Category: Dessert


Good grief, it’s been almost a year.ย A year!!ย SO MUCH has happened in that year, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to come back. I’ve wanted to, but it just hasn’t been in the cards until now. I wasn’t sure if anyone would even care at this point if I came back. But I’ve heard from a few loyal readers (I have loyal readers! I had no idea!) and they’re asking for more. That is so incredibly gratifying, you guys. Seriously. It almost made me cry. I’ve always said that if my blog helps one person enjoy food a little more, I’ll keep going. So here I am, in the kitchen again, with recipes to share. I have some truly amazing food to show you, starting next week ๐Ÿ™‚

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I haven’t published since November. That is just astonishing to me. On one hand, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. But on the other hand, some pretty huge things have happened since then and it feels like an eternity. My husband was furloughed from the railroad (temporarily laid off and waiting to be called to return) which nearly cost us our house and came very close to ruining us financially. The kids started going to public school again, which was a very good thing but was also a blow to deal with because we had wanted to homeschool for SO long and it just didn’t work for us. In early February I was hospitalized for 3 days with what was thought to be Multiple Sclerosis. I had been having problems for 2 weeks before that and for a month after coming home I had to deal with issues. Ultimately it was decided I don’t have MS yet but we’ll watch it and my symptoms eventually went away on their own. Those are just the big things that have happened since my last post. That’s not even mentioning all of the smaller things that piled up. I wanted to blog, but the give a damn just wasn’t there. That, and I just wasn’t properly cooking as much. Life was kindof in this awful limbo where we all wandered around, waiting to see what would happen.

Then in April my husband was called back to work after 4 months of furlough and it was like the world became light again. We were able to start living again and planning again and looking forward to getting up in the morning again. We all had purpose once again. But blogging still just wasn’t happening. I suppose I felt like there wasn’t really any point because I wasn’t a “famous” blogger. I felt like I didn’t make any difference in the blogoshpere at all and no one really cared about or noticed my little space. But recently I’ve had a few people ask me when I was going to start up again because they missed me. They missed me! Me- the small time hack! That’s when I remembered that I always said I would keep doing this even if it helped just one person feel better about themselves in the kitchen. So here I am, back in the saddle. But I’m starting with a trail ride instead of a fox hunt ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m sure that, despite my extended absence, most of you will recall my preference for homemade pudding over the boxed stuff (like here and here). But I found this little gem a few years back in one magazine or another while waiting for the kids at the dentist’s office (it might have been the family mag that Disney puts out) and knew I had to try it. It’s insanely easy and who doesn’t seem to always have a box of pudding or two hanging out in their pantry? Here is the very basic group of ingredients:

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That’s it! This recipe can be as simple as just 4 ingredients. I like to add kiwis, grapes, and apple, but I had none of those on hand when the kids asked me to make this last week. The bananas were also about 1-2 days too ripe, but it still worked out fine.

I don’t have step by step photo directions for this one because there’s only three steps: chop anything that needs chopped into 1/2 inch cubes, drain the mandarin oranges (but NOT the pineapple!!), and then mix all the ingredients. That’s all there is to it! I do have some tips that the original recipe didn’t include though:

  1. To be able to eat this salad at it’s best, make sure you give it at least 2 hours to sit in the fridge because the pudding mix needs time to soak up the pineapple juice and get smooth. It will be grainy for awhile and tastes fine, but the texture isn’t great. So give yourself plenty of time.
  2. Mix the pineapple and pudding mix together before adding the rest of the fruit. For some reason if you try to just stir everything together the pudding mix will get lumpy.
  3. If you want to eat this the same day and have it be cold like it’s supposed to be, make sure the pineapple and the oranges are cold before you mix everything.

Once you’ve got everything mixed up and chilled this is what you get:

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Is that a cheerful looking bowl of fruit?! It’s a little on the saucy side because I didn’t have the kiwis, grapes, and apples to add, but the kids didn’t mind a bit ๐Ÿ˜‰ This is also a great fruit salad to make during the winter when the majority of fruits aren’t in season and you can only get your hands on canned fruit.

