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Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

The students have all closed their novels and packed up their supplies for Thanksgiving Break, so it’s time for me to take a deep breath and relax — until the baking begins tomorrow, of course! Because I enjoyed reading Jillicious‘s list of things she’s thankful for this year, here are a few of my own:

  1. Jesus, who made the greatest sacrifice for me.
  2. My family — they’re crazy, wonderful, and so supportive.
  3. Mike, who has never disliked anything I’ve ever cooked, whether overseasoned, underseasoned, burnt, or weird.
  4. Cake.
  5. Friends, for joining me in ridiculous escapades.
  6. My students, who make me laugh every day and (usually) make me feel like I’m making a difference through my teaching.
  7. Writing.
  8. Byrd and Squirt, my poodle and red-eared slider. One is fluffy and hyper, the other is scaly and . . . frowny; nevertheless, they’re both the sweetest pets anyone could ask for, and have made my little apartment a home.
  9. My snuggie. Shut up; it’s comfortable!
  10. Food, which is one language through which history, family, culture, and emotion has been communicated to me. I love joining the conversation.

On that note, here are some dishes that have warmed the pages of Willow Bird Baking in the past months that would be lovely on your Thanksgiving dinner table. May you enjoy the sharing of mirth, love, and calories with your family this year!



Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple — Add some variety to your Thanksgiving pie choices! Everyone gets to choose their own flavor. The pumpkin and peach pies are especially scrumptious.





Jack-O’-Lantern Whoopie Pies — These cakey cookies are hearty, moist, spicy, and addictive. Whoopie pies should be part of every family’s Thanksgiving tradition.







Peach Crisp Pie — Delicious, gooey peaches and crispy oats fill a tender, flaky crust. This is my favorite pie of all time!





Best Ever Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Easy Caramel Frosting and Spiced Apples — This moist, dense, finely-crumbed cake is heavenly with or without some spicy cinnamon apples on the side. “Best Ever” is not an exaggeration!



Chocolate Tart — Tired of pumpkin? If you’re a chocolate lover, this tart is a must-eat. Rich, indulgent chocolate fills the buttery tart crust, and a pile of freshly whipped cream accompanies each bite. This post also includes a bright and tangy Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart.


Overnight Yeast Rolls — These fluffy, delicious, buttery yeast rolls are part of my family’s annual Thanksgiving tradition. When I realized I was old enough to make them myself (and at any time of year, too), it was one ecstatic day in the kitchen!


Cardamom Pumpkin Macarons — Having an elegant Thanksgiving? These gluten-free cookies combine cardamom with traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin. Macarons are the perfect bite: crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside.



Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake — Looking for a big, beautiful cake to adorn your Thanksgiving table? Barefoot Contessa’s Carrot Pineapple Cake is brimming with hunks of pineapple, carrot, walnut, and raisin. With cream cheese frosting slathered on in a thick layer, it’s an elegant and decadent Thanksgiving dessert.

Green Chile TURKEY Enchiladas — Okay, these don’t quite fit on the Thanksgiving dinner table, but maybe you find yourself wondering what to do with all your juicy turkey leftovers? These Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas can be transformed into turkey-filled treats, and what a great way to spice up leftovers. The recipe is so seductive, yet very simple — it won’t take up all of your Black Friday!


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Mini-Pies: Pumpkin, Peach Crisp, and Sour Cream Apple

As the days adopt a chill and the pretty trees behind my apartment lazily lose their leaves, I’m embracing what’s to come. I’ve already begun lighting my Balsam and Cedar candles, poking about for pumpkin recipes, and crunching happily down sidewalks strewn with crisp leaves. I’m trying to get in the autumn spirit, and it was with that mindset that I sat down this week to hunt for delicious recipes. My Sunday school class is having a potluck tomorrow, and I wanted something bite-sized and special to contribute.

