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Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Treats

Only 5 more days until Christmas! Here are some yummy treats you can make for friends and family. So this post isn't 1000 pages long, I linked the recipe to each name of the treat.

Easy Peanut Butter Cups

Peppermint Meringues

Neapolitan Coconut Strips


Peppermint Fudge

Sugar Cookies If using this recipe, cut back on the flour to about 4 1/2 cups.

Gingerbread Cookies

Package them up and deliver to friends, family, and neighbors!

Watch for fun crafts to come after the Holidays!

Merry Christmas,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Last Minute Pie

Unfortunately this last minute pie is a little more difficult then the previous two. Maybe I shouldn't say difficult. It's not hard to make at all, but it does take lots of patience. I will say though, that this pie is worth all the work.

Apple-Cranberry Pie
Better Homes and Gardens, November 2010
2 Pie Crusts - I used Pillsbury, of course
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 C cranberries
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 1/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1 recipe pastry cream (below)
1 egg, beaten
1 TBSP, whipping cream

Pastry Cream
1 C milk
1/4 C sugar
2 egg yolks
3 TBSP sugar
3 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan combine milk and sugar. Cook over medium heat until bubbly on edges (this is where the patience comes in). Meanwhile, in a medium bowl beat egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until combined. Gradually beat in 1/3 C hot milk mixture; quickly beat in remaining milk mixture. Return to saucepan; cook and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. (This happens quicker then you think!) Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Transfer to bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool.

Make Ahead tip: Prepare pastry cream in advance. It can be stored in the refigerator for 3 days.

Preheat oven to 375. Transfer pastry to a 9" pie dish.

In a large bowl combine apples, cranberries, and lemon juice.

In a small bowl combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.

Spread bottom of crust with pastry cream. Toss apple mixture with dry ingredients; pile over pastry cream in pie pan.

Fold top pastry under bottom pastry and crimp edges. Cut small slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Combine egg and cream and brush on pastry.

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any overflow from the pie while baking.
Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes (mine was right on). I used my pie cover for the first 45 minutes of baking and removed it for the rest. Cool on wire rack.

I was a little hesitant to add the cranberries. I like cranberries okay but they aren't my favorite. But, I wanted to follow this recipe exact (and I am forcing myself to try new things when I can) and I am glad I did! The cranberries add a perfect touch and give it just enough zest to make it a different kind of apple pie.

This pie would be great for Christmas too. I hope you try it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Easy Pie #2

I never would have thought to make a lemon pie for Thanksgiving, but that's kind of why I chose this recipe. It's different and fun and so delicious! This lemon pie was super easy to make and not at all time consuming.

Lemon Velvet Cream Pie
recipe from Better Home and Gardens, November 2010 issue

1 rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crust
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 TBSP cold water
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1/4 C whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C lemon juice

Bake crust according to package on directions. When I don't make my own crust, I always use Pillsbury Pie Crust. It is so light and flakey and most of the time it's hard to tell between Pillsbury and homemade!

I "blind bake" my crusts when I am making a custard-y type pie. To blind bake, line the bottom of the pie crust with foil or a slightly smaller pie tin and fill with dried beans, pie weights, or in my case, a glass bowl that is oven safe.

Once crust is lightly browned, cool completely on wire rack.

In a small bowl, soften gelatin in water 5 minutes. Heat in microwave for 14 seconds.

In a large bowl combine egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. With an electric mixer, beat on high speed for 2-3 minutes until well combined. Beat in gelatin, whipping cream and salt on low speed. Add lemon juice and beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Pour into prepared crust.
Bake at 375 for 22-25 minutes (mine took the full 25) or until center of pie looks set when gently shaken; cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Chill for 2 hours in the refrigerater.

Top with whipped cream and serve!

I rarely buy store bought whipped cream. It is SO much better to make your own and it doesn't take much time at all.

Homemade Whipped Cream
1 C heavy cream
1 TBSP confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Beat heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form again.

Now, if you are like me and hate to waste food, you will feel sad throwing away 6 egg whites. I used to use them right away in a different recipe, but then was so happy to learn that you can freeze them! How cool is that? I have an ice cube tray devoted strictly to egg whites. Then when you need them for macarons, souffles, or meringue (for example), you won't be wasting any yolks!

Suprise your family with a lemon pie this Thanksgiving. I promise, they will be happy!

Forest Themed Baby Shower

Most of the fun handiwork you see is done by none other then our Claire! :) She worked so hard and did an amazing job. It was fun to help her set up everything and play around with all the owl decorations.

