Pie

Perfect Pie Crust

If you are looking for the number one way to impress people this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season look no further than this recipe!! Making pie crust from scratch doesn’t have to be scary but you can for sure tell all your friends and family how you slaved away on it for hours!! Secret is safe with me!

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Pie crust is not something I have always felt comfortable making on my own, I’ll be honest.  I used to make it with my Grandma and she made it look SOOO EASY (don’t they always?) Then, when we were living in Virginia and my parents were coming to visit I wanted to make my Dad his favorite apple pie… well… the pie crust making process got the best of me and I was in tears because it just wouldn’t roll without breaking!! At that point I was using the traditional Betty Crocker recipe which uses only Crisco as the fat.  I began experimenting more with incorporating butter, etc and have finally come up with this foolproof recipe.  Not only will you NOT cry while you make it (score!), you will be AMAZED at how unbelievably buttery and FLAKY this crust is.  I’ve served it now several times to my husband, family and friends and they can’t get past the crust- it doesn’t matter what’s in the pie! All they talk about is this crust!  This recipe will make two 9-inch circles which can be used as top and bottom of a fruit pie or two topless pies like pumpkin or pecan.

Before we get into the recipe, let’s talk the basics and how you can avoid common pie crust dilemmas!

Pie Crust Basics:

  1. Combining all purpose flour with cake flour. Could you use only all purpose flour? Of course. Does using cake flour give the crust it’s signature ultra flaky feel? YES. I won’t get into the weeds on this but cake flour has less protein than regular all purpose flour, creating a light and airy dough with flakes you can literally pull apart with your hands.  This was the game changer in my recipe- thanks to Julia Child for suggesting it in one of her cookbooks!
  2. Use cold fat.  I probably stress this in EVERY one of my posts but the colder the fat is going into the oven the better those pockets of air (creating flakiness) will be.  After working the dough with your hands to put the pie together, I’d suggest chilling it before putting in the oven. Takes more time but makes all the difference.
  3. Your pie crust shouldn’t be completely cold when you roll it out.  This is one of those Goldilocks and the 3 little bears situations.  I used to try rolling out my dough when it was warm — these are the times when I cried.  Then, I tried rolling it when it was just out of the fridge and really cold.  I found the dough to be too rigid and it broke really easily.  What process is juuuussst rightttt?? Chilling your dough but not for too long so you can easily work with it yet it’s not room temp and falling apart.
  4. You can’t overcook a pie.  This is less to do with crust specifically and more with pies in general but you really can’t overcook a pie… and you’d much rather have an ultra soft fruit filling than bite into a pie and have the applies crunch because you were too worried you’d burn the crust if you kept it in.   Most recipes ask you to remove the pie once the insides are bubbling but feel free to leave it in a little longer than that.

Common pie crust problems and how to fix them:

  1. My crust is falling apart in my hands.  Your dough is too warm.  Make sure you are using cold fats and chilling the dough for a little bit before your roll it out.
  2. The edges of my crust are cracking when I try to roll it out.  Cracks usually mean there isn’t enough moisture in the crust OR it’s too cold, so you can prevent this by making sure you dough is wet enough before you ball it up and chill it (but not for too long).  If you’re already rolling your dough have no fear! You can save the day!  Wet your fingers with water and gently fix the crack in the dough.  Then, rub a little flour on top so it doesn’t stay wet and sticky.
  3. My pie crust is sticking to my countertop and I can’t transfer it.  Make sure you are always working on a very well floured surface- seriously you can’t over flour here.  I also suggest moving your pie dough around as you roll it out so you can check yourself and make sure it isn’t sticking.  Feel it get stuck?  Carefully peel up or use a spatula and then flour underneath again.  Continue rolling.
  4. The edges of my pie crust are burning but the pie isn’t done baking yet.  The edges of the pie crust usually brown first and that’s ok! You can cover them with tinfoil and continue baking the pie for as long as you need.  Simply fold up tinfoil and curve around the edges of the pie or cut a big circle in your square tinfoil piece and lay on top.  You can also buy pie crust shields but seriously tinfoil works fine.

Perfect Pie Crust

makes two 9-inch rounds

  • 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold crisco
  • 1 1/4 cup cold butter (12 tbsp)
  • up to 1/2 cup cold water, added 1 tbsp at a time

Step One: Measure out your dry ingredients (flours, salt and sugar) and whisk them together in a large bowl.

Step Two: Cut the butter into smaller pieces like shown below and add into your dry ingredients.

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Step Three: Using a pastry cutter (very preferable) begin working the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks something like this:

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Step Four: Measure out your crisco and put that into the bowl as well.  Using the pastry cutter, work the fats into the dry ingredients for several minutes until the dough looks like coarse crumbs or the fat is roughly the size of peas.  You’ll get a good arm workout!

