Salty & Sweet – Chocolate Cookies with Pistachios

If you put a variety pack of cookies in front of me, 95% of the time I would not choose an all chocolate cookie. This may be surprising, but I gave up on chocolate cookies after several attempts where I couldn’t even taste the chocolate.

chocolate pistachio cookies

I thought up this recipe one night while lying in bed, after one of my battles with black bean brownies. I was thinking about other ways to use black beans instead of flour and agave syrup instead of sugar. I was also thinking about a batch of Tastespotting photos I’d oogled recently that boasted salty and sweet desserts.

chocolate and pistachio

The recipe below is a little different from what I’d originally planned (no black beans and no agave… it’s probably for the best!), but it turned out exactly the way I was hoping it would. What’s the difference? For starters, I greatly prefer the taste of baked goods made with unsweetened cocoa instead of melted chocolate. It captures the taste of the chocolate more and it makes the final product less dense.

two cookies

These cookies are slightly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. The chocolate chips makes them unmistakably dark and chocolatey, and the pistachios add just a hint of saltiness. The instant coffee deepens the chocolate flavor without being particularly noticeable.

I had to take these to work the day after I made them because it quickly became clear that I couldn’t handle having them in the apartment. Whoops?

broken open

Salty & Sweet – Chocolate Cookies with Pistachios

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
2 ounces unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli)
1/8 (granulated) instant coffee
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (again, I used Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup pistachio kernels

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, cocoa, instant coffee, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment (or using electric beaters if you don’t have a stand mixer), combine butter and sugars. When combined, add eggs one at a time. Slowly beat in the flour mixture, adding the milk at the halfway point. Stir in pistachios and chocolate chips. The mixture will resemble thick brownie batter.

Scoop batter using a tablespoon measuring spoon and, with the assistance of another spoon, drop rounded balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Dessert for Breakfast – Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Ice Cream

Hello, hello! If you were on the east coast this weekend, then you enjoyed some incredibly gorgeous and mild weather. I was in Richmond celebrating some birthdays, and it was a little disconcerting to experience almost 80 degree weather in the same city that saw 11 inches of snow earlier in the week.

Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Ice Cream

In any event, the return of the sun made me crave a cool and creamy treat – nothing that a little dessert for breakfast couldn’t fix!

I absolutely love maple & brown sugar oatmeal, and I don’t think I’m alone. I remember in college when I was an RA I set up a snack station in the study lounge during exam week; the maple & brown sugar oatmeal all disappeared over night.

Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Ice Cream

So it occurred to me to try making Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Ice Cream, inspired by my favorite ice cream recipe book, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book: Over 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, Drinks, And More by Bruce Weinstein. You will need an ice cream machine for this recipe. You can actually buy some fairly decent yet inexpensive ones these days; I own a Deni that is probably 6 or 7 years old at this point.

It does have a bit of a chewy consistency because of the oatmeal. If you’d like it to be less noticeable then you can use Quick Quaker Oats (not instant) instead of Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats. To get that maple taste I used pure maple syrup, feel free to use your favorite brand. It’s just enough to add sweetness, without being overpowering.

Also, because I try to lighten the fat content of things wherever possible, I used light cream instead of heavy cream. Most great custard recipes call for heavy cream, and if you’re making this ice cream for guests or to impress then you’ll probably just want to use heavy cream as well. Every time I use light cream it just doesn’t freeze as well in the ice cream machine, and I wind up having to freeze it overnight in a separate container so that it’s not soupy. I don’t mind doing this but it can be a hassle, and of course it delays the immediate gratification of enjoying the ice cream right out of the machine.* Good luck!

Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Ice Cream

Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal Ice Cream
inspired by Bruce Weinstein

3/4 cup brown sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 cups roll oats (not instant)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups light cream*
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl, beat sugar and egg yolks until thickened. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a low boil in a medium saucepan. Add oats, salt and cinnamon. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring continuously until the oatmeal is thick and creamy (if you taste it at this point you’ll think it’s too salty… but don’t worry, it all comes together). Slowly beat the hot oatmeal into the eggs and sugar (this will kill any harmful bacteria present in the eggs). All the mixture to cool slightly, then stir in the cream. Cover and chill or refrigerate overnight.

