Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

If you would like to receive this blog directly to your email, you’re welcome to enter your email address as directed on the right. Coming soon – homemade butternut squash soup, chocolate chip banana circles, and i-never-thought-it-could-taste-so-good tofu!

Lately, I’ve been wanting to bake with apples or pumpkin. Pumpkin won. 🙂

I’ve been making these scones for many years. The original recipe came from this cookbook published in 1979. Wow – I was single then and not even dating my future husband! I’ve made these with raisins, apples and blueberries, but this time I worked pumpkin, cranberries and toasted pecans into them. Mmmm…

I like the uniqueness of scones. When I eat a scone, I have certain expectations. I want it to be rich and a bit crumbly, not dense. I want to feel the complex texture – the bits of oats, nuts and fruit that I put into it. I don’t want it to be smooth like a biscuit that’s more of a side item. A go-with. A scone is the main fare! It should look earthy. Wholesome. Hearty. And it shouldn’t be too sweet, like a dessert. Just slightly sweet, like I’m eating one of the original scones from Ireland of old where flour and sugar were precious commodities. These scones are whole grain, can be gluten free, and celebrate the coming of Fall!

The ingredients in this are like those in all of my recipes – examined for nutritional content and processed as little as possible. Recipes abound that are rich and sweet that do not do your body one bit of good! I can’t, in good conscience, give you those.

I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give you what will nourish your body  toward good health. Some people really have no idea that nutrition is a science, proven to affect health. Food intolerance, too much protein, too many processed foods, too much bad fat and sugar, too few nutrients – all of these can cause health issues that people go to the doctor for, and then are put on medication. For instance, the CDC estimates that 2.7 million children in the U.S. are currently taking medication for ADHD. Many of these children can be treated by a high-nutrient diet and avoid the side effects of medication.

If you have parents who were aware of the benefits of whole natural foods and passed that on to you, be grateful for it! That’s where I’m blessed – my mom is a retired registered nurse and learned early  about nutrition. She actually introduced me to it when I was a teenager, and my interest in it stuck. Thanks, Mom!

We can learn and affect the next generation. 🙂 That’s what I want to do. How about you?

So as far as I can know, the recipes I use for my family combine good flavor, natural ingredients, and solid nutrition. This is what I offer to you!

On to the scones…

You may remember from here that I am new to a gluten-free diet, which I became committed to after experiencing relief from my long term joint pain. I’m experimenting with all of my old recipes, adjusting them to fit my new nutritional focus. I keep a jar of gluten free flour mix ready in my pantry for when I want to bake. I learned from the master, Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl (this page will give you all the details), how to make a whole grain flour blend. Below is the recipe I used for my GF flour mix that I used in these scones. I’ve written the scone recipe as a regular recipe that anyone can use – just know that for the gluten-free version, you are to substitute GF oats (if you’re extremely sensitive to gluten) and GF flour mix for the whole wheat or white flour.

GF Flour Mix:

18 ounces brown rice flour

7 ounces millet flour

10 ounces potato starch

Instructions:

Whisk or sift all ingredients together till thoroughly combined. Store in mason jar in refrigerator.

Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

When preheated, toast 1/3 cup pecans for 3-4 minutes. No more! They burn easily. (I only burned one batch this time.)

Dry ingredients:

1 1/4 c oats (GF if necessary)

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (or GF flour mix)

1 T baking powder

1/2 t cream of tartar

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1/2 t allspice

1/4 t nutmeg

1/3 c toasted pecans, broken with fingers

1 T milled flaxseed or chia seeds (optional)

1/3 c dried cranberries, fruit-juice sweetened

Wet ingredients:

6 T melted butter, Earth Balance or extra virgin coconut oil

1/3 c pure maple syrup

1/4 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

Instructions:

1. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

2. Whisk wet ingredients together in small bowl.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix with rubber scraper until moistened.

You can form scones in different ways. One was is to turn dough out onto floured pastry board. Form a log, pat down into a rectangle, then cut into about 12 triangles.

