Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Minis

It’s spring and with warm weather on the horizon, it’s time to trade in decadent, comforting desserts for some light and airy cheesecakes. Bright springtime days seem to call for a change of flavors as we leave winter behind and rush headlong into the season of renewal. It doesn’t get much better than classic cheesecake. Smooth, creamy, and incredibly rich, it’s one of the few desserts we can eat with different fillings, and anything piled on top.

It has ‘cake’ in its name, but in many ways, it is more like a pie. It can be made with ricotta, mascarpone, cream cheese, or quark. It can have a crust or not, be topped with fresh fruit or jam; spend time in the oven or be no-bake and turn out anywhere from very sweet and creamy to dense and only slightly sweet. Cheesecake is a dessert beloved the world over.

When I think spring baking, I instantly think of lemon and blueberries! These mini desserts feature a light lemon cream cheese filling, ginger cookie crumb crusts and are topped with a homemade blueberry sauce. Yum!

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Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Minis
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Servings
MINIS
Ingredients
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
Blueberry Topping
Servings
MINIS
Ingredients
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
Blueberry Topping
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Instructions
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
  1. Dissolve the Jell-O powder in boiling water. Set aside to cool. Combine cream cheese, sugar & vanilla in a mixer bowl. Beat until well combined. Stir in the cooled lemon Jell-O, until well combined. Place in refrigerator until slightly starting to gel.
Gingersnap Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a small bowl combine gingersnap crumbs & sugar (if using) & mix well. Add melted butter & mix until it is well blended. Using a mini cheesecake pan, divide crumb mixture evenly between the 12 cups. Bake for about 5 minutes. Cool completely.
Blueberry Topping
  1. In a small saucepan, mix together cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries & cook until 'clear' & bubbling.
Assembly
  1. Place slightly thickened lemon filling in a pastry bag with an open nozzle. On top of the cooled crumb base in each cup, divide the lemon filling evenly. Cover lightly with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 2 hours or more.
  2. When firm enough, remove cheesecakes from the pan. Place on a serving dish & top each one with some blueberry topping. Garnish with lemon zest if desired.

Roasted Tomato & Avocado Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict has been around for a long time. As with many dishes, there is always something that makes you want to take the classic combination to a new level which is equally delicious. Here are a few examples:

  • Classic Eggs Benedict: This brunch staple is typically composed of an English muffin, breakfast meat, a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce. 
  • Eggs Florentine: In this recipe, the Canadian bacon gets replaced by creamy spinach simmered in butter.
  • Eggs Royale: for royale, the Canadian bacon gets replaced by smoked salmon. This dish with the seafood twist is quite popular in the UK, Canada, and New Zealand.
  • Eggs Sardou: Try replacing your Canadian bacon with the delicious, buttered spinach, slow-cooked artichoke, and anchovies.  
  • Eggs Neptune: Canadian bacon gets replaced by fresh crab meat.
  • Eggs Cochon: To make this, replace the Canadian bacon with pork meat and the classic English muffin with buttermilk ‘biscuit’ to enhance the flavors. 
  • Eggs Tomato Avocado: Slow roasted tomatoes with sliced avocado.

I’m sure people will be eating eggs benedict forever. It will never go out of vogue. Eggs benedict is a dish that is here to stay for a long time. My choice today is with roasted tomato & avocado since Brion & I are avocado lovers. Of course, a little bit of bacon on the side wouldn’t hurt either!

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Roasted Tomato & Avocado Eggs Benedict
Instructions
Avocado Butter
  1. In a food processor, puree avocados, oil, lime juice, water & mustard. Cover & blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl & stir in cilantro paste & salt & pepper to taste. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.
Roasted Tomatoes/Poached Eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. For Tomatoes: Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small bowl, combine a bit of Italian dressing with cherry tomatoes. Pour onto baking sheet and pull foil slightly up around them. Roast until they are starting to burst. Remove from oven & keep warm.
  3. For the poached eggs: For easier clean-up, grease each muffin cup. Then add 1 tablespoon water to each muffin cup–even if you are NOT making a full batch. Adding water to the empty muffins cups will help the pan not scorch in the oven.
  4. Crack one egg into each muffin cup.
  5. Bake for 11-13 minutes. 11 minutes, the yolk is very runny and egg whites are just about set; 13 minutes, the yolk is runny, but beginning to set around edges and egg whites are completely set.
  6. Using a spoon, gently scoop out the poached eggs at an angle, allowing the water to drain off the poached egg.
English Muffins
  1. Slice English muffins & toast. When toasted spread each piece with 'avocado butter'.
Serving
  1. Place 2 buttered English muffin halves on each of 6 serving plates. Divide roasted tomatoes between them. Lay sliced avocado on all 12 pieces. Top each muffin half with a poached egg then spoon more avocado butter on top. Sprinkle with fresh chives & serve immediately.