Once chilled, stir the mixture into your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When finished, the ice cream will still be very soft. Transfer to a freezer-safe container (I usually use corningware or a covered glass bowl) and freeze overnight. Before serving, let it sit out for three minutes so that it’s easier to spoon the ice cream into your favorite bowl.

*Update: Hello, everyone. I received a few questions about light cream versus heavy cream. As you might guess, heavy cream has a higher butterfat content than light cream. This higher fat content lends itself to thickening and increasing in volume. Heavy cream can also hold its form a little better for pastries or cheesecakes. Substituting light cream for heavy cream in something like cheesecake will probably not work out well. I noted above that substituting light cream for heavy, as I did in this recipe, really doesn’t work well in ice cream machines and so you need to do extra freezing to harden the ice cream. If you choose to use light cream, make sure you plan ahead to allow plenty of time for freezing.

Food Photography – Fudge Brownie Cupcakes

Fudge Brownie Cupcakes

Today’s photo is from a birthday Heather and I attended a few weeks back. As you may recall, Heather wrote about her Guinness Beer Brownies (and babes). Our friend had made the request for “fudge muffins,” and I had no clue what these are. However, I did receive a Cupcakes Galore from some friend for my birthday last year. I took its recipe for brownie muffins, made a few modifications, and voila! Deliciousness.

I know I said that I wouldn’t be baking anything on Saturday for Valentine’s Day, but… I lied? I saw one too many Tastespotting photos of heart-shaped desserts and I just couldn’t take it anymore!

blackberry swirl cake

Usually when I make cakes, I don’t worry too much about decoration. Spending a long time on decorating a cake seems onerous to me. I’d rather focus on the ingredients and the taste; I’m satisfied with simple decoration, like a few fresh flower blooms on a smooth frosted cake.

But on Friday night/Saturday morning I decided to bake a heart-shaped cake, focusing on decoration. I planned to make two 8×8 square cakes and cut them to the shape of a heart – I didn’t want my husband’s head to explode by buying a heart-shaped cake pan (I have, um, a few specialty pans).

blackberry swirl cake2blackberry swirl cake cooked

To make the cake batter, I adapted a recipe for Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes from Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn (a good book if you’re looking to move past box cake mixes but still not quite ready to bake completely from scratch). I combined one package of plain yellow cake mix, vanilla instant pudding mix, whole milk, vegetable oil, eggs and almond extract. I lined the pans with parchment paper and poured the batter into the cake pans, swirling 3/4 of a jar of blackberry preserves into the batter.

I cooled the cakes for 15 minutes in their pans, lifted them out by holding on to the parchment paper and then chilled them in the refrigerator overnight (to make sure they were firm enough to work with easily).

first heart cut

The next morning I gently stacked the cakes on top of each other and cut a small square off of one corner to make the dip of the heart and trimmed the points off. Then I cut the corners off of either side, to make the sides of the heart less pointy. I then carefully removed the top cake and set it aside.

final heart cut

I made a simple chocolate buttercream frosting, also from the Cake Mix Doctor book. With a thin layer of chocolate buttercream, I frosted the top of the bottom cake, leaving a little extra frosting around the edges (the outline of the heart) to make a sort of pool. I mashed 1 cup of fresh blackberries with a few spoonfuls of confectioners’ sugar (or you could use more blackberry preserves) and spread it on top of the chocolate buttercream frosting.

buttercreamfirst icing

I lightly frosted the bottom of the top cake with buttercream frosting so that the top cake wouldn’t get soggy from sitting on top of the blackberry preserves. I then set the top layer on top of the bottom cake.

blackberry preserves

I finally frosted the entire cake with the chocolate buttercream frosting, setting the cake in the freezer when I finished. After 15 minutes, I removed the cake from the freezer and refrosted any areas that needed to be smoothed or where crumbs had gotten into the frosting (this wasn’t much of a problem since I had refrigerated the cakes overnight before frosting).

