Meatless Monday

Hanni asked me to post the recipe for the Brownie Walnut Pie I baked for Thanksgiving Day this year, and I thought, “Why not do it on Monday and make it a Meatless Monday post?”

Why not, indeed!

000brownie walnut pie

Below, is the recipe that I used to make this pie, courtesy of my Betty Crocker Cookbook at home.  The link provided above takes you to the Betty Crocker site, where the recipe is also provided, but I noticed that the ingredients and baking times are different there from what I have in my cookbook. Weird.  Well, maybe pie testers in the BC kitchen decided to tweak the recipe a bit.  Either way, with my old recipe or their new one, I think you will be happy with the results should you choose to bake this pie for a special occasion of your own.

Betty Crocker suggests you use a chocolate sauce as a drizzle for the topping, or some raspberry sauce. I think either would be heavenly, but we ate ours plain. It was rich, custardy, and full of chocolate flavor. I used Ghirardelli chocolate morsels instead of unsweetened chocolate in my pie. The morsels were bittersweet, but they worked fine.

More than fine! Yum!!!

There are two recommendations I would make when baking this pie for your family, and I don’t know if this would enhance the finished product or not, but I would do it next time.

1.  Put a pan of water in the oven while baking the pie. The pie top turned out more dry than I like, and I think this would help moisten it a bit.

2.  Put a clean dish towel on the pie while it is resting (but not until after 30-45 minutes out of the oven). Because the top crust was dry on my pie, it stayed puffed when it cooled, making for a crunchy topping when I would have rather have had it moist, like a brownie topping.  On a brownie, you want that lil bit of flakiness/crust, but without it being too dry.

This pie did what a lot of apple pies do when you use sugar crystals on the top crust before popping it into the oven.  That maneuver makes the crust stand stiff after the pie filling sinks into the bottom crust, leaving air between the pie filling and the raised, crunchy crust (which is oh, so good, but I want it resting on the pie filling when I cut into it with a fork).  That’s just me.  If you don’t mind the air between your filling and your crust, this step can be skipped.

Note: Do  not cover pie with dish towel right out of the oven.  It will make the pie sweat and wet the top, and nobody likes a wet brownie.

Moist, yes. Wet, no!

Other than these two tricks, that I think would help to make the completed pie even more luscious, I would make no alterations to either recipe.

This pie was very chocolate-y and definitely a recipe I would make again, but not until company comes over to share it with us. Too much pie for a man and his mate alone. Enjoy!Brownie Walnut Pie


000overthinkingSometimes I find it hard to fix the reason for why I began eating to excess.

The reason, if there is one reason, eludes me. 

Am I that good at rationalization/minimizing, that I can totally set aside in my mind the reason for the beginning binge?

Am I so disconnected with the past that I have forgotten what got this started?

Did I eat/overeat out of willfulness…hopelessness…control issues?

Does it even matter anymore?

I keep thinking that if I could just go back to that moment when I first interacted with food in an inappropriate way, and identify what was going on that day, I would discover the “secret” to what keeps it going now.  I have this fantasy of being able to project backward to that time, freeze frame, see the urge to continue eating past the point of satiation in an adult way with a healthier aspect and history behind, and then I could begin again.

Like a mathematical equation that went awry, I would be able to pinpoint where the mistake was made, correct it, and begin again, this time coming up with the right answer.

The correct sum.  The piece that defines the whole.

Maybe it’s mere fantasy.

I’m still trying to work the cipher, though….

What memory from your past seems like a vapor quickly fading?  When have you felt that not remembering was a blessing?

Busy Weekend

It was another busy weekend in NEPA.

I left work on Friday to shop for hubs, who will be away from home this week.  He has been asked to accompany his brother to Pittsburgh. They left Sunday at 6:15am.  His brother is a very sick and will be undergoing testing this week to see if he qualifies for the heart lung transplant list.  We are hoping and praying they accept him to the program, but can’t help wondering if he is not too sick to tolerate the testing. We are particularly concerned about a heart cath that will be done Friday.  Hubs is anxious, due to the fact he will be dealing with this on his own.  He hates BIG cities.  I know it will be fine, though.  Prayer Changes Things!

I started Saturday morning by saying a sleepy good-bye to that man who makes my life complete.  After that, I cleaned a little and did some laundry.  Then, it was time to shop and wrap–a baby shower was on the docket for later that day.

