Recipe: Tomato, Spinach & Sausage Pie with Ro’s Favorite Crust

Today is Day 8 of our 10 Day Pledge. It’s an overcast, lazy kind of morning and I needed to use up some leftover baby spinach and a few little tomatoes before they became compost material. I felt like a warm, comforting brunch was in order and remembered a great little crust recipe I used to make in my younger days. I know the ingredients by heart because it was my mother-in-law Ro’s favorite. For about five years, she requested that I make a quiche with it for every family gathering and there many bridal showers, baby showers and family birthday parties at this time in our lives. Ro passed away six years ago just after her birthday, in September, this recipe makes me think of her. For you Ro…

Recipe: Tomato, Spinach & Sausage Pie with Ro’s Favorite Crust


  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese ( I used an extra sharp New York cheddar), shredded
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour ( I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Stir together the first five ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and combine using a pastry blender until crumbly. Press dough into a 10 inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400.

Filling ~

  • 2 T butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 4 oz fresh local turkey or other breakfast sausage (I used the Turkey Lady’s Breakfast Links from Central Market), casing removed
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 3 small (2″ or so diameter) ripe tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 T whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten

Melt 1 T butter in a medium or large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute 5 minutes until soft. Stir in garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add sausage and use wooden spoon to crumble and combine with onion & garlic. Cook until sausage no longer pink – about 3 – 5 minutes. Spoon sausage mixture into pie crust and spread to evenly cover bottom.

Add spinach and a few tablespoons of water to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Spoon spinach on top of sausage mixture. Top with sliced tomatoes.Melt 1 T butter in skillet over medium heat. Add 2T flour and cook for one minute. Pour in milk and using whisk, combine and cook until it starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add beaten eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg, stiring well. Pour into pie plate.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for 20-25 minutes, until browning and set.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then slice and enjoy. Serves 6 – 8.


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Recipe: Three Thumbs Up Chocolate Graham Crackers

Yesterday I posted a status update on Facebook about making it seven days into Real Food and the 10 Day Pledge. I received many supportive replies, but also some friends expressing concerns and excuses for why this wouldn’t work for them. I admit, you need to be in the right place in your life, after all I’m 50 and just now “getting it” to the point where I am willing to try.

Some of the concerns expressed were the loss of favorite foods and the loss of convenience. I sat down and challenged myself to come up with something incorporating chocolate, that was easy to make, and endorsed by children and adults alike. So today, I am posting a recipe for a chocolate treat that is easy to make and fits the 10 Day Pledge Rules. I made up the recipe by adapting a graham cracker recipe I found in the comments following the recipe for Easy Cheesy Crackers on 100 Days of Real Food. The name comes from the thumbs up reaction I got from my taste testers: Abi, Andrew and Timmy.

Three Thumbs Up

Recipe: Three Thumbs Up Chocolate Graham Crackers

Preheat oven to 400

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted ( to make a vegan version, use melted coconut oil instead)
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee at room temp (medium or dark roast works best)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Add the wet into the dry and stir until it forms a smooth ball of dough. (20ish strokes by hand). Smoosh the dough into an 11 x 17  jelly roll pan (rimmed cookie sheet) that has been lightly oiled (I used coconut oil) or lined with parchment (I was out). It helps to achieve a uniform thickness if you use a rolling pin to smooth it out, but you can also just use your hands. Trust me, it will fill the entire pan.

Bake at 400 for 8-12 minutes. When you can smell the chocolate permeating your kitchen they should be done. The edges should be crispy looking and the entire top will be set (no glossy parts). Cool in pan 1 minute then immediately cut and place pieces on a wire rack to cool. The number you get depends on how large or small you cut them. You can also use cookie cutters to make them pretty and save the scraps for your coffee break 🙂

***NOTE: the addition of 1/8  to 1/4 tsp of powdered cayenne pepper would give these a wonderful kick and probably keep little hands out of Mommy’s stash. As is, they go equally as well with milk, coffee and red wine (we enjoyed them after dinner last night with a chocolately South African pinotage, not very “local”, but oh so good).

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Days 5 & 6 – Getting the Hang of It All

I have finally relaxed. My pantry is sufficiently stocked, even if I thought I should have more. It is adequate, it is feeding us, I need to stop obsessing and worrying that I didn’t make enough beforehand. Our meals have been wonderful and, with the exception of Monday’s frenzy, easy to prepare. I can do this.

