Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pumpcan Pie

Do you have everything ready to go and planned out for tomorrow? I'm in charge of dessert for our dinner, unfortunately the hubby has to work tomorrow night but the girls and I will be joining my family at my brother's house. I've been trying to decide what kind of pie to make and you know me, I always like to come up with new creations.

Pumpkin and pecan seem to be pretty traditional pies gracing the Thanksgiving day tables. I wasn't sure if this would work but I decided to combine the two into one pie. I baked it while the kiddos napped today and had the hubby give it a try, he said it was better than my regular pumpkin pie.  Yay!

I have say this is genius, it really is. The fillings meld together while baking and you really do get the texture of pumpkin and pecan pie all in one. All with a crunchy pecan layer on top. It's absolutely delicious! Again I used eggnog in my pumpkin filling, just because I really love the extra creaminess and flavor from it. If you don't have that on hand or rather skip it, try heavy cream or evaporated milk.

I know it's getting late in the game, but if you're seriously still searching for a dessert; give this pie a try! It's sure to become a new favorite.

Pumpcan Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

Pumpkin filling:
1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup eggnog
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt

Pecan filling:
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups pecan halves

Roll pie crust out onto floured surface, place into 9-inch pie plate.  Trim edges and crimp pie crust. Set pie plate aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To make pumpkin filling: In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix together well. Set aside.

To make pecan filling: In a large bowl combine all ingredients except pecans, whisk until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Pour pumpkin filling into prepared pie crust. Sprinkle pecan halves over pumpkin filling, in a single layer. Then pour pecan filling over the pecans. If you have any pecans floating to the top, press them back down using your fingers,

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Then decrease temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes. Filling will be set and slightly puffed, a knife inserted in middle should come out clean.  Let cool until room temperature before serving.

Inspired by: Baking: From My Home to Yours

In other fun news, we picked up our first beef purchase today! This is something I've wanted to do for a long, long time and just finally did some research on local farms in our area and was able to locate one. The particular farm we chose is fairly close to home, about 35 miles or so. The family operates a certified organic farm, which means the beef we purchased is treated humanly, not given antibiotics or hormones. They're pasture raised and grass fed. All important qualities I'm looking for in my meat. To be honest, last night was the first night I had probably ever tasted grass fed beef and it was crazy how good the hamburger tasted, plain even. It had so much more flavor than what I typically buy from our grocery store and I hadn't even added seasonings at that point.

So anyways, I'm really excited to have our freezer stocked with meat for awhile. We'll be purchasing pork later in the winter when it's available and I've already got a good amount of poultry from our CSA farmer. It feels good to be able to provide my family with nourishing meat and support local farmers at the same time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Randomness

What an incredibly busy weekend we had, I only wish I could have one more day just to focus on all the cleaning I didn't get done. Do you ever feel like that?

Much of our weekend was spent visiting with family from out of town. Yesterday the girls and I spent a few hours at my parents, my cousin's family came into town and we had a great time visiting with them. The kids all played together so well, love it when that happens!

My mom made her amazing homemade chicken and noodles for lunch. This is definitely her specialty and everyone always loves it. I was lucky enough to get leftovers sent home and enjoyed a bowl for lunch today.

We also had an early Thanksgiving with my husband's side of the family yesterday. His grandparents came up from Missouri for the weekend. I spent much of my Saturday afternoon in the kitchen preparing dessert for our dinner.

I've been wanting to try Ally's apple pie bars ever since I seen her post her family's recipe. They remind me of my own grandma's apple bars, unfortunately I don't have her exact recipe so I was happy to give Ally's a try. I took them to Thanksgiving dinner, along with my favorite pumpkin pie. We all loved these bars, in fact my mom has asked me to make a pan for our Thanksgiving this week!

Well I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well. Here's to a nice, short work week! I'm looking forward to at least one day of sleeping past 6:00 a.m!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Every so often I'll get emails from friends and family members sharing recipes they love, whether it's something new they tried or an old family favorite. This happened to have come from my own dad. I'm not sure exactly where it came from, but I imagine it's a new one the girls in his office were passing around.

I kept spacing it off until this past weekend. Remember that box of apples I still have sitting in my garage? Yeah it's still there and pretty full. I think Saturday is going to be devoted to making pies for the freezer. I did at least put a couple of them to use in this amazing dessert.

