Mini Cheesecakes, (or what I brought to Easter dinner)

Mini Cheesecakes

Mini Cheesecakes

Good morning, folks,  Happy Spring,  Welcome to Monday, and here I am back….did you miss me?  I certainly missed you!

Last week was a whirlwind of busy-ness, and I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so our meals devolved into left overs and quick and easy ones that are already on these pages somewhere.  Can you believe one evening we even had Chinese Takeout?   Well, what can I say?  We like it every so often (in a pinch).   The point to all this being …I didn’t have anything new to share with you,  until Easter weekend rolled around, that is.

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The family gathered at my niece’s house–she wanted to try being the hostess for the first time.  I like to encourage our younger family members to try hostessing and entertaining,  and so I said,  “what can I do to help with dinner?”   The answer:  “Oh, Aunt Carolyn, will you please make dessert?”   YES!

I had seen a picture of miniature cheesecakes in a magazine that were so cute, I really wanted to try them.  They were individual ones, made in muffin tins, with the tops decorated with toasted coconut and mini chocolate eggs to look like little nests.  I knew the children would really like them…and the adults too!  They were super easy to make and came out just right.  I was so pleased.  Those pictured below were decorated with help from a 3-year-old, so they may not look perfect.  A few extra “eggs” may have been eaten along the way, but it was fun doing it with a little girl to help me!

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The crust under the cheese filling is meant to be made with graham cracker crumbs, but in our family we have an allergy to graham crackers, so I always use a shortbread cookie instead.  In this case I used Nilla Wafers, crushed to replace the graham crumbs.  I also used a low-fat cream cheese in place of the regular, for a reduction of some fat and calories.  It all worked out beautifully.

As the cheesecakes bake, the tops of them get cracked, but as they cool, and the tops sink a bit, the cracks close up, and they are covered by the toasted coconut “grass”, so don’t worry about that small detail.

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It has occurred to me that these little cakes would be a perfect dessert for a buffet.  With Mother’s Day coming up soon, bridal showers and graduations too, just change out the type of little candies in the “nest” to fit the occasion.  So cute!!

MINI CHEESECAKES

Yield:  Makes 18 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or other type of cookie crumb)IMG_9528
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 3 pkg. cream cheese, softened (8-oz. each)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut
  • 54 tiny speckled chocolate eggs

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325*F.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

2.  Mix graham crumbs, 2 Tbsp. sugar and melted butter in a small bowl until uniformly moistened and crumbly.  Press 1 Tbsp. crumbs into the bottoms of muffin cups.

Crumbs in the bottom of the cups.

Crumbs in the bottom of the cups.

3.  Beat cream cheese, vanilla and remaining sugar with mixer until smooth.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended.

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Spoon over crusts.  (Each cup takes about 2 Tbsp. filling)

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4.  Bake at 325*F. for 25 to 30 minutes or until centers are almost set.  Cool completely.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

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To toast coconut:  pour the 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut onto a baking sheet and bake at 325*. for 5 minutes.  Watch carefully to prevent over browning.

Toasted Coconut.

Toasted Coconut.

5.  Top each cheesecake with 1 Tbsp. toasted coconut shaped into a nest.

Fill each one with 3 tiny speckled chocolate eggs.

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SOURCE:   Food Network Magazine

 

Impossible Coconut Cream Pie

 

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

Tomorrow is Pi Day, folks!

In case you are not aware of it, the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi are 3.14; so March 14th has earned the title Pi Day.  Since the date this year is March 14th, 2015, we have the first five digits of pi, 3.1415, an extra special day for celebrating.   And it’s so nice to have another food holiday (besides Thanksgiving) to celebrate each year.

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Of course, we love our pies for Thanksgiving, but most of us stick to the traditional ones–pumpkin, apple, pecan, etc.   I like Pi day because it gives me a reason to make a pie (#1), and because it gives me a chance to bake a new pie I haven’t tried yet (#2).  As I do each year I browse through many pie recipes, mulling over the choices in my mind, considering both sweet and savory options.   This coconut cream pie just got stuck in my head and wouldn’t let me rest until I made it.  I don’t remember trying coconut cream pie before this.  Newsflash—-it’s fabulous.  Don’t be thrown by the name.  This pie is not impossible to make, just impossibly good!

