Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Cookie Crust and Marshmallow Meringue

For Thanksgiving Dinner I made a pumpkin pie for my grandson who must be on a wheat and dairy-free diet. I have made a number of crusts for pies without using wheat, and I must say they have gotten mixed reviews.

Then the other day, my friend Bonnie asked me what I would use for a pie crust and she mentioned that her daughter, Brooke, was thinking about using a gluten-free cookie crust and I thought it was such a good idea that I decided to try it myself. We loved it. The cookie mix I used was the Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Shortbread Cookie Mix.

I mixed it up using half the package of cookie mix, 1/2 cup margarine and enough cold water to make it a stiff dough. It was easy to do and worked really well. It even rolled out without breaking all apart. I will say that it needs to be rolled thinly because this crust will rise just a bit, but since it is a shortbread and lighter on leavening it works better than many cookie recipes.

The crust was flaky enough and had a mildly sweet flavor -- perfect for a pumpkin pie.

Coconut milk, brown sugar, pumpkin puree made up the pumpkin pie and the topping is a small jar of marshmallow creme, heaped on top and baked to a golden brown. Regular marshmallows could have been heaped on top of the warm pie and baked but I wanted to try the marshmallow creme. It worked well and gave the pie a more exciting flavor than an egg-white meringue. Who doesn't love melted marshmallows, right?

Pumpkin Pie with Shortbread Cookie Crust and Marshmallow Meringue

1/2 package Bob's Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix
1/2 cup butter, trans fat-free margarine or coconut oil
Cold water
Potato flour for rolling out pie crust

Mix together cookie mix and butter, margarine or coconut oil with a pastry knife. Mix in cold water until dough is formed. Pour out onto parchment paper cover with potato flour. Roll out thinly and place into 9.5 inch deep dish pie plate.

Pumpkin Pie

1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until pie is firm to the touch.

Marshmallow Meringue

1 small container of Marshmallow Creme.

Spoon a small container of Marshmallow creme (for a larger meringue, use a larger container of marshmallow creme) onto top of warm pie. Bake at 400 degrees until top is browned, approximately 5 minutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Easy Mexican Corn Bread Muffins

I love old-fashioned corn bread but sometimes my corn bread turns out great and other other times it is dry. I usually prefer cornbread that is savory and not sweet. The only exception to that is Jiffy Corn Bread Mix. It is cheap and I can't seem to mess it up -- no matter how hard I try!

The other day I decided to make some Mexican cornbread to go along with chili. Rather than use my usual Mexican Cornbread recipe that takes a long list of ingredients and even more time, I decided to try something much easier.

I bought two boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and mixed them up according to the directions on the box. To that I added 3/4 cup of chopped green onions and a cup of mild salsa. I spooned the mixture evenly into two, twelve-count muffin pans, sprayed with baking spray.

It was then baked according to directions and everyone really enjoyed it. It made 24 muffins and was fast, easy and good.

Plus, I have never had a bad batch of these muffins. As I said, I personally would prefer corn muffins that don't have any sugar in them. These are slightly sweet and very light. I always have plenty of compliments on my cornbread when I begin with Jiffy and that it what is most important. When I make them from scratch, I have rarely had a compliments. I have to go with a sure thing.

There are just a few more suggestions: First, if you use hot salsa you will have a spicier muffin. I used mild salsa because I wanted to make muffins everyone would like. Sometimes hot peppers in food can turn people off.

If you add a can of corn to the batter, you can eliminate all or half of the liquid. It might be better to bake it in a pan or skillet, rather than as muffins because it will bake up a very moist cornbread.

Also, you can go to and sign up to receive a free Jiffy Corn Bread cookbook. Mine is in the mail.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We have made broccoli!

 I am so excited about our most recent garden crop. We have the most beautiful broccoli I have ever seen. Above is the broccoli my sister picked for Thanksgiving.

The other day while in the garden I said, "Look, we have made broccoli!" -- like Tom Hank's in the movie Cast Away. After building a fire, he said to his soccer ball, "I have made fire!" as if he was the original discoverer of that element.

