Desert Companion

Cook up some fun!

Let these recipes draw the whole family into the kitchen — not just to eat, but to help prepare

Pie pops

Blueberry Lemon Pie Pops in Whole Wheat Crusts

Kids love any food on a stick! Inside these palate-pleasing pie pops, sweet blueberries serve as a perfect contrast to tart, lip-puckering lemons. Make them as a fun dessert for your next outdoor picnic or barbecue.

Makes 20-24 Pops



whole wheat crust (optional — may substitute store-bought pie crust)

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cubed

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1/2 cup ice water

blueberry filling

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Support comes from

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for the egg wash)

lemon glaze

3 cups confectioners' sugar whisked with 4-5 tablespoons lemon juice (until glaze is thick but pourable)

Popsicle sticks

1. Prepare the crust:  In a food processor, pulse the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, sugar and salt to combine. Scatter butter over top and pulse several times, until pieces are the size of peas.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, vinegar and ice water. Drizzle half the water mixture over the dough and pulse 4 or 5 times to combine. Add more of the mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing after each addition until the dough holds together in moist clumps. 

3. Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

4. Prepare the filling: In a medium bowl, mix together blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, juice, cornstarch and cinnamon. Set aside.

5. Divide the chilled dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out smaller piece to slightly thicker than 1/16-inch. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut as many rounds as possible. Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them apart. Reroll scraps as necessary and continue cutting.

6. Press the end of a wooden or paper lollipop stick into the bottom half of each round.

7. Roll out the larger piece of dough as in Step 5. Using a slightly larger (3-1/2 inch) round cutter, cut out an equal number of rounds, rerolling scraps as necessary.

8. Brush the smaller rounds with the egg wash and place a generous tablespoon of blueberry filling in the center of each. Top each with a larger round, pressing edges firmly to seal. Crimp around the edges with a fork.

9. Place the pie pops on baking sheets in the freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds positions and preheat oven to 375F.

10. When ready to bake, use the tip of a knife to poke 3 or 4 holes in each top crust. Bake pops for 22-25 minutes, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through, until tops are puffed and browned.

11. Let pops cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then drizzle with lemon glaze. Let glaze set 10 minutes before serving.


Tomato-Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

It’s hard to beat the classic comfort food combo of grilled cheese and tomato soup … but we can certainly try. Take it to the next level with mini grilled-cheese croutons, enabling your family to enjoy their soup and sandwich in one delicious bite!

Serves 4


Tomato-Basil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium sweet yellow onions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, including juices

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. In a heavy, large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent and softened, stirring frequently, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic; cook 2 minutes more.

2. Add the tomatoes, stock and tomato paste to the pan and bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Add the sugar and basil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.

4. Use an immersion blender (hand-held stick blender) to puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, you can carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, then return the soup to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, topped with grilled cheese croutons.


Grilled Cheese Croutons

2 tablespoons butter, softened

4 (1/2-inch) slices whole wheat bread

4-5 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat.

2. Place the slices of bread on a work surface and butter one side of each slice. 

3. Place two slices on the pan or griddle, buttered sides down. Evenly sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the slices. Top the cheese with the remaining two slices, buttered sides up

4. Cook until the bottom sides of the sandwiches are golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until the bottoms are golden brown and the cheese has melted (pressing lightly with the back of a spatula to flatten), 3-4 minutes more.

5. Cut the grilled cheese sandwiches into 1 inch squares. Serve atop the Tomato-Basil Soup.


French toast sticksSpiced French Toast Sticks with Orange Maple Syrup

When you're a kid, eating food with your hands is 10 times more fun than using proper utensils. In this variation on French toast — perfect for a weekend breakfast treat — the typically messy dish is made into finger-friendly sticks, ready for dipping into sweet maple syrup.

Serves 4-6

1-1/4 cups pure maple syrup

1/4 cup orange juice

zest of one small orange

8 thick slices (about 3/4-inch) day old brioche or Texas toast

4 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

generous pinch of salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. Prepare the orange maple syrup: Whisk the maple syrup, orange juice and orange zest in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook until the mixture is hot, whisking occasionally; set aside and keep warm.

2. Prepare the spiced French toast sticks: Cut each slice of bread into three equal strips. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.

3. Carefully dip each strip of bread into the egg custard, turning to thoroughly coat and soak up the liquid. Place dipped bread on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to allow excess liquid to drip off. 

4. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Place sticks of dipped bread in a single layer in the pan or on the griddle. Cook until the sticks are browned on one side, about 3 minutes, and then carefully turn each stick, cooking until all sides are browned and lightly crisp.  Repeat the cooking process with the remaining butter and sticks.

5. Serve the sticks alongside warm orange maple syrup.


TendersBaked Parmesan Herb Chicken Fingers with Maple Mustard Dipping Sauce

This healthier version of the popular kids' meal bakes up crispy using a mixture of Japanese panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Kids will enjoy shaking the coating onto the strips, a process that is much easier to clean up.

Serves 4


Chicken Fingers

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch strips

1-1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (found in the Asian foods section of grocery stores)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme 

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

maple Mustard Sauce

3/4 cup Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons pure maple syrup


1. In a large baking dish, whisk together the buttermilk, mustard, olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken strips and turn to coat. Cover and chill for 30 minutes, turning once.

2. Place a wire rack over a large baking sheet and spray the rack with nonstick spray. In a large zip-top bag, combine the Panko, parmesan, flour, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne (if using) and remaining teaspoon salt, shaking to blend.

3. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.

4. Remove a chicken strip from the buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Add the strip to the breadcrumb mixture in the bag.  Zip the bag and shake to coat the chicken. Place the strip on the wire rack; repeat the process with remaining chicken strips.  

5. Bake the chicken on the wire rack set over the baking sheet, turning over halfway through, until crisp, browned and firm, 15-20 minutes.

6. While chicken is baking, prepare the dipping sauce: Whisk the mustard and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed through. Transfer sauce to a bowl and serve alongside chicken fingers.

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