Whenever I’m pondering what to bake, I struggle between two very disparate urges. On one hand, I love baked goods that are cute. You know, those cupcakes that look like burgers, cake balls shaped like random animals, cakes decorated to resemble inanimate objects. On the other hand, I grow more in tune with each passing week to the fact that I’m pinching salt, molding dough, tossing flour, and in short, creating things with my hands. In keeping with that, I love baked goods that are simple, rustic, and emphatically homemade. Marrying these two desires is sometimes difficult, but this weekend, I think I found the perfect solution (just in time for the Sunday school potluck): miniature pies. Itty bitty Pumpkin Pies, Peach Crisp Pies, and Sour Cream Apple Pies, to be precise.

These tiny pies are so sweet and cute and charming . . . that I’m almost suspicious. Remember diminutive, pigtailed Rhoda from the classic 1956 horror film The Bad Seed?

She was ostensibly the picture of perfection, but in actuality, she was going around killing neighborhood children, old ladies, and her family’s dimwitted handyman. I can just see her roller skating down the sidewalk with a basket of these perfect pies. She used to ask her parents, “What will you give me for a basket of kisses?” and they’d respond nauseatingly, “A basket of hugs.” But who wants a basket of hugs when you could have a basket of pies?

Murderous allusions notwithstanding, these particular perfect treats are not too good to be true. Unlike dear Rhoda, they are every bit as sweet and delectable as they appear.

The Mini Peach Crisp Pies were exact taste replicas of their full-size cousin. I chopped fresh, juicy peaches and mixed them with brown sugar, granulated sugar, and oats. This simple combination yields an unexpectedly bright fall flavor with a satisfying, gooey, oaty texture. I’m glad I have more of these waiting in my fridge. I don’t know if my Sunday school class will get to sample these!

The Sour Cream Apple Pies had a nostalgic appeal. When I was little, my mom made a buttery, tangy dessert she called, simply, Apple Kuchen. It was easy to assemble — a yellow cake mix base topped with apple pie filling and sour cream. I’ll have to post that recipe sometime, since it was my first introduction to the apples and sour cream together. That combination is still a favorite of mine today. These mini-pies didn’t quite live up to my expectations, though; the flavor was very mild and left me wishing for more spice. The recipe I used didn’t call for a single bit of cinnamon or nutmeg, and though I snuck in a few shakes of the cinnamon jar, it still needed some work. I have to hand you a grain of salt to take with my criticism, though, since I’m devouring these little apple parcels lustily. The sweet apple flavor is certainly still appealing.

Last but not least, the Pumpkin Pies were my absolute favorite. Spicy, custardy pumpkin inside a buttery, flaky crust, all topped with either a pretty pecan or a dollop of homemade whipped cream (okay, or both!). Want to know the best part? They were by far the easiest mini-pie to assemble — so easy that I’m making them one of my go-to desserts. Just like the Plum and Cream Mini Tortes Mike and I loved so much, these little pies pay out much more joy and deliciousness than they cost in labor.



I can’t wait for you to try these miniature pies and share your thoughts with me! How else are you going to try three or four different flavors of pie all on one plate? If you’d rather not indulge your do-too-muchitis, though, why not choose just one flavor to bake? Pop a pan of the easy pumpkin pies in the oven all by themselves for a simple treat. Whether you bake one flavor or all of them, I hope you’re thrilled with the sweet results.

Miniature Pies: Pumpkin, Sour Cream Apple, and Peach Crisp


Recipe By:

Digs Magazine (pumpkin pie filling)
Not Martha (fruit pie inspiration)
Epicurious (apple pie filling, adapted)
-Willow Bird Baking (peach crisp filling)

Yields: About 48 mini-muffin sized pies, depending on proportions
Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold butter flavored vegetable shortening*
3/4 cup cold butter, chopped
6-8 tablespoons cold water
*I tried shortening for this recipe, but prefer lard!

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
6 oz. evaporated milk
1.5 eggs*
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
*For half an egg – lightly beat one egg, then measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Peach Crisp Filling Ingredients:
3 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 cup oats
pinch salt

Sour Cream Apple Filling Ingredients:
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large eggs
1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large Granny Smith apples

Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg
a little water

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or flavoring of your choice)


Directions:

Make the crust: Pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add chunks of shortening and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another 2 tablespoons of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes while preparing your filling.

