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.

Watermelon Berry Gazpacho


For some reason, this morning I woke up with an incredible amount of energy, so I decided to cook until the energy ran out, hopefully generating some edible meals and snacks for the work week.

In addition to baking Oh She Glows’ wonderful Chia Seed Bread (which is *so* worth checking out here: I made breakfast and some frozen treats, as seen here:

and then I used some of the fruit which is so abundant at this time of year to make a refreshing fruit gazpacho. Traditional Gazpacho is such a wonderful way to enjoy seasonal vegetables, and fruits make a delicious substitute.

Not only that, this is as simple as blending until your ingredients are smooth, and seasoning to taste. In this recipe, I made the dish savory with basil, mint and a hint of salt, but sweetening with honey and adding a hint of lemon is equally tasty!

Watermelon Berry Gazpacho
(c) 2016 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 1/2 cups


3 cups chopped watermelon
1-16 ounce package strawberries, washed and de-stemmed or other berries if preferred
2 tablespoons dried mint or 2 teaspoons fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 leaves fresh basil
Pinch salt
Freshly-brewed, cooled, unsweetened tea as needed, starting with 1/2 cup


1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and slowly pulse until combined. If you need, add more unsweetened tea or water if preferred, until you get your desired texture.

2. Transfer to a container and taste, adjusting seasoning if needed.

3. Cover and chill for 1 hour or up to overnight. Serve garnished with more fresh fruit.

This gazpacho will last in the fridge for a few days, or up to 1 month in the freezer.


Peanut Butter Banana Berry Breakfast Pudding


So, if you’ve been viewing my latest cooking experiments, you are probably wondering if I ever enlist unbiased food tasters, and I do! Recently, my best advisor (otherwise known as my sister in law 😉) suggested that my version of peanut butter ice cream:🍨-three-ingredient-peanut-butter-ice-cream-🍨-with-pbj-ice-cream-sandwiches/

wasn’t sweet or peanutty enough, so I went back to the kitchen today to make some changes.

Adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla, more PB powder, and using both a 2% yogurt and a fat free yogurt, gives a much richer flavor. Of course, if you want to also add 2 tablespoons of honey, you’ll feel like you’re savoring a decadent dessert!

This dish is great both frozen as an ice cream and ice cream sandwich filling, or simply cooled in the fridge as a fruit dip and in breakfast overnight grain parfaits like the one featured above.


Peanut Butter Banana Berry Breakfast Pudding
(c) 2016 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 5 minutes
(Optional) Freezer time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 1/2 cups


2 medium ripe bananas
1-5.3oz container plain fat free yogurt
1-5.3oz container plain 2% yogurt
6 tablespoons peanut butter powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(Optional) 2 tablespoons honey
(Optional) 1/4 cup washed and de-stemmed berries of choice
(Optional) 1/4 cup seeds of choice (I used a blend of chia, hemp and flax seeds)
(Optional) 1/4 cup oatmeal or 5-grain cereal


1. Place all but the optional ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly combined and smooth.

2. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or sandwich between your favorite cookie or treat, and freeze for 10 minutes. OR…

3. Layer the pudding with the optional ingredients, placing any leftover pudding either the in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container. In the former you should eat it within a few days, but in the freezer it will last for up to a month.

🍨 Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Ice Cream 🍨 with PB&J Ice Cream Sandwiches


🍨 Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Ice Cream 🍨 with PB&J Ice Cream Sandwiches

I’ve been seeing so many lovely images of homemade ice cream, I had to try to make some this weekend. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but why let that stop me? 😉 After all, a traditional banana ‘nice’ cream base doesn’t need churning or much freezer time. Add a little yogurt and some peanut butter powder for creaminess, and you’ve got a treat that no one will know is actually pretty healthy too.

This peanut butter ice cream is really versatile! Stir in fruit for a PB&J experience, or use half cocoa powder and half PB powder, or add in chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips. Use vegan yogurt if you want to avoid dairy, or even coconut cream. You might need to add a little more PB powder to achieve the same consistency, but the flavor is still terrific!

In addition to portioning out some of the ice cream into cups for snacking, I also used some to make PB&J Ice Cream Sandwiches, using half of this recipe:

(Now that I’ve found healthier ways to enjoy a favorite childhood treat, I think I’ve become a little obsessed with PB&Js…)

Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Ice Cream
(c) 2016 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Freezer time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 cup


1 medium ripe banana
1-5.3oz container plain yogurt
4 tablespoons peanut butter powder


1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly combined and smooth.

2. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or sandwich between your favorite cookie or treat, and freeze for 10 minutes.

If serving, then serve for immediate enjoyment as this ice cream gets as gooey as its traditional counterparts. These store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.


Bright Berry Summer Tartlets


Driving home from work, munching happily on the couple of Blueberry PB&J Bites I saved for an early evening snack, I realized that these would make a neat cookie sandwich with a little fruit sorbet, or an equally cute little fruit tartlet with yogurt and fresh berries.

Anticipating another post-work treat, I couldn’t wait to try it out, so I rerouted to the store and got an orange and a small tub of plain yogurt (thanks to Summer, there’s plenty of berries at home). Some wonderfully fragrant zest and juice later, and the Bright Berry Summer Tartlets were born!

