Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all that we have in our lives. It’s a time of family. A time of reflection. A time of giving. And a time of stuffing! This year Matthew and I are spending Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor together. We’re both pretty excited to go and watch the Detroit Lions play their annual Thanksgiving Day football game. I’m even more excited that I convinced Matthew to come and watch America’s Thanksgiving Parade before the game. A tradition that started in 1924, the parade shares the title for the second oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States along with the Macy’s parade in NYC.

Each year I like to share with you a list of things that I have been thankful for over the past year. It seems as though the days run into months so quickly, and so often we forget to stop and have a little time for reflection. Keeping with tradition, here is a list (in no particular order) of five things that I am thankful for during 2015.

1. Having a Partner—being in a romantic relationship can teach you so much about the world and yourself.
2. Safety and Security—being able to wake up without immense fear frees us up to really live life.
3. Diversity—the world would be a boring place without diversity.
4. Challenges—without challenges in life, we wouldn’t be the people we are now.
5. Having a Home—whether you live in an apartment or a mansion, having a place to call home is something to be thankful for.


No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without dessert. Sweet potato pie is one of my favorite holiday desserts. While many people prefer pumpkin pie, there is no contest in my opinion. I grew up with sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t even know that pumpkin pie existed (gasp) until I was much older! Homemade sweet potato pie is real Southern comfort food. Fresh sweet potatoes, cinnamon and nutmeg are the secrets to this delicious pie recipe.

Sweet Potato Pie
Makes approximately 8 servings

1 pound sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.

Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It’s best to boil the sweet potatoes right before you bake the pie. The texture will be much smoother when you mix the other filling ingredients right after boiling and peeling. If you store the potatoes in the fridge before mixing, the pie will have a grainier texture.

How are you spending your Thanksgiving Day?!


OREO Turtle Cheesecake


“I want cheesecake for my birthday! Can you make some…PLEEEEASE?”

This is the annual request that I get from Matthew on his birthday. It’s a request that (most of the time) I am more than happy to oblige. The exception being last year when I decided to forgo making a birthday cheesecake—an unfortunate occurrence that he has reminded me of several times over the past year.

Having failed at my birthday cheesecake duty last year, I wanted to make something unique and special this year. It’ll be hard to top my favorite which was a Sweet Potato Cheesecake that I made a couple of years ago. However, inspiration struck one day during my weekly grocery run to Meijer. OREO cookies are one of Matt’s favorites, and I thought why not try and incorporate them into a cheesecake?!

This delectable cheesecake boasts an OREO cookie crust topped with a nutty layer of caramel and a classic cheesecake filling. Drizzles of melted chocolate and caramel-pecan sauce finish it off in style. This cheesecake takes a little more work than your basic recipe, but it’s definitely worth the effort.


The Ultimate OREO Turtle Cheesecake
Makes approximately 12 servings

24 OREO cookies, finely crushed
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 (14 ounce) package caramels
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

Place racks in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom and 2 inches up side of 9-inch springform pan.

Microwave caramels and milk in a microwaveable bowl on high for 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after each minute. Stir in nuts; pour half into crust. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Refrigerate remaining caramel mixture for later use.

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over caramel layer in crust.

Bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Microwave reserved caramel mixture 1 minute; stir. Pour over cheesecake. Melt chocolate; drizzle over cheesecake.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Be sure to use a cookie sheet under your springform pan when baking in the oven. The caramel may ooze out during baking and this way it won’t get your oven dirty.


Miniature Caramel Apples

We’re headed into that time of year when it feels as though there is some deliciously appetizing (albeit unhealthy) treat lurking around every corner. I always breathe a sigh of relief after making it through November and the irresistible pumpkin desserts that are everywhere I turn. My relief is short lived because December brings scrumptious holiday cookies and candies. It’s no wonder the average American gains 4 pounds over the holiday season! This year my solution is to try making my favorite desserts in miniature sizes. I will report back in January on the relative success of this experiment.

Caramel apples are hands down, one of my fall favorites. The only problem is that sometimes an entire apple seems like too much. My simple answer to that problem? Caramel apples… done miniature style! My mom and dad were in town this past weekend and I thought this would be a fun baking project for us all to do together. Both my parents were excellent helpers and we all had a lot of fun!

These caramel apples really are  simple and would be a perfect baking project to do with children. Getting the caramel on is the most difficult part, and is best reserved as an adult job. Once that is done, you can decorate the apples however you would like. We used toffee candy chips, pecans, and sprinkles!