Cute scrapbook paper makes cute baby signs -

Gift table -

Cake pops for favors, an owl lamp for fun, and a "words of wisdom" book for mommy and daddy -

The food was yummy and the signs were cute -

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cake of the Month

Claire and I had the privilege to help throw our good friend a baby shower last night. A forest theme was decided and the planning began.

Owl and mushroom cake pops were made for the favors -

Caramel-vanilla & chocolate buttercream cupcakes were made for the dessert -

Stay tuned this weekend for the crafty shower details!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Easy Pie #1 - Pumpkin

This pie is called Easy Pumpkin Pie with Press-In Shortbread Crust. I found the recipe in the 2009 fall issue of Martha Stewart Living. It really was easy, and didn't take much time at all to prep. It did however, take a lot of oven time. Which was okay with me since it gave me plenty of time to keep reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Have any of you read this? I am about three-quarters finished and I cannot put it down! I stayed up until 12:30a reading it last night.

Recipe is as follows:

Press-In Shortbread
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 C flour
1 tsp coarse salt

Stir together butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in yolk. Add flour and salt, and stir until mixture is dry and crumbly. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake, roating half-way through, just until crust turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

Pumpkin Pie filling
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 C heavy cream
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon*
1/2 tsp ground ginger*
1/4 tsp ground allspice*
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

*I used about a tbsp of pumpkin pie spice instead.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk all ingredients but eggs in a large bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a separate bowl and add to pumpkin mixture.

Pour filling into prepared piecrust. Bake for 65-70 minutes, rotating halfway through, until filling is just set but still a bit wobbly and slightly puffed.
Cool on wire rack completely. It's the perfect pie to make the night before as it takes at least 6 hours to chill.

This pie is DELICIOUS. So good. I think this is my new go-to-pumpkin-pie recipe. The shortbread crust is nice and soft, not crispy like I thought it would be. I think it will be fun to try this with a graham cracker or cream cheese pie crust.

One pie down, three to go!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Perfect Pies

In honor of it being the month of harvest, I have decided to bake four pies - two simple and two that take a bit more work, all before the long-awaited arrival of Thanksgiving. I know it's cliche, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two favorite holiday's. It's such a great feeling to gather with close family and friends and celebrate all the many things we have to be thankful.

Watch for the pie posts this week and next!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies or Happy Harvest

I'm not a huge Halloween fan, but I do look pumpkins and all things flavored pumpkin. My husband and I just got back from a wonderful relaxing vacation in North Carolina. There we made two different kinds of pumpkin cookies and a pumpkin chocolate cake all in ten days.
All three were delicious!

Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies
recipe by Martha Stewart
2 cups all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I doubled this)
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin puree
4 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture in two parts and pumpkin puree in one, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not overmix).

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto two baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart (they won't expand in the oven). Bake until puffed and edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes (16 for me), rotating sheets once during baking. Transfer cookies to wire racks, and cool completely.

When cookies have cooled place wax paper or tin foil under the wire racks. Melt chocolate chips in a bowl and transfer to a piping bag or zip log bag with a tiny piece of a corner cut off. Pipe chocolate over each cookie. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about 20 minutes.

Happy Harvest!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Craft of the Month

I accidentally started typing "Cake of the Month" with this post and then without thinking changed it to "Craft of the Month". Is this a sign? Should I start a craft of the month? Dare I? I am thinking it's a good idea. And I actually have one for this month. So why not start and see what comes of it!

One of my dear sister-in-law's birthday was this month and it didn't take long to think of what to make her. They are the greatest hosts around and are always having family and friends stay with them or having people over for dinner. So, it was easy for me to decide to make her placemats and matching napkins.

I jazzed up the placemats a bit and made them reversible -

The nice thing about making these is that you can cut them to whatever size you want. Once the fabric is cut, fold over each edge a quarter inch and iron all around. Pin and sew! So easy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

This chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best I have ever made. And I have made a lot. I even threw out the other "best chocolate chip cookie" recipes I have. They are just that good.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe by Alton Brown

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C chocolate chips (I've used milk and semi-sweet and both are delicious)

Preheat oven to 375. Melt the butter. Sift together the four, salt, and baking soda. In a different bowl add both sugars and pour in melted butter. Cream together. Add egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Slowly add the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Chill the dough*. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake 6 cookies per sheet - they will expand.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate sheet for even browning. I checked my cookies at 11 minutes and they were perfect! Cool on wire racks. (It really does make a difference.

*Helpful hint: Whenever I make cookies I always form the dough into a log, wrap in parchment or tinfoil and chill. This way you can slice the dough for even sized cookies and can store the dough for a few days. I've even been known to freeze extra dough for a yummy dessert for last minute company! :)

You never need a reason to make chocolate chips cookies - especially when they are the best ever! :)