Pumpkin Pecan Pie

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Admittedly, I am a relatively recent pumpkin convert. It is only in the last few years that I have been able to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread. I still can’t handle pumpkin spice flavored beverages though.  Pecan pie, on the other hand, was my absolute favorite when I was growing up. I would have gladly suffered through the consequences if my parents had let me eat an entire pie myself.  I don’t recall my grandmother ever making this recipe for pumpkin pecan pie but if she had, maybe I would have embraced pumpkin earlier in life. It is the perfect balance of pumpkin and pecan pie. For those of you who can’t decide between the two flavors, this is your solution!!!

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Grandma gets bonus points for this recipe because it is so amazingly easy. The hardest part was getting it into the oven without spilling the filling. Check out the tips below for help with that.

Tips

  • If you are using pre-made pie crust that is in an aluminum tin, place it on a baking sheet before pouring the filling in and keep it on the baking sheet even while baking it. The tin is flimsy enough that it is easy to spill the filling while transferring it to the oven if you don’t have the support of the baking sheet.
  • If you are using a roll-out pre-made pie crust and placing it in your own glass/metal pie dish, go ahead and put a baking sheet in the oven on the bottom shelf. If you happen to have any filling bubble over the edge of the crust the baking sheet will catch it and save you from a mess in your oven.

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Makes 1 pie

Ingredients:

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup dark corn syrup

2 tablespoons butter (melted)

1 cup chopped pecans

1  9” unbaked pie shell

 

Heat oven to 350°F. If using a roll out pie crust, unroll it and place it in a pie dish. In a bowl, mix all ingredients except pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell. Top with chopped pecans. Bake for about 40 minutes or until done (filling should not be jiggly). Once cooled, serve topped with whipped cream.

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*Original source of this recipe is unknown. Directions are slightly modified from my grandmother’s recipe card.

Roasted Vegetables with Lemon Dressing

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Easy, healthy and delicious. That is what I love about roasted vegetables but let’s get real here, I’m over the boring potatoes or broccoli. I still need easy but I also need variety both for my palette and my sanity. Why not experiment with a variety of vegetables? I really don’t think you can go wrong with roasting any vegetable out there. My latest vegetable obsession is asparagus so I sometimes add extra of it in this dish. Feel free to adjust quantities based on what is a favorite in your household.

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Tips:

  • Watch the pine nuts carefully as you toast them, they burn easily.
  • Depending on how evenly your oven cooks, you might want to rotate the pan half way through the roasting process.

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Roasted Vegetables with Lemon Dressing

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1” pieces (discard stem end pieces)

1 large red bell pepper diced into bite size pieces

1 large zucchini, sliced and quartered (or two small zucchini, sliced and halved)

1 ½ cups matchstick carrots

1 medium shallot, chopped

1 ½ teaspoons garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Salt & ground black pepper

1/3 cup pine nuts

 

Dressing:

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 medium lemon

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place all vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir ingredients until evenly coated with olive oil. Spread vegetable mixture onto prepared cookie sheet. Roast in oven for 35-40 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, place pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat. Stir nuts in pan until they are slightly brown and aromatic then remove from heat.

In a small bowl, mix all dressing ingredients.

When vegetables are finished roasting, put them back in the large bowl. Pour in the dressing and add the pine nuts. Stir until all ingredients are evenly coated in the dressing.

Strawberry Pastry

God bless the person who decided pastries were an ideal breakfast food! Can I get an “AMEN”??? That sweet, carb loaded goodness might not actually be part of a healthy, balanced diet but it certainly does give me motivation to actually eat breakfast. My eyes don’t exactly light up the same way when presented with a bowl of plain oatmeal.

Homemade pastry is particularly delicious but it is also time consuming. I don’t have a lot of spare time these days so I fully embrace the pre-made puff pastry sheets found in my local grocer’s freezer section. Slice it, shape it, fill it and you’ll have beautiful little delights that fit in the palm of your hand. Whether you want to share these treats with friends is totally optional – I’ll admit I ate most of these myself.

 

Tips:

  • Be sure to pull the pastry sheets out of the freezer ahead of time. It takes about 30-40 minutes to thaw out.
  • The strawberry mixture will end up with some juice in the bowl. Try to avoid scooping the juice onto your pastries as it will leak out and get a bit messy.

 

Strawberry Pastry

Ingredients:

16oz strawberries, sliced

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 tablespoon orange zest

17.3oz package puff pastry sheets, thawed

Glaze:

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine strawberry slices, orange zest, sugar and corn starch.

Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 squares. For each square, gently fold diagonally in half to form a triangle. With a sharp knife, slice dough ¼ inch from each edge – slices should not quite meet at the corner. Unfold triangle, you will have two L shapes framing an inner square. Fold the corner of one L over to the opposite corner of the square. Do the same with the other L. Dough will now have a diamond shape. Fill inside of diamond with strawberry mixture. Repeat folding and filling process for each square of dough.

Place each filled pastry on lined cookie sheet. Back for 15 minutes or until pastry begins to turn light golden brown. Let cool completely.

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For the glaze, whisk orange juice and powdered sugar with a fork. Gradually add milk until glaze has reached desired consistency. Drizzle glaze over pastries.