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Step Five: Measure out the 1/2 cup of cold water and add it in 1 tbsp at a time while stirring gently with a wooden spoon.  It’s usually safe to start out with about 6 tbsp and then slowly begin the process.  You want your dough to just come together like the below, you should start using your hands in the end to gather it up.  You may not use all the water.

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Step Six: Turn the dough out onto a WELL floured surface and work it gently with your hands into a ball/ disks/ something or other that looks like the below. Cut it in half and then create two circular disks flattened on the top and bottom.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let chill in the freezer about 15 minutes before rolling out or fridge for a bit longer.  TIP: No, I’m not THAT bad at splitting something down the middle.. I purposefully make one half bigger than the other.  Reason? If you are making a top and bottom dough pie the bottom needs to be slightly bigger than the top because it’s going to fill and come up the sides.

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Follow any pie recipe using this dough! Enjoy!!

Breakfast

Pumpkin Maple Scones

MORE PUMPKIN ALERT!!! It is still pumpkin season people, but i feel like this year more than any other- Christmas is popping up everywhere already!

Don’t get me wrong- you won’t meet a more holly jolly person but I am definitely not one of those people who immediately shifts to Christmas when Halloween is over.  I love the warm feeling that comes with Thanksgiving and am just not ready to switch over just yet! I’m also hosting Thanksgiving this year and really feel like it would be a conflict of interest to decorate my house for Christmas beforehand?? Thoughts??  I don’t know.. i’ll think on that. In the meantime.. let’s chat Pumpkin Maple Scones!

So…I knew i wanted to make a pumpkin scone and sort of set out thinking it would be almost an easy swap out with the cherries in my Cherry Scone Recipe. BOY was I wrong!! I didn’t account for the fact that the pumpkin is like VERY watery and when I tried to just swap it for the cherries I ended up with a batter that had a more muffin-like consistency which wasn’t going to work.  I tried to combat it by adding in another cup of flour but even that didn’t bring it together. I baked them anyways and they were practically flavorless.. back to the drawing board.  The final version is the PERFECT blend of sweet and spice and I could literally eat the maple icing with a spoon (MAYBE I DID!!??!).  These are perfect to serve in the morning or have with coffee/tea in the afternoon.  Make them for Thanksgiving or even Christmas morning! These babies will stand the test of time!

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Pumpkin Maple Scones

yield: 8 scones – prep time: 15 minutes – bake time: 14-16 minutes

Scones:

3 cups of all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

3/4 cup cold butter

2/3 cup canned pumpkin

3 tbsp maple syrup

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

Maple Icing:

1 1/2 cup powdered/confectionary sugar

7 tbsp maple syrup


Step One: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix all of your dry ingredients together in a bowl: flour, salt, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice

Step Two: Cut up your cold butter into small little cubes and dump them all in there with the dry ingredients. Did I mention the butter should be cold?? Cold butter will melt slowly in the oven and make your scones fluffy and wonderful!  Then, using a pastry cutter or a couple forks… break down the butter until it is the size of peas:

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Step Three: In a separate bowl, beat together the pumpkin, maple syrup and egg.

Step Four: Gentle fold the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and then add the milk.  Gently mix with a wooden spoon until the dough looks like this:

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Step Five: Here comes the fun part!! Dump that dough right onto your floured counter.  Don’t worry if it looks real ugly… ugly dough usually leads to delicious baked goods!!  Dust your hands with some flour (wow you feel so professional now, don’t you??) gently kneed the dough until it really comes together.  Then, shape it into a beautiful circle… better than the one I did if possible?? Need to take some geometry classes I guess!

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Step Six: Cut your circle-ish shape into 8 scones and then place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You may have to bake them in shifts if you can’t fit them all on one as you don’t want them over-crowded.  Place the scones you aren’t baking first in the fridge so they stay cold! Bake for about 17 minutes.

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Step Seven: While these beauties bake you can make the maple icing.  Measure out one and a half cups of powdered sugar in a bowl.  Add 7 tbsp of maple syrup and whisk until it comes together in a thick icing.  Once the scones have cooled, drizzle as much icing onto them as you’d like! This recipe makes A LOT of icing so feel free to cut in half orrrr…. eat the rest…? I didn’t do that… I just know someone.. who .. did..?

 

ENJOY!

Cookies

5 Ingredient Double Chocolate Cookies

Happy November!! I seriously can’t believe October is over… it has been a really busy month for me at work and at times I thought I’d never make it here… but alas, I did! Looking forward to things slowing down as we get closer to the new year which of course means I can spend more time in the kitchen!

What better way to kick that off than with the EASIEST double chocolate cookie recipe there is? NO REALLY- you’ll be amazed and I’d be willing to bet you already have all of the 5 ingredients in your pantry!

