Apple Peach Pie

Thanksgiving holds a lot of pressure for food bloggers. I’m sure you can relate… we all want our pictures to look like our food just jumped off the page of Martha Stewart’s blog. However, the truth is not always as perfect as we would like to imagine.

Case in point, my Thanksgiving dinner. I had grand plans of photographing the turkey prior to being carved, getting a spread of all the food on the table, and taking a mouthwatering picture of my plate before I began eating. The truth? I was a sweaty mess laboring away in my kitchen working to simply ensure that everything came together relatively around the same time. Fancy pictures you ask? Ha. This is what Thanksgiving looked like in my apartment.

But the picture tells you everything you might want to know. My guests loved their food (reference empty plates), the turkey came out just fine (trust me), and I managed not to burn anything (again, trust is crucial). Besides, Thanksgiving is all about the people. And that’s what made the day special for me.

Today the bustle of the Thanksgiving holiday officially ended for me. My tiny studio apartment said goodbye to its last visitor and the peace and quiet are settling in. Truth be told,  I’m a little lonely without anyone to share the space with me.

I’m a little behind the game with my post, but I wanted to share a recipe for peach apple pie that Matt’s mom shared with me. She recited the recipe by memory and explained that it’s not an exact science. Easy to say if you’ve been making pies for years!

Apple Peach Pie

Ingredients
1 package prepared pie crust
4 apples, cored and sliced
10 ounces canned peaches
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice

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

Using prepared pie crust, line a 9 inch pie pan. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust to ensure it doesn’t puff up while baking. Place crust in oven and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool.

In a large pot on the stove, combine apples, peaches, sugar, water, lemon juice, and spices. Over low heat, simmer all ingredients for about 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove mixture from the stove and allow to cool to room temperature. After mixture has cooled, pour into the pie pan.

For garnish, core 2-3 apples and slice thinly. Soak slices in lemon juice to prevent from browning. Arrange slices in a pinwheel fashion to create a flower design.

Bake pie for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pie mixture begins to bubble slightly in the oven.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
As Matt’s mom mentioned, making this pie isn’t an exact science. If you find that your pie filling is to runny, try thickening it with some corn starch. Simply mix some corn starch with water and slowly add it to your filling mixture until you have reached the desired consistency.

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Low Fat Bran Muffins

When it comes to working out, I will admit that I lack motivation at times.

I’m a morning person, so when it comes to motivating myself to workout, I am significantly more successful at morning workouts. By the end of the day, I can typically come up with a million different reasons why I don’t need to go to the gym. And yes, going home to watch another episode of Game of Thrones has been a legitimate excuse on more than one occasion.

Morning workouts do require some amount of advance planning as my brain isn’t at it’s sharpest at 6 am. I can think of several adjectives that do not describe my state of mind after my alarm goes off. Among those would be: organized, prepared, and enthusiastic. Adjectives that do describe me on typical morning workout day would include groggy, rushed, and hungry. One thing I don’t have the time or motivation to do is pull together something substantial to eat. Instead, I want something quick that I can grab and go.

At 35 calories a piece, these mini bran muffins are the perfect thing to give you a little morning boost without wasting the typical 400-500 calories that can be found in most muffins. I like to make a big batch and then freeze them individually in plastic wrap. That way all you need to do is pop a few in the microwave for 20 seconds and voila, a no fuss snack to tide you over until breakfast.

Low-Fat Bran Muffins

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
3 tablespoons Truvia baking blend
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Grease mini muffins cups.

Mix together wheat bran and milk, and let stand for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, egg, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in bran mixture. Sift together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir into bran mixture until just blended.

Scoop into muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 6-10 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Truvia Baking Blend is a low-calorie alternative to using sugar in your baking recipes. It’s a mixture of Truvia and regular sugar made specifically for baking. It’s not for everyone, some people think it has a strange aftertaste, and others are opposed to artificial sweeteners. Regardless, it’s easy to convert from full sugar recipes, just use half as much Truvia baking blend as you would sugar. Try experimenting with it in some of your favorite recipes!

Pumpkin Muffins

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, hands down.