So there it is: my first post in half a year. It feels good!ย I may not be famous, and I may not have thousands of followers across the world, but I do have those that like what I do and enjoy stopping by my little corner of the internet. To those who fit that description, thank you- from the bottom of my heart.

The Recipe:

1 Small (3.4 ounce) Box Vanilla Pudding (Lemon works nicely too)

1 Can (20 ounces) Pineapple Tidbits WITH the juice

1 Can (15 ounces) Mandarin Oranges, drained

2 Medium-Large Bananas, Ripe (but with only a few spots of brown), Peeled and Diced to 1/2 Inch Dice

Optional Fruits, all diced to about 1/2 inch and in a quantity to match the bananas:

Apples

Kiwis

Grapes

Strawberries

The Method:

*Chill the canned fruits.

*In a bowl big enough to hold all the fruits, combine the pudding mix and the undrained pineapple tidbits until no lumps remain.

*Add in the rest of the diced fruits and stir to coat.

*Cover the salad with plastic wrap actually touching the surface to prevent the bananas from browning too much.

*Chill at least 2 hours.

*Eat within 2-3 days.

This week’s recipe is rather a show stopper. Especially when you tell people what it is. I have to smile at people’s reactions when I tell them I’ve made a FIVE POUND apple pie. There’s always the stop-to-make-sure-they-heard-that-right face and then the “Wow!” as they let it sink in. I have fun “wowing” people with my food ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes; a full 5 pounds of apples go into this pie. It’s my special pie. The one I make when I want to perform a true culinary labor of love for someone. This pie takes the better part of half a day to make- more if you make the pie crust yourself. DO NOT let that put you off! The majority of that time is cooking, cooling, and baking time. Making the pie is really easy; it’s just that the preparation takes time. But sometimes the very best things take a lot of time…

Start with a whole bunch of apples and a few other ingredients:

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Now, the original recipe that this idea came from had a whole convoluted list of steps- most of them unnecessary. I’m not sure if the lady was just trying to make it sound like she was positively slaving away over the pie to get a pat on the back or if she really, truly thought that making a pie had to be that difficult. People tend to think that pie making is complicated, but it really isn’t. In fact, a pie is one of the very simplest things to bake. There’s no raising of dough or tiptoeing around the house because ย you don’t want what’s in the oven to fall. You make the filling, make the crust if you don’t want to buy one (another process that’s touted as difficult, but that’s another post), put the former into the latter, and bake until done. So, while this particular recipe has a couple of extra steps compared to a “regular” apple pie, I’ve simplified this process to be as easy as it can get. In that vein, let’s get started!

The first step is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Make sure you have a big bowl of acidulated water for your apples to go into so they don’t rust (turn brown). All that means is water with acid in it. If you have lemon juice, use that. Orange or lime juice works too. If you don’t have any of those, you can use apple cider vinegar. For 2 liters of water use a tablespoon of whichever acid you happen to have on hand. So, I peeled and cored my apples- cutting them into halves so I could use a melon baller to cut the core out…

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But I totally cheated with the slicing part. I’ve wanted a food processor for YEARS. As in, since I left home at 19. I’m 36 as of this writing. So when I found an insanely wonderful deal on the food processor I’ve wanted since I first saw it, I went to my husband and asked pretty please. Being the wonderful man and biggest fan of my food that he is, he said yes! So today, for the first time, I used my beautiful, brand new Kitchenaid food processor!

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That is absolutely a dream come true. Yes; I’m a food nerd. I accept that. ๐Ÿ™‚

So now that the apples are sliced and ready, the hardest part of making the filling is over! Drain the apples well and put the whole batch into a frying pan or pot big enough to hold them along with the butter, sugar, and spices.

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Cook them until they are just beginning to soften. You want them to have plenty of crunch left, but they should be partially cooked.

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Once the apples are cooked enough, turn off the heat and take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Make sure you drain as much of the liquid off of them as you can. Put the apples slices into a colander over a bowl (or, in my case, the pasta insert that goes into my stock pot) and set it aside while we deal with the leavings in the pan.

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We’re going to cook this down into what amounts to caramel. Don’t panic; this step is very easy, it just takes some time.ย Turn the burner back on and bring the apple liquid to a fast boil.

