The Blog: Recipes & More

Say Goodbye, Pecan Pie {Recipe ReDux}

November 22nd, 2014

A lot of stuffing, a little green bean casserole and small slivers of both pumpkin pie and pecan pie. To me, those foods used to equal a delicious Thanksgiving. But this year? It’s goodbye, pecan pie.

Pumpkin pie_edited

Since we found out my toddler has a tree nut allergy in February, this Thanksgiving means experimenting… re-creating some favorite recipes without nuts (pecan-free pumpkin seed stuffing, anyone?) and having fun creating some new Thanksgiving sides. You can find me, on Thursday, doing both.

When I saw this month’s Recipe ReDux theme, I knew I had to find a pie that offered a taste of that gooey, sticky, caramel-y pecan pie filling without the nuts.

November 2014 Recipe ReDux: A Food Memory For Which You Are ThankfulIn the US, November marks the Thanksgiving holiday. But many of us are especially thankful for food memories we have shared with friends or relatives throughout our lives. Was it a special meal you ate as a child? Or, maybe it was a food you grew and harvested with your own children. Please share one of your favorite food memories and the healthier “redo” of the recipe.

Then, I came across a recipe for Sticky-Toffee Pecan-Pumpkin Pie from Food Network Magazine. What if I made a pumpkin pie with a toffee topping sans pecans?

I used an allergen-friendly whole wheat pie crust I had in the freezer, and subbed in roasted pumpkin seeds for pecans and non-dairy margarine and coconut milk for dairy products. The final product? Delicious! The pumpkin pie filling was creamy, and the toffee layer was gooey, sticky and Thanksgiving caramel-y good.

Pumpkin pie_overhead_final










Pumpkin Toffee Pie {nut free}


  • 1 (9-in.) allergen-friendly whole wheat pie crust (I used frozen Wholly Wholesome frozen pie crust)
  • 3/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, chopped, lightly toasted, divided
  • 1/2 cup prunes
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. non-dairy margarine
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 Tbsp. non-dairy margarine
  • 1/4 packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. of coconut cream mixture (from filling)
  • Dash of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. Spread 1/2 cup lightly toasted pumpkin seeds evenly on bottom of pie crust. Pour enough boiling water over prunes to cover; soak for 5 minutes.
  3. In standing mixer or food processor, whip coconut milk, granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract until coconut milk is creamy and thicker, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. In blender or food processor, combine soaked prunes, margarine, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, brown sugar, remaining vanilla extract, flour, pumpkin spice and cinnamon. Blend until smooth. Reserve 2 Tbsp. of coconut cream mixture and set aside; add remaining coconut cream mixture to blender or processor. Add eggs and pulse until combined. Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake until filling is set, about 1 hour. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.
  5. While pie is cooling, make toffee topping. Combine margarine, brown sugar, maple syrup, reserved 2 Tbsp. coconut cream mixture and salt in in saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thick and dark in color, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.
  6. Pour toffee topping onto cooled pie and sprinkle with remaining pumpkin seeds. Let sit about 1 hour. Serves 8-10 people.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin

PLEASE SHARE: Do you have a favorite nut-free holiday pie? If so, please share! I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget to check out delicious recipes from fellow Recipe ReDux’ers below. Wishing you a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


Food: It’s the Whole Package that Counts

November 6th, 2014

Communicating the benefits of a food: Seems like it would be simple. You can talk about the nutrients in the food or describe the specific roles that those nutrients play in your body or, as is usually the case, both. But, it’s rarely as easy as this.

IMG_0605Earlier this week, I spoke to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Risk Communication Advisory Committee during the public testimony period with suggestions about how to effectively communicate the new draft seafood advice so that pregnant and breastfeeding women (and their doctors) feel confident eating (and recommending) fish during pregnancy. Even though the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume 8-12 ounces (or 2-3 servings) of a variety of seafood each week, most pregnant women in the U.S. consume less than 2 ounces per week.

We sometimes fall prey to touting foods by the nutrients they contain. But, foods are not nutrients. They are packages comprised of (hopefully) nutrients and antioxidants and sometimes bacteria, mold, contaminants or even pathogens. Some of these are good (think bacteria in yogurt and sourdough bread or mold in blue cheese), some of them are bad (think mold in expired bread or cheese) and some of these just are (like PCBs in vegetables or mercury in fish). We know the benefits of healthful foods like vegetables and fish far outweigh any potential exposure to trace amounts of contaminants, but sometimes the benefits become minimized or, even worse, forgotten about.

This is such an important topic because those omega-3s in seafood are so vital to baby’s brain and eyes during baby’s most critical developmental periods. But, it’s more than that… fish is a whole food package that contains numerous other nutrients so important during pregnancy, like protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium and iron.

The much-needed updated draft advice was released in 2014. It is unclear when the final draft seafood advice will be released, but for the estimated 4 million babies that will be born in 2015, I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

PLEASE SHARE: Are you an expectant or new mom? I’d love to hear about your experiences with fish during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Please share.


Although I provide consult to National Fisheries Institute, the opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own opinions, and do not reflect the opinions of the National Fisheries Institute or any other client with whom I contract. I did not receive compensation to post this message, and National Fisheries Institute is not responsible for any information contained in this blog.

Paprika Chickpeas & Kale {Recipe ReDux}

October 22nd, 2014

Ahhh, those spices and herbs that lurk in the back of the spice rack or pantry. They’ve been there for… well, you’re not sure how long. But, you know  what I’m talking about… those jars, bottles or even baggies you bought for a specific recipe or received as a gift. Well, this month’s Recipe ReDux challenged us Recipe ReDux’ers to use those spooky spices collecting dust. My spice of choice? Paprika.

