Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Caramel Apple Pecan Pie

I made only one pie this past weekend...but it was a good one from my Mom's favorites. She was quite the pie baker and use to come up with all kinds of different combinations. We loved this spin off her all American apple pie. It almost tastes like a caramel apple with the mix of caramel and pecans. This one is a keeper my friends.

Caramel Apple Pecan Pie

4 lbs. Gala, Fuji, or Honey Crisp apples, peeled, cored and sliced in ¼-inch slices
Zest of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons of the juice from that lemon
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 ½ cups Kraft caramel candies, cut in fourths
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 additional tsp. granulated sugar

Easy Pie Dough:

1 ½ sticks very frozen butter, diced into cubes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold shortening like Crisco
about ½ cup ice water

Crust: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and cut in the cold butter and shortening. Continue cutting until the butter is the size of peas and resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to form a ball in the bowl. Gather into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Pie Filling: While dough is chilling, slice your apples in to ¼-inch slices and place in large bowl. Combine apples with zest, lemon juice, sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans. Stir to mix thoroughly, coating each apple slice. Set aside.

Remove your dough from refrigerator and cut in equal halves. On lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a circle, rolling from the center to the edges, turning and flouring the dough as needed to prevent sticking. Fold dough in half, and carefully place it in a 9-inch pie pan. Unfold dough to fit pan. Repeat rolling for second pastry dough.

Fill the pie shell with apple mixture and drop caramel pieces evenly on top. Top with second crust and trim edges to 1-inch over the rim of pie pan. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the edges together with fingers by pinching.

Combine 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water and whisk well. Brush the entire top crust with egg wash and sprinkle with an additional teaspoon of sugar. Cut 4-5 slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Place pie on sheet pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until crust is browned and juices begin to bubble out.

Allow pie to cool slightly and then drizzle more melted caramel on top and sprinkle with pecans. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy! 

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Black Cherry Cobbler Pie

Last time I was at Costco I saw the prettiest dark sweet Bing cherries. I walked by them several times but they kept calling out the words "cherry pie" to me so I bought them. The next day I made the easiest and one of the most delicious pies. I took some short cuts on the pie crust but you'd never know because Marie Callender makes the  best buttery and flaky refrigerated pie crusts! This pie turned out to be a winner. 

Black Cherry Cobbler Pie

1 pkg. (2 per pack) 9 or 10-inch frozen or refrigerated pie crusts
5 cups sweet cherries, pitted (See note below)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon of cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg for egg wash

Place the pitted cherries, sugar, almond extract, lemon juice and corn starch in a large bowl. Toss until the cherries are well coated with the sugar and other ingredients.

Make sure if using frozen crust, they are thawed completely. Use one for your pie and take the other out of its tin and on a lightly floured clean surface, roll out the dough. Using kitchen scissors or a pizza wheel, cut strips or shapes to go on top of pie filling.

Place the filling in the pie plate. Dot with small dabs of butter. Cover with strips or shapes or you can even drop dough on top of the pie filling for that cobbler effect. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cooking.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg with a tablespoon of water or milk. Use a brush to brush over the top crust. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar if desired.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pie on a baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temp to 350 degrees and bake for another 35 to 45 minutes longer, or until the crust is nicely browned and the filling is thick and bubbly. Serve chilled or at room temperature.       

NOTE: If you can't get ripe sweet cherries where you are, you can use this Cherry Pie filling recipe for the same results:

1 can (14.5 oz) Oregon Dark Sweet Pitted Cherries
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract

Drain cherries, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to bring the drained cherry liquid up to 1 1/4 cups and add to small saucepan. Add cornstarch and sugar to saucepan, and heat, whisking occasionally until mixture comes to bubble and thickens. Continue whisking so no lumps form and filling is smooth. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and almond extract, fold in cherries. Follows the rest of the recipe above.

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Mom's Coconut Custard Pie

This is probably my favorite dessert and my Mom made it for my birthday every year, right on up until she moved to Heaven. You can make your own pie crust if you'd like but I take a short cut and use a thawed Marie Callender's deep dish flaky pie crust sold in the freezer section. I have included my Mom's easy pie crust recipe just in case. Click on the photos and take a closer look at that creamy custard!