top layerheart shaped cake

I bought some Wilton fondant, tore off a few pieces of it and separated it into separate bowls. I let one drop of food coloring on each and massaged it in to create the colored fondant. I worked it into a thin layer and then gently rolled it to make the fondant flowers.

heartshapedcakewithfondantflowersheart shaped cake with flowers

My husband and I really enjoyed this cake, and of course, I was really proud that I had the patience to work on my cake decorating skills! So keep this post in the back of your mind if you have an anniversary coming up or even a kid’s birthday. It’s actually not terribly time consuming, and it’s a lot of fun!

blackberry yellow cake with chocolate frosting and fondant flowers

Happy Valentine’s Day… almost!

mini chocolate cakes

My husband, Morgan, and I have never been big on Valentine’s Day. I generally don’t care for holidays with a lot of expectation involved because they make me nervous! Morgan and I have a great time just going to a low-key restaurant/brewery or sitting in pajamas and watching a movie. But you want me to go somewhere fancy… and dress up… and have it be the most romantic day of the year? Well, I’ll take a rain check!

But wait, that doesn’t mean I don’t want a box of chocolate! And you can keep all the gourmet chocolates and truffles; I just want some good old Russell Stover.

And maybe it’s because I don’t like all the expectation associated with V-Day, but as of right now I don’t intend to bake anything on Saturday (it’s Russell Stover or bust!). But if you’d like to tempt your honey, I highly recommend this melt-in-your mouth, warm and chocolatey little cake.

mini chocolate cake

I found this recipe in an old Kraft foods magazine. It was described as easy to prepare and, “under 200 calories, wonderful chocolate taste without being overly sweet.” Though I’ve heard people use the phrase “overly sweet,” I can’t say I understand the concept. My mantra is closer to, “bring on the sweets!” so I made a few small changes by adding about 1 cup of peanut butter chips along with 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips. It’s likely that these are no longer under 200 calories as advertised… whoops!

This recipe is also listed on the Kraft website, and I noticed in the comments that a lot of people complained that the cake completely fell in the middle just a few minutes after taking it out of the oven. I had this problem as well, probably because these cakes are flourless so the structure just isn’t the same, but a simple dollop of Cool-Whip disguises that instantly. And because you’re serving it warm out of the oven, they’re really not sitting around long enough for anyone to notice.

These little cakes are very easy to whip up, so you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of time in the kitchen instead of with your significant other. And because they’re individual serving sizes you get instant portion control! These sweet little cakes are truly heavenly.

mini chocolate cake cut open

Flourless Triple Chocolate Fudge Cups with Peanut Butter Chips
adapted from Kraft

3 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate (I used Baker’s brand)
1 tablespoon oil (I used Smart Balance)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
4 egg whites
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons thawed Cool Whip Lite Whipped Topping

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate and oil for 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval until melted. Stir in cocoa powder and set aside.

Beat egg whites and sugar on high for approximately 3 minutes. Reduce speed and blend in melted chocolate. Stir in peanut butter chips.

Spoon batter into 6 paper muffin cups (I decided not to use paper cups when I made them, but I think it would be easier if you did… as I’ll describe in a minute).

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until center is puffed and set. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. The tops will fall in as they cool. Gently slide out of the muffin pan when cool. Because the tops have fallen, it will be a little difficult to get them out without breaking the top more. Do the best you can, and plop Cool Whip on the rest to serve!

Makes 8 little cakes.

Guinness Beer Brownies And [photos of] Babes

As Edwin mentioned on Friday, we were both out of town this weekend for a mutual friend’s birthday party (we had a good time – we went out for a great dinner and then later I beat Edwin in a sit-up contest!). This friend happens to enjoy his chocolate with a side of chocolate, so Edwin and I separately embarked on a mission to create some sinfully decadent chocolate treats for the birthday boy.

guinness brownie batter

I decided to make Guinness Brownies, thinking that the Guinness would add extra chocolately richness, making them even more intense. I found a surprising number of recipes for Guinness Brownies, right now I have four of them printed out in front of me from websites like Cookie Madness, Godiva and more.

