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Deliciously Organic: December 2009

Deliciously Organic

A blog devoted entirely to simple, wholesome, organic cooking.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year

I hope you're having a wonderful holiday season! This year was the best Christmas I’ve ever experienced and I couldn't wait to tell you about all of the wonderful foods we enjoyed. My entire family gathered together for the first time in several years and my brother proposed to his girlfriend (something we’ve all been waiting for!).  After the surprise proposal, both families joined together for a celebration overflowing with food and wonderful conversation. The menu included tenderloin sliders with basil aioli, cowboy nachos with homemade pico de gallo, greek salad, vegetables with "Kiss Kiss" dip, salmon spread, Sicilian olives, Pomodori al Forno, and cupcakes decorated by my Mom’s specialty dessert designer.

My brother's friend, Philip attended the celebration (he took the picture above of my brother and his fiance).  He's an amazing photographer and after chatting a while I shamelessly got out my camera and asked him for tips.  He was very generous and gave me a little lesson on white balance, which for some reason, I’ve had the hardest time with.  Thanks Phillip.

On Christmas Eve, the clouds built all throughout the morning and the temperatures continued to drop. Early in the afternoon it began to snow, a huge deal if you live in Dallas. The snow continued all day and the festive mood only increased as we wrapped mounds of gifts and cooked up delicious foods to share. I’ve never experienced a white Christmas, so this was incredibly exciting! Then Christmas morning, we started our day with warm mugs filled with thick hot chocolate, a bit of coffee, and whipped cream while the kids hurried into their coats and mittens to play in the snow (yes, they were more excited about the snow on the ground than the gifts under the tree!). Christmas dinner table was filled with all sorts of delicious treats.  I’ve indulged more in the last few days than I have over the last year (sigh).

One of the favorites of the week was Pomodori al Forno. Slow roasted tomatoes, drizzled in olive oil, and served with goat cheese and a slice of bread. We found this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine last year and it quickly became a family favorite.

Since the recipe isn't my own I can't post it, but here's the link.  I omit the sugar completely, but if you want a touch of sweetness, you can substitute with honey. 

I look forward to sharing many new things with you in 2010 and will be starting off with several give-aways (I know, I'm excited too!).  Have a wonderful finish to your year and I'll see you again soon from California.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Strawberry Jello Pretzel Salad

My Grandma has been serving strawberry jello pretzel salad at Christmas dinner ever since I was a little girl and it's one of the most requested dishes each year. The traditional recipe is made with cool whip, loads of white sugar and of course, a packet of jello. Last year while having a plate-full at my Grandma's house, I decided I was going to figure out a way to re-vamp the recipe to use all organic ingredients. The jello was the most difficult for me.  I laughed at myself as I made 8 or so batches one afternoon until I got just the right consistency.  Don't as me why, but I've always had a problem cooking with gelatin. The end result was worth all of the trouble though. The salad has a sweet-salty crust, a smooth sweet layer of cream cheese and homemade jello with strawberries to top it all off.  It's a plate of gooey yumminess with a crunchy-salty crust. Who can resist?

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas full of blessings.
 Merry Christmas
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth...

Strawberry Jello Pretzel Salad
Serves 8-10
2 3/4 cups crushed pretzels (I like use spelt pretzels)
1 1/4 cups melted butter
3 tablespoons organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (to read more click here)
12 ounces cream cheese, preferably cultured (I like this brand)
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups sour cream, preferrably cultured (I like this brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups whipped cream

10 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed and chopped
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons gelatin (I prefer this brand)

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix crushed pretzels, melted butter and whole cane sugar together in a large bowl.  Press into bottom of a 13x9 baking dish.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Cream cream cheese, maple syrup, sour cream, and vanilla together.  Fold in whipped cream.  Spread 2/3 of mixture on cooled pretzel layer.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup pomegranate juice, and let sit for 5 minutes.  Pour remaining 1/2 cup pomagranate juice and orange juice into a saucepan and heat until 100 degrees (it is very important that the juice does not get too hot or it will kill the gelatin).  Pour heated juice into gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.  Add strawberries, cover and place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour until just beginning to set.  When gelatin is just beginning to set, pour it over the cream cheese mixture to create a third layer.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Before serving top with remaining cream cheese mixture and sprinkle with pecans.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Green Chili and Egg Casserole

I'm writing this today as the movers pack our things and load them on the truck.  After a few hours of fresh cardboard being opened and our things being packed away, it's interesting that it doesn't even smell like our house anymore.  I'm going to miss our home and all the wonderful people in this little town.  Last night, we made our last trip to Jim 'n Nicks (our local b-b-que joint) and the kids and I decided that when we move back we will head not for our home first, but back to this restaurant for some smoky chicken, mac 'n cheese and those beloved cheese biscuits. 