Mom's Coconut Custard Pie

1 (9 inch) unbaked refrigerated pie crust
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 full tablespoon vanilla extract
1 more egg separated (total of 4 eggs in recipe)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Separate one egg…keep the yolk for now and save the white for your egg wash later in the recipe.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and heavy cream. Heat until just starting to boil – be sure to watch it because it will go from barely simmering to heavy boiling rather quickly. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, combine the one egg yolk, the three whole beaten eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Mix well. Now slowly (it is important to pour very slowly) add in the hot milk mixture continuing to whisk vigorously and continuously so that the egg mixture already in the bowl does not cook. Once the hot milk mixture is completely blended in, add in the coconut and mix well.

Place the unbaked pie crust on a cookie sheet lined with a silicon mat. Brush the insides (bottom, sides and top) with that egg white you put aside to help prevent the crust from getting soggy. Carefully pour the custard mixture into the pie crust.

Bake for 35 minutes then carefully place strips of aluminum foil over the exposed crust to prevent it from getting too dark. Reduce the oven temp to only 250 degrees and put pie back into the oven to bake for about 20 minutes or until the filling is just about set. It should not be wet and jiggly but not completely firm or solid.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. When pie is just about room temperature then place in refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Basic Butter Pie Crust                             

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons of frozen butter, cut into pieces
4-6 tablespoons cold ice water

Whisk together flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter with your fingertips, pressing it into the flour mixture and breaking it up, until mixture resemble very coarse sand and no pieces larger than a large pea remain. Using a fork, stir in ice water until dough almost comes together into a ball. Press dough into a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 30-60 minutes before rolling.

Place unwrapped dough onto a lightly floured surface and press into a disc. Roll out until it is a circle about 11-inches in diameter. Hold your pie plate over the dough to ensure that there is enough overhang to cover the sides of the pie dish. Carefully roll dough around your rolling pin and unroll it into the pie plate. Press dough gently into the dish; do not stretch the dough.

Chill crust for 30 minutes before using to prevent the dough from shrinking during baking.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Homemade Turkey Jerky Treats For Dogs

So look what I made  yesterday..... the ultimate dog treat!  Now you can make it too with this recipe!

My Katie is addicted to Blue Wilderness Turkey Jerky. She has been hooked on these treats since she was a puppy. 

I mean really addicted.... to the point where she gets terribly depressed when I run out of it.  I mean to the point where she has learned to open all the drawers where I keep it and when I am out of it, she will go open every single drawer and put her head down in it searching for it. 

And I run out of it a lot because it is terribly expensive....I mean really expensive at $10 a bag for only 8 little pieces. Of course I buy it anyway and justify my purchase by telling myself she is worth it and there is nothing I won't do for her. Then I bring it home and open it and immediately question how can they charge so much for so little? Outrageous.

Recently, when Katie was diagnosed with heart disease, her doctors said if I want to prolong her life, we had to get her on the right medications and immediately get her on a healthier low salt diet....very low salt. She could have only about 100 mg of salt per day. 

So, I set out to create a diet for her using little or no salt. But what about those jerky treats?  I called Blue Wilderness and asked them how much salt they put in their turkey jerky treats. The answer was astonishing. Each 1 ounce piece of their turkey jerky has over 350 mg of salt!  But why?  Dogs do not need that much salt in their diet.  Because salt is a mold inhibitor and all manufacturers use it. Loads of it....unhealthy loads of it!  If only I knew then what I know now.

That was bad news and like all the other foods and treats out there it became near impossible to find anything healthy. How could I take it away from her....especially now, when she is sick?  How could I not take it away when I am trying to prolong her life?  

Go to plan B: make my own. I read the ingredients on the bag of Blue Wilderness. I am pretty good at creating my own recipes so I set out on this adventure to make Katie a copycat recipe of Blue Wilderness Turkey Jerky minus the salt.
No more paying $10 a bag for 8 chips. This big pile of healthy turkey jerky ended up costing me about $6 for and I got over 50 pieces from one pack of turkey tenderloins! 

The Verdict:

I actually pinched a small piece off one of the ones that looked close to being done and gave it to Katie. She went nuts! Cooper came running and he loved it too.

So I let the jerky continue to bake on very low heat until they got dry and crispy. Katie was so excited she actually stood in front of the oven door and looked through the glass while they were baking. When I called her she wouldn't that's a definite first. And when I opened the oven door to check on them one last time, she had her head almost in the oven checking with me. I had to push her back! Finally, after 8 hours of drying them in the oven on low heat they were done. And they came out perfect. Cooper and Katie have been snacking on them most of the evening and I finally had to cut them off.