Start by rinsing and zesting your orange (if you don’t have a zester, use a vegetable peeler to take only the orange part of the rind, and chop it up). Then, peel the orange and squeeze the juice from 3-4 pieces into your yogurt (chop the remaining orange slices for garnish or do what I did and enjoy the rest of the orange as you assemble 😉).

Next, take half of a batch of Blueberry PB&J bites, based on the basic version listed here:

Lay them on a platter, and divide the contents of the yogurt mixture to spread over the tops. Garnish with the zest, berries and/or berries & chopped orange.

These little bites are crunchy, sweet, savory and bright with a tangy citrus finish. Enjoy!



Blueberry PB & J Bites


It’s finally Summer! The beautiful bright sun shines well past 8, long walks at the lake reveal all sorts of beautiful new flowers and plants, and fresh berries are everywhere from farm stands to your favorite market.

These treats capture a little of that summery cheer, sweet and a little savory, with a nice crunch from the nuts. However, if you prefer to go nut free, you can leave them out of the mixture and they still taste great! While I used blueberries here, your favorite berry (or mixture of berries) is also delicious.


Blueberry PB & J Bites
Copyright 2016 Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 24-2 ounce bites (as pictured)*


1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
1-12 ounce container of plain raisins
3/4 cup unsweetened 5-grain cereal (I use a brand by Old Wessex, with Oats, Triticale, Flax, Rye and Barley)
1/2 cup peanuts (optional)
4 tbsp chia seeds


1. Place the first 4 ingredients in your food processor (or first 3 if omitting nuts) and pulse until the mixture is well blended.

2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the chia seeds. Let rest 10 minutes.

3. Using a tablespoon, take 2 scoops and form them into a patty.

*If you prefer truffle-shaped, use 2 teaspoon-size scoops (you’ll have more than twice the yield stated above). If you prefer bar-size, use 4 tablespoon-size scoops (you’ll have half the yield stated stated above).

4. Store in an airtight container in either the refrigerator for one week or freezer for three months.



The title comes from my biggest fan (OK, very often my only fan 😉 ) otherwise known as Mom.

I was trying to come up with a travel-friendly and shipping-friendly version of my chocolate-dipped banana-pb filled peanut butter bacon cookies:

and realized that the same ingredients work if combined and baked in a cookie rather than used to create a chocolate-dipped cookie sandwich. They’re even more adorable as minis!

Mini Peanut Butter Bacon Banana Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Peanuts

Copyright 2016 by Lauren Bradford (The Food Puzzler)


– 1 cup peanut butter

– 1 cup peanut butter powder

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

(or the dry ingredients from a favorite peanut butter cookie recipe)

– Large banana, ripened.

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

– 1 large egg

– 1/2 cup chopped peanuts

– 1/2 cup 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, and transfer to a bowl.

2. Mix in the remaining ingredients, then cover and refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line sheet pans with parchment.

4. Using a mini-scoop or 2 teaspoons, portion out the dough onto the sheet pans 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for up to 10 minutes, then place on a cooling rack.

6. Cool the cookies completely.



Happy PI Day!


I love savory pies, and my new favorite is Tamale Pie. I love the layers of smoky and spicy flavors, how it allows for almost any type of meat and beans, fresh or frozen veggies, and can be vegetarian or even vegan. In honor of PI Day, I present my boyfriend’s favorite, full of spicy sausage with sweet corn for balance.

I was technically making pie for two, but I can’t ever seem to cook for less than six, so I made this as three 9″ pies and froze two for later. If you want to serve up to 10, this mixture also fills one pan that’s approximately 13″x9″x2″.

PI Day Tamale Pie
Copyright 2016 by Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes stovetop + 1 hour baking time
Serves: 10-12


5-6 sausages of choice, meat removed from casings
1 small onion, rough chop
1 plum tomato, rough chop
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup cooked beans of choice, rinsed
1 bag frozen corn
3 bell peppers, large dice
2 cups masa harina (maseca) + 1 teaspoon salt
2 small or 1 large jalapeño, thin slice (optional)
NOTE: USE PLASTIC FOOD SAFE GLOVES for slicing and arranging jalapeños. Take it from someone who once got a little jalapeño juice accidentally in her eye, these gloves are your best friend!


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sauté pan, set to medium heat, cook the sausage completely, crumbling as you cook. Sausage is generally fatty enough on its own that you won’t need to add extra to the pan to prevent sticking, but if you do, add only 1 teaspoon at a time.

2. Remove the cooked sausage using a slotted spoon to keep most of the sausage’s residual fat in the pan. Place in a large bowl. Then, to the sauté pan, add the onion, tomato and spices to the pan, along with 1/4 cup warm water. Combine and cook 5 minutes, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan to incorporate the flavor

3. Add in the cabbage and 1/4 cup water if needed, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Stir to combine, then transfer everything but residual liquid to the bowl with the sausage.

4. Add the corn, beans and bell peppers to the pan and cook 5 minutes, adding 1/4 cup warm water and scrape again if needed. Transfer to the same bowl and combine all ingredients completely.

5. Transfer to the pans you’re using. As noted above, this recipe makes three pies if using standard 9″ pie pans, which is handy for freezing some for future mealtimes. However, if you are planning to serve it all at once, this mixture also fills one that’s approximately 13″x9″x2″.

6. Once you’ve transferred everything out of the bowl, put in the maseca, the other teaspoon of salt, and three cups of water. Stir thoroughly, smushing out any lumps. The batter will be liquidy and this is what you want.

7. Pour this mixture over the top(s) of the pie pan(s) and smooth. Then, arrange the slices of jalapeños on top. I alternated the jalapeño slices with hot sauce above, but both of these toppings are optional. If you don’t like heat, reserve some bell pepper slices instead.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until the mixture bubbles up on the edge of the crust.

Chicken a la Clare

I belong to a group of friends who have been meeting for over ten years to catch up and watch movies. It’s a potluck, and we each take turns providing the main course. This past year, when it was my turn to provide the main, I wanted to make a simple chicken dish to accommodate the food allergies suffered by one of the other members of the party, Clare.

I checked with her to confirm safe ingredients and, somehow, ‘olive oil’ got mistaken for ‘olives,’ which Clare loves. I decided to run with it. I had wanted to bake the chicken with spinach and tomatoes already, and thought green olives had the right flavor to complement the dish.

I tested it on my family, and we loved it, but I wasn’t prepared for its popularity at our movie day. I was asked for my recipe, which of course meant I had to actually write one down 😉

I usually make this one day ahead, as I find that the flavor is better if served one day later, warmed at 300 degrees for an hour or until hot.

I’m sharing below, named in honor of my friend. I hope you enjoy the results!


Chicken a la Clare
Copyright 2015 by Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 6


~ 6-8 chicken pieces, bone-in, skin-on and of fairly equal thickness
~ 2 bag frozen spinach
~ 2 cups, 1 box or 1-28oz can chopped tomatoes
~ 1-12 oz bottle Manzilla green olives
~ 1 teaspoon salt
~ 1/2 teaspoon pepper
~ 1 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder
~ 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
~ up to 2 tbsp olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small container, place the dried seasonings and mix to combine. Rub these spices under the skin of the chicken pieces.

2. In a frying pan, coat with a small amount of the oil. You don’t want more than a coating, you’re using this pan to sear the chicken. Heat the pan to medium-high heat, place the chicken skin-side down on the pan and let the sizzle begin!

Keep the chicken skin-side down until it comes up with a nice brown crust, which adds great flavor to those who love the skin, great overall appearance to the chicken, and helps keep the chicken extra moist. (I sometimes speed up this process by wrapping an unvarnished, unpainted brick in foil and placing it on top of the chicken to weight it down and get more even coverage and crusting.)

3. In a roasting pan large enough for the chicken pieces to be evenly spaced without touching, distribute the spinach, tomatoes and olives.

4. Nestle the chicken on top of the mixture. Cover with parchment first and then foil, and cook at 350 degrees F until the thickest pieces of chicken reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Served with warm, crusty bread or rice makes for a hearty meal on a cool night!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crunch Bread

I’ve always loved dried fruits (apricots, sweet sweet pineapple, raisins, even prunes) but once I discovered dates, dried fruits became one of my favorite treats. I’m always trying to find new ways to enjoy and share. I also love peanut butter (classic and powder forms) and find myself often pairing fruits and nuts together, including in this bread. I was inspired by a Food52 contest* and puzzled around to find a way to create a fruity and nutty bread.

Enter…PB&J Crunch Bread!

PB&J Crunch Bread slices are a tasty snack on their own, and are also tasty topped with assorted healthy and ‘splurgy’ options like fruits, fruit spread, ice cream, frozen yogurt, Greek yogurt, marshmallow fluff (the ultimate fluffernutter!) or chocolate sauce.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crunch Bread
Copyright 2106 by Lauren Bradford (aka The Food Puzzler)


2 cups flour of choice
(NOTE: I use half spelt and half organic AP flour)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup peanut butter powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice
1/2 cup dried fruits of choice, chopped fine or pulsed in food processor


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a bread pan (8″x4″ or 9″x3″) with parchment paper or coat bottom and sides with non-stick spray, and place a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pan.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

3. Place the milk, honey, warm water and sugar in a smaller bowl and mix to work in the honey. Then, add egg and combine.

4. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, and combine thoroughly with a spatula or heavy spoon.

5. Place half the mixture in the pan, then add a layer of nuts and dried fruits, reserving 2 tablespoons of the fruit and 1 tablespoon of the nuts.

6. Pour the remaining bread batter on top of the mixture and spread evenly. Top with reserved fruit and nuts.

NOTE: This bread takes about an hour to bake, so to prevent burning on the top, loosely covered it with foil or parchment before placing in the center of the oven.

7. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, which is between 45 minutes and one hour. Start checking at 45 minutes.

8. Cool to warm if serving or completely if freezing, slice with a serrated knife for best results. Serves 10 good-sized pieces, or wrap individual slices and freeze for later use.