This was our first successful broccoli, so it is understandable, (I think) that we should be quite excited and proud that we finally were able to grow broccoli after many futile attempts. I will give God credit for the original discovery but I admit I feel quite proud and thankful for our success. It is nice to know that planting it in the fall is the best time for broccoli. We may even have another crop in the spring. We are keeping our finger's crossed.

My sister made the absolute best broccoli casserole for Thanksgiving Dinner and we both think it was partly the cook and the rest -- having very fresh and organic broccoli.

Also in the garden, our Brussels sprouts -- nothing is sprouting yet. It will be spring before we have Brussels sprouts. Behind them are the collards that I think are a bit behind in their growth. The rain will probably help this week.

Our kale is finally beginning to grow.

And our turnip greens look a bit ragged. We need to get in the garden and pick some greens this week.

I am just glad we have something to show.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chai Pumpkin Bread

Everyone in "blog land" has a post about pumpkin bread! It's almost like the lowly pumpkin has just been discovered. I read a blog that said that "everything is better with pumpkin in it," and I think that is not quite a complete statement. I would say everything is better with cream cheese, bacon and pumpkin. Pumpkin is the healthiest of those three so that is probably the reason for the sudden discovery and it makes a very moist batter bread that goes well with tea in the fall.

Pumpkin can also be substituted in recipes calling for carrots. It makes a yummy rich pumpkin cake using a carrot cake recipe. This recipe, below, has 1/2 cup of chai tea was very good. Was because it is gone since I very nearly didn't get a photo of it. I made three smaller loaves and gave two of them away. My family then devoured the last loaf.

Chai Pumpkin Bread

3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree (not the pie mix)
1/2 cup strong chai tea (I used my favorite, Bija Rooibos Chai)
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a larger bowl, combine all the dry ingredients until well mixed. In a smaller bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and still until just mixed. Pour the batter into two 9 x 5 x 3 inch or three 8 x 4 x 3/5 inch greased loaf pans. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until top is firm. Allow to cool.

You may drizzle with a topping made with a cup of Confectioner's sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring and soy milk or regular milk added by the tablespoonful until thin enough to pour onto the tops of the pumpkin bread while still warm.

My Very Berry Tossed Salad

Last Thursday was our Thanksgiving feast at work. It was tantalizing to walk through the building to see what each person brought. The smells alone made us quite hungry. I did not outdo myself because I decided I wanted to just bring a spiced up tossed salad. I was glad I did because a number of people told me how much they enjoyed the salad and I liked it too. It was nice to have something a bit lighter with all the heavy foods.

It was easy because I found some of the berries on sale and found a salad dressing that was perfect. It was a little pricey, but like homemade. I loved it.

I hadn't seen Maple Grove Farms of Vermont salad dressing in my grocery store before. I have purchased their maple syrup and I liked that product, but as I was walking in the salad dressing isle, I looked up and on the top shelf there were some specialty salad dressings. I was looking for a salad dressing that had berries in the ingredient list. I wasn't so sure about this one but I decided to try it. I will tell you it is wonderful and so fresh. It doesn't have that bottled salad dressing taste. I find it hard to explain but most salad dressings have a bit of an aftertaste to me. This one was perfect and was the perfect dressing for my Very Berry Tossed Salad.

I will buy this dressing again, but only on special occasions because it was yummy, but expensive. I think it would make a perfect side for Thanksgiving dinner!

Here's the easy recipe:

Very Berry Tossed Salad

1 large package mixed salad greens (pre washed)
4 stalks celery, cut into thinly sliced pieces
1 small package (4 to 6 oz.) blackberries (or more)
1 small package (4 to 6 oz.) blueberries (or more)
1/2 package of dried cranberries (Approximately 1/2 cup)
3 ounces basil and garlic flavored feta cheese (broken into small pieces)
1/4 cup raw walnut pieces
Alfalfa sprouts
Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Strawberry Balsamic dressing

Fill a large salad bowl with salad greens. Sprinkle on half of the celery, fresh berries, cranberries, feta, walnuts and sprouts. Fill the bowl to the top with salad greens. Sprinkle on the rest of the ingredients in the same order. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Gently toss salad and serve with Maple Grove Farms Strawberry Balsamic salad dressing.

