Category Archives: Desserts

Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits

Lately I have been fixated with the idea of making desserts using cherry pie filling. One of those desserts is Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits. I have fallen in “like” with the little shortbread biscuits I found at Trader Joe’s. I was looking for lady fingers but found these cute little biscuits. I am not a big bread eater but I can eat any kind of shortbread cookie, cake or biscuit.

Combining the shortbread biscuits and cherry pie filling came to me as I was thinking of the many desserts my mom makes. She is a wonderful baker and inspires me to improve my baking chops. As a kid, my favorite pie was cherry. I preferred cherry pies on my birthday instead of cake even if it was chocolate cake. If my choice for dessert is between pie and cake, I will choose pie every time unless the pie is mincemeat. Ugh! I will save that thought for another post.

Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits is my take on cherry pie. It is probably one of the easiest desserts I have every made because all you need are cherry pie filling, shortbread biscuits and a whipped topping. Consider this a versatile recipe. You can substitute peach filling, apple pie filling or macerated fruit. Be creative and try whatever makes you feel good. But at least try Cherries and Shortbread Biscuits. It definitely made me feel good.

 

 

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Blackberry Shortbread Cake

Spring is in the air and more berries are making their appearance at the local grocer. Whenever there is a sale on fruit (especially berries) like “buy one get one free” I try to take advantage of the sale and stock up. Recently, there was a BOGO sale on blackberries so I grabbed 4 pints. I also grabbed two pints of raspberries because they were on sale too.

There are so many different fruit recipes I rarely have any fruit that goes to waste. After putting some of the fruit away for smoothies, I decided to try out a Blackberry Shortbread Cake. I have been using one of my iron skillets a lot lately to make a variety of skillet pies so I thought I would try my hand at making a shortbread cake in the skillet then top it off with mashed blackberries.

Delicious! At least my taste buds thought the Blackberry Shortbread Cake was delicious. I love crust and shortbread cookies so what’s not to love about a shortbread cake! To give this cake an extra reason to love it I added chopped pecans to the cake batter for a little crunch. Once I topped it with the blackberries it was all over. Delicious!

Yes, I am repeating myself because the cake was that good. I had to stop myself from eating most of the cake and offered to share it with the family. Now I have another cake I like besides chocolate cake.

Blackberry Shortbread Cake

Ingredients:

2 pints blackberries

2 large eggs

1 ½ sticks melted butter

1 ½ cup flour

1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

½ cup pecans chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line the bottom of a 10 inch iron skillet with parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Add blackberries to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar. Gently mash blackberries and stir to mix in sugar.

Mix 1 cup of sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Shift flour and salt together then gradually add to sugar mixture stirring constantly until combined. Stir in vanilla and pecans until blended into batter.

Pour batter into iron skillet and spread evenly. Drain juice from blackberries and set aside. Spoon blackberries over batter. Bake 40 – 45 minutes until cake is lightly browned and cooked through. Test by sticking toothpick in the middle of the cake and if batter is no longer wet cake is done. Let cool before slicing. Lift out of pan using parchment paper.

Drizzle reserved blackberry juice over sliced cake if desired.

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Skillet Pecan Pie

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It’s time to try out a new dessert on my hubby since my youngest is in college. Hubby has let it be known that he enjoys Pecan Pie. That was news to me because he usually raves about my mom’s apple pie and sometimes carrot cake. I learned through some prodding that hubby was first introduced to pecan pie at a restaurant he worked at as a teenager. It was a buffet style restaurant and pies that were not sold were often given to the employees to take home. Sweet Deal! Pun intended.

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Personally, I was never a big fan of pecan pie until now. I usually go for fruity pies like cherry, blueberry or my mom’s sweet potato pie. The one time I tried pecan pie as a kid I thought it was way too sweet. I blamed it on the pie but maybe it was just what the baker liked. Skillet Pecan Pie is not too sweet. Granted it is sweet but your lips will not pucker and your eyes won’t twitch from taking a bite of the pie.

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My Skillet Pecan Pie is similar to how I made my Skillet Apple Pie. The filling is of course different along with part of the process. After baking the pie, I leave it in the oven for an hour to help it set. I would never have known that part of the process if I had not read several pecan pie recipes to figure out exactly how to pull it all together.

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I was pretty pleased with the end result after a few tweaks here and there. Like any other recipe I share it is up to the chef to prepare the dish based on his or her likes and dislikes. I was just glad hubby gave me a thumbs up. Once he settled down with a slice of pie, his cup of Starbucks coffee and a big smile on his face I knew my Skillet Pecan Pie was blog worthy.

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Skillet Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

1 Pillsbury Pie Crust

4 eggs

1 ½ cups chopped pecan halves

1 cup light brown sugar

½ cup melted butter

¼ cup pecan halves

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk eggs until foamy then whisk in brown sugar, butter, flour, milk and vanilla until well blended. Stir in chopped pecans and set aside.

Spray a medium sized cast iron skillet with cooking spray.  Mold pie crust into skillet leaving a little over hang. Sprinkle crust with powdered sugar. Pour filling into pie crust. Top with pecan halves then gently fold the extra crust towards the center of the pie. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes then reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake 30 minutes more. Crust will be golden brown. Turn oven off and leave the pie in the oven for 1 hour. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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Apple Bread Pudding

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I feel like bread pudding is one of those desserts you either love or hate. Okay,  maybe hate is a strong word. Dislike might be a better a description. Growing up, bread pudding was not one of those treats I liked to eat. My mom used to make it and folks raved over how delicious it was but I just could not find that taste bud that would make me say “oh yeah, that bread pudding was delicious”. No offense, Mommy. I know your bread pudding was probably wonderful.

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The bread puddings I have tried over the years (yes, I kept trying to find one that I liked) have all reminded me of wet bread. I know bread pudding is moist but it should not be wet and soppy. It usually reminded me of dunking donuts into coffee. I tried that too and did not like it. Fast forward many years later and my taste buds have changed. I am not totally in love with bread pudding but I must say it has grown on me.

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My first experience with a scrumptious bread pudding was at a local restaurant. I ordered it because I saw a beautiful plate of the dessert at the table next to us. The description on the menu made the bread pudding sound so good I thought I should give it another try. The dessert lived up to the description and looked absolutely wonderful. Now I am willing to eat and make bread pudding whenever the mood hits me.

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My version of bread pudding does not use regular bread like most bread puddings. I stepped it up and use butter croissants which makes the bread pudding both savory and a little sweet. Adding thinly sliced apples and walnuts just makes the bread pudding even more delicious. For those that don’t like apples, you can leave them out to make a more classic bread pudding or substitute peaches, pears or some other fruit you like. Any choice you make will be equally delicious.

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Apple Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

6 – 8 croissants broken into pieces

2 eggs + 2 egg yolks lightly beaten

1 cup milk

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup sugar

¾ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup light brown sugar

½ stick butter melted

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 granny smith apple sliced thin

In a medium non-stick frying pan add 2 tbsp butter and melt over medium. Add apple slices, water, raisins and light brown sugar. Toss to coat apples with brown sugar then simmer until apples soften. Remove from heat and set aside.

Whisk eggs and egg yolks with sugar until smooth. Whisk in seasonings then add milk, cream and vanilla.

Place croissant pieces in a long buttered baking dish. Pour melted butter over bread then layer with cooked apples. Toss walnuts into the bread mixture. Pour custard mix over croissants. Press bread into the custard and make sure all pieces are covered with the custard (add a little more milk if necessary). Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 2 – 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread pudding for 30 minutes until set and golden brown. Let cool.

 

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Chocolate Coconut Bars

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I have not been keeping up with my blog lately because of so many family events in recent months. Between my mom moving, my son getting ready for college and just interacting with family I have not had much time to spare.

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I figured I needed something to give me a kick start and would be very easy to pull together. Chocolate Coconut Bars turned out to be a quick recipe that gave me the kick start I needed. I decided to be daring and made a batch for my team at work to see if the Chocolate Coconut Bars would be a hit outside of the family. By the time the day was over there were nothing but crumbs left in the container and I had thumbs up messages throughout the day. I have to admit that it is a good feeling when others appreciate the food you make. I think I now have a new set of guinea pigs besides my family to test out recipes on.

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My Chocolate Coconut Bars are just a different version of an old time favorite. I remember having them years ago at a friend’s house or maybe it was an office party. Either way, they were a tasty treat but a little too sweet for me. I think because the hostess used sweetened coconut, raisins and only sweet chocolate in the recipe. I changed it up a bit to cut down on the sweetness and added a bit of tartness to the bars. Instead of sweet coconut flakes I used unsweetened shredded coconut. I also added craisins instead of raisins for the contrast of sweetness and tartness.

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For those folks that are not a fan of coconut you might be surprised at how subtle the taste of coconut is in this recipe. There were a number of folks on my team that said they really do not like coconut but the combination of the unsweetened coconut with the chocolate, craisins and walnuts made the bars taste delicious. Over the years there have been a number of foods I thought I did not like but I was convinced somehow to try them again. I found that when certain foods were combined with some other food or was seasoned differently I really did like it. I often say to my son Don’t knock it til you have tried it”.

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Chocolate Coconut Bars

 Ingredients:

15 – 20 graham crackers crushed

1 14 oz can condensed milk

1 stick of butter melted

1 ½ cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup craisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl add crushed graham crackers and melted butter. Stir until well combined and graham crackers are moistened. Spread graham crackers evenly onto a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Add chocolate, coconut, walnuts and craisins to the large bowl and mix well. Spread mixture evenly over graham cracker crust. Drizzle condensed milk over chocolate mixture. Place baking sheet in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to make sure coconut does not burn.

Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes then cut into squares.

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Apple Salad

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Refreshing is the word that kept springing from my mouth when I first tasted my Apple Salad dish and when I described it to my hubby and son. I have been thinking about light and refreshing dishes quite a bit lately since warmer weather has crept into my life. During warmer weather I don’t feel like making heavy or complicated meals. Summer is the time when I am looking for quick recipes and dishes that don’t make me tired or lazy after eating.

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My Apple Salad recipe is all the things I just mentioned. It is quick to make. It is light and refreshing. Plus, it does not make me feel heavy, bloated or lazy after eating it. On the contrary. I actually feel energized after eating this salad. Apple Salad is packed with protein from the delicious chopped walnuts and golden raisins and has vitamin C from the apples. Another plus is that the raisins contain antioxidants which helps our bodies to fight against cancer and heart disease. Also, the raisins add a hint of sweetness to counter the tartness of the apples.

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Bottom-line… Apple Salad is a low calorie, healthy dish that will leave you feeling refreshed and energetic. Just ask my son. He liked this salad so much that he had it for breakfast and as a snack. If my biggest critic loved my Apple Salad, I think you will too.

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Apple Salad

Ingredients:

2 large granny smith apples diced

2 large re crispy apples diced

1 8oz container marscapone cheese

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup sour cream

4 tbsp milk

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

juice from ½ of a lemon

Place apples in a large bowl and squeeze lemon juice over apples then toss. This will keep the apples from turning brown. Set asides.

In a deep bowl add marscapone cheese, sour cream, milk and sugar. Beat with a hand mixer until smooth. Add vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat until seasonings are incorporated into mixture. Stir in orange zest. Pour mixture over apples then add walnuts and raisins. Gently mix until the apples are well coated along with the nuts and raisins. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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Lemon Squares 2

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I have always wondered why advertisers like to use the phrase “new and improved” especially when it is attached to an already popular item. Why mess with a product when it is considered to be wonderful from the very beginning? I thought about that when I decided to tweak my Lemon Squares recipe and created Lemon Squares 2. I won’t say my new recipe Lemon Squares 2 is a “new and improved” version of my original Lemon Squares recipe but it is “new” and it is good.

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Like the original recipe Lemon Squares 2 are lemony but have an added layer of flavor because of the cream cheese filling. Yes, I added cream cheese to the mix to create a lemon cheesecake like texture. Good ahead and say it. Yummy! I also added chopped pecans to the crust to make sure there was a contrast of textures. After all, I did not want to have a one note recipe.

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For those that are thinking about the calories, take heart in knowing I used low fat cream cheese to lower the calories a little. But, let’s be honest. This is dessert and it is a cheesecake like treat. So go easy on the number of Lemon Squares 2 you decide to eat at one sitting. Spread out the deliciousness and eat them every other day rather than every day. It will be hard but I am sure you can handle it. Of course, if you are like my youngest son, you can eat them everyday and not gain an once. But then again, he works out all the time and has that “young” metabolism I miss so much.

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The next time you have a taste for lemons or cheesecake consider making a batch of my Lemon Squares 2. I think you will enjoy them.

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Lemon Squares 2

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 ¼ cup all purpose flour

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup granola crumbled

¼ cup + 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter cut into small cubes

Filling:

8 oz cream cheese softened

1 ¾ cups sugar + ½ cup sugar

¾ cup lemon juice (use meyer lemons if available)

¼ cup + 1 tbsp all purpose flour

4 tbsp confectioner’s sugar for dusting

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

¼ tsp salt

4 large eggs (room temperature)

1 egg yolk (room temperature)

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch glass dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Sift flour, salt and confectioner’s sugar into a large bowl. Add pecans, granola and butter. Working quickly, mix butter into flour until butter is broken down into tiny pieces about the size of a large pea (use a food processor if necessary). Press mixture into bottom of the glass dish pushing about one third of the crust up the sides of the dish. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes then bake for 10 – 15 minutes. Crust will be pale.

While crust is baking prepare the lemon filling by whisking together sugar, flour and salt. Add lemon juice, zest and vanilla extract. Stir until combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolk. Set aside.

In medium bowl cream together cream cheese and ½ cup sugar. Add 1 egg and ½ tsp vanilla extract. Set aside.

When crust is done pour cream cheese mixture over warm crust and spread out evenly over the crust. Next pour lemon filling mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Bake for an additional 35 – 45 minutes. Center should still jiggle a little. Remove and let cool completely before cutting. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut into squares.

