Tomato Pie

Now is the time to make tomato pie. I am of the opinion that homegrown tomatoes are a slice of heaven, here and now. If you’ve never experienced tomato pie with homegrown tomatoes, you have not yet fully lived.

I first learned about tomato pie from Laurie Colwin. Laurie was a novelist and short story writer who wrote some great books about food. I love to read books about food, so she became my buddy and mentor, even though I never had the pleasure of meeting her.

For those of you who have dietary restrictions, you may alter this recipe in any way that suits you, with one exception—you must include tomatoes. I made it with a gluten-free crust and it was delicious. I have even made it with…canned tomatoes, when one very cold winter, I was in desperate need of a summer fix. Making (and eating) this brings me great joy, along with an abundance of happy memories.

I am sharing Laurie’s recipe so that you may experience a bit more of summer abundance– and a slice of heaven.

TOMATO PIE

The pie has a double biscuit-dough crust, made by blending:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • Approximately 3/4 cup milk

Blend by hand or food processor. I like to use a pastry blender, since I once over- processed my pie dough and had to start over. Roll out half the dough on a floured surface and line a 9-inch pie plate with it.  

Pie ingredients:

  • 2 pounds peeled fresh tomatoes or 2×28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, drained
  • Basil, chives, or scallions, depending on availability and your mood
  • 1 and ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Slice the tomatoes thin and lay the slices over the crust. Scatter them with your chosen seasoning and sprinkle one cup of the cheese on top of the tomatoes. Over this, drizzle the mayonnaise that has been thinned with the lemon juice. Top this with the rest of the grated cheese. Roll out the remaining dough, fit it over the filling, and pinch the edges of the dough together to seal them. Cut several steam vents in the top crust and bake the pie at 400 degrees F. for about 25 minutes, or until bubbly and the crust is golden. The secret of this pie is to reheat it before serving, which among other things ensures that the cheese is soft and gooey. It can be made early in the morning, then reheated in the evening at 350 degrees F. until hot.

Taken from  More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen.  

“It is hard to describe how delicious this is, especially on a hot day with a glass of magnificent iced tea in a beautiful setting, but it would doubtless be just as scrumptious on a cold day in your warm kitchen with a cup of coffee.” – Laurie Colwin

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Basil Turkey Burgers

Here’s a quick and easy meal that’s big on flavor. Pan fried in the kitchen or grilled outdoors, they’re delicious! The addition of olive oil keeps them from being dry. For those of you who don’t eat dairy and like a little “kick,” add a bit of cayenne pepper.

1 pound ground turkey (93% lean)
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1-2 Tablespoonfuls extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoonful (or to taste) Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Strong cheese, such as Romano, Swiss or BellaVitano Merlot (optional)

In a small bowl, combine ground turkey, chopped basil leaves (cutting with kitchen shears works well, too), extra virgin olive oil, and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Make into 3 patties. Grill or pan fry until brown and cooked through. Testing with a meat thermometer is a sure way of knowing when they are done. Add a bit of cheese at the end of cooking time.

Serve with sliced Vidalia onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and your favorite condiments.

A note about cheese: for those of you who tolerate dairy products, a small bit of very flavorful cheese compliments the mild flavor of the turkey beautifully. I like BellaVitano Merlot, a Cheddar-Parmesan inspired cheese immersed in Merlot wine for extra tang. It is sold by weight and I have found it in Costco and other local grocery stores that sell fine cheeses. By using a cheese with a more robust flavor, you need less. Of course, goat cheese is another option.

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child

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Before You Eat That…

Today, August 3rd, is National Watermelon Day. I wish you a very happy Watermelon Day and suggest you have yourself a slice and celebrate! How to choose a ripe one? The watermelon should feel heavy for its size, which means it contains lots of water and is nice and ripe. Choose one of average size that is more round than long. (The round ones are “girl” melons and are sweeter, of course!) The color should be deep green, dull instead of shiny, and its tail should be dry. It should also have a creamy yellow patch where it sat on the ground.  The more creamy yellow the patch, the better. Enjoy this AMAZING fruit!

Now down to some other business. Food vs. You. It feels like a war within sometimes, right? I mean, you think about the cookie and how you love the texture, sweetness, and crunch. That cookie or ______  (fill in the blank here with whatever food you like) would really hit the spot right now. Go for it!

But Wait! Before you eat that…

Are you hungry? Did you finish a delicious meal and now have a taste for a sweet treat to finish it off? Is it that time of day when you need some energy and the cookie seems like a good idea? Or, are you lonely, sad, bored, stressed, upset, happy– or any one (or more) of a seemingly endless list of emotions? 

Good grief! It’s one cookie! Is it that big of a deal?

NO.

The big deal happens when we notice a habit that is not in the best interest of us being our healthy, happy selves. 

