Easy Berry Pie

After making my favorite quiches for my high school girls this last weekend, I had some left over pie dough. I hate throwing away perfectly good dough, so I decided to put together a quick berry pie!

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I had blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries on hand. But you could use any combination of your favorites.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 Tbs Cornstarch
  • 2 1/4 tsp Coconut Sugar (you can used any kind)
  • Pie Crust (I used this recipe)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place pie crust into your pan. I used a 9 inch spring form pan because all my pie plates were in use.
  3. Quickly slice the strawberries into thin circles, put in a bowl, add in the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. If you have time let the berries sit for about 30 mins. I was running short on time so I skipped this step.
  5. Pour the berry mixture into the pie crust, if you have any dough left over you can cut it into thin strips and lay over the top to make a simple lattice (optional). Bake for 35 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly and crust is light brown.

I loved how easy this pie was, how little sugar I could use in it, and how amazingly delicious it was! Leftover pie crust has never looked so good!

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Breakfast Quiche

I adore quiche! It’s one of my favorite breakfast foods and it never lasts very long once it comes out of the oven! This weekend our church youth group has a citywide conference, and I was inspired to make four quiches for our senior girls to enjoy.

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Quiches are easy to make, but the take a little time to prep all the ingredients. For these I combined bacon, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, red onion, and mushrooms. Basically all the veggies in my fridge at the time of inspiration!

Makes two 9 inch quiches

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 large handful baby spinach, sliced
  • 1/2 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked until crumbly crisp
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 3 cups shredded cheese, I used gouda and asiago.

Pie Crust – I use this recipe

Directions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 F
  2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and lay out the 8 pieces of bacon. Put in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes, until crisp. Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile slice the onion, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Add olive oil to a pan, heat and sautee vegetables until tender. At the end add the spinach and stir until just wilted. Set mixture aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk eggs, paprika, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and a dash of salt. Be VERY careful with the salt as the bacon is salty, so you only need a tiny bit.
  5. Roll out the pie crust and place in two 9 inch pie tins. Cut away excess (save for later to make this), fold edges under, and crimp edges between your fingers.
  6. Crumble the bacon and divide evenly between the two pie crusts, laying it evenly on the bottom of the dough. Do the same with the veggie mixture, then top with the divided cheese.
  7. Carefully pour the egg and milk mixture into the pies until contents reaches 1/4 inch from the top. The quiche will puff up during cooking and then go back down.
  8. Place the quiches on the bottom rack in the oven on a baking sheet in case of spillage. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes, or until the center is no longer raw. Will depend on the depth of your pie pan.

You can enjoy this hot, or let it cool and cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge, to reheat for the next morning. You can also freeze it before baking to save for later.

This is the perfect weekend breakfast, and if you make it ahead, it makes Saturday morning extra delightful!

Enjoy!

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Yummy Healthy Snacks – Daniel Plan

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Our church is doing the Daniel Plan which is a call to a healthier more intentional way of eating. The first phase takes you through a detox to help you determine if wheat or dairy causes you any issues. From there no real foods are off limits, but healthy proportions and balance are encouraged. It’s the way of cooking that I am passionate about – using real, whole foods that sustain you, and avoiding processed and packaged foods. I believe all food in moderation can be enjoyed, but it takes time to wean our bodies from the cravings of processed foods, and introduce it to a more beautiful world of fresh flavors.  For more information on what the daily Daniel Plan recommends, check out this site for Recommended Foods & Definitions. Whole wheat, dairy, cheeses etc. are allowed (after the detox period), but must be chosen wisely.

Since many of my friends have already started the plan (I’m behind the curve on this one), I decided I would post a series of healthy snacks that can be made quickly and easily, that will replace the unhealthy chips and cookies our bodies tell us we want – even though we really don’t want them. Stop being a pest addictive sugars!

Salty Snacks

Roasted Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

  • These are crunchy and salty and everything a snack’er craves! The beauty is you can add whatever spice combination floats your boat!

Roasted Artichoke Hearts

  • These beauties are delicious on their own. But if you’re a dipper (of sauces) then try this tasty Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing, you’ll be glad you did. Just remember, all things in moderation!

Avocado-Tomato Snacks

This is a simple, taste as you go, make as much or as little as you like, concoction.

  • 1/2 small carton of Cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  1. Combine 1 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs balsamic vinegar in a bowl. (I like my balsamic strong, so reduce this to your tastes. Start with 2 tsps. and go up from there)
  2. Slice cherry tomatoes in half, and dice half of a just-ripe avocado and add to bowl with dressing.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, taste and add more seasonings as necessary.
  4. If you have fresh basil, slice thinly and toss in the bowl.
  5. Enjoy with a few triscuits or a sesame crackers, or just eat it straight out of the bowl with a spoon, it’s that good.

