Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp

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The fall season has officially begun, and what better way to celebrate than to dust off your oven and make this amazing Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp. Peaches aren’t a typical fall fruit, but they are still in abundance in my neck of the woods, which makes this dessert the perfect transition from summer to fall. If peach season has already passed, this would be amazing with apples too!

Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp

Of course, no crisp would be complete without a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Bourbon Pecan Peach Crisp with Ice Cream

Serves 6

Filling Ingredients
3-4 peaches, sliced (about 3 cups sliced)
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients
1/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter a 7 x 11 baking dish (or other medium-sized baking dish) and set aside.

Spread the pecans evenly onto a baking sheet, and bake until toasted, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Add the sliced peaches (no need to peel) to a large bowl. Sprinkle the bourbon over the peaches and gently stir to coat the peaches. Add the brown sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla to the bowl and stir gently until coated. Set aside.

To prepare the topping, stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Stir in the toasted pecans. Pour the melted butter over the top, and stir to combine.

Spoon the peaches into the bottom of the baking dish, leaving most of the residual liquid in the bowl. Crumble the topping over the peaches, using your fingers to distribute evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven, for about 30-40 minutes, or until the topping is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbly. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and enjoy!

Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet and Host the Toast.

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White Chocolate Key Lime Pie with Coconut Crust

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This luscious White Chocolate Key Lime Pie is as good as it sounds. It’s sweet and tart at the same time, with the creamy texture of cheesecake. Best of all, there’s no baking required, so it’s perfect for summer!

White Chocolate Key Lime Pie with Coconut Crust

It’s really easy to put together too . . . well, except for squeezing the juice from all of those @#$% tiny key limes. The key lime flavor really is worth the effort, but I won’t judge if you choose to use regular limes instead. My grocery store sells bags of key limes that happen to yield exactly the amount of juice need to make this pie. I neglected to count the number of key limes in the bag, but I’m guessing it was around 15 or so.

I’ve been on a coconut kick lately, so I decided to jazz up the standard graham cracker crust with some unsweetened shredded coconut, which was a perfect complement to the tangy lime flavor of the pie.

I made this pie for Easter, but it would also be perfect for Mother’s Day (hint-hint dads). It is very rich, so plan to serve small slices. We had 8 adults tackle this pie (some of whom had seconds), and still only made it through ¾ of the pie (I have the rest of the pie in the freezer, but haven’t had an excuse thaw it out yet. I’ll be sure to let you know if it freezes well or not).

Ingredients
Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
Filling:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
11 ounces white chocolate chips*
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/3 cup key lime juice
Optional: additional white chocolate for garnish

To make the crust, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before filling.

To make the filling, add the cream and white chocolate chips to a small saucepan over low heat. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream, lime zest, and lime juice.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight. Before serving, garnish with white chocolate, if desired. Enjoy!

* Note: some chocolate chips contain fillers that help them keep their shape, but can result in a grainy texture when melted. I had good results with Ghirardelli White Baking Chips. You can also use baking bars, but they are generally more expensive than chocolate chips.

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Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

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You know what I love? Cookies. You know what I love even more? Delicious cookies that are healthy too, like these yummy banana chocolate chip cookies. They only have 6 ingredients: bananas, oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. Yep, that’s right – no flour, butter, or sugar. I suppose one could argue that chocolate chips aren’t really healthy, but we don’t know any of those people, right?

Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are super easy to make too; just throw all of the ingredients into one bowl, mix it up, and bake for 15 minutes. If you’re wondering, yes, they do taste like bananas. I’m not a huge fan of bananas myself, but I really like these cookies. They remind me of chocolate chip banana bread. My oldest daughter doesn’t like bananas very much either, but even she devoured these cookies (I may have neglected to tell her that bananas were one of the main ingredients).

The sugar in the bananas make the cookies plenty sweet, so no need to worry about that. In fact, I would recommend that you use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips in this recipe; the bitterness will complement the sweet cookies nicely. As you can see from my photo, I didn’t skimp on the chocolate chips. You can probably reduce the chocolate chips to 1/2 cup, if you want a less chocolately cookie.