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Give this a stir every couple of minutes and continue to cook at a fast boil until the liquid begins to thicken. Check the bowl that the apples are over a couple of times to add any more collected liquid into the pan. Thickening the liquid can take upwards of 8-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

This isย pretty much there:

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At this point you should stay with the pan, stirring continuously. Lower the heat a bit so that you get a steady boil instead of a fast boil. You’re looking for larger bubbles that are a little slower to pop. Keep cooking and stirring until you end up with the consistency of the caramel topping you would put over ice cream.

Now you can turn the heat off (so the caramel doesn’t burn) and add the vanilla and heavy cream…

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Turn the heat back up to medium low and boil the caramel until it’s nice and thick again. You should be able to scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pan and leave a nice clean path:

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Add the apples back into the pan and discard any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl under them. Stir the apples to coat them in the caramel and let the pan sit until the apples are at room temperature. You’ll need to stir them every 4 or 5 minutes to keep the cooling process going. You’ll notice that the apples have quite a bit of liquid in them again and that’s ok. We can fix that:

IMG_20151117_122356142Cornstarch to the rescue! Once the apples are at room temperature, sprinkle them with 3-4 tablespooons of cornstarch. Stir the apples well to mix the cornstarch into the liquid and you’re set! The sauce will be very cloudy, but that will clear up once it’s cooked.

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Do not, I repeat: DO NOT try to add the cornstarch while the apples are hot!! Anyone who has tried to make gravy by adding cornstarch directly to the hot drippings and broth can tell you that doing so will only end in gluey lumps of cornstarch. So do yourself a favor and wait until the apples are cooled to add the cornstarch.

Before the pie is assembled, mix up the egg wash. This is what you’ll brush over the top of the pie to give it that nice, shiny top crust that you find in restaurants. You can mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, but using heavy cream instead will give you a slightly thicker, and much richer wash. Take my advice: use the cream.

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Mix the cream and the egg VERY well; you don’t want streaks of egg white on top of your pie.

Now put your bottom crust in your pie pan and add the apples to it. I like to mound them slightly in the middle; it gives the pie a very classic shape and, since the apples are already cooked, you don’t have to worry about them getting cooked all the way through or the apples shrinking as the pie bakes, leaving a disappointing hollow cavern under the crust.

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Take your top crust and put it over the pie pan, crimping the edges to seal the top and bottom crust together.

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I do a simple roll under and crimp, but if you want to do something fancier, have at it. The pie will be all the more impressive for it!

The next step is to brush on the egg wash. You don’t want it pooling all over the place, but do brush the egg wash on with a fairly heavy hand.

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With a sharp knife, cut some vents into the top. You could cut shapes, but I stick with simple, classic slits. Just make sure you vent the pie somehow, or the top crust won’t survive and the steam won’t be able to escape and you’ll have runny filling.

Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil or put a pie shield on it and into the oven it goes at 400 degrees. My pies usually take a total of 70-80 minutes, but that will vary by oven. After the first 40 minutes, check the pie. It should still be fairly light but beginning to brown. Go ahead and uncover the edges and continue baking it. At the one hour mark check it again. It should be browning well now and you should be getting a little bit of bubbling from the filling. For the pie to be done, it needs to be uniformly browned and the filling needs to boil for at least 10 minutes.

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Isn’t that a beautiful color?! That deep, rich, glossy color comes from the egg wash. The crust would be dull and pale without it- not unlike the pre-egg wash photo above. My crust buckled a bit, though, and I can tell you why: I made the mistake of making the top crust too tight. I know; it sounds funny, but it’s true. I didn’t make sure the middle had enough dough before crimping the outside. I should have laid my crust over the top, run my hands over the mound in the middle, and then crimped the edge. The crust shrank as it baked (naturally), so it separated. It really doesn’t matter though; I’m not entering it into a beauty contest and the taste far outweighs any homeliness the pie may posses!

