Spiced Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

Spiced Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

Growing up, I have so many memories of my mother making breakfast for a family of 6. On weekends, we’d all get “Scramble Bambles” (eggs) or “Mickey Mouse pancakes”. I’m sure dealing with picky kids, this wasn’t an easy feat. We’d all whine over someone having a burnt pancake or heaven forbid the pancakes weren’t all the same size! I don’t know how my Mom did it. I really don’t.

In the afternoons, we’d either snack on bananas, smoothies or for a sweet treat, muffins. Blueberry muffins were our absolute favorite, and they wouldn’t last long in our house. I’ve always had a love for muffins since my childhood, and when we had some strawberries in the fridge to use up, I knew these muffins just had to happen. This was one of those times where my husband decided to bake. I sliced up strawberries and he whipped up the batter.

My husband is the type of guy who just loves to change up a recipe, and since you have to be sort of careful with baking, he thought the simple addition of cinnamon and nutmeg would make these awesome. :-) He also added applesauce instead of butter (which is ALWAYS a winner for quick breads and muffins). He was right…the spices added a wonderful little something to these muffins. :-) I will admit that I decided after the first batch baked up, a few mini chocolate chips wouldn’t hurt these muffins either (and I was right lol).  C’mon though…when does it hurt to add chocolate to baked goods? :-)

Spiced Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins
Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two muffins tins with 15 cupcake liners (dividing the liners in the pans with 8 in one, 7 in the other).
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar together on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Switch the mixer to low and add the applesauce and eggs, one at a time, until each egg is fully incorporated in the batter.
  3. Add the buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter. Mix until everything is just combined.
  4. With the mixer still on low, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing the batter until things are just combined. Add 1 cup of the strawberries to the batter and mix for 5-10 seconds to just distribute the berries. Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, and fill them just 3/4 of the way full. With the remaining 1/4 cup berries, add a couple of pieces on top of each muffin, lightly pressing them into the batter.
  5. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden, for about 20 minutes, and rotate the pans 10 minutes into baking.
  6. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Strawberry Crumb Bars

Strawberry Crumb Bars

You know it’s Spring in Louisiana when….

….everyone and their momma is at Home Depot in the gardening section on the weekend.
….we all go crazy over a sack full of crawfish.
….the wardrobe goes from sweaters and boots one week to tank tops and flip flops the next.
….strawberries are everywhere and are DIRT CHEAP.

Lately, I can’t get enough of strawberries. When they’re $1.50/clamshell, something in my brain sets off and before I know it, there are at least 4 of them in my cart. Mind you, it’s just me and my husband (ok, ok…and the dog) in this house. So, I do go a bit overboard. However, at least they freeze well, and it’s good to know that I can enjoy these strawberries year round in that case.

Last week, I decided to go for my first warm weather run for the first time since…well…October? I’ve gotten used to running in cooler conditions, and my pace has vastly improved over the winter. However, when I went to run that day, the warm weather + humidity got the best of me, and I found myself sitting on someone’s curb in the middle of the neighborhood. Every time I’d get up, I’d see those black spots. You know those black spots if you’ve passed out before…I call those the point of no return. I was so scared that I was gonna pass out, but luckily, my neighbor was walking with her two little boys. She quickly went back to her house & got me water, and made sure I made it home OK. I was so thankful for her in that moment…I honestly never had this problem before, so I took it as a sign that I really need to slow things down again. Phew…

When I got home, I thought about it, and I figured the best way to say “thanks” is through baked goods. (Am I right??!) Since I had strawberries in the fridge, I figured I’d make something using those and came across these strawberry crumb bars. Perfect. After we made them, my husband and I couldn’t wait for them to cool…we totally took a spoonful and gave it a try. Let’s just say my husband and I agreed that these had to get out of our house ASAP. These bars are just wonderful!

Strawberry Crumb Bars
Source: Can You Stay For Dinner?, originally adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 5 cups chopped, fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbsp. + 2 tsp. cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing for extra foil to hang over the sides of the pan so the bars are easy to remove. Coat the foil with baking spray and set aside.
  2. To make the crumb mixture, in a large bowl whisk the 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest together. Use a pastry blender (or fork) to blend in the cold butter and egg. The dough will be a crumbly consistency. Pat half of the dough evenly into the 9×13 inch baking pan.
  3. In another large bowl, stir the remaining sugar, lemon juice, strawberries and cornstarch together. Then, evenly spread the strawberry mixture over the crust. Then, crumble the remaining crumb dough over the berries. Bake the bars for 45 minutes, or until the top of the bars are just turning golden brown. Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan before serving. Cut into small squares and enjoy!

