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Dump cake… I’ve had it since I was child. I always liked it, but I never really thought it was a big deal. I mean… it’s canned pie filling, canned pineapple, cake mix, and butter dumped in a pan and baked.

I can’t remember for what occasion, but my mom made a dump cake for my husband, and he went crazy over it. After all the many desserts I’ve made him, a dump cake is now his all-time favorite.

Anytime I ask him what he wants for dessert, without hesitation, he says, “dump cake.”

Here’s the thing, I know most desserts are bad for you, and I normally don’t make a big to-do about the ingredients that goes into making a sweet treat, but I just can’t get on board with canned pie filling anymore. It’s goopy and gloppy and the ingredients listed make me cringe. Yes, I know cake mix isn’t much better. It must be the goopy gloppiness that bothers me.

This is from a cherry filling:

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Nope. I just can’t.

So, I make my own.

I need to put it out there… it obviously takes more time to make, but it’s completely worth it. The flavor is over and beyond what you get by using canned pie filling.

You can use fresh or frozen fruit. I find you get more for your money with frozen. Here’s what I chose for the mixed berry cake I made today:

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This is a 48 ounce bag.

I let it defrost in the fridge overnight and then put it in a pot with one cup of sugar and one cup of water and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes until it thickens.

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That’s it. It’s that easy. The berries will break down, and at first you’ll think it’s too watery, but be patient. Once it begins to thicken, pour it into a baking dish (I use a 3 quart pyrex dish) and let it cool a bit. It’ll thicken even more.

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Now, add a can of crushed pineapple (don’t drain it), and stir it into the berries.

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Time to add the cake mix. Just pour it on top of the berries and pineapple mixture and smooth it out evenly.

Now it’s butter time! Melt one stick of butter and pour it on top of the cake mix. It’s gonna slip and slide. Just use the back of spoon and spread it evenly as much as you can. It’s not going to be perfect. Don’t worry about it.

You’ll notice there are some bare spots, so dab on small pats of butter where you feel it’s needed.

It’s dessert. It’s already bad for you, so there’s no harm in more butter.

See…

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Time to bake! Put it in a 375 degree pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. It just needs to be bubbly and brown on top.

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Let it cool down a little bit, which will allow the berry sauce to set up.

I highly recommend serving it with vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy!!

What you’ll need:

48 oz. bag of berries (your choice)

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

1 can crushed pineapple (do not drain)

1 box of white cake mix

1 stick of butter, plus a couple (or more) dabs more

Recommended: vanilla bean ice cream

Directions:

Defrost berries overnight in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put the berries in a pot with one cup of sugar and one cup of water and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes until it thickens. Once it begins to thicken, pour it into a baking dish (I use a 3 quart pyrex dish) and let it cool a bit. It’ll thicken even more.

Add a can of crushed pineapple (don’t drain it), and stir it into the berries.

Add the cake mix. Pour it on top of the berries and pineapple mixture and smooth it out evenly.

Melt one stick of butter and pour it on top of the cake mix. It’s gonna slip and slide. Just use the back of spoon and spread it evenly as much as you can. You’ll notice there are some bare spots, so dab on small pats of butter where you feel it’s needed.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until bubbly and browned on top.

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

Blue Cheese Dressing

If you like Blue Cheese dressing, do yourself a huge favor, and make it at home. It’s so simple and has only three ingredients, plus spices.

Homemade is better than anything you can buy from the grocery store.

You can control how blue cheesy you want it and how thick you’d like it.

Put it on top of a salad.

Make a blue cheese burger with it.

Use it as a dip with chips, wings, and/or vegetables.

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Here’s how to make it…

Put one container of sour cream in a medium bowl.

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Now, add the blue cheese of your choice. I used gorgonzola and danish. Gorgonzola is a sharper blue and danish is lighter and creamier.

Also add salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir it all together.

One cup at a time, add buttermilk. Make it as thick or thin as you’d like.

Now, taste it. If needed, add additional seasoning.

Put in a container and put in the fridge. I find it gets better with time, so let it set up for a few hours before serving.

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How easy was that?