When I began comparing them all they seemed fairly similar. I considered using agave nectar in place of sugar (as a slightly healthier alternative). I also bought some Wilton’s fondant in an attempt to make fondant Miis. But then I remembered a cardinal baking rule that I always violate and usually pay for – never try something new on short notice, especially when you’re making it for someone else.

guinness brownie batter in pan

So instead I made minor baking changes and finished the brownies off with silly decorations as a gag for my friend. I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose white flour, and I amplified the chocolate. I used very dark Ghirardelli chocolate bars and unsweetened cocoa powder.

In place of dark bittersweet chocolate I used 7 ounces of Ghirardelli “Twilight Delight,” which is 72% cacao. Just listen to this description:

Highly aromatic, this bar has mocha, blackberry and dark cherry notes with an intense chocolate flavor and silky smooth texture. This sensuous chocolate has a long finish and a delightful, lingering flavor.

guinness brownie

I also used 1 ounce of Ghirardelli “Midnight Reverie,” with 86% cacao. Both of these are seriously dark chocolates, but I wanted to work with the heavy taste of the Guinness. The sugar, white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips sweetened the brownies and kept them from being bitter, but the very dark chocolate and Guiness kept them distinctive.

I sifted confectioners’ sugar over the brownies when done. This was listed as an optional component in the recipes I found, but I would suggest that it’s mandatory, especially if you’re using super dark chocolate.

guinness brownies with confectioners sugar

I recommend this brownie if you’re looking to intrigue the chocolate lover who thinks they have tasted it all before. You can’t really make out the Guinness, but the taste is definitely dark. The texture is also very different from a typical brownie – the batter tasted exactly like chocolate mousse, and they came out of the oven very fluffy and light instead of tough or dense.

And, don’t underestimate the power of silly toothpick photo decorations. I printed a few of my friend’s favorite things (yes, mostly this means women on tv that he finds attractive), attached the photos to toothpicks, popped them in the brownies before serving, and we all had a good laugh!

guinness brownies with toothpick decorations

Guinness Stout Brownies
from Cookie Madness

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
7 ounces Ghirardelli “Twilight Delight” chocolate, chopped
1 ounce Ghirardelli “Midnight Reverie” chocolate, chopped
3/4 white chocolate chips (I just used Tollhouse)
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 1/4 cup Guinness Stout beer at room temperature (also be sure before you pour it into the batter that you spoon off the foam)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (for sprinkled on top at the end)
Confectioners’ sugar for sifting over the brownies before serving

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper (with enough hanging out so that you can grab it to remove the brownies). Spray sides with non-stick cooking spray where parchment paper does not cover.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

Cut butter into cubes. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave Twilight Delight, Midnight Reverie and white chocolate chips (all chopped) with butter for 20 seconds at a time. Stir between 20 second intervals to avoid burning your chocolate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a regular mixer), beat eggs and sugar on high for 3 minutes. Gradually add melted chocolate mixture. Beat until fully combined. Gradually add flour mixture.

Spoon foam off of Guinness and gently whisk the beer into the batter, then add vanilla. (The Cookie Madness instructions say that the batter will seem thin, but my batter was thick although fluffy like mousse). Pour batter in your baking pan and level with a spatula. Bake approximately 28-30 minutes in the center rack of your oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. The top of the brownies should be set.

Let brownies cool in pan for 10-20 minutes, then carefully lift brownies out of the pan by holding parchment paper. Allow brownies to cool completely on wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

How About A Little Kahlua Pie With Your Inauguration Day?

Happy Inauguration Day! As I mentioned last week, the DC area has been crazy because of the festivities. Yesterday morning Edwin and I performed a service project for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day through Greater DC Cares. Apparently Usher and Tobey Maguire were somewhere in the school where we were painting, but sadly we didn’t see them.

Kahlua Pie Filling

I’ve never lived in the DC area during a presidential inauguration before, but it’s hard not to be infected by the celebration bug. I have no idea what the future will hold or whether President Obama will keep his campaign promises, but at least for this weekend everyone you see on the street here will tell you that change is coming.

