Zucchini Bread with Walnuts and Golden Raisins

Zucchini.  The vegetable that people are always giving away after it has inexplicitly multiplied and grown to ginormous proportions in their gardens.  One can only make so many zoodles and side dishes with tomatoes and onions and zucchini boats stuffed with meat and cheese.  But everyone loves zucchini bread and cake and other sweets.  Zucchini makes for very moist bread and cake and no longer even tastes like a vegetable.  Not even a little bit.  That’s probably the appeal to many people.  This bread is an easy quick bread that is at least a little healthy.  The inclusion of nuts and raisins,  ground flax seed, and, of course squash, bolsters that claim.  And cinnamon.  Cinnamon is very healthy!  It is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  You’ll feel so good after you have a slice or two of this tasty bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 T vanilla

3 cups AP flour

1/2 cup ground flax seed (or wheat germ)

1 tsp nutmeg

1 T cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 cups shredded zucchini

1 cup walnuts chopped

1 cup golden raisins

Preheat your oven to 325.

Beat white and brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla together.

Sift together flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt.

Add raisins, nuts, and flaxseed.

Add shredded zucchini and stir until well combined.

Grease 2 loaf pans or 6 small loaf pans.  Use parchment paper if you’d like.  Divide batter evenly.

Bake for 40-60 minutes depending on the size of the pans,  Check for doneness using a tooth pick or cake tester after 40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy!!

NOTE:  Zucchini bread freezes well.  If it lasts that long.  If you prefer you can use dried cherries or pecans.  A little different flavor but it’s all good.

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Saltine Cracker Pie Crust

When we were kids I remember my mom making a mock apple pie with saltine crackers that we swore tasted just like apple pie.  I wonder if I would still think so.  Browsing the internet recently for dessert recipes I came across a recipe for pie crust made with saltine crackers.  I’ve made plenty of  graham cracker pie crusts but this was intriguing.  I’m a fan of sweet and salty so this just seemed like a natural.  I’ll try anything once.  Glad that I did.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers

1/2 cup butter melted

1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.

The preparation part was a little tricky when it came to consistency.  The instructions warned against turning the crackers to dust.  I pulsed them a few times in the food processor along with the sugar.  I poured the crushed, slightly chunky but not powdered, crackers into the melter butter and mixed them the best I could.  They were not holding together like I thought they should so I dumped them, butter and all, into the food processor and gave them a couple more pulses.  I pressed them into the bottom and sides of a 9” pie plate.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool slightly.

While the saltine crust was cooling I made up my recipe for key lime pie except I used regular limes and lemons.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325.

Ingredients:

4 large egg yolks

1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup fresh squeezed citrus (lemon, lime or a combination)

1 T lemon or lime zest

Whisk together all of the filling ingredients making sure they’re thoroughly combined and pour into the slightly cooled pie shell.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Cool completel on a wire rack.

I like adding a berry topping.

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)

1/2 cup water

1 T lemon or lime juice

3 T sugar

1 T cornstarch

Stir together water, sugar, cornstarch, citrus juice and 1 cup of the berries.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar dissolves completely and berries burst and soften.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 cups of berries.  Allow the berry topping to cool completely and pour over the filling.  I used blueberries and strawberries.

Refrigerate at least a couple of hours or overnight prior to slicing.  Serve with a dollop of whipped sweet cream.

I will definitely make the saltine crust again.  It was a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the pie.  And I’m sure this would be excellent with a chocolate cream filling or a banana or coconut cream,

NOTE:  You might want to play around a little with the consistency.  Next time I will pulse my crackers and sugar a little longer and add the butter while the crumbs are still in the food processor.  This crust would also work well in a springform or tart pan.  Enjoy!

Cucumber Mint Jelly

Some time ago I bought a Better Homes and Gardens magazine with jam and jelly recipes in it.   Lots of good stuff!  I love cucumbers and I love mint so this combination really intrigued me.  Interestingly, most of my brothers hate mint.  They won’t even use mint toothpaste.  And I think some of them probably don’t like cucumbers either.  My kitchen smelled wonderful while I was making this jelly.  A friend came in while it was cooking and the first thing she said was, “your house smells like cucumbers.”  This recipe was very easy and it’s something you can make year round.

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers

7 cups of sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 6-oz package liquid fruit pectin (both envelopes)

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

a drop of green food color

Peel and cut the cucumbers into chunks.  No need to remove the seeds.  Purée them in a food processor or blender.

Press the purée through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  You want to recover 1 1/2 cups of cucumber juice.

You pretty much waste most of the cucumber.

In a heavy saucepan combine the cucumber juice, sugar, and vinegar.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar.