 

Raspberry Swirl Mini Cheesecakes

minicheesecakes

Isn’t it a shame how quickly the weekends fly by? I feel like the ultra-productive ones leave me longing for another weekend. This past weekend was one of those weekends. I swear, I took 3 trips to Lowes and Home Depot to get more flowers or plants, only to think that the garden definitely needed something more. The third time, I went on Saturday. You would have thought they were practically giving away flowers or something. It was packed…like Black Friday packed. Everyone got the Spring itch at the same time, I guess.

After all of that work outside, I spent most of Sunday doing some Spring cleaning. Junk mail stinks y’all….I wish I actually kept up with it, but nope. I usually regret sifting through a huge pile a few weeks later. Once that was done, I definitely was in the mood to bake. I had a good bit of cream cheese in the fridge that as about to expire, and I’ve had this recipe starred on Google Reader for quite some time (as usual). It did take a little bit longer to throw together the three components (crust, cheesecake filling, raspberry topping), and since you’re making about 3 dozen little cheesecakes vs. one large one, it can be a little tedious. However, I found it completely worth it. These desserts are adorable (I mean, who doesn’t like mini desserts?), and they taste great! I think they would be perfect for a Spring party or for Easter.

Raspberry Swirl Mini Cheesecakes
Source: Annie’s Eats, originally found in Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  •  1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp. sugar

For the raspberry swirl:

  • 6 oz. fresh raspberries
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

For the cheesecake filling:

  • 2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line your cupcake pans with cupcake liners. In a small bowl, add the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Stir everything together until everything is well mixed and the dry ingredients are moistened. Measure 1 tbsp. of the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner, and press down (I used a 1/4 cup flat measuring cup.). Bake the crusts for about 5 minutes, until set, and transfer them to a cooling rack.
  2. While the crusts are cooling, make the raspberry puree by blending the raspberries and sugar together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the puree through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until fluffy. Add in the sugar and mix until smooth. Then, mix in the salt and vanilla. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. To prepare the cheesecakes, add 3 tbsp. of the cheesecake filling on top of the crusts. Then, dab 1/2 tsp. of the raspberry puree in small dots over the filling. Use a toothpick to swirl the raspberry puree in for a marbled effect.
  5. Bake the cheesecakes for about 22 minutes (until the filling is set), rotating the pans halfway through the baking process. Transfer the cheesecakes to a cooling rack and allow them to cool to room temperature. Then chill the cheesecakes in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Shake

Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Shake

This past week, I’ve been spending my afternoons prepping the gardens/weeding/planting annuals. Wasn’t it just Christmas? Man…can’t believe it’s almost April, y’all! With the weather starting to warm up over here, the colder the beverages, the better. I started making iced coffees a couple of weeks ago, and now, I just can’t get enough of smoothies/shakes.

As far as this shake goes, peanut butter and jelly is a favorite of mine. Move over ham sandwiches…if you offer me a PB&J, I’m going for it! I wanted to try these flavors in a shake, and while I used frozen fruit instead of jelly, the flavors (strawberry/peanut butter) work beautifully together. This was so refreshing, and filling (thanks to the protein powder). It’s definitely a goodie!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein Shake
Source: an original

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until everything is smooth (about 2 minutes).

Almond Scented White Cake

Almond Scented Cake

Not sure how time flew by this quickly, but tomorrow, I’ll be 29. One year away from 30. My birthday always seems to sneak up on me, because in my family, March is a busy birthday month (mine being the last March birthday). :-)

Every birthday, I look back on the year and try to think about something significant that happened that year. 2010’s birthday was really the last “big” year for me. It was the year that I got married & the year I became a home owner. Two big adult-like things. 2011 and 2012 were just dull in comparison, but this past year, something pretty significant has happened (which most of you know about). I’ve lost nearly 70 lbs. and my husband has lost 110 lbs. (hope he doesn’t mind me bragging about him here).