I'm not usually a big fan of cheesecake, unless it's made the way mom makes it. With a little bit of cream cheese and whipped cream folded into the mixture. It's light, airy and fluffy; just the way I like it. But these I like, I love the depth of layers. The shortbread crust, cheesecake layer with apples on top and the crumbly topping. Oh and the caramel sauce on top is divine!

These would be perfect to take with you to Thanksgiving next week. Double the recipe to make a large 9x13-inch pan, plenty for everyone to enjoy. You won't be sorry.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars


For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter, cubed

For the cheesecake layer:
12 oz. (1-1/2 pkg) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

For the apples:
2 apples- peeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

For the crumble layer:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 stick of butter, cubed

For caramel drizzle:
12 caramels, unwrapped
splash of milk


In a bowl combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in one stick of cubed butter with a pastry blender, until crumbly. Press evenly into an 8x8-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

In another bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla together until smooth. Pour over the warm crust.

Combine diced apples with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, sprinkle evenly over cream cheese mixture.

For the crumble topping, combine brown sugar, flour and quick-cooking oats in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over apple and cheesecake mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes until filling is set.  Before serving, make caramel drizzle. Add unwrapped caramels and milk to a double boiler, cook until caramels have melted and are smooth. Drizzle warm caramel sauce over cheesecake bars.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Crock Pot Pizza Dip

We enjoyed a really nice weekend celebrating our oldest daughter's 14th birthday. I mentioned on Friday that I had a busy day ahead preparing for her sleepover that night.

This was her cake I made, she requested a chocolate chip cookie cake decorated like a pizza. It was a lot of fun to make and a huge hit with the kids!

Keeping up with our pizza theme, she wanted "bagel bites". If you know me well enough, I nicely told her I would not purchase the store bought version but I was more than happy to make them homemade. We topped mini bagels with pizza sauce and a variety of toppings such as: sausage, ham and cheese. These went over very well and were so easy, even my 6 and 3-year-old helped.

I also wanted to try out a new dip I've had on my mind for awhile. They were more than willing to be my taste testers along with my parents who stopped over. Essentially I wanted to combine my love for pizza into an appetizer, a simple dip that I could toss into a crock pot and go on with my evening.

Good is an understatement, this dip is really amazing! Slathered on little garlic toasts, these are certainly addicting little appetizers. Or in my case, maybe even a meal. I stuck with a combination of hamburger and mild pork sausage for my choice of meat; but I'm sure maybe some tiny or chopped pepperonis would be great. Add in mushrooms if that's your thing.  I'm thinking this new dip will be perfect for some holiday parties coming up!

Crock Pot Pizza Dip

1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. mild pork sausage
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Garlic toasts:
sliced french baguette
melted butter or olive oil, for brushing on
garlic clove, for rubbing

In a large skillet brown hamburger and sausage until cooked through and no longer pink. Drain and dump into crock pot. Add in crushed tomatoes, diced pepper, garlic clove, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste and Parmesan cheese. Stir together well. Cover and let cook on low for 2 hours or just until warmed through.

To make garlic toasts, lay french baguette slices on a large cookie sheet. Brush each slice with either melted butter or olive oil. Bake at 350 for 5-6 minutes, just until a little crunchy. Remove from oven and immediately rub each toast with a peeled, whole garlic clove.

Serve dip with warm garlic toasts.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Whole Wheat Mini Pumpkin Muffins

I've got quite the busy day ahead. Our oldest daughter is turning 14 on Sunday and she's having a few friends over tonight to celebrate. She's requested sort of a pizza theme tonight. I'm working on a chocolate chip cookie cake designed to look like a pizza, we'll be making homemade bagel pizza bites, breadsticks, salad and I'm excited to try out a new crock pot pizza dip. Stay tuned for pics, I'm sure on Monday I'll have a post devoted to her fun party!

For now though I have these delicious, yet healthy muffins to share with you. We experimented in the kitchen a bit yesterday, I had some pumpkin puree in my freezer I wanted to use up. My little ones love muffins for breakfast and even for snacks. I'll even send them in lunches occasionally.

These are made with whole wheat flour and naturally sweetened with honey and a tad bit of pure maple syrup. Of course I can feel good about serving these, they are nourishing to their little bodies and they don't even know it. They think they're getting a treat.

Whole Wheat Mini Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup pumpkin puree (canned is just fine too)
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
5 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

In a medium bowl combine pumpkin, honey, maple syrup, melted butter and eggs. Whisk well to combine. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients. Gradually whisk into wet ingredients. Stir just until combined.