Easy, healthy -- a wonderful treat!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snowman cupcakes

This was probably the hardest cupcake I decorated for the 2011 November/December Issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine. The decorations are made using marshmallows, toothpicks, fruit roll ups, sugar stars and melted chocolate chips.

I first piped icing all over the top of the cupcake. If you will notice, I didn't worry about covering the entire cupcake. I was planning to keep these in a covered container so they shouldn't dry out.

I then took a toothpick and pushed it through the center of one regular-size marshmallow, into the center of a second marshmallow. I secured these marshmallows to the center top of the cupcake, using the bottom part of the toothpick. If your toothpicks aren't large enough, try a wooden skewer and cut it off the length that is needed to fasten the marshmallows securely to the top of the cupcake.

I used green fruit roll ups to make a cap by wrapping it around my largest finger and twisting the top together and fitting the "cap" onto the top of the marshmallows. I trimmed some of the roll up away with kitchen shears if it looked too tall.

I then fashioned a scarf around the snowman's neck with a long strip of blue roll up.

I made a carrot out of a piece of red and yellow roll up mashed together.

Next I melted the chocolate and poured it into a small decorators' bag. Using a small round tip. I added the eyes, and mouth with dots and then drew on the arms with chocolate.

I think they are cute.

The blue sugar stars around the outside edge completed the decoration.

Kids would enjoy helping to make these miniature snowmen. They weren't hard to make.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving ideas

Have you ever used Pinterest? I use it to find ideas for decorating, cooking, crafts and even sometimes for work. I love to find new and creative ideas and keep them at my fingertips. That is why I joined and I use it almost daily. Here are some of the Thanksgiving ideas from Pinterest. Some I will use and some I just like -- maybe for next year.

I like the little pilgrim hats above from Amber Engelke. I think I could make them gluten-free and dairy-free if I could find some cookies that are similar -- or I could just dip the entire cookie in vegan chocolate chips. Very cute.

This turkey from blogs.babycenter is great because kids can go out and find their leaves and then paste everything together.
These pies from are very pretty. I have cooked custards in little glass canning jars like this but never a miniature pies. I heard that mini pies were going to be big and here is a low-budget, reusable "pie dish" for you.

Oh my goodness! Pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and they are vegan pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I will be baking these for Thanksgiving! Many thanks to for the recipe.
 I love this Turkey Pear Salad that any kid could make. is famous for charming ideas like this one. I don't know what to use for the feet but I'll bet I could find something healthy and fun. These folks are so creative.
Speaking of healthy and fun, made this vegetable tray made from all the right stuff -- that is adorable. If you can't get your kids to eat this they are turkeys! Just kidding, but you should be able to get kids to bite.

 I like this simple tree from It's as simple as getting a small branch and cutting out colorful leaves. Add what you are thankful for and it will be a great Thanksgiving creation.

Last year we were Indians, so I think we should give the Pilgrims equal time. I think these Pilgrim hats would be easy, too. They are from
This -- or something similar to this will be hanging on my front door come Thanksgiving morning. It's from and is so lovely -- and easy.
Turkey pinwheels! What a great idea! We WILL be making this. I think we will use scrapbook paper which is a little stiffer than regular paper. You can find find the instructions at

I don't know if we will do this but it is so cute from It would be a great thing to make and would make the table setting a sheek shindig!

I have so many napkins in sets of 4 and 8, but not a set large enough for every Thanksgiving guest. If I used a DIY napkin ring like this, it wouldn't matter if my napkins don't all match. These are very cute -- and not even ironed and I like them very much. Thanks for opening my eyes to the possibilities. I don't need new napkins just something to decorate them.