What a healthy snack for your dogs....get the salt out of your fur baby's diet. We are killing our dogs with all the salt they put in commercial foods. Treat them to some real turkey jerky you made yourself!   So here is how I made these healthy treats.  Make some for your fur baby for the perfect Thanksgiving treat!  I promise they will love them! 

Homemade Turkey Jerky Treats 

2 lbs. turkey tenderloins, fillets or boneless skinless turkey breast
1/2 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Place a rack over the baking sheet that has also been sprayed with non-stick spray.  I use my cooling rack that I cool cookies on. You want to keep your turkey off the bottom of the pan so air can circulate beneath it.

Remove any visible fat off of the turkey. Using a sharp knife, slice partially frozen meat into very even, long, thin slices, about an 1/8th to ¼ inch thick slices. Slice the meat with the grain and that will make it chewier and less tough. Try to make all slices the same size and thickness.

Arrange your strips on your rack, making sure they are not touching and that air can circulate all around them.  Brush each strip lightly with molasses and place them in the oven. Half way through the cooking time, flip the strips over and brush again lightly with more molasses. I brushed mine a few more times during the cooking process.

These turkey strips will take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to fully dry depending on your oven and how thinly you cut the turkey strips. Start checking it once every hour after about 4 hours to see if it has dried completely. If the meat bends and seems spongy then it is not dried enough. Always opt for longer cooking times rather than under cooking the jerky strips.

You can also cut a strip open if you’re not sure to examine the inside. You should see no moisture at all, and it should be the same color throughout. If it’s not finished, put it back in for another hour. Once it gets close, check every half hour.  Once completely dry, cool them and cut them with scissors and serve!

NOTE:  Because these jerky treats contain no chemical preservatives, you’ll need to store them in the refrigerator or freezer. If you put them in brown paper bags and put them in the refrigerator they will stay dryer and can be stored for up to 3 weeks.  You can freeze them for 8 months in the freezer.

NOTE:  Baking times will vary due to difference in ovens, temperatures and meat size. Your jerky treats should be firm and dry, not at all soft or spongy. It is safer to go a little extra dry and firm than for the meat to be underdone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cranberry Turkey Sandwich

This classic turkey sandwich is perfect for those thanksgiving leftovers. The cranberry relish brings back Thanksgiving dinner itself and each bite becomes a package of memories melting in your mouth. This is my favorite "get up in the middle of the night and raid the fridge sandwich!"  

Cranberry Turkey Sandwich

  • 2 slices of your favorite bread
  • 2 or more slices turkey
  • mayonnaise 
  • 2 tbs cranberry relish
Slightly warm the turkey in the microwave on low. Lay open the bread, and spread the bottom with mayo.  Then lay the warm turkey on the bread next. Spread the cranberry relish on the turkey, close the sandwich and enjoy.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

I can't remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas that this dish was not front and center on our table.  My Mom used to say it was a "southern thing!" Everyone loves it and it goes fast. Creamy, sweet, and smooth sweet potatoes with a crunchy pecan crusted topping. This is my kind of holiday casserole!

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (3 pounds of yams)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and bake the potatoes for about an hour or until soft and tender.  Let cool before
peeling.  Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl,  add sweet potatoes sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. With an electric mixer, beat until smooth.  Add in butter and beat again until well blended.  Pour in a buttered 9 x 13 casserole dish and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula.  Set aside.

Pecan Topping

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together brown sugar and flour.  Add melted butter and pecans and mix with until crumbly.   Sprinkle topping all over the top of the sweet potatoes.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until browned and hot and bubbly around the sides.

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Sausage Cranberry Pecan Stuffing

Friends and family People love my homemade stuffing (dressing) and it's always a big hit every year. I make it the way I personally think dressing should taste and it comes out just perfect every single time. Not too many people know my secret. You see I don't like big chunks of wet soggy bread in my stuffing so I use the seasoned mix of breadcrumbs from a store bought stuffing mix. Then I add my own flavors and good things to make it perfect! You will be amazed at how this simple shortcut turns out incredible flavors in a this homemade stuffing!

