Pumpkin Pie

I love Fall because it gives me the excuse to eat pumpkin everything. There’s pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice Ghirardelli chocolates, and – the greatest of all – pumpkin pie.

This year I was ambitious with my pumpkin pie because I made it from a fresh pumpkin. Normally I use canned pumpkin, but a trip to a pumpkin farm earlier this Fall inspired me. I was surprised at how easy it was! It’s a little more time consuming than simply opening a can, but it was well worth the extra effort. Not only did I get delicious pumpkin meat for my pie, but I also roasted the pumpkin seeds. Needless to say, there was no leftover pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving!

I admit, I usually use a lot more whipped cream than this but it didn't make for a pretty picture. Yum!

I admit, I usually use a lot more whipped cream than this but it didn’t make for a pretty picture. Yum!

What you’ll need:
1 small fresh sweet sugar pie pumpkin OR 1 can pumpkin
2 eggs slightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional).
1 unbaked pie shell

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and lay out your pie shell. I like to press the chopped pecans into the crust!

I love the surprise nuttiness of the pecans!

I love the surprise crunchiness of the pecans!

If you use fresh pumpkin, start by carving out all the pumpkin meat. I cut my pumpkin into small strips and then cut off the outer shell. I then cut the pumpkin meat into cubes and put it in a large pot of water with a steaming basket. Put about a cup of water in a large pot on your stove with the pumpkin meat in the steaming basket and turn the heat on high. Cover and steam your pumpkin for about 15 minutes or until tender.

Steaming the pumpkin is better than boiling because it helps the pumpkin retain its flavor.

Steaming the pumpkin is better than boiling because it helps the pumpkin retain its flavor.

When your pumpkin is tender, put it in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of the pumpkin puree for the pie. Freeze the rest for another recipe later.

Freezing the leftovers is great for future pumpkin bread or muffins!

Freezing the leftovers is great for future pumpkin bread or muffins!

Mix all ingredients together and pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. If you use fresh pumpkin, bake for an additional hour. If you use canned pumpkin, bake for 45 minutes.

Be careful of spilling, the pie batter is very thin when you put it in the oven.

Be careful of spilling, the pie batter is very thin when you put it in the oven.

Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Delicious. I almost can't wait for it to cool before I have a slice.

Delicious. I almost can’t wait for it to cool before I have a slice.

Enjoy!

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Aunt Gwen’s Pecan Pie

There are a few perks to growing up in a great big Southern family. Growing up, I learned Southern hospitality, manners, traditions, and – most importantly – I was spoiled with Southern food. I’ve traveled to the South to visit extended family a few times. One of my fondest memories was traveling to Granbury, Texas to visit my great-aunt and -uncle who lived on a pecan plantation. I was very young at the time, but I enjoyed touring the plantation with my Uncle Frank on his golf cart with his dog, Buffy – he even let me drive a little! My Aunt Gwen spoiled us in the mornings with pecan-crusted sticky buns and family stories.

Years later when I needed pie recipes, I knew exactly who to ask. You can’t beat getting a pecan pie recipe from a Southern woman who lived on a pecan plantation! I’ve made Aunt Gwen’s pecan pie recipe for many years, and it’s definitely a favorite in my house. And it’s so easy to make!

I love making this pie for many special occasions. It's a real crowd-pleaser, and it's so easy!

I love making this pie for many special occasions. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, and it’s so easy!

What you’ll need:
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour (rounded)
3/4 cup dark Karo
1/4 cup light Karo
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup pecans
1 tsp vanilla
1 unbaked pie shell

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and then lay out your pie shell.

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into the pie shell.

Perfectly delicious.

Perfectly delicious.

Bake for 1 hour.

Enjoy!

**Tip: To make this pie sugar-free, just replace one cup of sugar-free syrup instead of the light and dark Karo.

Hawaiian Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Hawaii may seem far away, but this dessert is just an hour from your table. This pineapple cake is the perfect summer dessert, transporting you from wherever you are to the beautiful beaches of the North Shore. It’s special because the cake itself is a little denser, but with every bite you take you get the crunch of walnuts and the chewiness of pineapple chunks. Those little nuggets of pineapple pop with flavor in your mouth, and the cream cheese frosting balances their sweetness.