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Naturally since this is my first attempt at coconut cream pie, I have no basis for comparison, but we do love this pie.  The coconut custard filling is silky smooth and luscious without being too rich.  A cap of freshly whipped cream on top makes almost any pie better, and this is no exception.  I decided to go the extra mile and toasted some coconut chips for a garnish—so fun and so pretty.  I just love the way it looks.

Will you be celebrating Pi Day with pie?  I’d like to know what flavors you all are making!

IMPOSSIBLE COCONUT CREAM PIE

Yield:   Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked ( your favorite recipe or a refrigerated pie crust)
  • 2 eggsIMG_9361
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup non-sweet coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour a 9-inch pie plate.  Set aside.

2.  Flour a work surface and roll the pie crust out to fit your pie plate.  Carefully place the crust in the pie plate, flute the edges and refrigerate until ready to fill.

3.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs well.  Add the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt , milk, vanilla and melted butter.  Mix well.  Fold in the coconut.  IMG_9362

Fold in the coconut.

Fold in the coconut.

4. Pour into the pie crust.

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Bake  at 350*F. for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and edges are set.  The center may still be a bit jiggly.  It will become firm as it cools.  Allow to cool at room temperature about 2 hours, then refrigerate.

Baked, and lightly browned at the edges.

Baked, and lightly browned at the edges.

5.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top and garnish with some coconut flakes that have been lightly toasted.  You can easily do this when the pie is cooked and out of the oven. Leave the oven on and toast the coconut flakes for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully that they do not become too brown.

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Looking for more Pi day inspiration?  Be sure to check the Pie category—there are many more options to choose from.

 

SOURCE:   adapted from a recipe by Penzey’s Spices

 

Italian Lemon Almond Cake

Italian Lemon Almond Cake

Italian Lemon Almond Cake

Call me sentimental, folks, but I think there’s something downright romantic about the way all those bright oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes show up in the produce aisles just when we’re needing them most.  When the wind is whipping and we haven’t seen green grass since I don’t know when, who couldn’t use a little warm weather fling to reminder them of warm, sunnier times?

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No matter if stirred into a salsa, or baked under a fluffy layer of meringue, these seasonal beauties remind me of how much I long for the sunshine, and so I do my best to incorporate citrus fruits into our diet and our lives whenever the opportunity presents itself.   I would never turn away from the kiss of citrus.

This grain-free lemon cake (also known as Torta Caprese Bianca) is just perfection in my mind.  I would like to say it is “to die for”, but that phrase is so over-worked, that I won’t use it, but you get my meaning, I’m sure.

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The cake is made with almond flour and is full of lemon flavor!  It’s yellow, like a ray of sunshine, a happy color.  Just the thing to cheer you up as this winter weather drags on endlessly.  If you love lemon, this is a dessert you will love.  There are three sources of lemon flavor;  lots of lemon zest, lemon extract, and limoncello ( or lemon juice).

After baking it may look a bit underdone in the middle, that’s what gives the cake its dense texture.  When you remove it from the oven it will be puffed up, but slowly sinks as it cools. It that doesn’t suit you, you can bake it a tad longer.  I loved the edges of the cake–kind of crispy and kind of chewy!   The texture reminds me of marzipan, but with the flavor of lemon.   We loved this cake so much, Mr. D. is asking when I’m going to make it again (his favorite flavor is lemon.)

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 ITALIAN LEMON ALMOND CAKE

Yield:   Serves 8 – 10

Ingredients:

  • 320 Gm (about 1 1/2 cups) almond flour, or blanched almonds ground into flour
  • 200 Gm ( a little over a cup) white chocolate, chopped ( I used white chocolate chips)IMG_9198
  • 2 Tbsp. cream or milk
  • 180 Gm butter, softened     1 stick + 4.5 Tbsp.
  • 130 Gm granulated sugar    about 1 cup
  • zest of 2-3 lemons,  2 Tbsp.
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 40 Gm (about 2 Tbsp.) limoncello or lemon juice
  • powdered sugar for garnish

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Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease a 10-inch round pan ( a spring-form pan is good) and line it with parchment paper.

