Maple Pumpkin Pie

This week is proving to be the quintessential autumnal weather. Outside my window, the wind rocks thin branches with tawny leaves and weathered edges. The air current through the room made us all reach for a cozy pair of socks this morning! Certainly a season of inexhaustible flavors and tastes, cool fall evenings require creamy pies for warming the body and soul.

No better way to kick off October than with maple plus pumpkin in a satisfying pie dish.

As soon as there’s a chill in the air, I crave the textures and flavors of pumpkin. And here it is, our first pumpkin pie of the season. The addition of maple to the silky pumpkin adds a soft and subtle flavor. This maple pumpkin pie recipe is so simple, you’ll be putting this fall favorite on your regular dessert rotation.

For a pudding-like option, skip the crust and bake the filling in a lightly greased dish or individual ramekins.

The ingredient list is so wholesome, you may just want to have a slice of pumpkin pie as an afternoon snack with a cup of hot tea…every day until Thanksgiving : )

Maple Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 15oz. can pumpkin puree

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2/3 cup maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (maple sugar or coconut sugar would be perfect!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 eggs, well beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • CRUST: use your favorite pie crust recipe, I recommend this one. Have it premade in the fridge (or store bought) for a faster way to enjoy your pie!

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Roll your pie crust onto a pie plate. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy and add all other ingredients. Stir until combined and smooth. Carefully pour filling in pie crust. Bake in the middle rack for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it stand 30 minutes or more before cutting. It’s delicious slightly warm, but you might enjoy it best after it’s chilled in the fridge.

That’s it! To serve, sprinkle toasted pecans, drizzle a little maple syrup, or maybe whip up a little cream for a silkier, richer treat.

Let me know how you like it. Can’t wait to hear how you enjoyed it!

with love. Damaris

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The Best Uses For Zucchini and Squash

Move over, asparagus, there’s a new garden boss!

So this is complicated. We have a quarter of an acre garden, and grow every kind of summer and winter squash known to the Midwest. Nobody likes them but me. ‘What are we thinking planting all those vegetables??‘ I know. I wonder too, but it certainly has pushed me to get creative and find the most flavorful uses for my family to eat the least favorite (also the most prolific) of our garden produce.

I almost can’t believe I just admitted to their very well-hidden food aversion : )

Here they are! All the recipes that we have made, and our family ate and finished their plate. You can switch yellow squash for the zucchini in all these recipes.

Zucchini Bread and Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Curry (with petite diced zucchini instead of eggplant)

Zucchini Lasagna (we use jarred marinara and skip the mushrooms)

Zucchini Patties

Several other ways in which I have successfully incorporated zucchini and squash are:

  • Adding cooked zucchini to meatloaf (when making the raw meat mixture)

  • Adding cooked shredded zucchini to marinara sauce (for spaghetti, or lasagna, or stuffed shells, etc.)

  • Cooking shredded zucchini with the taco meat for Mexican dishes

Maybe your garden isn’t pressuring you to eat it as fast as mine is, but I thought it would be good to share the different ways my family enjoys eating zucchini and squash considering we have children’s taste buds at our table.

Do share your tips and tricks for using up zucchini! I’m all ears.

with love. Damaris


Flirty with Whole30?

Our family just went through the health program Whole30!!! If you’ve heard anything about it, it’s pretty shocking how many things considered daily staples cannot be included in the month’s meals. Nathan, Alexander and I had done a very strict Whole30 over a year ago, and we didn’t have a hard time. We were eating delicious food, bigger breakfasts than we ever had, more bacon, more guacamole, and lots of almond butter. Not bad. But this time around was exponentially harder.

To be fair, it was much easier in some ways (like menu planning or second guessing our food choices), but that everyone in the family was on the program, even the little ones, made it harder. Their cravings seemed more uncontrolled or at least they verbalized it more than any of us older ones would have admitted to. Everyone did excellent and enjoyed what we could eat for 25 days, and then mom made grilled cheese. I called it quits! They smelled the forbidden food from all over the house and came running to hug and kiss me for the gift of a little hot sandwich- hahaha!

