Do you feel completely inept when it comes to making pie crust? Here's a recipe you'll love! You can even make it in the microwave instead of the oven.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie
(This pie makes its own crust)

2 c. pumpkin puree
3/4 c. sugar
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk 
½ c. Bisquick (or ½ c. flour plus ½ tsp. baking powder)
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened 
2 eggs 
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp. cinnamon, and ½ tsp. each ground cloves,
ginger, and nutmeg)


Beat all ingredients 1 minute in a blend on high or 2 minutes with hand beater. Pour into greased pie plate. Bake at 375 about 45-50 minutes or till knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a flat, heatproof surface (not on a wire rack).

Microwave instructions: place on an inverted (microwavable) dinner plate on medium high (70% power), rotating pie plate 1/4 turn every 5 minutes (unless you have an automatic turntable- then use that). Cook until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 32 minutes.

 
 
Pumpkin Roll
Makes 18, 1" slices.  

4 eggs                                                                          
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin                                                             
1 c. flour                                                                    
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon                                                            
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
3/4 tsp. nutmeg                                                              
½ tsp. salt
1 c. chopped nuts, optional

Beat eggs until well mixed.  Gradually add sugar; this should take about two minutes.  Beat on high for another two minutes, until sugar is mostly dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale lemon-colored..  Stir in pumpkin.  Fold in flour, baking powder, spices, and nuts.  Grease and flour a 12x18" cookie sheet with 1" high sides, OR line it with parchment and grease the pan sides..  Spread batter in pan and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes, or til the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center.  Remove from oven.  While cake is hot, flip cake over onto a kitchen towel sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar.  Holding one of the wide sides of the cake, very carefully roll it up with the towel, cinnamon roll style. When cool, 2 to 4 hours later, unroll slowly and spread with cream cheese frosting.  Roll the cake again, without the towel!  Slice and serve. 

You can make this ahead of time and freeze it for later use.
If you don't have a 12x18" pan, but have a 10x15 pan, cut the recipe in half.  The batter will not be as deep in the pan, so bake a few minutes less.  (Mine took 12 minutes.)  Roll as above, but hold a narrow side as you roll it up.  This will give you one 10" wide roll.

Fluffy Cream Cheese Frosting
(the 1-1-1-1-1 recipe)

1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. powdered sugar                                                     
1 Tbsp. lemon juice OR water or milk (lemon accents the zing of the cream cheese)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, chilled and cut into 8 cubes                                          

Combine butter with powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Add cream cheese, one cube at a time, beating until smooth after each.  Once they're all incorporated, beat another minute or until frosting is fluffy.
 
 
We have one peach tree, a fairly early variety.  The little thing produced itself proud this year; we kept thinning, and thinning those peaches throughout the season, fearing the weight of the ripened ones would damage its fairly young form.   We still got somewhere around 1 1/2 to 2 bushels of ripe ones.  Most of them were preserved as rolls of fruit leather, with many more eaten fresh, made into creamy smoothies, or baked into this favorite coffeecake, which we serve as breakfast food.  I got the recipe when I was nineteen and in college, from a friend my age who also loved to bake.  She ended up living in the same apartment complex and I, and we shared several food-related experiences.  She and I drowned our boy-centered troubles one night by staying up late, crying with each other's stories, and consuming an entire cheesecake.

But back to the peaches...
There's nothing like biting into a warm, juicy peach fresh off the tree... or a tree-ripened peach from wherever you can buy them.  If you're not so fortunate, you can use either fresh, frozen, or canned (and drained) peaches for this, but the best flavor- as you'd expect!- will be from using the freshest, sweetest, juiciest peaches you can get.  