What you’ll need:

1 lb container of sour cream

Blue Cheeses of your choice

Buttermilk– as much as you want to get the consistency you like

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoon pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Put one container of sour cream in a medium bowl.

Add the blue cheese of your choice, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir it all together.

One cup at a time, add buttermilk. Make it as thick or thin as you’d like.

Now, taste it. If needed, add additional seasoning.

Put in a container and put in the fridge. I find it gets better with time, so let it set up for a few hours before serving.

Fried Fish Sandwich

I’m a big fan of sandwiches, especially a fried fish sandwich on a toasted bun with mayo and pickles.

Yeah, you can drive through your local fast food joint and get a greasy, who knows what kind of fish, sandwich… but making them at home is a hundred times better.

You can use whatever fish you want. Some good ones to try are: cod, flounder, red snapper, striped bass, or sole. Tonight, I chose cod.

 I like a thick, crunchy crust on my fish, so I use a wet batter that includes flour AND cornstarch.  The cornstarch makes the crust crunchy. I also add a can of beer and some baking powder, which makes the batter lighter.

I always let my pancake, waffle, and cornbread batters rest in the fridge for a little while before cooking it. I’ve always heard it was a good idea to do, so that’s the only reason I do it. I don’t really think that’s a good enough answer, so I figured I’d google the reason and share it with you. Go here to read a better explanation than I could ever type out.

Let’s get started with the batter.

First, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. The cayenne is optional, so if you don’t like heat, just leave it out.

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Now, add a can of beer (I used a light beer, but if you want to use a heftier beer, go for it) and an egg. Whisk until well mixed and no clumps remain.

Put the batter in the fridge for at least an hour and up to three hours.

Once you’re ready, cut your fish into sandwich size pieces.

 Fill a large pan with vegetable oil– halfway up the sides will work– and heat it up on Med-high heat.

To test if the oil is hot enough put a little batter in the pan. If it sizzles and bubbles, it’s ready.

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Now, let’s get these fish battered and into the pan!

First, put your fish in the batter and get it fully coated. Holding it with tongs, let some of the excess drip off before putting into the pan.

Here’s a BIG TIP for putting the fish into the pan… Keeping hold of the fish with the tongs, don’t let the fish fully touch the bottom of the pan. Swirl it back and forth until some of the batter begins frying, and then let go. This will keep the batter from sticking to the bottom of the pan and pulling away from the fish. If it sticks a little, don’t worry. Just move it around a little.

When you see it getting brown on the bottom, carefully flip, using the same technique as above.

Let it cook for at least another 8-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).

When it’s done, put on a wire cooling rack, and finish up the rest of the fish.

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Be sure not to forget to toast your buns!

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Now, build your sandwich however you wish. I like mine with mayo and pickles.

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Serve with chips or fries.

I baked homemade fries, which is easy to make. Slice potatoes with a mandolin or hand cut them. Put them in a bowl and coat with oil, salt, and pepper. Put on a lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until done to your liking.

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Enjoy! I promise, this will the best fish sandwich you’ve ever had!

What you’ll need:

Fish of your choice (Cod, Flounder, Sole, Striped Bass, etc…)

Vegetable oil (enough to fill your pan halfway up the side)

1 cup of flour

1 cup of cornstarch

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 can of beer (your choice)

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper (optional).

Now, add a can of beer (I used a light beer, but if you want to use a heftier beer, go for it) and an egg. Whisk until well mixed and no clumps remain.

Put the batter in the fridge for at least an hour and up to three hours.

Once you’re ready, cut your fish into sandwich size pieces.

First, put your fish in the batter and get it fully coated. Holding it with tongs, let some of the excess drip off before putting into the pan.

Here’s a BIG TIP for putting the fish into the pan… Keeping hold of the fish with the tongs, don’t let the fish fully touch the bottom of the pan. Swirl it back and forth until some of the batter begins frying, and then let go. This will keep the batter from sticking to the bottom of the pan and pulling away from the fish. If it sticks a little, don’t worry. Just move it around a little.

When you see it getting brown on the bottom, carefully flip, using the same technique as above.

Let it cook for at least another 8-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).