Before I tell you how we dined for 25 days, I’ll go through the basic rules of the program: no real or artificial sweeteners (no honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc.), no grains (corn, rice, sprouted grains, quinoa, etc.), no legumes (all kinds of beans, soy, peanuts, peas), no dairy (cow, goat, sheep), no preservatives/additives (msg, carrageenan, sulfites), no alcohol nor tobacco. Lastly, cannot consume baked goods, treats, or junk food even if it’s made with ingredients you can eat. The program is for a strict 30 days of no sneaking or skipping, or cheating. There are numerous benefits to completing the month, but primarily, the health program’s goal is to help you “slay the sugar dragon” and identify your food sensitivities or inflammation triggers. We involved the children this time around because we were curious if there would be any measurable improvement in their focus and cognition.

Two things helped us to be successful:

  1. Incorporating all the meals we already eat and love that were compliant into the Whole30 menu. By planning meals we eat regularly instead of looking up all new ideas and recipes, we simplified mom’s menu planning and guaranteed we’d all enjoy the familiar foods.

  2. Ketchup – yes! Expensive, compliant ketchup : )

Breakfasts:

sausage, potato and egg hash

crust less quiche Lorraine

fried eggs, scrambled, poached, or soft boiled eggs with sausage or bacon

omelets

sausage and potato breakfast casserole (shredded hash brown potatoes instead of squash)

eggs shakshuka (no jalapeno nor cheese)

Lunches:

tuna salad

chicken salad

egg salad

burgers

hot dogs (compliant)

omelets

left overs

Suppers:

meatballs and marinara

beef stew

jambalaya

chicken curry

sweet potato chili

burgers and potato wedges

baked salmon and roasted Brussel’s sprouts with bacon

baked lemon-herb chicken with mashed potatoes

baked pork chops and roasted asparagus bundles wrapped in bacon

sausages/brats (compliant) and coleslaw

meatloaf and sweet mashed potatoes

Italian stuffed peppers

Quick sides to any meal or “desserts”:

olives

avocados/guacamole

dates

dried figs

raisins

apricots

almonds

walnuts

pistachios

all fresh fruits

celery

baby carrots

almond/cashew butter

applesauce

fried apples (omitting the sugar, using coconut oil)

fried bananas (same way as the apples)

I hope our experience can be a help to you if your considering a journey like Whole30. We would recommended it, not to tell you it’s easy, but to tell you it’s worthwhile. Let us know if you have any questions!

with love. Damaris


Instant Pot Loving + White Bean and Smoked Sausage Stew

Happiest of Fridays, My Friends! Life has been put on hold here in Michigan. We’re in the middle of a snowstorm and what better than a post about hot, steamy stew? We’re having this for dinner tonight, because you can’t beat SEVEN ingredients and a pot that does all the work for you in no-time.

Did I tell you I’m over-the-moon infatuated with my Instant Pot? Meals that would have used a skillet, slow cooker, or a pot come out of the stainless steel pressure cooker prepared to perfection with a fraction of the mess and time. Is your cupboard boasting this treasure yet? I’m sure we’ll share the same love : )

Nothing speaks family like the pleasures of gathering our loved ones, carefully ladleling stew into deep bowls, holding little hands, and saying grace – a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the day. Next, we all load a spoon and blow gently until it is just cool enough to eat.

I am confident that the best dishes emanate from the freshest ingredients prepared in the simplest way, and this stew attests to that. Using dried white beans, quality canned tomatoes, and full-flavored smoked sausage will deliver a rewarding, aromatic, hearty stew. Everything goes into the electric pressure cooker at once, and if prepared days in advance, this stew tastes even better.

When you serve this white bean and smoked sausage stew hot in generous portions with fresh crusty bread, you’ll enjoy the most soul-warming rustic stew! Do tell me you’ll try it?

White Bean and Smoked Sausage Stew

  • 3 cups of dried white beans (navy, canellini, any will do)

  • 2 (12 oz.) smoked sausages, sliced

  • 8 cups chicken stock

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped

  • 2 (15oz.) diced tomato cans (stewed, crushed, whole-all work well)

  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (crushing it in the palm of your hand gives it a little more life)

  • handfulls of fresh spinach leaves or kale for throwing in after cooking or directly upon dishing (optional)

Add all the ingredients to the electric pressure cooker. Cover and set on pressure cooking function for 45 minutes. Allow to slow release for a set-it-and-forget-it approach. The Instant Pot takes between 20-40 minutes to reach high pressure and will slow release for another 20-40 minutes. Enjoy the ease and comfort of this satisfying stew any night of the week! Makes fabulous leftovers and freezes great.

with love. Damaris


Rice Pudding (Arroz Con Leche): Instant Pot Simplified

Fun news! We were featured in the food blog EatLikeNoOneElse: A Foodie’s State Of Mind last week!! Our Zuppa Toscana recipe has been a big hit. Go check out Eric’s very comprehensive content on every ingredient you could ever think of. When I visit his site, I start by searching for a recipe and end up learning about the history of a Topaz apple! I think you’ll enjoy it too.