I used ripe, but not overripe bananas (yellow, not brown). For those with peanut allergies, you can either omit the peanut butter, or substitute a different nut/seed butter. If you do omit the peanut butter, increase the amount of salt a bit.

Ingredients
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup uncooked oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat, or parchment paper.

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl, and stir well to combine. If you used large bananas, you may need to add a bit more oats. The mixture should be sticky and wet, but not runny.

Plop rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet. (Note: I experimented with flattening a few of my “plops” before baking, but the taste and texture was the same.) Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown on the bottom. Let cool a few minutes and enjoy!

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Gingerbread Bars

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Can you believe it’s less than two week until Christmas? Christmas is my favorite holiday and I always try to make it last as long as possible (yes, I am one of those people who start listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving), but the holiday still seems to end too soon.

One of my very favorite Christmas activities is baking, especially since it’s a fun low-key activity to do with my kids. To kick-off the holiday baking season, I made these yummy gingerbread bars. They taste similar to a gingerbread cookie, but soooo much easier to make. I shared these gingerbread bars with my daughter’s 4-H group and the kids devoured them (and came back for seconds and thirds)! It’s a very simple gingery bar, so I was kind of surprised they were so popular with the kiddos….just imagine if I topped them with frosting!

Gingerbread Bars

After tasting these gingerbread bars, my youngest is demanding that we also make gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and ginger cookies….hmm, I wonder if Costco sells ground ginger in bulk?

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
White sugar (use organic or sugar in the raw, if you have it)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Add the brown sugar, butter, and molasses to a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until just combined. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture using a wooden spoon. The batter will be quite thick, so you will need to spoon the batter into the baking dish and smooth it out with the back of the wooden spoon (or rubber spatula). It will spread while baking, so it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth. Lightly sprinkle the sugar over the top. (Note: I like to use organic sugar because the crystals are larger and they have a slight molasses flavor.)

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and your kitchen smells amazing!  Let cool completely, then cut into squares and enjoy!

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter! For some reason, Easter seems to invoke serious dessert inspiration for me. Last year I made these delectable Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Cupcakes. This year I wanted something lemon. I am a member of Raley’s Something Extra Try It program, and they sent me not only a box of their premium vanilla bean cake mix, but also a whisk, recipe booklet, and some adorable Easter cupcake liners. I was originally planning on making a lemon cake, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to use my cute new cupcake liners.

I’ve been known to turn up my nose at boxed cake mixes, but I was intrigued by the vanilla bean flavor . . . and hey, it was free, and I’m not one to turn down a bargain. So, I quickly whipped together the ingredients (cake mix, eggs, milk, and melted butter), and popped the cupcakes in the oven. They smelled divine right out of the oven, and tasted even better. They were light, flavorful, and pleasantly sweet. Sweet enough to eat without any frosting – but what’s the fun in that?

I still wanted something lemon, and I thought about making a lemon buttercream frosting, but I knew I’d want something lighter after gorging myself on Easter dinner. Instead of traditional frosting, I smeared the top of the cupcakes with lemon curd, added a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream, and then topped them off with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios.

Yep, they were awesome – feast your eyes . . .

The sweetness of the vanilla bean cake, combined with the tart lemon curd, creamy whipped cream, and crunchy, salty pistachios created the perfect marriage of texture and flavor. Next time I may skip Easter dinner and gorge myself on dessert instead.

Ingredients
Raley’s Vanilla Bean Cake Mix (or your favorite cake mix)
Lemon curd (on the jam and jelly aisle)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Powdered sugar, to taste
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Prepare the cupcakes, per the package directions and let cool completely (this step can be completed the day before).