Alternately, you could turn it out onto floured pastry board, pat into one or two circles, then cut into 8 “pie wedge” type triangles, separating slightly.

OR you could just drop 8-12 spoonfuls of dough directly onto oiled baking sheet just like drop biscuits. (see “drop” scones above)

Using pancake turner, move to oiled baking sheet. For a nice touch and some added sweetness, you could paint these with milk and then sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. I did that on some of these in the pictures. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Enjoy the fragrance permeating your house. Candle businesses spend a fortune trying to fabricate what you’re creating with natural ingredients! 🙂

Remove from pan immediately. As with most baked goods, they are best while still warm (or briefly warmed up). Brew hot drink of your choice. Put feet up. Enjoy!

Basic Crustless Quiche

I was invited to have lunch with a friend around 30 years ago (Can it be?!), and she served this quiche.  She gave me her recipe, I changed it to eliminate the crust, and I have made it many, many times since then. It makes a great entrée for brunch or dinner and is a well-received dish to bring to a group meeting or potluck supper. I occasionally bring one to our morning ladies Bible study.

This quiche can be made with or without meat. It can be made gluten-free or with wheat flour. The filling can be poured into a pie crust, but it does perfectly well without one. I will give you the basic recipe as well as many options – be creative! Choose something different each time using the basic structure found here.

Basic Crustless Quiche (GF version)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Custard ingredients:

4 eggs, preferably farm-fresh organic

1 1/2 c organic 2% milk

2 T GF millet flour

1 T arrowroot

1/2 t salt

1/4 t dry mustard

Few scrapes of nutmeg

1/2 t dried herbs or 2 t fresh (about 1 t each fresh chopped rosemary and sage)

Filling:

1-1 1/2 c grated cheese (I used half grass-fed cheddar and half monterey jack)

1 small to medium onion, chopped and sautéed

Approx. 2 cups vegetables, lightly steamed or sautéed, and patted dry (I used 1 1/2 yellow zucchini and 1/2 bunch kale)

1/2 cup meat, if desired

Some notes about ingredients you may choose to use:

1. Vegetables РBroccoli, cauliflower Рslice thin, lightly steam. Frozen spinach or kale Рsqueeze dry. Fresh greens Рpull leaves off tough ribs, wash, shake off water, steam in covered pan until reduced to about 1-1/2 cups worth. Zucchini, asparagus Рsliced or chopped and lightly saut̩ed. Tomatoes Рchopped and drained a bit on a paper towel. Fresh sweet peppers Рno need to saute. Frozen organic corn Рno need to cook first. Potato Рsliced and lightly steamed.

2. Cheese – Swiss, cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, gouda, havarti – just grate on large-hole side of box grater. One kind or combination of a few. Low-fat is okay. Just don’t use romano or parmesan cheese as your only cheese. You may, however, add a few tablespoons for flavor. Brie is wonderful!

3. Onion – after chopping, you may saute, but you don’t have to.

4. Milk – Two percent works well. One percent’s okay, too. And I’m sure whole milk would be wonderful!

5. Herbs – dill weed, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, summer savory, etc.

Instructions:

1. Blend custard ingredients (except for fresh herbs, if using) in blender or place in bowl and blend with stick blender. Set aside while making filling.

2. Oil pie pan. Place it on a foil-covered baking sheet.

3. Cover bottom of pie pan with sliced, sautéed zucchini. Sprinkle chopped onion evenly over zucchini.

4. Distribute steamed kale over onion layer. Sprinkle shredded cheeses (and meat if using) over kale .

5. Blend custard again for a few seconds. Stir in chopped rosemary and sage. Pour over fillings in pan.

7. Very carefully, place baking sheet with filled pie pan on center shelf of oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 300 degrees 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out without any custard sticking to it. Let sit 10 minutes to settle before serving.

Some great combinations:

Asparagus and Swiss.

Corn, peppers, and black beans with cheddar/monterey mix.

Spinach, havarti, and nitrate-free bacon.

Mozzarella and tomato with basil.