Hope these ideas will inspire you as they have me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My favorite cupcakes

I really enjoyed making these fund and easy Christmas tree cupcakes. They were so easy and my favorite way to decorate a Christmas cupcake. You need plenty of green decorator frosting, some sugar candy decorations, a large bag, coupler and a large star tip. Optional needs: chocolate chips.

Forming the trees was sort of like making an ice cream cone at the DQ. Just start in a circular motion and pipe the icing up, up, up -- until you have a little Christmas tree sitting on your cupcake. So easy. The harder part for me was picking up the little stars and decorations and gently placing them on the icing. A pair of long tweezers might have been helpful but I didn't even look for my long tweezers. I just carefully placed the tree "ornaments" all around. They don't need to be evenly spaced, just randomly placed.

On some of the cupcakes I put some white frosting to make "snow" all over the cupcake tops. Then I sprinkled them with silvered sugar and decorated the tops just like all the rest. This one is all stars with a bigger one for the top. I don't know that this might be too much frosting for some people

I used some melted chocolate chips piped around some of my cupcakes. These were chocolate-filled cupcakes and I thought the chocolate melted and piped with a small icing bag, coupler and small round tip was just the right touch.

The only problem with using large tips is that it takes roughly twice the amount of frosting. You will need a double or triple recipe. The good thing is that if you make too much icing, it can be refrigerated or even frozen with good results. Just let the frosting come to room temperature before piping.

Thanks so much to Angela McRae for taking the wonderful photos of my cupcakes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mini cupcake wreaths

More cupcake designs I made for the last issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine: These pretty and decorative wreath cupcakes were again, easy to do. I used fruit roll ups to make the bows and red hots for this design. Red mini M and Ms would work, too.

I iced the cupcake in white, tinted some of my icing green and then using the green icing placed large, simple stars around the edge with the large coupler and large star tip. The bow can be made in four pieces -- a large loop cut from strawberry roll up and pinched in the center to form the main loops of the bow, two pieces of roll up underneath that piece that forms the ribbon ends and a small piece of ribbon wrapped around the front, center of the bow. I put this together, placed it on the bottom of my "wreath," then added the seven pieces of candy, spaced evenly around the circumference of the wreath.

Roll ups are easy to cut using kitchen shears or with a knife on a cutting board. If roll ups are really thin they may be layered to form thicker pieces that might be easier to manage. At times I was able to cut the roll ups while still attached to the plastic and then take the cut piece of roll up and form my bows. Roll ups make lovely bows for cupcakes, or even a cake.

I may try using this idea with regular-sized cake at Christmas but I would use two rows of stars around the edge of the cake with the large star tip using green icing. I would make a much larger bow or put several together. On a cake you could probably even get away with using a real bow!

I enjoyed making this green cupcake wreath, too. I just picked out candy stars that matched the blue roll up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Planning for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a big deal at my house. My husband loves, loves loves Thanksgiving. I have to carefully plan and include most of his favorite things because I don't want his favorite day of the year to be a disappointment to him.

Last year I really enjoyed my Thanksgiving decor. It was festive, yet not overdone. We like to have a more casual day with food at 12:30 pm, social time followed by outdoor games until everyone gets tired. Last year I purchased sunflowers and used rosemary for greenery.

I made rosemary wreaths for a table decoration and for everyone to take home. The aroma of rosemary filled the entire area with a fresh scent. I picked this out of my garden. Rosemary looks even better during the cool weather months.

We made a ring toss game which didn't impress anyone. Everyone wanted to play corn hole.

The kids enjoyed coloring and making pomegranate turkeys.

And Indian headbands with feathers.

I had plenty of leftovers and made sure everyone had plenty for another meal in these takeout plates from the dollar store.

Last year I made pies. Too many pies really, but I was trying to learn to make better pies. This year I am still working on my menu and decor but we will be keeping it laid back and I think not so many pies. My husband always says, "Let's just have what we had last year." But I don't think that works because there were some good and some not bad, but not so good things about last year and one of those things were too many pies (and too much work!).