Prepare the whipped cream, by beating the cream in a medium bowl (preferably metal) with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. (Note: to speed this process, I put a few ice cubes in the bottom of a large bowl, and then set the bowl of cream on top of the ice while I’m mixing). Sprinkle in the powdered sugar (I think I used about 1 tablespoon) and beat to combine. Taste the whipped cream, and add additional powdered sugar, if desired. Continue beating for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until peaks form when you remove the beaters.

To assemble the cupcakes, spread about 1 teaspoon of lemon curd on top of each cupcake, then add a generous spoonful of whipped cream, then sprinkle the pistachios on top. Serve immediately.

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Heart Brownies

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Hello, my friends! I wanted to share these cute heart-shaped brownies that I made for my sweeties for Valentine’s Day. They are super-easy to make, but still look cute and taste yummy. All you do is bake your favorite boxed brownie mix, cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter, and then decorate to your heart’s content.

These would be great for themed birthdays, bake sales, and holidays — just change the shape: shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, pumpkins for Halloween, trees for Christmas, etc. I topped my brownies with white chocolate, caramel sauce, and sprinkles, but you can choose your own favorite toppings. My daughters love pink, so I made two brownies with extra white chocolate and pink sprinkles just for them.

Ingredients
1 box brownie mix
White chocolate
Caramel sauce
Colored sprinkles

Bake the brownies, per the package instructions. (Note: this works best with thicker, cake-like brownies, so I added an extra egg, and reduced the water, as suggested on the back of my brownie box. I also replaced the oil with applesauce, just to make them a bit more healthy.) Allow the brownies to cool completely (to save time, you can bake the brownies a day in advance).

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes, and set them aside on a plate or piece of waxed paper.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, following the package instructions, until melted. Use a spoon to drizzle the melted white chocolate over the brownie shape. Then drizzle the caramel sauce over the white chocolate (you may need to microwave your caramel sauce for a few seconds first).

Let stand, until the white chocolate hardens, and then enjoy all of your hard(ish) work!

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Apple Pumpkin Muffins

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These Apple Pumpkin Muffins are so good! It’s like apple pie and pumpkin pie combined, but much healthier. I used 2 cups of Truvia Baking Blend, but the muffins were a bit too sweet for my taste, so I suggest using a bit less sugar (or your favorite sugar alternative). These muffins are excellent with my morning coffee or tea and are healthy enough to feel good about packing them in my children’s lunch boxes.

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups Truvia Baking Blend (or your favorite sugar/sweetener)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 15oz can canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups, peeled and chopped apple
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line 18 muffin cups.

Add the flours, oats, Truvia (or sugar), cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl, and whisk together until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, and applesauce. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the chopped apples and walnuts. Spoon the batter evenly among the 18 muffin cups.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly tapped.

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Triple Berry Crisp

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Hello everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus. My summer activities seem to be keeping me busier than I expected. Oh, plus, we got a new puppy (it’s like I have a new baby in the house again - but with very sharp teeth). His name is Raleigh.

Isn’t he cute?

Anyway, I hope this recipe is worth the wait. It really is delicious (if I do say so myself)! My kids and I went berry picking at a local farm (so fun!), and we came home with a bounty of Marion berries, Ollalie berries, and raspberries. This was my first experience with Marion berries and Ollalie berries, which are similar to blackberries, and just as delicious. I combined all three berries for this recipe, but feel free to experiment with other berries, if desired.

My family began devouring the berries immediately, but I managed to set aside enough berries for this wonderful dessert. It’s similar to a fruit cobbler, but the fruit is sandwiched between two layers of yummy oat “topping”. I love the combination of hearty oats with sweet berries. I topped the crisp with walnuts, because everything is better with nuts (in my humble opinion).

Ingredients
3 cups fresh berries (I used Marion, Ollalie, and raspberries)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8-inch baking dish (or other medium baking dish – I used an oval dish).

Add the berries and white sugar to a medium bowl and gently stir together. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and salt. Add the butter pieces and then cut the butter into the oat mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives (you can use your fingers too), until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add half of the oat mixture to the bottom of the baking dish and press gently with your hand, packing the mixture slightly.