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I think I have mentioned before that I watch Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship religiously (it starts again this weekend!!!) and I love it because most of the contestants are home, self-taught bakers and they have the best tips.  One tip that stuck with me was to use boxed cake mix in cookie recipes!  If you go looking on the internet, you’ll see this is not a new concept and for good reason– of course it’s brilliant– cake mix tastes DELICIOUS and it already has most of the extra’s you’d need like salt, leavening (b. powder or soda), etc.

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These cookies take only 5 ingredients, 1 bowl and you’ll definitely be able to throw them together in less than 5 minutes! They freeze really well, so I’ll normally bake a few and then freeze the rest of the unbaked dough balls.  Then, it’s as easy and popping them in the oven every time I need a cookie fix, how great is that?  Crispy edges and a soft chewy center make these cookies chocolatey perfection.  And did I mention they are easy and quick to make?? Blink and you’ll miss it…

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5 Ingredient Double Chocolate Cookies

yield: about 2 dozen cookies – prep time: 5 minutes – cook time: 14-16 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 box of chocolate cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup mini chocolate chips


Step One: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Empty the cake mix into a bowl and add the brown sugar.  Mix well until the brown sugar is completely combined

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Step Two: Add the two eggs and oil then stir until smooth.

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Step Three: Mix in the chocolate chips and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill for at least 20 minutes.

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Step Four: Using a cookie scoop or two spoons, scoop out cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or spray with non-stick) and bake for 14-16 minutes.  I give the range because every oven is different, just watch them and remove when they are fully baked through.  Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then put on a wire rack to cool again for 10 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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Breakfast

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

I have a confession to make……

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I don’t really like pumpkin spice stuff.. THERE I SAID IT!! I know, it goes against my very core self who absolutely loves everything fall!! I am of the strictest belief that the year starts over in the fall- I think it’s my inner child thinking back to the school year but for me January does not mark a new year, September does.  (This also removes all guilt associated with not making a new year’s resolution so JOIN ME) The colors start to change, we begin gearing up for the Holidays- it’s truly my favorite time of year.  Yet, I have NEVER been able to get behind the pumpkin spice craziness.. until now!

You’d find all of this ultra surprising if you saw my house.  Beginning around mid-September my house is glittered with pumpkins! Evidence:

I even have pumpkins in my bathroom for goodness sake! I wanted desperately to come around to pumpkin this fall and I think I have finally done it.  Adding chocolate chips also NEVER hurts…

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This recipe doesn’t use a lot of pumpkin and it doesn’t use a lot of pumpkin pie spice so if you want to beef that up, you for sure can.. this recipe however is the perfect balance for me, I get a little taste of the pumpkin but also don’t feel like I’m gagging on a scented candle.  OK how’s that for a description of something I want you to try baking??…..hmmm.. please don’t stop reading..!

This recipe can also be easily adapted and baked into muffins or mini muffins! Add some nuts or add a maple icing on top! I’d suggest my icing recipe here and simply swap the milk for maple syrup or add some into the icing to taste.  I should also mention, this recipe uses ONE BOWL!!!

I’ve heard nothing but amazing feedback on my Naptime Banana Bread recipe which also uses only one bowl so I wanted to try and accomplish that again!

I had a lot of fun testing this recipe and made the loaf you see above just yesterday because my Mom and God Mother are coming to visit tomorrow!! I can’t wait for them and YOU to try this recipe!


Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

yield: 10-12 servings – prep time: 15 minutes – cook time: 40-45 min

INGREDIENTS

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1ish tsp pumpkin pie spice (you can do more if you love it! I say ish because i don’t top this off when measuring so there is alittle extra put in)

3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips


Step One: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and get your ONE bowl ready!  Add the pumpkin, eggs, oil and vanilla and stir until smooth.  Make sure you mix really well at this step so that the egg broken down.

Step Two: Add the sugar and mix until combined.

Step Three: Add the flour, salt, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice.  Gently pre-mix the dry ingredients together before mixing fully with the wet.  Make sure you are using a rubber spatula to help get everything incorporated. Scrape the bottom- you don’t want any random lumps of flour or pumpkin!

Step Four: Add the chocolate chips.  I like to use mini chocolate chips because I feel like it gives you the chocolate taste without overpowering.. but you can use regular size and increase or decrease the amount you put in to taste!

Step Five: Prepare a baking dish with non-stick spray.  I also suggest placing a piece of parchment paper in as well like the below, this allows you to easily remove the bread once it’s baked and cooled! Pour in your batter.

Step Six: Bake bread in the heated oven for 40-45 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Once baked, let cool in the baking dish on top of a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before removing.

ENJOY!

