RECIPE: Pear and Cardamom Pie with Marzipan Crust

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Pear and Cardamom Pie with Marzipan Crust


2 3/4 cups of flour 
1 7 oz. package of marzipan or almond paste, coarsely crumbled 
3/4 of a tsp. of salt 
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces 
5 Tbsp. of butter flavored vegetable shortening 
Tbsp. of pear nectar, give or take 
1/2 tsp. of almond extract 


1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar 
Tbsp. of vanilla extract 
Tbsp. of cornstarch 
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom 
4 pounds of firm but ripe Bartlett pears; peeled, halved, cored and cut into 1/2 to 3/4" thick wedges 
Tbsp. of pear nectar 
dash of salt

1 egg beaten to blend 
Tbsp. of sugar 


Macerate the Pears

Blend the brown sugar and vanilla in a processor and pulse for one minute. Add cornstarch and cardamom and process until blended. Transfer to a large bowl, add the pears and pear nectar. Toss to coat. Let sit for 30 minutes to one hour, maximum. While these are macerating start your crust.


Blend flour, almond paste and salt in a processor until finely ground. Add the cut up butter and shortening and cut in, pulsing on and off until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Mix 3 tablespoons of pear nectar and almond extract and blend in, pulsing on and off. Gradually blend in enough pear nectar by the tablespoon until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide dough into two pieces. Flatten each into a disc. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. Dough can be prepared up to three days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let dough sit out slightly at room temperature before rolling it out. Now while the dough is being refrigerated prepare your pears.


Drain the pairs, reserving all the juice. Pour the juice into a small sauce pan and cook down. You're going to reduce it down until you're left with one third of the amount that you originally had. Meanwhile, take the drained pears and toss them in a sauté pan with a little pat of butter until they soften up a little. This will help with some of your pears that may not have been really ripe enough. Here in the Midwest, we don't really get ripe pears so this helps to soften the pears up a little bit.

So once they are softened slightly, pour the reduced sauce into the sauté pan. Add the cornstarch, toss and let cool until ready to fill the pie.


Take the dough out of the fridge and let soften at room temperature enough to roll out. Preheat your oven to 400° and position a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Place a baking sheet or baking stone on that rack to heat up with the oven for about 20 minutes.

Roll out one of the disks between sheets of floured parchment paper to about 13 inches round. Pull off the top sheet of the parchment and invert the dough onto a 9 inch pie plan – peel off the parchment paper out of the pie pan.

Pour the waiting pears into the pie crust. Roll out the top crust in the same manner. Once you rolled out the top crust, place on top. Crimp edges and add slits in it.  Seal and flute the edges and cover the edge crust with 2 to 3" strips of tinfoil to protect it from browning too quickly. Save some dough to make some decorative pieces along the top (like leaves and acorns). With a pastry brush, lightly brush the top with the glaze.

Place the pie directly on the heated baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Take off the foil about the last 10 to 15 minutes to get evenly browned, but check and make sure it's ready to take it off. Also check midway if the pears are not cooking quickly enough but your top crust is browning too quick. If this happens, quickly tent the pie loosely with a big piece of tinfoil with a giant hole in it to let steam escape. This will help the pears get caught up and slow down the browning on the crust. I would do this for about 10-15 minutes and then take it off and check to see how the pie is doing at that point. Once the pie is nicely golden and you can see the pears are syrupy and bubbly, even at the center, the pie is done.

Let the pie sit and settle for about two hours until ready to serve.

RECIPE: Strawberry Shakeology Energy Bites

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As I am on year 2 of Fast Metabolism Diet maintenance, I thought I would also keep my health in check by incorporating Shakeology shakes into my routine. My sister is a BeachBody coach and I am not going to lie, she looks A. Maze. Ing. She gave me some samples of this popular shake mix to try and I really liked them. They are full of really amazing nutrients, and supposedly will help you lose weight. I was more into the nutrients and changing things up for my "protein days".

I got the vegan ones, and my only complaint is that they don't offer vanilla vegan. They seem to make it for a smaller refresh kit or something, but they don't offer it in the month long vegan combo pack, just chocolate and strawberry.

What's up with that!? Vegan-ish people like vanilla, too!

