Blueberry Hand Pies

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Okay everyone. It’s time to prepare yourselves. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s that time of year when we’re bombarded with candy hearts, stuffed animals, red roses, and cheap champagne. I’ve never been a big fan of the holiday myself, and Matthew and I never do anything overly extravagant to celebrate. This year we’re opting to cook a romantic dinner for two at home. This is exactly the type of low-key Valentine’s Day celebration that I can appreciate.

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’ve just started finding my way back into the kitchen to do some baking. I decided to start with a simple recipe that I’ve done many times before. A couple of summers ago, I took a pie baking class at Sur La Table with a friend where they taught us how to make hand pies. Using the same recipe, I simply swapped out my circular cookie cutter for a heart shaped one! You can use any filling that you’d like, I just chose blueberry jam because it is what we had in the refrigerator. Regardless of my feelings about Valentine’s Day, one thing I definitely can support are these homemade heart shaped treats!

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Blueberry Hand Pie Recipe

Pastry Dough Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup ice water

Egg Wash Ingredients
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

Jam Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Directions
To make dough, combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Separate into two balls, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Place racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Remove pie crusts from the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut approximately 10 hearts from the crust. Place these hearts on a tray in the refrigerator while you’re working on the second crust. After rolling and cutting out each crust, you should have approximately 20 hearts.

Beat your egg and water together to form the egg wash and lightly brush half of the hearts with the egg wash. Place a small amount of jam in the center of each heart. Gently place the remaining hearts over the top and use your fingers to seal the edges. Go over the edges with the tines of a fork for a final seal. Use a paring knife to cut three small vents on the top and brush each heart with the beaten egg.

Place the hearts on your prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. You want the tops to be golden and the filling to be bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
There is a fine art to rolling out pastry dough that only comes with practice. I’m still learning as I go along but have found two things that always help with the process. First, always work with well-chilled pastry; otherwise, the dough will stick to the counter and tear. Second, never roll out dough by rolling back and forth over the same section. Each time you press on the same spot, more gluten develops that can toughen the dough.

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Miniature Pecan Tarts

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Super Bowl 50 is right around the corner! Regardless of whether you’re a Panthers or Broncos fan, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching the big game. Although I love football and am a diehard Vikings fan, I usually feel pretty “meh” about the Super Bowl. To be honest, I get more excited about the food, commercials, and halftime show then the actual game. After I heard Beyonce was returning to the halftime show this year, it honestly didn’t matter who was playing in the actual game. Matthew was equally excited that Bruno Mars would be returning as well.

Halftime shenanigans aside, navigating the snacks at your Super Bowl party can feel like somewhat of a minefield for those of us with healthy eating New Year’s resolutions. In an attempt to lighten up one of my favorite desserts, I decided to miniaturize a pecan pie recipe. I stumbled upon some pre-shaped miniature phyllo shells at the grocery store and used this as a base for my pecan pie filling. The hardest part is stopping at just one of these little delicacies. If you’re looking for a healthier option for munching on Super Bowl Sunday, be sure to give these a try!

Miniature Pecan Tarts
Adapted from Athens Foods

Servings: 15 • Serving Size: 1 mini tart • Calories: 68 • Fat: 4.5 g • Carb: 6.5 g • Fiber: 0.3 g • Protein: 1 g • Sugar: 4 g • Sodium: 23 mg

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 large egg
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans chopped
15 Mini Phyllo Shells

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F and place rack in center of the oven.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except pecans. Mix well. Stir in chopped pecans. Arrange mini shells on a baking sheet. Fill mini shells with one rounded teaspoon of pecan mixture.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let them cool before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
These miniature tarts are so easy to make, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands in the kitchen. Homemade whipped cream is the perfect topping for this dessert. While the tarts are cooling, whip up a batch and add a dollop to the top before serving!

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.

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Sweet Potato Pie
Makes approximately 8 servings

Ingredients
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

Directions
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?!

 

Classic Key Lime Pie

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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.

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Key Lime Pie Recipe
Makes approximately 8 servings

Ingredients
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

Directions
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.

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Miniature Key Lime Pies

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Nothing says summer like key lime pie. The refreshing and tangy flavor of lime intermingles with the rich and creamy texture of condensed milk to make a summer dessert that is truly decadent. Speaking of summer, does anyone else feel like it has flown by this year? It’s almost August which means college students will be back on campus in less than a month! I’ve enjoyed a somewhat relaxing summer this year with not too many vacations or weekend trips. It’s been a nice change of pace to have some time to simply be around the house.

However, summer isn’t over yet! After living in Ann Arbor for one year, it feels like there is so much left to explore! In the month of August, I’m making a short A2 “to do” list of things that I’d like to experience before summer is over. Curious what I’ll be up to? Let me share!

1. Take a walk at Hudson Mills Metropark.
2. Stargaze at the observatory on top of Angell Hall.
3. Find some of the fairy doors that are hidden in downtown A2.
4. Visit the drive-in movie theater in Dearborn for a double feature.
5. Eat hippie hash at Fleetwood Diner.
7. Oh, I’d also like to do some more BAKING! Perhaps try my hand at this Hummingbird Cake!

But for now, I’d like to share the recipe for these delicious mini key lime pies. It’s not a 100% traditional recipe for key lime pie, but it still tastes amazing. I call for regular limes in the ingredients, but if you can find some key limes in the grocery store definitely go ahead and use them! I guarantee that you’ll have people asking you for this recipe once they try it!

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Mini Key Lime Pies
Makes approximately 2 dozen

Crust Ingredients
14 sheets of graham crackers
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Filling Ingredients
4 egg yolks
Zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Whipped Cream Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
Zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons honey

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, whip together the yolks and half of your lime zest for about a minute. Add lime juice and sweetened condensed milk. Mix well for about 1-2 minutes. Set aside and let rest for 10 minutes.

In a blender or a food processor, crush graham crackers until fine. Mix in the melted butter and granulated sugar. Grease mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Put a spoonful of graham cracker mixture into each hole. Make sure filling comes up to the top. Press around with your fingers to create the crust. Press down firmly and push up the sides. Bake for about 10 minutes until the crusts are lightly browned and fragrant. Cool at room temperature.

Fill each hole with about one tablespoon of filling. The filling should reach almost to the top of the muffin pan. Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes until filling jiggles slightly when shaken. Allow to cool completely. To remove from pan, run a paring knife along the edges of each muffin tin. Gently slide a spoon or the edge of the knife under an edge of the mini pie, and slip out. It’s ok if some graham cracker doesn’t make it!

To make the whipped cream, beat the heavy cream until you have soft peaks. Then add the honey and your remaining lime zest. Beat again until you have stiff peaks. Stiff peaks occur when you put the whisk in the whipped cream, pull it out, turn it over and the peak stays up in the air.

To top the key lime bites, you can pipe the whipped cream onto the mini pies and garnish with a little lime zest.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Cold cream whips up the quickest and lightest. Chilling the bowl and whisk or beaters for at least 15 minutes before whipping the cream will help you speed things along.

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