Pearl Couscous w/ Chicken Thighs

Often, when we think of chicken meals, rice comes to mind as an accompaniment. Couscous can be used as a fluffy grain alternative to rice and, because the flavors of each are subtle, swapping them won’t throw your entire recipe off course. Both rice and couscous take on the flavors of the seasonings you add, and neither needs much to shine.

While rice is a grain and couscous are a type of pasta, you can buy whole-grain versions of both. Couscous’s flexibility has made it a favorite ingredient in kitchens worldwide. This tiny pasta can be used as a side dish, as a part of an entrée, or added to soups and salads to boost texture. Its mild flavor makes it ideal for combining with seasonings ranging from sweet to spicy, and it can be used to recreate dishes from any cuisine.

Couscous is a pale, delicate grain that North Africans have served for centuries with a meat or vegetable stew on top.

Although it is made from wheat, couscous is the North African equivalent of rice, and it could be called a second cousin of German spaetzle, although it does not contain egg and the granules are much smaller.

Steamed in a manner similar to rice, couscous takes about 10 minutes to prepare. Delicious when served hot, it is equally good at room temperature.

Today, I’m preparing a sheet pan meal with roast veggies and chicken thighs and serving them with a couscous accompaniment. Should be good!

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Pearl Couscous w/ Chicken Thighs
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Instructions
Vegetables
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a plastic bag place Italian dressing. Add carrots, onions, zucchini, mushrooms & garlic. Shake well to marinate (do them separately if you wish). Place on a foil lined baking sheet & roast until tender. Marinate cherry tomatoes in a bit of dressing & add to the pan for the last 10 minutes of baking.
Chicken Thighs
  1. In a small dish combine all chicken seasonings. In a plastic bag, place chicken & 2 Tbsp olive oil. Shake well to cover thighs with oil then add spice mixture & shake well again.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Add chicken thighs & roast in oven at the same time as veggies are cooking.
Couscous
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high until just shimmering. Add the pearl couscous & toss around to toast until golden brown.
  2. Boil water & add it to the toasted pearl couscous. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Cover & cook for about 14 minutes or until couscous is tender. Remove from heat.
Serving
  1. On a serving plate, place the couscous & vegetables. Top with chicken thighs & drizzle juice from roast chicken over all. Serve.

Pumpkin Angel Food Mini Bundt Cakes

Pumpkin angel food?! That’s probably not what you’d expect when you think of angel food cake or pumpkin, but this recipe is actually a very tasty combo. 

Of course, pumpkin-based desserts are a traditional fall dessert, so I am sure that you will be surprised that I am posting this pumpkin angel food cake recipe in April. It seems I have some pumpkin puree that’s in the freezer just waiting to be used before we get too far into the spring and summer season.

Brion has always loved angel food, so I thought why not add the pumpkin puree to kick it up a notch. Pairing it with the right fruits can also enhance its flavors. Instead of frosting or a whipped topping I am making some caramelized apples and raisins spiced with anise and cardamom.

  • Anise has a distinct licorice-like flavor. It adds depth and enhances the overall aromatic profile of the compote.
  • Cardamom is a fragrant spice with citrusy and herbal notes. It adds warmth and sophistication and complements pumpkin beautifully.

For a cake that’s quite sweet, some salted pepita seeds sprinkled on top are a bit of necessary and delicious balance.

Simply put, it’s an easy cake mix recipe dressed up with warm spices and pumpkin purée served with caramelized apples, raisins and salted pepita seeds. Yum!