Quickly stir in both packets of pectin and the mint.  Bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Use a metal spoon and skim off any foam and remove the mint.  Add a drop of green food color.  The “natural” color is not appetizing.  While I was making the jelly I had this bright idea that a mint leaf in each jar would be really pretty.  As you remove the mint from the pot you realize, as I did, that this would not be a good idea.

Ladle hot jelly into hot sterilized half pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rims, adjust lids and screw on the bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Start the timer when the water comes to a boil.  Remove jars and allow to cool completely on a heavy towel or wire racks.

Makes 6 half pints.

I love the finished product!  The day I made the jelly we had lamb chops for dinner so I could showcase the cucumber mint jelly.

NOTE:  Try a spoonful of cucumber mint jelly, some tonic water and good gin or vodka for an amazing cocktail.  Zap the jelly for a few seconds in the microwave, add the alcohol, ice and stir in the tonic.

Cheers!

Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

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This stuff is amazing!  Love!

We just returned from a family vacation to New Orleans.  The land of great food, really wonderful music everywhere, and a plentitude of adult beverages.  And people watching.  We enjoyed poboys, gumbo, oysters, shrimp, catfish and, of course, beignets.  As good as our food was, whenever I get home from a vacation I actually kind of enjoy eating my own cooking again.  Funny how that works.

I had some organic milk in the refrigerator that was going to go south in just a day or so and I wanted to put it to good use.  I decided to make us some bread with my remaining milk and came across this recipe that I had clipped from a Saveur magazine early last year but had not tried.  Until today.  The recipe says the bread is Swedish.  But since I’m Finnish, today it is Finnish Cinnamon Cardamom Bread.  Whatever your ethnicity I think you will enjoy!  The kitchen smelled wonderful while this was baking.

Ingredients for the Dough:

7 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups whole milk heated to 115

2 tsp active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups AP flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, lightly crushed

1/4 tsp kosher salt

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Ingredients for Filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 T unsalted butter softened

1 T ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed

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To make the dough heat the milk to 115 degrees.  Use a thermometer unless you’re a lot better than I am at estimating temperatures and you don’t want to kill your yeast.  Melt the butter and add the butter and yeast to the warm milk.  Stir and let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt.  Stir in the yeast mixture until dough forms.

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Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Or knead in your stand mixer.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.  About an hour.

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Prepare the filling stirring together the softened butter, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom seeds.

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On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into approximately a 11×17 rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.

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Spread the filling over the dough.

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Working from one of the long sides, roll dough into a tight cylinder and transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover with a dish towel and allow it to sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.  About 45-60 minutes.

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Heat the oven to 375.  Using kitchen shears and starting 1 inch from the ends of the dough, make crosswise cuts spaced 1 inch apart, three quarters of the way through the dough.  Now this is where it got tricky for me and my bread looks a little crude.  The recipe says to fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right.  Huh?  The center?  Maybe I was supposed to make this into a circle?  I don’t know for sure because I didn’t have a picture.  But it doesn’t really matter. The fanning does not affect the taste at all.

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Whisk an egg and brush the dough with the egg wash.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Allow the bread to cool before serving.

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I made up a little icing with powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon zest.  Because we like icing.

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Cut yourself a slice and enjoy.  Great with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

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NOTE:  The recipe suggests that you use the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar before baking.  Since I was going to ice the bread I did not you the pearl sugar but you may prefer that.  If any of you bake a more attractive loaf please comment with a picture.

Raspberry Pie and Pumpkin Pie

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Every Thanksgiving I make a raspberry pie because it is both my Dad and my daughter’s favorite.  And I make a pumpkin pie because I happen to like pumpkin pie and because I just think pumpkin pie is mandatory at Thanksgiving.  The pie on the left was amazing!  The pie on the right.  Well that’s another story.  But I need to backtrack a bit to the crust.  A good crust is the secret to a good pie.  The crust recipe I have is from a dear family friend, Peg Johnson.  She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Home Economics.  She has passed away but she lives on in the margins of my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.  Penned on page 230, at the top of the Pastry section, is her recipe for Never Fail Pie Crust.

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Remember this book?  I see it in antique stores all the time.  I got mine as a gift in 1971.  It has a burn mark on the back cover and some of the pages stick totgether but I still use it.

Never Fail Pie Crust

3 cups AP flour

1 1/4 cups shortening

1 tsp salt

1 egg well beaten

5 T cold water

1 T white vinegar

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Cut the shortening into the flour.  Peg used a pastry cutter.  I use my food processor.

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Combine the beaten egg, water and vinegar.  Pour liquid into flour mixture all at once.  Blend with a spoon until flour is well moistened.