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This is not a super sweet, gloopy, apple-esqe flavored pie. The sauce to fruit ratio is very nearly perfect and the flavor is absolutely, without a doubt APPLE. At least 95% of the filling you see above is actual, honest to God fruit- not some fruit flavored, sugary gel with a few pieces of apple in it. This is a prime example of everything an apple pie should be. And once you’ve tasted it, you may never want a piece of any other kind of apple pie again. And that’s ok; you know how to make your own now! So go ahead; make this pie and wow your family and friends. I think you’ll find it just as fun as I do ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Recipe:

5 Lbs Apples (Honeycrisp or similar firm fleshed, sweet-tart apple)

6 T Butter (salted is preferred, but unsalted will work too)

1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed

1/4 White Sugar (add extra if the apples are too tart)

1 t Cinnamon

Large Pinch Nutmeg

1/4 C + 1 T Heavy Cream, Divided

1 t Vanilla

3-4 T Cornstarch

1 Egg

2 Ready Made Pie Crusts or Enough dough to make a double crust pie

The Method:

*Fill a very large bowl about halfway with cold water. Add the juice of half a lemon, lime, or orange. OR add 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar.

*Peel, core, and slice the apples to about 1/8 inch, keeping them in the water as much as possible to prevent rusting.

*In a pot or frying pan large enough to hold the apples, melt the butter over medium high heat.

*Add the apples, sugars, and spices and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. The apples should be starting to cook through but still have plenty of crunch.

*Remove the apples with a slotted spoon to a colander or other strainer set over a bowl.

*Bring the liquid from the apples to a fast boil and hold it there, periodically adding any accumulated liquid from the bowl under the strainer.

*Once the liquid begins to thicken, lower the heat until you get a moderate boil; the bubbles should be a bit larger and pop more slowly than before. Hold this boil until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of the caramel sauce that goes over ice cream.

*Shut the burner off at this point and add the vanilla and the 1/4 C of heavy cream.

*Turn the burner back onto medium low and boil the caramel until it is once again thickened as in the last step.

*Take the pan off the heat and stir in the apples.

*Cool the mixture to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours.

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*Sprinkle cornstarch over the filling and mix well to incorporate.

*Whisk the egg and 1 T heavy cream very well and set aside.

*Prepare a 10 inch common depth or 9 inch deep dish pie plate with a bottom crust.

*Pour the filling in and place the top crust over it, making sure to secure it (run your hands over it to smooth it) from the middle outwards before crimping the edges. Make sure the edges are sealed.

*Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the pie. Don’t skimp on this step.

*Cut steam vents into the top crust.

*Wrap the outer edge of the pie plate with foil (make sure it doesn’t rest on the crust) or cover with a pie shield.

*Bake the pie until beginning to brown.

*Remove the foil or shield.

*Bake until uniformly brown and the filling has bubbled for at least 10 minutes. May take 70-80 minutes total bake time.

 

 

 

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! โค

Yes; you read that right: Maple Syrup Dumplings. As in soft, pillowy biscuit-style dumplings in a smooth sauce of maple syrup. Because sometimes it’s SO HARD to get out of bed with all of the not-so-great stuff you may have going on in life and you just need something indulgent and comforting for breakfast. Or because sometimes you get tired of the same old rotation at breakfast time and you need something easy but NEW to get your day started right. I would fall in the camp of the former. Right now things are just not as awesome as they should be. And while things are, in fact, improving, there are days that I have to argue with myself to get out of bed and take care of business. Those are the mornings that I try to make something fun for breakfast that will be a pleasant respite from “stuff” for my family and I. Maple syrup dumplings definitely qualify as fun!

When I was first told about maple syrup dumplings, I had the same reaction I imagine you’re having: “Wow- that has to be so sweet it will make my teeth ache!” But once I actually found a recipe and made it, I found out that it really isn’t as sickeningly sweet as it sounds. See, the sauce is made not only with maple syrup but water as well. So while it’s not something that you should eat all the time, it’s definitely worthy of an occasional spot on your breakfast table!

