TIS THE SEASON FOR BAKING

Now, I'm not the best baker but I do LOVE to bake and put my heart in all that I create.  Thanksgiving and Christmas seem the be the fitting season to bake, right? Its what everyone does, aside from cooking the main dishes for the family feast. My daughter and I started a tradition, years ago, to bake an apple and pumpkin pies from scratch. Originally, our pumpkin pie was completely from scratch, straight from the pumpkin itself, but after the first or two of baking it that way, we decided to use organic pumpkin from the can :( It just helps speed up the process a bit... especially, if you're going to have an early start of cooking on Thanksgiving day. If you're a mom, ANY extra time or little cutting-the-corners helps. With that, here are the recipes to both pies - if you're still wondering what to bake OR if you're wanting to bake after the holidays are over.

P I E    C R U S T

ingredients

• 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

• 1 tbs of granulated sugar

• 1/2 tsp of salt

• 6 tbs cold unsalted butter (cut into quarter slices)

• 1/4 cup of chilled vegetable shortening (cut into 2 pieces) / I did not have shortening on hand, so I used 1/4 of butter that was softened (yes, butter again)

• 2 tbs iced water

combine dry ingredients, work in the butter, add water and kneed.

If baking pumpkin pie, make the dough into one ball, wrap in plastic and place in frig for 20 minutes.

If baking apple pie, cut the dough into two balls (one for the bottom crust, the other for top crust), wrap both individually in plastic and place in frig for 20 minutes.

 

P U M P K I N    P I E

ingredients (Trader Joe's version)

• 1 can Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin

• 1 cup heavy cream

• 1/2 cup whole [organic] milk

• 2 large eggs

• 3/4 cup packed [organic] brown sugar

• 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice blend

• 1/4 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. Roll-out pie crust and place in pie dish (don't have one? TJMAXX and Marshall's always have cute ones and at great prices). Place pumpkin pie ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Pour mixture into pie dish. Cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil,  remove foil after 20 minutes (depends on your liking with how you want the edge of the crust to be), and continue baking. The approximate total baking time is 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie will still tremble a bit (like jello) but know that the pie filling will set as it cools down. Normally, I bake pies in the late evenings and let them cool during the night. By morning, they're perfect!

A P P L E   P I E

• 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

• 1/2 cup unsalted butter

• 1/4 cup water

• 1/2 cup white sugar

• 1/2 cup brown sugar

• 1 tsp cinnamon

• few dashes of nutmeg

• 1 tbs pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven at 425 degrees. Roll-out one of the balls of dough and place/line the pie dish. Fill the dish with apple slices and then roll-out the second ball of dough and place however, creatively, you desire as the top crust - Pinterest has TONS of pretty ideas. Once done, set dish aside.

To make mixture, place all ingredients into a pot and stir - I'm very careless at times, I literally dump everything in the pot. Key: Keep mixing and stirring. The mixture will eventually start to boil and bubble, once it does please remove from stove and pour mixture (carefully, because it will be very hot) in the pie. I will look for little openings throughout the pie and pour into those spots. Its okay of the mixture gets on the top crust, it will give the crust color. Cover the edge of the crust with foil and remove midway during baking. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, the reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 35-45 minutes more. Let pie set for an hour or so, OR bake in the late evening and let it set through the night, it will be perfect come morning. Serve with whip-cream and a cup of coffee or tea :)

CINNAMON STICKS

The other week my husband and I stopped by a local Mexican market for some freshly made pico de gallo and tortilla chips, and on the way to the check-out lane there was a huge barrel filled with cinnamon sticks. Instantly, my senses pick-up that aroma of my dad boiling cinnamon sticks, during Thanksgiving and Christmas time, and how the scent slowly spread throughout the home and each room. That subtle but earthy, with a bit of spice, scent is not only completely fitting for the season, but it also gets my tastebuds rolling and my mouth watering for turkey, glazed ham thats topped with pineapple, mashed potatoes, candy yams, and then the start of Christmas joy once Thanksgiving feast has filled our tummies. 

It is not new that certain scents, sounds, or the taste of food and spices, can trigger our senses and recall parts of our childhood, travels, home, and places we love, giving us all those nostalgic feelings.

I share this very simple recipe with you in hopes that this nostalgic scent, which fills the homes of many families during this time of the year, will also fill your home with its lovely scent.

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small saucepan, boil water and add 2-4 cinnamon sticks. The amount varies on how subtle or strong you want the scent in your home. Once you place the sticks in boiling water, turn down the heat to the lowest temperature for about 15 minutes and then turn-off.  The scent will keep filling your home for hours. 

-- additional --

If you would like to add to the scent, here are some great additions + combos:

• orange slices + mint leaves

• orange slices + ground cloves

• lemon slices + rosemary

• apple slices, whole cloves + teaspoon of vanilla extract