You can see the chunks of pineapple and walnuts while the cream cheese frosting oozes over the cake. Delicious.

What you’ll need:

  • For the cake:
    • 2 cups minus 4 tablespoons flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple in light syrup
    • 2 cups sugar (I used Splenda)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • For the frosting:
    • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese at room temperature (use full-fat)
    • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature (no margarine, real butter)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, and salt.

**Tip: If you have a sifter, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. I don’t have a sifter, so I used a whisk instead. The sifter works better, but your cake will still taste great even if you don’t have one.

Mix in the pineapple (syrup included), sugar, vanilla, eggs with an electric mixer. This won’t be perfectly smooth because of the pineapple, but you want to make sure it’s well combined. Add the walnuts.

Pour the batter into a greased 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

There’s the batter in the pan, ready to go in the oven.

While the cake is baking, blend the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. It’s really important to use an electric mixer here, I’ve found that good ol’ elbow grease just doesn’t work for frosting (I learned this after many, many failed attempt at making frosting by hand). Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the walnuts.

See the consistency of the frosting? Perfect! But remember it will melt a little on the hot cake.

Remove the cake from the oven. Use the toothpick test to check if it’s done. Or, instead of using a toothpick, use a fork. Once the cake is done, poke the cake all over with a fork (you want to make holes for the frosting to seep into!).

Here’s the done cake. You can see that it hasn’t risen too much, which is normal. You can also see all those holes I’ve poked with a fork.

Frost immediately and serve.

The full cake has been frosted, and you can smell the pineapple, cream cheese, and butter. It makes me salivate just looking at it!

**I must give credit where credit is due. This recipe was derived from a recipe book my dad gave me, called Treasures of Love: Secret Recipes and Gifts from the Heart. It’s a delicious collection of recipes by the Safari Sisters, who compiled this book to benefit children in Africa.

Bunny Butt Cake

Too cute for Easter!

I don’t make special cakes very often. As a matter of fact, I don’t even bake very often. But when I saw this Bunny Butt Cake idea, it was too cute to pass up this Easter. And it’s amazing how easy it was to do! I cheated by using cake mix and a can of frosting so I could let the cuteness do all the talking. Needless to say, it was a smash hit.

Basically, the Bunny Butt Cake is a round cake baked in a bowl, three cupcakes (two feet, one tail), a jumbo marshmallow cut in half to make the heels of the feet, taffy to make the pads of the feet, and coconut to make the fur and grass. Not too crazy, right? Here’s the step-by-step.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 box of cake mix (I used vanilla, but thought carrot or strawberry would be fun)
  • 1 can of frosting (white frosting is best so you can dye it pink, I used vanilla)
  • 1 jumbo marshmallow (for the tops of the bunny heels)
  • 3 cups coconut, or one bag (for the bunny fur and grass)
  • Strawberry taffy (for the pads of the bunny feet)
  • Tools you’ll need:
    • 1 1/2-quart oven-safe bowl (like this one)
    • Cupcake pan
    • Construction paper (for the ears)
    • Food coloring

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 325. Grease your 1 1/2-quart bowl and cupcake pans (or use cupcake wrappers in the cupcake pans).

Make your cake batter like normal – to make it easier (and to make less dishes), I just made the batter in the oven-safe bowl. Pour out enough batter to fill three cupcake cups 2/3 full. Bake the cupcakes for 17-21 minutes, and bake the cake for 47-53 minutes. Use the toothpick test to check if they’re done (stick a toothpick in the middle of your cake/cupcakes, if it comes out clean you’re done; if it comes out wet, stick the bowl/pan back in for a couple more minutes and then recheck).

Cool your cake and cupcakes for about 10 minutes in the bowl/pan. Remove the cake by flipping upside down on your serving dish (use a plastic spatula to help get the cake out if need be), and remove the cupcakes from the pan. Cool completely for about 1 hour before frosting.

Here's the start of your bunny. You can see the shape from the bowl here as well as basically how the cupcakes will be positioned.