I just want to plan a celebration where everyone feels welcome and enjoys themselves. I will know if that happens that it was a success.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Today, I just want to congratulate my friend and colleague, Angela McRae because her newly published book is fresh off the press! Dainty Dining: Vintage recipes, memories and memorabilia from America's department store tea rooms, has just arrived from the printer and is an amazing book. If you remember the vintage tea rooms in department stores all across America, you will love reading what Angela has to say in this beautifully written and photographed book.

She includes well-researched, tested recipes from these department stores and it is obvious she put so much time and effort into her new book. I will admit just looking at all the photos and memorabilia took me back in time and opened up some treasured memories, especially about Rich's, our local department store in Atlanta -- which is gone but still fondly remembered. She is also planning to blog about it and allow everyone to leave messages about their own department store memories beginning soon at

I just wanted to say Congratulations Angela! This is a great book and you deserve the best!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween storage

Every year, prior to Halloween, I go down to the basement and try to locate my Halloween "stuff." It usually takes me awhile because of my disorganization. This year I decided I really needed to do better and I had a creative six-year-old for a helper.

Actually, he was kind of sad when I started taking down and putting away the Halloween decorations (Do we have to take down the spider web?) so I told him it just had to be done but we would put it in a storage box so we could keep it all together for next year and this seemed to cushion the blow.

After we had gathered everything, including his favorite huge spiders from Halloween City, I handed him the Sharpie and asked if he wanted to write his name on the box. I suggested he label it Eli's Halloween Stuff, which he did.

The next day I noticed that at some point he had embellished his work and added his brother's name as well. I never expected him to have so much fun with a storage box and a black Sharpie but this is a bit of artwork we will always cherish and next year I will know exactly where to look for Halloween decorations.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The days have been so beautiful lately. Fall is really my favorite time of the year. My reasons vary, depending on the day and the weather, but one thing I really love about fall are the great pumpkin- and apple-flavored teas and products that are on the market, just for the season.

Above, my favorite tea company, The Republic of Tea always offers some hot and spicy tea flavors. One I picked up at a recent trip to World Market, Pumpkin Ginger Tea. The other, Hot Apple Cider Tea I think is a leftover. I only had a few bags but if they have this one, buy it, it IS even better than the Pumpkin Ginger Tea.

I also picked up this jar of Pumpkin Butter and I plan on making some pumpkin scones to serve with an all-pumpkin afternoon tea. I know the teas are great. I will have to let you know about the pumpkin butter. I can tell you I love the jar. I feel sure I will love the pumpkin butter.

Another favorite are Pumpkin Spice Lattes you can get at Starbuck's and at all our local coffee shops. It's just another thing to love about fall.

Then there's red and yellow leaves, acorns, fall gardening, apples, spice cake, tailgating ...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cute Turkey Cupcakes

Here is another idea for Thanksgiving cupcakes. This is a cute and sweet treat that every child (or child at heart) who saw these turkey cupcakes just loved it. And boy was it easy!

These cupcakes were made from Patty Gironda's Hummingbird Cupcake recipe from our latest issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine (see the recipe, starting on page 40) but you can make any kind of cupcake you like. I used a butter cream icing, but Cream Cheese frosting will work. If using it for decorating, use only half the butter in the original recipe (1/4 cup butter rather than 1/2 cup). That way when you add the brown food coloring, the frosting will be a little thicker and will hold up better. I just mixed the brown food coloring until it was the color I liked.

You could always use a cocoa butter cream frosting recipe if you make chocolate cupcakes. Just tint the frosting brown or use chocolate frosting. For decorating purposes, the insides of the cupcakes really don't matter.

The turkey is really, really simple. Use a large icing bag -- at least 16 inches and a large tip coupler with a large star tip. Make large stars all over the tops of the cupcakes.