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Fruit Bruschetta

I love hitting up my local farmer’s market for seasonal produce and I love hosting friends at my house for tasty eats. The best is when these two loves come together with an easy recipe that is dressed to impress. When hitting up the farmer’s market, I often browse for what looks enticing and create a dish from the ingredients found rather than coming in with specific ingredients to find. This has resulted in me being more creative in the kitchen but has also expanded my palette. When you find a golden baguette and perfectly ripe berries you can’t walk away empty handed. For this recipe, I ultimately combined fresh finds with what I already had in my kitchen – goat cheese, mint, plums and honey. Listen, I like fresh but I also hate to waste so I’m all about using what is already on hand too.

This fruit bruschetta is light and flavorful but it is also so easy to make. It is ideal for entertaining and could be used as an appetizer, a dessert or even a snack.

 

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Tips:

  • This recipe highlights using seasonal fruit. If you can’t find plums, substitute them for blueberries, pomegranate seeds, or whatever seasonal berry you can find.
  • Watch the bread slices closely in the oven, it is all too easy to accidently burn them. The goal is for the bread slices to be lightly toasted on each side.

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Fruit Bruschetta

Ingredients:

Ciabatta baguette

8oz goat cheese (softened)

1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

1 cup raspberries, washed

1 cup blackberries, washed

1 cup plums, washed and sliced

Honey for drizzling

 

Directions:

Set your oven to Broil.

Slice baguette diagonally into ½” thick slices. Lay out the slices of bread on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, flip each slice of bread over and place back in oven for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Remove cookie sheet from oven and let bread slices cool completely.

In a bowl, combine goat cheese and chopped mint leaves. Spread goat cheese onto bread slices (be generous, it’s delicious!). Top with fruit as desired then drizzle with honey.

 

 

Lemon Roasted Broccoli

When I was pregnant I couldn’t get enough broccoli. I would eat it any way I could get it – raw, steamed, roasted, mixed into another dish. Of course, the rest of my cravings weren’t quite as healthy so I tried to embrace this one as much as often as possible. As I was reaching the end of the third trimester I just couldn’t stay on my feet long enough to make a full dinner so I started coming up with easier, faster recipes to satisfy the cravings. I suppose it could have been the crazy hormones that guided me to experiment with different flavors. However, I still find myself enjoying this broccoli recipe post-pregnancy.

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Tips:

  • I saved myself the time it takes to cut the broccoli by using a 12oz bag of broccoli florets. According to the nutrition information on the back of the bag, it is already 4 cups.
  • The red pepper flakes add a pretty mild kick of flavor but if you aren’t a fan of heat at any level just leave that ingredient out.

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Serves 4

 

Ingredients:

4 cups broccoli florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 lemon

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread broccoli florets out on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over broccoli. Sprinkle red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper over broccoli. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice from each half over broccoli. Stir broccoli to get a relatively even coating of ingredients. Roast in oven for 18 minutes or until edges of broccoli are slightly crispy. Serve warm.

 

Stir-n-Drop Sugar Cookies

IMG_4223I used to spend hours baking and decorating cut out sugar cookies. It was like therapy for me, a way to tune out the rest of the world for a while. I still enjoy making sugar cookies but I just don’t have time for the detailed work that goes into decorating those cut out cookies. As I was sifting through my grandmother’s recipe box I came across this great recipe. As with most of her recipes, the original source is unknown. However, the internet is a great tool and I did find the modernized version of this recipe on the Betty Crocker website. Following the recipe directly left me with slightly burned cookies so I altered the baking time a bit and the second batch turned out slightly soft – just the way I like them! The original recipe also makes some pretty small cookies so I also changed the amount of dough used for each serving.

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Tips

  • If you aren’t a fan of lemon flavor, feel free to leave the zest out or swap it for another citrus flavor (lime, orange or maybe even grapefruit).
  • It is really easy to customize these cookies for holidays by changing up the color of your decorative sugar.

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Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oilBetty Crocker

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lemon

¾ cup sugar

2 cups all purpous flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Additional colored sugars for decorating

Heat oven to 400*F. In a large bowl, beat eggs with oil, vanilla, zest and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Drop dough by the tablespoon full onto parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Grease the bottom of a glass with butter or cooking spray. Dip glass into colored sugar then gently press on ball of dough until dough is ¼-inch thick. Repeat on each ball of dough. Bake 6 minutes or until edges of cookies start to turn golden brown. Transfer cookies from cookie sheet to cooling rack and let cool completely before eating.

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Green Salad with Grilled Chicken

I can recall learning about food groups and nutrition back in first grade. At some point my teacher started asking students what their favorite food was and then asking what food group(s) that might fall into. Naturally, most kids were choosing dishes like pizza, ice cream or tacos. Not me. Nope, this little odd ball proudly responded with “Salad!” Seriously?!?!? What kind of six-year-old declare salad as a favorite food? It was true though and to this day I’d be happy to sit down to a really great salad over most other dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still like to chase those veggies down with some kind of dessert but an awesome salad is hard for me to resist.