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Dinner

Sweet Potato Hash

This. Dinner. Right. Here!! I almost feel silly posting this recipe because it’s literally just so easy to make and sort of one of those “throw it all in there!” type dinners. It uses stuff you probably already have in your fridge or cabinet, and if not, most things could be easily subbed.  There was a point a couple years ago when we were living in Virginia and I was making this for dinner at least once a week because my husband loved it THAT much!  I hadn’t made this in a long time and then recently starting putting it back in the rotation and knew I had to share it!

It’s funny because every time we ate this for dinner we were like uhhh eggs.. sausage.. potatoes.. this is basically a breakfast food! For whatever reason though we have never made it for breakfast, always dinner.. BRINNER 🙂

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It’s really easy and also fun to make! All the sweet elements (sweet italian sausage, sweet potato, red onion) are balanced by the addition of acidic balsamic vinegar then finishing with the egg -it’s all just a match made in heaven!

Let’s get cookin!



Sweet Potato Hash

yield: 2-4 servings – prep time: 25 minutes – cook time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes
  • 1lb sweet italian sausage (I like using pork but turkey or beef is fine too! Italian seasoning is a must though, if it isn’t pre-seasoned you can add 1-2 tbsp of italian seasoning when cooking the meat)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • cilantro for garnish

Step One: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Dice the sweet potato so that all of the pieces are about the same size. Toss in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), salt & pepper and put in the oven for about 25 minutes or until cooked through and beginning to crisp up.

It’s juuuust about this time that I have two furry friends ready to help me cut those sweet potatoes in the kitchen!! My pups LOVE sweet potatoes so I always make sure to save a few slices for them… I mean could you say “no” to this face??

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Step Two: While you have the potatoes in the oven, heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  I use the largest non-stick skillet I have but a cast iron skillet would also be perfect! Really whatever you have lying around.  Add the chopped onions and garlic to the pan and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes until the onions begin to soften.

Step Three: Add your sweet italian sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and cooked through.

Step Four: When the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and add into the pan with the onion, garlic and sausage.  Season with salt and pepper and let cook together, about 2 minutes.

Step Five: Add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and stir until combined.

Step Six: Make as many holes as you are planning to use eggs.  Helpful hint: I usually spray the exposed pan again with non-stick spray so that the eggs don’t stick! crack your eggs into the holes (this is sort of like eggs in a basket!!) and season with salt and pepper.  Cover, and let cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Step Seven: Once the eggs are cooked through, turn off the stove and add some chopped cilantro for garnish. Serve hot!

ENJOY!

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Breakfast

Breakfast Biscuits

It’s  been a long and difficult journey to the perfect biscuit (cue the tiny violin) but SOMEBODY had to do it!! And let me assure you.. I’ve done it:  I’ve cracked the code for the perfect biscuit with the layers of flaky, buttery goodness you crave!

Looking back, I can’t really remember when exactly my obsession with perfecting the biscuit started but it’s definitely been an affliction for the better part of this year.  I poured over multiple cookbooks and online recipes and was actually pretty amazed at how many different versions there were.  I also did some nerdy studying up on the science behind the fats, gluten creation, what happens when you do… etc… (don’t judge). Some recipes included buttermilk, some used only butter, some used only crisco – and all of them claimed to be the best!! Which is ironically what I’m doing now… but trust me– make these once and they will keep you coming back for more over and over again!!

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Biscuits probably seem a bit  intimidating if you aren’t very confident in the kitchen but TRUST ME- you can do this!  Working with dough is overwhelming and I’ll admit: even I have shed tears over a pie crust here and there.  But the amazing thing about biscuits are- you’re not rolling the dough out and you’re not trying to transfer it in perfect shape anywhere (like the dreaded pie crust) you are really just having FUN with the dough and if they don’t come out in the perfect shape.. who cares?? Call them “rustic” and when you taste them it won’t matter!!

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My recipe is easy enough for the less confident baker but you will SERIOUSLY impress your guests when you pull these out of the oven and they’ll think you slaved away over them- it will be our little secret 😉

The dough also freezes REALLY well.  Once you cut the biscuits you can stop there and freeze them and place them in a plastic bag in the freezer to bake off another time.  They’ll stay good for about 3 months in your freezer but I have a feeling they won’t last that long!  If you bake them frozen, increase the oven temp to 425 OR cook them a bit longer until golden.

Let’s get started!


Breakfast Biscuits

yield: 14 biscuits – prep time: 15-20 minutes – bake time: 16 minutes

INGREDIENTS

4 cups of all purpose flour

6-8 tbsp white sugar

2 tsp salt

6 tbsp baking powder

14 tbsp cold butter (just under 2 sticks)

1/2 cup cold crisco

2 cups of cold milk

1 egg + milk for egg wash


Step One: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Put all your dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix until combined: flour, sugar, salt, baking powder.