2.  Combine the white chocolate and cream/milk in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool.

3.  In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 100 Gm sugar (3/4 cup) until fluffy.

4.  Add egg yolks, lemon zest and extract and beat to combine.

Add eggs, zest and extract.

Add eggs, zest and extract.

5.  Add almond flour and melted chocolate.  Add limoncello and beat to combine.

6.  In a clean bowl, with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to soft peaks,  slowly adding remaining 1/4 cup (30 Gm) sugar.  Fold into almond batter and combine gently.

Beat whites to soft peaks.

Beat whites to soft peaks.

Spoon into pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes.

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A toothpick is not a reliable test for doneness, as the center may still be moist.  The cake should be golden brown, puffed, and spring back when touched.  As it cools it will sink in the center a bit.

Baked when golden brown and springs back when touched.

Baked when golden brown and springs back when touched.

7.  When cool, invert onto a cake plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

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Note:  This recipe can be halved easily.  What you see here in my photos is half a recipe.  To bake the smaller volume, use a 7-inch round cake pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Unfortunately I do not have a 7-inch round pan, so I used an 8-inch cake pan, thus my cake is thinner than it should be.  A 7-inch pan will give you a taller cake.

P.S.  I will love this cake in any size 🙂

SOURCE:  Texanerin Baking

Baked Black and White Doughnuts

Baked Black and White Doughnuts

Baked Black and White Doughnuts

Ah, yes…..doughnuts!   Do you love them?   Strangely enough, I can’t say that I do.  I’ve always thought of doughnuts as greasy, fried, blobs of sweetness without many redeeming qualities.  But then about a year ago I got introduced to baked doughnuts. Up till then, I had never tried them.   Now, they may not suit everyone, especially those of you who crave your daily doughnut from the doughnut shop, but I hope you will agree with me that they are good….like, really, really good.   OK?

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Baked doughnuts are the drama, whereas fried doughnuts are the comedy of life, sort of like little emojies 🙂   These doughnuts in your hands, in your life, are like magic.  That’s it,  that’s all I’m saying.

These doughnuts are a take-off on those black and white cookies, we all love.  They’re for when you can’t decide it you want a chocolate glazed doughnut or a vanilla glazed one with sprinkles.  See, I’ve solved that problem for you!   Donut ignore this recipe.  (Pun intended.)

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I like the way these doughnuts come together,  mostly because it’s so simple.  No electric mixer involved, just two bowls and  a few measuring and mixing tools.   And since I’ve become completely captivated by browned butter and the flavor it adds to baked goods, I’ve used it here too.

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They’re basically made with flour + sugar + spice + everything nice, (i.e., buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and browned butter).

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Browned butter adds a lovely depth of flavor and nuttiness to the cake-y doughnuts, and lots of freshly grated nutmeg takes them over the top.

Dry ingredients are whisked together to fluff and blend them well.

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Wet ingredients are whisked up just so, and added to the dry.  Wet + dry, that’s how you do it.  It’s called cooking math.

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Baked up, these doughnuts are soft, tender and sweet.

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Chocolate and vanilla glazes are thick enough to be just spreadable.  Colored sprinkles never hurt.

Glaze one side of each doughnut with the chocolate glaze, then do the other side with vanilla glaze,  Don’t forget the sprinkles.  It will take a bit of will power to do this without taking a bite out of one of them.   I wish you luck.

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I’m sorry to tell you, but the final decision is yours here….will you bite into the chocolate side, or the vanilla side first????

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BAKED BLACK AND WHITE DOUGHNUTS

Yield:   Makes 6 doughnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (but you will use only 2 Tbp. of it in the recipe)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the vanilla glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease a doughnut pan and set it aside.

2.  In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter.  Butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts.  That’s the water cooking out of it.  Once the water has evaporated out, the butter will quiet down and begin to brown.  Keep an eye on it as it browns quickly.  It will begin to smell nutty.  Remove from heat and immediately pour into a small cup or bowl to cool.

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3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.  Set aside.

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4.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Measure out 2 tablespoons of browned butter and whisk into the wet ingredients.

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5.  Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.