Prepare mini muffin pans, lining with paper liners or lightly greasing. Scoop batter into each well of the muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool for a couple minutes before removing from pan.

Makes 40 mini muffins. Store extras in an airtight container or in freezer.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Homemade Granola

I love having granola for breakfast, especially when it's homemade. Last Saturday during our Iowa Blogger Meet-up I included a small bag for each blogger to enjoy. It's something good to snack on during the day but especially delicious over yogurt for breakfast. Our oldest actually likes granola as her choice of cereal, and I have to admit I like that. It's got to be better than any other packaged cereal on the market.

My kids like this so much that I had to make another batch just for them last Friday night. Three batches in one night, my house was smelling quite magnificent!

You'll love this versatile recipe as you can substitute in your own personal favorite nuts and dried fruit. There are so many different combinations you can come up with. It takes little time to actually mix up and no need for the candles and Scentsy. You'll have everyone in the house hungry and waiting for fresh baked granola!

Homemade Granola

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup raw coconut flakes (I found these in the baking section)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground mace
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

In a large bowl combine oats, coconut flakes, almonds and pecans. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in honey, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, mace and salt. Pour over oat mixture and mix well to combine.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread granola mixture evenly onto baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Once mixture is golden brown, remove from oven and let cool.

Once granola is cooled completely, dump back into large bowl. Add in dried fruit and toss together. Store in an airtight container, will stay fresh for up to two weeks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Iowa Blogger Meet-Up

What a busy, fun weekend it was! For the past few months I've been working a little bit with Ally from Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats to plan this little meet-up we held on Saturday. Ally's goal was to gather as many Iowa food and lifestyle bloggers we could in one location and have a fun day together. Well she sure accomplished her goal, we had 17 bloggers in attendance, with many more that couldn't join us that day and we sure had a blast.

New Pioneer Food Co-Op graciously opened their doors to us and let us spend our morning in their store. They even moved part of their bakery production so that we would have a small room to ourselves. 

We filled the tables with swag bags in addition to what New Pi gifted us with. Each bag had two beautiful holiday issues from Taste of Home magazine, a coupon for a free bag of King Arthur flour, fresh baked cookies from Ally, homemade granola from myself (recipe this week!) and amazing popcorn from my new favorite store in town, Here's Whats Poppin'.  Plus a few other goodies. 

We enjoyed a detailed tour of the co-op, look at those gorgeous veggies! I learned so much, they really do work hard to bring the very best to their customers and they can take pride in selling products from local farms.

They had an awesome deli which we were able to enjoy for lunch. I grabbed a garlic chicken and bacon wrap, it was delish!

We also were given many samples as we made our rounds on the tour. I really liked the kale salad and this quinoa salad above. 

After we finished up lunch, we made our way to the downtown area of Iowa City. Molly's Cupcakes also opened their doors to us and gave us a great discount on one of their cupcakes. I was still stuffed from lunch so I took mine to go, I choose their peach cobbler cupcake which in fact won on Cupcake Wars! By the time I got it home, it wasn't looking so pretty so unfortunately I don't have a pic for you. I will say, it was amazing! As another cake and cupcake baker, it was seriously good. I only wish I would have grabbed another one.

We sat at Molly's for awhile enjoying conversation with one another. We also walked around to nearby shops to browse.

Later we made our way over to The Brown Bottle for an early dinner and to finish off our day. 

I honestly didn't think I could fit anymore food in my stomach so I went light for dinner and had their bruschetta. It was so good!

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had a great day together! I made some great new friends and can't wait until we do it again next year!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Caramel Apple Braid

 What a busy week it's been, we've had something going on every single night and this mom failed to have much of a meal plan for the week. Does that ever happen to you? Thankfully we managed, I made very simple meals but we got through it. Sunday I need to sit down and actually plan out for my week.

Well tomorrow morning I am off bright and early to the Iowa City area for an Iowa Food and Lifestyle blogger meet-up. I've been looking forward to this for months now, I can not remember the last time I really got to go away for an entire day by myself. This will seriously feel like a vacation and a much needed one at that. I'll be sure to have an update for you come Monday with lots of pictures included!

Thursday evening I did manage to squeeze in a little baking, something I've been planning to make for a few weeks now. I haven't made this bread in a long time! It was actually something I seen at my very first Taste of Home cooking school I attended. I modified it a little bit and used to make it quite often during the fall season.