Step Two: Cut in the butter in small pieces like this:

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Step Three: Measure 1/2 cup of cold crisco and throw that it too:

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Do you remember why it’s important to use cold fat? Because when cold fat goes into a hot oven it melts and creates the wonderful pockets of air making your biscuits flaky and tender!

Step Four: Using a pastry cutter, two forks or YOUR HANDS (yup!) mix the fat into the dry ingredients until it’s fully incorporated and the fat is roughly the size of peas:

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You could also do this in a food processor but… but… don’t? OK I mean you caaaaaannnnn but….I’m kind of a snob when it comes to certain tools and I love getting in there to work with the dough myself- it feels more authentic and fun and that IS how Grandma did it after all!!  I actually was SUPER reluctant to buy a pastry cutter and used my hands for months before giving in and buying this one and it was totally worth it!! You can also find them at a Homegoods or TJs/Marshalls for around 5 dollars.

Step Five: Pour in the milk and mix with a wooden spoon JUST until it starts to come together.  Gluten starts to develop when you mix your wet and dry ingredients together and a lot of gluten is not something you want building up in your biscuits because it will make them dense and tough- no thank you!

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Step Six: Turn your dough out onto a floured surface:

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Step Seven: Gently kneed the dough (remember- we don’t want to work it too hard and make too much gluten!!)

OK pause for a moment and watch this hilarious clip regarding gluten- God Bless Jimmy Kimmel

Continue to fold the dough over on itself a few times to start building those delicious layers.  Keep checking to make sure it’s not sticking to your surface, but if it is, no worries! This isn’t pie crust, remember? So you can just scrape it up, put some more flour down and move on- easy!  Eventually you want to get the dough into a thick round circle like this:

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The circle does not need to be big enough to cut all 14 biscuits at once, I usually get through 8 and then have to take the scraps, knead them together and begin cutting again.  When it doubt, go smaller because you want these biscuits to be thick!

Step Eight: Start to cut your biscuits.  You can use an actual biscuit cutter but if you don’t have one a cup will do.  You do want something with a sharp edge though, because a rounded edge will pinch off the sides of the biscuit and they won’t rise as high.  Additionally, don’t twist your cutter, this also pinches the edges, just cut down and pull back up!

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Step Nine: Take your biscuits and lay them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.  You could also use a cast iron skillet!  I like to put an egg and milk wash brushed over the top before baking- it  adds a gorgeous golden color and they look just beautiful!

To make the egg wash, simply whisk an egg with a little bit of milk and then brush on top.

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Step Ten: Bake for 16 minutes, remove when done and serve immediately but they do heat up nice as well.

ENJOY!  Comment below if you’ve tried them! 🙂

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Soups & Chilli

Shredded Chicken Chili

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live but here in Washington… FALL HAS ARRIVED.  Or as my husband and I like to say: “winter is here” (GOT reference #got #imobsessed #whydowehavetowaituntil2018).  With Fall comes ALL the baking and hearty warm comfort dishes that go perfectly with a night snuggled up in front of the fire!   There is also one other very important thing that comes with Fall… FOOTBALL!

WHO IS READY FOR FOOTBALL SEASON???

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Thanks Tom! I’m ready too!!  Growing up in my house, watching the Patriots on Sunday was basically more religious than going to church.  Each and every week I’d be surrounded by friends and family for a “Pats Party” and with those parties came some DELICIOUS food– it really goes hand-in-hand huh?? All week, my Mom and Dad would plan out what we were going to eat on Sunday during the Pats game, it was a ritual.  A ritual that continues- last year when my Mom visited me here in the Fall she asked me weeks ahead of her visit “but what are we going to eat during the game??”.  She’s coming next month and you can bet she already asked me again 😉

The trouble with watching football on the West coast is the games start so dang early!! I used to have all morning to shop, prep, cook and now I have until about 9:30am before I want to park it in front of the TV for the rest of the day.

Solution to my problem: CROCKPOT BABY! Has there seriously ever been a better invention than something you can just put raw food into, in no particular order and have a delicious meal ready in 4-8 hours?? I think NOT!  My Shredded Chicken Chili is the perfect meal to have this Sunday while you’re watching your team play! (I hope your team is the Pats..) And it tastes EVEN better in the days following… I’ve actually been making it on Sunday as football food and then having it every day for lunch the rest of the week.. brilliant!14.jpg


Shredded Chicken Chili

yield: 8-10 servings – prep time: 15 minutes – bake time: 5-8 hours in slow cooker

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, diced

2 green peppers, diced (note: I buy green peppers because they are the cheapest! lol! you can buy any pepper you prefer!)

