Category Archives: Desserts

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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Apple Dumpling

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Slowly but surely I am becoming more and more comfortable trying out my baking skills. Granted I am still a long way off from competing with my Mom who is the baking Queen of the universe. Once someone tries any of her baked goods they will come back again and again to ask Mom Mom if she will bake them a cake, pie, cookies or anything sweet.

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I am the tortoise in the baking race of life. I am slow but steadily gaining ground as I go along. Today I decided I would try to make an Apple Dumpling for dmariedining.com. Instead of making an apple pie I thought it would be nice to create an apple filled pastry that has all of the flavors of an apple pie. Plus, the process seemed simpler to me. I wanted an individual dessert rather than a large pie since my family does not eat a lot of dessert. Making an Apple Dumpling meant I could make two dumplings that we could all share and not worry about wasting a whole pie.

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I must admit I have only had an Apple Dumpling once or twice in my life. They were okay but the pastry was a little tough. For me, the crust is the best part of any pastry dessert. Since I am still honing my baking skills I either get my Mom to make me a batch of crust which freezes nicely or I buy a crust I know will be flaky.

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Apple Dumplings are a wonderful treat that is pretty simple to make with only a few ingredients. Hmmm… I think I will try making a peach dumpling when peach season comes around.

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Apple Dumpling

Ingredients:
2 granny smith apples peeled
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tbsp nutmeg
4 tbsp butter melted
1 egg lightly beaten
1 box Pillsbury Pie Crusts (two per box)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice and core apple with an apple slicer (to maintain shape of apple). Wrap a strip of pastry dough around the apple to hold slices together. Melt butter in small sauce pan. Brush apple with butter then roll in sugar mixture or pat mixture around apple with your hands. Place apple in the center of the pastry. Spoon a little melted butter in the middle of the apple and fill center with more of the sugar mixture. Fold pastry tightly around apple and brush the pastry with egg wash. Poke the top and sides of the pastry with a fork for ventilation. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hr until golden brown and the apples appear to be soft..

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Caramel Popcorn Balls

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One of the best things about going to the movies is the buttered popcorn. I have not been able to recreate the flavor of movie popcorn at home although I have tried. The smell of theater popcorn is intoxicating. But, the smell of microwave popcorn is another story for me. I do not like the smell of microwave popcorn. My hubby is a fan of all types of popcorn especially microwave popcorn so I keep it as a staple in the pantry.

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The other day when I was searching through the pantry for some pasta I ran across a few boxes of microwave popcorn. I started wondering what I could do to the microwave popcorn to make it more appealing. The first thing that came to mind was the big bin of caramels I saw at the grocery store the last time I was there. Usually, I would just use caramels to make caramel apples or apple crisp. However, the thought of mixing the caramels with popcorn and sliced almonds seemed like a pretty good idea. Instead of making caramel corn (which is a little too sweet for me), I decided to make Caramel Popcorn Balls which had only a hint of caramel and nuts.

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The result was a nice little treat. I can even say I did not even mind the smell of the microwave popcorn while it was popping because I was so excited to try out the recipe. Light, slightly crunchy, savory and sweet. The caramel was just sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth and savory enough to make me want more.

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Caramel Popcorn Balls

Ingredients:
2 bags microwave popcorn popped
1 11 oz caramels unwrapped
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp water
½ cup sliced or whole almonds
cooking spray

Place popped popcorn in a 200 degree oven while melting caramels. Be sure to remove all unpopped kernels.

Melt caramels, corn syrup and water in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place popcorn and nuts in bowl and drizzle warm caramel over popcorn and nuts. Quickly mix until popcorn is well coated. Form popcorn balls by hand. Spray hands with a little cooking spray prior to forming balls so that they do not stick to your hands. Wrap balls in plastic wrap and place in an air tight container. Popcorn will keep fresh for a few days.

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Sticky Granola Clusters

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Once in a while I have a sweet tooth for something other than chocolate. Cookies, cakes, pies and ice cream don’t always hit the mark for me. Instead, I just want a small treat that will satisfy my desire for sweets but will not make me feel too guilty or bloated.

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Looking around my kitchen on one of those days of having a sweet tooth I found a container of granola. I know. Granola as a treat does not sound very exciting when you have a sweet tooth and I wanted more than plain ol’ granola. To jazz up the granola and make it into a really delicious treat I added a few extra ingredients to a basic granola bar recipe and created Sticky Granola Clusters.