Change is also coming to DINNERCAKES! Edwin and I had our own “state of the union” on Saturday where we discussed some ideas we have for the site, so be on the lookout for some new features! And as always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions.

But back to Inauguration Day – when I think about type of food that accompanies a celebration, I typically think of cake (let’s face it, when I think about most things I think of cake). But because it’s fairly soon after Thanksgiving and Christmas and my pants are still feeling a little tighter than I’d like, why don’t I try to change the way I typically think of celebration food (get it? change? was that too much?). Instead of a heavy celebratory cake, I decided to make a pie.

Kahlua Pie

This Kahlua Pie sits in an Oreo cookie crumb pie crust and I adapted it to include a layer of smooth peanut butter for some added sweetness. The pie filling consists of a nice and light fat free Cool Whip mixed with Jell-O Oreo Cookie Pudding and Pie Filling Mix instead of vanilla pudding, Kahlua instead of just Kahlua flavor and fat free milk. I also added just a hint of coffee.

I’m a big fan of Cool Whip pies (like Million Dollar Pie) because they don’t leave people feeling so weighed down and full afterwards. My husband really enjoyed it (he loves light desserts) and noted that he tasted the Oreo cookie crust and Cool Whip foremost, and that the Kahlua adds a nice, subtle flavor. I thought it almost tasted like caramel.

Hope you enjoy this smooth, fluffy pie and have a happy Inauguration Day!

Kahlua Pie

Kahlua Pie
adapted from Kraft Foods

1 1/4 cups Oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth
1 package Jell-O Oreo Cookie Pudding & Pie Filling (4 serving size)
1 tablespoon cold coffee
3 teaspoons Kahlua
1 cup cold fat free milk
2 cups fat free Cool Whip

If you can’t find a box of Oreo cookie crumbs at your grocery store and you don’t want to buy a ready-made Oreo Cookie crust, crush about one sleeve of Oreo cookies in a gallon ziploc bag with a meat tenderizer. Mix the crumbs in a bowl with the melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch baking dish.

Drop 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter into the center of the crush. Gently smooth out the peanut butter to make a thin layer at the bottom of the crust. Be careful – move the peanut butter around as little as possible so that it doesn’t start sticking to your crust and pulling it apart.

Mix Jell-O mix with coffee, Kahlua and milk in a medium size bowl until thick. Add the Cool Whip and continue mixing until fully incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the crust and level it. Freeze pie for approximately 4 hours or overnight.

Tip from Kraft – after removing the pie from the freezer, dip the plate into warm water, just to the rim, for about 30 seconds to make it easier for cutting and serving.

Holiday Bark, Play With Your Food

Making Holiday Bark is almost more like making art and playing with your food than it is cooking or baking.

When I was younger I used to absolutely love sketching, painting, collaging, sculpting, or any other artsy activity that I could just spend hours completely focused on. I seem to have lost this hobby in the daily grind somewhere after high school, but I still miss it and have hopes and plans to pick it up again someday (though, no day like the present, right?). Making Holiday Bark helps me get my artistic fix, and in delicious, edible form!

marbling holiday bark

Making any kind of bark candy can be as simple or as detailed as you make it. If you have kids, they will probably love attempting to help mix and swirl the chocolate (and get it all over their faces). If you’re setting out trays of food for a Christmas or New Year’s party or would just like something fun to bring to work, this is a very attractive option.

In its simplest form, you can get away with using only two kinds of chocolate and one kind of nut or flavor. No cooking or baking is required, though if you’re really looking to unlock the full flavor of the nuts then you may want to heat them in a shallow pan until warm and fragrant. You can even make bark while waiting for Christmas cookies to come out of the oven.

Basically, when you think you might explode if you have to make one more Christmas cookie – Holiday Bark to the rescue.