1/2 large sweet potato, diced

1 can of beans (with liquid- any beans will work!)

1 28 oz (the big one!) can of diced tomatos

1 cup vegetable broth

3-4 chicken breasts

1/4 block of cream cheese

Homemade Taco Seasoning (use this on anything!):

1 tbsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp paprika

1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

+Salt & Pepper to taste


Step One: Dice up your onion, peppers and sweet potato and throw them in the crockpot

 

TIP: cutting an onion SUUUCCKKSS and I’ve tried a lot of tricks you read about online to prevent you from wanting to pluck your eyes out… putting a match in between my teeth, chewing gum, you name it..

Here is what I’ll suggest: cut your onion last of all your veggies- you don’t realize how the juice stays on the knife and cutting board and can hurt you even after you’re done cutting it! Cold is best- the colder your onion, the less it will make you cry.  God Speed….

Step Two: Empty the can of beans (with liquid) and diced tomatos into the pot, salt and pepper generously, give it a stir

Step Three: Add in the taco seasoning and stir again

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Step Four: Add the 1 cup of vegetable broth (which by the way can be chicken or beef broth too.. or even water, though the broth adds more flavor!)

Step Five: Nestle your chicken breasts under the chili so they are completely covered.

Note: I tried this recipe with both breasts and thighs (that sounds funny..) and preferred how the chili tasted using the chicken breasts.  I am a big fan of chicken thighs because I love dark meat BUT for some reason they felt and tasted really greasy in the chili and didn’t add the flavor i was looking for.

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Step Six: Put on the lid and turn on your crockpot!! On the high setting, mine took about 5 hours before I felt it was almost done.  At just under 4 hours the sweet potatoes were still a little hard so that is how I was able to tell.  The longer all these flavors sit together the better!!

Step Seven: About 30 minutes before you want to serve your chili, take the chicken out and shred it using two forks- then put back into the crockpot

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Finally, add the 1/4 block of cream cheese in little pieces like so:

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Stir and allow the cream cheese to melt.  This adds an amazing creaminess and also thickens it up more than plain liquid cream would- trust me on this!! Keep cooking another 30 minutes.

Step Eight: Salt and pepper your chili to taste and…ENJOY!! I really love to add avocado and shredded cheese on top of mine.  My husband crumbles up tortilla chips and mixes those in which adds a salty crunch.  YOU DO YOU!

GO PATS!

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Cakes

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

If you are looking for the most versatile go-to bundt cake recipe- LOOK NO FURTHER.  This Chocolate Chip Bundt cake is decadent enough to serve as dessert but it’s secret ingredient (spoiler alert- its cinnamon!) makes it warm and fit for breakfast as well- YOLO!

I meant to write this blog post about two weeks ago but I was away for work and while I had the best intentions to blog on the road, it just didn’t happen.  BUT better late than never, I say!  I developed this recipe a few months ago and my inspiration was actually one of my chocolate cookie recipes.  I loved the cookies so much I thought- there must be some way to turn these into a cake… So I did what all curious Millennials do when faced with a life or death question… I consulted google.

Google let me know everything from it’s easy to turn a cookie recipe into a cake recipe to… IT’S IMPOSSIBLE OMG THEY’RE DIFFERENT THINGS WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING?!? (eye roll)  Nevertheless.. I persisted… and decided to consult my best gal pal Betty! (Crocker, that is). The old school 1950s BC cookbook is my tried and true place to start for most recipes so after reading through several, I decided to start with the basic pound cake baking method and go from there.

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This cake uses half flour, half boxed cake mix- a tip I picked up originally watching Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship a few years back but then came to find A LOT of bakers use boxed cake mix to enhance a from scratch recipe- for cookies, cakes, etc.  The real flavor game changer though is the cinnamon- just a 1/2 tsp packs such a punch and is a really delicious surprise most people don’t expect.  I think this ingredient is what makes this cake so versatile, I’ve had friends tell me they heated it up for breakfast!! Behold.. the Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake!!


Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Yield: 8-10 pieces – prep time: 20 minutes – bake time: 70-90 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup yellow (not vanilla) boxed cake mix

1 cup butter (softened)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar packed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup mini chocolate chips + more for sprinkling

Icing:

Icing recipe from Overnight Cinnamon Rolls


 

Step One: As always- assemble the troops! Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Note: For most of my recipes, I use my standing kitchenaid mixer.  For this one however, I use a hand-held mixer.  You need to beat the ingredients really well (per the BC pound-cake method) and I feel like using the hand-held mixer gives you more control.

Step Two: Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Step Three: Beat the soft butter for one minute. Then, slowly add the sugars a little at a time while mixing for about 1-2 minutes after each addition, for up to 10 minutes.