Spoon frosting into a bowl and use red food coloring to make desired pink color (about 3 drops). Spread 1/3 frosting over the cake, and then adhere the cupcakes to the cake to make the feet and tail. Then, cut your jumbo marshmallow in half and place on top of the two cupcakes to make the heels of the feet. Spread thin layer of frosting over the whole cake (including feet and tail) to seal in the crumbs. Freeze for 30-45 minutes to set the frosting.

This shows how the cupcakes will be adhered to the cake, as well as how the marshmallows will be positioned as the heels. At this point, it's time to frost the whole thing. Before you know it the whole shape will come together.

Spread remaining frosting over cake. Sprinkle with two cups of coconut and press gently to adhere. Shake remaining coconut in a sealed plastic baggie with 3 drops of green food coloring until evenly tinted. Surround bunny with your coconut grass.

Here's the basic bunny frosted! See the picture at the very top for the overall look.

Use your fingers and hands to roll small pieces of taffy into balls, and then press into two large ovals and six small circles for the pads of the feet – you may need frosting to help them adhere to the feet. Cut ears out of construction paper and tuck a small bit under the cake and use a small dab of frosting to help them stand straight up.

And there’s your bunny! Even though Easter has passed this year, your bunny would be perfect for any Spring-themed party, birthday, or great to make next year. Whatever the occasion, he’ll be the hit of a party.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

I admit, I’m a tiny bit of a beer snob, so I love it whenever I get a chance to use beer in my cooking – not to mention, it’s a great excuse to enjoy a beer on the side while I cook! Guinness already has chocolate and coffee notes, so it pairs perfectly in a chocolate cupcake. These are rich, deep, decadent goodies that are great for beer-snobs and chocolate-snobs alike.

What’s also awesome, these are easy enough to make to satisfy a craving whenever it hits. Even though baked goods are probably my favorite thing in the world to eat, I’m notoriously impatient when it comes to the actually-doing-it-and-baking part. These don’t require any complicated baking technique, and I make it even easier by buying my frosting in a jar (gasp!) and just jazzing it up to fit the occasion.

That hint of Guinness really gives these cupcakes a fun twist!

What you’ll need:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine salt
1 bottle room-temperature Guinness (any stout will do, though)
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1-8 ounce tub of sour cream
1-16 ounce jar of cream cheese frosting

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then, mix in the sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth (I used my electric hand mixer, but if you don’t have one handy then use a whisk).

The carbonation in the beer makes these cupcakes particularly light and fluffy.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, adding about 1/3 of the mixture at a time.

Line your cupcake pan, and then fill the cupcake wrappers until they’re about 3/4 full.

I generally use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to fill my cupcake pans to keep the amounts even, but you can use more or less if needed.

Bake for 12 minutes until risen and domed in the middle. I always use the toothpick test to make sure they’re done. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cupcakes are good to go. If the toothpick comes out wet, stick your cupcakes back in for a couple minutes and then check again with another toothpick.

Dump the cooked cupcakes out of the pans after only a few minutes. Otherwise, they'll keep cooking in the hot pans.

Once your cupcakes are done, turn out and let them cool completely before frosting.

Speaking of frosting… I know I went the easy way out with frosting this time, but that’s okay! To jazz it up, I add food coloring to make it special. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I make it a bright green. Then go nuts with sprinkles, toppings (chocolate chips mixed in with the frosting would also be super tasty), or whatever sounds good to you!

Festive for St. Patrick's Day!

Sweet Balsamic Strawberries

One quick post for one simple dessert: Sweet Balsamic Strawberries. It’s the easiest dessert you’ll ever make, and it’s super healthy! They’re a little sweet, a little tangy, and they’re extremely delicious. It’s a great, guilt-free treat for any night of the week.

What you’ll need (makes 1 serving):
1 c. strawberries
1 tbsp brown sugar (or you can use Stevia for zero calories!)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

What you’ll need to do:

Remove the tops and stems of the strawberries, and then slice into 3 or 4 pieces (depending on the size of the strawberry).

Use your paring knife to slice the strawberries. I just throw them into my dessert bowls as I cut them to save a step!

 

After your strawberries are all sliced up, dump on your tbsp of brown sugar and drizzle with your tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and then enjoy!

Yum! I doubled the recipe for Clinton and I to both enjoy.

That’s it! This recipe only takes about 5 minutes to do, and it’s a fun and different dessert.