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Pumpkin Angel Food Mini Bundt Cakes
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Servings
MINI BUNDT CAKES
Ingredients
Pumpkin Angel Food Mini Bundt Cakes
Caramelized Apples & Raisins
Servings
MINI BUNDT CAKES
Ingredients
Pumpkin Angel Food Mini Bundt Cakes
Caramelized Apples & Raisins
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Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine everything except the Angel Food Cake mix and ingredients to prepare cake. Mix until combined. Set aside.
  3. In a different bowl combine the Angel Food Cake mix and ingredients required to make the cake. Carefully fold in 1/4 of the batter into the pumpkin mixture. Then gently fold in the rest of the batter.
  4. Carefully pour or spoon into an 24 ungreased mini bunt cake pans. Place pans in oven on the middle rack.
  5. Bake for 15 -20 minutes or until cake is golden brown and springs back. Immediately invert pans onto a wire rack.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve with caramelized apples & raisins & a dollop of whipped topping. Sprinkle with salted pepita seeds.
Apples & Raisin Compote
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter then add water & sugar. When the caramel is golden brown, add the raisins, swirling them into the caramel.
  2. When raisins begin to plump, add apples & orange zest, then sprinkle with spices. Lower heat & simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken.
  3. Do not overcook compote as it will thicken when cooled.

Broccoli Soup w/ Boursin Cheese & Bacon Chips

Comfort food is many things to many people. One of the things that I think of as comfort food is a warm bowl of cream of broccoli soup. Its creamy texture and subtle flavors have the power to soothe your taste buds as well as your soul. But this soup is more than just a comforting dish; it’s a culinary gem with a fascinating history and impressive nutritional benefits. This velvety delight has its roots in the traditional French soup known as Potage Saint-Germain. Originating from the Saint-Germain-en-Laye region in France, this soup was originally crafted with peas. However, as culinary creativity knows no bounds, innovative cooks began swapping peas for broccoli, giving birth to Cream of Broccoli Soup.

Cream of Broccoli Soup has the incredible ability to cater to a wide range of palates and dietary preferences. Whether it’s a casual family dinner, a gathering with friends, or a formal occasion, this soup fits the bill perfectly.

In 1990, the Campbell Soup Company debuted a commercial variety of cream of broccoli soup. They devised it to be used as a soup and as an ingredient to be used in other dishes. During that time, the Campbell Soup Company published a booklet of broccoli dishes that are prepared using their canned cream of broccoli soup, which was offered free to consumers through the provision of a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the company. Some of the dishes in the booklet included ‘Easy Broccoli Bake’ and ‘Two-Step Chicken Broccoli Divan’. After the original soup’s debut, the company devised and marketed additional cream of broccoli-style soups, such as broccoli cheese soup, chunky chicken broccoli cheese soup and cream of chicken and broccoli soup.

Today, I decided to make our broccoli soup using Boursin cheese instead of cheddar. The garlic and herbs in the Boursin give some added depth to the flavor. Plus, it melts into the soup so smoothly and provides extra creaminess. Another nice thing about this recipe is it’s super creamy without the use of heavy cream. Such great comfort food!

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Broccoli Soup w/ Boursin Cheese & Bacon Chips
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Servings
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Instructions
  1. Peel & slice onion & garlic. Cut broccoli into pieces. Peel & dice potato into pieces. In a saucepan sauté onion for a few minutes, add the garlic & broccoli & potato pieces.
  2. Cover with water, add chicken or vegetable stock powder & simmer for 25-30 minutes until veggies are tender. Meanwhile, grill bacon & slice for garnish.
  3. With a slotted spoon, remove some of the broccoli florets if you wish to keep whole & set aside. In a food processor, puree remaining veg/broth mixture.
  4. Add the Boursin & seasoning, puree again to obtain a homogeneous preparation. Fold in reserved broccoli florets. Serve hot topped with bacon bits.

Sour Cream Rice Pancakes

ENJOYING SHROVE TUESDAY!