Day Five Meal Plan:

Breakfast ~ Yogurt Parfaits – plain yogurt mixed with honey and vanilla, layered with home made granola and fresh fruit (bananas and strawberries)

Lunch ~ For Hubby and 17 year old: Greek wraps (whole wheat tortilla, diced cucumber, tomato and onion, feta cheese, hummus, garlic, mint), fruit (grapes, pineapple and gala apple chunks) and a graham cracker. For 7 year old: peanut butter and organic grape fruit spread on whole wheat tortilla; fruit kabobs (same mix as above on a skewer), mozzerella cheese stick, fruit strip, graham cracker. For me: whole wheat tortilla with cheddar cheese and salsa and a  peach.

Dinner ~ Homemade Mac & Cheese. We were supposed to have it with broccoli, but I forgot, so we had a green salad instead.

Day Six Meal Plan :

Breakfast ~ Whole wheat french toast with maple syrup, turkey sausage and choice of fruit.

Lunch ~ Kids: peanut butter and banana roll ups (whole wheat tortilla), organic applesauce, organic raisins. Hubby and me: Caprese pasta salad with whole wheat pasta, grapes and apples.

Dinner ~ Whole wheat spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and parmesan cheese

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Days 3 & 4

Holy Moley – Day 3 was a toughie. Because of the power loss on Sunday, I had lots of “prep” work to catch up on. I think spent 75% of my day in the kitchen on Monday. It was enough to make me question whether I really wanted to go forward with this pledge. Add to that a severe craving for a diet cola and a houseful of workmen installing a new bathroom and backdoor, and well, it was one very long day. Since I am fortunate enough to be home full time, I was able to dedicate the time to catching up, but I don’t how a family with two working parents or a single parent home can do this.

For all of my doubts though, the food is good and today, on Day 4, things were running smoothly for us. Except for my poor 7 year old who really, really wanted Fruity Cheerios when he came home from school and declared rather stridently that he wasn’t “playing this stupid game anymore”. I explained that it wasn’t a game you could quit. That our bodies need “growing food” and we are trying to do the best for all of us. He wasn’t buying it. I then told him that if he really wanted Fruity Cheerios he would have to get it for himself because I couldn’t give him food that wasn’t good for his body. I don’t know why I didn’t hide the darn box with the other junk food. Long story short, he poured himself a bowl, poured on the milk, ate three spoonfuls and asked me for pistachios instead. Score.

Day Three Meal Plan:

  • Breakfast ~ Oatmeal with blueberries, cinnamon and bananas.
  • Lunch ~ 7 year old: pineapple and grape kabobs, peanut butter & grape fruit spread on whole wheat bread, organic fruit leather strip, peanuts, cheesy crackers, mozzarella cheese stick, water. ~ Dad: sandwich of olive tepanade, tomatoes and goat cheese on whole wheat bread, cheesy crackers, grapes. ~ 17 year old & me: grilled cheddar cheese on whole wheat with tomatoes.
  • Dinner ~ Cheesy Corn Chowder, Raspberry Muffins & Pesto Potato Salad (recipes from Soup Makes the Meal – subbing whole wheat flour for all purpose flour and honey for sugar)

Day Four Meal Plan:

  • Breakfast ~ Scrambled or sunnyside up egg, whole wheat toast, fruit and turkey bacon
  • Lunch ~ 7 year old: Cheesy Corn Chowder, Raspberry Muffin, mozzarella stick, pistachios, pineapple and grape kabobs. Dad ~ Cheesy Corn Chowder, Raspberry Muffin, Pesto Potato Salad. 17 year old ~ Peanut butter & grape fruit spread on whole wheat, raspberry muffin, pineapple & grape kabob. Me ~ homemade salsa & grated cheddar cheese on whole wheat tortilla (really, really good), iced coffee with milk.
  • Dinner ~ Peach Chicken, Apple & Lemon Salad on Mixed Greens (recipes adapted from Weight Watchers Winter 2011 Cookbook Magazine: Apricot Chicken and Sweet Pear & Mint Salad)

Local Harvest Tallies:

Day Three: Milk from Maplehof dairy; Tomatoes, potatoes, onions,and  ingredients for pesto from Homefields CSA (except for olive oil and pine nuts); Corn from local farm stand; Goat Cheese from Linden Dale Farm; Bread from Slow Rise Bakery.

Day Four: Peach Preserves made from local peaches (Cherry Hill) and honey (Dutch Gold); Chicken and eggs from local farm; Apple from Cherry Hill Orchards; Bread from Slow Rise Bakery.

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Day Two – oh what a day!

So… Hurricane Irene threw a curveball at us – around midnight our power went out. A nasty “breeze” took down some heavy branches in our neighbor’s tree and sheared off the power connection. This threw my careful planning for meals and advance preparation out the window as we now had no power for cooking or baking or cleaning up (no hot water).