The recipe I'm sharing today comes from a dear family friend and wonderful cook. This egg casserole is basically two cheeses tossed with green chilies and topped with whipped eggs and tomatoes. The eggs come out gooey and cheesy (and happy, as my husband added the other night) with bits of bright flavor from the chilies. It's a great breakfast to make over the holidays when guests are in town, especially since one recipe feeds at least 8 if not 10 and is very satisfying.

Green Chili and Egg Casserole
Serves 8

4 4 ounce cans green chilies, chopped
1 pound Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
4 egg whites
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine chilies and cheese in a well greased 1 qt. casserole dish.  Beat egg yolks and set aside.  Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold in yolks.  Gently mix in the milk, flour, salt and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over cheese and chilies.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and arrange tomatoes on top.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Last Flight and a Chocolate Pie

My husband (call sign: Shay) has flown the A-10 for the last 7 years and today was his last flight. He's moving on to fly the F-16 and other aircraft. In the Air Force they call it a "fini flight" and everyone greets him at the flight line as he lands.  He takes great pride in being a "Hawg Driver," and finds it hilarious that I'm more attached to the A-10 than he is. This plane, it isn't just any jet - let me tell you about it from my can swoop down very low (to back-up the guys on the ground), use necessary weapons and then quickly climb back up out of the line of fire. Also, the cockpit sits in a huge "bathtub" of titanium so it's pretty much indestructable.

Six years ago I woke up in the middle of the night to send my husband off to war in his A-10. I stood there with the other wives and waved good-bye on a cold, blustery morning and I cried as I watched him until he was out of sight. Five months later, I saw the entire fleet of A-10's land together as we were united with our loved ones. Today, as I watched him fly his last flight I remembered all of the long hours, days without seeing him, and the protection it has offered for our country.

The fini flight was followed by a traditional "spray-down" with champagne.  Our daughters had fire extinguishers filled with water to help "soak Dad." Afterward, we had lunch together with friends and colleagues in the squadron lounge followed by "thanks" and "congratulations".  Lunch included these yummy chocolate cream cheese brownies:

I know it's sort of silly to get so sentimental over a plane, but it's defined our lives for many years and now we're moving on to something new.  Maybe in a few years when it's his last flight in the F-16, I'll get all teary eyed again.  On second thought...nah. 

Milk Chocolate Pie
Chocolate is my husband's favorite so I thought it only fitting to share with you a smooth, milky chocolate pie. 

1 pie crust (for the recipe click here)
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup maple syrup
5 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon instant herbal coffee (such as Dandyblend)
sprinkle of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups cream, whipped

Put all ingredients except vanilla and butter into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick and it coats the back of the spoon.  (I usually run my finger down the back of the spoon to make sure it's thick enough).  Take off heat and add vanilla and butter.  Cover with parchment paper and press parchment onto filling so it doesn't form a skin.  (I usually cut a round of parchment so it fits nicely on top of the filling).  Refrigerate at least 4 hours until cold or overnight.  Top with whipped cream. 

*if you want to sweeten your whipped cream, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup will work nicely.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Almond Linzer Cookies

Today I am thrilled to be involved in the "13 Days of Christmas Cookies" event! I'm united with 12 other fabulous food and craft bloggers to bring you a Christmas cookie celebration. To see all of the participating bloggers and learn about the fantastic give-aways go check out The Baker's Dozen website at

Last month when I recieved the email that we all needed to come up with a cookie, honestly, I laughed.  Baking cookies with whole wheat flour (especially if it's fresh ground wheat) is one of the most challenging things for me to create. It took me over 30 tries to come up with my Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for my upcoming cookbook (sorry, can't share now, but it will be worth the wait!) so I knew this was going to be a challenge. My girls and I got out a few cookbooks to get some ideas, flagged 10 different recipes, made a grocery list, and started testing. It took about a week until we finally decided this was the cookie.

