Creamy Basil Zucchini Soup
Daniela F. Thompson, Lafayette, CA
Thompson's mother was once a teacher in a German village. Her students' parents would bring her pounds of zucchini, and she developed this soup as a way to use up all that squash. In summertime, Thompson likes to serve her mother's soup with sliced tomatoes and hunks of baguette.
The twist: Dress it up We love the simplicity of this soothing, mild soup, but to make it a little fancier, skip garnishing the soup with crème fraîche, chili powder, and basil in step 3, and instead halve 1 roasted red bell pepper, removing seeds and stem. Slice half into ribbons. Put the other half in a blender and purée with ½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream. Strain into a bowl, then drizzle over soup. Top with bell pepper ribbons and toasted pine nuts.
Del's Grand Canyon Granola
Elaine Bohlmeyer, Payson, AZ
"This is a recipe that my husband created when we were planning a hiking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon," Bohlmeyer says. "The object was to get the most energy for the least amount of weight. The added bonus is that it's delicious."
The twist: Add chocolate In one fell swoop, this healthy snack becomes (a still fairly healthy) chocolate bark candy. Melt 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water; remove chocolate from heat while still a little chunky, then stir until smooth. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and sprinkle with 2 cups of the granola. Chill until set, at least 30 minutes. Break granola-chocolate bark into pieces.
Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
David McCommack, Mukilteo, WA
These chunky kitchen-sink cookies flew off the counter when we made them. McCommack created this recipe by combining a few others.
The twist: Ice cream sandwiches Turn these great cookies into superb ice cream sandwiches: Soften the ice cream of your choice, 10 minutes. Spread ¼ cup onto flat side of 1 cookie and top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing lightly. Chill sandwiches in freezer about 10 minutes, just long enough to chill ice cream but not enough to harden cookies. Eat immediately.
Easy Almond Cakes
Karen Bagshaw, San Francisco
"I got this recipe from my childhood friend Ginnie Beard at our 20th Girl Scout reunion," Bagshaw says. "It's perfect for a large potluck since it's so easy and makes two cakes."
The twist: Layer them To quickly transform these modest cakes into showpieces, use a serrated knife to carefully slice each cake horizontally into 2 even layers. Whip 4 cups heavy cream with 1 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread each bottom layer with 1 cup of the whipped cream and sprinkle with fresh raspberries. Add top layers and spread with remaining whipped cream; top with more raspberries. (If you only want to layer 1 of the cakes, just halve the amounts here.)