Saturday, November 11, 2017

paleo pumpkin pie and my chronic pain journey

I am looking forward to sharing this new recipe.  It's a perfect representation of where my heart is, currently.  I am fully focused on the arrival of my favorite holiday, of all things warm and cozy, of flavors cinnamon-y and savory.  I am full of anticipation and appreciation, and my gratitude overflows with goodness.  Thanksgiving is almost here, folks, and I can't think of a better reason to return to the blog I so dearly love.

Towards the end of Summer, my chronic back pain returned with a vengeance.  I found myself on it more than I was standing up.  The pain was obnoxious and nauseating, and the only relief I could get was lying flat.  Sometimes.  I refused to take a day off, as I was pretty sure this was going to be my new normal.  Standing or sitting for any amount of time felt nearly impossible, and riding in a car, let alone trying to get out of one, was all I could bare.  Although I knew diet wasn't the only answer, I also knew that lowering my sugar and flour had decreased joint inflammation in the past, and I was desperate.  So I committed to significantly lowering my carb intake and began spinal decompression therapy, and other interventions, to hopefully take the edge off of the bulges and degeneration of my discs (L4, L5, S1).  

I am just ecstatic to say that for a little over two weeks I have found relief.  I don't know how much of it has been the multiple therapies, exercises, or diet, but I'm not stopping any of them.  I don't want to go back to where I was if I can help it, and as a side bonus, I've lost about 12-15 pounds. 😉

As I began my quest for really great low-carb eating, I ran across a cookbook that has yielded some of the most tasty, filling, satisfying recipes I've tried to date.  And although I don't consider myself a dieter (I've always loathed "skinny" versions of any dessert) I was intrigued by the grain-free, low-sugar versions of those found in the book.  My curiosity got the absolute best of me, and I couldn't help but try this pumpkin pie.  

The verdict?  I honestly find this recipe ten times better than any I've had, hands-down.  You do not miss the reduced sugar (by HALF), and the spices put it over the top.  It's this real, true flavor that absolutely shines. There's nothing fake in it, and John - the lover of all things pumpkin pie - couldn't have been more affirming.  It. Is. Good.

I'm really excited to share some more successful recipes from this newest gem of a cookbook and to continue on this journey I've been on for the last six weeks.   I'm so very thankful for health and increased quality of life.  Although I know it may not be like this forever, I will take it for the hours, days, or months it's given to me.  My body says, "Thank you," and my heart couldn't be more grateful.

Paleo Pumpkin Pie

makes eight servings

for the crust
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 stick butter, melted (or sub coconut oil if avoiding dairy)
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
for the filling
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus 1 cup for whipped topping garnish (or sub coconut cream for true paleo)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 15 oz organic pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground loves
  • pinch of salt
for the crust

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients together, mixing well.  

3. Press into a 9-inch pie pan evenly.  

4. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown,.

for the filling 

1. While crust is cooking, lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Add in 1 cup of the heavy cream along with the vanilla, pumpkin, coconut sugar, and maple syrup and whisk together.

2. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, ground cloves, and pinch of salt.  Whisk spice mixture into wet ingredients.

3. Pour filling into crust, bake for 30-35 minutes.  The custard will still be jiggly in the middle, so turn the oven down to 325 degrees and cook for the remaining 15-20 minutes.  Place foil around the edges of your pie if you find the crust is getting a little too done.

4. Top with fresh whipped cream. 

Recipe from Eat Happy!


Monday, July 17, 2017

cooking light, cooking right ~ grilled chile-lime flank steak with grilled corn and bell pepper salad

In the last 22 days, we've only been in our own house three.  We have had a whirlwind of a time, with a terrific visit to Indiana, a couple of days in Crossville and the last week at church camp. Although I've loved every minute of our time away, I have really, really missed my kitchen.

I've been wanting to share these recipes with you for weeks.  We cooked this for the first time shortly before we headed out of town, and I fell in love with it!  Rather than firing up the stove, it can all be cooked on the grill, keeping the house cool and dirty dishes to a minimum.  We grilled some Texas toast to complete the meal, and supper was on the table in no time at all.  The best part about it? Flavors were OFF. THE. CHART.  There is no doubt this will be back on the menu!

Call me crazy, but as I type I'm watching the Hallmark Channel and loving every second of their "Christmas in July" lineup.  Currently, a sweet family is decorating Christmas cookies in the kitchen of a snow-covered bed and breakfast.

