Banana bites are just one little trick to have up your sleeve. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

It’s important to have a few little tricks in our culinary repertoire to throw together in a hurry, especially these days when grocery prices are hitting an all-time high. A glossy chocolate spread, a savory sauce, a popular salad dressing and salty-sweet, yet healthy small bites can all be made with ingredients you probably already have on hand.

I’ll start with this magical spread that you’ll want to smooth onto crusty baguettes, French toast, pair with peanut butter, sprinkle with flaky salt, warm and use as a chocolate dip, or just open the jar and eat with a spoon. Just think – no additives. This sweet condiment can be stored in your cupboard, unless you devour it all immediately.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at or 504-0545.

I was buying multiple bottles of Ranch dressing until I found a tried and true recipe that makes salad and crudités palatable for the youngsters in my life. This from-scratch version checks all the boxes and has a lot less salt.

The recipe is flexible. If you don’t keep buttermilk in the house, substitute 1/4 cup milk plus 3/4 cup yogurt or sour cream or use 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Make it thick for dipping, or thinner by adding more liquid for a pourable dressing that won’t overcome your salad fixings.

You’ll never buy a can of enchilada sauce again after making this tasty alternative. This sauce is vegan and sugar-free and can also be made gluten-free by using gluten-free flour. This will keep in the fridge for a week and can also be frozen if you want to make a big batch.

Banana bites are for those times when you must have a treat immediately. Is your craving sweet or salty? These itty-bitty bites have got you covered. They do get soggy and the pretzel will become un-crispy if left over, so eat them right up. That’s your assignment for the week.


Chocolate spread

4 ounces dark chocolate chips or roughly chopped dark chocolate

1/2 cup light, fruity olive oil

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 unsweetened cocoa

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt chocolate and olive oil, stirring until combined.

Stir in cocoa and powdered sugar until smooth. Cool to room temperature.


Store at room temperature for up to two weeks or keep in the fridge for four weeks. (Bring to room temperature before using.) This can also be warmed in the microwave.

Yield: 1 cup

Ranch dressing

1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon paprika


1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

1/4 teaspoon dried dill (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh)


In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until fully mixed. Add in the other ingredients, adjusting for taste. This will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Enchilada sauce

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons flour

4 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder


1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup tomato paste

1 3/4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon sea salt


In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in flour until a thick paste forms. Stir in all spices until combined. Cook for a couple minutes until fragrant.

Stir in tomato paste and broth. Whisk until smooth and bring to a low boil, then adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Stir in salt and simmer for 5 more minutes or until thickened.

Yield: 2 cups

Banana bites

1-2 medium firm bananas

1/4 cup peanut butter, nut butter, or SunButter

10-12 pretzel twists


1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon coconut oil

Flaky salt

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat chocolate chips and coconut oil, stirring constantly. Once completely melted, remove from heat.

Peel bananas and slice them into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Place in a paper candy cup, if desired. Top each banana slice with about 1 teaspoon peanut butter then place a pretzel twist on top of the peanut butter. Drizzle melted chocolate over the top.

Allow to set until the chocolate has hardened. These can go in the freezer for a quick 5 minutes to speed up the setting process. Serve immediately.

Yield: approximately a dozen bites

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