RecRed_10 14_paprika_final

Spooky Spices: You know they are lurking there: Way in the back of your spice drawer. There lie the herbs, spices, or rubs that are getting dusty because you’re afraid to use them… you simply don’t know what to do with them! Well, pull them out and show us a recipe you created to deliciously conquer that fearful spice. (Or maybe the recipe was a flop – and the spice still give you nightmares?!) 

RecRed_10 14_paprika ingredOnce used in goulash or on top of deviled eggs, my paprika jar had grown a dusty layer. So, I dusted it off an challenged myself to use paprika in a dish using ingredients I had on hand.

So along with the paprika, I pulled out a can of chickpeas, pre-washed kale salad greens and a box of crushed tomatoes.


Paprika Chickpeas & Kale {Recipe ReDux}


  • 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans
  • 4 cups kale, chopped (I used pre-washed kale salad greens)
  • 1 (13.5-oz) box crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and paprika, cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add garbanzo beans, kale and tomatoes. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, or until kale is wilted. Add salt and pepper, as desired.
  4. Serve over brown rice, with a side of nonfat plain yogurt sprinkled with paprika. Serves 2.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin


PLEASE SHARE: What is your spooky spice (or herb) of choice? I’d love to hear from you!

And don’t forget to check out recipes from my fellow Recipe ReDux’ers below. You’re sure to find a spooky dish that tingles your palette!

Food Allergy-Friendly Lunches

October 13th, 2014

This weekend, I presented a lunchbox-building workshop at Whole Foods in Winston-Salem. The workshop was hosted by Food Allergy Families of the Triad, and I had the opportunity to share food allergen-friendly lunch ideas and recipes with parents and their children.

Nutritious Lunch Box

If you’re the parent of a child (or children) with food allergies, you know first-hand that lunch at school or daycare can be a source of stress. Even if you’re not the parent of food-allergic child, lunch can still be a source of stress if your child goes to a school that restricts foods (out of respect for those with food allergies or due to religious reasons).

Over the next few weeks, I’ll post the recipes we made at the workshop. In the meantime, here are some tips I shared to help parents build a healthy and fun allergen-friendly lunchbox.

Tips for Building Healthy & Fun Allergen-Friendly Lunchboxes

  1. Include at least 1 fruit and/or 1 vegetable in every meal. Pair with a heart-healthy protein and/or fat.
    Carbohydrates: Focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, gluten-free oats for those with Celiac disease)
    Proteins: Aim to include chicken, turkey, fish/seafood (if not allergic), lean red meat, beans, lentils, sunflower butter, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, rice or hemp milk (low-fat or nonfat dairy for those who are not allergic to milk)
    Fats: Try avocados, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, olives, olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, coconut, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds
  2. Make food FUN!
    It’s all about fun colors, shapes and names. Use cookie and sandwich cutters for breads, fruits, pancakes, waffles and cheese.
  3. Get kids involved.
    Kids are more likely to try foods that they help prepare. Take them food shopping at supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Give children age-appropriate cooking tasks (wash fruit, set table, mix ingredients).
  4. Keep foods safe.
    Using freezer packs is a no-brainer. But, you can also help keep hot foods warmer for longer: Add boiling water to thermos long enough to “heat” thermos, empty hot water and then add food and close lid. Pack your own disposable or reusable (bamboo) utensils.
  5. Be a good role model.
    We all know too well that kids tend to do what they see, not necessarily what we tell them. You are your child’s best role model… model the behavior you want them to have as they grow up.

PLEASE SHARE: What are your favorite tips for packing food allergen-friendly lunches? Please share… we’d love to hear from you!

Confetti Pasta & Tuna Salad

October 10th, 2014

October is here. The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and my favorite foods are making more of an appearance. Soups, roasted veggies, baked fruits and pasta. While pasta goes well with every season, the cooler weather invites a pot of boiling pasta water. Perhaps, it’s no coincidence that October is National Pasta Month.

Confetti Pasta Tuna Salad

I love a good pasta dish, and–like my children–would happily eat whole wheat pasta several days a week. So, when I saw this month’s Recipe ReDux Challenge “How Do You Celebrate National Pasta Month?” (in partnership with the National Pasta Association — Pasta Fits), it was a no-brainer that I had to enter.

Here are a few details about the Challenge:

Pasta is the perfect foundation for a healthy meal–it boasts energy, satisfies hunger, and pairs with vegetables and lean proteins to create delicious meals. In honor of October as National Pasta Month, the Pasta Fits Campaign would like to find out what pasta recipe fits into your healthy lifestyle and diet.

Easy to cook, convenient to keep in the pantry and very affordable, pasta is a great way to meet your needs for grains and nutrients. Whole wheat and whole grain varieties can provide up to one-quarter of your daily dietary fiber requirements, and easily fits into a busy and healthy lifestyle. One serving is about the size of your fist.

We almost always have some type of cooked whole wheat pasta in the fridge for easy-to-make lunches and dinners. Today, I whipped up this super-easy and delicious Confetti Pasta & Tuna Salad using cooked whole wheat rotini. With a pouch of tuna, diced veggies and a small dollop of canola mayonnaise to the pasta, this simple pasta salad paired perfectly with mixed greens.

Confetti Pasta & Tuna Salad

2 cups cooked whole wheat pasta
5 oz. pouch light tuna
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup orange bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tsp. canola mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. dried dill
2 cups mixed salad greens
Dash of kosher or sea salt

Mix cooked pasta and next 7 ingredients (through dried dill) until well blended. Divide mixed greens between two plates, and top with pasta-tuna salad. Sprinkle with salt, to taste. Makes 2 servings.

Confetti Pasta Tuna Salad_process

PLEASE TELL: What are your favorite whole wheat pasta dishes? Please share… I’d love to hear from you!

By posting this recipe, I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.