Around 1 o’clock I picked up mom and we headed out for lunch together.  Sunday was her birthday, but she had a picnic to attend Sunday afternoon, so we decided to do an early celebration, just the two of us.  I took her to her favorite restaurant and we broke bread together.  Yum, Yum.  Italian. Lip smacking good.

After lunch, I dropped mom off at home and proceeded to a baby shower.  The location of the shower was a thirty-five minute drive from home on roads I didn’t know, so I was a tad nervous.  We are talking middle of nowhere, roads. I didn’t know what to expect in the way of surfacing. We live in the country, so it could be paved, could be dirt, could be cow pathy–ya never know.  It was gorgeous!!!  Driving over the hills, the sky was full of puffy clouds floating in a sea of brilliant blue.  I so loved the “alone time” and the quiet.  We women don’t get much of that, or at least this gal doesn’t.  It was beautiful and I enjoyed every minute.

I included a homemade project as one of my gifts for the baby momma.

000baby giftPretty proud of myself for that one.  I customarily start projects but never finish them. This one I did, and on time. Woohoo, ya me!  It’s an original design and I did the painting and gluing myself.  It turned out pretty well, save the few snafus that occurred along the way. Her theme was giraffes.

I got her a bobble head giraffe, too, along with newborn diapers.  What mom can’t use those necessities?

000baby gift 2

I think she liked the bobble head. Who wouldn’t? He’s adorable–or should I say “she.”  The baby is a girl.

It rained a little during the baby shower, but we had tents and a cool breeze, so it all dried out almost as quickly as it came.  I was glad I went, and that I went alone.  Again, thirty minutes back with nothing but the puffy clouds and silence to accompany me.  It was perfect!

My mom celebrated her birthday on Sunday, too.  I took her out for ice cream, my kryptonite, later in the evening, but I made sure that the treat was my supper.  She did the same.  I had also fasted for breakfast, so I had calories in reserve.  Yum and Yay!

I felt good about the food I ate this weekend. Passed up cake at the shower and concentrated on fresh veggies, fruit, and water.  Fasted one meal and ate a salad without dressing for another on Sunday.  I did exercises each day I was off work, and I kept it positive.

All in all, it was a good weekend, but a busy one too.  Not many of my usual chores got done, but with hubs gone this week I can do them in the evenings.  It’s all good, right?

What fun parties have you been to this summer?  What busy days have you had along the way?

Meatless Monday–NOT

My recipe for today isn’t really an officially formatted recipe, and it’s not meatless, though it could be. Its a throw together meal that I would be willing to make and eat a million times over, shared here in a very informal manner.  000chick pea soupChick Pea Soup

Here’s how I do it…I put together in a pot:

1 can of Swanson Chicken stock

1 can of stewed tomatoes, pureed in the blender

1 sweet potato, cubed into small pieces, already cooked

1 cans of Chick Peas, drained

2-3 sausage links, cooked and coined

Salt, pepper, oregano, basil to taste.

2 cups fresh spinach, added a few minutes before serving.

I put the broth and tomatoes in the pot first, then add the spices.  I let that simmer for a little bit, enough to bring the flavors together.  I cook the sweet potato separately, ahead of time, because I want to eliminate some of the starch in the recipe.  You could do the same, or if you want the soup to be thicker, add the potato in the stock you’ve made and simmer until done–about 15 minutes.  Next I add the sausage coins and the chick peas.  The spinach is the last item I add to the pot.  I bet you could use kale too, but I haven’t–yet!

If you like onions, you can dice one and add at the beginning, letting them cook while the broth melds with the spices.

While this soup is cooking on the range top, I throw some corn bread in the oven. My favorite go-to recipe is found in the Happy Everyday Herbivore cookbook that you can check out here.  It’s made of white flour and whole wheat flour and it’s really dense and moist (probably because of the pumpkin–I sometimes use creamed corn in a pinch).  The cornbread only takes 25 minutes to bake, and the soup is done about that same time.

This recipe is quick, easy, and so, so, sooo delicious and filling.  It has tons of vitamins and nutrients in it, and the corn bread and chick peas provide a lot of fiber and texture.  Its simple to make and I usually have all the ingredients on hand–the win/win I’m looking for on those nights when I have meetings after work.

Try this soup and let me know what you think. I love it!

What is your favorite soup?  Do you have a tried and true recipe for those hectic nights? 




