cool the cookies completely, if baked, and once the filling is thick enough, lay 6 of the cookies with flat-side up on a parchment-lined cookie sheet pan.

8. Spread the filling between the six cookies, then top with the other six.

9. Transfer, uncovered, into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

10. Place the chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and melt by warming it 30 seconds at a time and stirring after every 30 seconds.

11. Take the sandwiches out of the freezer. Take each sandwich and, using a spoon, carefully drape half of the sandwich with the chocolate. Place it back on the parchment-lined pan and sprinkle the top with some of the chopped nuts.

9. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches. If you have any remaining chocolate, feel free to drizzle it over the cookies, then return the pan to the freezer for another 30 minutes.

10. Once frozen, wrap each sandwich in wax paper or parchment.

NOTE: each sandwich needs at least 15-20 minutes out of the freezer to soften for eating, but stand fine if left out for upwards of an hour or two if serving them to a group.

Good and Ugly


Not surprising to anyone who has seen my posts, I’m learning how to take pictures that properly highlight the foods I’m presenting. As you can see from this post, I still have a good deal of work ahead of me 😊 but the dish itself is so tasty, I wanted to share the recipe now.

Recently, I wrote about ways to make creamy sauces without necessarily using milk or cream, and cannellini beans are a preferred method of mine:

because they’re one of the quickest ways to introduce a creamy element to a dish, especially if you don’t know whether you’re serving to people with nut allergies. However, I also love cheese, and occasionally mix the two together, either as a bean and cheese wrap, tossed into pasta, even … oatmeal. Really, it’s very good!

I started wondering if I could bring out the flavors found in a Welsh rarebit dip — which is a cheese dip layered with aromatic and savory mustard, ale, Worcestershire sauce and a kick of heat — but using beans for a significant part of the dairy. It turns out that I can’t make it look good (I can’t believe I ‘had’ to have flowers made from carrot, celery and pepper…) but I can make it taste incredibly yummy.

This starts as a creamy soup which acts nicely as an appetizer, or paired with a salad as a light lunch. However, with the addition of a little shredded cheese while the soup simmers, this soup transforms into the cheese dip which had me and my faithful testers scraping the bowl clean.

Creamy Welsh Rarebit Soup/Dip from a Blender!


1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
4 cups cooked cannellini beans, rinsed and drained if from a can
1 bottle (about 1 cup) non-alcohol beer
1 teaspoon Mustard
3 teaspoons Worcestershire or soy sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder
8 shakes of Tabasco sauce or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
FOR DIP ONLY: 1/2 cup shredded cheese like pepper jack or cheddar, divided


1. Place all but the optional ingredients in a blender and purée the mixture.

2. Pour contents into a large sauce pan (the beer will cause some lift during the initial cooking, so this can help avoid spillage) and bring contents to a boil.

3. Reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Here, you have a lovely soup that provides 4 one-cup servings. Serve accompanied with crackers or crudités of choice.

However, if you prefer the thicker texture for dipping, and to add a boost of flavor, now add in 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese and stir to incorporate. This mixture thickens quickly (as you can see in the picture, I could place the bowl on its side and it didn’t shift much at all) so only add the extra 1/4 cup of cheese if necessary.

Cream Sauce Monster Mashup: The Best of All Worlds

When I wrote my Swaptastics series recently, I started by thinking I could put the entire piece out in one fell swoop.

Then, I read it through. >blush<

If you’ve managed to get through everything else on this site, it’s probably not surprising that I’m known for being wordy. I’m working on it. 😉

I’m also known for being a bit nerdy in the research department, which is the reason for this post. As I researched the nutrition information for the various options for making Béchamel and alternative creamy sauces, I learned that the Béchamel sauce and its corresponding cheese sauce contain the best nutrition-to-calories ratio, followed by the butternut squash, nut sauces, and lastly, bean-based sauces.

That stated, depending on your preferred version of a creamy sauce, there’s plenty of room for achieving good balance with a ‘monster mashup’ of two or more sauces:

EASIEST: adding the butternut squash purée to any of the other sauces. You’ve likely seem scores of recipes online with butternut squash as a secret ingredient, and for good reason. It’s smooth and creamy, mildly sweet, low in calories, and contains a great amount of vitamin A and potassium.

RICHEST DEPTH OF FLAVOR: purée 1/4 cup soaked nuts to each cup of butternut purée. It’s terrific thinned with stock as a soup on a cool day, or as-is tossed into pasta or veggie noodles.

SMOOTHEST RESULT: For anyone with dairy and nut issues, the butternut squash and bean purées also work well in combination, in fact they provide the smoothest texture of the bunch, but you’ll have fewer nutrients than the other combinations.

I hope you try some of these sauce alternatives and monster mashups! Please let me know your thoughts if you do!

Meanwhile, what are your favorite sauces?

The Swaptastics, Part Four: Creamy Root Vegetable Soup/Sauce

Welcome back! In this final portion of Swaptastics, I am focusing on puréed root vegetables that can act as a substitute for sauce. My favorites are potatoes and butternut squash, which can mimic the appearance of some standard sauces.

Creamy Root Vegetable Soup/Sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: ~ 25 minutes
Inactive time: 15 minutes

Butternut Squash

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups vegetable stock
Pinch pepper of choice
2 teaspoons Salt, plus more to taste

White Potato

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 small sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup water
Pinch pepper of choice
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste


1. In a medium-sized pan, add in the first 1/4 cup water, olive oil and onion and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, softening the onion. Add in the garlic cloves and stir frequently for 2 minutes.

2. Add in the diced root vegetable you’re using, salt, pepper, and the stock or stock-water combination (depending on the vegetable). Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes to soften the vegetable.

3. Taste and adjust seasonings, then cool the mixture for 15 minutes to make it safe to purée.

4. If using a blender, you’ll need to purée in batches, filling the blender no more than 3/4 of the way and ensuring there is 1/4 cup water or stock at the base to keep the motor running properly. Hold the lid down tightly as you purée the mixture.

Once the blending is complete, you have a mixture that can be used just like any creamy sauce.


Fun Facts and Figures

To make the sauce costs between $3-5, depending on whether you use potato or squash. The price for purchasing all ingredients for the first time is $10-12, depending on whether you use potato or squash and, after making the sauce, there’s still most of the other ingredients left to use in other recipes. The breakdown:

Olive oil: $4 for the bottle
Garlic: $0.50 for a whole bulb
Salt: $1
White pepper: $1
Onion powder: $1
White potato: $2-4 depending on type of potato
Butternut squash: $3


White potato, peeled, 1 cup

258 calories
60 grams carbs (5.4 grams fiber)
0.3 grams fat
0.1 grams Saturated
0 grams Monounsaturated
0.1 grams Polyunsaturated
Protein 5.1 grams
Potassium 984 mg
Omega 3 fatty acids 30 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 96 mg
Calcium 24 mg
Magnesium 60 mg
Vitamin C 22.2 mg


Butternut squash, 1 cup

82 calories
21.5 grams carbs ( 0 fiber)
0.2 grams fat
0 grams Saturated
0 grams Monounsaturated
0.1 grams Polyunsaturated
Protein 2 grams
Potassium 582 mg
Omega 3 fatty acids 49.2 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 28.7 mg
Calcium 84 mg
Magnesium 59.4 mg
Vitamin A 22,869 IU
Vitamin C 31 mg


Nutrition facts gathered from purchased product labels and supplemented with information supplied by