Whether you call it Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Pancake Day, Tuesday is the day of feasting and celebration before 40 days of fasting known as Lent. Celebrated by Anglo-Saxon Christians, participants would attend confession in order to be ‘shriven’ (forgiven for their sins). A bell rang to call everyone to church. This bell came to be known as the Pancake Bell and is still rung today.

Shrove Tuesday was the last day to use up eggs, sugar and fats before the fast, and making pancakes was the perfect way to do it! The ingredients of pancakes also symbolize four pillars of the Christian Faith. Flour for sustenance, eggs for creation, salt for wholesomeness, and milk for purity.

While other countries celebrate Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, with extravagant and exotic parades, in England, people race around towns and villages wielding frying pans that hold pancakes. The tradition was created in 1445 when a woman of Olney, Buckinghamshire was making pancakes when she heard the bell summoning her to church. In a rush to get to church, she ran, still in her apron and holding her frying pan. The Olney Pancake Race is now the most popular pancake race in the world. Participants must be local housewives and they must wear an apron. The goal of the race is to run while carrying a frying pan with a cooked pancake inside flipping it as you run. In order to win, the woman must successfully toss the pancake three times throughout the race, reach the church and serve the pancake to the bell ringer. Hundreds of people gather every year to participate in this fun tradition!

Mardi Gras, which translates to Fat Tuesday in French, is largely celebrated in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Parades, parties, and feasts dazzled in colors of green, gold, and purple fill the city for two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday.

Personally, I have always liked pancakes, so in keeping with the Shrove Tuesday tradition Brion & I will be enjoying some today. Although I can’t quite picture myself running in a pancake race, I’m making some sour cream rice pancakes … if you like rice pudding as well as pancakes, these are for you!

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Sour Cream Rice Pancakes
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Pancakes
Blueberry Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Pancakes
Blueberry Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pancakes
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, sour cream, butter & vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cooked rice, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture & whisk together. Let batter sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Heat a nonstick griddle to medium-low heat. Spray with oil. Using a 1/4 cup measure, portion out batter on griddle. Cook for about 2 minutes per side.
  5. Serve immediately garnished with blueberry sauce or your choice of topping.
Blueberry Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries & cook until 'clear' & bubbling. Remove from heat & stir in butter & lemon juice. Serve warm over pancakes.

Beef Stroganoff w/ Barley Risotto

Beef Stroganoff is a perfect dinner party dish – inexpensive and easy to prepare yet rich and luxurious. History reveals a simple but elegant dish of steak meat sautéed with onion and cooked in a sauce of sour cream, seasonings and usually, mushrooms.

This dish was invented sometime in the early 1800s and had its North American heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.

The best cuts of beef for stroganoff are tender, juicy cuts such as:

  • boneless rib eye
  • boneless sirloin.
  • sirloin steak tips.
  • beef tenderloin.

In researching beef stroganoff, I’ve seen recommendations for all sorts of things to serve it with, including kasha, egg noodles, French fried potatoes, rice, mashed potatoes with chives, wild rice, and the leftovers on buttered toast points.

Since Brion & I always enjoy risotto, it seems like a good choice to pair with our stroganoff. I’ve made risotto from rice, couscous, orzo and they were all good so today I’m using barley.

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Beef Stroganoff w/ Barley Risotto
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- 6 SERVINGS
Ingredients
Servings
- 6 SERVINGS
Ingredients
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Instructions
Beef - Marinade
  1. In a large zip-lock bag or glass dish, whisk together oil, soy sauce & Montreal Steak Spice. Add cubed steak & marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours.
Mustard Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually whisk in chicken stock and mustard. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut tomato into thick strips. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook tomato until softened, 3-5 minutes. Stir into mustard sauce; add salt, liquid smoke & sour cream.
  3. In same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Drain beef using a strainer, discarding marinade. Add sliced onion & mushrooms to pan; cook and stir until onion is softened. Add beef & cook until meat is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Add mustard sauce; reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened. Keep warm until serving.
Barley Risotto
  1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. In another large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion & salt. Cook and stir until liquid evaporates. Add barley; toast in pan.
  2. Stir hot water into barley 1 cup at a time, waiting until liquid has almost absorbed before adding more. Cook until barley is softened but still slightly chewy, 15-20 minutes; stir in parsley. Serve immediately with beef.

