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Classic Cherry Pie

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If you had trouble accessing the Preacher Tuna Salad recipe yesterday, I apologize. I accidentally posted it twice and deleted the original, making the link most everyone got lead to nowhere.  You can click here to view the recipe.With the 4th of July holiday quickly approaching, I thought it was about time I shared my favorite cherry pie recipe.  Maybe it’s all the red, but it just seems very festive to me! :)  There’s nothing fancy about it, unless you consider a lattice top crust fancy, but it’s a very good pie and excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I love the flavor the almond extract adds, to me it is the essential key to a good cherry pie.

I love my Perfect Pie Crust above all others, and is the crust pictured here.  I highly recommend it for any and all pies, but truth be told, I just as often use a box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts.  Judge me if you must, but it saves so much time!  If you buy pre-made crusts, don’t bother with generic/off-brands, they are awful. Pillsbury is pretty good if you don’t have time to make your own.

Classic Cherry Pie

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Pastry for a two-crust pie
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 (14.5 oz) cans tart cherries in water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
Milk & coarse sugar for top crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one pie crust and line a 9” pie plate; place in refrigerator. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar & cornstarch and mix well. Drain the juice from the cherries into the pan with the sugar & cornstarch; set the cherries aside. Stirring constantly, cook the juice mixture over medium heat, until bubbling and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, almond extract, and food coloring, if desired, until butter is melted. Stir in the cherries. Spoon into prepared pie plate. Roll out second disc of dough and cut into strips with a pastry wheel or pizza cutter. Arrange strips on top of filling to make a lattice design. Seal and flute edges. Brush milk over crust and sprinkle with sugar. Place on middle oven rack and put a cookie sheet below to catch any spillover. Bake 30 minutes, then put a pie shield on the pie to protect the crust from over-browning. Bake another 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool at least two hours or overnight before serving.

Veronica’s note: I tend to cook my fruit pie filling until extremely thick, as I prefer my pies not to run at all when cut, as you can see in the photos. If you like yours to run a little, just follow the directions and you’ll be fine. My weirdness for cooking it until nearly cement is not included in them. :)  Also, I have a step-by-step video tutorial on another pie that includes how to make a lattice design here.

**Be sure to visit my “Current Favorites” in the sidebar at the right for other recipes that would be a great addition to your July 4th menu.**

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Pumpkin Pretzels

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I ran across the cutest idea for making pumpkins out of mini pretzels on Butter with a Side of Bread.  I found a limited edition of Wilton’s candy melts called “Pumpkin Spice” and thought of those cute pumpkins.  I couldn’t resist!

Jessica made solid pumpkins, covering the holes with the candy coating (see photo below for my attempt at this), but I decided to just keep to a thin coating and leave the holes because it seemed to turn them too sweet to use that much coating.  Also, I think the texture of my coating made it harder to do the way she did hers.  In my experience, adding food coloring (the gel kind used in frosting, like Jessica used) to candy coating changes the texture and makes it thicker, which probably helped her coat her pretzels completely with no holes.  Mine was thinner and it was a lot easier to coat the pretzels thinly – the two I did like Jessica’s actually took more time because the coating kept wanting to fall through the holes.  Whatever you decide to do, these are fun, easy, and tasty! Kids are sure to love them.

I highly recommend the Pumpkin Spice flavored candy melts if you can find them – they are so good!  I found mine at Walmart in the Halloween section where all the Halloween sprinkles and treat-making supplies were located.

They almost looks like spooky jack-o-lanterns!

Pumpkin Pretzels

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50-75 mini pretzels
1 (10 oz) bag orange colored candy melts (Wilton’s Pumpkin Spice recommended)
Green M&M’s*

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions.  I recommend being even more careful than the package recommends and after doing 1 minute at 50% power in the microwave, doing only 15 second intervals and stirring extremely well between zaps.  These candy melts tend to get very thick if you overheat them at all, so be careful.  Once melted, dip each pretzel in the coating using a fork and tap off the excess chocolate before placing on waxed paper.  Take a green M&M and press into the top (I dipped mine in the coating a little to help them adhere, but it’s probably not necessary) to make a stem.  Continue with remaining pretzels until all the M&M’s are used up, gently reheating the coating as necessary when it becomes too thick or starts to harden.  If you still have coating left when the M&M’s are gone, keep dipping pretzels until it’s used up.  Allow the coating to set completely before removing the pretzels to a bowl to serve.  Keep covered until ready to serve.