For example, I’ll pick on me and a few of my former “not-so-good” habits. For years I thought I had to have a big bowl of ice cream every night. I thought I always had to have chips and a sandwich for lunch. Breakfast was usually cold cereal, milk and sometimes toast.

I have since realized that the ice cream every night was a comfort food for me that goes back to when I was a little girl. My parents and I would enjoy lots of it in the evenings, often enough that it became a comfort habit—one that got me through the tumultuous high school years and beyond. Oh yes, LOTS of emotional stuff then. Going to the carton of ice cream was my “go to.” AGH! Well, Linus always had his security blanket. Now, I am happy to say, I have cut my ice cream consumption back to once or twice per week, and eating it is not emotionally driven. Perfection would mean totally eliminating it from my life. I am not there. However, I know that sugar loading before bed is not good for maintaining steady blood sugar levels through the night. I am making good progress.

The chips and sandwich routine stemmed from my grade school days when I took my lunch in my turquoise Mary Poppins lunchbox. My favorite fare at the time: hard salami on white Wonder bread, yellow mustard, a sweet banana pepper, and Fritos on the side. Not much nutritional redemption there. I now practice eating more veggies in the form of salad greens for lunch and have pretty much ditched the Fritos and chips. No, I don’t have the lunchbox anymore.

My carbohydrate heavy, low protein breakfast–simply another acquired habit from growing up with parents who switched from bacon and eggs to cereal and toast for better health. Interesting how things come full circle. Back to eggs with sautéed veggies–bacon on occasion.

It is important to eat protein with each meal, along with plenty of vegetables and fruits. It is also important to minimize sugars and refined carbohydrates. There are so many other “food rules” that it is certainly hard to keep track! Progression, not perfection.

I digress.

The point of all this is to look at WHY you are choosing to eat something that may not be in your best interest of health, and ask, “Am I hungry?” If not, consider having a glass of water or herbal tea or finding some other distraction so you stop focusing on the cookie (or chips, ice cream, M&M’s). Getting some type of exercise is a great alternative to going to the kitchen. Our bodies need to move!

I encourage you to think about why you eat some of the things you do. And you know I’m not talking about the occasional treat or crazy meal. It is the day-in and day-out stuff that gets us. Perhaps it is time to make a change in one of your lifelong habits and see what a big difference in can make!

Conscious awareness is an important first step in taking charge of your life. Go for it!

“Watch your habits, not your weight.”

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Mr. Non-Compliant Goes to the Bakery

We were recently in a small Michigan town and I was walking my Sophie dog. I noticed a cute little bakery on Main Street and happened to mention it to my dear husband, Mr. Non-Compliant.

He soon disappeared and I didn’t have to wonder very long about where he had gone. You guessed it, The Bakery.

This was not your typical Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme. This was your cute little Mom and Pop bakery that had probably been in the family for decades, providing the community with delicious made-from-scratch goodies on a daily basis.

Yes, that was where he had gone.   

About 10 minutes later he returned with a small, white, wax-coated bakery bag. I could smell the delectable treats making their way toward me. Since bakery visits are a rare occurrence for us, I was anxious to learn what was in the bag.

So much for writing this week’s blog on mindful eating.

The bakery bag contents: one blueberry muffin, one cinnamon roll and one cherry fritter. There are only the two of us and Sophie doesn’t eat people food. Why three items?

Mr. Non-Compliant loves blueberry muffins made with fresh blueberries. We both have a fondness for cinnamon rolls that have more cinnamon than the white sugary frosting—this one did. Since I love cherries, the fritter was for me. He almost passed on the deep-fried fritter, thinking I would have no part of it. However, when the girl in front of him ordered one and told him it was amazing, he caved. He’s learning.

We first had our protein smoothies so we had a smart start to our day. (Note: when you are going to eat something that is probably not beneficial to your health, it is best to first throw something down that is.) Then we broke out the fritter. I cut it into several small pieces and we tasted it. Neither one of us found it as amazing as the girl in the bakery did, so we didn’t finish it.

After lunch, following the same nutrition principal as breakfast, we tried the cinnamon roll. We enjoyed every flaky, cinnamony bite, and it was worth the sugar, carbs and calories. Oh. My. Yes, it was amazing. 

The blueberry muffin is all alone now, waiting for Mr. Non-Compliant to polish it off. I’m not sure when it will disappear. I do know that there will be lots of vegetables served for dinner.

I guess this blog is about mindful eating, in a way. My husband brought me baked goods, and I didn’t really mind. Cheers to finding the balance, and eating mindfully.

“Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy.” –Sign in The Bakery

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The Skinny on Fat

When you need a quick snack, are you better off eating a handful of walnuts or a bowl of ice cream? (Read on for the answer!)