Broccoli, potato and cheddar.

What combinations can you think of?

Fresh Lean Eggplant Parmesan and Finding a Farmer’s Market

I love my farmer’s market. We have a few in the area within 1/2 hour drive, but the closest is also the most convenient (open Saturdays) and has the BEST produce! My favorite stand will be operating until November selling apples, winter squash, and greens along with whatever is still in season. This is what we bought last week.

This is more than I usually get because I needed to make a large pan of roasted veggies to bring to a birthday party for my dear father-in-law who turns 89 this year! Also, my older daughter and her family came from Vermont for a visit  for a few days so I wanted to make sure I had enough healthy vegetables on hand. My grandson is now eating table food – it was this Italian nana’s first opportunity to feed him real food! Tu mangi! (You eat!)

Now we’re working on finishing up those veg – we still have eggplant, cabbage and okra in the fridge. Okra? Not quite sure what to do with that, but I had to try it. But I do know what to do with eggplant! This is my lighter version of Eggplant Parmesan. Forgive me, but measurements are totally estimates. There is so much leeway with this type of recipe because of differences in sweetness and size of the tomatoes and eggplant, so you just have to taste as you go along and adjust.

The way to assure a good result, even without exact measurements, is to use ingredients that are as fresh as possible. You really can’t go wrong that way. Find a farmer’s market in your area. Go here – this should help.

Ingredients:

About 20 meaty tomatoes (I use what I grow – Brandywine)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

About 20 fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 large eggplant

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin or coarsely grated

Freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In medium saute pan, saute onion and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil until soft. Set aside.

Prep tomatoes – wash, dry and core tomatoes. Cut them in half horizontally and, with your index finger, slide out the seeds. Place tomatoes into a wide saucepan on medium high heat and cover for about 10 minutes so that peels will slip right off. Remove the lid and, using tongs, begin pulling skins off the tomatoes. Then use a stick blender to blend the remaining tomato pulp to desired consistency. Alternately, you could just mash with potato masher – your choice.

Add sauteed onion and garlic to tomatoes. Boil, stirring frequently, until reduced to good sauce consistency. Stir in chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Cup off top of eggplant and peel. Cut about 1/4″ slices. “Fry” on cast iron pan lightly painted with olive oil at medium heat. This could be tricky. Too high, and the eggplant will burn before getting soft. Too low, and it will take forever! You just have to experiment. Keep turning them over and moving them around if you have hot spots like I do. Continue “frying”  until slices are lightly browned on both sides. Remove to a plate as soon as each slice is done. Continue until both eggplants are cooked. You should have a nice mound of slices.

You hardly need any oil with a well-seasoned pan. This isn’t an old-fashioned version, saturated with oil. The oil on the pan will keep the eggplant from sticking, but it’s actually direct heat and trapped steam that do the cooking.

Now to assemble: First spread some sauce in bottom of 9×9 baking pan. Then place eggplant slices to cover bottom of pan. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Distribute mozzarella on eggplant slices. You can go easy here, because there will be more layers of cheese. You could also sprinkle just a bit of Parmesan or Romano cheese at this point.

Ladle some sauce over all.

Repeat until pan is full or you run out of ingredients. If you have just a small quantity of ingredients left over, fill a lunch-size casserole dish with them and bring to work for a special lunch! End your layers with mozzarella cheese, then tomato sauce.

Bake uncovered at 350 for about 20 minutes. Open oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese over all and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly golden.

Enjoy every bite of this! Seriously, this was the best eggplant parm we ever had – just because of the freshness!

Now what do I do with okra? Any suggestions?

Homemade yogurt step-by-step

I realized yesterday morning that I was low on our homemade yogurt. This is never a big deal any more – I can even fit in making it before work. What used to be a project has become a very streamlined process. Try it! The first few times, of course it will take a while as you get used to it, but with practice, you’ll be making homemade yogurt for your family in no time!