This dish is super easy to make and I would bet that all you’ll need to buy is the real maple syrup (unless you’re like me and try to keep it on hand). And you HAVE to use real maple syrup. If you can’t get any of the real stuff, make something else. If you try to use the fake maple syrup (the cheap “pancake syrup” you can buy in the plastic bottles in cute shapes) the dish will not turn out. The fake syrup doesn’t take well to cutting with water, at least flavor-wise. And it will be as sweet as you first thought when you heard the name of the dish. Just don’t try it; use the real deal!! Anyway, here’s what you need:

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Once you get your dry ingredients mixed, you’re going to add the butter. The easiest way to do that is to use frozen butter and use a regular old box grater to grate it into the dry ingredients. Then all you have to do is stir and the butter will distribute, like so:

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Set this aside for a minute and mix the maple syrup with the water in a large pan. If you don’t have a saucier like I do, use as big a sauce pan as you have or a soup pot. You could also use a very large skillet so long as you can cover it. One of key parts of this dish is having a tight fitting lid to make sure the dumplings cook through properly.

IMG_20150920_083502885_HDRย Look at that deep amber color! It’s a thing of beauty ๐Ÿ™‚ Turn your burner to medium high and bring the sauce to a boil. Just before it gets to that point, go ahead and add the milk to the flour and butter mixture. You may have to work a bit at getting the dough formed, but it only takes a minute. You should end up with something that resembles biscuit dough…

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By now your sauce should be boiling. Drop the dough by the spoonful into the sauce. I try to get dough balls that are about the size of a golf ball, maybe a tiny bit bigger.

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These will puff up quite a bit, don’t worry! Now put a tight fitting lid on your pan, lower the heat slightly to medium, and set a timer for 10 minutes (but don’t go far; you’ll need to keep an eye on things). You may notice…

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That the sauce is bubbling up over the dumplings A LOT. That’s OK! It will do that for a little while. Eventually, though…

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Things will calm down and the sauce won’t be bubbling as high. That’s when you need to back the heat down a little bit- but keep the pan at least at a fast simmer. When the 10 minutes are up take off the lid and check the dumplings.

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See the dumpling in the lower part of the middle? I used a spoon to open it up a little and make sure it was cooked through. It should look like a biscuit inside with no raw dough. And the sauce… Oh, the sauce!

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So thick and rich! The flour from the dumplings thickens the sauce into a velvety smooth taste of bliss! I usually give one and a half dumplings per serving with a good scoop of sauce over the top. It looks like a rather small serving, but a little goes a long way. If you want to add a little protein to this indulgent breakfast, bacon is a natural accompaniment. But I must say that as much as I love bacon, a mildly spicy breakfast sausage compliments the flavor of this dish perfectly. So go ahead; give yourself (and someone you love) a little treat for breakfast- you deserve it ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:

1 3/4 C Real Maple Syrup

1 1/2 C Water

1 1/2 C Flour

4 1/2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1/4 C Butter, Frozen and Grated

3/4 C Milk

The Method:

*In a large pot or pan/skillet with high sides, combine the maple syrup and the water. Set the burner to medium high.

*In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and the salt. Add the grated butter and stir until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

*Add the milk to the flour & butter mixture and stir until the milk is worked through and there is no more flour in the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be fairly stiff.

*Once the syrup mixture is boiling gently add the dumpling dough by the spoonful, making the dumplings just slightly larger than a golf ball (or about the size of an egg).

*Once all of the dough has been used, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, lower the heat to medium so that the syrup continues boiling gently, and set a timer for 10 minutes.

*Once 10 minutes have passed, take the lid off and check the dumplings. They should be firm and there shouldn’t be any sticky dough left in the center.

*Serve immediately, storing any leftovers in the fridge.

 

 

We are preparing to delve into the world of homeschooling this year. We’ve felt the need to homeschool for years but were never in a position to be able to until now. So we won’t have the hustle and bustle of trying to get out the door in time to meet the bus this year. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be mornings that we need to get in the car and go somewhere earlier and in more of a rush than I’d like- especially since it’s a 40 minute drive from our little village to get anywhere. On those mornings it’s SO nice to have a breakfast that I can put into containers or baggies so we can eat it in the car. And it’s even nicer to know that this “fast food” is homemade instead of processed and super unhealthy. Try to get that out of the little packages of muffins from the store!

Since I like to make these as easy to eat as possible, I tend to make these into mini muffins. They’re easily popable that way and the crumbs are kept to a minimum. They are just as tasty as regular muffins, so use whatever kind of pan strikes your fancy. And speaking of fancy, these make great baby bundt cakes! You can ice them with a simple glaze and presto- you’ve got a pretty little dessert!