About 30% of our diet should consist of fat. This may seem contrary to what we have heard. However, a diet that does not include a variety of HEALTHY fats isn’t ideal either.

We need fat in our diets to provide energy; help manufacture and balance hormones; support our immune system; form our cell membranes, brains, nervous systems; transport fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K); and provide two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make.

There are three types of fats we will focus on:

  • Saturated
  • Monounsaturated
  • Polyunsaturated

Ideally, we should eat 1/3 of each type for best health.

The foods that provide these fats:

Saturated fats: animals (eggs, dairy, meats, butter, cheeses, etc.). Also, coconut oil, palm oil. If you choose to eat these oils, be sure to choose them in their most natural form—unrefined, whole, cold-pressed, extra-virgin. We typically eat an overabundance of foods containing saturated fats and not enough plant foods. These, combined with the many refined carbohydrates we consume (white sugar and flour), contribute to a long list of health problems.

Monounsaturated fats: macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, tahini, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, olives, olive oil, avocados

Polyunsaturated fats: wild-caught fish, hemp seeds, algae oils, safflower oil, sunflower seeds, peanuts, canola oil, walnuts, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, Brazil nuts

The easiest way to balance our heavy saturated fat intake is to focus on adding foods from the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated categories—so, eat a variety of nuts and seeds. And if you guessed that walnuts (polyunsaturated) are a better snack than ice cream (saturated), you are correct! We are trying to achieve better fat balance. You probably had animal (saturated) fat at a meal, and the sugar in the ice cream does nothing to promote good health. Sorry.

A word about trans fats: avoid them. These are processed fats that have hydrogen added to make liquid vegetable oils more solid. They are cheap, easy to make, and increase the shelf life of foods. ANY food that has partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil on the label should be avoided. These fats may contribute to high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, cardiac and other chronic health issues. They interfere with fat metabolism and cause inflammation and pain. Trans fats are found in margarine, shortening, many fried and baked goods, such as donuts, crackers, cookies, pies, cakes, etc.

A great idea: eat mostly natural, unprocessed, whole foods. Oh, and eat more vegetables. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has told me they need to lose a few pounds because they eat too many greens.

 “Increase your consumption of healthful fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado, grass-fed beef, wild fish, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. At the same time, keep in mind that modified fats like hydrogenated or trans fats are the worst choices for brain health.” –Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain

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Tips to Overcome the Dreaded Plateau

It happens. You are practicing good eating and exercise habits. You feel yourself becoming fit, healthier, and even weighing a bit less. It’s exciting! You are highly motivated and encouraged to stay the course.

And then, IT happens. You plateau, just as things were going so very well! This is just supposed to happen to other people, NOT YOU! It’s simply not fair.

Here is some awesome advice from Dr. John Berardi, along with the reason of WHY this happens.

In addition to calorie and carb cycling, here are some other tips that you may help you get to the “lighter” side:

*Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. A simple rule is to take your weight and divide the number in half. That is a good estimate of the number of ounces you need in the course of your day. Of course, when you are more active and the weather is extremely warm, you may need more. Remember:  fruits, vegetables, broth, and herbal, non-caffeinated teas contribute to this amount as well.

*Look at your fruit intake compared to your vegetable intake. If you are trying to lose fat, your vegetable to fruit ratio needs to be about 5:1. Vegetables typically contain less natural sugar.

*Are you eating enough? As Dr. John mentioned, when you don’t eat enough, your body slows down, similar to a hibernating bear. You actually hang on to fat for protection. Of course, since we usually have grocery stores in close proximity to our homes, this is not as much of an issue as it was when our ancestors had to hunt for their next meal.

*Change up your exercise routine and try something new. Our bodies get accustomed to the same workouts and need a little shake up now and then. (Of course, if you are new to exercise, get clearance from your doctor first.)

*Make sure that strength training is included in your program. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. Yes, muscle does weigh more, and it is worth the extra pounds to have it!

*If you are eating foods that you know bother you, stop it. Foods that upset your body cause inflammation, get in the way of weight loss, and may eventually cause disease. So, if you eat sugar (or artificial sweeteners, white flour, dairy, processed or fried foods– you get the idea) and you are experiencing symptoms, STOP. In fact, many of these and more–are not a good idea for any of us. Eat mostly whole foods.

Hope some of these tips help you continue your journey to a healthier, lighter you.

If you could use some guidance to take charge of your health, and your life, shoot me an email and we’ll make it happen! carol@inkwellcoaching.com

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”—Fred DeVito

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Stress and Weight Retention

I’ve heard this frustration more than once: I eat pretty well, I am faithful with my workouts and I still am not able to lose weight. What is the problem?

Are you stressed? What is your stress level on a scale of 1-10 in any area of your life? Chances are if you are at a “10,” or close to it, the stress could be part of the problem.