I shared a picture last night of the before/after. The before picture was in October 2011 at IFBC New Orleans. I thought that was a great picture, and I never thought that my face was “fat”. In fact, as I’m losing weight, people ask me if I really notice a difference, and I’ll be honest…I don’t until I fork out older pictures. It always shocks me. At IFBC, I was wearing a size 26. Today, I’m wearing a size 16. It’s a whole ‘nother side of the plus size store & I’m being introduced to regular sizes now for the first time in almost 15 years. It’s crazy…never thought I would be here. EVER. I also signed up for a half marathon next year…I regularly ask myself WHO AM I? when these thoughts cross my head. :-P

Of course I would write about weight loss/fitness in a cake post. Oops.

I’ll be honest…my sweet tooth is shifting. Cake/cookies/brownies…while they’re delicious, they’re starting to taste TOO sweet to me. :( I guess that’s a good thing…it discourages my urges to binge and eat the whole pan or something. While my eating habits are changing, I still wanted to make cake for my birthday…the whole process is just so fun to me. Whipping up the batter, dividing the cake into layers, whipping up frosting and assembling…all wonderful.

I chose this cake, because of the almond flavor in the recipe. I love wedding cake, and because of the almond, this cake reminds me a lot of wedding cake. The almond flavor is definitely there, and the raspberry just bumps up the cake a bit. I wasn’t sure about the frosting, but I really like that the cream cheese icing breaks up the sweetness. I’m used to 4-5 cups of powdered sugar in a recipe…this only calls for a little over a cup. The combination is perfect, and when I brought this cake to work, it was gone that day (which NEVER happens with cake around here).

Almond-Scented White Cake
Source: Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup raspberry preserves, melted

For the frosting:

  • 1 lb. (2 blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & move the oven rack to the middle position. Prepare two 9″ round cake pans by butter/flouring (or using baking spray) the insides of the pans. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Place the egg whites in another bowl, and set aside. Wash your bowl to reuse for making the cake batter
  4. Using the same bowl (now cleaned), cream the butter on medium-high speed with the mixer until it’s light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually, beating until everything is well-blended. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts, and scrape the bowl down. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the dry mixture, then 1/3 of the milk, repeating until all ingredients are just combined.
  5. Fold in the egg whites gently into the batter until everything is just incorporated. Divide the batter equally between the cake pans and smooth the batter with a spatula.
  6. Bake the cakes on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Place the cake pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, to slightly cool, then invert the cakes onto the cooling rack to finish cooling.
  7. As the cakes are cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter, until light and fluffy, for about two minutes. Reduce the mixer to low, and add the confectioners sugar, beating until everything is smooth. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts until everything is well-blended.
  8. To assemble the cake, using a long, serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally. Place a small bit of frosting in the middle of the plate (or cake board), then place your first layer over that (this helps the cake stick to the plate). Add 1/2 cup of frosting over the top of the cake and spread evenly, and then drizzle 1/4 cup of the melted preserves. Top this with another cake layer and repeat for the rest of the layers until you get to the last layer. With the last layer, you want to top the cake with the cut side down (to prevent crumbs for final frosting). Using an offset spatula, spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Serve immediately or cover the cake, refrigerate and serve the next day (being sure to bring the cake to room temperature before serving). Enjoy! 

 

 

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake

My husband is a protein shake nut. He makes them for breakfast every day, and this stubborn gal thought…there’s no way a shake would make me feel full. No way. I need food…the chewing kind,  you know? Well, one day, my husband introduced me to a protein based smoothie at a local smoothie place. The medium was apparently only 270 calories, according to their nutrition facts, so I wasn’t expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised that the texture wasn’t gritty, it tasted great and I got full halfway through drinking the thing. Whoa…that was the first time a smoothie from there made me feel full. The difference between my normal muscle punch and this? The protein powder.

I was hooked on those smoothies for a while, until I they changed their menu. The smoothie I quickly fell in love with was calculated wrong (calorie wise). Instead of being 270 calories, the menu suddenly said 300-680 calories (depending on fruit you chose). WHAT???! So, I emailed the company, and asked what my smoothie REALLY was (telling them the fruit that I usually choose).

510 calories.

What.the.heck??!