I love how whimsical and delicate these cookies are. They have a slightly sweet shortbread-like cookie with a sweet almond-cherry filling. You can use special linzer cookie cutters that I got here (they have a huge selection) or use your favorite Christmas cookie cutters and create a sandwich  cookie. They are perfect to make for your neighbors, a hostess at an upcoming Christmas party, or for friends coming by for a visit.

Almond Linzer Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

3/4 cup almonds, soaked and dehydrated
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup cherry preserves
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pulse together almonds, salt, cinnamon in bowl of food processor until finely ground. Transfer almond mixture to bowl of a standing mixer. In a small bowl whisk together flour and baking powder, set aside. Add the butter and whole cane sugar to the almond mixture and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and egg and mix until just incorporated. Pour dough out onto the counter, shape into a disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.  (This dough can be made ahead of time and stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut cookies using cookie cutter and place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until they are just turning golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

In a small bowl stir together preserves and almond extract (if there are lumps in your preserves your can pulse it in the food processor a few times). Spread 1/2 teaspoon preserves onto uncut cookies and top with the cutout ones. These cookies are best eaten the day they are made.

*I sprinkled the cookies in my pictures with a little powdered sugar.  This is not a sugar that I cook with, but I just couldn't resist giving the cookies a light dusting to make them look a bit more festive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

13 Days of Christmas Cookies and E-Book

I have two fun announcements to share with you!   Tomorrow, I will be posting as a part of The Ultimate Baker's Dozen Christmas Cookie Exchange.  I've come together with 12 fantastic food and craft bloggers for this delicious event.  Each blogger will post a Christmas cookie recipe tomorrow and 6 of the bloggers will be giving away a 3-month membership to The Cookie of the Month Club!  So come back tomorrow to join the fun!

On a different note, a few months ago my brother called me and asked if I would write a  cookbook  (e-book) for his clients at Pro-Performance.  Erik is a nutrition specialist and human performance and speed coach and has had the opportunity to coach for: University of Arkansas, Univeristy of the Pacific and Mississippi State University and a few Olympic athletes.  He has incredible knowledge in nutrition and it's amazing how he has helped transform his athlete's and client's lives (and bodies) with his training programs.  He has written my strength training programs for the last year and a half and I've seen incredible results.  The recipes use ingredients in certian combinations that follow the philosophy of nutrient timingNutritent timing is basically a way of timing certain nutrients at specific times during the day to speed up the process in which your body burns fat and builds muscle.  I eat using this timing method because it speeds up my progress and it's another great way to add on to my hard work at the gym.  The cookbook is full of simple and easy to prepare recipes that include: Pesto Smothered Chicken, Chicken Basil and Spinach Soup, and Almond Coconut Post-workout shake, just to name a few.

By the way, Lezlee is the winner of the Equal Exchange Give-Away!  Lezlee, please send me your info via email at: Deliciouslyorganic {at} yahoo {dot} com. 

See y'all tomorrow!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Perfect Snack

Now that it's almost mid-December, this is usually the time when things begin to get very busy for everyone. There are the Christmas parties, gatherings in friend's homes, sending out Christmas cards (I've been spending hours each night carefully addressing and stuffing ours), shopping, and all of the other little things mixed in.  December is such an exciting and it has the potential to be exhausting at the same time.  A few years ago I decided, enough was enough.  I wasn't going to stress or overtire or overwork myself.  I want to really enjoy each day during the Christmas season and if that means I can't make every party I'm invited to then that's ok.  Last week we were invited to three parties, we made it to two, and decided it would be too much to make the last one (it was a large party with at least 100 people, so we knew friends wouldn't be hurt if we didn't show up), so instead we stayed at home, opened a bottle of wine, and watched a movie. Sadly, I was asleep at 8:30...

For the last few weeks we've been getting the most glorious, ripe, organic pears at our local market.  Plump and sweet and just a bit soft, they make the absolute perfect snack.  Pair it with a good roquefort cheese and some spiced pecans and you've got something spectacular.  Honestly, I've eaten this little meal every other day for the last 3 weeks.  Sometimes I pour myself a glass of wine, turn the Christmas tree lights on, grab a good book (usually a cookbook) and take a few moments to enjoy the season.  I hope you too, can take a minute to slow down, maybe make yourself the "perfect snack" and enjoy this special time of the year.

