Candy

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HELLO! I am not back from the dead, although it kinda seems like it around here. I took a pause…to work a bunch, to eat a bunch and, of course, to cook a bunch! What has changed?

The Changes

  • I’m a little healthier {I only ate 3 giant muffins this week and am no longer scared of a treadmill…sorta.}
  • I drink more water {not sure why I told you that}
  • My job title has changed twice {yes, twice in one week, actually}
  • I have a new fire for cooking and sharing with you {I’ve got to start blogging again because I almost blew up the microwave yesterday}

October is almost over, and there are 6 beautiful cans of pumpkin puree in my pantry, beckoning to be molded into a decadent, delicious creation. I have an assortment of organic squash and such to go crazy with, too. And, if you’ve poked around this space at all, I love to take a recipe (or 4 or 5) and merge them and healthify them, based on which ingredients are already in my kitchen. This pumpkin bar is a lazy woman’s approach to a traditional pumpkin pie. And I love all of that delicious, sweet filling but the store-bought crusts leave much to be desired. The shortbread crust and the nutty taste throughout more than make up for the quick, tastier version of a pie. Let’s go!

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Nutty Pumpkin Bars

Sitting on an almond shortbread crust, these Fall treats are sure to please even your nuttiest neighbors and loved ones during the season. Serve warm with English breakfast tea or chilled for a sweet snack. The best part? All original needs for cream are replaced with Coconut Almond milk, which gives an essence of tropical coconut to an already complex, warm pumpkin flavor. Party on your tongue! And, not, there not much to look at, but my job is making tasty stuff. You can pipe some buttercream or cream cheese frosting on them for pretty effect, if you like!

Makes 18 cupcake-sized bars or one 9X13 pan

Almond Shortbread:

1/2 cup almond slivers

1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Step One: Line/grease 18 muffin cups or a 9X13 pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, chop the almonds to a ground meal, then add flour and salt and blend. Set aside.

Step Two: In a mixer (or using your hand and a spoon), cream butter and brown sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until fluffy. Add vanilla and blend. Then, add flour mixture and blend into a dough.

Step Three: Press dough into bottom of muffin cups or baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until semi-firm to the touch like a soft cookie (not doughy). While waiting for it to bake, make the pumpkin filling.

Pumpkin Filling:

2 large eggs

1 – 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin (2 cups)

3/4 cup (165 grams) light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) coconut almond milk

Step Four: In the mixer, blend eggs. Add pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and all spices and mix until blended. Lastly, add the milk and blend until smooth.

Step Five: When the shortbread is semi-firm, distribute pumpkin filling into the cups (3/4 full). Bake for 20 minutes, or until tops are slightly golden and pumpkin is firm to the touch (not runny or jiggly). Let cool for 5 minutes before running knife around the edges before removing from the pan(s).

Serve warm or chilled. Ice cream on top doesn’t hurt a thing.


Adapted from Source: Joy of Baking

HAPPY HALLOWEEK, LOVELIES!

~Laurel

Day 16: The Ultimate Compromise Pie

Ever watch The Chew, that show?

I’m not often home when it’s on, but I caught an episode a couple of weeks and HAD to make this pie for Thanksgiving. You see, I’m not the biggest pie nerd. I really like to eat pie but, on my list of 25 top items to bake, pie might not make it. It’s nothing against pie, I just like other things, too. So, when I saw this awesome recipe by Carla Hall and realized how awesome it was, I had to make it. I got excited about pie!

My mom helped me make this because I am pie dough-illiterate. My dough tastes pretty good, but it’s not pretty. I’ll work on that.

The Ultimate Compromise (Pumpkin Pecan) Pie

Lightly adapted from Carla Hall from The Chew

For the family that can’t agree on pumpkin OR pecan pie. For the people who like pecans but can’t stand the super-sugary sweetness of the pecan pie filling. For those who like to put pumpkin in everything they eat between the months of September and December. This pie is for you.

