Staff picks from Cooking up the Good Life

With warm weather upon us and summer picnics, barbecues, potlucks and other food-motivated gatherings on the horizon, we bet you’re on the market for some seasonally adjusted recipes. Here, the staff at UMP offers up a few favorites from Cooking Up the Good Life: Creative Recipes for the Family Table (by Twin Cities chef Jenny Breen and writer Susan Thurston) to help kick off the season in a meaningful, healthful and family-oriented spirit.

Display of Jenny Breen’s cookbook spotted at a local school’s plant sale fundraiser.

RECIPE 1: Nut Butter—Chocolate Chip Cookies
(with vegan option)

From the author:

I am a cookie fanatic. I love them fresh out of the oven, so rarely do I bake more than I can eat at one time (I won’t say how many that is). I also like to keep them simple, and find that ever since developing these recipes, which are mostly eggless and maple syrup–sweetened, my tastes have changed; standard crunchy cookies made with butter and sugar no longer suffice. My cookies are dense and moist—cookie qualities that I love and, hopefully, you will too.


* 1/2 cup oil or butter (use oil for vegan version)
* 1 cup maple syrup or 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 cup nut butter, either almond or cashew
* 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
* 3 1/2 cups pastry flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (check that the chocolate does not have added whey, milk fat, or casein for vegan version)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.

Stir together the oil, maple syrup, nut butter, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared pan and flatten them with the palm of your hand. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

The Family Kitchen tip:
It is easy to get kids to take part in making these treats. Almost all of these recipes involve hand rolling and pressing, which is always fun for little hands. Let’s face it, there are few things better than making cookies together, except maybe licking the bowl afterward. Note: If you want to be frugal, you can extend these recipes to 3 dozen by making the cookies slightly smaller.


RECIPE 2: Tofu “Cheese”

From the author:
This is a great cheese substitute that is full of flavor and is certain to please everyone, whether they are vegan or not! I use it for a number of the recipes throughout the book. It works great as an alternative to cheese or meat toppings for pizza or in lasagna—essentially any place you would normally use moist cheeses such as ricotta, feta, mozzarella, or chèvre. It browns nicely for baking in the oven, and has a tangy, smoky, and yeasty flavor.


* 1 pound extra-firm tofu
* 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast (the yellow flakey kind)
* 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 1/4 cup nut butter of your choice (any type except peanut butter works*)
* 1 teaspoon salt

Mash all of the ingredients together well with a fork—do not use a food processor or a blender. The mixture should be slightly lumpy, like the texture of crumbly cheese or browned ground meat. Store the “cheese” in the refrigerator for use as needed. It should last at least a week.

* Staff recommends sesame seed butter.


RECIPE 3: Gingered Green Beans

A great, cartable potluck item or a fun experiment as a pizza topping.

From the author:
One of the appealing aspects of this recipe is its simplicity. Given the limited number of ingredients, the result is surprisingly full of taste. The sweet and savory mix of the Asian flavors complements the crispness of fresh green beans.


* 1 1/2 pounds green beans, stem ends removed
* 3 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
* 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
* 1/4 cup orange juice
* 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
* 2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the green beans with the ginger, sesame oil, orange juice, vinegar, and salt and toss to coat. Roast the beans for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the beans right away for peak texture and flavor.

The Family Kitchen tip:
Kids can help remove the stem ends from the green beans—with or without knives. And if they nibble on a few raw beans while helping to prepare the recipe, all the better.


These recipes appear in Cooking Up the Good Life: Creative Recipes for the Family Table, by Jenny Breen and Susan Thurston.

“Jenny Breen and Susan Thurston guide us through the seasonal kitchen like a good friend sharing cooking secrets with clear, accessible recipes. The book is a passionate celebration for the fun of cooking delicious, good food for friends and family.”
—Lucia Watson

“Jenny Breen’s work continues to inspire me. Cooking Up the Good Life is the culmination of her love for ‘good real food’ and her heartfelt efforts to integrate a new consciousness toward local foods with the timeless joys of cooking together.”
—Tracy Singleton, owner of the Birchwood Café

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