A Healthier Fresh Tomato Pie

A few months ago, my husband and I were in a restaurant in Lititz, PA, and saw Tomato Pie on the menu. Now when I was growing up, my family gathered occasionally to enjoy my Italian grandmother’s homemade tomato pies, which was our way of saying “pizza.” This new kind of tomato pie on the menu was nothing like pizza. It had a regular pie crust, was filled with large chunks of ripe tomatoes, and topped with a creamy cheesy topping. Really, it was heavenly.

Now that my garden is producing fresh tomatoes, I set out to make that tomato pie. The traditional recipe calls for 1 cup mayonnaise and 1-2 cups cheese – yikes! I searched for a recipe to meet my household’s nutritional needs – gluten free and no or low cholesterol. No success. So after gathering ideas from many recipes, I tried what I thought might work. Oh, it came out better than I’d hoped!  I changed the original recipe so much, I wondered if it would flop, but my husband and I both loved it! Here  ya go…

Fresh Tomato Pie – Gluten Free and Mostly Vegan


1 already made unbaked pie crust (I use the King Arthur Flour recipe for gluten free pie crust)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

4 c tomatoes, seeded and cut in large chunks

1 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt (I guess you could sub vegan sour cream or Vegenaise to make this totally vegan)

3/4 cup + 1/4 cup shredded low fat (or Daiya) cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

salt and pepper to taste


1. Arrange unbaked pie crust in pie pan, fill with pie weights (I use dry beans), and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

2. Saute onion in oil 5 minutes in large frying pan. Turn off heat. Stir in fresh basil and tomatoes. Turn into baked pie crust. Bake in oven for another 10 minutes.

3. While pie is baking, mix together yogurt, 3/4 cup cheese, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to taste. When pie has baked for 10 minutes, remove from oven and spread yogurt mixture all over top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over yogurt mixture. Bake for final 10 minutes until topping is melted and golden. The tomatoes should not be mushy, just heated through.

Depending on how watery your tomatoes are, there will be some juice in the bottom of the pie. I used Brandywines, which oozed a lot of water, but we didn’t mind at all. If you’d prefer a drier pie, you could let your cut tomatoes sit on some paper towels for a while to soak up the extra moisture before turning them into the frying pan.

Now if I can just remember how to insert a picture…there we go. I know, the Daiya didn’t fully melt – had no idea at the time that I was going to restart my blog 😉 Haha, we were just so happy with the pie I just had to share.

 Tomato Pie Slice

Maple Pecan Pie

This is what got me in trouble this Thanksgiving. I had at least one piece every day until it was gone!

My usual strategy for eating healthy/keeping my weight stable on Thanksgiving is:

1. To eat somewhere else. 🙂
2. If I’m going to host, to send all the treats home with the guests.

I couldn’t do that this time, because not only was I hosting, but my kids, their husbands, and my grandchild were all staying here with us and would be eating all that food for days!

Sigh, I have no willpower. None.

The good thing is, since Monday, I’ve been back to my usual healthy, more lean way of eating. My pants should be back to loose in no time.

Maple Pecan Pie

For the crust, I used the King Arthur Flour recipe for Gluten-Free Pie Crust with a few changes. I made half of their suggested flour mix: Combine 3 cups (16 ounces) brown rice flour, 1 cup (5.5 ounces) potato starch, and 1/2 cup (2 ounces) tapioca starch in lidded container. Mix well. Use as flour mix for gluten-free pie crust. This makes 4 single pie crusts.

(If you use a frozen pie crust, by the time the oven is preheated, this pie can be ready to go into the oven.)

Make one pie crust:

1 1/4 cups or 5 3/4 ounces flour mix
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. Whisk together flour mix, sugar, xanthan gum and salt in large bowl. Pour out into a mound onto a large board or counter for rolling.

2. Cube cold butter – cut bar into 4 long sticks, then cut into cubes. Sprinkle cubes over flour mound tossing to coat all cubes. Using a rolling pin, start rolling cubes into flour. Keep tossing flour and cubes to rearrange while repeatedly rolling them flat. Using bench scraper, scrape mixture back up and deposit back into large bowl.