Miniature Caramel Apple Recipe
Makes approximately 18 miniature caramel apples 

3 large Granny Smith apples
18 popsicle sticks
1 1/2 cups caramel baking bits
1 tablespoon heavy cream
crushed nuts or sprinkles for topping

Peel apples. Using a melon baller, scoop out apple balls. Insert the sucker stick into the apple. Be careful not to puncture the stick through the other end. In a small pot add caramel baking bits and heavy cream. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted. Fill a small bowl with icy water. Set aside.

Thoroughly dry the apple with a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the surface. Dip the apple into the mixture, swirling to coat and being sure to get the caramel on the stick a little. This will help keep out the water on the next step. Immediately dip the caramel apple into the icy water for a few second to quick set the caramel. Dry the caramel off gently with a paper towel. Press the top of the caramel apple into desired topping if using. Place caramel apple into the fridge or freezer to finish setting.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It is best to work in batches of 3-4 when you are making these mini caramel apples. Also, be sure not to add more than a tablespoon of heavy cream to the caramel otherwise it will be too runny any won’t set. I found this video to be helpful explaining the entire process.



All Day Apple Butter

An important requirement of fall is apple picking. When I was younger my mom and I would take multiple trips to the apple orchard to stock up on apples in the fall. It’s a tradition that I’ve enjoyed continuing throughout the years.

There are SO many things you can do with apples when it comes to baking. If you need a little inspiration, check out my Caramel Apple BarsCountry Apple Galette, and Apple Tarte Tatin!

My love of apples aside, this post is also about canning. Can you believe that it took me almost 30 years to try my hand at canning?! If you are truly dedicated to getting the canning process right, it will require a little research and reading before you head into the kitchen. I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with my dad, who I consider to be a seasoned expert in the art of canning. I’d also recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving as wonderful guide and instruction manual. I’m going to save some of my canning tips and tricks for another post, and today I’ll share my amazing apple butter recipe with you.

Did you know that apple butter actually has NO butter?! I was somewhat surprised when I first discovered this. Apple butter gets its name because you basically cook apples down to the consistency of butter so your sauce is spreadable. Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by slow cooking of apples to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown. All you need are apples, sugar, and some spices. It doesn’t get any simpler. I really like this recipe because you cook the apples in a crock pot for an entire day which means that your home will smell simply divine.

All Day Apple Butter Recipe
Makes approximately 8 half pint jars

5 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored, and finely chopped
3 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on high 1 hour.

Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown. Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.

Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you want to ensure your apple butter is free of lumps, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce before the final hour of cooking. I tried this and was very pleased with the smooth and creamy texture that resulted.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

It’s hard to believe that my favorite season is right around the corner. After a hot and humid summer, there is nothing that I love more than the cool and crisp air of a fall afternoon. Although the official start to the season is still a couple weeks out, all signs point to autumn here in Ann Arbor. Students have returned to campus and classes have started. Football season is underway and my fantasy league is up and running. Starbucks has my favorite drink—caramel apple cider—on their special fall menu. Perhaps most exciting, is the return of my favorite pumpkin-themed fall desserts. Simply put, I love almost everything about fall. I think the word cloud below does a good job of showcasing this.


There’s no doubt about it: Pumpkin is the quintessential fall flavor, and I especially love it in desserts. Pumpkin desserts are no stranger to the Sweet Precision Kitchen. In past years I’ve made pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, and pumpkin cookies. This year I’m adding to the lineup with some tasty pumpkin muffins that are sure to leave your kitchen smelling divine. The delicate pumpkin flavor of these muffins is enhanced with tart cranberries. This recipe is a winner and can easily be doubled if you’re bringing it to a larger function.

Low Fat Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Servings: 12 • Size: 1 muffin • Calories: 170.0 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carbs: 33.0 g • Fiber: 1.0 g • Protein: 3.0 g • Sugar: 18.0 g • Sodium: 282 mg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and next 5 ingredients (though cloves); stir well with a whisk.

Combine granulated sugar and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Fold in cranberries.

Place 12 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Spoon batter into prepared cups. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pan immediately; place on a wire rack.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Canned pumpkin offers the same health benefits as fresh, but is a little more convenient. It contributes both color and moistness to these fruit-filled muffins.


Classic Key Lime Pie


Key Lime Pie has always been one of my favorite summer desserts. I think the rich and luxurious texture has the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. A fun fact about this pie is that traditional recipes always call for sweetened condensed milk. No fresh milk, no refrigeration, and no ice was available in the Keys until the arrival of tank trucks with the opening of the Overseas Highway in 1930. Because of this lack of milk, local cooks had to rely on canned sweetened condensed milk. Key lime may be the star ingredient of the key lime pie, but it is the sweetened condensed milk that makes it so smooth and delicious.