Turkey Breast w/ Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing

SEASON’S GREETINGS!

The Christmas season makes us reflect on many different things; to live life a little more grateful, more hopeful and a little more peaceful. It is a time to connect with friends and loved ones to enjoy the traditions we grew up with. 

Today, December 25th, our family celebrates my sister Rita’s birthday as well as Christmas. I have fond memories of her Christmas Eve family birthday ‘parties’. On the eve of Christmas, our family would go to church. After returning home, we were joined by some family friends to have birthday cake and homemade root beer. My parents wanted my sister to always have this special time to honor her birthday apart from the Christmas festivities.

As I write about this memory, something else comes to mind. Our church at that time, was a small, old building. For the choir it had a small loft. As long as I can remember, the same lady played the organ as well as directing the choir members in song. She in turn, had a teenage daughter gifted with an unbelievable voice. One of the highlights of the Christmas service was to hear her sing a solo version of ‘Oh Holy Night’. You could hear a pin drop; it was breathtaking how angelic and beautiful her voice was. I get emotional even now remembering it.

The strange and fascinating story of ‘O Holy Night’ began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, would not only become one of the most beloved anthems of all time, it would mark a technological revolution that would forever change the way people were introduced to music.

In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France’s capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest’s request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, ‘Cantique de Noel’ had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his ‘Cantique de Noel’ was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician’s hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.


The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of ‘Cantique de Noel’ represented a day he didn’t celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau’s beautiful words. Adams’ finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Since that first rendition at a small Christmas mass in 1847, ‘O Holy Night’ has been sung millions of times in churches in every corner of the world. And since the moment a handful of people first heard it played over the radio, the carol has gone on to become one of the entertainment industry’s most recorded and played spiritual songs. This incredible work has become one of the most beautiful, inspired pieces of music ever created.

For our turkey stuffing today, I decided to go with something a bit different. The quinoa-mushroom stuffing can be made to stuff the bird or served as a standalone side-dish.

BIRTHDAY WISHES WITH LOVE TO YOU RITA. HOPE YOU, RICK & AMBER HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY!

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Turkey Breast w/ Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
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Servings
Ingredients
Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
Turkey
Servings
Ingredients
Quinoa Mushroom Stuffing
Turkey
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. Cook & mash potatoes. Prepare gravy mix as directed on pkg. Set aside.
  2. Cook the quinoa in a small pot by bringing the quinoa & water to a boil. Cover & reduce heat to very low & cook for about 20 minutes. Remove lid & set aside.
  3. Heat a saucepan, add the onions & sauté for 2-3 minutes, adding just a Tbsp of water at a time if the onions stick, stirring frequently. Add celery, mushrooms, onion & garlic powder, poultry seasoning & dried basil. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup water, fresh herbs, chard & cranberries. Cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a large bowl, mix cooked quinoa with mashed potatoes, vegetable/spice mix & gravy to make a moist stuffing consistency. Set aside while you prepare turkey breast.
Turkey Breast
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay turkey breast on a clean work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten into an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap.
  3. On one half of the turkey breast spread a thick layer of stuffing. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast over all. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help keep the stuffing enclosed.
  4. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Combine herb butter ingredients & brush over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
  5. Place any extra stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Remove skewers & slice. Serve with cranberry sauce.

Apple Hand Pies

We are now entering the last month of the autumn season here in Canada.  Fall air is light and crisp—and it carries a signature scent …. a mix of rain, earth, tree bark, and leaves. It’s a scent that always makes you want to take deeper, longer breaths, and just fill your lungs with all the smells of nature. Fall is nature’s most prolific and imaginative painter who loves to splash stunning shades of red, orange, and yellow splash across this canvas we call planet earth.

If fall recipes are known for two things, those things are pumpkin and apples. The smell of the spices in our fall desserts, things like pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon, bring back memories of family Thanksgivings. Not only are these flavors generally found in hot drinks and foods, which are comforting in themselves, their smells are what actually makes them so coveted. 