Truth be told, I think strawberry is OK, but it's not a fave. So I began playing with the mix to see if I could make some tasty treats for snacks out of all these packets. This is my first attempt to make some energy bites. 1-2 of these are a great 3:30 snack-where usually naughty choices are made. They keep in the fridge for a week or so, and you can also freeze them.

So my week 1 on Shakeology has been great, but it has affected my system a little. It has slowed down my digestion, blocking things up...know what I mean? (Don't want to get gross on y'all). I guess everyone's body reacts differently. So I am working through that. My sister suggested cutting back to half the amount of "Shakeo" and upping my fruit and fiber. Also after reading some boards where some people complained of the same problem, almond milk might also be to blame. So I may try water in the shakes and more than the recipe calls for, making them less thick, until my body gets used to it.

Interested in Shakeology? Here is a link, and I know a GREAT coach if you want to really join the BeachBody workout craze. :) She's my sister so be nice to her or I'll come find you.

Strawberry Shakeology Energy Bites


1/2 cup almond butter
3 Tbsp. Monk Fruit Sweetener (or honey)
1/2 cup ground almond meal
1 packet strawberry flavored Shakeology
3-5 Tbsp. water (enough to cause the mixture to come together and shape)
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup raw shredded coconut (optional)
1 tsp. almond extract


In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients in the bowl except the water. Use a fork and mash it all together. It will be dry and crumbly. Next, sprinkle water over the mixture-I started with 3 tablespoons and mixed and mashed, and kept adding water until I could shape the mixture into 1 1/2" balls. If you are using coconut you can roll then in some extra coconut for a pretty coating before storing.

Put in an airtight container, separating the layers with parchment paper, for a week or so. You can also freeze them for about 3 months.

And evidently, cats may be into them. This is Moon checking out the goods!

RECIPE: FMD P3 Gluten Free Almond Meal and Lemon Cake

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Well, my month long strict Fast Metabolism Diet is at an end. I did not lose as much as I did last time I did it, but I did not have as much weight to lose this time-and I basically was on maintenance the rest of last year. So the shock to my system was not so extreme.

At any rate, I feel great and it was a nice reboot after the holidays.

To end my month on the Fast Metabolism Diet, I am celebrating with a P3 compliant dessert. I cut it up into pieces and froze it so I can stay on maintenance for the rest of the year (like I did last year). This can be adapted to whatever diet restrictions you have, or you can make it traditional with sugar and canola oil-or sub in some butter for the oil. It's very adaptable and simple. And I have a healthy treat to heat up and enjoy over the next few months.

FMD P3 Gluten Free Almond Meal and Lemon Cake


4 eggs 
1 cup of Monk Fruit sweetener or xylitol (if you are OK with sugar, use sugar)
3 cups of almond meal flour 
1 teaspoon of baking powder 
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 
1/4  teaspoon of salt 
1/2 cup of safflower oil or coconut oil 
zest of one lemon 
1/4 cup of lemon juice 
almond milk (or regular milk) on hand if batter is to stiff


Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a nonstick springform pan, 9 to 10" wide, with coconut oil or brush with olive oil or safflower oil.

Whisk eggs and sweetener until lightly colored and foamy. Add vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. Fold in the almond meal with the baking powder. 


Mix until smooth. If batter is too thick, splash in some almond milk and mix so it's creamy and smooth. Pour into a springform pan. Bake in the middle oven for 50 to 60 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes until the cake is set. Run a butter knife around the edge to make sure that the edges have completely released from the pan. Unclip the sides and let the cake cool completely. Served with fresh fruit.

RECIPE: Gluten Free Apple Crumble Pie

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When you are entertaining a big group, inevitably you are going to run into gluten free guests. When it comes to traditional desserts, a gluten free restriction is pretty difficult to work with. But I was determined to figure out a gluten free apple pie for my sister. After playing with a couple recipes -and some help from Pamela's GF products and Whole Foods, this turned out wonderfully.

I used a frozen GF crust from Whole Foods, and I transferred the crust over to one of my traditional pie pans (I hate those disposable, flimsy tin pans), and reshaped it (and pieced some of it together because it didn't like getting transferred) as I pressed it into my larger, sturdier pie pan.

You can use your own favorite GF flour replacement. We tend to like Namaste and Pamela's-Bob's Red Mill is also really good. This pie was also low in refined sugar. I used honey and maple syrup with not only add flavor but sweeten things up naturally.