My memories of Arroz Con Leche stem from growing up in Spain, where it is one of the core desserts that graces every high-end and home cook’s table alike. My Yaya (mom’s mom) and my mom made it often, and it was my passion. Whenever I helped my Yaya with any cleaning or spent the day with her, she generously asked what could she make for me. I always asked for Arroz Con Leche (literally means rice with milk- or rice pudding). Turning her recipe into an Instant Pot success took many bowl-fulls served as breakfasts, snacks and desserts. All turned out good, except one try when Nathan said it tasted like macaroni and cheese- Hmmm.

This version of rice pudding is very simple with the basic ingredients that make Spanish Arroz Con Leche.

Simple Rice Pudding In the Instant Pot

  • 6 cups of whole milk (your choice of non-dairy works too)

  • 2 cups of water

  • 2 cups white short grain rice (long works fine too)

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 sticks of cinnamon

  • 1 lemon peel (not the peel of a whole lemon, only a 3 or 4 inch piece), optional

Add all the ingredients to the electric pressure cooker and whisk until sugar seems dissolved. Cover and set on Porridge function (or 20 minutes on high pressure if using another brand of electric pressure cooker). The Instant Pot takes a few minutes to reach pressure and automatically cooks for 20 minutes. Allow 20 minutes on low (after pressure cooking is complete), for delicious rice. We like it soft, so I allow it to slow release which takes about 40 minutes. Stir the rice pudding in the cooker before serving for more even texture and sweetness. If it seems dry for your liking, incorporate more milk when serving. This recipe can be cut in half with great results.

with love. Damaris


2018, your year for keto?

Everybody sets new goals in January, and at the top of the list are the goals related to eating habits: kicking the sugar craving, beating the bloat, or simply supercharging their diet for overall wellbeing and hopefully loosing a couple holiday pounds. Proper care of my health and that of those in my household is my concern. Making menus or meal planning has helped me for many years in this area because I can clearly see what we’re eating and how often. I also enjoy taking a little time to read books and articles on natural living and nutrition in general.

Over a year ago, we all did a Whole30, and I enjoyed the foods tremendously. The learning experience alone was well worth it! I think we’re gearing up to doing another one soon. So stay tuned for updates on that. Lot’s of folks say that January diets are doomed to fail, but they don’t have to be. If it is something you enjoy and can find a good rhythm for in your daily living, than it can be very successful.

It can be hard to juice, do smoothies, or even enjoy salads when it is frosty outside and the car thermostat reads -4F on Nathan’s way to work. In Michigan, the cold and the gray is relentless, and right now we’re in the deepest, darkest part of winter. Since we need comfort and cheering up, warm, rich foods would bring not just sustenance but satisfaction. Hefty cheeses, thick soups and stews, and creamy, sweet winter squashes help our sun-deprived bodies to survive the dreary weeks of winter.

The ketogenic diet is basically a way of eating that shifts your body from burning sugar to fat for energy. It focuses on eating high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates which means lots of nutrient-dense whole foods, without anything processed. Contrary to what many people still believe, fats are not bad for you. This truth is as old as ancient civilizations. Something about adding more fats made us full and we stopped craving and thinking about the next meal all the time.

I count our ketogenic story a success because we continued for weeks long past our 3 week goal. We came to it with no intention to buy anything we didn’t already have or use on a regular basis – no buying special flours, supplements, or prepared specialty foods. We made sure to drink lots of hydrating liquids to make up for the lack of fresh fruits, and we cut out the snacking.

Here’s the do-not list:

– grains

– legumes/beans

– root vegetables

– fruits (except some berries)

– sugars/maple syrup/honey

You may read that the transition will be hard and might feel like the flu, but this was not our experience. We don’t eat a diet as high in grains or sugars as most western diets, which may be why it wasn’t a hard switchover for our bodies. There are many health advantages to eating a keto diet which you can read about here. The main benefits that we could feel on a daily basis were:

  1. A feeling of fullness

  2. Greatly reducing sugar cravings

  3. Eliminating carb dependency

  4. Weight loss

I think the way to sustainably follow the ketogenic diet is by keeping it simple. I didn’t spend time searching for new recipes, but instead we cooked the meals that we already love that are keto friendly or eliminated ingredients from family favorite meals. Remembering that fat is not the enemy will be key. We continued to shop on the same grocery budget and all the meals were kid-approved!