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Lift and fold as you stir until no flour bits remain and all of the ingredients are well combined.  Try not to over mix the batter.  This is what makes a tender cake.

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6.  Use a small spoon to dollop batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth out and fill each doughnut cup in the pan three-quarters full with batter.

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7.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Check for doneness at 8 minutes, tops should spring back slightly when touched.  Do not over bake them.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan a few minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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When the doughnuts are cool, make the glazes.

1. For chocolate glaze:  whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk and vanilla extract.  Stir to combine.  Add more milk as necessary to create a thick but still just pourable glaze.

2.  For vanilla glaze:  whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla to create a thick put still pourable glaze.

3.  Spread half of the doughnuts with chocolate glaze, and remaining half with vanilla glaze.  Place back on the wire rack and sprinkle the vanilla side with colored sprinkles while the glaze is wet.  Allow to set for about 30 minutes before storing or serving.  These doughnuts are best within 2 days.

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SOURCE:   Adapted from Joy the Baker

 

The Tale of a Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

This story begins with a cheesecake and ends with a “dog story”.  It may not make sense at the start, but it will by the end, so hang in here with me.

One of my contributions to our Thanksgiving Dinner was a pumpkin cheesecake.  I brought it plus my Sweet Potato Casserole and Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce to my sister-in-law’s house for our family dinner.  Having made these last two items in advance, last Wednesday I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake.

The project began in the morning when I took two blocks of cream cheese out of the fridge to soften up while I did some other things.  By afternoon I was ready to begin putting the cheesecake together.   It is very easy to make and I chose this recipe because it has garnered so many “stars” by recipe testers on Allrecipe.com.  Think of it as an all-star recipe, even award-winning, you might say.

Folks who made it said it tasted just like the cheesecake at a very popular restaurant.  It cut cleanly and looked attractive on the plate because the cheesecake goes into the crust in two layers, and when it’s cut the layers are very apparent.  It was described as perfectly seasoned with the spiciness of pumpkin pie, but so much more creamy, because of the contrast of the crumb crust.

As I happily went about making what sounded so delectable, my mouth was watering.  I had described it in such detail to my sister-in-law that her mouth was watering just hearing about it, and she really loves cheesecake, so we two couldn’t wait for dessert.  I don’t want my wonderful readers to miss out on enjoying  this terrific cheesecake so the recipe, and steps I followed in making it are listed below…..

DOUBLE-LAYER PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Yield:   Makes one 9-inch cheesecake, or 8 servings

Ingredients:IMG_8627

  • 2  (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (low-fat is OK)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1  (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • frozen whipped topping, thawed, or whipped cream to dollop on top.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325*F.

2.  In a large beater bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.  Blend in eggs, one at a time.

3.  Spread 1 cup of cream cheese mixture in the bottom of the crumb crust.

Plain cheesecake batter goes in the bottom of the crust.

Plain cheesecake batter goes in the bottom of the crust.

To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.   Stir gently until well blended.  Carefully spread over batter in the crust.

The remainder of the batter containing pumpkin and spices goes on top.

The remainder of the batter containing pumpkin and spices goes on top.

4.  Bake at 325*F. for 35 – 40 minutes, until center is almost set.  Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours and best if overnight.  (Make this a day ahead if you can, because it really needs that much time to set up properly.  It will slice beautifully after a night in the fridge.)

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

 

At the completion of our main meal we eagerly went outside to get the pies where they had been stored in the cold, as there was no room in the refrigerator.  We had a total of 4 pies and my cheesecake.  When we went out to the get the pies we found only 3 pies and 2 empty pie plates,  plus 1 very guilty-looking dog.   Who let the dog out, that’s what we’d like to know?    The dog devoured what we ourselves couldn’t wait to try:  the cheesecake and an apple-walnut-caramel pie.  The whole scenario was so funny with poor Sandy sitting next to the empty pie plates, hanging her head in shame, but with a secret smile on her face, and a few crumbs on her whiskers.  She would  give them 5 stars if she could 🙂

Sandy, after her pie-eating escapade.

Sandy, after her pie-eating escapade.

I  promised to make the cheesecake again for Christmas, so we will try again to see for ourselves how good it is.