My dad had some and he had no idea it was gluten free, and said it was delicious.
So, there you go!

Gluten Free Apple Crumble Pie


1 gluten-free pie crust, defrosted, pricked with a fork
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
tablespoons butter
3 pounds of assorted apples such as Gala, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious 
1/2 cup of honey 
1/4  cup of granulated sugar 
finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon 
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg 
dash of ground cloves 
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the topping 
1/4 cup of rolled oats 
1/2 cup of gluten-free flour 
1/2  cup of lightly packed brown sugar 
1/2  teaspoon of salt 
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon 
6 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven to 350˚

Pre-bake the crust until just golden about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile make the filling. Peel, core and slice the apples and mix them in a bowl with honey, sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, salt and spices. Let macerate for one hour. Drain the apples, reserving the juice. Pour the juice in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced to one third. While the juice is simmering, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the drained apples and cook until just softened, abut 10 minutes. Take off the heat, toss with maple syrup, the reduced juice and the 2 tablespoonfuls of cornstarch. Let cool slightly.

Kick up the oven to 375˚ and place a baking sheet at the bottom of the oven with a rack at the bottom most level of your oven. Heat the sheet up for about 20 minutes before placing the pie in the oven.

Pour the apples into the prepared pie crust. In a small bowl make the crumble topping. Mix the oats with the gluten-free flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon until well combined. Using fingers and a fork, work in the butter until small clumps form. Crumble on top of the apples evenly.

Bake until topping is browned and the filling is bubbling, About 1-1 1/2 hours. Tent with foil loosely, allowing steam to escape, if topping is browning too quickly.

Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Serve.

RECIPE: FMD Phase 1, Healthy Spiced Apple Spread

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So I'm halfway through my Fast Metabolism Diet month, and I have to say the weight loss is going so much slower than last year. I think it's because I pretty much changed my every day eating after my FMD to be GF, SF, and DF.

A lot of F! (that would mean FREE.)

So I think the "shock" to my system was not as extreme as when I first went on it. My body is just more in balance, so not a lot to heal. But I feel great and it's just a nice best practice to clean eat for a period of time-give your body a break from toxic stuff.

One thing I've missed is jam for my GF toast, so I've been playing with some fruit spreads that don't have sugar added. This concoction is a nicely spiced apple spread to use on your compliant steel cut oatmeal or compliant bagels or toast. I use pure monk fruit sweetener because xylitol is too tough on my digestion, but you can use Xyla if your system is cool with it. If you have really sweet apples, you may not even need sweetener. Also, apples have plenty of natural pectin so this will thicken up on it's own. I packaged mine up in small containers and froze it, pulling it out for phase 1 or phase 3, depending.

1 1/2 more weeks to go, then we're back on maintenance! I'm feeling awesome!

FMD Phase 1, Healthy Spiced Apple Spread

4 golden delicious apples, peeled cored and roughly chopped
juice of half a lemon 
1/2 cup of true Monk Fruit sweetener or xylitol 
1 cup of water 
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a large pan pour the chopped apples, lemon juice, water, vanilla extract and sweetener. Cook over medium high heat until a boil, then lower and simmer for about seven minutes, until apples are beginning to soften.

Add ground cinnamon and nutmeg and mix. After about 10 minutes and it's cooked down even more, use a potato masher to mash up some of the fruit. 

Because apples have natural pectin you won't need any arrowroot to thicken this up. Take off the heat, and once things are gelled up and sticky, cool down. Once cooled, divide into smaller containers, label and freeze. Defrost to use on top of Ezekiel bread or steel cut oatmeal. I like to use this topping in P1 or in P3, depending.

RECIPE: FMD P3 Red Pepper Sauce with Garden Meatballs and Quinoa Pasta

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I am halfway through The Fast Metabolism Diet this month, and weigh in is on Monday morning. So we'll see if I am shedding some of that holiday weight. Out of all the phases on FMD, Phase 3 is my favorite. Healthy fats open up the cooking repertoire, that's for sure.

This recipe uses olive oil and Haylie's garden meatballs from phase 2. The dinner carb for Phase 3 needs to be very low sugar, so I use a quinoa pasta. Its a healthy-yet hearty-meal.

The red peppers are a nice change from a tomato sauce. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a blender or food processor to make the sauce.

Next time I make this, I may blend in some almond cream cheese or plain almond milk to cream up the sauce a little in a healthy (and compliant) way.