Meals we loved for breakfast:

  • crustless quiches (yummy twist is topping it with sour cream and salsa)

  • fried eggs or scrambled with cheese with bacon or sausage

  • eggs benedict with avocado slices underneath and you won’t miss the English muffin

  • shakshuka (huevos fritos con tomate- is what we called it growing up) This was our favorite breakfast! We switched mozzarella for the feta and it tasted so, so good. Sprinkled with parmesan is the best.

  • full fat plain yogurt with berries (a sprinkle of stevia) and nut butter (this made a great dessert too)

Favorite and easy lunches:

  • hamburgers without the bun

  • quality sugar-free hotdogs without the bun

  • sugar-free ham, salami, or prosciutto (jamon serrano) with a preferred cheese (I love Havarti)

  • tuna salad

  • chicken salad

  • egg salad

  • baked brie and fresh veggies

  • celery and nut butter

  • broccoli and cauliflower florets, cucumber slices with ranch

  • dinner left overs make the best lunch

Delicious dinners:

  • taco salad

  • chicken curry with cauliflower rice

  • meatballs with marinara (same as spaghetti and meatballs without the pasta)

  • hamburgers and roasted broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts

  • chicken alfredo

  • brats and sauerkraut

  • Italian sausages with pesto

  • beef stew

  • baked salmon and asparagus

  • keto pizza

  • lasagna (instead of noodles, we used deli ham slices- so good. Eggplant or zucchini slices would work great too).

Desserts we made:

  • berries with fresh whipped cream (with a little stevia)

  • keto chocolate cheesecake (used stevia equivalent and didn’t swirl- I know, so boring 🙂

  • keto pumpkin pie (used stevia equivalent and sometimes no crust)

  • keto custard pie (no crust, full fat milk and 2 teaspoons of stevia- add more if it doesn’t seem sweet enough before baking

I hope this gives you a little flavor for what keto is like and if it might be a good fit for your winter health goals. I’d love to hear your experience with keto and some of your favorite tips and recipes!

with love. Damaris


Oatmeal Cookies For Breakfast, You Say?

Sunday mornings are pretty harried at our house. The whole family has to be out the door, fed, washed, brushed, and look’n good – no exceptions! Although I don’t want Sunday mornings to be rushed, there is no avoiding it. Even if church clothes have been picked out and ironed, unavoidably, four girls need braids, baby needs nursed, and somehow we can never remember which pair of shoes we wear on Sundays – ugh! Needless to say, this baked oatmeal recipe has saved my Sunday morning sanity!

I enjoy serving a substantial breakfast – something that is filling and also feels special. We prepare it as early as Thursday, keep it covered in the fridge, and bake it while we get ready Sunday morning. I had never heard of baked oatmeal before, but I stumbled upon it while searching for gluten-free breakfast options a few years ago. The recipe description read, “It tastes like an oatmeal cookie,” and I knew we had to try it! After making it a couple of times, I realized that it could easily be assembled a few days before hand – anything that can be assembled in advance has my name written all over it! It’s been eight years since my gluten-free recipe search, and we still absolutely love it! We like to eat it piping hot out of the oven with a little milk poured over it in our bowls. There was never a breakfast so nurturing and wholesome that tasted so good!

It’s hands down THE MOST flexible recipe. One less egg or one more, buttermilk, almond milk or coconut milk, or any kind of sweetener, this baked oatmeal is always beautiful out of the oven! Our all-time family favorite is baked oatmeal with frozen cherries. It’s close runner-up is frozen blueberries (fresh ones don’t last long enough around here, but would work well). We’ve enjoyed it with frozen strawberries or peaches too! Raisins, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans are some add-ons we’ve used again and again.

It’s fabulously gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free (great with maple syrup instead of brown sugar)!! Please tell us how you like it!

photo credit: Alexander

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 eggs

  • 1/2 cup oil or melted butter

  • 2 cups milk (any kind)

  • 1 cup brown sugar or maple syrup

  • 6 cups rolled oats

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 to 2 cups of add-ons (frozen fruit, raisins, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, chopped nuts)

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl just until incorporated. Grease a 9×13 pan and spread the mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set in the middle.

with love. Damaris