Sausage Cranberry Pecan Stuffing

1 pound sweet Italian sausage or you can use a full roll of sage flavor Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage
2 (6 oz) boxes of Turkey or Chicken Stove Top stuffing
3 cups of chicken or turkey broth
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup water (if necessary)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup Craisins or sweet dried cranberries
1 cup of Fuji or Gala Apple, diced very small (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with butter and set aside. In a small dry skillet, saute pecans over low heat for about 5 minute until lightly toasted and set aside. In a large skillet brown sausage that has been removed from casings. Drain off fat. Add onions, celery and carrots and saute until vegetables are tender and set aside.

In a a very large saucepan or dutch oven, add broth and butter and heat until boiling. Turn down heat and add the seasoned breadcrumbs from stuffing mix and mix well until crumbs have completely absorbed the liquid. Use the additional water if you think you need it. If there is a seasoning packet with your stuffing mix, add that too.

Add in the sausage and vegetables. Add in pecans and cranberries and apples if you choose to use them. Mix well to combine all ingredients. Pour mix into prepared pan and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes and then uncover and bake 15 minutes or until the top is slightly crisp and the stuffing is heated through.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Turkey Marsala with "Bella" Mushrooms

     Who says you have to use chicken for this classic Chicken Marsala  
     recipe?  Why not use turkey?  I sautéed some turkey cutlets in my 
     favorite Star Fine Foods Extra Virgin Olive Oil and I am so glad I  
     did.  This came out even better than my usual recipe using chicken!

     I added some "Bella" mushrooms and some bacon and created a 
    thick rich sauce.  This is one of those meals that you savor every bite! 

Turkey Marsala  with "Bella" Mushrooms

2 lbs turkey breast cutlets
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound Porta "Bella" mushrooms, sliced thin
3/4 cup dry Marsala Wine
1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
2 tablespoons Italian Parsley, chopped 

In a large heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Brown cutlets for about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.

Add bacon to the same skillet and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 3 more minutes. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Stir the mushrooms occasionally, until liquid is evaporated. 

Add Marsala wine and cook until it has fully evaporated.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Next sprinkle in the flour whisk to blend it well. Add chicken stock a little at a time, continuing to whisk vigorously after each time you add more.  Make sure you whisk well after each time you add more and that you scrape the bottom and sides of pans to get all the bits added to the mix.  Repeat until all the chicken stock has been added.  

Let your sauce simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat.  Return turkey cutlets to pan and simmer for another 5 minutes on low until cutlets are heated through and sauce continues to thicken slightly.  Serve immediately.

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Look for STAR Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the olive oil section of our local grocery store or online at:

Star Fine Foods now has a promo code for all Welcome Home fans that will give you a 10% discount on anything you order online. Just enter WELCOMEHOME10 at checkout! 

Disclaimer: I have an ongoing relationship with STAR Fine Foods for my recipes and photography using their wonderful products. This post is sponsored by STAR. I am compensated for my time and work and I am sent products as I request them. However, all opinions of the product stated in this post are 100% my own. I truly love their products!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

I love white chocolate. I just love the taste of it. Most people are dark and milk chocolate fans but I like white chocolate the most. So I love making cookies with white chocolate chunks or white chocolate chips whenever I can.  I love cookie because it is soft and chewy and has a lot of white chocolate in it.  I eat these warm...just out of the oven.  This is a keeper my friends!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour'
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces white chocolate baking bars, chopped in 1/2 inch chunks
1 jar of macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat both sugars, butter, shortening, vanilla and the egg in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer.  You want your dough light and fluffy. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.  At this point your dough will be much stiffer.  Then with a wooden spoon, stir in the white chocolate and macadamia nuts.

Drop dough onto un-greased cookie sheet in rounded tablespoons and keep them about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until very light brown.  Cookies may look under-cooked but remember they will continue to cook outside the oven for a bit.  Cool for about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer the cookies to a wire rack.


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Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I love a soft and chewy cookie.  Maybe a little crispy on the outside edges but definitely moist and chewy in the middle.  My Mom used to always store her cookie dough overnight in the refrigerator because she said it always gives you a better tasting and softer cookie.  You could always find several batches of cookie dough in our refrigerator and every now and then she would let us pinch off a little and eat it!   You will love these cookies! 

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 cup butter
 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

In a large bowl, mix the butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla with a stand or hand mixer until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Add the wet and dry mixtures together and then stir  in the oats, raisins and nuts.  Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and form a ball. Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a scoop, measure out  2 inch balls of chilled cookie dough and arrange on the cookie sheet leaving two inches between each ball.  Flatten the dough ball just a bit with your fingers.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the center looks slightly under cooked. Let cookies cool for 5 minutes on the warm baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

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