Sweet Potato Love

I love sweet potatoes roasted in the oven. I also adore cheese.  I’m a big fan of dairy, having grown up in NEPA, where the buffalo may not roam, but the Holsteins surely do.
Today, for Meatless Monday, I thought I would share a recipe that mingles and mixes both dairy and my love–the sweet potato.  I do not bake dishes like this in my iron skillet, though you may want to.  A skillet certainly adds the rustic feel, but I hate cleaning out cheese from an iron baking pan, so I’ll be using my glass pan to bake this yummy recipe.  If you try it, let me know what you think.
I think you can’t go wrong with sweet potato and cheese.
Sweet Potato Parmesan Gratin
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
A simple gratin featuring sweet potatoes, thyme, low-fat milk and parmesan cheese. Healthier than your average gratin yet just as satisfying.
Author: Minimalist Baker
Serves: 5-6
  • 2 organic sweet potatoes, sliced in thin rounds
  • 1 small red or yellow potato
  • ~ 1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme, roughly chopped (fresh or dried)
  • 3/4-1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 cups low-fat milk (I used 2%)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Butter or lightly oil a baking dish or cast iron skillet.
  3. Place the sliced potatoes in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the thyme and half of the cheese and toss together.
  4. Transfer to the dish and pour on the milk. It should just cover the potatoes.
  5. Bake 30 minutes, remove from oven and carefully drain off a bit of the liquid (about 1/3 cup). Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and return to the oven.
  6. Bake another 45-50 minutes, until the milk is absorbed, the potatoes are soft and the top and edges are golden and around the edges. (Optional: drain off a bit more of the liquid as using low-fat milk instead cream can result in a bit of wateriness.)
  7. Let rest at least 20 minutes before serving so the juices can redistribute.
  8. Can be made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave or oven for serving.
* You can use cream or half and half instead of low-fat milk, but it will add a lot more fat and calories overall.
* You can substitute other cheeses besides parmesan, such as gouda or asiago.

First Day Frustrations and the Dirty Dozen Difficulties I encountered while trying to eat right

Yesterday was the first day of the October Unprocessed challenge, and this year I have signed the pledge. During October I will be avoiding processed foods as much as is humanly possible. Well, for me, that is.

Going into the challenge this year, I was confident. I have been eating this way most of the time for three years now, so I am accustomed to shopping, preparing meals, and eating in an unprocessed way. Still, there are some hold outs in my food plan; places where I take the road more often traveled by people who aren’t concerned with weight and health issues like I am. For me, keeping on top of the weight and the consumption of sugar and junk is literally a life and death decision. I have to eat right and exercise to keep the diabetes at bay, so I do, most of the time. Mornings, however, are rough for me. I work outside the home and I have a 40 minute commute. That means that in the morning, I’m rushing around like a chicken with no head from the time I force myself to leave my warm covers, until I pop in the door at work and settle in with my morning routine. In the morning, when it’s time to eat, I want easy!

Easy for me is spelled TAKE-OUT.

My usual is a breakfast wrap from the local coffee shop; a small tortilla, a half piece of sausage, an egg, and some cheese. I eat this with my morning coffee and I’m set until lunch. I’m not doing this during October Unprocessed.

Is there a bond between eating and emotional responses? For me, the answer is a definite YES. In the past, when I was hungry, angry, lonely, bored, happy, sad, frustrated, or pressed for time, I ate all the wrong things. I ate the wrong things, in the wrong amounts, with devastating results. I gained more and more weight, until I tipped the scale at 315 lbs. I was fat, unhappy, sick, and ignorant of all the things others knew about nutrition, whole foods, moderate exercise, and my responsibility to get and keep myself healthy.

I didn’t know.

That might seem like a cop-out or excuse to some. Make of it what you will, but I promise you, I didn’t know. I had been raised by an unhealthy, unorganized, and unhappy mother. I never learned what it was to live a healthy life. I didn’t have that life patterned for me, and no one, ever, stepped in to adjust what was going on. Well, I take that back. My fraternal grandmother tried, but you can imagine how that went over at home. My parents divorced when I was five.

My family history is long and complicated, but I don’t want to bore you with that, so I won’t go there. Suffice it to say, my relationship with food has definitely been emotionally charged for as long as I can remember, so when I have a day like I had yesterday, it’s a challenge for me. Even without the October Unprocessed pledge I made, but especially in light of that pledge to stay away from processed, easy, fast foods this month.

To give you some insight into my frustrations, I thought I’d share my dirty dozen mishaps from yesterday here; events that fueled emotional responses with food.