I mean, I knew there was SOME variation from one fruit to another, but what I didn’t know is that some of their fruits sit in sugar juice. No WONDER it was so tasty. I was drinking 1/3 of my daily calories! Needless to say, I quit going to that smoothie place and decided it was time to make my own. I could save money and have complete control over the calories & ingredients.

This idea came to me after I saw this recipe. Banana and Biscoff? Sounded awesome, so I decided to try it in a smoothie. OMG…it was like dessert and it was the perfect treat after a work-out.

Just a note: When it comes to protein powder, I use this. I chose this protein powder based on recommendations from friends and a few of y’all. It has a pretty mellow flavor (perfect for blending in other fruits and flavors), and it’s not gritty at all.

Banana Biscoff Protein Shake
an original

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium frozen banana (cut in slices before freezing)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp. biscoff cookie spread
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in the blender, and blend together until all of the ingredients are well-blended.

Meyer Lemon Bliss Cake + 5 year blogiversary

Meyer Lemon Bliss Cake

Five years ago, I started writing a food/recipe blog. It was really meant to be an online space for me to keep my favorite recipes, and for me to challenge myself more in the kitchen, since my kitchen skills = a mean scrambled egg or boxed macaroni and cheese. I never really thought anyone would read it, besides me.

Five years later, I feel like I’m a part of a wonderful blogging community. I’m so thankful for every comment, email and pin from y’all. I’ve made some amazing friends through blogging, and I’ve learned to become a lot more comfortable in my cooking and baking. So, from the bottom of my heart–thank you for everything.

I thought I would make an elaborate cake for this post, but sometimes simple is best. I made this cake on a whim when my husband’s coworkers offered him some meyer lemons from their tree. I figured I should bake his coworker (and the office) something as a “thank you” featuring the lemons, and I came across this recipe on Food Librarian’s blog. In case you didn’t know, Mary’s blog is THE blog for bundt cakes (at least in my opinion). Her “I like Big Bundts” feature is truly awesome, and I always find myself going to her blog first to find a bundt cake recipe. :-)

Now personally, I do not like lemon desserts. I love lemonade, love lemons in savory dishes, but for some reason, lemon desserts just aren’t appetizing to me. However, my husband’s fruit preference in desserts is lemon (along with pineapple…it’s probably a tie between the two actually). After putting the glaze on this cake, my husband was definitely eager to give this cake a taste for me. He told me this was probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever made, in his opinion. He loved how moist and flavorful it was…there’s no shortage of lemon flavor in this cake! He absolutely loved it, as did his coworkers.

Meyer Lemon Bliss Cake
Source: originally from King Arthur Flour, found on Food Librarian

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • finely grated rind of 2 meyer lemons

For the glaze:

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your bundt pan by spraying the inside with baking spray, making sure to get the spray in every nook and cranny (I use a pastry brush for this).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and salt together for about 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, and add the eggs in one at a time, thoroughly mixing the batter well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl once again, and add the baking powder.
  3. With the mixer on low, alternatively add the flour and milk to the mixer, starting and ending with an addition of flour. Using a spatula, stir in the lemon rind.
  4. Add the batter to the prepared bundt pan, and spread the batter around the pan, until even and smooth.
  5. Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. While the cake is baking, make your glaze by mixing together the lemon juice and sugar. Set this aside.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then place a cooling rack over the cake pan and invert the cake into the cooling rack. Using a toothpick, gently poke the hot cake to prepare it for the glaze. Stir the glaze again to combine, and using a pastry brush, just brush the glaze all over the cake. Allow the glaze to sink in a bit, and brush it once again. Repeat this method until all of the glaze is used. Allow the cake to fully cool before slicing. Enjoy!

 

 

Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Man, what a year it has been! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with their friends and family. :-)

Most years, I feel like time has flown by, but for some reason, it feels like last January was truly a year ago. So many great things have happened to us this year (as well as some really crappy events).  

Some highlights and not so highlights:

  • It was our first full year in our new house, which has been such a blessing. It’s just awesome to finally have friendly neighbors, who don’t throw their trash in our backyard or play loud music at 2am (side-eye to the neighbors at the old house).
  • My husband and I have both decided to live healthier. Between us, we’ve lost over 150 lbs. this year. (I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes at me sharing this, but seriously..I’m gonna brag here!) That’s just amazing to me. I’m so proud of us.
  • Another weight loss highlight. I fit into a clothes size that I haven’t been able to wear since 10th grade. That was 12 years ago. OMG!
  • A not so highlight. Hurricane Isaac…don’t want to go into too much detail with that one, but yeah, hurricanes suck. Oh, and for the record, labradors don’t care if the winds are 50 mph outside. If there’s rain/water, it’s playtime! (ugh)
  • I think I’m making some good progress on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.