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold Unsalted Butter (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
  • 2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus more for rolling)

Crust Directions:

  • In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.  Refrigerate until very cold, about 30 minutes. During that time, refrigerate your butter, flour, mixer bowl, and paddle, too. (optional)
  • In the chilled bowl, combine the cold butter and flour.  With your hands, toss the butter in the flour until each cube is lightly coated.
  • With the chilled paddle, beat the flour-butter mixture on low speed to just break up the butter, about 60 seconds.  Add the water mixture all at once and raise the speed to medium-low.  Beat just until the dough comes together in big chunks, then turn off the mixer. 
  • Divide the chunks of dough in half and very gently pat each group into a round 1-inch-thick disk.  Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, before rolling.  You can refrigerate the disks for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. 

Pie Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe for Carla’s Perfect Pie Crust
  • 2 tablespoons Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecans (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 cup Cinnamon Sugar (for garnish & topping) 
  • Whipped Cream (for garnish)

Pie Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness and line a 9 inch pie plate, allowing excess to drape over edge. Fold over edges and crimp, then trim any remaining excess. Line the pan with parchment and pour in baking beans or weights (or use a round, flat oven-safe bowl for pressure, like Corningware). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is light golden.
  • Meanwhile, cream 1 TB butter and sugar, then add beaten eggs, vinegar, salt, vanilla and corn syrup. Stir in 1 cup of the pecans and all of the pumpkin puree.
  • Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Place pie on baking sheet. Bake on center rack of oven for 50 minutes or until set; after 40 minutes, toss the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans in cinnamon sugar and remaining 1 TB butter, melted. Top the pie with the pecans and continue baking.  Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with a garnish of whipped cream and remaining cinnamon sugar. *Note:  If crust is browning before center is cooked, tent edges of pie with foil and continue baking.

 There you have it, the ULTIMATE COMPROMISE. It’s delicious, and it’s even better the next day. Thanks, Carla, thanks.

Happy compromising!
Laurel
~Laurel~

Day 12: Pumpkin Pear Oats

It’s so easy to watch the news (online) or read the paper (on an app) and resonate with the USDA’s fight to end childhood obesity. Americans are fat because of sodas, refined sugars, white flours. American adults overeat and overindulge, which means we are creating children that overeat and overindulge. It’s amazing how children pick up on their parents’ habits. Can you think of some eating habits that you’ve ‘inherited’ from your parents?

My parents were great in their parenting skills, and I think they did a great job raising me. (The results are up for debate.) And, good or bad, I have definitely picked up many of their eating habits over the years, many without even realizing it. Good: fruit with lunch and veggies always with dinner. Not so good: dessert after lunch and dinner. They don’t do that as much anymore, but it’s amazing how even just a year of one habit can stick with a person (like me). But these are things we grew up with, and it is our responsibility to decide to incorporate healthier choices into our inherited eating habits.

So, instead of a cookie at the end of lunch, it’s usually low sugar yogurt or a piece of fruit. I’m still working on dessert after dinner…that’s a tough one to change. Since I am a self-proclaimed sugar/ dessert hog or sweet tooth, and it stands to reason that I need some alternatives. Why not oats?

When prepared in large batches, it can last for days.
Oats are the base for hundreds of flavors based on the ingredients you add into them.
Sweet or savory, oats are a great source of whole grains without spiking your sugar or salt levels.
They are so filling and, since they act as a sponge, cause you to drink lots of liquids (water) with them.

Okay, lets make some ‘sugar free,’ Fall-themed oats. Pumpkin, banana, and cheese are my three favorite ingredients to add into oats (but not altogether).

Pumpkin Pear Oats
Servings: 4
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk of your choice
1 ripe pear
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 t. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Top each bowl with one tablespoon of dried cranberries and almonds. Savor the flavor! 
 

Happy eating!
Laurel

~Laurel~

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