Note: I did not overeat yesterday, and I did not eat fast food or the other types of foods I had decided to abstain from during October.

My take-away from yesterday, as I reflect on the day this morning: I did it! I’m proud of myself for that. This morning, that temptation to get take out with my coffee was strong. My response was to forego the coffee shop and have hot tea with my breakfast.  I couldn’t trust myself in the coffee shop. Can you relate?

I’m slowly learning to break bad habits.

This was my day yesterday:
1. Flat tire at the coffee shop. My second in two weeks. Last winter I had three in one month. Ugh.

2. Can’t reach hubby on cell, and can’t change tire by myself.

3. Call co-worker to come get me. I will now have to make up 30 minutes at the end of the day.

4. Busy, busy, BUSY day at the office. I didn’t get everything done. A friend wants me to meet her after I get out of the office. Problem is, I have to work late, but meet her after that, anyway.

5. I have a meeting after work, a dinner meeting that I have to rush around to make by 6:15pm.

6. I get home to a house smelling of bleach. Oh, yeah, we bleached the water lines after installing a black light to help with contaminants from our well water. I had forgotten that was happening today.

7. I decide to shower before going to dinner, but no. The water in master bath commode looks like it’s been scooped out of a mud puddle. Hubby has left the water on too long when running the bleach out of the pipes.

8. I call to hubs, to discuss this with him, and find out how long the faucets have been running full-bore. Okay, so I’m ticked. Wouldn’t you be? I NEED to wash my hair.

9. A fight disagreement ensues, as I realize for the first time that a beeper is going off. We don’t know where the noise is coming from. It’s the black light in the cellar. We check it and the filters-two of them-are black with sediment from the well. Everything that has been done thus far to sanitize the drinking water is now for naught, because the water has run too long and the pipes are now full of dirty sludge. We will have to go through all this again in 4-5 days.

10. Numerous evil thoughts run through my mind concerning my husband, at the same time he bumps his head on beam down in the basement and leaves a huge goose egg. I’m late for dinner. As hubby heads out to figure out the water sitch with his pal, Maynard, our dog sneaks out the front door and takes off like bullet across the pasture field. After EIGHT WEEKS of training, he still refuses to come when he’s called.

11. We have to go out to the car, open the door and yell to dog to go for a ride, because it is the ONLY thing he responds to when he’s being naughty. Then, we must take him for a ride, because if we promise but don’t follow through, he will quickly lose interest in this too and become road pizza. And while I like pizza, and I do not like house pet pizza. Note: the ride was very short, as was my temper by this time.

12. Dog is finally caught, I am ready to leave, I open the door and out he shoots again, for round two of naughty dog antics that make masters into monsters. No joke! Today? Right now? When I’m hungry? Is someone taping this, because I think we could qualify for America’s Funniest Videos!!!

I finally left the house hungry, angry, lonely (why can’t anyone do what you ask them to do—these kinda questions create isolation), and completely frustrated, then had to eat a stinkin’ salad with soup for dinner. Really?!

Some days are like this. It’s life, on life’s terms.

Hoping today will be better.  I really want to be able to finish October Unprocessed clean.

Another challenge is about to begin–October Unprocessed

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of another month. Wow, where did September go?

October 2013 looms large on the horizon, and with it, another challenge for this gal.

oct unprocessed logo

In just four days I will embark upon October Unprocessed, a global initiative that I believe will strengthen my resolve to heal myself with food; give me a better understanding of what it means to make my own food and not get it from a box, bag, carton, juice pack, or fast food window server; and help me to focus on one thing during October that has the potential to change my life forever.

I’m excited about the possibilities October Unprocessed will provide, and would love to have a few others join me on this 31 day program designed to move America and the world away from processed foods and potentially poisonous chemical additives that seem to have leached into our food supply.

I will be blogging about my experience with unprocessed food prep and eating during October, and you know me–what I write will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as far as I know it, from my personal experience. If I slip up, you’ll know it. If I am successful, you’ll know it. I won’t probably will bore you with details.  I’m excited to share what I learn along the way from October 1 to Thanksgiving Day–the King of all food celebrations!

October Unprocessed is important to me, so please pray for me while I try this. I’m already eating this way 75% of the time, but I want to go “whole hog” with this challenge. I will need support, so if you see me post something about a particularly hard day or meal, add your comments to the post. I read them all, and respond to them all.

October Unprocessed, here I come…