When it’s done, put on a wire cooling rack, and finish up the rest of the fish.

Toast your buns and build the sandwich however you wish.

Before I became a pescetarian, I hardly ever put seafood and pasta together. I always stuck with cooking, or ordering, beef bolognese, which is too bad. Seafood is a great compliment to pasta, especially shellfish.

I’ve never been a huge clam fan, but lately, I’ve given them a chance, and I’m glad I have. They’re becoming one of my favorites to work with and this recipe is in my top 5 pasta dishes.

If you’ve never cooked clams, please, don’t be intimidated. They practically do the work for you, so give them a try.

You can use any size of clam you want for this recipe, so don’t worry if you’re local seafood store only has one kind to choose from.

Let’s get started.

First, soak your clams in cold water for at least 20 minutes before cooking. Why, you ask? As clams breathe they filter water. When the fresh water is filtered, the clam pushes sand out of their shells. After 20 minutes, the clams should have released any sand in their shells.

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Also, get a pot of salted water going for your pasta.

While the clams are in a happy ice bath, and water is getting to the boiling point, let’s get everything else going.

Chop one large shallot and three to four cloves of garlic.

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Now, sauté the shallot and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Be sure to continuously stir, because you don’t want the garlic to burn.

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Now add one cup of wine, one tablespoon of butter, red pepper flakes, and the juice of one lemon. By the way, if you don’t have a hand held lemon/lime juicer, get one. The amount of juice you get from using one is way more than squeezing it with your hand.

Let this cook on medium heat for about five minutes. You want the alcohol from the wine to cook out.

Now add one can of clams.

I bet you’re saying, “What??? CANNED clams?”

Yes. Canned clams.

They add more clam flavor to the dish. If you don’t want to add them, you don’t have to. Also add one bottle of clam juice. This is a clam pasta dish, so you want all the clam flavor you can get. Just trust me.

Stir and let it simmer for a minute or two and then taste. You’ll notice I haven’t added salt up to this point. With the canned clams and bottled can juice, you may not want or need anymore salt. If you feel it needs more, add it to your taste. If you think it’s a little tart, add more butter.

Once you have it like you want, it’s time to add the clams, but first, put your pasta in the boiling water and cook ’til al dente.

While your pasta is cooking, put the clams in the sauce, and turn the heat up to medium-high. You can cover them, if you want, but I like to keep them moving. By moving them around, you can see which ones are opening. As soon as a clam opens, take it out and put it in a bowl. The reason I do this is so they don’t overcook while the others open.

Some will take longer, so be patient, and keep them moving around. Once you get most of them out of the sauce, and you see a few still are not opening, just toss them. If they don’t open, they’re not good.

Now, add your cooked (al dente) pasta to your sauce and stir around.

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Add your clams back to the pan and stir.

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Time to eat!!

One good addition to any saucy dish is crunchy bread!

My favorite local bread is made by Elmore Mountain Bread.

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Man, it doesn’t get any better than this!

(Of course, I added chopped parsley and a little grated parmesan.)

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What you’ll need:

2 lbs fresh clams

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

1 cup of white wine (sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio)

1 large shallot, chopped

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 can of clams

1 bottle of clam juice

1 lemon, juiced

1 box of spaghetti

Salt to taste

Red pepper flakes to taste

Chopped parsley (optional)

Grated parmesan (optional)

Crusty bread (optional)

Directions:

First, soak your clams for twenty minutes before cooking.

Get a pot of salted water going for your pasta.

Chop one whole shallot and three to four cloves of garlic. Sauté them in one tablespoon of olive oil on med heat for 2-3 minutes. Be sure to continuously stir, because you don’t want the garlic to burn.

Add one cup of wine, one tablespoon of butter, red pepper flakes, and the juice of one lemon. Let this cook on medium heat for about five minutes. You want the alcohol from the wine to cook out.

Add one can of clams and one bottle of clam juice.

Stir and let it simmer for a minute or two and then taste. You’ll notice I haven’t added salt up to this point. With the canned clams and bottle juice, you may not want or need anymore salt. If you feel it needs more, add it to your taste. If you think it’s a little tart, add more butter.