3. Whisk egg and lemon juice together in a small bowl until foamy. Sprinkle over flour/butter mixture in bowl. Stir with spoon until mixture holds together. You can add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of cold water if necessary. (I added one.) Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the next day.

4. When ready to use, allow the dough to rest at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling. Roll out on a floured piece of parchment paper until diameter is 1 inch large than pie pan. Slide bench scraper under dough to make sure it’s not sticking. Invert paper and crust onto pie pan. Peel off paper. (Or you could do what I did, and just center rolling pin on pie crust, fold crust over top of rolling pin, then lift it all onto pie pan and unfold.) Flute edges.

I dare anyone to guess that this crust is not made with regular all-purpose flour. It was flaky, tender, had really good flavor and was not difficult to work with at all.

Maple Pecan Filling

2 cups pecan halves

4 eggs
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour mix (recipe above)

1. Arrange pecan halves in prepared pie crust. (This gives a beautiful presentation, but I like to break mine up because it makes for easier cutting of pie pieces later.)

2. Blend remaining ingredients in blender or in bowl with stick blender.

3. Pour over pecans in prepared pie crust. Gently press all pecans to submerge under liquid.

4. Bake in 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Let cool before serving.

I make this pie once a year – if you try it, you’ll see why. 😉

If you like maple and pecan together, you might want to try:

Vegan Maple Pecan Pie Smoothie

Maple Pecan Bites

Maple Pecan Pie Bars (vegan)

Interrupted by Sandy

I was all set to finally write another post, but it’s not meant to be!

I’m standing in a Verizon store using a demo iPad just to tell you that I can’t wait to come back! I am currently without electricity due to Hurricane Sandy.

We’re safe, thank God. There’s been no damage to our house, but we are getting along without electricity and internet. Cooking has been interesting, and our choice of what to eat has been greatly influenced by what’s defrosting in spite of our generator and what can be made on a stovetop.

But we have food. And hot water and a stovetop due to natural gas. No heat, but inside the house it’s only gone down to about 60 degrees even though it’s been around 38 at night.

I feel like I’m rich. Truly, so many of our problems are First World Problems. So many have so much less.

We’re seeing an outpouring of help from churches, organizations, businesses and individuals. Caravans of trucks from electric companies from all across the country. It’s truly heartwarming.

So I look forward to coming back. I even took a picture of our pancakes this morning. I miss you guys. 🙂

See ya soon!

Best Cornbread Recipe and GMOs

A conversation in my house 2 days ago:

Pam: I think I’ll make chili and cornbread for tonight.

Dan: You know our deal – you make it, I’ll eat it!

Pam: I just really want cornbread. I love cornbread. I mean I really love cornbread!

I do. And I thought this would be the perfect time to bring up a subject I’ve been avoiding with you. Since the recipe I want to share with you today includes one of the foods that may be genetically modified unless you buy organic, I want to get this unpleasant topic over with.

I want this blog to be a place where we can all be refreshed, encouraged and enlightened. Regarding the enlightened aspect, there’s a very unpleasant topic I just want to make sure you are informed about that might alter your choices when you go food shopping.

What are genetically modified foods? Genetically modified foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. (Wikipedia) The concern is, obviously, that these foods may not be safe for human consumption. Most of the processed food that we can buy in the store has at least one genetically modified ingredient in it.

If you want more information about what that means, a quick internet search will bring up more than enough information for you. Some of the most reputable sites include Appetite for Profit and Food Safety News. There is a very (very!) thorough article covering controversies regarding GMOs on Wikipedia here.

And if you’d rather watch a short video on this topic:

Powerful, huh? And I’m glad she ended it with hope.

We have the ability to effect remarkable change because each and every single one of you has talents and attributes that you are uniquely good at. And when you leverage that with something that you are passionate about, you can effect remarkable change in the health of your family, in the health of your companies, and in the health of our country.” Robyn O’Brien

May I suggest something? If you have a smart phone, listen to her TED talk on your way to work. Or while you take a walk. Or when you’re on your exercise bike (like I did this morning).

