Friday, November 12, 2010

Paradise Pumpkin Pie

Since it's almost Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share a favorite holiday recipe of mine.  You know, pumpkin pie is one of those things that isn't easy to improve on.  I mean, for years I (like millions of other people) used the recipe on the back of the Libby's label, and my pies always turned out great.  But then, a few years ago, I noticed this recipe for Paradise Pumpkin Pie on and decided to try it.  Let me put it this way.  Oh.My.Gosh.  This pie truly is "paradise."  My family likes it so much that it's now my staple pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving.

First I'll share the recipe, and then I'll give you a second idea for serving it.

Paradise Pumpkin Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust

Cheesecake layer:
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten
Pumpkin layer:
1-1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
 1/4 tsp. salt
Pecan Streusel Topping:
2 T. flour
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Fit pie crust into pie plate, then refrigerate.  To make cheesecake layer:  In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese til smooth.  Beat in sugar, then add vanilla and egg.  Beat mixture until light and smooth.  Spread into pastry shell and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  To make pumpkin layer:  In a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, eggs, both sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Pour pumpkin mixture over chilled cream cheese layer.  Cover edges of crust with aluminum foil.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.  Remove foil from edges and bake an additional 30 minutes.  While pie is in the oven, mix up the pecan streusel.  Combine flour and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well, then add softened butter and stir til combined.  Mix in pecans.  After pie has been in oven for 55 minutes, remove and sprinkle topping evenly on top.  Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Here is what the pie looks like just out of the oven.  The picture at the beginning of the post is a cut slice, showing off the pie's two beautiful layers.

The one thing that is somewhat tricky about this pie is the topping.  Because you don't put it on until the pie has been baking for almost an hour, it can be very difficult to get it to "stick."  The reason is that, like any custard pie, pumpkin pies "puff" somewhat once they've been in the over for awhile, then they settle after they're taken from the oven.  Because the pie will be rather puffy after 55 minutes in the oven, the topping has a tendency to roll off the sides.  One thing that helps is making sure the pecan pieces are chopped very small, and that all of the topping ingredients are well mixed.  You can also try adding the topping a little bit earlier in the baking process, but it may brown too much if you do it this way.  I just kind of deal with the topping, trying to keep as much of it on the top of the pie as possible.  The topping is super yummy and frankly, it's worth fussing with it a bit.

Here's another option, though.  If you want, you can skip the topping altogether and serve the pie with a delicious Maple Praline Sauce (recipe below).  It adds a similar kind of flavor to the finished pie.  Or, if you're really feeling indulgent, you can add the topping to the pie as called for, AND serve it with the sauce!

Maple Praline Sauce
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. maple flavoring
1/4 cup sour cream

In skillet, melt butter.  Add pecans and toast over medium heat about 5 minutes.  Add sugar, syrup and flavoring; cook and stir another 2-4 minutes until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat; stir in sour cream.  Serve warm with Paradise Pumpkin Pie.

The great thing about this pie is that it is close enough to a traditional pumpkin pie to not ruffle the purists who might be at your dining table, but it will still satisfy those who like to try something just a little bit different.  In any case, I HIGHLY recommend this pie.  In fact, writing this post, I'm wondering if maybe I need to make a "test" pie before Thanksgiving . . .  You know, just to make sure it's as delicious as I remember!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall-Themed Cards

You know, I always try to tell myself that I don't really like fall, because it means that winter isn't very far away.  But, in truth, I really DO like fall.  The gorgeous colors of the leaves, the start of a new school year, the crisp air, that special smell in the air -- I love them all.  I also love fall activities, like college football, pumpkin carving and apple picking.  And, I have to say, fall definitely motivates me in a creative sense.  I'm not really one to make a ton of spring-themed cards or craft projects, but fall always seems to get me going.  In the stores, I find myself reaching for adorable pumpkin- and leaf-themed embellishments, whether I need them or not!  So, when I was home with my sick little guy the other day, I decided to whip up a few notecards featuring some of those new embellishments, and using warm fall colors like gold, brown, green, and pumpkin orange. 

For the sunflowers on the two cards above, I stamped images on mixed media paper and colored them in with Copic markers.  I then cut the images out and simply glued them to the card fronts.  I love to just play around and experiment with my Copic markers, so I'll often stamp a whole series of images on a sheet of mixed media paper and just try out different color combinations and ideas for shading.  Failures get tossed, and images that I like usually end up being cut out and put into a basket near my scrapping area, where I'll see them the next time I decide to make cards.

I've been LOVING embellishments from K&Co. lately, including their package of fall borders, like the pumpkin border on the card above.  All of the borders are self-stick, and feature just a little glitter for a bit of added panache.  The leaf border on the "Capture the Joy" card below is from the same package.  The vellum titles are all from a package that was in the dollar section at Jo-Ann's.  The leaves on the cards below, and the pumpkin and leave on the "Friend" card above, are all from a package of K&Co. layered, 3-D embellishments.  I always look for these kinds of embellishments because they make fantastic, quick cards.

Notice that for the "Together" card above, I cut some of the pumpkins from that same border but just adhered them individually onto the card.  I like that I was able to use the very same supply but give the card a whole different look.  For the two cards immediately above, I used up a few really old items, including some scraps of one of my favorite KI Memories paper from years ago.  Nothing like combining old and new items and making things work together.

Fall inspires me in the kitchen, too.  Once the weather gets colder, I find myself searching for new recipes to try for soups, stews and breads.  I'm sure I'll have some new ones to share with you soon!