Baked Carrot Fries

  • Carrots are great for you, and the sweetness that comes from roasting them is hard to beat! I would reduce the salt in this recipe to 1/2 tsp, and add more as needed. If you halve the recipe, try just a 1/4 tsp of salt.

Sweet Snacks

The best sweet-snack go to is fruit. But when you want something with a bit more substance, but still want to avoid refined flour and sugar, here are some options for you.

Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt

  • I haven’t tried this one personally but it seems like it would hit the spot! In high school I used to eat cookie dough by the bowl – I’ve since weaned myself from such indulgence, but this might satisfy my next craving!

Skinny Banana Cookies

  • These give the substantial texture of a cookie that you crave when you start to move away from sweets. It’s got the right amount of sweetness IF you use very ripe bananas.

Peach Frozen Yogurt

  • This hits the spot when you need a little ice cream fix. Delicious way to eat fruit!

When you start to introduce fresh, healthy foods into your diet, your body tells you that you’re craving all those salty and sweet snacks. That’s part of the detox process. Once you’ve been off of those for a while, you’ll be surprised at how overly sweet, overly salty, and how chemically those things taste. It’s worth the struggle, and you’ll come to love the foods that love your body back.

Even if you’re not doing the Daniel Plan, and never intend to, give these treats a try and let me know what you think! (I’m hooked on the chickpeas!)

 

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Spice of Life

Spices have been used since the beginning of recorded history. Wars have been fought over nutmeg, and cloves; cures for mortal ailments have been promised; even Manhattan was traded by the Dutch in exchange for the island of Run which was brimming with nutmeg trees. The study of spices as a driving force in history is fascinating, but today we take these spices for granted. How many of us really know how to use them?  Tumeric has been in use since 2500 BCE, but chances are it isn’t in your spice rack.  I say it’s high time that we embrace the bounty and richness of spices in our cooking, and pay a humble homage to the men who waged and won wars to bring us the privilege of our spice cabinet.

But where to start? I am a fan of Cook Smart’s and their innovative, useful, infographics, meal plans, and videos.  They have outdone themselves in the world of spice infographics, and I’d like to share one of their spice profiles with you here.

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Cook Smart’s Infographics

This genius chart shows you which produce and proteins each spice pairs with, as well as other complimentary spices. Notice that spices we often associate with sweet dishes: allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, can be used on savory meat dishes such as beef, lamb and chicken. Turmeric is delicious in rice, and I also add it to chicken and dumplings!

 

With this basis of knowledge you can branch into spice combination that will liven up any dish. I have a few combo’s I like to have on hand to add to chicken or beef for a quick meal prep. One of my favorites is the Creole Spice Blend. I used this for main course chicken dishes, for chicken I’m adding to pizza, or anything else that needs a little pep. I’ve listed my favorite blends below. I keep these in small Tupperware containers in my spice cabinet.

Creole Spice Blend (I halve the recipe, and reduce the salt)

Taco Seasoning

Fajita Seasoning (I omit the sugar)

Pumpkin Spice Seasoning

Making your own spice blends allows you to control exactly what is in each one. No preservatives, added sugars, or overloads of sodium. And if you need gluten free spice blends, this is the way to go. If you already have these spices on hand (which you should), you’ll save a lot of money, and have these blends on hand any time you need them!

As William Cowper so eloquently put it, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all it’s flavour.”

Spice up your life this week and try adding the Creole Spice Blend to your sautéed chicken! You’ll love what happens.

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Quick Crab Bisque

The weather has finally leveled off at a brisk high of 40s and 50s and has signaled the official start of soup season. With Christmas Day in Texas reaching a high of 73, it took awhile for the weather to settle into an appropriate winter pattern. Now that we’re here, soups may abound!

While I’m not a huge fan of soups in general, I do love bisques, and the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Dumplings, and Thai Noodle Soup. Dipping crusty bread into thick creamy soup, evokes the memory of evenings by the fire spent with good friends. Soup should be comforting. Soup should not make you feel guilty.

I love creamy soups but, no matter how hard I try, I see visions of me scooping up spoonful’s of cream and guzzling them down, and I can feel the calories ticking up. And if calories are ticking up that fast, it better be from a nice juicy steak. I mean come on soup – you don’t even require chewing! These feelings have prompted me to look for ways to keep that rich creamy texture, without adding a cup of heavy cream to my soup. That is where this gem comes in – 2% Evaporated Milk.

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Clocking in at 1/2 the calories of heavy cream, it adds the richness of cream to your soup without adding the calories. I’m in love. In a pinch I also use regular 2% milk mixed with a cornstarch slurry to thicken things up.