Eh-hmm... can we say, "Dream come true?"

At any rate, it makes me start thinking about some cookie recipes I've earmarked to try over the next few months.  Maybe I'll give them a trial run sooner than later.  Who cares if we're having record temps and humidity in Nashville?!?  Sweltering heat or not, I know the boys in the house wouldn't mind testing them one bit. 😋

Grilled Chile-Lime Steak with Grilled Corn and Bell Pepper Salad

makes four servings

for the steak
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper, divided
  • 1 lb flank or skirt steam, trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vertically sliced red onion (we left out)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tbsp sliced garlic
  • 4 lime wedges

for the salad
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 large ears fresh yellow corn, husks removed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and halved lengthwise (we used a small Vidalia)
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 oz Cojita cheese, crumbled (about 3 tbsp)
for the steak

1. Preheat grill to high (450-550 degrees).

2. Place cilantro stems, juice, 1 1/2 tbsp oil, and 1/2 tsp crushed pepper in a mini food processor; process until smooth.  Place cilantro mixture in a shallow dish; add steak, turning to coat.  Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Coat grill grate with cooking spray.  Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade.  Sprinkle steak with salt.  Add steak to grill; cook 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare or until desired degree of doneness.  Place steak on a cutting board.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Cut across the grain into thin slices.

4. Place steak on a platter; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp crushed pepper, onion (if using), cilantro leaves, and garlic.  Drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp oil.  Serve steak with lime wedges.

for the salad 

1. Preheat grill to high (450-550 degrees).

2. Coat grill grate and corn, bell peppers, and shallot (or Vidalia) with cooking spray.  Add vegetables to grill.  Cook corn 14 minutes, turning after 7.  Cook bell peppers 10 minutes, turning occasionally.  Cook shallot/onion 8 minutes, turning after 4 minutes.  Remove vegetables from grill; cool 5 minutes.

3. Cut corn kernels from ears and place in a bowl.  Cut bell peppers into 3/4-inch pieces; add to corn.  Chop shallot/onion; add to corn mixture.  Add parsley, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to corn mixture; toss.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe from Cooking Light.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

make-ahead blueberry oven french toast

It has definitely been the season of graduations, weddings, showers, and the like, so I thought this might be the perfect time to share this recipe.  It would be a wonderful addition to a brunch!  Or, if you like finding a cabin or condo to land for vacay, and need a few great recipes for a crowd, you might want to try this as well.  This can be made ahead and refrigerated, so it's a terrific option when you have to host company the next morning.  I love the idea of prepping at night, so I can enjoy the guests; this is why I gave this recipe a try to begin with.  A couple of weeks before our mission trip, the girls from our team hung out overnight for a movie and some pre-trip bonding.  This came in super-handy the next morning!

As I continue to dream of the B&B one day, I'm definitely tucking this one away.  The blueberries and streusel-like topping add so much sweetness, no syrup is necessary.  But a dusting of powdered sugar or dollop of whipped cream with a fresh zest of lemon would be a great addition.

A lot of life has occurred since the last time I posted, including our mission trip.  I'm looking forward to sharing a traditional Navajo recipe one of the locals taught us.  Until then, here's to brunch and blueberries!

Blueberry Oven French Toast

makes six servings

  • 1 large loaf Italian French bread, sliced 1 inch thick (stale is better)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1 1/2 c half-and-half
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t lemon extract
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c blueberries
  • 1/2 c butter (chilled helps)
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1 c brown sugar
1.  In a greased 13x9" pan, arrange enough bread slices in a single layer to cover the bottom of pan; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, half-and-half, extracts and spices; pour over bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for 8 hours.

3. When ready to cook, uncover and sprinkle with blueberries.

4. Cut together butter, flour and brown sugar until crumbly.

5. Sprinkle mixture over blueberries.

6. Bake uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes.  

Recipe adapted from Gooseberry Patch, Church Potluck Favorites.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

slow cooker chicken taco soup - the best yet!

Three weeks from today, along with fourteen students and one more teacher, our family will be on our way back from our second annual mission trip to a Navajo reservation in Arizona, if "The Lord's willin' and the creeks don't rise," as the Indiana farming folk used to say.  I'm really excited for a couple of reasons: A) to see what kinds of ways God will move again this year and B) I get to cook and cook and cook.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner for a total of at least 20 will be served, minus a couple of meals we'll eat during travel days.