My parents made a trip to visit Ann Arbor last weekend and I made this pie for dessert. This was no coincidence because it also happens to be one of my dad’s favorite desserts as well! He gave it two thumbs up, which is high praise coming from a food lover like him.

So let’s talk about this pie a little bit. This Key Lime Pie recipe uses condensed milk and sour cream. It is a fabulously easy way to whip up a summertime favorite dessert in under an hour. You can even use bottled key lime juice to save some additional time. Don’t forget to garnish with whipped cream as this helps cut the tartness of the lime.


Key Lime Pie Recipe
Makes approximately 8 servings

1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
3 cups sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime rind. Mix well and pour into graham cracker crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until set and tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Be careful not to brown your pie. Remove from oven and chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If you have time, a homemade graham cracker crust is even better for this pie. Check out this quick and easy three-ingredient recipe for a crust that will be done in 15 minutes.


Red White & Blue Swirled Berry Popsicles


It’s that time again… my favorite summer holiday is here! For me, the Fourth of July means a fun filled day of barbecuing, watching fireworks, and visiting with family and friends. No matter what you have planned, be sure to kick back, relax, and enjoy this great American holiday!

How are you celebrating the Fourth of July? Let me know in the comments below!

I leave you with a quick and easy Fourth of July themed popsicle recipe. These popsicles are good for you, sugar free, low fat and super tasty. You can use any fruits and berries you have on hand. Also feel free to play with the white stripe. You can use coconut milk, greek yogurt, heavy cream or anything else you can dream up. Enjoy!

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Red White & Blue Berry Popsicles 
Makes approximately 6 popsicles

2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh strawberries
6 ounces fat free Greek yogurt
15 drops vanilla stevia drops

In 2 separate saucepans, bring berries to boil with 1 tablespoon of water in each pan. Partially cover pans and reduce to a simmer for about 5 minutes until berries are saucy. Remove from heat and purée each sauce separately in a blender. Transfer the strawberry sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Fill pop molds 1/3 of the way with the blueberry sauce. Freeze for 3 hours or until frozen. Sweeten the Greek yogurt or coconut milk to taste. Fill the pop molds with 1/3 of the yogurt or coconut milk. Return to freezer for 3 hours or until frozen. Fill the molds, leaving 1/4 inch at the top with the strawberry sauce. Cover molds with tin foil and insert sticks until they reach the white layer. Freeze for another 3 hours or until solid. Carefully remove pops from molds; you can run some warm water over the molds to make this easier.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
You will end up with more berry sauce then you need for these pops. This is great to top pancakes, French toast, for mixed berry yogurt parfaits, oatmeal, cake ice cream, smoothies, shakes and more!


Rainbow Fruit Kebabs


This past weekend was jam packed with activities and flew by way to quickly. On Saturday morning I participated in a 5k Color Run which was an absolute blast. In the afternoon our race team had a celebratory BBQ. I was torn on what we should bring with us to the BBQ. It was a pretty healthy group of individuals and I wasn’t going to be the person that brought 400 calorie cupcakes. No thank you. So I raided Pinterest boards on Friday for some healthy ideas. Sometime around 45 minutes later—after ogling pictures of adorable bulldog puppies and discovering exercises “guaranteed” to shrink my belly in 10 days—inspiration hit. I was going to make fruit kebabs. I mean who can argue with anything that Martha Stewart posts on her Pinterest board?

Since the BBQ was after the Color Run I decided to go with the rainbow theme and make rainbow fruit kebabs. These are hands down one of the easiest side dishes you can imagine. All you need to do is dice up some fruit, arrange the pieces on a skewer, and VOILA! You can get creative with the types of fruit you chose depending on what is in season.

Aside from making these spectacular kebabs, we had a few other fun activities over the weekend. On Saturday evening Matt and I saw D’Angelo in concert. I’ll admit, prior to the concert, the only D’Angelo song I remember was this one from high school. Wait until about minute 1:00 AND… drool. Then on Sunday we went to a lovely outdoor wedding for our apartment building neighbors.


Rainbow Fruit Kebabs Recipe
Makes approcimately 20 fruit kebabs

10 large strawberries, halved
1 pound apricots, halved
1 pineapple, cut into chunks
5 kiwi, sliced
1 pint blueberries
1 cup grapes, seedless
20 skewers

Thread the strawberries, apricots, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, and grapes alternately onto skewers, placing one to two pieces of fruit on each skewer. Arrange the fruit skewers decoratively on a serving platter.

Heather’s Helpful Hints 
Don’t feel that you have to stick to the fruit in the recipe. Feel free to get creative and swap out anything that you prefer. Maybe peaches instead of apricots or watermelon instead of strawberries. Have fun with whatever fruits are in season!


Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffles

Dinner parties are fun, wouldn’t you agree?