Why do I bother making it myself? A few reasons:

1. Taste – can’t beat it. Truly.

2. I know what’s in it – as you’ll see, the ingredients are whatever milk you choose and a tiny bit of  your favorite plain yogurt from the store. No artificial sweeteners or flavoring, no sugar, no thickeners or stabilizers, gums or starches or Carmine. Ew.

3. Freshness – Go to the fridge and look at the date on your yogurt from the store. It could be dated a month in the future. Or it could say today’s date. That means that it could have spent the last month on the shelf in the store! How fresh is that!? The good bacteria culture in yogurt gradually decreases over time, so homemade provides the highest quality product.

4. Price – One quart of store-bought organic yogurt costs approximately $4/quart. One quart of homemade organic yogurt costs about $1.42 for the milk and $.27 for the 1/4 c yogurt, so $1.69/quart. Less than half price! I’m no dummy.

This is what I do to make 1 quart. To make 3 quarts at one time, triple the ingredients, use a larger saucepan for heating, and see picture at the end for incubating.

Gather equipment:

1 quart-sized Ball jar

1 large spoon

1 small whisk

1 food thermometer

1 measuring cup

1 salad bowl (for resting sterilized utensils in)

tongs (for removing hot jar from boiling water)

For best results, sterilize equipment by either pouring boiling water over them or by immersing them in a pot of boiling water. I used to skip this step, and my results were not consistent.

Gather ingredients:

1 quart milk

1/4 cup store-bought yogurt for starter (measured out in your cooled-off sterilized measuring cup)

You can use any kind of cow’s milk yogurt that you want. I’ve tried using almond milk, soy milk, and homemade seed milk with no success. I use Wegman’s 1 or 2% organic milk. I spoke with someone at Wegman’s corporate office and am comfortable with the information they gave me regarding their cows grazing on grass as well as their inspections and accountability regarding organic regulations.

I use Stonyfield plain yogurt because it’s organic and because of the 6 live active yogurt and probiotic cultures that are in it. I recommend that you use plain yogurt with LIVE bacteria in it. If it contains live bacteria, it will say so on the container. After opening and using 2 ounces of the 6 ounce container, I keep it in the coldest part of the fridge in a ziploc bag till next time.

The process:

Heat 1 quart milk in a saucepan on medium heat stirring occasionally. Bring to 180 degrees.

Remove from heat and float in a large bowl of cold water in the sink until thermometer registers between 100-110 degrees.

Pour about 1/2 cup of the cooled milk into the 1/4 cup yogurt in measuring cup. Whisk until fully blended.

Pour milk/yogurt mixture back into cooled milk in saucepan. Stir until fully incorporated.

Pour into sterilized Ball jar. Scrape off most of the bubbles from the surface of the milk. Mine looks like this.

Carefully place jar in electric yogurt maker, or…

…if you don’t have one, you could use a cooler lined with a heating pad. This is a peek into what I use when I make more than one jar at a time. These jars are incubating in my collapsible cooler, with a heating pad set on medium on the bottom, then the jars, then plastic wrap covering the jars and my thermometer poked through the wrap and suspended between the jars so I can keep an eye on the temp to make sure it stays between 100-110 degrees. I run the power cord out through the almost-fully-zippered lid. This method reliably keeps the temperature stable. It has successfully made many gallons of yogurt over the years.

You could also use 8 ounce Ball jars for individual servings. I prefer quarts because it’s less to wash, but 8 ounce cups would be great for individual servings for packed lunches.

With either method, I let them incubate for about 7 hours. This gives a nicely thickened yogurt that’s not too tart. Some people with lactose issues may want to incubate for up to 24 hours. By that time, the lactose should be pretty well dealt with.

When the 7 hours are up, carefully remove the jar, screw the lid on, and place in refrigerator until fully cooled. If you severely tilt or shake the jar, it will not set up as well.

I like this added to my green smoothie, or plain with a little stevia or pure maple syrup, or my favorite, with a little homemade granola sprinkled on top.

I guess I know what recipe I’ll have to share with you soon!