 

SOURCE:    Allrecipes Magazine

 

 

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

 

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October may be over, but anything pumpkin seems to still be a popular item.  Especially with Thanksgiving coming up.  If pumpkin pie is not your thing, or you would like something other than pie for your holiday dessert table, these dessert squares will surely fit the bill.

Recipes featuring the great orange squash are still popping up everywhere.   I have a whole board devoted to pumpkin on Pinterest….it’s called “Pumpkin Anything” and so many  pictures from that board get repinned.  Today’s recipe is one that I found on Pinterest, one of those quick and easy baked items that use a cake mix for convenience.  You’re gonna love this one 🙂

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This dessert is fabulous,  tasting like pumpkin pie, but rather cake-like,  a cross between cake and a creamy dessert square.  The pecans on top give it some crunch, so you have a nice contrast between the creamy pumpkin layer, the cake layer and the topping.   Oh, and be sure to dollop each serving with some whipped cream.   This makes a 13″ x 9″ pan, so there will be plenty of servings, about 20 – 24.

PUMPKIN CRUNCH CAKE

Yield:    Makes 20 – 24 servingsIMG_8134

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1  12-0z. can evaporated milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 box Yellow Cake mix
  • 1/2 – 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 sticks butter, melted ( I used 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup coconut oil with good results.)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.   Spray a 13″ x 9″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Pour into the prepared baking pan.

3.  Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the pumpkin layer.   If the mix is very lumpy, run it through a sifter before sprinkling it on.

4.  Sprinkle chopped pecans on top of cake mix.

5.  Drizzle butter over all.    Bake at 350*F. for 50 – 55 minutes or until golden brown.    Cool.

Golden brown from the oven.

Golden brown from the oven.

 

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

This is sooo good!

This is sooo good!

 

SOURCE:   Itty Bitty Homestead

 

Fall-ing for Apples

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Apples are the essence of fall.

Several weeks ago I attended an “apple-tasting” event at Scott’s Orchards in Dummerston, Vt.  It was at the height of foliage season and the farm, orchards, and surrounding countryside were ablaze in the wonderful colors of autumn.  The 36-acre orchard is located high above a valley and offers magnificent views of the surrounding hills.  It is on the estate that once belonged to the author, Rudyard Kipling, but is now in the care of the Vermont Landmark Trust.  The apple orchard is known for the variety of heritage apples that are being tested and grown there.

The farm and orchard are set in beautiful surroundings.

The farm and orchard are set in beautiful surroundings.

A few of the many heritage apples grown at Scott's Orchard.

A few of the many heritage apples grown at Scott’s Orchard.

On my visit, I purchased a variety of apples, previously unknown to me, some of which you see pictured here.  I have been using them sparingly  so that we can taste and enjoy their unique flavors in some tasty treats.  Some of these apples are strange looking, but the flavors are surprising and wonderful.  Some are especially tart–you’ll taste it with your jawbone–but blend them with others that are sweeter and you will have a mixture that hardly needs any sugar.   Applesauce is one of those mixtures that improves greatly by using a variety of apples to make it. Mixing a tart variety with a sweet one, or juicier apples with drier varieties, may produce excellent results–the only problem being that you may not ever be able to reproduce it’s exact flavor.

On the day of my visit the farm stand was bustling with people grabbing bags of apples and jars of cider.  There were many “bins” of apples where you could fill a bag with the apples of your choice.

Many bins of apples, like this one.

Many bins of apples, like this one.

That is what I did, taking only one or two of 12 different kinds.  One woman asked the orchardist what apples were good right now, and he responded, “well, I’ve been taking home Reine de Reinettes.  If you like Honeycrisps, you should try the Reine de Reinettes”.

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Convincing someone to try a strange food/fruit can be challenging, but more and more people, New Englanders in particular, are showing an interest in trying the awkward, cosmetically challenged apples of the world, apples with an astonishing inner beauty that takes some time to get to know.  Many of the apples from this farm are sold at Whole Foods and independent grocery stores throughout the eastern region of the country.   If you should have the opportunity to meet a heritage variety of apple, I urge you to give one a try—it’s probably wise to start with an eating apple, they’re a little sweeter and pleasant to eat.  But those tart babies, they’ll surely put some zing in your apple pie!