We were supposed to enjoy a farm fresh frittata for brunch and thyme encrusted London broil, roasted carrots & onions and tossed salad for dinner with peach frozen yogurt and graham crackers for dessert. Instead, I made a mad dash for coffee at a convenience store and whipped up yogurt parfaits for breakfast (plain organic yogurt with honey and vanilla layered with strawberries and granola from a box that had a few extra ingredients than 5, but what can I say). Being a Murphy by birth makes you adaptable.

Lunch was a little trickier, no cooking and not enough bread to make everyone a sandwich…  we ended up going to Chestnut Hill Cafe, a neighborhood cafe that serves local and organic food. Our seven year old had a toasted PBJ on multigrain organic bread. Hubby, our 17 year old, and I had grilled blackbean wraps made with whole wheat tortillas. I think we stayed pretty much on plan. Thanks to the power coming back on around six, dinner was reheated leftovers from last night.

Today I was also supposed to make granola, graham crackers, whole wheat tortillas and smoothies to freeze ahead for school lunches. Thanks to my sweet 21 year old’s generosity, I was able to make the granola at her apartment (and take a shower). And I just finished making the smoothies. To make up for today, we decided to add one day to our pledge. Tomorrow will hopefully be better.

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Day One

Today is the first day of our 10 Day Pledge!! So far, so good :^)  My 7 year old is trying to buck the system because he misses fruit roll ups, but other than that, we’ve enjoyed our day’s selections. In fact, we are over- enjoying the Easy Cheesy Crackers and having a hard time remembering the “not too much” portion of the Real Food Mantra: “Eat food, Not too much, Mostly plants.” (Michael Pollan)

Today’s Menu, August 27th 2011

Whole wheat pancakes
Nectarine compote
Turkey Lady’s Turkey Breakfast Sausage with Maple Syrup
Coffee or milk

Choice of:
Roasted pepper, tomato, roasted chicken and pesto chevre on toasted whole wheat bread
Peanut butter and concord grape fruit spread on whole wheat bread
Apples and grapes
Water or honey & lemon iced tea

Cherry Tomato and White Bean Pasta
Tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Wine, water or honey & lemon iced tea

Snacks – Choose any of the following:
Baked Tortillas with peach or tomato salsa
Easy Cheesy Crackers
Fruit (nectarines, peaches, apples)

Whole Wheat Pancakes: (adapted from the pancake recipe included with the Williams-Sonoma Star Wars Pancake Molds) – Makes about 16 pancakes. Recipe can be halved for families of 4 or less.

  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Beat the eggs til frothy. Add remaining ingredients and blend until batter is smooth, without lumps of flour, but do not over beat!
  2. Heat griddle over medium-high heat on stove or electric griddle to 350. Lightly grease the griddle with butter.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto the griddle. Cook until lightly set ( about 2 – 3 minutes – bubbles will appear on top of pancake an bottom will be turning a golden brown) and flip to cook other side for 2 more minutes. Repeat until you use up the batter.

Nectarine Compote: Makes  4-6 servings

  • 4 nectarines, washed, pitted and sliced into 16ths (skins are not peeled)
  • 3 T honey
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 – 10 minutes until syrup starts to thicken slightly.
  4. Cool slightly and serve warm over pancakes.

Cherry Tomato and White Bean Pasta: The recipe for “Sweet Grape Tomato and White Bean Pasta” is available in the Weight Watchers Winter 2011 Cookbook Magazine and can also be found here (I substituted Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes for the Grape Tomatoes because I had them from the CSA and used whole wheat penne by Nature’s Promise)

Local Harvest Tally: Whole wheat flour came from Daisy and was purchased at Central Market, Nectarines came from Cherry Hill Orchards, Honey came from Dutch Gold ans was purchased at Central Market. Turkey sausage was made by the Turkey Lady and purchased at Central Market. Chevre was made by Linden Dale Farms and purchased at their stand at Central Market. The whole wheat bread was baked by  Slow Rise Bakery in Lancaster and purchased at SKH, Roherstown. The peppers, tomatoes, and basil (pesto) for lunch came from Homefields CSA as did the cherry tomatoes and garlic for dinner. The peach and tomato salsas were made by me from local ingredients – recipes and local harvest tallies can be found here.

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Mount Washburn to Mount Washmore. Or Why I Haven’t Posted Lately

Tomorrow we begin our 10 Day Pledge. I had hoped to blog about our preparations and experiences leading up to the Pledge, but two things got in my way. The first was pleasant – eight days in Bozeman Montana and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (no computer access in Yellowstone). The second was less than pleasant – catching up on a mountain of laundry and other chores that accumulated after spending over a week away from home.

Three things I discovered:

  1. It will not be easy to travel and follow a strict no sugar, no white flour, no processed food eating style.
  2. A family of five creates a lot of dirty laundry.
  3. It takes way too long to upload 400+ pictures to facebook.

My family just below the falls on Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park

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