Spiced Pecans
I kept the cayenne to a minimum in this recipe so that it will be friendly for kids, but feel free to add more cayenne if you want them really spicy.

4 cups dehydrated pecans*
2 egg whites
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Pour egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment attached. Whisk eggs on high until they hold a stiff peak. Lower the speed and slowly add the maple syrup (the eggs will deflate some). Pour egg mixture over pecans in a large bowl and then add spices. Toss together until thoroughly combined.

Spread pecans out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 3 hours (the pecans will still look wet at this time, but will dry out as they cool). Remove from oven and let cool completely.

*Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors which can be neutralized by soaking them overnight. This may sound like a lot of work but really it just takes about 5 minutes of prepping and then the rest of the work is done on the counter or in the oven. When they are made this way, they taste just like they've been roasted, but they are easier to digest and all of their nutrients are still intact. I make loads of soaked and dehydrated nuts and then keep them in containers in the pantry. Below is a simple recipe to follow for soaked and dehydrated nuts:

4 cups nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.)
1 tablespoon sea salt

Pour nuts in a large bowl and cover with water. Add salt and stir. Leave on counter overnight. The next day; preheat the oven to 150 degrees, drain the nuts, and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop the tray into the oven. Leave in the oven until dry and crispy (I usually do this overnight).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Green Bean Casserole and Give Away

I've been a military wife for over 11 years and almost every party or get-together at the squadron that I attend we are required to bring a dish to share. I grew up in a Baptist church so I'm quite familiar with pot-lucks and it's always amused me that there are usually the same dishes. There are usually 2-3 cheesy hash brown casseroles, deviled eggs, an asian salad with ramen noodles, fruit salad, a jello salad of some sort, gobs of chips, and chocolate chip cookies. (Oh, and here in our town someone always brings a huge plate of Jim 'n Nicks cheesy cornbread muffins, they're so addicting!) Everyone in the squadron knows that I cook so they usually ask me what I brought. I will admit that there have been times I've been a bit embarrassed to admit that I totally copped out and brought something like a plate of fruit.

One of the foundations of many, many casseroles is a can of cream of mushroom soup. Condensed canned soups leave much to be desired in taste and also contain many processed ingredients. If your goal is to cook with real food, but you have recipes in your repertoire that call for cream of mushroom soup, then I encourage you to try and make your own. It only takes about 15 minutes and the flavors in your dish will increase ten-fold.

Now is the season for Christmas parties, and if you're like me, you'll be invited to a few potlucks. This is the perfect dish that will please almost anyone, but with extra depth of flavor. The casserole keeps very well in the fridge and can be made a day ahead of time and then heated in the oven before serving.

As a way to say "Merry Christmas," I'm giving away a Fair Trade mixer gift basket from Equal Exchange. A few weeks ago I picked up one of their Organic Mint Chocolate Bars at the store. The chocolate was really delicious with peppermint and 67% cacao. I checked out their site and discovered they are a company that makes all organic fair-trade products. Their organic chocolates and cocoas are the perfect splurge this holiday season. Their products are imported by Ten Thousand Villages from Dhaka Handicrafts, a non-profit that works to improve the lives of children and rural families in Bangladesh. By the way, I noticed their gift baskets are on sale right now! Delicious, and a deal!

To enter the give-away, please leave a comment between today and Monday, December 7th. I'll draw a name at random and announce the winner on Tuesday, December 8th. (Only one comment per person please. Also, since this gift will be shipped directly from the Equal Exchange it can only be shipped to the contiguous US.) I received a coupon code from them for 10% off $75 or more plus free shipping. They gave me permission to share the code with you: giftme10

Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Serves 8-10

1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425°F and adjust rack to middle position. In a large bowl, toss together red onion and coconut oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread onions out on a large baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Stir onions and put back in oven for another 15 minutes or until onions loose most of their moisture and begin to brown. Remove from oven and set aside. Reduce heat in oven to 375°F.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the green beans to the water and boil for 6 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. 

Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet. When foaming subsides add the mushrooms and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms have released their moisture and the edges begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and stir constantly until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Gradually add the chicken stock and then the cream, whisking constantly to avoid lumping. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, 5-6 minutes. 

Toss together mushroom mixture and green beans and then pour into a 13x9 baking dish. Top with red onions and bake until bubbling, about 20-25 minutes.