Makes about 50 pumpkin pretzels

*I got about 50 green M&M’s from a regular bag, which turned out to be an almost perfect amount. I only had a little bit of candy coating left once I ran out of the M&M’s, and I just coated about a dozen more without stems and mixed them in with the others.

Recipe source: adapted from Butter With a Side of Bread

Easy Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies/Muffin Tops {3 Ingredients}


This is one of those super easy recipes that many people seem to know about, but no one knows where it originated.  While there are many online sources for the recipe, I got mine from my friend Teri, who just spouted off the short list of ingredients during a conversation about holiday baking, and I decided I had to try them myself.

Teri calls these cookies but I call them muffin tops because they truly are the texture of a muffin, not a cookie.  In fact, I’ve seen people (hi, Jorie!) use this same recipe (with and without the chocolate chips) to make full-blown muffins, so there you go.  Bake them whichever way you like and no matter what you call them, they’re delicious, and a great last minute treat to add to your holiday spread.

Easy Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies

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1 (18.25 oz) box spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini because I made small cookies)

Preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat mats.

Empty cake mix into a mixing bowl and whisk well until there are no lumps. Mix in the puree, then stir in the chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop to portion the dough out onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm. Remove to cool on a wire rack and repeat with remaining dough.

Recipe source: Teri B.

*******

I hope you guys have a happy Thanksgiving and if you are traveling for the holiday, travel safe!  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but this is the first year since meeting my husband that we are not going to his parent’s house for Thanksgiving.  His cousin Mike (who was his best man at our wedding) got married in Jamaica and their wedding reception is this Saturday…and I’m making the cake!  It’s been crazy trying to get it baked without taking time off but I will have all Thursday and Friday to finish it so it’s all good…still…please pray for me!! lol!  If you know my track record, you know I need every bit of help I can get. :)  (If you don’t know my track record, you can see both my wedding cake failures here.)

One last note, I’m ending the fundraiser for Suzie on Saturday because she now has her hospital & doctor bills from her first hospital stay ($9,600 total) and not all of them are accepting payments–some are threatening to send her account to collections if she doesn’t pay in full.  So I’m ending it a little earlier than I planned so she can get at least enough to cover those that are threatening her.   If you wanted to help but forgot or weren’t able to before, if you are able to give even a few dollars before the fundraiser ends, I would so greatly appreciate it.  I would love it if we could reach $2,000 by Friday night!  And my offer for the carrot cake recipe still stands–I will email everyone who makes a minimum $5 donations my top-secret blue ribbon carrot cake recipe!  You can click here to make a donation.

Again, happy Thanksgiving! Have an extra bite of stuffing for me…and pecan pie too. :)

Thankful Thursday #91: why it’s good to be thankful


I’m kind of a freak of nature, not just in the normal freaky ways (like my coconut oil obsession and eating the same green beans every. single. day), but also because I’m so happy.  It’s really hard to keep me down!  People make fun of me and laugh at me (in a nice way) because I sing and whistle everywhere I go.  As soon as I go into the break room or restroom at work, I usually start singing or whistling and I’ll hear someone out of view call out, “That has to be Veronica!” LOL!  Yup, they have my number.  I’m a happy girl.

**Embarrassing true story: recently I was listening to one of my favorite songs at work on the way to the restroom and just could not hold in the exuberance the song brings out in me.  I was bouncing along all the way to the restroom since I didn’t see anyone else around, and as soon as I rounded the corner the energy busted out of me into spasmodic dance moves, my arms flying over my head and my hips swaying and feet stomping…and ran right into a co-worker.  “Oh sorry, I just had to bust a move,” I laughed, and she looked at me like I was…well, the freak of nature that I am.**

In addition to being raised in a jolly family who found humor in the darkest situations, and the joy & peace I find in Christ and my faith, another big reason for my happiness are these Thankful Thursdays posts.  I first started doing them right after Thanksgiving two years ago because I was so loaded with thankfulness from spending time with my family-in-law that I wanted to extend that state into my everyday life.  (You can see my first Thanksgiving post here.) By keeping constantly focused on what I’m thankful for, the bad things are always tempered by how much good I find.  And it makes the good things even bigger and better.

I was recently reading an article talking about how being thankful is proven to improve your health!  So not only does counting your blessings cheer you up, it can improve your health and energy levels as well.  As we’re coming up on the holiday devoted to giving thanks, I urge you to dig deep this year, write down as many as you can think of every day until Thanksgiving.  Believe me, there are many bad days where I really don’t want to find anything to be thankful for, but I always force myself too.  And guess what?  I always feel better!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~Psalm 107:1

Tell me something, anything, that you are thankful for right now. Whether it be little or big, I want to hear it!  And I’ll start with mine: I’m thankful for my socks.  My feet get so super cold in the winter, and I’m thankful I have thick fuzzy socks to warm them up because I’ve tried sleeping with cold feet and I can’t.  Thank you big, fat, fuzzy neon pink socks!

Your turn–go!

Thanksgiving 2011 and No Recipes For You!


As an homage to the soup Nazi, there will be “no recipes for you!” this week.  That’s right, I’m going to do an entire week of non-recipe posts.  I love posting recipes and usually give them first priority, but I have several non-recipe posts to share and I thought I’d get through them before I get to all the December goodies I want to share with you.  (Oh goodness, now I’m wondering if I can really handle this.  I might have to cop out but I’m going to try!)

Let’s start with the Miller family Thanksgiving!

As we have every year since we started dating, Dennis and I headed north to spend the holiday with his family in Abilene, Kansas (Eisenhower’s birth place, the end of the Oregon trail, and the original “sin city” back in cowboy days*). Usually we stay over the night before so I’m there to help Phyllis, my mother-in-law, with all the cooking, but I couldn’t this year due to my work schedule. She still pulled off an amazing dinner, with some side-dishes and desserts help from everyone who came!

*You know, a long time ago, when the original cowboys freely roamed the Earth.

When I first started coming to Thanksgiving in Abilene, all of the extended family came to the Miller house for lunch, but the count has now dwindled as each family has decided to have their own separate celebration.  What used to be utter insanity in the Miller house is now manageable thanks to smaller numbers.  See our happy hostess below?  That’s my MIL, Phyllis.

Dennis got his sense of humor from her. Here’s what I found when I went to reach for a plate. Bob is her brother, our Uncle.

Only a candy mouse for you!

The Thanksgiving ritual at the Miller home is to wait until everyone arrives, doing the final food preparations (cutting the pies, putting servings spoons in all the dishes, etc.) & chatting with one another while trying to pretend we’re not starving and ready to eat the person’s head off that we’re talking to.  When everyone is present, including those that told us not to wait, Uncle Robert, of the mouse plate fame, leads us in a prayer of thanksgiving. This is Robert and his wife, Becky (they are parents to the four beautiful young women throughout my photos, three of them in the background of this one):

We then let the elderly and the youngest go through the kitchen first to fill their plates.  The rest of us continue to play nice and pretend we’re not eying the forearms of our family members and envisioning them as turkey legs.

And then the glorious moment arrives when we all sit down and eat!

That's Dennis' Dad, Al, who had to be censored! LOL!

This year I brought praline sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie…

pumpkin pie truffles…

corn pudding…

and broccoli-cauliflower bake, which I didn’t photograph separately, but there’s a bit of it on the back center-left of my loaded plate.

I forgot to take a picture of my dessert plate, but I was overjoyed that cousin Jessica (the one helping her two little boys with their plates above) brought pecan pie.  It’s my favorite but I never make it for that reason, so I always hope to find it at Thanksgiving, the one time a year I allow myself to eat this evil, but delicious, pie.  I also didn’t photograph the Thanksgiving staples (turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn) except the ones that made it to  my plate, but I did get the other side dishes:

Jessica brought this rad turkey vegetable tray!

After we eat, the men continue watching their football game…

the children divide and conquer playing fields of their own creating…

and the adults continue to chat.  Katerina amused us for a while with her Smartphone as we looked up music videos on it.

Loved this photo of Katerina, Tessa, and their nephew Greyson!  He’s such a cutie!

While most of the young adults eventually moved outside to do sports-like activities, I followed them outdoors and exercised my forefinger taking pictures instead.  I’m pretty sure if I had tried to join them in volleying balls and whatever other sports-like nonsense they were up to, I would have broken my eyebrow or something, and I’m kind of fond of my eyebrows.

Here’s a photo I shot outside of Robert and Becky’s girls while they weren’t busy flinging balls or Frisbees or other various  and sundry things in the air.  Left to right: Andrea, Tessa, Katerina, and Jessica.  Andrea and Jessica are responsible for all the kiddos at our gathering.

I loved this photo so much I had a little Thanksgiving-themed fun with it!

I managed to pass the camera off to get a photo with my TALL and handsome nephews, Carson (left) and Lance:

and with their Mom, the best sister-in-law in the world, Joan:

You can tell how much fun she is by her smile!  :)  Oh, and if you’re wondering about my shirt, the front says “How do you mail a turkey?”

“Bird” class mail, of course! Hardy har har! :)  Working for the postal service, I couldn’t resist, even if it is super lame.