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With this lifelong love of salad you might think that I would eat them on the regular but I don’t. Inevitably, I’m too lazy to chop the vegetables or the produce I bought went bad before I found the motivation to pull out the knife and cutting board. This week I was determined not to use up what I already had in the fridge and then added one or two items that were on sale at the grocery store. Healthy eating and cheap??? YES!!! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Tips:

  • Grill the chicken ahead of time, it tastes great cold on this salad. You could also sub out the chicken for shrimp, salmon or even steak if you’re trying to use up some leftovers.
  • If you don’t have a jar on hand for the dressing, mix the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.

 

P1000505Green Salad with Grilled Chicken

Serves 3

Salad Ingredients:

5oz bag baby spinach

5oz bag baby arugula

1 cup cucumber, diced

½ cup radish slices

1 cup broccoli florets

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

¼ cup shredded parmesean cheese

¼ cup sunflower seeds

2 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced or chopped

 

For the dressing:

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

 

Directions:

Add all salad ingredients into a large bowl, toss to combine. In a mason jar, add all dressing ingredients, cover jar with lid and shake to blend well. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss so salad is evenly coated.

 

 

Garlic Feta Green Beans

P1000341We all know vegetables taste better with cheese. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is some kind of culinary law. This dish is incredibly simple to make but looks like you put a lot of effort into it and tastes delicious. Ahhh, the power of feta!!! Seriously though, it is the perfect combination for entertaining. When having guests over for dinner, the last thing you want to do is spend all evening in the kitchen while everyone else is socializing. Keep the dinner simple by including this as your side dish. I have even paired these beans with a pre-roasted chicken from the store on a busy weeknight.

Tips

  • I happen to like my beans with a slight crunch to them. If you prefer softer beans, just add 5 extra minutes to the initial roasting time.
  • To reduce prep time on this recipe, buy bagged beans that are already stemmed and washed.

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Garlic Feta Green Beans

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1lb fresh green beans

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup sliced almonds

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Rinse and snap stems off of green beans. Place beans in a large bowl. Add olive oil, garlic and salt. Toss until beans are evenly coated. Spread beans out on the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.

Remove baking sheet of beans from oven and sprinkle feta and almonds over beans. Stir for even distribution of ingredients. Return to oven and roast an additional 5 minutes.

 

Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

I learned two things while creating this recipe. First, this dough was NOT meant to be biscotti. Second, it doesn’t matter because apparently, my family doesn’t care for biscotti anyway. When I tried making this dough into biscotti it was a huge fail. The edges were burning and the center was puffing up. However, one bite into the middle puffy area and I knew I needed to find a way to use this dough for something else.

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Take two and I discovered success in cookies! I have served a lot of different cookies to family, friends and co-workers over the years. I have never received more complements than I have with these cookies. The rustic appearance gives the impression that these might be a crispy cookie but they are actually quite soft inside. The bonus is that they still taste great dipped in coffee so feel free to indulge for breakfast.

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Tips:

  • This dough is thick. Be sure to use a stand mixer so you don’t burn out your electric hand mixer.
  • If you need to approach this recipe in steps, combine your dry ingredients and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

 

Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons butter (room temperature)

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup macadamia nut pieces

1 cup white chocolate chips

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat brown sugar with granulated sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients 1 cup at a time. Stir in macadamia nuts and chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoon-sized mounds of cookie dough and place on the parchment paper. Leave 2-inches between the cookies. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and transfer the cookies from the parchment to cooling racks.

 

 

 

Farm-Style Biscuits

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I love bread. I mean, I REALLY love bread! Bring me your bagels, your loafs and your rolls! Homemade bread of any sort? Forget about it, I’m done. All of this being said, baking with yeast is always a challenge for me. That is the beautiful thing about this biscuit recipe, NO YEAST! No waiting on dough to rise (my house is always too cold to get a good rise).

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I pulled this recipe from my grandmother’s recipe box. I have no idea where it was originally printed but it is definitely a keeper. These biscuits are easy to make and taste great. The recipe also makes a manageable number of biscuits, I got nine out of it which is perfect for my small household.

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One of my favorite things about biscuits is how diverse they are. Top them with butter and honey like I did here or add your favorite jam for a snack. You could smother them in sausage gravy with a side of eggs for a hearty breakfast. Put them on the dinner table to soak up the au jus sauce from your favorite pot roast recipe. The options are nearly unlimited. The added bonus on this particular recipe is that it gives a couple of recommendations. First, it gives instructions for reheating the biscuits. Second, the recipe notes you can use this dough for topping meat pies, casseroles or cobblers.

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Tips

  • If you don’t have a pastry cutter, use your hands to blend the shortening into the dry ingredients.
  • You can use a glass or cookie cutter (basic shapes of circle or square) to cut out these biscuits.

Farm-style Biscuits

2 cups unsifted flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup solid shortening

2/3 cup milk

1 extra large egg, slightly beaten

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add milk and egg all at once. Stir quickly until dough leaves sides of bowl. Turn out dough on lightly floured board. With greased hands pat out dough with biscuit cutter. Place biscuits about one inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in oven preheated to 450 degrees about 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 10-12 biscuits.