You'll love how simple this dessert really is, I even used frozen bread dough as the base. Not something I really do anymore but sometimes it's nice to go the convenient route. You can surely substitute with a basic bread dough recipe. This bread is filled a delicious caramel, cinnamon apple mixture you're bound to love. I even top it with a bit of homemade buttercream frosting to make it even more decadent. I think you'll instantly think of a cinnamon roll when you bite into it. In fact it would be a perfect addition to your next brunch. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Braid

2 loaves frozen bread dough, thawed (I used the Rhode's brand)
2 large apples, peeled and diced
12 caramels, cut into fourths
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flour

6 tbsp butter
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
splash of vanilla
1-2 tbsp of milk to thin, if needed

In a bowl, combine diced apples, caramels, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix well to combine. 

On a lightly greased cookie sheet, roll dough out into a long rectangle. Spread half of apple mixture down the middle. Fold long sides of dough over filling and pinch tightly to seal. Seal the ends by pinching and tuck under. Set finished dough aside and repeat with remaining loaf.

Place both prepared loaves onto cookie sheet, seam side down. Carefully twist the loaves together. Pinch ends to seal. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. Let bread cool while you make the frosting.

In a medium bowl cream butter and vanilla together. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Add a splash of milk if needed to thin icing. When bread is slightly cooled, but still warm spread frosting over top. Slice when ready to serve.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Overnight Oatmeal Waffles

I feel like I've been slacking in our breakfast area lately, getting kids up and off to school in the morning plus taking care of three others, including a baby is work I tell ya. In my perfect world I would have my freezer stocked with all kinds of made ahead waffles, pancakes, muffins, breakfast burritos and the like but sometimes toast and eggs or a bowl of cereal it is. The kids sure don't seem to mind though.

Before bed last night I did get started on these waffles. I still had a few ingredients to add and mixing up to do this morning, but just having a plan and a head start helped me out tremendously. They were pretty delicious too, and nutritious as they contain mostly whole grain oats rather than the typical all purpose flour.

By soaking your oats overnight it really does help to soften them, I used old fashioned/rolled oats but I think maybe next time I might try the quick-cooking variety. Or maybe just pulse them through the blender or food processor for a quick minute. The kiddos ate them pretty well but I think they were a little thrown off by the oat texture. Other than that they were really good and a nice change of pace from your typical waffle recipe.

Overnight Oatmeal Waffles

2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups whole milk
2 eggs
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a bowl combine oats with milk, cover and store in fridge overnight. In the morning, add eggs and melted butter to the oat mixture. In another combine all dry ingredients and then gradually mix into wet ingredients.

Cook batter in a waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.  Makes 10 waffles

Adapted from: One Lovely Life

Friday, November 1, 2013

Decadent Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

If I have one weakness when it comes to chocolate and candy, it would be peanut butter M&Ms. They've always been one of my favorites and it's hard to stop at a few. I actually bought a bag a few weeks ago having some sort of cookie in mind. I had a little bit of extra time yesterday to bake so I figured what the hey, it's Halloween after all.

I've been sort of a stickler when it comes to candy lately with my own girls. All of the treats that come with the holiday have been driving me crazy, it seems like everyday they're getting something else. But I also know the majority of their meals are made up of healthy choices so it's not going to kill us if we indulge a little bit. And I love baking....and sharing with others, so that's what we did. We baked up a batch of these amazing cookies and shared them with friends and family yesterday.

I combined a few of my favorite flavors in this particular cookie. We've got those peanut butter M&Ms I love, then a nice salty pretzel and one of my new faves, cookie butter! Yes there is cookie butter in here as well. All baked into a soft cookie. These are so good, they just might even be a contender for my cookie exchange in December. They're really that good!

Decadent Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cookie butter
2 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1/2 cup broken pretzel pieces
11 oz. bag peanut butter M&Ms -coarsely chopped

In a stand mixer cream together butter, both sugars and cookie butter until light and fluffy. Add in eggs and vanilla, mix until combined. Mix in baking soda, powder and salt; then gradually add in flour. Once all combined, fold in pretzel pieces and M&Ms with a spatula.

Using a cookie scoop, drop onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Again, this depends on your oven, you want them to be just set and lightly browned. Remove from oven, let cool on sheets for a few minutes before removing to wire racks.

Makes 3 dozen cookies
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