Enjoy! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

You may want to use your homemade yogurt for:

Facial masks

Maple vanilla frozen yogurt

Falafel with cucumber yogurt dressing

Ranch salad dressing

Green smoothie recipe – and meet some of the family!

My husband and I have three children. Children? Well, grown and married children. They’ve given us the great opportunity to travel by living in states other than our own! Our kids are our favorite people in the world, and we’ve been blessed with amazingly good relationships, so even though we’re apart, we try to keep involved in each others’ lives however we can. Our dream is that some day they will all find themselves living in the same state, and then we will join them when we retire. 🙂

Recently, my house was full – my son will soon be entering an MBA program at a University in the United Kingdom, so he and my daughter-in-law will be there for the next year. How exciting for them! And, like most parents, we get to live vicariously through them! haha! In the meantime, we get to store much of what was in their apartment in our house. Yay! 😉

Jess and Anand were able to free up their schedule to come to NJ to say good-bye to them!

We brought Brian and Jenny to the airport – how do you pack for a whole year?!

There they are – B & J and 200 pounds of luggage!

Bye! Love you! I pray God’s protection and provision and blessing on your year!

(A mom’s heart – thanks for letting me get that out!)

While everyone was here, our eating habits were quite different from normal – waayyy more relaxed! Bagels, a lot of coffee, must-have pizza from Attilio’s. I even ate that in spite of being off gluten for 3-4 months. I did make an almond flour blueberry cake for after dinner one night. Fail! But it looked so pretty in the picture! The next morning I baked it for another hour-and-a-half. It was better after that.

No more bagels! It’s back to green smoothies! I try to have a green smoothie for breakfast every morning. I’ve gotten it down to a science now and have developed one that is my favorite that I’d like to share with you. It’s not overly sweet and has a clean, crisp taste. Mmm, refreshing!

I usually start with greens and a piece of cucumber. Then I add a variety of flavorings and nutritional enhancements. Here’s what I use and why…

(For more extensive information about each ingredient, just click where it’s written in blue.)

Greens – I try to keep green leafy vegetables as the foundation of my smoothie. Kale is my favorite green to use, but you could also use Swiss chard, spinach or collard greens. Mix it up – buy a different one every week. Dark green leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses! They are sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. More specifically, they have calcium potassium, Vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene (which converts to Vitamin A), folate, and Vitamins E and K. Whew!

Cucumbers – Three types of phytonutrients in cucumbers are cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids. These provide us with valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.

Blueberries – Low calorie and low glycemic with high antioxidant value, fresh or frozen, blueberries have earned their place as a valuable  fruit to enjoy daily.

Lemon – Vitamin C is vital to a strong immune system. From neutralizing free radicals to fighting infection, Vitamin C from fresh lemons is a great daily addition to our diet.

Plain Yogurt – I make my own yogurt at home, because I read once that its medicinal property is greatly increased when it’s extremely fresh. Also, it just tastes a lot better! Smooth, creamy, and no ingredients except milk and yogurt. (I’ll post how I do it in a future blog.) Yogurt is rich in protein, calcium, and B vitamins, but more unique is its probiotic value. Research has shown that increased yogurt consumption may enhance our immunity.

4-Seed Mix – I keep a jar in my freezer of equal amounts of milled flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and unhulled sesame seeds. These provide Omega-3 essential fatty acids, protein, minerals and fiber.

Green powder – This is optional, but I have a powdered blend of I think 15 ingredients (mostly greens – barley grass, wheat grass, spirulina, etc.), and I use just a teaspoon of it to add even more minerals to my smoothie. When I’m out of greens, I’ll use a whole tablespoon in place of the fresh greens.

Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon – I used a small amount of each of these for their anti-inflammatory value.

Stevia – Stevia is my zero-calorie sweetener of choice. From all I’ve read, it seems to be the safest out there.

Vanilla – I don’t know what it is about vanilla, but when I leave it out, I know it.