An example of what I mean by “using them sparingly”, is this dish I made recently that consisted of pork chops roasted with apples and onions.  It required only two apples, but we got tremendous enjoyment from this meal.

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Another example is the recipe below for Apple Cinnamon Squares. It also needs only two apples, but produces an outstanding dessert with lots of apple flavor underneath the crumb topping.  Layered in between buttery yellow cake crumbs is a creamy layer that elevates this dessert from good to great.  Made from a yellow cake mix, this couldn’t be easier, so give it a try.

Apple Cinnamon Squares

Apple Cinnamon Squares

APPLE CINNAMON SQUARES

Yield:   about 20 squaresIMG_8487

Ingredients:

  • 1 ( 18.25-oz) box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup gown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. round cinnamon
  • 2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Lightly spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

2.  Combine the cake mix with the butter in a mixing bowl.  Mix until crumbly. Reserve 2/3 cup of cake/butter mixture in a separate bowl.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon to this 2/3 cup mixture.  Mix well and set aside.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon with reserved crumbs.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon with reserved crumbs.

3.  Spread remaining cake/butter mixture in the bottom of the baking dish.

First layer, buttery crumbs in the bottom.

First layer, buttery crumbs in the bottom.

Then, layer sliced apples on top of that.

Next layer, sliced apples.

Next layer, sliced apples.

4.  In a separate bowl, blend sour cream and egg until well mixed.  Spread cream mixture evenly over sliced apples.

Spread sour cream mixture over the apples.

Spread sour cream mixture over the apples.

Top with reserved cinnamon crumb mixture.

Top layer, cinnamon crumbs.

Top layer, cinnamon crumbs.

5.  Bake 30 minutes until golden brown.

Bake till golden brown.

Bake till golden brown.

This dish is best served warm.

Does it need cream on top?  No, but it sure is good!!

Does it need cream on top? No, but it sure is good!!

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SOURCE:  Table for Seven

 

 

 

Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Back in the spring our church had a goods and services auction as a fund raiser.  A friend and I got together and offered a catered dinner for up to 6 people.   Two couples teamed up and bid on it, winning the bid.  The date chosen for the dinner was this past weekend.   We had a lot of fun planning the menu, shopping, cooking and then serving the meal.   This was so rewarding, and a great way to help out our church.

The menu we served consisted of several dishes that I have already featured here on the blog with the exception of this shrimp appetizer.  The recipe for it follows below.  The full menu was as follows:

Appetizers

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Garlic- Herb  Cucumber Bites

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Spiced Shrimp with Peach Salsa

Salad

Baby Greens with fresh pears, grapes and pistachios

and honey-balsamic dressing

warm rolls and herb dipping oil

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Entree

Greek Style Chicken Breasts with Herb Rice Pilaf

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Desserts

Jamocha Silk Pie

with whipped cream topping

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Fresh Pear Galette

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SPICED SHRIMP WITH PEACH SALSA

Yield:  Serves 8

Ingredients:

     Peach salsa:

  • 3  1/2 cups coarsely chopped peeled peaches   (nectarines may be used, but don’t bother peeling them)IMG_8033
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

 

Shrimp:IMG_8037

  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1  1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

1.  To prepare salsa,  place all the salsa ingredients in a food processor, pulse 8 times.  Set aside.   If the bowl of your processor does not hold all the ingredients, divide in half and process in two batches,  adding the lime juice and salt to the combined batches at the end.

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2.  To prepare shrimp, combine salt, sugar, cumin, chili powder, pepper, and shrimp in a large bowl or zip-lock bag.  Toss gently to coat.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp mixture; sauté  4 minutes or until shrimp are done.  Serve with peach salsa.

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SOURCE:    A Carolyn Original

Apricot Amaretti Crisp

Apricot-Amaretti Crisp

Apricot-Amaretti Crisp

Fresh apricots are available here where I live.  Their season is so short that I try to get some at least once and do something with them besides eating them out-ot-hand.  They are so sweet and flavorful, that it’s hard for me to not just eat them all up.  The ones that I get are almost as big as a peach and  have the typical apricot color with rosy patches splashed on them. They are firm when ripe, yet juicy when you bite into them.   Soooo Good!

