A Twist on Traditional

Anyone who knows my family or has been to any of our holiday ‘gatherings’ knows that we prepare dishes that are anything but traditional. Last Thursday, in the midst of oyster shucking on the back porch and our infamous living room open bar, my Dad and I were in the kitchen preparing our Thanksgiving dishes. Being the confectioner that I am, I was put in charge of making the pies. I decided on two traditional pumpkin pies and one derby pie (this is where the twist comes in!). I am sure most people have the traditional pecan pie at their Thanksgiving table, but I wanted to try something different. While looking up recipes, I came across a recipe for the derby pie. Instead of the traditional pecan pie, the derby pie also included chocolate chips and Kentucky bourbon. It is often associated with the Kentucky Derby – hence the name. I used a Paula Dean recipe  for the pie crust that I had experimented with before in one of my food labs at school. The recipe, obviously pre-diabetes, is a very traditional one that turns out a delicious flakey crust.

Fun Fact: Shortening is an ingredient used in many desserts that have flakey crust. It received its’ name because it ‘shortens’ the gluten strands in the dough, promoting the flakey texture!

I first toasted the pecan halves in a skillet to give them more flavor, and set about 1/2 cup aside so I could sprinkle them on top. I used whiskey instead of bourbon and also did not mix the chocolate chips into the pie filling, but made a bed of them on the bottom of the crust. I poured the pie filling over the bed of chocolate chips, sprinkled the extra pecans on top, and baked to perfection.

post bake


The second experimental ‘traditional’ dish we prepared was our stuffed turkey. Okay, so this one was mostly my Father but I can say that after watching him I would be ready to create my own! We stuffed our turkey with spinach, sauteed mushrooms, and fried oysters – delicious! We first had to bread and fry the oysters and saute the mushrooms. Next, we pounded out the turkey using a small cast iron skillet and layered the spinach, mushrooms, and oysters on top. Rolling and tying it up took both of us about 15 minutes, we were not about to let any stuffing fall out and go to waste in the oven. We placed a few stalks of celery on the bottom of a deep baking dish and placed the turkey on top. Before it went into the oven we sprinkled it with a few seasonings (black pepper, fennel, rosemary, that I can remember) and covered it with foil. It took about an hour in the oven on 325 to bake and it turned out so well! Everyone at dinner seemed to love it, even those who are not so fond of oysters. At your next family gathering, think out of the box try to create something out of the ordinary, I’m sure it will be a hit!



Pictures, As Promised!!

Oyster Shooters at Felix’s


My Muffaletta Sandwich at Cochon’s “Butcher”. Homemade meats, provolone cheese, and olive salad. Served with housemade potato chips and bread and butter pickles.

Our dinner at Dick and Jenny’s. 








Left: Flounder stuffed with crab served over chorizo rice. Bottom picture: Seafood bouillabaisse 


Mom and I along the Mississippi during our morning walk!

The famous french market.

                                      Beignets at Cafe Du Monde!

Who doesn’t love a good sandwich!?

I love coming home from school because I know there will always be plenty of good leftovers in my refrigerator. As soon as a walk in the front door, it’s the first place I go! Today as I was rummaging through after my run, I decided to make one of my favorite foods, an open faced sandwich! In my opinion, these are the best way to go. It’s like being able to eat two meals for only the amount of calories in one!

Here is what I came upon: An English muffin, stone ground mustard, some roasted hot peppers, a tomato basil and spinach salad with olive oil dressing, feta cheese, and some smoked salmon. I toasted the English muffin and then threw on all of the ingredients, topped with bit more fresh basil and enjoyed! All for about 400 calories 🙂


Noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon.

Wow! What a mouthful!
If you were asked to define ‘organic’, what would you come up with? A lot of people are misled by the definition of the word to believe that this term is an umbrella for all molecules, and foods made with these molecules, that are comprised of carbon. While this is the textbook definition, the word organic encompasses so much more when it comes to the production, characteristics, and quality of our food.
So what exactly are the guidelines for growing food organically? The USDA has developed three ways to categorize organic food: 100% organic, organic, and made with organic ingredients. All foods with organic anywhere in the label must follow guidelines set by the USDA for growing. These include: prohibited use of synthetic and non-synthetic substances and ingredients (including those used in processing plants), no radiation, prohibited use of vaccines, and no sewage sludge. The land the crops are grown on is also required to have buffer zones, which may be forested areas, to prevent contact with prohibited agricultural substances. The farmer must also practice crop rotation, composting, proper feeding practices (which includes the animals being limited to organic feed, no poultry slaughter by products – which are fed to feedlot cattle, and no antibiotics or steriods – unless organic), and also allow the animals proper living conditions and grazing sections. All of these restrictions, of course, have exceptions. I know, so many rules, and this is the abridged version!
As far as food labeling goes; to be considered:
                 “100% organic” – products must contain 100% organic ingredients
                 “organic” – products must contain 95% organic ingredients
                 “made with organic ingredients” – products must contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients
The remaining ingredients in products labeled “organic” or “made with organic ingredients”, must comply with certain restrictions as well – though not as strict as the organic restrictions. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may have the organic ingredients listed on the label, but may not make any organic claim. I hope I have convinced everyone reading this to jump on the organic bandwagon 🙂

Easy As Pie!