Now to put it all together –

Ingredients:

1/2-1 c plain yogurt

1/2 c water

2 large kale leaves, washed and torn

1/3 cucumber, peeled if not organic

1 rounded teaspoon green powder

1/2 t powdered ginger (or 1/2″ fresh, sliced)

1/2 t turmeric

3/4 – 1 t cinnamon

1/4 t stevia

1 T 4-seed mix

1 t pure vanilla extract

1/4 – 1/2 lemon, peeled and seeded

1/2 c frozen blueberries

1/2 small banana (optional)

1-2 trays of “thin” ice cubes

Directions:

Put all ingredients except ice cubes in a high-powered blender in order listed. Press “whole juice” and let run through complete cycle until completely pulverized. Taste and adjust for sweetness. If the taste is too strong, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup water. Add ice cubes, then press “smoothie” and let run through complete cycle. Pour into large tumbler and serve with straw.

Made with 1/2 c yogurt and 1/2 small banana, the entire almost one quart of smoothie is only about 200 calories!

Take your time sipping this throughout your morning. It’s filling without weighing you down and should leave you feeling energized!

Moroccan Chick Peas and Rice – Quick and Easy

I was looking through cookbooks the other day for something to make for dinner.  I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from this book. He uses all real food ingredients, and his use of legumes is creative. I found a recipe that I used for inspiration, because I don’t know about you, but I seem to be allergic to following a recipe exactly as written!

I prefer the taste of home-cooked beans over canned, so I usually have a stock of them in my freezer. Once in a while, I’ll have a food factory day at home and cook many types of them and pack them into jars or freezer bags (2 c in each) so they’re ready to be used.

I whipped this together pretty quickly, added a green salad and some just-picked corn-on-the-cob that had been given to us be a sweet neighbor, and dinner was ready. I love the blend of savory and sweet, cinnamon and cumin. It was hearty, yet loaded with light vegetables. And so easy! I will definitely make this again!

Moroccan Chick Peas and Rice

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
3/4 t cumin seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 yellow zucchini, chopped
1/2 green zucchini, chopped
1 c cooked chick peas
2 c cooked brown rice
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 c raisins
1/4 c sliced almonds for garnish

1. Saute onion, celery, carrot and cumin seeds in oil about 5 minutes.

2. Add cinnamon, zucchini, and chick peas and saute for another 5 minutes.

3. Finally, add hot brown rice, cilantro and raisins, stir well, and warm through.

4. Top with sliced almonds for crunch!

Almond Date Bars x2

With all of this heat and humidity we’re still getting, I’m not ready to start baking yet. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for a treat I made the other day. The original idea is from Larabars, but the homemade version (as with anything) is far superior! They are moist, chewy, have only 3 ingredients, and are relatively healthy for when you need something sweet!

I mixed the almonds and dates, then for variety, roughly divided it in half, added lemon peel to one half and chocolate chips to the other half. The bars are about 100 calories each. (I take one and divide it into four so I can feel like I’m having more! They are very flavor-dense, so a small amount is really satisfying with a cup of tea.) And pairing almonds with dates helps, I hope, to squash the sugar rush from the dates, ha!

Ingredients:

2 cups pitted dates

2 cups raw almonds

Zest from one lemon

2 T mini chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Using a food processor or high-speed blender, chop almonds to desired consistency. I like a mixture of some large and some small. Turn out into large bowl.

2. Blend dates, scraping sides, until smooth. Do not add water. Scrape out and add to almonds in bowl.

3. Knead almonds and dates together.

4. Divide in half. In one half, knead in lemon peel. In the other half, knead in chocolate chips. Wash hands.

5. Place each half onto a separate piece of parchment paper. Shape into discs. Using hands and maybe a metal pancake turner or ruler or pastry board scraper, shape each into a rectangle.

6. Fold paper over mixture and roll with rolling pin until it measure approximately 6″ x 10″. Cut each rectangle into 12 bars.

Be creative with this! No lemons in the house? Try 1/2 to 1 t vanilla. No chocolate chips? Try 2 T flaked coconut.

The possibilities are endless!