 

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Banana Split Treat

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There seems to be a trend going on in the cooking arena. Deconstructed food recipes. Generally, I am not a follower but seeing a number of cooking shows which featured deconstructed recipes got me to thinking about what kind of deconstructed recipe I could create. I figured I should start with a fairly simple recipe rather than try something fancy. Besides, if I tried a more complicated recipe (deconstructed or not) it could be a big fat flop.

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Creating a Banana Split Treat turned out to be a very easy way to introduce myself into the world of deconstructed recipes. In case anyone is wondering, a deconstructed recipe is one that takes a standard recipe and rearranges how the dish is constructed but maintains the original ingredients. So for my deconstructed Banana Split Treat I used banana, cherries, ice cream, nuts and a little pound cake to give the recipe a new twist.

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Rather than splitting a banana I used two slices of pound cake as the base for the split then built the dessert from there. The end result was a nice sweet treat that I was proud to serve to a few friends at a recent gathering. Nothing fancy. Just a delicious deconstructed treat.

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Banana Split Treat

Ingredients:
4 slices pound cake
2 bananas sliced
1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
1 cup maraschino cherries
½ cup wet nuts
¼ cup liqueur (grand marnier, maraschino, etc)
hot fudge for drizzle

Soak cherries in liqueur for at least 1 hour.

Place slice of cake in a bowl. Top with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and sliced bananas. Spoon cherries and juice over bananas then add a spoonful of wet walnuts. Drizzle with hot fudge.

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Cranberry Orange Butter Cookies

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One day leading up to the holidays I got into a baking mood and decided to make variations of my basic butter cookie recipe. I developed two cookies that were pretty tasty and definitely blog worthy. The first cookie was a Cranberry Orange Butter Cookie with pecans. I really liked the mix of cranberry and orange which gave the cookie both a sweet and slightly tangy taste.  The second is an Amaretto Walnut Butter Cookie that I will post at a later date.  The Cranberry Orange Butter Cookie was my favorite.

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I have to say my usual taste testers were all over the map on this one. My youngest son exclaimed “yum” when he tried out the cookie. My hubby on the other hand said the cookie tasted too buttery. I explained to him that they were butter cookies so that would account for why they tasted buttery. But too buttery? That was a first for me. The second time he tried the Cranberry Orange Butter Cookies he thought they had a bite to them. This time I explained there were cranberries and orange zest in the cookies so the cookie would have a slight tangy flavor.

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Needless to say I gave up on him as my tester for this cookie. My other taste testers were equally as mixed with there opinions but for different reasons. In the end I decided to go with my gut to place the cookies on the blog. If you like the combination of cranberries and orange I think you will really like this recipe. Buttery, tangy and sweet. What a great way to wake up your taste buds.

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Cranberry Orange Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
1 lb butter (2 sticks room temperature)
1 egg yolk
1 ¾ cup flour sifted
1 cup powdered sugar + ¼ cup powdered sugar
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl cream together butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Stir in egg yolk orange zest and vanilla extract. Place cranberries in a sifter and then add flour. Sift flour into bowl with other ingredients. Stir to mix well then gently combine cranberries and pecans into the cookie dough.

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop balls of cookie dough onto the parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes until cookies are done (slightly browned on the bottom). Cookies will still look light in color. Cool then sift remaining powdered sugar over the cookies. Store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

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Banana Pumpkin Muffins

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It is that time of year when the leaves turn into brilliant colors of yellow, orange and red. I love the transition of summer into fall just so I can watch the leaves blow in crisp fall winds then trickle slowly to the ground. I also love the smell of fall. The air is filled with the scent of apple cider, pumpkin and spices that let you know that fall is here and both Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming.

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Since I have started baking a little more I thought I would try out a new recipe that reminded me of the season and of course would be easy to make. Banana Pumpkin Muffins popped into my mind. What is easier than making muffins? It only take a few minutes to mix all of ingredients and about 15 minutes to bake.

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I use to look at really ripe bananas and think they were a missed opportunity to eat. Now, I see them as an opportunity to create. Pairing bananas and pumpkin flavors seemed like a natural fit and I was right. To make them even more yummy, I added a little crumble mix to the top of the muffins for another layer of texture and crunch. The result was a delicious moist muffin that went great with a steaming cup of coffee for my hubby and a cold glass of milk for me.

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Fall is a fabulous time of year and Banana Pumpkin Muffins are a fabulous treat for fall.

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Banana Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas
1 egg slightly beaten
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
3 tbsp pumpkin spread
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt (optional)
Pinch of pumpkin spice (optional)
20 – 24 small baking cups

Crumble Topping:
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup packed brown sugar (add a little more if necessary)
1 tbsp butter
¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)

Place ingredients in a small bowl. Cut butter into the mixture until little crumbles are formed. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl gently mash the bananas leaving small chunks. Add remaining ingredients until well blended. Fill baking cups ½ way then top with crumble. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven. Test with a toothpick to see if the center is set.

 

 

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