Peachy Pecan-Streusel Coffeecake
Cake:
1/2 c. butter, softened 
3/4 c. sugar (1 cup if you like things very sweet)
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sour cream or yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter or spray a 9x13 pan; set aside.  Cream together the butter and sugar; beat in the eggs.  combine all dry ingredients, add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream and vanilla.  Beat just until smooth.  Spread batter in prepared pan.  Arrange peach slices over batter.  Combine the streusel ingredients and sprinkle over peaches.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean (no batter clinging, only crumbs if anything).  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Streusel:
1 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


 
 
Santa Rosa plums are dark on the outside, often with a bluish hue that rubs off, ruby-colored inside, and explode with sweet juice when you bite into a fully ripe one.  They are apparently highly prized, which is nice for me, because my 3-in-1 plum tree is about half Santa Rosa.  They tend to ripen pretty much at once, which means we have only about a two-week window for eating them fresh, and need to be quick about canning, drying, making jam, or otherwise using them.  

Gelato usually uses milk instead of cream, and sometimes fewer egg yolks, as well.  If you use whipping cream in place of the milk, you'll have plum ice cream instead.  You can triple this batch if you really, really want to pull out your ice cream maker, but this smaller batch can be made using a high-speed blender. It's lightly sweet, with just enough brightness from the fruit, and full of flavor.  And yes, you may use other types of plums.  The color may or may not be the same, though, depending on the variety you use.  If you can't have eggs, you could thicken the milk with 1 Tbsp. cornstarch instead, but it won't be as creamy.

One pound of plums can mean anything from 4-10 plums, depending on their size.  If yours are small, ping-pong-ball sized, you'll need about ten.  If they're big ones, 2 1/2" across or so, you'll likely need only 4-5.  Either way, the goal is to end up with about 1 3/4 c. puree.

Santa Rosa Plum Gelato
Makes about one quart

1 lb. Santa Rosa plums
1/8 tsp. almond extract, optional but delicious!
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. whole milk, divided (dairy-free options include almond milk, rice milk, or coconut milk)
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 c. sugar

Wash plums and remove stems.  Remove pits; you'll to cut them out.  Drop the pitted plums into a high-speed blender, add almond and vanilla extracts, and blend until smooth.   Pour into two empty ice cube trays.  Pour 1/3 c. of the milk into the blender and swish it around to get more of the puree; pour this into the ice cube trays as well.  Put them in the freezer.

Combine the two egg yolks, salt, and the sugar in the unwashed blender.  Heat the remaining 2/3 cup milk in the microwave for 1 minute, until steaming.  Meanwhile, turn the blender on to beat the yolks and sugar.  With the motor running, pour the hot milk in a thin stream into the yolks.  Once it's all in, increase speed to high, and run about two minutes, until the custard thickens slightly.  It will begin to coat the blender sides with a slightly thicker, opaque coating, and the mixture will steam quite a lot.  

Pour the custard into a container with a lid; refrigerate. Wash the blender; there's not much more unpleasant to wash off than dried egg yolk!

3-4 hours later, pull both the now-frozen puree and the now-chilled custard out.  Pour the custard into the (washed!) blender, add the puree cubes, and blend, using the plunger handle to get them to mix.

The gelato will be a soft-serve consistency.  If you want to be able to form round scoops, pour in a container and return to the freezer for another 1-3 hours.

 
 
This is a refrigerator cheesecake; no baking needed!  It takes only about ten minutes until the filling is set enough to serve. This one has a rhubarb topping, but use whatever you like on the top!  The cheesecake can be made gluten-free, and this version is sweetened with honey.  It can even be dairy-free if you have a nondairy substitute for cream cheese; use any milk you prefer in place of the milk called for in this recipe.
This makes one 8x8 pan or one 8" pie pan.  Pick your shape.  :)

Crust:
3/4 c. quick-cooking oats (GF if needed)
1/4 c. oat flour (whirl oats in the blender until powdered)
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (melted) or butter
1 Tbsp. honey, liquid

Stir all four ingredients together, then press into the bottom of an 8x8 pan or up the sides then along the bottom of an 8" pie plate.  Put it in the freezer to firm up while you make the filling.

Filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla1/2 cup evaporated milk, half-and-half, or whipping cream (or coconut cream)
2 Tbsp. Ultra Gel

Beat the cream cheese until softened, then mix in the honey, lemon juice, salt, and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Gradually add the  milk/cream and Ultra Gel; beat until thick and fluffy.  Spread evenly over the chilled crust.  Let chill for at least 5-10 minutes away if you like. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Lemon Topping:  1/4 c. lemon marmalade (use this recipe, substituting lemons for orange), thinned with just enough water to make it a sauce.

Rhubarb Topping:
1 c. chopped rhubarb (about 1 big stalk)
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. honey, to taste

Combine in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for two minutes; stir.  Repeat until the rhubarb is soft.  Mash and taste to see if it's sweet/tart enough for you.  
 
 
Salty, sweet, crunchy, and chewy!  Makes one 8x8 pan.

Crust:  
3 oz pretzels (about 1 cup), crushed 
3 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp c. sugar
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it starts smelling delicious.

While it's baking, make the filling: 

Filling:
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 c. corn syrup*  (or use mild molasses and sub light brown sugar for dark, above)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. pecans, toasted and chopped coarsely
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Mix in the brown sugar and salt, stirring until the butter is absorbed.  Beat in the egg, corn syrup/molasses, and vanilla.  Continue to cook and stir the mixture until it is shiny and hot to the touch but not near boiling.  Remove from heat; stir in pecans.  Pour onto the hot crust.  Bake at 350 about 25-30 minutes, until it jiggles like Jello and not like water when shaken.  Cool at least 20 minutes before cutting if you want them to keep their shape.
 
 
This gluten-free cake is high in fiber, but you'd never know it when eating it.  It just tastes like a moist coconut cake.  It also has a delicious cream cheese frosting that you can sweeten using agave or honey, and a lemon-cream cheese filling between the layers.  This makes a small cake, 6" round if two layers, or a single 8" layer:  a much better size for most people!

Coconut Cake:

4 large eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/2 c. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda (this is too much, I can taste it and the cake overbrowned)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 c. shredded coconut, either sweetened or unsweetened
Cream Cheese Agave Frosting (recipe below)
1 1/2 Tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides and line bottom of a 6" round pan* with a circle of parchment paper.  Set aside.

Whisk eggs until light in color and a little foamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut oil, agave, vanilla, and coconut extract; mix well.  Add coconut flour, then put the baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum on top of the coconut flour, and mix all together.  The batter will be very thin at first, but will thicken within minutes as the coconut flour begins absorbing liquid.  Stir in the 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan.  Bake until center no longer jiggles and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to loosen it.  Cool cake, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan/s and cool completely.

When cool, split the 6" cake into two layers.  Frost the first half with lemon-cream cheese filling.  Place the other layer on top of the filling, then frost the entire cake.   Pat coconut onto the sides of the cake, then sprinkle it all over the top.
  
*If you don't have a 6" round, you may use either one 8" round (reduce baking time to about  30- 35 minutes), a 9x5 loaf pan (about the same baking time), 12-15 cupcakes (about 30-35 min. of baking), or four 4" round pans (reduce baking time to  18-20 minutes each).

Cream Cheese Agave Frosting:  use the recipe for Fluffy Honey-Cheesecake Frosting, except substitute agave for the honey.

To make the lemon-cream cheese filling (or orange-cream cheese filling), take  3/4 cup of the Cream Cheese Agave Frosting and put it in a small bowl.  Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. marmalade and stir.  
 
 
A friend recently shared this delicious recipe with me.  Since I wanted to make cupcakes for a friend who can only handle sweeteners like honey and agave, it was time to tweak the recipe.  You can find the original, sugar-sweetened, recipe here, if you want to compare it to my version. As cupcakes, they needed more moisture than the original, plus a couple things needed adjusted to allow for honey.  And I discovered that the amount of water your quinoa was cooked in makes a huge difference in whether they're dry, moist, or collapse when baking.   (Not to worry, the problem should be solved now!)   Quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain.

I tried really hard to find a way to use just the blender to make the batter, and not need both it and a bowl, but the batter puffs up so much once the leavening is added, that it just didn't work out that way .  Oh well.