What’s so special about Thanksgiving, you’re probably asking yourself. In my opinion, it’s one of the few holidays that haven’t been ridiculously over-commercialized. You don’t need to buy presents or invest in overpriced decorations. The main focus of the day is time spent with those that you love. No matter who you are with, it’s a day that’s focused on camaraderie… and eating of course.

When I was younger, we used to make a Thanksgiving turkey picture where we would trace the outline of our hand, and turn it into a turkey and then list all the things we were thankful for in the past year. While I haven’t conjured up a turkey picture for you this year, I wanted to take a moment to think about the things I’m most thankful for this year.

  1. The health and well-being of my friends and family.
  2. Continuing to build and nurture an amazing relationship with my boyfriend Matt.
  3. The stability of working at a wonderful job that I enjoy.
  4. All the joys and the pains over the past year. Challenges only make us stronger.
  5. The ability to move about and dance each day.

In preparation for Thanksgiving Day, I made some pumpkin muffins in advance. I thought that popping these treats into the microwave for breakfast would be a quick and light treat for the morning, still leaving plenty of space for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in raisins; make a well in center of mixture. Combine brown sugar, canned pumpkin, buttermilk, canola oil, molasses, vanilla extract, and eggs, stirring well with a whisk. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If some muffin cups will remain empty during baking, put 2 to 3 tablespoons water in the unused muffin cups to keep the pan from warping.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

It’s that time of year, when people peel open their cookbooks, or go online in search of the perfect pumpkin (insert baked good name) recipe. Whether its pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, or pumpkin cookies– November is the month when kitchens across the US embrace this fall vegetable. One item that you’ll likely see on the ingredient list for many of these recipes is pumpkin pie spice.

STOP! Don’t go running to the grocery store in search of this spice which will assuredly sit in the back of your cupboard until next November, by which time it will have lost most of its potency and be too old to use again. Instead, try mixing together spices that you already have in your pantry to make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice.

It’s a cinch and even if you don’t have a couple of the spices, chances are it’s worth the investment because these are spices that you can use all year round , and not just during the holiday pumpkin season.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Ingredients
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Directions
Combine all ingredients for desired mix and blend well. Feel free to experiment with amounts to get a blend that works for you.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Spices and herbs should be kept in tightly closed containers in a cool, dry, dark place.  A screw-cap container is better than a flip-top container because it can be tightly resealed.

Chewy Cat Treats

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If you’re like me, you might not be a cat fanatic, but you probably have a place in your heart for our feline friends.

I was indoctrinated into the world of cats several years ago when I moved in with a friend that had a black cat named Grizabelle. I loved Grizabelle, but she also taught me an important lesson… cats can be fickle. Just when you think you’re the best of friends, they stage a surprise attack as you’re putting your socks away in a dresser drawer. Their behavior perplexes me. However, when my boyfriend introduced his cat Rudi into our lives 2 years ago, I had a change of heart.

Rudi is a special cat. He comes when you call him. He lets you rub his belly. He talks with birds every day. He chases his tail. He attacks the air. And in one of his finest moments, Rudi jumped off a third story balcony to escape into the wild. Now before you begin to worry, I will tell you that although Rudi escaped, he made his way home to Matt last weekend after a one-month stint in the wild.

Safely returned to his domestic environment, Rudi is slowly adjusting back to his comfortable life style. As a welcome back present, I decided to bake some homemade cat treats and send them in the mail. These chewy treats are a snap to make, and you know exactly what natural ingredients your cat is eating.

Chewy Cat Treats
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Ingredients
1 large egg
1 4 ounce jar chicken and rice baby food
1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons wet cat food

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, baby food, parsley, olive oil, and water. Add flour, cooked rice, and wet cat food. Stir to incorporate. The mixture will be thick but spreadable.

Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheet creating a rectangle that is about 1/3 of an inch thick. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let rest until cool enough to handle, and then slice soft dough into bite-sized pieces. Return pieces to the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Making your own pet treats is fun and easy, and you can feel good about giving them to your pet. But remember, these treats should make up only a small part of your cat’s overall diet. If you get creative with this recipe, just remember that cats should never have onion, garlic, kelp, grapes or raisins, sugary treats, chocolate, and alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, even in small doses.