Add the berries to the baking dish (you may need to drain the accumulated juice from the berries first) and spread evenly over the oat layer.

Top the berries with the remaining oat mixture. I like to take handfuls of the oat mixture and flatten them slightly with my hands before placing them on top of the berries. Sprinkle the walnuts on top of the oat mixture.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the topping is firm and browned. Let cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator (it tastes great cold too!).

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Fresh Blackberry Pie with Walnut-Oat Meringue Crust

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Wild blackberry bushes grew in abundance along the American River in Northern California, where I grew up. In early summer, I would spend hours plucking sweet berries from those thorny bushes, until my lips and fingers were stained purple. I’ll always remember the taste of sweet blackberries, right off the bush.

This blackberry pie brings back memories of those days spent gorging myself on blackberries. There isn’t any sugar added to the filling – just big, beautiful, sweet blackberries. The walnut-oat meringue crust is from Shirley O. Corriher’s CookWise cookbook, and is amazing! It’s light, hearty, mildly sweet, and it pairs beautifully with the unsweetened blackberries. It’s really easy to put together, and tastes so much better than an ordinary pie crust.

One word of caution: since the blackberries aren’t cooked, they won’t last more than a day or two. This pie is definitely best when eaten the same day it is made. So, invite some friends over to share in your blackberry bliss!

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 large eggs whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 big baskets of fresh blackberries (try your local Farmer’s Market)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lay the walnuts out flat on a baking sheet, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to a large bowl, and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is lifted. (Note: I think I could have beaten my egg whites a bit longer, so I would say beat until “medium peaks” form.) Beat in the sugar and baking powder. Gently fold in the walnuts, salt, oats, and vanilla with a rubber spatula.

Spray a 10-inch pie plate with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour. Spoon the meringue into the pie plate. Spread thinly over the bottom and pile higher on the sides. (Note: my meringue was a bit too thin, so it all just settled in one layer. If this happens to you, don’t fret, because it will still turn out great.) Bake at 325 degrees until set and lightly browned about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a cooling rack.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a glass measuring cup. Press about 1/2 cup of the fresh blackberries through the strainer using the back of a spoon, collecting the juice in the measuring cup. Discard the blackberry pulp. Add enough water to the blackberry juice to make 1/2 cup.

Add the cornstarch to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in a small amount of the juice/water mixture, until the cornstarch is smooth, then pour in the remaining juice/water and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (this will probably only take about a minute). Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes, then gently fold in the blackberries.

Spoon the blackberries onto the cooled meringue crust, and refrigerate to cool thoroughly. Serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Coconut Macaroons

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I’m a sucker for those big, beautiful, perfectly mounded coconut macaroons that you find in fancy bakeries (extra points if they’re dipped in chocolate!). I’ve tried making coconut macaroons before, but I ended up with flat, sticky things that tasted pretty good, but did not live up to my vision of a perfect macaroon.

I think I discovered the secret: ditch the sweetened condensed milk. This recipe, from Baker’s, uses egg whites instead and it produces macaroons that are similar to those bakery beauties that I covet. Click here to see the original recipe.

Like most things, coconut becomes glorious when it’s toasted, so I pop the macaroons under the broiler for a few minutes after they are finished baking, to give them a tasty, toasted exterior.

Ingredients
1 14-ounce package flaked coconut
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites (unbeaten)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper (or you can grease and flour them instead).

Combine the coconut, sugar, flour and salt in large bowl. Stir in egg whites, vanilla extract and almond extract until well blended.

Drop coconut mixture into mounds, 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheets. I like my macaroons big and tall, so before I put them in the oven, I’ll reshape them using my fingers (it helps if you wet your fingers first) to make sure they hold their shape.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the bottom edges are golden brown. Turn on the broiler and crack open the oven door. Broil for a minute or two, or until the macaroons are light brown on top. Watch carefully because they will burn easily.

Remove from the oven, move to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 1 week.

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