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Divide the dough into 3 equal discs.  The dough can be rolled out immediately or can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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You might be able to get four crusts from this recipe but I give myself a little wiggle room for bad edges or other rolling difficulties.  Roll the crust out on a lightly floured surface and line the bottom of the pie pan with the crust.

Preheat the oven to 350.

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Raspberry Filling:

6 cups raspberries

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 T cornstarch

2 T tapioca

2 T butter

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Combine the raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and tapioca in a large bowl and gently stir.  Allow them to sit for 10 minutes or so.  Pour the berries into the prepared pie crust.  Cut butter into small pats and put on top of the raspberry filling.

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Roll out the top crust, cut slits with a paring knife,  and crimp the edges.  Sprinkle with a little white sugar.  Bake for 50-55 minutes until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.  To avoid drips in your oven put the pie on a cookie sheet lined with foil.

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Mmmmmmm.  This pie was great!  Served with a little whipping cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Now let’s talk about that pumpkin pie.  I had purchased a couple of little sugar pumpkins that I used for fall table decorations and decided to make them into my traditional pumpkin pie.  Waste not, want not.

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As I was seeding these little babies and getting them ready to roast to fork tender goodness in the oven my dad said, can’t you buy pumpkin in a can?  I said, of course I can but this will be homemade.  From scratch.  It will be better than pumpkin in a can!  I should have listened to my dad and retrieved a can of pumpkin from my pantry.  Mistake number one.

Preheat oven to 400.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 cups pumpkin

12 oz can evaporated milk

2 beaten eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg or mace

1 tsp cloves

1 T flour

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Quarter the pumpkins, scrape the seeds and arrange on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until fork tender.  Once the pumpkin is done scrape the meat into a bowl and discard the skins.

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Purée the pumpkin in a food processor.

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Doesn’t this look beautiful!??  Mistake number two.  I should have tasted the pumpkin at this point.  But I did not.

Combine the pumpkin with the egg, evaporated milk, brown sugar, flour and spices and whisk together until well combined.  Pour into the prepared crust.

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I had scraps of crust left over so I copied a friend’s idea and cut little leaves out with a cookie cutter and lined the edge.  I actually had to add the fancy crust pieces part way through the baking process because the filling is too runny initially.  Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the crust comes out clean.

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There is no picture of this pie on a plate with whipping cream.  I ate a small slice and proclaimed it too awful for human consumption.  However, this is a good recipe for pumpkin pie provided that you use 2 cups of canned pumpkin.  Next year I’ll listen to my Dad.

NOTE:  In the future I will use my little sugar pie pumpkins for table decorations only and I will use Libby’s pumpkin for my pie.

 

 

Sugar and Cinnamon Glazed Nuts

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My friend Georgia and I have gotten together in December for a baking marathon for over 30 years.  We have several cookies and candies that are staples each year.  Friends and family  have their favorites and we try to keep everyone happy.  But we also like to change things up a little.  Try something new.  This year we decided to omit one of our standard cookies (thumb prints) and make these candied nuts.  We are both very glad that we did!  They are easy to make and the house smells amazing while they’re in the oven.

Ingredients:

2 pounds of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews)

2/3 cups of melted butter

2 cups sugar

3 T cinnamon

2 tsp salt

4 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 250.  Beat the egg whites with the salt until they are frothy.  Gradually add in the vanilla and sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the nuts and the cinnamon.  You can use a wooden spoon or your hands making sure that the nuts are all coated.  Add the melted butter and stir to coat.  It will look like a mess.  And you’ll wonder if I omitted an essential ingredient or a step in the process.  Have faith.

Pour the nuts out onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  I used a large jelly roll pan with sides. Place in the oven and bake for one hour stirring every 15 minutes.  This is when the kitchen starts to smell really amazing.

Pour the nuts out onto parchment paper or foil to cool.  Store in zip lock bags or sealed containers.  Enjoy!

We used almonds and walnuts because that is what we had but I think pecans and cashews would also be excellent.

NOTE:  Recipes for most all of our standard cookies are on my blog under Christmas Cookies.

Pumpkin Cake

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Halloween costume parties at our house are a tradition that we all enjoy.  The past few years my friend Jane and I have baked and decorated a centerpiece cake.  And we have such a good time doing it.  This year we used a recipe for a Pumpkin/Carrot/Spice cake from Women’s Day to make our pumpkin.  This pumpkin required two bundt cakes.  And a LOT of cream cheese icing…1 cup of butter and 4 8-oz packages of cream cheese.  Each of us used the recipe and baked a cake the day before we put them together.

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First step after baking is to cut each of the cakes in half horizontally.  And start stacking and icing.