And, if I left this part out, it tastes and smells heavenly. Don’t forget to use ingredients that you enjoy and just have fun with it!

holidaybark

Holiday Bark

8 oz white chocolate, chopped
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2.25 oz (or ½ cup) hazelnuts, chopped
2.25 oz (or ½ cup) pecans, chopped

Place chopped white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Place semi-sweet and bittersweet together in another microwave safe bowl. Microwave bowls separately for 10-15 second intervals, stirring thoroughly after each interval until melted. Do this until both bowls contain melted chocolate. (I’ve been told that if I don’t use a double boiler to melt chocolate that I’ll burn it, but I haven’t burned it yet! Don’t worry.)

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Stir in nuts to the bowl containing semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate. Spread the chocolate and nut mixture on the parchment paper using a rubber spatula. Drop spoonfuls of white chocolate over this, and swirl the chocolates using a fork or skewer (I used a fork because the nuts make it a little tougher to swirl).

Refrigerate for approximately 1 hour until hard. Break bark into large chunks and store in your refrigerator until serving.

My Six Pie Party, a Thanksgiving Day Wrap-Up

I hope that you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday! Mine went well, and you can be sure that after enjoying three full Thanksgiving dinners, I will not be stepping on a scale anytime soon.

Granny Smith for Apple Crumble Top PieApple Filling

I also hope to focus more on the dinner side of DINNERCAKES after my baking blitz on Wednesday resulted in 6 pies and 3 loaves. Yes, I am a crazy person.

Pie Dough

But, I learned some very important lessons about baking:

  1. If you’re planning on baking 6 pies, invest in more than one pie dish. The pie tins at the grocery store just don’t cut it, it’s still flimsy even after you double up with two tins per pie and it increases your cook time. Next time I will enlist the help of some reasonably priced Pyrex pie dishes.
  2. Making pie dough from scratch doesn’t have to be a harrowing experience. I used Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee recipe, refrigerated the dough overnight, let it sit out for 10 minutes before working with it, and then just rolled it out to make crust.
  3. If 4 out of your 6 pies require graham cracker crust, just buy a box of graham cracker crumbs instead of using a meat tenderizer to demolish whole crackers. This saves time and sanity.
  4. Any marks left in your pumpkin pie after inserting a knife to make sure it’s fully cooked can be easily disguised with a leaf or heart shape made using extra dough.
  5. Do not open a bottle of champagne until you’re done.

Bittersweet Chocolate for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

My pie extravaganza included: Heavenly Pie from 101 Cookbooks, Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie from Martha Stewart, Crunch Top Apple Pie from Paula Deen, my favorite Classic Pumpkin Pie from Libby’s, and two Million Dollar Pies adapted from Cooks.com.

The Heavenly Pie is the only one that disappointed me. It’s a chocolate pie with tofu and cream cheese. I know it sounds odd, but it tastes like a delicious chocolate mousse. Unfortunately I can never seem to get the consistency right. This may be because I don’t have the assistance of a food processor, so if you have tried this recipe using one please let me know how it works for you. I can never get it to be completely smooth, I’m always left with little tofu granules. No matter how good it tastes, I don’t like the grainy presentation.

Heavenly Pie and Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

I first saw the Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie in my Martha Stewart Living magazine (yes, I subscribe). I’m usually a purist with pumpkin pie – you know I love pumpkin, and my Libby’s recipe has never failed me. I’m so glad I tried this, though. This pie is absolutely packed with spices and it’s incredibly creamy. The layer of bittersweet chocolate spread over the crust before adding the filling gives it a nice kick, and when it’s cut it’s also very attractive. I did not drizzle milk chocolate over the top simply because I didn’t want to make a mess in someone else’s kitchen (so my pie was more of a double-chocolate pumpkin pie instead of a triple). I’m glad I skipped that part because it is a very rich pie, which isn’t always the best idea after Thanksgiving dinner. This recipe also made a lot more filling than what would fit in the pie dish. I put the extra into some corningware to bake separately, and what I did pour into the crust spilled over a bit. Be careful!