I am attempting to make my first pie (actually, variations of one) today: Turnovers! I needed to think back to a food science class I took 2 years ago in order to perfect them and I figured I would share some info with you. Pie dough is characterized as un-laminated, which means that the fat is mixed in with the dough. This is different from a laminated dough, such as a croissant, in which the dough sheet is alternated with a layer of butter. It’s important when making pie crust that you allow larger chunks of fat in the dough so it will be flaky. If you over-mix the dough it will be too tough, due to too much gluten formation (see my earlier post: The ‘Disease Du Jour’ for more info on gluten). It’s also important to let the dough sit and chill before you roll it out so it can hydrate and the gluten can properly align. Chilling the dough will also reduce the amount of shrinkage when baking. I am currently writing this post while my dough is chilling in the refrigerator and I’m allowing my fillings to sit and absorb flavor.

I found the recipe I am using on Taste Spotting, my homepage and favorite website..EVER. The recipe is for blackberry cherry turnovers, but I decided I would try to make a few variations. I stuck to the recipe pretty closely, except I had to use red wine vinegar instead of white. I also cut the filling ingredients down by 1/2 since I am making 3 variations of the recipe. The winners are: Black Cherry, Blueberry & Black Raspberry, and Peach.

I think the turnovers turned out wonderfully! I brushed them with liquid sugar in the raw and sprinkled them with vanilla sugar before I put them in the oven. I used the convection feature and it didn’t take long at all, about 12 minutes. The crust, which I was worried I had over-mixed, turned out tender and flaky. They’re a little on the messy side but I’m not over-concerned with they way they look. They smell fabulous 🙂  YUMM I can’t wait to try one!

Chill Out the Healthy Way!

Popsicles are by far the BEST summer treat. I sometimes feel like I have been on the ‘freeze-pop only diet’ every summer since the age of 4. Between that and my other favorite snack, strawberry dippers (aka a strawberry:sugar ratio of 1:3), it’s no wonder I was wired all of the time. This summer I decided I would try to make a healthier version of my favorite treat: peach mango popsicles!

The hardest part of this whole process was finding popsicle molds; I had to go to 4 different grocery stores. Just a heads up in case you don’t own them! I actually ended up finding them at Save A Lot in Cumberland (I know, who would’ve guessed). The rest of the steps were relatively easy. I’m also sure you could make these with any fruit you’d like, peaches and mangos just happen to be my favorite.

Ingredients: 5 small peaches (I prefer to keep the skin on, more nutrients!)

1 mango

1.5 tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice

1/3 cup sugar in the raw (you could also use honey, agave, splenda, sugar, whatever!)

Next, just throw all of the ingredients into a food processor until completely blended and pour into the popsicle molds.

I know, SO EASY! They taste awesome too! This recipe made 9 popsicles and I figured them to be about 150 calories each. So next time you’re stuck inside because of a heat advisory, remember this recipe. Stay cool!

You Are What You Eat

No one is able to make this point clearer than Michael Pollan, the author of multiple books, journals, and articles on the food system in the United States. My personal favorite, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”, will truely change the way you look at food. While I have heard several stories of people converting to vegetarianism after reading Rory Freedman’s “Skinny Bitch”, I am sure that just one chapter of Pollan’s book will have just as great of an affect. In my opinion, “Part Four: The Feedlot”, is the most intriguing and informative. I will admit that I cringed a little (okay, a lot) at some parts, but if you’re looking for the hard truth in what really goes on in our agricultural system, look no further. Pollan discusses the unsustainable and unethical system of feeding commodity corn to cattle in US feedlots. Not only are cattle’s rumens unable to digest the grain, which causes bloating, increased stomach acidity, and can lead to fatal liver disease, but eating meat from grain fed cattle also affects our health as humans. E. Coli, a prominent bacteria in cattle’s stomachs, have now begun to adjust to an environment that is more acidic, allowing them to survive in the acidic environment of our stomachs. In addition to cattle being forced to eat grains they have not evolved to digest, on feedlots they are forced to ingest protein (usually in the form of feather meal and chicken litter), and antibiotics (which lead to resistance in humans). I don’t want to get too graphic, so I will leave you with that information. But I would highly suggest reading at least part of this book. Pollan also does a good job at explaining how toxins in run off end up in our drinking water. If you’re interested, google Des Moines Blue Baby Alert… GROSS! While I know it is more expensive and harder to come by, try looking for meat that comes from grass fed only animals. It is healthier for you (higher in omega 3’s and less saturated fat), because there are no grains in the animal’s diet, and also better for the environment 🙂