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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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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)

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

Ingredients:

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)

Instructions:

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.

Thank you for visiting my blog! If you would like to receive new posts directly to your email, you’re welcome to enter your email address as directed on the right under “Follow Blog Via Email.”

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.

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

Ingredients:

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

Parsley

Instructions:

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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GF Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

At this time of year, my office usually has a bowl of snack size chocolate candy available for anyone at any time. Oh, goodness, it’s hard to stay away from! I’ve been averaging 2 a day on the days I go to work. :/ So I needed chocolate, but in a healthier package.

In this cookbook from my local library, I  found a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread. I almost didn’t make it because I did not have enough cocoa powder, but took a chance with what I had and I’m glad I did. It came out delicious! The sweetness is comparable to a quick bread, but since I couldn’t quite see having a piece for breakfast, I called it a cake.

I  made a few changes because of my preference for certain ingredients, but either way, I’m sure you would be happy with the result! (If gluten is no concern for you, just sub whole wheat pastry flour for a healthy alternative and omit the xanthan gum.)

GF Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Earth Balance, coconut oil, or olive oil

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup Sucanat (or organic sugar)

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 T milled flaxseed (optional)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups finely grated zucchini

2 1/3 cups GF flour mix *

2/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 baking pan.

2. In medium saucepan, melt Earth Balance. Turn off heat, and add honey, Sucanat, vanilla, flaxseed and cinnamon. Mix well. Let cool a bit.

3. Finely grate 2-3 zucchini to make 2 cups. Don’t squeeze out the moisture – this helps moisten the cake. Add to wet ingredients in saucepan. Mix until well combined.

4. In large bowl, sift together flour mix, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. (I use a fine mesh strainer.) Whisk well. Stir in chocolate chips

5. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until well combined.

6. Turn into well-oiled 9×9 baking pan and spread out evenly.

7. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (But don’t confuse melted chocolate chips with liquid batter! – Yes, I speak from experience.)

Serve with fresh, cold milk. (Recipe for almond milk to come soon!)

* A word about gluten-free flour mixes…

I would like to use all whole grains when I bake, but I’ve seen that that’s not realistic. First of all, some items wind up feeling like gravel in the mouth 😉 . And particularly with gluten-free baked goods, some turn out too crumbly and won’t hold together. So I’m taking the advice of those who’ve been doing this longer than I have, and using a whole grain/starch combination for my all-purpose flour mix. My flour mix consists of 70% whole grain flour (or combination of whole grain flours) to 30% starch. This works out to approximately 25 ounces WG flour to 11 ounces starch. Currently I’m using a mixture of 25 ounces brown rice/millet mixture and 11 ounces potato starch all mixed together and stored in my fridge. See below for possibilities.

Use 70% (25 ounces) of any of these whole grain flours, alone or in your desired combination:

Almond
Amaranth
Brown Rice
Buckwheat
Corn
Millet
Oat
Quinoa
Sorghum
Sweet Brown Rice
Teff

Then add 30% (11 ounces) of any of these starches, alone or in your desired combination:

Arrowroot
Cornstarch
Potato Starch
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

Tomato, Spinach, Cheddar Quiche – Quick and Easy

 

I wanted to make a quiche to bring to our ladies Bible study this morning and had to scramble (haha) for ingredients because I’ve been away for the past week and had no fresh veggies in the house. No problem! (Alas no picture either because, as usual, I was running late and forgot to snap one! Just imagine this with beautiful chunks of red tomato throughout – very impressive but so easy!)

Blend in blender:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3-4 tablespoons flour (GF if desired)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

few scrapings nutmeg

Toss together in bowl:

1 1/2 grated cheddar cheese

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 cup frozen spinach, squeezed in paper towel

1 c fresh tomato, cored, seeded and chopped, or equivalent of canned diced (let sit on paper towel for a few minutes to remove excess water)

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Turn cheese and veggie mixture into oiled pie pan.

2. Pour blended liquid mixture over.

3. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then at 300 degrees for additional 30-45 minutes. It’s done when it doesn’t jiggle and when knife inserted into center comes out clean.

That’s all!

 

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!