And of course, it’s been another fun year blogging. I really appreciate all of y’all taking the time to read my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for your sweet comments, emails and tweets. In January, it’s gonna be this blog’s 5th anniversary, and I’m just amazed by all of the friends I’ve made and people I’ve “met”  through this blog. You guys are the best!

Just to round up the year, I wanted to share with y’all your top 10 most read posts from 2012.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream

10. Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Salted Caramel Buttercream – These whoopie pies were made for a work fundraiser, and they were a huge success. Great pumpkin/spicy flavor, and the salted caramel buttercream just makes them super indulgent. Pumpkin + caramel is a wonderful combination!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake

9. Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – I love anything red velvet. This bundt cake is a fun change from a regular cake, and it was pretty easy to throw together and bake!

Baked Oatmeal

8. Baked Oatmeal – My breakfast has been forever changed by this. This oatmeal is not soggy at all (which I hate about cooked oats), and it’s very sweet with the addition of bananas.

Peanut Butter Cookies

7. Peanut Butter Cookies – Just simple, classic peanut butter cookies. :-) Very good!

Candy Corn Oreo Truffles

6. Candy Corn Oreo Truffles – Oreo truffles are insanely good, and it was fun to make these with seasonal flavors. Always a favorite when I bring these truffles to work!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

5. Fresh Strawberry Pie – I’m SO glad strawberry season is back. I need to make this pie again…it’s not rich at all, and since it involves no cooking (except for the crust), it tastes so fresh!

Snickers Cupcakes

4. Snickers Cupcakes – Oh, I totally need to make these again. If you love Snickers, you will LOVE these!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade

3. Homemade Strawberry Lemonade – Meyer lemon season + strawberry season? Um…guess I need to make this too and ASAP!

Red Velvet Swirl Brownies

2. Red Velvet Swirl Brownies – These were just delicious, and so pretty too! Perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Feta

1. Spinach, Strawberry, Pecan and Feta Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette – This is a huge favorite of y’alls. I think Pinterest made this a popular one, and it is VERY easy to throw together! This is a salad you want to make for your next party…it’s an awesome combination!

Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Time to get used to writing/typing “2013”. :-)

Caramel Apple Pie

Caramel Apple Pie

I find that I don’t make pie nearly enough. For some reason, I find it to be much more time-consuming than cupcakes or cookies, but in all seriousness, pie is very simple. Your food processor basically does all of the work to make the crust, and heck, sometimes I’ve even made pie crust in the stand mixer…still works great. The secret to an easier pie crust for me is frozen butter. I like to cut the butter in small cubes, then throw them in the freezer to make them extra cold. This is one of the few desserts where you want your butter as cold as possible, because as you work with the dough, it warms up and is just miserable to work with when it’s no longer cold (at least in my very beginner pie-making experience).

I have been having a killer craving for some apple pie, and since I had a batch of caramel sauce handy (Why do I do that to myself?), I figured there HAD to be a recipe out there for caramel apple pie. I got to googling and found this one. Since I already had the caramel sauce, I just used that in this recipe instead of the caramel recipe that Williams-Sonoma had. This pie came out so good, y’all. The filling just melts in your mouth, and their recipe for pie crust has such a wonderful, buttery flavor, as well as a bit of a flaky texture. Just SO good. If you want to bring something a little different to your Thanksgiving dinner, this is a tasty twist on the American classic.

Now, if this caramel apple pie isn’t your thing, you can definitely find other ideas this week. Come join Love the Pie with TidyMom  sponsored by Whirlpool and enter to win a new Whirlpool Range! Be sure to check out TidyMom’s website for other great pie ideas and recipes! The party is going on all week!