Step Four: while still mixing, add in 1 egg at a time mixing each egg in for 1 minute.  Finally, add in the vanilla until combined. You should have a gorgeous smooth mixture like below:

Step Five: Add in half of the the dry ingredients, mix then add the other half.

Step Six: Mix in up to 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. I prefer the minis but you can get creative here! PB chips would also taste real good! img_0024

Step Seven: Take a moment and lick the spatula – NO I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE RAW EGGS THANK YOU VERY MUCH!


Step Eight: Prepare the bundt pan by coating with crisco and flour. I use a small baggy over my hand and smooth the crisco all over the pan. Then, put a few spoonfuls of flour in and shake it around until covered. You could use non-stick spray but when I did that my cake did not come out of the pan- equally as delicious- less pretty- maybe you’ll have better luck!

Spread the batter into the pan:


Step Nine: Bake in the preheated oven for 70-90 minutes. Depending on your oven you’ll just have to monitor after the 70 minutes- check it’s done with a toothpick, if a few moist crumbs show on the toothpick or it comes out clean you know it’s done!

Step Ten: Let the cake cool in the pan set on top of a wire rack (to allow air flow underneath) for about 20 minutes. Then, take a shot of whiskey for courage and flip that baby over!! I usually find that putting my plate on top, screaming, and then flipping it over helps!

Make the icing and pour on top your gorgeous cake! Sprinkle with some remaining chocolate chips or even sprinkles for fun!!

ENJOY!


Breakfast

Cherry Scones

OK, I sort of feel like scones get a bad rep in this country… if you go to the UK, scones are synonymous with high tea and other delicious treats but here? If I mention scones to anyone they usually respond.. “Oh.. I don’t like scones.. they’re SO dry!?”  (that is actually a direct quote from my mother before I force fed her one of mine.. more of that later..)


Well, then I officially make it my sole mission in life (I’m lying) to change people’s minds about scones! Because they are OH so good, and another one of those really versatile foods: impress your friends at brunch, eat them in your pjs or serve them with coffee/tea!

For whatever reason- scones were one of the first thing I tried to master at baking 4-ish years ago when we were living in Savannah.  We’d just married and moved into a house I LOVED so we’ll blame nesting!  I stumbled upon a very basic scone recipe on allrecipe which can be found here . Well, my husband and I loved these so much I actually made them one night as a side with our dinner!! I felt so FANCY… I made SCONES from scratch good Lord watch out!  But, much to my dismay, I suddenly realized I couldn’t convince other people to try them because I was always met with “I don’t like them…they’re dry…” so.. you see.. I had no choice but to start forcing them on my house guests, like my poor parents!!

As I got more comfortable with the science of baking, I wanted to go back to this old favorite and see how I could amp it up a few notches! And that truly is the beauty of something like a scone- there are ENDLESS ways to customize and make it your own! And this cherry scone recipe is seriously delicious!! The cherries pop in the buttery layers and almond extract is a literal match made it heaven with cherries so the addition really takes the flavor to another level…. let’s get to it!


Cherry Scones

Yield: 8-10 scones – prep time: 25 minutes – bake time: 17 minutes

INGREDIENTS

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup cold butter

1 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1/4 tsp almond extract

2 cup cherries, chopped

+1 extra egg for wash & coarse sugar for sprinkling

Before we start I need to tell you the name of today’s game: keep your ingredients cold!! When I used to read that in recipes I was like yeahhh suuure.. but no, it is so important especially when it comes to baking something like a scone.
When you bake something that has cold butter going into the oven, the butter melts and creates these wonderful pockets that make your finished product light and flaky! The second time I tested this recipe it was almost laughable because we don’t have AC and it was 90 degrees out (what was I thinking??) and I could barely keep the dough together because everything was so warm. Don’t suffer like I did- keep it cold!

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Step One: Preheat your oven to 425.  If you have a cherry pitter, you’re going to want to break that bad boy out! If you’re like most people… you probably don’t have one and this step will take a little longer.  You want to cut the cherries in half so that you can get the pit out and then chop the cherries roughly so they appear like the above. Set aside in the fridge until you need them.. the name of this game is to keep all of your ingredients VERY cold.

You could use frozen cherries if you wanted and thaw them out. You just don’t want them to be super watery- which I feel like can happen when dealing with frozen cherries so pat them down with a paper towel if neccisary!

Step Two: Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in the large bowl attached to your standing mixer (if you have one) and whisk together with the paddle attachment

Step Three: Cut the butter into small cubes (smaller than dice) and with the mixer on medium, slowly add the butter into the bowl until it starts to incorporate with the flour.