Put your pasta in the boiling water and cook ’til al dente.

While your pasta is cooking, put the clams in the sauce, and keep stirring them until they start opening. As soon as a clam opens, take it out and put it in a bowl. This will ensure they won’t overcook while the others begin to open. Be sure to discard the ones that do not open.

Add your cooked (al dente) pasta to your sauce and stir around. Then add your clams and stir one more time.

Enjoy!

Mushroom Stroganoff

I remember the days of Hamburger Helper Stroganoff. It was a mainstay in my pantry when I was in my 20’s, and yes, even into my 30’s. I loved the stuff!

It’s one of my favorite comfort foods, and once I began upping my cooking game, I knew I had to find a way to make my own stroganoff recipe.

I call it Mushroom Stroganoff, but you’ll notice I used my favorite meat crumbles, and you could also use browned chicken, or browned ground beef, or or leave out the protein all together. It’s up to you.

So, let’s get to it.

First, cook one 16 ounce package of egg noodles. Be sure to cook them al dente, because they will cook more when you add them to the sauce.

Now, if you’re going to use meat, brown it, and then set it aside.

Next, chop and onion and slice your mushrooms. I did two medium onions and two packages of mushrooms. You can use more or less… it’s up to you.

Put them in a large pan (I use cast iron), and sauté them in two tablespoons of olive oil on med-high heat until the onions are just tender. Then, remove them from the pan, and set aside.

Now, it’s time to make a roux.

In the same pan, melt two tablespoons of butter and add two tablespoon of flour. Whisk until you get a smooth mixture. If it’s dry at all, add more butter. While continuing to whisk, cook for at least one or two minutes.

Now add four cups of milk and whisk away. Keep the heat on med-high and whisk continuously. This will thicken the sauce.

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Once it gets thick, so it can cover the back of a wooden spoon, it’s time to add flavor and spices.

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The spices are: salt, pepper, onion powder, chopped garlic, red pepper flakes. Also, add dashes of worcestershire sauce.

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Mix it all together, and then add 1 cup of sour cream, and whisk it in. As you can see, I use Cabot. Seriously, if you’ve never tried their sour cream (or any of their products), do it! It’s simply amazing and SO MUCH better than any other product out there.

 Now, taste it. What do you think it needs? I usually have to add a little more salt and red pepper flakes.

After adjusting the flavor to your liking, add the mushrooms, onions, meat (if you’re using it), and grated pecorino romano cheese. Stir it all together.

Now, add your cooked egg noodles and stir them in.

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Time to put it in a bowl and devour!

Of course, I topped mine with extra grated pecorino romano and parsley.

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So yummy!! Enjoy!

What you’ll need:

1 package of egg noodles

Browned meat of your choice (optional)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion

2 packages of mushrooms of your choice (I used baby bellas)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

4 cups of milk (at least 2%)

1 cup of sour cream

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon red pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

7-10 dashes of worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated.

Directions:

First, cook one 16 ounce package of egg noodles. Be sure to cook them al dente, because they will cook more when you add them to the sauce.

Now, if you’re going to use meat, brown it, and then set it aside.

Next, chop and onion and slice your mushrooms. Put them in a large pan (I use cast iron), and sauté them in two tablespoons of olive oil on med-high heat until the onions are just tender. Then, remove them from the pan, and set aside.

In the same pan, melt two tablespoons of butter and add two tablespoon of flour. Whisk until you get a smooth mixture. If it’s dry at all, add more butter. While continuing to whisk, cook for at least one or two minutes.

Now add four cups of milk and whisk away. Keep the heat on med-high and whisk continuously. This will thicken the sauce.

Once it gets thick, so it can cover the back of a wooden spoon, it’s time to add salt, pepper, onion powder, chopped garlic, red pepper flakes. Also, add dashes of worcestershire sauce. Stir it all together and then mix in the sour cream.

Now, taste it. What do you think it needs?

After adjusting the flavor to your liking, add the mushrooms, onions, meat (if you’re using it), and grated pecorino romano cheese. Stir it all together.

Now, add your cooked egg noodles and stir them in.

Time to eat!