Everyone who has tried these loves them.

Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

1/2 c. uncooked quinoa*
1 1/4 c. water 
1/3 c. any kind of milk (dairy, almond or coconut are fine)
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. melted coconut oil or other liquid vegetable oil
2/3 c. honey
a few drops of orange essential oil, or the washed peel of one clementine, optional
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the quinoa, covered, in the 1 1/4 cups water:  either combine in the microwave or stovetop.  To microwave,  put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, then cook for 5 minutes at full power, then 5 minutes at 50% power.  For stovetop:  combine in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.  (If the lid isn't, use 1 1/2 cups water to compensate for what will evaporate.)  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until water is all absorbed.
*or use 2 cups cooked quinoa and omit the water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put liners in 18-24 cupcake tins, depending on how high you want the cupcakes.

Combine in a blender the cooked quinoa, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey, and orange oil/peel if using it.  Blend until smooth.   Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.   Pour the quinoa mixture over the top, and stir until well-combined.  Spoon into cupcake liners, or use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead to portion out the batter.

For an easy, sweet topping, sprinkle each cupcake before baking with a few semisweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans or other nut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top of a cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Frost with your favorite frosting if you like, or  try any of these.   The cupcakes above are frosted with whipped coconut cream with melted chocolate beaten in:  use 1 cup of chilled coconut cream and 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate.  Whip the cream until it starts to hold soft peaks, then add in the chocolate plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.





 
 
Are you trying to eat healthier but really, really crave fudge?  This one uses healthy fats and honey.   It's also dairy-free and gluten-free for those who need to avoid those.  

Avocados are high in three amazing fats: both phytosterols and PFAs (polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols) are documented to be anti-inflammatory, and oleic acid, which helps our digestive tract absorb fat-soluble nutrients.  Coconut oil is healthy for many reasons, including being anti-inflammatory and having a high lauric acid  and medium-chain fatty acids content.  
But enough about that.

The big question is, doesn't avocado totally mess up the flavor here?

No.  I have a pretty discriminating set of tastebuds, and the only way I can detect the avocado is by a faint fruity flavor.  Because of that, some of my favorite variations of this fudge include fruit:  orange zest or oil, chopped dried cherries (and toasted almonds!), and the like.  This fudge is really only a slightly thicker version of my ChocolateTruffle Pie.

The recipe below includes both orange and pecans; if you don't want them, just omit the pecans and orange zest or orange oil.

You can also use this recipe to make truffles; cut into squares, then quickly roll each square into a ball; roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts to coat.

Orange-Pecan Fudge            makes about 3/4 of a pound 

1 ripe avocado, peel and pit removed
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. water
zest from half of an orange (about 1/2 Tbsp.), or 2 drops orange essential oil
3/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt (1/16 tsp.)
1/4 c. toasted chopped pecans

Line a 5 1/2 x 3 loaf pan (or 2-cup rectangular or square container) with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.   Set aside.
Put the water, zest (should be about 1 Tbsp), honey, coconut oil, cocoa, avocado, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor.  Run on high for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan.  Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours until set.   

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.  If freezing this, let pieces thaw about 10 minutes before serving.  I don't know how long it will keep in the fridge because it gets eaten so quickly.   But the one piece that survived us for a week and a half was still good.  Any longer than a week, though, it'd be better preserved in the freezer.  Wrap tightly.

 
 
Have you ever started a recipe only to discover that it called for "pumpkin pie spice"?  And there was no such thing in your cupboard?  

You can make your own very easily.  Mix a big batch and fill a jar, or just use the ratios below to put directly in your recipe.  For instance, if your recipe calls for 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, use double the amounts below.  No need to stir them together first, either, just drop them in.  If you have cinnamon but not all three of the others, you can leave one of them out and still be fine.  (Just don't leave out the cinnamon!)


Pumpkin Pie Spice Makes 1 teaspoon. 

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Mix ingredients well. 

Bigger batch, for filling a spice jar:  
Makes 1/4 c (4 Tbsp or 12 tsp.)
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves