Chocolate Fig Banana Bread Florentine Cookies Grilled - Roasted Turkey Easy Meatball Pizza Chicken with Spiced Mango Cupcakes 10 Easy Tips Sugar Cookies on a Stick Calico Beans

Banana Bread Gets A Tasty Power Boost

(NAPSI)—When thoughts turn to baking and the holiday season, classic banana bread can get a scrumptious new look and nutrition power boost with the addition of sweet, fiber-rich figs and yummy chocolate morsels.

Looking for an after-school snack for the kids, a morning treat to enjoy with coffee or the perfect holiday hostess gift? Chocolate Fig Banana Bread delivers on all counts. Freeze loaves whole or cut into slices and wrap individually in plastic wrap to grab out of the freezer for everyday use.

Although it’s likely to be rare, if there are leftovers, Chocolate Fig Banana Bread can be used to transform bread pudding, French toast and layered ice cream parfaits into decadent holiday dishes to delight friends and family.

Use dark purple Mission Figs or Golden Figs; both work equally well in the recipe and add the same power boost of sweet fruit flavor, fiber and potassium. Keep California Dried Figs on hand for a quick energy-rich snack and sweet addition to salads, side dishes and cereals.

For more recipes, baking tips, figs and fig products, go to the Valley Fig Growers website,

Chocolate Fig Banana Bread


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1½ cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4)

  • 2 large eggs

  • ½ cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup stemmed, chopped (½ -inch) Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Mission or Calimyrna Figs

  • ½ cup miniature chocolate morsels


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350º F. Oil 9-x-5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together bananas, eggs, oil and vanilla. Whisk liquids into dry ingredients, mixing just until blended. Stir in figs and chocolate. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake 60 to 70 minutes (cover with foil after about 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning) or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Run sharp knife around edge of pan and remove bread from pan to wire rack to cool. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature or freeze. Makes 1 loaf.

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Easy, Elegant Cookie Creations

(NAPSI)—An attractive treat for the holidays or at any time, Florentine Cookies are thin, crunchy confections containing nuts and fruit held together with honey or sugar.

After they’re baked, the cookies are usually dipped in or drizzled with chocolate. Almonds, hazelnuts and pecans are commonly used, as are cherries.

Though the name would suggest that the Florentine cookie is from Florence,Italy, it was allegedly invented at the Palace of Versailles, Paris, France, around the turn of the 18th century.

“Aside from being divinely decadent, this is a naturally gluten-free recipe, pretty quick and simple to make, and all the ingredients are easy to keep on hand to make for gifts or to bring to a party. In fact, I usually have a jar or two of maraschino cherries in my pantry at all times to add color and flavor to desserts and other dishes,” said Carol Kicinski, food writer, TV chef and recipe developer.

“With their burnished brown and copper tones studded with bright pops of ruby-red cherries, they remind me of an antique jewelry box filled with precious jewels. They are, for the most part, quite lovely to look at,” she added, and created this recipe for you to try:

Florentine Cookies

24 Cookies


  • 4 tablespoons butter or butter substitute

  • ⅓ cup honey

  • 12 maraschino cherries, stems removed, patted dry and quartered

  • ¼ cup pine nuts

  • 1 cup sliced almonds

  • Zest of 1 large orange, finely grated

  • 2 tablespoons milk (or rice milk)


Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Heat butter over low heat in large saucepan. Add honey; increase the heat to medium-high and add the cherries, pine nuts, almonds and orange zest. Bring to a boil, stirring to coat all the ingredients. Add milk. Continue to boil, stirring, until liquid has reduced and the mixture starts to hold together. Place well-spaced tablespoons of the mixture on prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Let cool in a dry place on baking sheets until crisp. Carefully peel cookies off the paper. Store in a cool, dry place—humidity will make them sticky.

Learn More

For more recipes and information, visit

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Grill-Roasted Turkey: A Tasty Twist On Tradition

(NAPSI)—If you want a traditional, perfectly carved, Thanksgiving turkey but would like to bring a delicious twist to the meal, then look to chef, cookbook author and James Beard−award nominee Kathy Gunst. She has discovered a way to bring the tradition of the Thanksgiving turkey to the holiday table in an unconventional way.

Every Thanksgiving, Kathy Gunst roasts a turkey in the oven, but one year she had a larger crowd than usual and needed to cook two turkeys. “So, on a colder-than-normal November day, I decided to grill-roast a second turkey,” says Gunst. “The recipe, it turns out, couldn’t be simpler.” Grilling the bird resulted in a picture-perfect glazed turkey with juicy meat and a subtle smokey flavor. “This recipe is nothing short of a revelation. You will not believe how a plain old turkey, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, placed on a hot grill, can have this much flavor with so little fuss,” says Gunst.

Grilled Turkey

1 10−12 pound turkey

Cleaned and dried. Salt and freshly ground black pepper, seasoned to taste.

Heat a fire in the grill (charcoal or gas) and cook a small (10 to 12 pound) whole turkey over indirect heat with a minimum of seasoning. Be sure to place a shallow pan underneath the bird atop the charcoal or burner covers to catch the drippings and reduce flare-ups. Grill for approximately 2 hours (use thermometer to check for doneness).

Stuff the bird and/or add an array of vegetables to the grill, like stuffed squash, corn on the cob, or turnips and potatoes for a complete meal. Add your vegetables to the grill 30 minutes or so before the turkey is done. Once the meat is cooked and cooled the bird is ready for carving. “I can’t overestimate how important it is to have a good, sharp knife for carving the bird. It should be very tender and carve easily, but a well-sharpened favorite carving knife will make things that much easier,” says Gunst.

Chef’sChoice® Turkey Carving Tips: Three Easy Steps

If you want the turkey you serve “gobbled up” this holiday, avoid hacking the bird by trying these simple carving tips from Chef’sChoice®:

• Step 1

Be sure to use a good, sharp knife. Sharp knives are not only safer, they will help you to smoothly cut thin, even slices without shredding the meat. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert to put a razor sharp edge on your knife. Chef’sChoice M130 sharpener professionally sharpens steels and strops all brands and types of knives. Precision guides eliminate guesswork for sharp, durable edges. For help finding a sharpener that’s right for you, call (800) 342-3255 or visit

• Step 2

After the turkey is cooked (meat thermometer should read 180° F when inserted in the thickest part of the turkey thigh) cool the bird for 15 minutes. Cooling makes the meat firmer and easier to slice. Remove and set aside the turkey legs and the last joint of each wing. Make a long, deep (to the bone) horizontal “base cut” into the breast just above the wing.

• Step 3

Slice down vertically through the breast until you meet the original base cut. This will release perfect, even slices.

Following these preparation and carving tips can help make your Thanksgiving a meal to remember.

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Easy, Enjoyable Meatball Meals

(NAPSI)—For the family looking for a hectic-free dinner, meatballs may be the ideal solution. With school in session and busy activities scheduled, dinnertime doesn’t have to be a major production. Hearty and delicious meatballs make stress-free meals easy and delicious.

Frozen meatballs are a filling and flavorful answer to the question “What’s for dinner?” Many of these meaty morsels are found packaged in the grocery store fully cooked, ensuring fast preparation and a perfectly rounded-out mid-week meal.

Great brands, such as Casa Di Bertacchi Meatballs, are made with high-quality beef combined with wholesome ingredients and seasonings for an authentic Italian flavor. The meatballs are seared and steamed in the traditional way, ready to be stirred into any delicious dish and put on your table for everyone to enjoy. They can be tossed into pasta, served on top of salads, baked into pizza or eaten on their own as a quick snack. Meatballs are a versatile family favorite that can please the crowd.

Perhaps the best part is that they can be prepared in more than just the oven. Meatballs can be warmed in a slow cooker or microwave, too. Casa Di Bertacchi, available at Sam’s Club nationwide, makes it easy for families to feast on the bounty of flavor. Try Easy Meatball Pizza for a new twist on a classic family favorite.

Easy Meatball Pizza


  • 13 (½ lb) frozen Casa Di Bertacchi fully cooked meatballs

  • 1 (12-inch) premade pizza crust

  • 1 jar (14 oz.) pizza sauce

  • 1½ cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

  • ¼ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning


Preheat oven to 400° F. Lay pizza crust on a pizza pan. Spread 1 cup pizza sauce over crust. Sprinkle ¾ cup cheese over sauce. Place meatballs and 2 teaspoons of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave frozen meatballs on high for 3 minutes. Drain any excess liquid. Cut each meatball in half. Toss meatballs with remaining sauce. Spoon meatballs over cheese layer, ensuring that the cut side of meatball is down. Layer remaining cheese over the top of the meatballs. Sprinkle Italian seasoning evenly over pizza. Bake for 12−15 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

For more delicious meatball recipes, visit

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Mangos Make The Meal

(NAPSI)—As temperatures drop and schedules get busier this season, warm, hearty comfort food feels like a necessity. With a few new ideas and versatile ingredients, satisfying dishes can avoid the unhealthy pitfalls of typical heavy fare. Including fresh fruits and vegetables, such as the sweet, tropical mango, can add a burst of flavor and a nutritious twist to your favorite family meals.

Chicken with Spiced Mango Rice fits the bill for a hearty, flavorful weeknight dinner. With just five minutes of hands-on preparation and 15 to 20 minutes of cooking, this sweet and savory meal is ready in less than half an hour. It is also a well-rounded meal of protein, whole grains and fresh produce all in one dish.

Mangos, one of this dish’s key ingredients, provide more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals, are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and are rich in fiber—all for just 100 calories per serving. In fact, mangos provide 100 percent of daily vitamin C, an antioxidant that promotes healthy immune function, which is important for busy families during cold season.

Since mangos are available year-round, they are an exciting addition to the cozy staples of autumn and winter. Their natural sweetness is a versatile and welcome counterpart to seasonal favorites like sweet potatoes, slow-cooked beef and pork dishes, or winter squashes. Warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg also complement the fruit’s distinct sweet-floral and tropical flavor.

When selecting a mango, color is not always the best indicator of ripeness. Instead, squeeze the mango gently. A ripe mango will give slightly, similar to a ripe peach or avocado. Keep unripe mangos at room temperature on the countertop and they will continue to ripen, becoming sweeter and softer over several days.

Once ripe, mangos may be moved to the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to five days. Mangos can also be peeled, cubed and stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months. When cutting a mango, always wash the fruit and use a clean cutting board and knife.

Many filling foods may satisfy a craving yet fall short in providing healthy fuel for this hectic time of year. Instead, make over family dinners with fresh mango, using these simple and familiar techniques to create crave-able, exciting and wholesome meals.

Chicken with Spiced Mango Rice
Servings: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened if very thick

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 1 (8.8-ounce) package wild rice, such as Uncle Ben’s Ready Whole Grain Medley Brown & Wild Rice

  • 2 large, ripe but firm mangos, peeled, pitted and diced

  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced

  • ⅓ cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios

  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries

  • ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice


Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Stir together rice, mango, onion, pistachios, cranberries and spices in a medium foil pan or on a very large piece of heavy-duty foil. Place about ⅓ cup of rice mixture in the center of each chicken breast. Bring in the ends and sides to enclose, then tie with kitchen string to seal in filling. Grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side, then place chicken on top of remaining rice mixture. Cover with foil or seal foil package, leaving room for air to circulate. Grill for 5 minutes more. If desired, slice chicken into medallions to serve.

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Bake Like A Pro With 10 Easy Tips

(NAPSI)—Whether it’s a school party, personal accomplishment or just because, every day, there are occasions that call for special treats or desserts. Even with a full schedule, busy moms can bake and decorate beautiful cupcakes that would be perfect for any gathering.

The key is to use quality ingredients and products designed for the job. To help, best-selling authors and cupcake gurus Karen Tack and Alan Richardson share their best tips for baking cupcakes like a pro every day.

  • Start with a good cupcake pan. It should be silver colored and a little on the heavy side.

  • For cupcakes that look as good as they taste, use an aluminum foil−lined baking cup that’s designed to keep its pattern after baking, such as Reynolds StayBrite Baking Cups. Baking cups that are not foil lined can lose their color while baking.

  • Before mixing your cupcake batter, make sure to bring all ingredients to room temperature. This way, the ingredients are more likely to blend together easily.

  • Remember, if you mix cold items into your batter, you run the risk of having a lumpy consistency. This might lead you to overmix the batter and overmixing can cause cupcakes to be chewy instead of moist.

  • Pinch the ends of your baking cup with paper clips to make your cupcakes into different shapes, like a star or a football.

  • Only fill your baking cup 2/3 to the top. They will rise to the top of the liner while baking.

  • Simply use a serrated knife to trim the top of your cupcakes so they are flat, rather than rounded like a mushroom cap you may find in a bakery. This makes it easier to decorate the top of the cupcake.

  • Chill your cupcakes before you frost them so they won’t crumble while you’re handling them.

  • Wipe the excess frosting off the spatula on the edge of the can before going back for another swipe. If you have extra frosting on your spatula, you will never get a clean peak on your cupcake top.

  • Keep frosting at room temperature before spreading it on your cupcakes. If frosting is too cold, it will be difficult to spread and can tear the cake. If frosting is too warm, it becomes runny and messy.

For more tips and for fun-filled recipes, visit

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Bake Some Family Fun With These Charming Treats

(NAPSI)—You and your family can have fun indoors by creating these tasty and charming treats. Kid-friendly Sugar Cookies on a Stick and unique Homemade Marshmallow recipes are totally customizable and perfect winter treats; each can be made to include your family’s favorite flavors, shapes or colors.