I took  this photo right inside the door at an Abilene restaurant called Joe Snuffy’s the day after Thanksgiving.  I thought it quite fitting for this holiday, which is mainly spent with family around a table.

I know that we love to use Thanksgiving as an excuse to pig out, but when it comes down to it, most of us aren’t thinking about food when we think of what we’re truly thankful for.  Usually it’s the people surrounding us during this holiday that we’re most thankful for.

I happened to catch the Thanksgiving episode of “The Middle” where the wife was flipping because everyone was cancelling their travel plans to join hers on Thanksgiving.  “Thanksgiving without family is just overeating!” she exclaimed, and I had to laugh.  It’s so true.  We love Thanksgiving because of the plentiful food, but we love it even more because it gives us a reason to gather together with the ones we love.

Thank God for so many reasons to be thankful. :)

Dennis with 92-year-old Grandma Joy.  She truly is a joy and I’m so glad she has passed her sense of humor down through her daughter to my husband. :)

I hope your Thanksgivings were wonderful, and that whether you celebrate the holiday or not, you have many things to be thankful for!

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Sheet Cake

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I found this recipe on Picky Palate and saved it for Thanksgiving, but wanted to give it a trial run beforehand.  I do crazy things like enter pumpkin bread into state fair competitions without ever having made the recipe before or since, but I try not to pull surprises on my family.  I can deal with not winning a ribbon, but I have a reputation to uphold when it comes to loved ones! ;)

I ended up making this for the CFC bake sale at work and my co-workers raved!  After sampling a piece myself, I had decided it wasn’t that exciting and I wasn’t going to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s, but after all the raving, I gave it a second chance and tried another piece.  Maybe it was the power of suggestion, or maybe my palate just wasn’t ready to handle cake for breakfast when I tried the first piece, but I enjoyed the second piece so well that I’m now reconsidering this for turkey day.

The cake is very, extremely, uber moist, and the swirls of cinnamon filling are very complimentary to the pure pumpkin flavor.  The color is a very nice orange, which I liked, and the simple glaze is a perfect compliment, really finishing off the “cinnamon roll” feel of the cake.  The size of the cake makes it great for a big family gathering because it can easily be cut into 24 slices or more, whereas a normal layer cake would only be 16 pieces at best.  It’s nice to have a “small dessert” option after filling up on turkey and stuffing!  Or, let’s be honest, so you can enjoy more than one dessert. :)

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Sheet Cake

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Cake
1 (18.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk (I used water)
1 (3.4 oz) box vanilla instant pudding mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

Cinnamon filling
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a jelly roll pan with non stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly.  Mix the filling ingredients together, then drizzle mixture evenly over cake.  Take a knife and run it through to swirl the filling into the batter.

Bake cake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through and remove. Mix glaze ingredients until creamy and smooth. Drizzle over warm cake then let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.  Store covered until ready to serve, refrigerating if not serving within the next day.

Recipe source: Picky Palate

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Bread

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Let’s pretend that this bread isn’t spiked with cranberries and toasted walnuts and isn’t made with orange juice or vanilla bean paste.  That bread, the one pictured down there, without all the extras, is the one I won third place for last year.  I thought I’d kick it up a notch by adding all the things we’re pretending it doesn’t have, sure that would get me at least a 2nd place ribbon…and I got nothing.  I got good feedback on my judging paper, but I guess the others this year were still better.  Kansas has some pretty excellent bakers!

Now, as for what we thought of this bread (we being me, my husband, and his co-workers), we loved it.  No ribbons aside, this bread is fantastic and has a great texture (if I do say so myself).  Perfectly sweet, with a nice variation in texture from the chewy cranberries and crunchy nuts.  The bread itself is so soft and moist it practically melts in your mouth.  A great bread to include in your holiday baking this year!

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Bread

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1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 eggs
2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin puree
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste*
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice

In a small bowl, combine cranberries and orange juice. Cover and let soak at least one hour before making bread. Meanwhile, place walnuts on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for one minute. Stir with fingers, then continue to microwave for another 1-2 minutes in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until fragrant and toasted. Set aside until ready to use.

Heat oven to 350. Generously butter two 9×5 loaf pans; set aside.

Drain the orange juice into a large mixing bowl and set the soaked cranberries aside. Add the eggs to the orange juice and whisk them until well beaten. Add pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla bean paste. Beat until well mixed. Measure the flour and remaining ingredients into a separate bowl and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in the reserved cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans by inverting onto a rack and tapping the bottom.

*Vanilla extract can be substituted for vanilla bean paste.

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