Big, beautiful apricots are the basis for this dessert.

Big, beautiful apricots are the basis for this dessert.

I came across this recipe for a “crisp” using apricots with the topping made from amaretti cookies.  I began to salivate just reading about that combination and knew immediately that I had to make it.  The almond flavor of the cookies is perfect with apricots.  This is a wonderful dessert; not too sweet, with a crunchy topping over the tender juicy apricots.  Serve it with a dollop of whipped cream or a little ice cream.   YUM!  After sampling it I realized it would be equally good using peaches, because almond and peaches are also a great combination.  So if apricots are not available in your area, try this with peaches instead.

APRICOT-AMARETTI CRISP

Yield:  Makes 6 servings

Crush cookies by putting in zip-bag, and crushing with a meat tenderizer  or rolling pin

Crush cookies by putting in zip-bag, and crushing with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds apricots, pitted and cut into eighths
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided
  • cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup crushed amaretti cookies
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • heavy cream for whipping if desired

 

Slice and dress the apricots.  Make crumb mixture.

Slice and dress the apricots. Make crumb mixture.

 

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.

2. Combine apricots, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a bowl; toss well to coat.  Spoon evenly into 6 ( 8-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray.  Or use an 8-inch square baking dish.

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3.  Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, cookies, and next 4 ingredients ( through butter); sprinkle cookie mixture over apricot mixture.

Cookie mixture sprinkled on top.

Cookie mixture sprinkled on top.

Arrange ramekins on a baking sheet.  Bake at 375* for 25 minutes or until filling is bubbly.

Topping gets browned and crunchy after baking.

Topping gets browned and crunchy after baking.

 

4.  Place 1/3 cup cream in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Dollop cream over crisps.   These are best served warm, and  can be gently reheated in the microwave if necessary.

Served with vanilla ice cream.

Served with vanilla ice cream.   Deeee-lish!

 

 

SOURCE:   Cooking Light Magazine

Berry Smoothie Pie

Berry Smoothie Pie

Berry Smoothie Pie

Looking for a quick-to-make dessert for the weekend?  This one is it!

Smoothies are the “in” drink now-a-days.  They can contain just about any combination of ingredients that are compatible and taste good together.  All vegetables, all fruits, some yogurt, grains or seeds;  the possibilities are endless.   Most of us enjoy a smoothie because it’s cool and refreshing and if made with some thought to ingredients, can be quite nutritious.

One of my favorite kinds of smoothie is made with strawberries, yogurt and almond milk with an occasional banana added for thickness.  Today’s recipe for Berry Smoothie Pie grew out of my love of strawberry smoothies.  Wanting to capture all the luscious flavor of fresh strawberries, but without the added sugar, I started with strawberry sugar-free gelatin.  I dissolved it in cranberry juice, then added a small cup of strawberry blended Greek yogurt, and lots of sliced strawberries.  I blended this all in the blender and poured it into a cookie crumb pie crust;  let it chill until set, then served it with a dollop of low-fat whipped topping. I must say  this pie is “berry, berry good”.  It’s quick and easy to make, cuts cleanly, it’s cool and refreshing and tastes great.  What more can you ask of a summertime desert?

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BERRY SMOOTHIE PIEIMG_7603

Yield:  8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 package sugar-free strawberry gelatin ( raspberry would be good, too)
  • 1/3 cup low-cal, low-sugar, cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cup ( 6-oz.) low-fat Greek yogurt ( strawberry or raspberry)
  • 3 cups chopped berries ( strawberries or raspberries)
  • 1  (9-inch) graham cracker or sugar cookie crust
  • Fat-free whipped topping

Directions:

1.  In a small microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle gelatin over juice, let stand 1 minute.  Microwave on high 40 seconds.  Stir, and let stand 1 minute for gelatin to completely dissolve.

IMG_7604               2.  In a blender container, combine gelatin mixture, yogurt and berries. Process until blended and smooth.

 

Pour into crust and chill 4 hours.  Serve with whipped topping.IMG_7605

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SOURCE:   This is a major revision of an old recipe from Taste of Home.