Sugar-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free Peppermint Hot Chocolate


In attempt to fight off a sore throat, I stopped and bought some peppermint tea on my way home. I’m not a big fan of teas, even one as plain as peppermint tea, so I started thinking of a way to doctor it up.

Since I’m also on a no-sugar no-dairy no-gluten fast right now, it requires being content with simple ingredients in order to enjoy something indulgent. Well, this one really hit the spot!

I created this peppermint hot chocolate by adding unsweetened cocoa to the steeped peppermint tea. Then I added a fair amount of agave nectar to taste. I topped off with a splash of unsweetened soy milk. Okay, I have to admit that the marshmallows aren’t sugar free but if it makes it any better, I didn’t eat them!!

To others I’m sure this drink would be bland in comparison to Starbuck’s, but for me and my special diet, it was yummo!


Indiana Yellow Summer Salad



Yeaaah! I think this is my first official original recipe. Inspired by local roadside produce stands and Chef Daniel Orr who emphasizes Indiana produce, I present to you Indiana Yellow Summer Salad. All the produce came from roadside stands and grown in Indiana. I noticed the produce included  colors other than the norm, mainly yellow. I’ve never had the yellow version of these veggies, so I bought them all and created this dish. The “green” beans tasted the same, but the yellow tomatoes were the best ones I’ve ever had in my whole life. The herbs came from my (and my mother’s) backyard. We shared the dish at a lake party on Saturday. Yummo!

Recipe for Indiana Yellow Summer Salad  

– 4 ears fresh sweet corn
– 1 quart yellow wax beans, ends snapped
– 1 quart yellow tomatoes (use slightly less than whole quart), halved
– 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
– 1/2 yellow-green chile pepper, thinly sliced

– 1/3C fresh basil, chopped

– 1/4C fresh oregano, chopped

– 1/2 TBS fresh dill, chopped

– 2 TBS red wine vinegar

– 2 TBS white balsamic vinegar
– 1 TSP agave nectar
– 2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

– Pinch of sea salt & fresh-cracked pepper

  1. Heat up grill. Peel back husks of corn but don’t tear off. Remove silk, rub with EVOO and salt & pepper to season. Tightly re-wrap husks, and wrap whole ear in aluminum foil. Repeat with all four husks.
  2. Grill ears of corn for about 20 minutes total, rotating every 5 minutes or until there’s slight grill marks on all sides of the corn.
  3. Let corn cool, then slice off kernels with a knife. I like to leave in chunky pieces so that you can tell it was fresh off the cob. Place in large bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, cook snapped yellow green beans in boiling water for 3 minutes. Move to ice bath to stop cooking.
  5. Place chilled yellow green beans in bowl with corn. Add tomatoes, onion, pepper, and herbs.
  6. In a separate dish, mix salt & pepper, red wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, and agave nectar. Whisk together ingredients while pouring in EVOO.
  7. Pour mixture on top of veggies and toss. Serve at room temperature. To save time, grill corn the night before with your dinner.

There it is, an original by Jenny Erb–Backyard Chef.


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Homemade Butters


My mother often goes on about some store-bought flavored butters that she enjoys. Upon viewing the ingredients, I was unhappy to find corn syrup solids and preservatives listed. So I decided to try mixing my own. I started by softening sticks of vegan Earth Balance butter.   I whipped the butter and then split into two to make one garlic-herbed butter and one honey-spiced butter. For the garlic-herbed butter, I added:

  • Garlic powder
  • Mrs. Dash seasoning
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the honey-spiced butter, I added:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt

I didn’t measure the ingredients, but would taste test then make adjustments. And boy did I eat a lot of bread! The flavors tone down over a day as they marry together. Since my mother-in-law’s birthday was in a few days, and she just got a new bread machine, I decided to give her my first batch along with mixed dry ingredients for a bread recipe. The handmade gifts needed labels, so I placed the butters in pretty glass jars and finished with sticker labels. I placed the bread mix into a plastic zip bag then stapled a paper label across the top. The best part is that these butters can be used on so many other things besides bread. We already used the garlic-herbed butter on quartered potatoes. You could use the honey-spiced butter on sweet potatoes, pancakes, or oatmeal. The garlic butter would also be good for sauteing with vegetables or steaks.


Whole Wheat Pitas from Scratch


Inspired by Food Network, last night we had homemade pitas! I started with a whole-wheat pita recipe made in the KitchenAid. First, you must know how horrible I am when it comes to baking or dough. The fact that they came out edible is a miracle! Next time I will roll them thinner, bake them for a shorter amount of time, and add more seasoning because they came out a little too crispy and a bit overwhelming in taste. But they were beautiful with their raising pockets of air!


For the chicken souvlaki, I marinated it using a recipe from Sandra Lee. This also included a recipe for Tzatziki sauce that came out great. Overall, this turned out to be a great, fun dinner, made from scratch.