You know those times when a dish gets stuck in your head and nothing else will do? Well, that kinda happened to me yesterday.

Chris and I were discussing what we wanted to eat this weekend and we decided on stuffed calamari for Friday night’s dinner. Well, when he went to our local fishmonger he was out of calamari.

“What? NO!!! I was SO looking forward to that dish!” was my reaction when Chris called to tell me.

We talked it out and finally decided on stuffed sole. It wouldn’t be exactly the same, but close enough.

When I make my stuffed calamari, I do a sausage stuffing, and I wasn’t sure if it would work with sole, but I gave it a shot, and it was delicious!

I use Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage, but you can use any bulk sausage you like. If you don’t want to do sausage, you can use crabmeat.

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So, let’s get to it.

First, make a simple tomato sauce. Sauté onion and garlic for five minutes and then add one large can crushed tomatoes and one large can diced tomatoes. Then, add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. I also like to add a tablespoon of sugar to help cut the acidity of the tomatoes. If you want it spicy, add red pepper flakes.

Let the sauce simmer for at least an hour. Half way through, take the lid off the pot. This will allow the sauce to thicken up a bit.

Once it’s ready, ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, and set it close to where you’ll be assembling your stuffed sole.

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Now, onto the stuffing. If you’re going to use sausage, brown it and let cool.

In a large bowl, add the sausage, panko bread crumbs, parsley, milk, eggs, salt, and pepper.

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Mix it all together with your hands and get it to a consistency that can be formed like this:

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Lay out your sole and put the filling in the middle.

Then roll the fish around the stuffing and put on top of the tomato sauce in the baking dish.

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Cover the fish with the rest of the tomato sauce and bake at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. Give it a check at 30 minutes and if the fish is still a little translucent and not firm, let it go for a little while longer.

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This will be a go-to dish for us from now on. I’m kinda glad they were out of calamari; it gave me a chance to be creative with a different fish.

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Note: The amount of stuffing will depend on how many pieces of sole you use. I made a little too much for 10 pieces of fish, but I’ll use the leftover in something else. You can’t really get it wrong as long as you have the right consistency.

What you’ll need for the tomato sauce:

1 large can of crushed tomatoes

1 large can diced tomatoes

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons salt and pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

Red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:

Sauté onion and garlic for five minutes and then add one large can crushed tomatoes and one large can diced tomatoes. Then, add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. I also like to add a tablespoon of sugar to help cut the acidity of the tomatoes. If you want it spicy, add red pepper flakes.

Let the sauce simmer for at least an hour. Half way through, take the lid off the pot. This will allow the sauce to thicken up a bit.

Once it’s ready, ladle some of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, and set it close to where you’ll be assembling your stuffed sole.

What you’ll need for the stuffed sole:

2 lbs sole (or whatever amount is good for you)

1 package of sausage of your choice or crab meat

1-2 cups panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup parsley

1 cup of milk

1 teaspoon salt and pepper

Directions:

If you’re going to use sausage, brown it and let cool.

In a large bowl, add the sausage, panko bread crumbs, parsley, milk, eggs, salt, and pepper.

Mix it all together with your hands and get it to a consistency that can be formed into a ball.

Lay out your sole and put the filling in the middle. Fill it as much or as little as you want. Roll the fish around the stuffing and put on top of the tomato sauce in the baking dish.

Cover the fish with the rest of the tomato sauce and bake at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. Give it a check at 30 minutes and if the fish is still a little translucent and not firm, let it go for a little while longer.

Remember, the amount of stuffing will depend on how many pieces of sole you use. You can’t really get it wrong as long as you have the right consistency.

Fish substitutions: 

If you can’t find sole, flounder will work.

 

 

Roasted Chickpeas

These roasted chickpeas are so addictive!!

Drain a can of chickpeas (or garbanzo). Toss in olive oil, salt, and any other seasonings you want. Then roast for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

They’re crunchy, satiating, and healthy for you!

Seasonings that would be good to try:

Old Bay

Cayenne

Ranch Seasoning

Garlic Powder

Onion Powder

I haven’t tried it, but if you want something a little sweet, maybe toss them in cinnamon sugar.