We had a whole-group planning meeting last week, for which I got to warm up my large-group cooking chops.  We originally thought a first-of-May activity would allow us a chance to enjoy the patio and grill out, but as you who live in Nashville know, out of the blue, Mother Nature decided to blow in a couple of days of cold rain. I have to admit, when I first saw the forecast I was a little put out.  But then I adjusted my mindset and started thinking about it as a great opportunity to search for one more wonderful recipe full of comfort.  What was so bad about everyone gathering around our tables (including an extra we had to set up in the living room), enjoying a fire, and something warm to eat?  Not a thing, AND it was Cinco de Mayo to boot.  So I decided to go on a hunt for some kind of fiesta soup that would be easy, short on prep, and long on satisfaction. After all, nineteen very hungry people - most of them teenage boys - would be in my house just a couple hours after I got off work.  Quick and filling were my only options.

I could not be more enthusiastic to share this recipe with you.  There is NO cutting, NO chopping, NO pre-cooking the meat, NOT EVEN draining or rinsing required.  (I decided to take my chances on that last one.  It was just fine.)  AND it all goes in the crockpot. And you know how I love that thing.  Seriously.  If I were a cheatin' woman, it would be my second husband.

I'm excited for the fall so I can make some more.  I was thrilled with the results, and I absolutely adore how the chicken just gets nestled right down into the mixture of all the other ingredients to cook and soak in all the flavor.  It's really a fantastic recipe to add to your collection.

So, there you go.  Come the next wave of cooler days, you can thank me, and I think you'll find that my hunt for quick and filling totally paid off.

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

makes six servings

  • 1 cup mild salsa
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can corn
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 tbsp homemade taco seasoning, or store-bought 
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, scraped of seeds and chopped fine (optional)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (I even used FROZEN!)
  • Suggested toppings: sour cream, scallions, cheese, diced avacado, cilantro and a squeeze of lime!
1. In crock pot, pour in all ingredients, salsa through chipotle pepper, if using, and mix thoroughly.

2. Push chicken into mixture and set pot to low.  Cook for 6-8 hours.

3. Remove chicken and shred or dice.  Return to mixture and serve.

Recipe adapted from Kristine's Kitchen.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

DIY wall storage for fruits and veggies

We have a narrow section of wall that faces into our kitchen seating area, but is completely open to our living space.  I have looked at for over two years wondering what in the world I could put there.  It didn't seem right for photos, I didn't want to just go buy any ol' wall art to fill it up, and I really, really wanted to find something with some depth and texture while keeping the rustic natural feel of our furniture and color scheme.  Meanwhile, I had potatoes, onions, and an assortment of other produce that I kept moving from inside a cabinet, to the steps of the garage, to the counter, never really finding a place for those to land.  And then one day I had an idea.  Why not combine the two problems and find one solution?!?  I explained my idea to John, he looked at me like I had three heads, I gave him my, "Just think about it" spiel, as I held up this and that to mimic the picture in my mind, and then he was sold.

I have really enjoyed what we've done with an old ladder that belonged to John's dad, three baskets from the bathroom section at Walmart, and twine.  After taking apart the ladder, John attached wall hangers like these to the back of it on the sides of the highest rung.  I used a HUGE needle with a large eye to thread my twine and "sewed" through the back of both sides of the baskets and around each rung for what felt like a hundred times to ensure it could hold the weight of the produce.  John put a couple of anchors in the wall with heavy duty screws, and the "wall art" was finished.  I had space for storage, as well as the depth and texture I was hoping for, and it has been a great conversation piece.

Some still may look at the finished product - then me - like I have three heads, but we love all things distressed, food-related, and farmers-market-like.  It's right up our alley and thanks to the great prices at Walmart, it cost less than $30 to make.  I couldn't be happier!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

love your neighbor oatmeal cookies

One of the things I have enjoyed about living in the style of neighborhood we've now been in for three years, is we actually see - and have to talk to - our neighbors.  We're so close in proximity, especially on this cul de sac, that it would be utterly rude to not speak or even make eye contact. I always hear people say they're looking to get further out of town, further away, find more land... I get it. We've said those very words in years past and will probably look to do the very same in years to come.  But in this moment in our lives, as I believe fully that God plopped us right down here in the middle of this village for a reason, I'm thankful for the closeness.  I wonder so many times about His plans for us in the lives of those who are living just feet away.  Are there words or actions we're supposed to share that might impact them?  I wish I were more prayerful and dedicated to that question.  Hm.  Maybe that's a prayer goal I should set.