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We used some long toothpicks to secure the layers.

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The top is on and you’re thinking it looks nothing at all like a pumpkin!  We put the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so to help set the icing up.  With the pedestal plate and 2 bundt cakes stacked it required a bit of refrigerator rearranging but I think the chilling helped.  We covered it with a light base coat and, once again, returned it to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.

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A second coat of icing and it’s starting to look like a pumpkin.  We used the stem from a real pumpkin supported by a couple of small dixie cups stacked in the center and held in place by icing.

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And there you have it.  Ta Da!!  A perfect pumpkin.  Two years ago we did a caramel apple.

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Last year we made a brain.   That was great fun to do as well!

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But I think this year our guests will find the pumpkin much more appetizing.  Happy Halloween.

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Pudding Shots

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A few weeks ago we went to our favorite music festival and I made pudding shots.  I made three different pudding shots – a caramel apple with Apple Pucker and Butter Shots, a coconut cream with Malibu Coconut Rum, and a chocolate and salted caramel with Baileys.  The chocolate was the most popular and I just made another batch for a friend.

Ingredients:

1  4 oz. box instant chocolate pudding

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup strong coffee

3/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream

1/2 cup caramel topping

8 oz cool whip

salt flakes

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In a medium size bowl whisk together the pudding, milk, coffee, and Baileys.  Whisk in the caramel topping.

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Fold in the cool whip.

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Spoon into little cups with lids, garnish with salt flakes and enjoy.

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Store the pudding shots in the refrigerator.

 

 

Fruit Tarts aka Individual Fruit Pizzas

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I have made “fruit pizza” for  desserts for years.  It gives one the illusion or delusion of a “healthy” dessert, it looks pretty, and it’s easy to make.   And, for me, it brings back fond memories of a dear friend who made this dessert for us with white peaches and blueberries.  I decided this time around to make individual tarts rather than making the dessert in a pizza or jelly roll pan.  The dessert has a sugar cookie base.  You can make your own sugar cookie dough and cut out shapes or you can buy already prepared Pillsbury sugar cookie dough which is what I did.  I baked the cookies the night before and baked them a little longer than recommended to help crisp them up so they wouldn’t get soggy.  If you’re using a pizza or jelly roll pan, pat the dough (an 18 oz tube of sugar cookie dough) evenly into an ungreased pan and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Allow it to cool completely before moving on to the next step.

You can use whatever fruits you choose.  I would recommend using fresh rather than previously frozen fruit.  I used blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and mandarine oranges.  Or you can use white peaches and blueberries like my friend did.  I liked the combination to be colorful.

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Once the base has been baked and cooled prepare the next layer.

Ingredients:

8 oz package of cream cheese at room temperature

8 oz container of mascarpone cheese at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

8 oz container of coolwhip

1 tsp vanilla extract

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Combine all of the ingredients, cream together, and spread a generous spoonful on each cookie or distribute over the cookie base.

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Next wash and pat your fruit dry.  My blackberries and grapes were rather large so I cut those in half.   Place the fruit on the cream filling.

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Lastly I add a fruit juice glaze.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

3 T cornstarch

1 cup orange juice (I used orange mango)

1/4 cup pineapple juice

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Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a small sauce pan.  Add the juices and cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and begins to thicken.  Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool completely before brushing it on the fruit.  I use a little pastry brush.  There you have it.  A beautiful little sweet treat that you’d be proud to serve your guests.

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The individual fruit tarts were a first for me but I think I will continue to make them this way in the future.  While it’s a little fussier and more time consuming I think the presentation is best!

NOTE:  If you are starting with 24 cookies half the cream filling and glaze are sufficient.  You might just want to cut both recipes in half.

 

Edible Acorns

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This is the Fall of acorns.  It’s almost dangerous walking outdoors!  The squirrels and chipmunks and deer are enjoying the bounty. There are a few real acorns in this picture but mostly they are edible chocolate and nutter butter treats.  A little something that is easy and adorable to put out for guests this Fall.  All you need is a bag of Hersey Kisses (pick your favorite flavor), a bag of Nutter Butters, chocolate chips and a few extra chips to melt for “glue.”

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Dab a little melted chocolate onto one side of the nutter butter and glue on a kiss.

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I set them on a wax paper lined tray (actually a pizza pan) and let the chocolate set. Once the chocolate has hardened, using more chocolate glue, attach a chocolate chip to the other side.  Voila!  Edible acorns.

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Enjoy!

NOTE:  Depending on how many acorns you want to make you may need two bags of nutter butters for one bag of kisses.  If you’re a perfectionist you’ll find Nutter Butter needs a little more quality control.  Lots of lopsided or upside-down cookies.