Cornmeal. Corn bread. Corn syrup. Cornstarch. Corn chips. Tortilla chips. Corn tortillas. Tacos. Ahh!

Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). According to industry, up to 95% of sugar beets are now GE. It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients. (Center for Food Safety)

A Non-GMO Shopper’s Guide, as well as a plethora of information, is available at the Center for Food Safety’s website.

How can all this be simplified?

I believe wisdom says to stay away from processed foods as much as possible and buy organic when you can. Progress, not perfection. 🙂

This is, in my opinion, the best recipe for basic cornbread. The fat content has been reduced from the original recipe, it can be all whole grain, and options for both gluten free and vegan are provided in parentheses.

Best Cornbread


1 cup organic cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (or 3/4 cup brown rice flour + 1/4 cup potato starch)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk (dairy and almond both work)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light olive or melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg (or 1 tablespoon milled flaxseed soaked in 3 tablespoons water)


1. Grease 9″ square or round baking pan. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients together in medium bowl.

3. Mix wet ingredients together in separate bowl.

4. Add wet to dry stirring until just mixed.

5. Scrape out into prepared pan.

6. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes until a beautiful golden brown.

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I’ve been asked if there is a way to print out a recipe. I’m going to try this print option below. If this doesn’t work for you, let me know and  I’ll explore other options.

Root Vegetable Soup with Tofu

Anyone notice anything different? Yes, a recipe page! I recently went to use one of my own recipes and realized I should have a recipe index. You can also put a title of a recipe or even just an ingredient into the Search box, and it will bring up all the recipes with that ingredient in it.

I also went to print out the recipe, and to be honest, I don’t know how to help you further there. I just select the text I want (which includes the pictures), copy and paste it onto a Word document, then delete the pictures, then print. Until I learn about some other way, I hope this will work for you, too.

I appreciate your patience. 🙂

What to do with a rutabaga? A rutabaga is also called a yellow turnip. I bought one last week from a farmer’s market, hence no wax coating! I had never seen one like that, lol! But since it had no protection, it started to feel a little soft by the end of the week so I had to think of something.

I’m most familiar with it in soup. I smile just thinking about it. We go to my in-laws’ house every Christmas Eve, and it’s traditional there to have turnip soup before the full dinner is served.  Because Christmas Eve throughout our family’s history has meant my husband’s 90-something-year-old grandmother playing Christmas carols on the piano. One of the “boys” (they’re in their 50s) dons the very same Santa Claus costume that their grandfather used to wear. And somebody’s baby always cries when they hear Santa’s booming voice. 🙂

So that’s why I smile when I think of turnip soup.

A rutabaga (yellow turnip) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. They are part of the brassica, or cabbage family. They may help remove potential cancer-causing agents from the body, thus possibly preventing some types of cancer, reports the Linus Pauling Institute. They’re a great source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. And with a good, sharp knife, they’re easy to peel. So don’t be afraid of those big waxy things you see in the store!

English: A root of rutabaga (Brassica napus su...

English: A root of rutabaga (Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) Deutsch: Eine Steckrübe Français : Rutabaga Español: Un nabicol o rutabaga Svenska: En kålrot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rutabagas are so flavorful that they easily make their own broth. I looked around for what else to add and found other root vegetables – onions, carrots, and parsnips. Then I added a few simple ingredients to make it a one-dish meal. This dish is vegan, gluten free, and very light.

Maybe you can make your own memories with it. 🙂

Root Vegetable Soup with Tofu

Makes 2 large dinner servings


Extra virgin olive oil to saute in

1 medium onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled, quartered and sliced

1 6-8″ diameter rutabaga, peeled and diced

Water or vegetable broth to cover

Salt and pepper to taste

2 parsnips, peeled,quartered and sliced

1/2 brick extra firm tofu

1-2 cups cooked brown rice

1 T chopped fresh parsley (or 1 t dried)


1. Cut 1/2 brick tofu into 4 planks. Place them side-by-side about 1/2″ apart on a clean dishtowel. Fold the towel over them and press gently to squeeze out some of the water. Remove tofu planks to a cutting board and cut into small cubes. Set aside.