With the abundance of apples available to us this time of year, it’s no surprise our kitchens are often full of the aromas of wonderful baked apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the plethora of smells that often accompany apple dishes. There are just so many ways to incorporate apples into our dishes, both savory and sweet.

Over the years, I have posted many different hand pies, both sweet and savory. So, just as a salute to ‘apple season’, I’m making some apple hand pies topped with a fall motif.

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Apple Hand Pies
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apple hand pies
Servings
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow shortening until it resembles small peas. In a one cup measure, place egg & vinegar; combine. Add enough cold water to make 3/4 cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing quickly, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes; DO NOT OVERMIX PASTRY. Cover with plastic wrap & place in refrigerator until filling is ready.
Apple Filling
  1. Peel & dice apples, toss with lemon juice, brown sugar, spice of choice & salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add apple mixture & cook until sugar dissolves completely & the apple pieces are starting to soften.
  3. Mix cornstarch with cold water & add this slurry to the saucepan. Stir until filling thickens, about 1 minute. Take off the heat & set aside to cool completely.
Assembly
  1. Prepare egg wash. Remove pastry from fridge & roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut into 16 rounds. If you wish cut out some fall designs such as acorns or maple leaves for the top of the hand pies. On each round place a scoop of apple filling (I weighed my filling & divided it between the 16 pastry rounds). Fold in half & seal with a fork or alternately use a perogy cutter to cut, fold & seal.
  2. Place the mini turnovers on a parchment lined baking sheet & keep in the fridge or freezer while you continue to make the rest of the pastries.
Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Brush egg wash all over the pastry crusts. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of coarse sugar. Bake for about 14 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  3. Remove from oven & place pastries on a wire rack to cool.

Apricot Couscous Cupcakes

Want an unusual dessert? Try swapping out some of the flour for couscous in a cupcake batter. You’ll be amazed at the result.

A major complaint about couscous sometimes is the lack of flavor but this is where having it as dessert comes in handy. Incorporating apricot puree and spices into the couscous batter gives the cupcakes an amazing flavor and texture.

Couscous, the justly celebrated masterpiece of Moroccan cooking, is actually a pasta, though it`s often mistaken for a grain.

Couscous (pronounced ‘koos-koos‘) is now widely available in packaged form in most supermarkets. Couscous are the yellow granules of semolina made from durum wheat. Durum is the hardest variety of the six classes of wheat and has the highest protein content of all wheat. Because of this, it’s ideal for making high quality pasta and is used by both American and Italian manufacturers. It’s also used to make couscous in America and Latin America. If these pastas were made of the softer white wheat flour that egg noodles use, they would lose their shape.

There are three types of couscous:

  • Moroccan couscous -Fine, used for savory as well as dessert couscous.
  • Israeli couscous – Medium, used for savory dishes also called pearl couscous.
  • Lebanese couscous – Coarse, more difficult to work with, used for savory dishes.

Adding some cream cheese frosting topped with apricot puree and sprinkled with couscous rolled in cinnamon takes this dessert to the next level!

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Apricot Couscous Cupcakes
Instructions
Couscous
  1. In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water & 1/2 tsp salt to boiling. Add couscous, cover & remove from heat. Allow to sit 5 minutes then fluff with a fork & set aside to cool.
Apricot Puree
  1. Place water, sugar & apricots in a saucepan. Bring to a boil & simmer until soft. Place in a food processor & pulse to make a puree.
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 2 cups cooled couscous (reserve a small amount for topping), flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add 1 cup apricot puree & whip until light & fluffy. Add vanilla & egg yolks; whip well.
  4. Gradually add couscous mixture then buttermilk & combine only until blended. Whip egg whites until frothy, adding a pinch of salt. Using a spatula, blend egg whites into the batter.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until testing with a toothpick & it comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Frosting
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese & butter until completely smooth, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape down sides to ensure that the mixture is mixed evenly.
  2. On low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar. Once combined, scrape down sides of bowl & increase the speed to medium, beating just until well combined & creamy.
Decorating
  1. Place cream cheese topping in a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe a swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake. With another smaller piping bag, using a round tip, drizzle apricot puree then sprinkle with cinnamon coated (cooked) couscous.