One of the great things about these muffins is that they use everyday items that are probably in your pantry and fridge as we speak…

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The second great thing about these tasty little gems is how simple they are. All you have to do is mix your dry ingredients…

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Then mix your wet ingredients well…

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Then all you have to do is mix them together…

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Ta da! Done! Now you just fill the liners and put the pan in the oven…

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It doesn’t get much easier than that! From start to finish these muffins take about 20 minutes (depending on what size you make them). And if you don’t want chocolate chips in them, no problem; use whatever you like. Peanut butter chips (or half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips), toffee chips, mint chocolate chips, dried fruit, your imagination is the only limit! Oh- and if you really want to make these a little decadent, whip up some cream cheese frosting and smear a bit on top of the muffins. That will brighten the dreariest day ๐Ÿ™‚ And you can even make a big batch of these and freeze them for later. Then you can just thaw some on the counter overnight and have a quick breakfast in the morning. Or you can put a frozen muffin in your lunch bag and have a tasty treat at midday.

Autumn is fast approaching (thank goodness!!) and with it comes busier schedules. I hope this simple recipe brings a smile to your hustle & bustle the way it does to mine ๐Ÿ™‚

The Recipe:ย 

1 1/2 C Flour

1/2 C Sugar

2 t Baking Powder

1/2 t Salt

1 Egg

1/4 C Sour Cream (or yogurt; vanilla yogurt adds a nice, subtle flavor)

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Oil

1/2 C Chocolate Chips (I use mini chocolate chips- especially if I’m making mini muffins)

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare your muffin pan by either greasing and flouring each well or lining them with paper cups.

*In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center into which you can pour the wet ingredients.

*In a small bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients.

*Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until well combined. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter.

*Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. A small ice cream/cookie scoop works well for mini muffins.

*Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

*Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Or you can freeze in a zip top bag or well wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil for up to 2 months.

 

My goodness gracious; it’s cold! That’s true for just about everywhere in America right now, but it goes double for the Northern Plains where I’m at. Everywhere I go there’s talk of wishing for summer and lamenting how crazy cold it is. I can understand why they feel that way; not everyone dislikes summer like I do. For those of you who share the summer loving sentiment I have a wonderful recipe that will be like sunshine you can pull out of your oven! And for those of you that share my winter loving tendencies, these Lemonies will be a wonderful treat to indulge in while cuddled up in a blanket watching the season go by out your window ๐Ÿ™‚

These bars are so easy and incredibly basic. In fact, it’s very likely that the only thing you will need to buy is the lemon. Here’s what you’ll need:

IMG_20141219_124748279_HDRWhile your oven is preheating, the first thing you’ll want to do is brush a 13×9 pan liberally with butter. You don’t have to flour the pan if you don’t want to, but you do definitely need to butter it. Once done, put the 2 sticks of butter in a small sauce pan over very low heat. Now zest your lemon. You can easily do that with a regular box grater. The little rasp-like side that is useless for almost everything on your box grater? That’s for zesting citrus! If you don’t have a box grater with a rasp side, use the smallest holes you can on a regular grater (most have 2 sizes these days). If you only have the one “regular” size option on your grater, you can use that and mince the zest with a knife like you would garlic. Whichever you use, make sure you only grate the yellow part and not the bitter white pith beneath. Set the zest aside and cut the lemon in half around the equator (the middle, not end to end) and squeeze the juice out of it over a strainer set over a bowl to catch the seeds. Set the juice aside. Keep an eye on your butter while you’re doing this so that it doesn’t burn. Once it’s melted, take it off the heat and continue with your lemon.

It’s time to start combining everything. First your dry…

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Then your wet ingredients + half of the lemon zest (but not the butter yet), making sure to measure out only enough lemon juice to satisfy the recipe- some of the rest will be for the glaze or frosting you’ll need. I’ll get to that later.

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Once you have that done, pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix it in. The batter will be very stiff and you don’t have to get it completely mixed.

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Once you’re at this stage add the rest of the ingredients (giving them a whisking with a fork first!) and mix thoroughly. Make sure it’s completely mixed and smooth, but don’t try to whip the ingredients like a cake. These are the lemon equivalent of dense, chewy brownies so the batter is going to be very heavy.