To make the head, nose and wings. Use two or three small (or mini) vanilla wafers and trim each wafer with kitchen shears until it is the perfect oval shape. The head is one wafer and the wings are each a half-wafer. You can save the "shavings" (which is what you will have) when you trim the cookies into the perfect shape for other recipes.

Some of the cookies broke and it took a couple of tries for me to create the perfect shape but after I made one of each, I got the hang of it.

The nose is a candy corn. I placed the large end of the candy corn underneath the edge of the head.

The wattle is a piece of strawberry fruit roll up, carefully cut with kitchen shears, or a sharp knife into a large teardrop shape. It was gently laid over the "beak" and part of the face.

I drew the eye on with a food coloring maker, but a mini chocolate chip could be pasted on with a tiny bit of frosting.

I put two rows of candy corn in the icing for the tail feathers. First I put five in the back row and then alternated with four pieces of candy corn on top.

I was very pleased and amazed that my turkey looked so good, using such common ingredients.

Perfect turkey for a Thanksgiving tray of cute cupcakes. I will have more cupcake decorating suggestions for you between now and Christmas.

Friday, November 4, 2011


We are so excited today because the new issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine is now out and that means it is time to get ready for the holiday season. The adorable child on the cover, Alyssia Brantley, is holding some of the holiday cupcakes, featured in this issue.

Four local women, known for their baking skills sent us a favorite cupcake recipe to share and editor, Angela McRae and I, made the recipes with great success. The people in our office really enjoyed them!

Bob Fraley took some great photos for the magazine and Angela, a talented photographer with a good eye for design, took photos for me, including the photo at the top.

I invite you to pick up a copy of our magazine for the recipes, and I will be sharing some decorating tips for cupcakes here on my blog. The first tips will be for the fall cupcake, pictured above.

I used the recipe by Patty Gironda for Hummingbird Cupcakes and used her recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting. To decorate, I used a 16" pastry bag and a large tip coupler with a large star tip to frost the cupcakes. I iced them in a circular motion from the outside, finishing in the center and building the icing to a peak in the center. I then dusted the  cupcake with chopped pecans and sprinkled on sugar leaf decorations, then added two candy pumpkins on top. It was easy and didn't take but a few minutes to decorate each cupcake.

I used Wilton cake decorating supplies available at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and WalMart. The large bag, coupler and tips are very important when decorating cupcakes because if you want to give the cupcakes a "bakery" look you will need the big tips. It takes roughly twice the amount of icing when you use large tips but the finished product will have everyone oohing and aahing over the results.

The sugar leaves I found at Kroger in the baking section. This is a great recipe for fall and especially for Thanksgiving and the recipe is included in our November/December issue.

There are a number of other decorated cupcakes in that issue and I will be posting the how-to instructions for each one for the next couple of weeks, beginning with the Thanksgiving cupcakes.

For out-of-towners here is the link for the digital issue. The cupcake recipes begin on page 40.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another good choice for cake

Between the final days of October and first days of November, we have plenty of cake. That is because we have three birthdays right together. I guess we could celebrate them all at the same time but it seems a bit unfair to make all three give up their special day because it is more trouble to make several cakes.

The first birthday cake was I made was a chocolate/chocolate for my Mother's birthday, then I made chocolate/chocolate cupcakes for Halloween. Then, my sister's birthday is the next day which incidentally is All Saint's Day. I decided we didn't need another chocolate/chocolate cake so I decided to make a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.

My normal gluten-free cake mix was sold out at the grocery store and I saw this Pamela's chocolate mix so I bought it and to mixed up some butter cream frosting for a little something different. I am really sold on this cake mix. It was wonderful.

I was concerned because one of the ingredients was chicory and I really am not a fan of chicory. However, this cake mix was so perfect. I decided to add a cup of vegan chocolate chips because I wanted it to be really rich.

Even my family members who are not too excited about gluten-free products were wowed by this cake. It was a great success. All I can say is that I don't want any cake for awhile, but when make a gluten-free one, I will try another Pamela's mix. It is my new favorite product. Does anyone know where I could find some coupons?