Last weekend Matt and I had dinner with our downstairs neighbors in our apartment. They cooked dinner and we offered to bring dessert. No big surprises there. I was tasked with coming up with a dessert that was dairy, gluten, and egg free. It’s the first time I’ve been faced with such requirements as a baker and I was up to the challenge. I spent Friday looking at gluten free and vegan baking blogs trying to find some inspiration.

Deciding to bake a vegan dessert can seem like a daunting commitment. No milk? No eggs? Wait…no BUTTER?! But, thankfully, just because we’ve grown up thinking that we needed eggs to make our cakes rise and butter to make them rich, doesn’t make it true. And vegan desserts prove that. While they aren’t quite like traditional desserts, they’re just as good. Sometimes even better.

These peanut butter chocolate truffles fall into the ‘sometimes even better’ category. Aside from being truly decadent, these truffles will leave you intensely satisfied. One of the things I really like about this recipe is that it only requires five ingredients. No special gluten-free flour or almond paste. There’s a good chance that you already have these ingredients in your pantry.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffles

Servings: 20 • Size: 1 truffle • Calories: 156.0 • Fat: 6.1 g • Carbs: 25.0 g • Fiber: 2.9 g • Protein: 2.1 g • Sugar: 20.5 g • Sodium: 98 mg

16 ounces Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup natural salted creamy peanut butter
1 heaping cup dairy-free bittersweet or dark chocolate
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Blend/pulse your dates until they completely mixed and form a ball in your food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and mix once more to incorporate. Using a small melon baller, scoop out small balls and roll/form them into balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 20-30 minutes to set.

In the meantime, drizzle on peanut butter until the top is coated. If your peanut butter is super firm and not spreadable (meaning it’s either dry or not the natural variety), add it to a small mixing bowl with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and microwave to melt. Stir to combine, then proceed as instructed. Freeze again for another 15-20 minutes, or until the peanut butter has formed a semi-firm “shell.”

Warm the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Remove truffles from freezer and, using a fork, scoop truffles up and quickly immerse in chocolate, using a small spoon to drizzle chocolate evenly on top. Then gently shake off excess chocolate and place back on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Top truffles with a small sprinkle of sea salt (optional), and repeat until all truffles are coated. Place back in freezer or fridge to set – about 30 minutes. Set out from the freezer or fridge to serve. For softer truffles, let come to room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If your dates are not quite combining, drizzle in a tiny bit of warm water (1 teaspoon at a time) scraping down sides as needed, and mix until a rough paste or ball forms. If you add too much water it will be difficult to handle them later as they won’t freeze up well.

Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites


Things have been a little quiet in the Sweet Precision kitchen lately. Don’t worry, I haven’t disappeared. And I actually HAVE been baking things. I’ve just been a little remiss when it comes to snapping some pictures and coming up with inspiration for a post. So instead of coming up with something witty to write about, I thought I’d just tell you how we’ve all been doing over the past month!

Life has been unexpectedly relaxing in Ann Arbor as we’ve headed into summer. Matt finished up his third year of school and is now beginning to study for his preliminary exam which he will take in August. One look at the list of books he is required to read has me thankful that my summer reading list only includes this and this. I had a quick trip to Minnesota to see a friend graduate as a Physician Assistant and to celebrate Mother’s Day. We then got to entertain when my college roomie visited Ann Arbor for a long weekend. Maya has been taking obedience classes (with limited success) and much amusement on our part. And now that it’s June, we Matt can plant the seedlings in our his garden. So that’s a run-down of what we’ve been up to over the past month!

Now onto the baking side of things…

Today, I wanted to share a no-bake recipe with you because as summer heats up, I find myself wanting to use my oven less and less. These granola bites are incredibly versatile and you can tailor them to include whatever strikes your fancy. I think they’re a great snack to keep in the refrigerator for those moments when you need a little treat. They’re like a homemade granola bar, but have the bonus of coming in a portion-controlled, bite size piece.


Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

Servings: 24 • Size: 1 inch balls • Calories: 106.0 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carbs: 19.0 g • Fiber: 1.0 g • Protein: 1.0 g • Sugar: 15.0 g • Sodium: 1.0 mg

1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups dry old-fashioned oats
4 ounces unsalted cashews (chopped)
4 ounces mini dark chocolate chips

On a cutting board, roughly chop the cashews and set aside. Combine the dates and honey in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the oats, cashews, and dark chocolate chips until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon or cookie scoop to shape it into your desired size of energy balls. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Dates are a great alternative for sugar in certain recipes. With a subtle sweetness, they can be perfect for brownie batter or the base of homemade granola bars. Substitute two-thirds cup for one cup of regular sugar.