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These now go in the oven until the bottom and edges are beginning to brown and the center is set. You should be able to insert a toothpick in the center and have it come out clean when they are done.

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You have 2 choices now: cover these in a delightful lemon glaze or spread on a wonderfully smooth lemon cream cheese frosting. I’ll include the recipe for both below. But you have to cover these with something; they won’t be very good and they will dry out terribly if you don’t. Despite being similar in texture, these are very different from brownies- you can’t just leave them plain.

Alas; I don’t have a money shot for these! They got taken on vacation with us and I never did get a picture. I do apologize for that! You’ll just have to give these amazing bars a try for yourself to see the finished product ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

The Recipe:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 C Sugar (White, granulated)

1/2 t Salt

1 C (2 sticks) Butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 Eggs

1 t Vanilla

2 T Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed- NOT from a bottle

1 t Lemon Zest

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Flouring the pan as well is optional.

*In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and let sit.

*Zest the lemon as fine as possible and set aside.

*Cut the lemon in half short-ways (around the equator) and squeeze well to get as much juice as possible. Set the juice aside.

*In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

*In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients; including 1 teaspoon (or roughly half) of the lemon zest.

*Mix the melted butter into the dry ingredients until mostly combined.

*Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

*Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until set.

*Remove from the oven and cool completely before glazing or frosting.

 

The Lemon Glaze- The Recipe:

1 C Powdered (Icing or Confectioner’s) Sugar

2 T Milk

1 T Lemon Juice

1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)

The Method:

*In a bowl, add the wet ingredients to the powdered sugar and stir until completely smooth.

*Spread over completely cooled bars.

 

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- The Recipe:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb (1 C) Powdered Sugar (or more to suit your taste and texture preferences. More sugar=stiffer frosting)
1 T Lemon Juice (you should have some lemon juice leftover from the bars)
1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)
The Method:
*In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened.
*Add lemon juice & zest and mix well.
*Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well.
*Spread over the top of the completely cooled bars.

As you know, I much prefer to use real food (“whole”, “natural”, etc) ingredients when I cook and bake. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can, but sometimes the classics are based on foods that are not really good for you. Take pecan pie, for example. One of the main ingredients is corn syrup. Granted; it’s not as bad as high fructose corn syrup (which is ultra processed- WAY more than regular corn syrup), but it’s still definitely not a health food. In fact, my mom can’t eat anything with corn syrup in it without getting a bad headache. So for Thanksgiving last year I set out in search of a recipe for pecan pie that doesn’t use corn syrup. I found several that use honey instead. Score! Honey is most definitely a health food, and you can use it in place of corn syrup in many recipes (but there will need to be other adjustments to the recipe too, so don’t just start swapping honey for corn syrup willy nilly). So I played around with combining some of the recipes and this is the result. My mom LOVES it and no one who’s tried it so far dislikes it.

Pecan pie is actually a very simple pie. All you need is some basic ingredients:

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If you’re using salted butter like I am here, you won’t need extra salt. If you use unsalted butter (which is what most recipes call for) you’ll need to add a little salt to the filling.

You’ll notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have a pie crust pictured. You’ll need one, but the method you use to procure one I’ll leave to you. I used a refrigerated just-roll-it-out-in-the-pan crust from the store. By all means; if you want to make your own, please do! I didn’t because I don’t have anyplace to roll out a pie crust. The great thing about making your own pie crust is that you can make the pie any size you want. You can do a full pie or you can use a muffin tin or individual tart pans to make tiny pies. Either way, it’s up to you.

First you’ll need to melt your butter. Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan over very low heat. Once the butter is just melted, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a little while; long enough for the butter to cool slightly.

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In the meantime, line your pie pan with the crust and then put the pecans in the bottom. How much you need will depend on the size of your pie pan. The pan I used is a 9 inch, regular depth pan. I used about a cup of chopped pecans, maybe a tiny bit over that:

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Most recipes call for whole pecans to be laid out nicely in the bottom of the crust. I don’t do that. One reason is that whole pecans are crazy expensive. Stupidly expensive. Another reason is the trouble I have cutting a pie that uses whole pecans. The pecans tend to just squish down and make a mess out of the filling. So I use chopped pecans and they work just fine.