Step Four: Measure your milk and then add the egg and almond extract into the measuring cup and whisk until the liquid is combined.  Slowly pour the liquid into the bowl with the mixer on low until it’s incorporated together with the dry ingredients and looks like this:


You’re going to handle the dough with your hands so it’s ok that it doesn’t come together in a ball. You don’t want to overmix the dough- that will result in a tough scone. This dough will be very sticky, so just flour your hands as you scoop it out and put it onto a floured surface :


Step Five: Kneed the dough gently so it comes together and fold it over on itself a couple times. This helps build layers of flakiness later! As best you can flatten the dough into a rectangle and pour the cherries on top. Gently press them into the dough:

Step Six: Gently roll the dough over itself a few times until it’s in a log like this:


Why do this instead of mixing the cherries in with the wet ingredients? The dough is thick and you’d really have to work it to get the cherries evenly distributed and the more you mix the dough the more dense it will become. This allows them to be throughout the dough without compromising the light flakiness we’re going for!! WIN!

Cut into 8-10 triangles and put on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.


Look at those layers!! That’s exactly what you want!

Step Seven: Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg and a splash of milk and cover the tops of the scones with the wash. This will create a golden crust which will be a great contrast to the soft middle! Sprinkle on course sugar .. because why not!


Step Eight: Bake in the oven at 425 for 15-17 minutes. I give the range because ovens really vary so you’ll just want to watch and take them out when the tops are golden!

Look at these beauties!!!


ENJOY!

Breakfast

Naptime Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of my all-time favorite things to bake because it’s so versatile and delicious!  Not only is it perfect with coffee in the morning but it’s a great go-to snack anytime of day.  It’s also really easy to customize and make your own depending on what you have in your cabinet: have some nuts? throw them in! do you love dried fruit? it goes great in banana bread! want to make it more sinful? add some chocolate chips or nutella!! The possibilities are endless…. and oh so delicious…

I discovered this first hand when one of my great friends had her first baby while we were living in Savannah, GA.  The most obvious thing to make for a new mom is some sort of casserole dinner so I decided to go a different route and stick to breakfast- new Moms need to eat in the morning too!!  Banana bread seemed like the perfect solution for eating with one hand- feeding baby with the other and I ended up making three different versions for her. Each morning and afternoon I got a text thanking me for the fabulous bread!

Fast-forward two and a half years; this same friend is now the mom of a busy toddler and we were catching up the other week about life.   She said the recipes I posted on my blog looked great but she really wanted something she could whip up during naptime without wasting too much of her precious me-time!  She wanted a recipe that was:

  1. Fast
  2. Easy
  3. Minimal mess/dishes
  4. Something she could eat with her coffee

My response: Challenge Accepted!!!  Not only is this banana bread something you can have in the oven in less than 10 minutes, it also uses only ONE bowl.  You read that right– ONE bowl.  Read as: LESS DISHES!!  It’s also healthy!! Something she can feel good feeding to her family with no butter and oats for added nutrition!  While this is totally something you can make quick during naptime- it would also be a GREAT recipe to bake WITH your kids! They’d have a lot of fun decorating the top of the bread with the sliced bananas and did you know that dry oats are a great sensory item for small kids to play with? Create an indoor sand-table with oats and you won’t have to worry about them undoubtedly putting some in their mouth! LOL

I already had her test the recipe herself to be sure it exceeded expectations and it did!! I’m so glad she inspired me to create this recipe!  Without further delay.. round up your bananas!!

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Naptime Banana Bread

Yield: 8-10 slices – prep time: <10 Minutes – bake time: 40 minutes 

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of all purpose flour

1 cup of old fashioned oats (or quick, it really doesn’t matter)

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

3-4 extra ripe bananas


OK GET YOUR ONE BOWL READY!!!!

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Depending on how many bananas you’re using- mash up at least two and a half in a large bowl with a fork.  Make sure to reserve about one half a banana to slice and add on top before baking.

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Step Two: Crack in the two eggs and whip them in with the bananas.

Step Three: Add the vegetable oil, vanilla and brown sugar, mixing until smooth.

Step Four: Create a little pile of the dry ingredients on top of the wet: flour, salt & baking powder:

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Using your fork, gently mix the dry ingredients only (as best you can) so the salt and baking powder are one with the flour.  Then, mix the whole bowl together until smooth.

Step Five: Once the batter is smooth, add in the oats and mix until fully combined. You can do all of this mixing with one utensil & your hand, you don’t need a standing or hand-end mixer for this!

Step Five: Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.  Add sliced bananas on top.

Note: pictured here I actually lined my loaf pan with parchment paper which just made it easier to pull out in the end- but you don’t have to do this if you don’t have parchment paper.  Pam will do the trick! Plus, you’re usually just eating the banana bread straight from the pan when it’s done anyways.. AMIRIGHT?

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Step Six: Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes and you. are. done! Clean that ONE bowl you have and Enjoy!!

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