FMD P3 Red Pepper Sauce with Garden Meatballs and Quinoa Pasta 


2 Tbsp. olive oil 
1/2 med. onion 
1 cup of chicken broth {I like "better than bouillon" chicken flavor) 
1/4 cup of white vinegar 
1 Tbsp. of Monk fruit sweetener (or xylitol)
1 Tbsp. of red paprika 
1/2 Tbsp. of garlic powder 
4 large red peppers, cut into big chunks seeds cleaned out 
salt and pepper to taste 

quinoa pasta

3 garden meatballs per person


In a large stock pot heat up the olive oil and cook the onions until they're caramelized, about 6 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the pepper to the caramelized onion and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan from all the yummy brown bits at the bottom.

Add garlic powder, paprika, sweetener, salt and pepper to the red peppers and cook until softened, about 10-15 minutes. 

Add the white vinegar and chicken broth and cover. Cook for another 20 minutes, stirring once in a while. When ingredients are nicely softened and married well, it's time to process.

With an immersion blender, purée the mixture carefully until smooth. I like to keep my lid on top of the pot with my other hand while I do this as I move the immersion blender around, otherwise I have red pepper sauce all over my kitchen walls! 

Once things are smooth, give it a good stir and heat with the garden meatballs in the sauce for about 10 more minutes. The garden meatballs are heated through and add a little bit of meat flavor gets infused into the red pepper sauce.

Serve hot over quinoa pasta. My family likes to add Parmesan cheese to the top, though I need to stay FMD compliant so I avoid the cheese! Delicious either way!

RECIPE: Cranberry Apple Jam

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Yes, it's cold outside in the Midwest, but that doesn't mean you can't do some canning! In fact, what else are you going to do with yourself on a cold, blustery Sunday?

This is a great winter/holiday jam using winter cranberries and apples, to be specific. I packed these up as gifts this holiday to very special people. Because cranberries and apples have a lot of natural pectin, this jam will gel up on it's own, making it super easy to make. I threw in some cinnamon sticks as I cooked down the jam, giving it a nice, warm winter flavor profile.

It's kind of like a little bit of holiday happy on your toast.

Cranberry Apple Jam

8 cups of peeled, cored and small diced apples (about 4 pounds) 
4 cups fresh cranberries 
6 cups of granulated sugar 
3 cinnamon sticks 
juice of one lemon 
zest of two lemons 
dash of salt 


Sterilize your jars.

Prepare a boiling water bath for 10 1/2 pint jars and any other smaller jars if you have a small amount of left overs (or want smaller gift sizes). Sterilize them by putting jars, lids and rings in a hot water bath for about 5 to 10 minutes. Then pull out using canning tongs and let dry on a clean, cotton towel.
(for some how-to videos on canning basics go to my youtube channel canning playlist or the video section of my blog).

In a large pan combine the apples, cranberries, sugar and one cup of water. Bring to a boil and add the cinnamon sticks, mix well. 

Skim off the foam that develops on top of the fruit and discard as it cooks.

Boil for 15 to 20 minutes until the cranberries pop in the apples soften. At that point, add lemon zest and juice and reduce the heat and simmer until liquid in the pot has thickened. This can take up to 10 minutes or more.

Both apples and cranberries have a lot of pectin naturally so you don't need extra pectin to help the jam set, as long as you cook it until it's thick, shiny and syrupy. 

Once it is thick and syrupy, remove the pot from the heat and pull out the cinnamon sticks. Ladle the jams into the prepared jars using a canning funnel to make sure that the rims are clean. With a slightly damp paper towel wipe the rims down to make sure there's no organic material along the rims. Apply the lids and the rings and process in boiling water for 10 minutes. 

Pull out after 10 minutes and you'll hear the lids popping like pop corn. That means that they're sealing. Check your seals when they are cool enough to handle and make sure things are sealed well. Tighten rims if you'd like and let them cool to room temperature slowly for 24 hours. Then label and put up. Jams last in this manner for about one year. 

I like to label my jams with the date, especially if I'm giving them as gifts. My mother had a jam she had no idea how old it was and she gave it to us to use in some cookies. When we opened it it was moldy. You don't want to do that to people that you care about! So be sure to label your jams with the date and let gift recipients know that the jams will last a year.

Happy Canning!
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