Caramel Apple Pie
Source: adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients:

For the pie crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 6 to 8 tbsp. ice water
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp. water, lightly beaten in a small bowl

For the filling:

  • 4 lb. Granny Smith apples, peeled/cored & cut into 8 slices
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 batch salted butter caramel sauce

Directions:

  1. To make the pie crust, combine the flour, 2 tbsp. of the sugar and salt in a large food processor and pulse the mixture to combine. Add the cold cubes of butter and pulse the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add 6 tbsp. of the ice water and pulse the mixture twice. Check the dough for consistency by squeezing it with your fingers. If the dough holds together well, the dough is fine. You don’t want the dough to be crumbly (too little water), but not sticky either (too much water). If you need to add water, add it 1 tsp. at a time and pulse twice after each addition. Once the dough is at the consistency you need, place the dough on a work surface and divide the mixture in half.  Shape each half into a dish and wrap each with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
  2. To roll the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let the dough stand for 5 minutes. Place 1 dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured wax paper & roll it out into a 12-inch round, to about 3/16″ thickness. Repeat for the other disk of dough. Take one of the doughs out from between the wax paper sheets and gently press it into a 9 inch deep-dish pie dish. Refrigerate both doughs for another 30 minutes.
  3. To make the apple filling, place the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg & lemon juice in a large dutch oven. Cover and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the apples are just tender (you can easily check by sticking a fork in an apple slice). Once the mixture is done, uncover the pot and allow the filling to cool to room temperature. Stir in the cornstarch.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Once the filling is cool, take out your pie crusts and allow those to sit for 5 minutes. In the meantime, stir the apple filling and 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce together (the rest of the caramel will be for serving).  Pour the apple filling into your pie dish, and then place the top crust over the pie. Cut off any remaining dough hanging over the edge of the pie dish, and then press the top and bottom crusts together. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, and sprinkle the top crust with the remaining 2 tsp. of sugar.
  5. Place the pie dish in a jelly roll/baking sheet. Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour. Be sure to check the pie after 30 minutes, to make sure the crust isn’t too dark—whatever part of the crust on too dark, just simply cover it with foil. When the pie is done baking, allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for at least 2 1/2 hours before serving. Serve with leftover caramel sauce (warmed) for drizzling (it’s also equally great with ice cream). Enjoy!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

This past weekend, Hocus Pocus was on cable. Twice. So I watched it twice, of course. Thank goodness LSU’s game was a morning game or I would have been a little torn. Growing up in the 90s, Hocus Pocus just screams Halloween to me. I actually remember my parents not letting us watch the movie at first, because it was rated PG. Yes, I know how sheltered this makes me sound, but I understand. I probably would have had nightmares about my life being sucked out by a witch or something.

I love my parents, but as a kid, they were very strict about what my siblings and I could have. For example, when I got my first CD player, “Santa” included a copy of “Jagged Little Pill” with it, and the minute my mom heard “da*n” from the CD, I had to return it and ended up with Spice Girls. No offense to Spice Girls, but I really wanted Alanis Morissette’s CD. Also, when I had braces, most of the kids in class were rule breakers. They ate sticky candy and chewed gum, but I didn’t dare try that in front of my parents. One of the biggest candies I missed was caramel. Caramel is in so many things I love, like Snickers or a good ice cream sundae. So yeah, the braces phase of life REALLY stunk.

Now that I’m an adult, of course I don’t have anyone to tell me no PG movie or gum for you. I don’t necessarily junk up my life, but it’s cool to have that freedom, especially in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, I noticed these caramel bits in the grocery store and immediately thought of throwing them in cookies. Since it’s fall, of course I had to involve pumpkin, and I found this recipe. The original recipe involved butterscotch chips, but I added caramel bits and dried cranberries instead. Fantastic, right? Oh heck yes. :-) You can’t go wrong with these cookies…in fact, the pumpkin oatmeal base makes it too tempting to add all sorts of fun ingredients to them.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
Source: adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup caramel bits (or you could use chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set those aside.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl. (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt) Set the dry mixture to the side while you prepare your wet ingredients
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and sugars for a couple minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until well-blended. Add in the pumpkin puree and mix until well-blended.
  4. Slowly add in the dry mixture, and mix until just combined. With a spatula or spoon, stir in the oats, dried cranberries and caramel bits (or chocolate chips).
  5. Using a tablespoon sized scoop, scoop the dough and drop each dollop onto your cookie sheets (giving about 2 inches in between). Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies appear to be set and are golden along the edges. When they are done, allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes, and then transfer the cookies to a regular cooling rack until they are completely cool!