Make desired fillings: While dough is chilling, make desired fillings.

  1. Pumpkin: Combine the sugars, cinnamon and ginger in a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and stir in the pumpkin; add the evaporated milk and mix well. Refrigerate if you aren’t using it right away.
  2. Peach Crisp: Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Sour Cream Apple: Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs, and flour until the mixture is smooth. Add the apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin, and stir the filling until it is combined well. Note: I added a teaspoon of cinnamon and wish I’d added some nutmeg, too.

Prepare the bottom crust: Take one of the disks of dough and pinch off walnut-sized balls. Place a ball in each well of an ungreased mini-muffin pan. Using your fingers, work the dough up the sides of each well (and create a little lip of dough rising over the edge for fruit pies). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For fruit pies: Fill each well with desired fruit filling. Pinch off a piece of dough and flatten it or roll it out thin on a sheet of parchment paper. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out a top crust. Place the top crust on one of the wells, folding the bottom crust lip over with the edge of the top crust and crimping the edges shut. You can use a toothpick to decorate the edges. Repeat for all of the mini-pies. Cut a crisscross vent in the center of each pie. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the tops of the pies. Bake pies at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, checking often. If the pies appear to be getting too brown, cover the whole pan with aluminum foil. Remove and let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring mini-pies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For pumpkin pies: Pour pumpkin pie filling into each prepared well. Bake pies for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling set. Remove and sprinkle chopped toasted pecans on top OR decorate with a pretty toasted pecan half. Let cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring mini-pies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve mini-pies with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. To make homemade whipped cream, mix all ingredients together until soft peaks are obtained.

Notes: The fruit pie filling portions above are most likely out of proportion. I made extra peach and apple to freeze. The pumpkin filling recipe above has been halved from the original, because I made the original amount and ended up with way too much.

To store Pumpkin and Sour Cream Apple Mini-Pies, refrigerate in an airtight container.


Preparing my apple pie filling and baking the pies.



Pumpkin pies baking and cooling off.



All packed up and ready to go to Sunday school!



Happy Eating!

P.S. Nominate your favorite food blogs for the 2009 Foodbuzz Blog Awards by September 30th!

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Peach Crisp Pie

I have two options here. Option 1: I could throw up a picture of the gooey, hearty peach pie I just made and nonchalantly describe the process. I could pretend that making the flaky crust was a cinch, my kitchen stayed miraculously spotless throughout the effortless endeavor, and oh, by the way, my apron matches the bow in my carefully coiffed hair. Or option 2: I could tell the truth.

I’m an honest woman. The truth is, today was a disaster. A disaster that did end in the aforementioned gooey, hearty peach pie (thank God), but a disaster nonetheless. First of all, I was not planning on making a pie, but pie pockets.

It all started when Heidi over at Heidi Bakes posted these scrumptious looking Apple Hand Pies. Those little pie pockets caused all the trouble! They were so beautiful! And so PERSONAL — if I were talking to my 6th graders, who are practicing analogies, I’d say that cupcakes are to cakes what pie pockets are to pies. I had to make them! All of a sudden, I went a liiiittle bit insane (no really, ask Mike about my late night pie pocket instant messages) about the possibilities.

Here’s just a BRIEF list of all the possible pie pockets that ran through my head:

  • broccoli, cheese, and ham pie pockets
  • raspberry pie pockets
  • apple cranberry pie pockets
  • cherry pie pockets
  • strawberry cherry pie pockets
  • banana, oat, and nut pie pockets with gooey brown sugar, butter, streusel
  • blueberry pie pockets
  • NUTELLA pie pockets
  • pizza pie pockets
  • tomato, mozzarella, and basil pesto pie pockets
  • barbecue and apple pie pockets
  • peach and blueberry pie pockets
  • peach cobbler pockets
  • Philly cheesesteak pie pockets
  • beef burgundy pie pockets
  • coconut cream pie pockets

So what’s the problem? All of that sounds great (in fact, I’m getting excited all over again, which is pretty incredible considering the day I’ve had). Well, the problem is my chronic do-too-muchitis. I can’t just make some cookies; I have to make three types of cookies, decorate them according to each recipient’s favorite color, and tie them up in individualized bows. I can’t just bake a cake; I have to turn it into cupcakes, add three different types of filling, and oh yeah, try one batch with cake flour as an experiment. Get the idea? Alas, my do-too-muchitis struck again. No hyperbole this time around: I couldn’t pick ONE flavor of pie pockets to bake today. I had to pick FOUR flavors (two savory, two sweet) of pie pockets to bake, knowing full well that I’d never made a pie crust before in my life (Oh, I didn’t mention that part yet? That’s right. Never.)