So, now what? Quit your job, leave your family, and disappear to a tropical island? Not realistic and you would then be concerned about money, your family, or if you could get blown away by a hurricane.

There are much better options.

First of all, if you are feeling stress from every direction and doing killer workouts besides, you may not be doing yourself any favors. Try implementing some form of movement that is a bit more calming, restorative, and meditative. Some examples: walking, yoga, tai chi, Pilates, dance, and any combination of them. By slowing down a bit, you are better able to focus on your breath. Practicing deep, belly breaths as opposed to taking rapid, shallow breaths, is extremely beneficial in restoring balance. These types of exercises also have the potential to keep you in the present moment, which is the best moment of your day, since it’s the only one you’ve got.

This is not to say that you still can’t “kill it” at the gym. What I’m suggesting is finding the balance. Assess how you feel on a particular day and choose accordingly. What is it you need today? Let’s face it, some days we are Energizer bunnies, then there are… others.

What are you incorporating into your life that brings you joy? This idea is about YOU—not your kids, your spouse, your friends or colleagues—but YOU. When was the last time you went out and did something for fun because you could? Or perhaps there is a hobby that you’ve neglected because you feel you don’t have time. Think about something you could do that would make you smile and feel happy. Put it in your calendar for the coming week and treat it as your most important commitment. This could be something as simple as sitting at the park on a sunny day and doing nothing for 10 minutes. Bask in the warmth of summer and breathe. 

Sometimes you simply need to BE. Park yourself somewhere and daydream. Setting time aside to do nothing is not wasted time. Give it a try. Kick it back a notch and see if you notice a shift—not only in your weight, but also in your life.

“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.” –Milan Kundera

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5 Festival Food Tips

Summer Solstice and Festival Fun! These are the days we long for in winter. The trick for many is sticking with a reasonable food and fitness routine through ninety-degree days, corn dogs and elephant ears.

Here’s one idea: You could put it all off until August when the kids go back to school and chalk it up to summer vacation fun. The catch with this plan is that once school begins, life gets fairly hectic and the pressure is on with scheduled activities. Once that rush is over, we’re almost to the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and we know what happens then. Next thing we know…oops, time for those resolutions. Sorry to be “Johnny Rain Cloud,” –it’s the pattern I see repeated over and over on a regular basis.

Time to break the cycle and try something new! There truly IS a way to balance life and health, while maintaining sanity and having fun.

To get you going, here are my 5 simple tips to help you negotiate festivals, celebrations and summer vacations! By choosing even ONE, you will feel more positive about your health.

  1. Drink plenty of water every day. I could write a lengthy essay about the reasons this is important, and actually, I did. I covered this in my blog in January 2016 (link: Water Habit Blog just in case you need a refresher). Besides lots of health benefits and combatting dehydration during these extremely hot days, there are zero calories, zero artificial colors and zero sweeteners to contend with. You will feel full on less food and also “save” those calories for something really decadent.
  2. Find and eat a vegetable. I’ve scoped out lots of food establishments, festivals, county fairs, etc. and it IS possible to find some type of vegetable that’s not battered and fried. So, if you are away from home for an extended period of time, eat something in this category that is redemptive at some point. Recently I spotted a fair vendor with beef tips who also offered sautéed vegetables. When on the road, most fast food places offer a salad—which is a good option instead of the fries. I recently had a very good salad with grilled chicken from Culver’s. It’s rare to go to any party and not see something green—besides the M&M’s. I know there is a bit of resistance to eating vegetables at celebrations. Do the best you can and just give it a try.
  3. Check out all the food options, whether you’re at a picnic, festival, or party, before you begin filling your plate. By doing this, you can pace yourself and determine which fun food you want to be sure to enjoy so you feel balanced. Or, sometimes you know what your fun splurge is going to be before you even reach your destination. Make your plan, then stick to it.
  4. When you know in advance that something you are planning to eat will not agree with you, consider passing on it. Do you really want to feel lousy for the next few hours after you eat the elephant ear or fried Twinkie? If there is something you really want to try for novelty, consider sharing it with friends. And for the record, sometimes we need to eat something and then feel bad as a reminder as to why we only do it on occasion. (Depending on your age, you may not understand this theory. Trust me, one day you will.)
  5. If there is a food you absolutely love and it is AMAZING, enjoy it fully. No guilt. No justification. No stories. I ate the Dairy Belle ice cream because I love it. These days, I can skip the elephant ears and corn dogs because skipping the indigestion does not make me feel deprived.

Enjoy your summer and all the delightful celebrations that come with it. Make YOUR plan, then stick with it. Living a healthier lifestyle is about making small changes that add up over time.

For some light-hearted entertainment, check out my Food, Festivals and Fun video by clicking HERE

“The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.” —Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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