Living so closely to one another we can hear their conversations, it it not hard to notice when new folks are moving in.  Just a short time ago when that very thing happened, I decided to try a stack of these cookies to take along with us as our family of four went to meet theirs.  It wasn't hard.  It didn't take a lot of time. But as all food prepared by one and given to another does, it sent a message that we love them.  And what I really like about that idea more than anything, is that it showed we did before we even met them.  We decided to love, just because.  Because they were our neighbor, because they were joining our community, just because.  

At the end of the day, God asks us to love.  It's not asked of us only when it's easy.  It's not asked of us in response to what they've done first.  He just says love.  I encourage you to look for a neighbor to love and take a pile of these.  You'll love them, and even better, so will they. 

Oatmeal Cookies

makes about two dozen

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cider or white vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, quick cooking or old-fashioned
  • 1 cup raisins, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease (or use parchment paper) two baking sheets, light-color preferred.

2. Beat together the butter, shortening, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and vinegar until fairly smooth; a few bits of butter may still show.

3. Beat in egg, again beating until smooth.

4. Add the baking soda and flour, beating until well incorporated.

5. Add the oats (and raisins, if using), stirring to combine.

6. Drop the dough in 1 1/4 inch balls onto baking sheets.  I used a cookie scoop.  Place 2 inches apart, as they'll spread.

7. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, reversing pans halfway through (top to bottom, bottom to top).

8. Remove from oven and let them cool.

**I'm a HUGE fan of King Arthur Flour's products and site.  This recipe comes from them, and you can find all kinds of tips when visiting this link!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SUPER-EASY pulled pork loin over hoe cakes

It has been a really great week of eating.  We were gone all last week for Spring Break visiting family in Indiana, and when we take those trips, I always take the stack of magazines I've saved to read.  I watch Create TV, of which I have fallen in love, and I surf the internet more than ever.  I prepare and plan meals the way I wish I always did, and it makes for such a smooth week when we return.  Grilled burgers and romaine, fish tostadas with cilantro lime crema, roasted salmon with lemon butter...  Good, good and good.

I'm in the middle of planning for this coming week and am thinking of using one of the greatest gifts given to working moms - the crockpot.  It's a lifesaver and a planner's - or, in my case, a wannabe planner's - dream.  If you have a hunk of meat and any spices at all, you can usually pull something together and make it great.

Enter this recipe.

Once upon a time, there was a pork loin roast hanging out in my freezer, and the rest is history.  It comes out tender, juicy, wonderfully good, and you can use the results for just about anything. As you can see here, I just added some more BBQ sauce and spooned over Paula Deen's Hoe Cakes. Southern goodness.  Almost zero work.  Sounds like a plan to me!

Pulled Pork Loin in Crock Pot

makes about three pounds of meet

  • 3 pound pork loin
  • 8 ounces of BBQ sauce of choice
  • 1 small onion minced (I grated mine - quick and easy to incorporate)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • hot sauce as desired
  • salt and pepper 
1. If you have time, salt and pepper the pork loin and let sit for at least an hour.  If not, just do right before using.

2. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over loin.

3. Cook on low 6-7 hours.  

* Towards the end, I did give the meat a good stir and left off the lid to cook off some of the liquid, although you don't have to.  You can drain.  At this point, the meat is not overly BBQ-y.  That's what makes this a flexible dish.  I did add more sauce, as we were wanting a BBQ meal.  And extra sauce is definitely a must for the following hoe cakes to taste their best!

Paula Deen's Hoe Cakes

makes about 15-17 cakes

  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 cup self-rising cornmeal or mix (Aunt Jemima recommended)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or BACON GREASE (can you tell which one I prefer?)
  • Oil or butter for frying
1. Mix all the ingredients except for the frying oil.  Heat that oil in a medium or large skillet (a griddle or cast iron skillet is my preference) over medium heat.

2. Drop the batter by tablespoons (two per cake) onto the hot skillet.  Fry until brown and crisp and then turn to do the other side.  

3. Remove cooked cakes with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Will keep in fridge for two days.