As I was browsing Pinterest (do you see where all my inspiration comes from?) I found this Crab Bisque Recipe  from A Farm Girl’s Dabbles and decided to try it. As usual I made a few modifications based on what was in my pantry, and deliciousness ensued.

Quick Crab Bisque

Original Recipe Here: Crab Bisque

  • Serves 4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Calories: 236 per serving
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 c. minced red onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 14.5-oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbs cooking sherry, or dry white wine
  • 1 can 2% evaporated milk
  • 8 oz. fresh or thawed frozen lump crab meat
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. In a medium stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot add the red onion and garlic. Sautee until softened about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes (this reduces the acidic or metallic taste that can sometimes occur). Add in the flour and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Slowly add in the chicken broth, stirring to remove any lumps as you go. Bring to a simmer and add in the fire roasted tomatoes, paprika, sherry, cayenne, and evaporated milk.
  4. Stir and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding salt and pepper to taste. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until no tomato chunks are left.
  5. Finish by adding the crab meat and bringing up to heat, about 2 minutes.
  6. Serve with crusty bread, or go old school and enjoy with saltines.

Enjoy!

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The Food Lab

My Aunt called me before Christmas and asked if I’d heard of a book called The Food Lab. She explained that it was a book that discussed the science behind the way we cook our food. She asked if I might be interested – the answer was a resounding “YES!”

Never having been a strong student in the realm of science, I was a bit nervous about how technical the book would be, but all my fears were in vain. The vivid pictures, light hearted writing style, and easy to follow recipes quickly endeared this book to my heart. For so long I knew how I cooked but never understood why it worked. Learning the principles that govern our most common cooking techniques allows you to expand beyond the pages of your cookbook, and begin experimenting and creating dishes on your own – and I’ll be honest, that’s when the magic happens!

One of my favorite images in the book shows two dozen eggs lined up, quantifiably displaying the results of hard-boiling eggs in 12 second increments. Now it’s easy to see exactly how long to cook an egg for the desired doneness. Brilliant!

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Picture Source – Serious Eats – Food Lab

It’s 960 pages of pure enlightenment. Though it’s not one you can tote around easily through the kitchen, I like to curl up on my couch and browse through the different topics. I often decide what I want to make for dinner and then crack open the book to read up on any tips or tricks which could elevate my meal to new heights.

I am certain this book will change the way I cook, and the way I teach cooking. Knowledge is power, and in the kitchen it’s a game changer. If you’re interested in upping your culinary game, I highly recommend this book. If you’re only casually interested then be sure check out their website for free tips and tricks!

Food Lab on Amazon

Serious Eats – Food Lab

Many happy culinary adventures to you!

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15 Minute Thai Noodle Soup

The first week back to work after vacation always seems especially difficult. Waking up early, being on a schedule, limited lounging-around time, it’s rough. By the end of the day all I want to do is lay on my couch and pretend it’s vacation again. That poses a problem when dinner time rolls around and I’m in no state of mind to think of what to make, let alone stand in my kitchen for an hour. Then enters the 15 minute dinner to save the day!

I love 15 minute dinners, they are joyous, unassuming, and satisfying. I also love Thai Food. When the two meet, beautiful things happen. I was browsing through Pinterest and came across this recipe from Brooklyn Homemaker, for Thai Style Chicken Noodle Soup. I was halfway into the recipe when I discovered I didn’t have coconut milk (shocking, since it’s a staple in my pantry). So I improvised. Below is my slightly modified recipe, that turned out incredibly delicious!

15 Minute Thai Noodle Soup

Original Recipe Here: Thai Style Chicken Noodle Soup

  • Serves 4 hungry humans
  • Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, with a dash of sesame oil for taste
  •  4 cloves garlic, crushed
  •  2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  •  1 large carrot, thinly sliced into disks
  • 5 shitake mushrooms (or baby bellas) sliced thinly
  •  1 chicken breast, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  •  1 1/2 cups water
  •  1 tablespoon lime juice
  •  1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  •  1 1/2 tablespoons sriracha
  •  1/2 cup sliced green onions
  •  1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
  •  6 oz package egg noodles, prepared according to the package
  1. Preheat oil (olive and sesame) over medium high heat in a large heavy bottom stockpot. Add garlic & ginger and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Add carrots and mushrooms cooking for 1 more minute.
  2. Add chicken stock, water, lime juice, fish sauce, & sriracha , and bring to a boil.
  3. Add raw sliced chicken and let cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked (depends on how thick you cut your chicken).  Add half the cilantro and green onions.
  4. Meanwhile cook your egg noodles according to the package (mine took 3 minutes). When done, add noodles to the soup mixture.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from heat, add the remaining green onions and cilantro, and serve!

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