Next, add the brown sugar, honey, vinegar, vanilla, and salt (if you need it) to the butter. Whisk all of that together very well. It will take a little mixing to get everything incorporated into the butter- that’s a lot of butter.

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As you can see, there’s still a tiny bit of butter around the edges that hasn’t been incorporated yet. It’s ok; it will get mixed in once I add the eggs…

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There we go! All mixed together and ready to go over the pecans. Gently pour this mixture over the pecans, scraping the pan with a spatula to get all the goodness into the pie pan. Once you do, you’ll notice something:

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Yep. Bubbles. Little bubbles coming to the surface as the gaps between the pecan pieces are filled. But they’re nothing to worry about. You can try to jiggle the pan a bit to get rid of them, but you don’t need to. The pecans will float to the surface as the pie bakes and the bubbles will dissipate then.

Time to go in the oven! Place this on a foil lined cookie sheet so that if the pie overflows the pan will catch it (which I’ve never had happen, but better safe than scrubbing charred sugar off the bottom of your oven) and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the center is set. It shouldn’t jiggle when you shake the pan gently.

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Ok, so my pie isn’t perfect. The crust on the right side there wasn’t pressed to the side of the pan correctly, so it shrank down a bit. Not a huge deal. The huge deal is that this pie almost burned. I should have taken it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I did. I missed the timer when it sounded. I’m lucky I walked through the kitchen when I did. So keep an eye on the timer and make sure you choose a loud one! Anyway, I managed to save my pie and not have to make another.

One of the problems I’ve noticed with pies that substitute another ingredient for corn syrup is that the filling is runnier than it should be.

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As you can see, that isn’t a problem with this recipe! The center looks a little runny, but really that’s just where I pushed the filling in with a knife to cut the pie (which would have been much worse had I used whole pecans). This recipe really is the best I’ve found for pecan pie- period. The flavor is amazing and not sickeningly sweet like the corn syrup recipes out there. The texture is heavenly! And it’s made using one of nature’s super foods- how much better could it get?!

The Recipe:

1/2 C (1 Stick) Butter

1 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Honey

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

2 t Vanilla

1/4 t Salt (ONLY IF USING UNSALTED BUTTER!)

3 Eggs, lightly beaten

1- 1 1/2 C Pecan Pieces

9 inch unbaked Pie Crust

The Method:

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Prepare pie pan or plate with the unbaked crust.

*Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.

*Once melted, remove from heat and add the next 5 ingredients.

*Whisk well, incorporating the butter into the other ingredients.

*Add the eggs and whisk very well.

*Pour the pecans into the pie crust so that they cover the entire bottom.

*Gently pour the filling over the pecans, scraping the saucepan to get all of the filling you can.

*Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes; until the pie is set in the center.

*Let cool completely before slicing, but chilling is not necessary. If having something that has eggs in it left on the counter and not in the fridge bothers you, you can go ahead & refrigerate it. But I left this pie out for 4 days before finishing the last piece and I didn’t even have a hint of tummy trouble. There’s so much sugar and fat in the filling that spoilage isn’t an issue for quite some time.

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! โค

I have a recipe up my sleeve that I wanted to share this week, but due to technical difficulties I couldn’t get it posted. I hope to have it up next week. In the meantime, I had something exciting happen last week: I was contacted by Endless Simmer to be featured in their Top 10 Gingersnap Recipes list! I consider myself (rightly) a small time food blogger. I’m not one of the big girls or boys who have hundreds or thousands of followers and their own cookbooks in the works. I can’t say it wouldn’t be fun sometimes to be that. But that’s not my goal. I like what I do and I like my blog. I think about the stress and the time taken away from my family to be a big blogger like that and I say, most assuredly, “I’ll pass, thanks.” So I was amazed that someone actually wanted to feature my post along with so many other wonderful posts from fantastic bloggers. Of course I jumped at the opportunity! So here you go; my first guest appearance ๐Ÿ™‚

Top 10 gingersnap Recipe Countdown:

http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2014/10/08/gingersnaps-gone-wild-top-ten-gingersnap-recipes/