Apple Crumble Top Pie

The Crunch Top Apple Pie from Paula Deen turned out very well. I liked that this pie didn’t need more pie dough for a top – because this was my first time making pie dough completely unsupervised, I didn’t want to take too many risks. I used Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee pie dough recipe instead of Paula Deen’s. I also packed in an extra cup of apples and I thinly sliced them instead of chopping. The top wasn’t “crunchy,” so I’m not sure about Paula’s naming of this pie, but it was very tart and tasty.

Million Dollar Pie Ingredients

My brother first had Million Dollar Pie at a restaurant called Fisherman’s Wharf in Wanchese, NC. I believe he got the waitress to give him the recipe, but who knows where it is now. I used the Cooks.com recipe to recreate this pie for him. It’s not necessarily a Thanksgiving pie, but it does provide a nice, light alternative to many of the heavy pies usually featured on Thanksgiving. It’s also incredibly easy, and you can add more or less of whatever you do or do not like.

Pumpkin Pie and Apple Crumble Top Pie

I used Martha’s Pate Brisee dough for the regular Pumpkin Pie and the Crunch Top Apple Pie, and I made graham cracker crust for the others. The Triple-Chocolate Pumpkin Pie had a special recipe for graham cracker crust, which was certainly very good. To make a simple graham cracker crust
, combine about 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs with 6 tablespoons of butter. Press the crumbs into your pie dish to form the crust. Bake for about 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven until it’s hard (without filling).

Edwin and I would love to hear what you made for Thanksgiving and how it turned out; please comment below to share it with us. Also, thank you for all the kind and encouraging words from friends, family and new visitors in support of DINNERCAKES – we appreciate it!

Breaking Mom's Rules to Make "Dad-approved" Blueberry Lemon Loaf

My dad does not eat red meat.

He doesn’t eat real cheese, eggs, butter, or anything that was baked in a pan greased with Crisco, either. So when he called yesterday and asked if anything I was bringing home for Thanksgiving was “dad-approved,” I got a little quiet.

 "Dad-approved" Blueberry Lemon Loaf - Gradually Adding Flour Mixture

Then I remembered a recipe I saw on Smitten Kitchen a few months ago for Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Loaf. I knew that my dad would love it… if it wasn’t for the whole-milk yogurt, three eggs and oil.

One of the first rules of holiday baking I learned from my mom was to always use fresh, high-quality ingredients. I’m not sure that Egg Beaters and fat free yogurt comply with this rule, but I had to try!

 "Dad-approved" Blueberry Lemon Loaf - Cool in the pan

Egg Beaters have no fat or cholesterol, and they’re made with real eggs. The egg whites are separated from the yolks and combined with vitamins and thickeners. In some recipes you may not even notice a difference, in others a lot could change. I replaced the whole-milk yogurt with a combination of Stonyfield Farm’s organic, fat free plain and lotsa lemon yogurt. I also used Smart Balance Omega Oil in place of canola or vegetable oil.

My blueberries sank a little bit, but I think if I had been more cautious while pouring the batter into the pan I could have avoided some of this. In any event, the result was an incredibly moist cake bursting with tart lemon flavor. Hopefully dad feels the same way!

 "Dad-approved" Blueberry Lemon Loaf - Cool Completely

“Dad-approved” Blueberry Lemon Loaf
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plain, organic, fat-free yogurt
1/2 cup lotsa lemon, organic, fat-free yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farm)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup Egg Beaters (1/4 equals about 1 egg, but check your label)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Smart Balance oil
1 1/2 cups small blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
1/3 cup lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray your loaf pan with Smart Balance cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again.

Sift 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl whisk yogurt, 1 cup sugar, Egg Beaters, lemon zest, vanilla and Smart Balance oil. Whisk the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients. Rinse blueberries in a small bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon of flour. Gently fold the blueberries into your batter so that they do not burst.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for about approximately 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Note that using Egg Beaters may increase your cook time a little.

While the loaf is baking, combine 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan on your stove until the sugar dissolves. Set pan aside.

Cool your loaf for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a wire rack. Lay a pan underneath the wire rack and poke a few small holes in the loaf using a toothpick – pour the lemon and sugar mixtures over the loaf while it’s still warm.

Cool completely and wrap tightly.