The secret to making these tasty sweets is to use Karo Syrup. In cookies, it helps maintain freshness, and in marshmallows, it helps control sugar crystallization, which keeps them smooth and creamy.

Sugar Cookies on a Stick
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 8 to 10 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour OR overnight 
Yield: 20 cookies


  • 1½ cups sugar

  • 1 cup shortening

  • 2 eggs

  • ¼ cup Karo Light Corn Syrup

  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon Argo Baking Powder

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • Craft sticks


Combine sugar and shortening in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixture until well mixed. Add eggs, corn syrup and vanilla. Beat until well blended and fluffy. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix until well blended. Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill dough at least 1 hour before using. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Preheat oven to 375° F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into walnut-size balls. Push craft sticks into the center of each ball. Place balls, with stick parallel to the baking sheet, 3 inches apart. Flatten cookies into 2½-inch circles. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly browned around the edges. Don’t overbake. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing on wire rack to cool completely. When cookies are cool, wrap in plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon OR place in airtight container.

Homemade Marshmallows
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cool time: 4+ hours 
Yield: 6 dozen medium marshmallows


  • 1 cup room temperature water, divided

  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin

  • 2¼ cups sugar

  • 1 cup Karo Light Corn Syrup

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  •   teaspoons Argo Corn Starch


Combine ½  cup water, salt and gelatin in large bowl of a stand mixer. Stir and set aside. Combine remaining ½  cup water, sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Using a candy thermometer, cook until mixture reaches 240° F or soft ball stage. Gradually pour the hot syrup over the gelatin mixture with the mixer on low. Turn the mixer on its highest speed and beat for 8 minutes. Add vanilla and beat an additional 2 minutes. The mixing bowl will get very full. The marshmallows will become very thick, white and shiny. Spread mixture onto greased baking sheet with sides. For thicker marshmallows, use a 13 x 9-inch pan. Let marshmallows cool at least 4 hours or overnight. Combine powdered sugar and corn starch in a shallow pan. Cut the marshmallows into bite-size pieces with a sharp knife or scissors, dropping one at a time into the powdered sugar. Toss to coat well. Store marshmallows in an airtight container in a cool place. Best used within 1 month.

Learn More

For flavor ideas and design variations, check out the recipes

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Soyfoods: A Natural Choice

(NAPSI)—There are ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer and take charge of your health. According to the American Cancer Society, research has shown that a poor diet and inactivity are key factors in increasing cancer risk. Make breast cancer screening and regular checkups a part of your healthy lifestyle.

To help, consider these five ways that soyfoods can help reduce your risk of breast cancer:

1. Understand that you are what you eat. Soyfoods can help you make healthy choices, with a focus on eating more plant-based foods. Not only do soyfoods provide complete protein, they’re cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and offer other health advantages as well. On its informative website, The Soyfoods Council offers details about how soyfoods can be an important part of your family’s healthy lifestyle. Regarding ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer, the free “Soyfoods and Your Health” brochure explains that while healthy behavior throughout your life span can impact breast cancer risk, diet and lifestyle habits during the first 20 years appear to be especially impactful.

2. Help the young girls in your life get a healthy start. Evidence suggests that there are big advantages to consuming soy during childhood and adolescence. Studies indicate that eating just a little bit of soy each day when young may offer significant protection against breast cancer. This exciting research found that just one serving of soy a day—such as a cup of soymilk or ⅔ cup edamame—may reduce the chances of developing breast cancer later in life by as much as 50 percent. Current thinking is that consuming soyfoods—likely because they contain very unique compounds—causes changes in the developing breast cells that make them permanently less likely to develop cancer.

3. Keep current on diet and health information if you have had breast cancer. Recent comprehensive research involving nearly 10,000 breast cancer patients found that over a seven-year period, soyfood consumption actually reduced risk of recurrence by 25 percent. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer patients can safely consume soyfoods.

4. Maintain a healthy weight. The Soyfoods Council can help with nutrition information and recipes, like Calico Beans, that satisfy your hunger and provide a protein boost. Because higher-protein diets may aid in weight loss, healthful protein sources like soyfoods can play an important role in a healthy diet.

5. Promote physical activity for the whole family. The Soyfoods Council, a nonprofit organization created and funded by soybean farmers, offers tools to help you understand the important link between diet and exercise. For example, the free brochure “Kids in the Kitchen: 50 Soy Snack Ideas” provides healthful snack suggestions for active children—snacks that make it easy for girls to consume at least one serving of soyfoods per day. Help the kids in your life to learn more about the diet and exercise connection with the free smartphone app Soy Pals. This virtual friend game is a learning tool for making healthful choices.

Updated research information, new recipes and fun videos are frequently updated on The Soyfoods Council website:

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