2. Saute onion, garlic and celery in a little oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan 5-10 minutes.

3. Add carrots, rutabaga and water or broth to cover. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Simmer until vegetables are almost tender.

4. Add parsnips, tofu and parsley. Continue to simmer until parsnips are tender. This only takes a few minutes. Adjust seasonings.

5. Either stir about 1 cup cooked brown rice into the pot or serve a scoop of it alongside the soup ladled into each bowl.


Just got back from the farmer’s market. I bought a few things that are different for me. Turnips, spaghetti squash, poblano peppers. And fresh pears! You may think I’m nuts being excited about pears, but these are just off the tree – they are water-crisp! I didn’t know pears could taste this good. Apples, too, from their local orchard of apple trees. Ten different kinds of apples at the stand this morning. Back in the summer I bought Opalessence apples from them – if you ever find them you have to try them.

It’s the last day of the farmer’s market season for me. So sad.

On a happier note, isn’t it great that sometimes just a tweak to our diet can bring health where there was pain and discomfort? I’m just grateful for that today. 🙂 I injured my knees recently and had to take a break from hiking, and it reminded me of all these years I had knee pain before I realized I was gluten-sensitive. And it’s been such a relatively easy transition. Crazy, but I actually enjoy the challenge of some limitations to my diet. How boring it would be if I could eat everything and anything. And I love helping friends and family find good food to eat that benefits their bodies. So I hope this blog can do that for you!

Worth thinking about…

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates


Enjoy your weekend!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

It looks like I’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Two of my three kids will be home for Thanksgiving with their spouses (and my grandchild!), so my little house will be full of life! I can’t wait. Ha, yes, I can. There’s a lot of planning to do before then!

I’ll miss being at my in-laws’ though. Two years ago on Thanksgiving, we walked into their fragrant home, and into the kitchen, to see my (at that time) 87-year-old mother-in-law bending over and taking a huge turkey out of the oven! I’ll never forget that scene. God bless her! She also attempted climbing Mt. Madison in the White Mountains of New Hampshire two summers ago and made it pretty far up the trail before they had to turn around and come back down.

At one Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws’ a few years ago, I brought this soup that I made using regular milk and butternut squash, and the family loved it. Creamy and flavorful!  I recently made it with homemade almond milk, and it was just as delicious.

I have a basic cream of whatever-vegetable-you-desire soup recipe that I’ve been using for years. I’ve made it using butternut squash, green peas, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, and even that bag of frozen mixed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. They all work using the same recipe!

This recipe for Creamy Butternut Squash Soup can easily be adapted for gluten-free or vegan diets.

Try to find a squash with sweet, deep orange flesh. The best quality ingredients, of course, make all the difference! To cook the squash to be used in this recipe, cut it in half, scrape out and discard seeds, cut into pieces and place in baking pan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and steam in oven for 30-45 minutes. Let it cool, then remove flesh from rind with a spoon. Use two cups squash for this recipe. If your squash provides more than that, have it tomorrow night as a side dish with butter and pure maple syrup. Mmmm….!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup


2 tablespoons butter, Earth Balance or extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked butternut squash (or broccoli, or cauliflower, etc.)

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup (or a little more if squash is not very sweet)

dash cayenne

1 cup regular milk or homemade almond milk

About 2 tablespoons roasted and salted pumpkin or sunflower seeds



1. Saute onion in butter or substitute until soft and sweet.

2. Add water, salt, cooked squash, maple syrup, and dash cayenne. Bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

3. Blend with stick blender until smooth.

4. Add almond milk, and stir well. Taste to adjust seasoning. Heat up again to serving temperature.

5. Ladle into soup bowls or mugs. Sprinkle with parsley and seeds.

This makes great leftovers for lunch the next day or pour into a thermos and take on a hike!

What vegetable will you make it with?

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