I had done my homework. I’ve been reading about crusts for weeks. For months. I bought my myriad ingredients and dedicated last night to my mise-en-place. Look how pretty!


Pie Pocket Mise-en-Place

And I made my crust. Pretty simple, I thought, though perhaps a bit crumbly. Oh well. Into some plastic wrap and then into the refrigerator it went. This morning, I woke up early to do a quick assembly of each pie pocket before baking — easy as pie, right? — only to find that a bit crumbly was actually falling apart crumbly. Those that didn’t crumble to pieces before baking certainly did so after.


The picture no respectable food blogger would show: failpies!

All of you professional pie crusters know what I did wrong: I was stingy with my water. But since Julie Powell’s meltdowns in the movie Julie & Julia hit a little too close to home for me, I’ve been trying to take my mother’s advice. She told me once before a major baking project, “You just have to have a sense of humor about things that go wrong.” I also took Beth Moore’s advice and yielded to the right passion — delighting in the Lord instead of giving way to anger. In short, I channeled every known resource for avoiding a kitchen meltdown, and changed gears.

I would conquer the pie crust! And I would not waste one of my most exciting pie pocket fillings: peaches covered in gooey brown sugar and oats. So I dusted myself off (quite literally) and made another batch of pie dough. Shoving my do-too-muchitis aside, I made ONE LOVELY PIE, and boy, was that enough! I was still fighting my sullen mood until I took the first magical bite, and suddenly, all the baking was worth it. The crust? Perfect, tender, flaky, buttery. The filling? An indulgent cinnamon-and-spice herald of the coming fall. When topped with a mound of homemade whipped cream, I feel comfortable saying this is the best pie I’ve ever eaten. So after a long day of dough crises, recipe detours, and outrageous piles of dirty dishes, I’m proud to have ended up with a Peach Crisp Pie.

Oh, and to soothe my wounds a bit, I used the pie dough trimmings to make one last attempt at a pie pocket and was finally successful! Now that I’ve learned my dough lesson, count on seeing a pie pocket post in the future. Until then, I hope you’ll sit back, watch the leaves change, and eat some pie.

Peach Crisp Pie


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking (crust adapted from Crisco; help from here)
Yields: One 9-inch, two crust pie


Crust Ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup cold lard (non-hydrogenated if available)*
3/4 cup cold butter, chopped
6-8 tablespoons cold water
*you can substitute vegetable shortening here if you wish, but I highly recommend the lard!

Filling Ingredients:
5-6 peaches, peeled and quartered
1/2-3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup oats
pinch salt

Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or flavoring of your choice)


Directions:
Pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add scoops of lard and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another 2 tablespoons of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes while preparing your filling.

For filling, mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll one disk of dough out to around 2 inches larger than your pie plate and transfer it, situating it in the plate. Trim the excess flush with the edge of the pie plate. Fill the pastry covered plate with filling. Roll the other disk out to about 1 inch larger than your pie plate. Situate it over the filling, tucking the edges of the top dough behind the edge of the bottom dough and crimping the edges. Use excess dough to add dough cutouts to top of pie if desired (I made some fall leaves).

In a small bowl, beat cream and egg yolk together for egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the surface of the top pie crust (can sprinkle lightly with sugar if you desire). Cut vents in the top crust. Shield crimped edges of pie with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes before turning the heat down to 350 degrees F and baking 30-35 minutes longer. For the last 15 minutes, remove foil shielding. Allow pie to cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. To make homemade whipped cream, mix all ingredients together until soft peaks are obtained.





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