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Naturally sweetened from the whipped honey I used along with the dried fruit, this easy treat satisfied my sweet tooth and kept me from feeling too guilty or bloated. I liked the nice crunch of the granola, toasted almonds and walnuts plus the chewiness of the dried plums, mango and cranberries. The whipped honey made it all sticky and fun to eat.

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Usually, I use my family as taste testers but this time I took my recipe directly to the public and asked my co-workers what they thought of the Sticky Granola Clusters. Sometimes you have to go outside of your own bubble to make sure you are on the right track when cooking. Judging by their comments and the fact that a few folks came back for seconds I know this recipe is a hit. The next time you have a sweet tooth make a batch of Sticky Granola Clusters. Not a lot of fuss and a lot less guilt than most treats.

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Sticky Granola Clusters

Ingredients:
14 oz granola (I used Aurora Natural Vanilla Crunch)
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup dried chopped plums
½ cup dried chopped mango (optional)
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup whipped honey or regular honey
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup light brown sugar (lightly packed)
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread coconut and almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Check coconut to make sure it does not burn. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place granola, cooled coconut, almonds and walnuts in a large bowl.

In a small pot heat brown sugar, butter, honey and vanilla in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over granola mixture and stir. Add dried fruit and stir until well mixed.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Pour granola mixture onto baking sheet and gently press to spread out the granola evenly. If necessary, wet your fingers before handling to prevent mixture from sticking to you.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 3 hours to set. You can cool in the refrigerator the last 30 minutes. Break into clusters or cut into squares. Store in an air tight container. Refrigerate if necessary.

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Meringue Clouds

Check out my dessert at rantingchef.com Diced! Day of Eating Contest.  Vote for my Meringue Clouds recipe.  Voting ends on 10/9/15.IMG_9458_1

I was sitting on our porch the other day surrounded by the beauty of nature watching clouds go by. The clouds were big, white, fluffy and moving ever so slowly against the bluest sky I had seen in a while. Watching the clouds I started thinking about cotton candy, food in general then dessert.

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Dessert. What kind of dessert could I make that reminded me of clouds? Meringue came to mind but the problem was that I wasn’t a lover of meringue. Whenever my mom made her delicious lemon meringue pie I would scrap off the meringue then eat the lemon filling and crust. The two textures of meringue, both crusty and squishy, just did not feel right in my mouth. After searching for a meringue alternative to crusty and squishy I ran across a recipe that called for baking the meringue and it looked light like a macaroon.

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To make meringue the centerpiece of my dessert, I created mounds of sweetness that melted in your mouth. Then I added fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries that were slowly simmered until a simple syrup was rendered and the fruit was fragrant. Talk about heaven! Eating my Meringue Clouds reminded me of sitting on the porch watching the clouds go by surrounded by the sweetness of nature.

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Meringue Clouds

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp lemon zest
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1 pint blueberries
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place eggs whites in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add ¾ cup sugar 1 tbsp at a time on high speed until stiff peaks are formed.

Drop a large spoonful of meringue on to parchment paper or place in a piping bag and pipe onto parchment paper to create mounds. Meringue will spread so do not make the mounds too big. Bake for 45 minutes then turn off the oven and DO NOT open the oven door for 1-2 hours.

While the meringue is baking, place berries, water, lemon juice, zest and ¼ cup of sugar into a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until berries begin to breakdown and a simple sugar is rendered.

Place a Meringue Cloud in the center of a bowl then drizzle the berries and juice around the Meringue Cloud.

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Banana Bread Bars

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The idea for Banana Bread Bars came to me when I was thinking of making more of my Fruit Nut Bars but I had two ripe bananas crying out for me to do something with them. I have only recently started using ripe bananas in various recipes. Before I started dmariedining.com I would just freeze overly ripe bananas for smoothies because I don’t like to eat mushy bananas. Fortunately for the bananas, I was in an aventerous mood and decided I could try making banana bread but in the shape of bars instead of a loaf.

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Making banana bread is not too different from making banana muffins but I found that the texture and flavor was slightly different. The Banana Bread Bars were firmer but still very moist. As always, my family and friends are my taste testers and truly honest judges of my cooking. If something does not quite meet their level of expectation or does not tickle their taste buds, they have no problem in letting me know without hurting my feelings. I also know I have not hit the mark if my son does not let me know how much he will miss my cooking when he goes to college or he does not brag to his friends that I can make dirt taste good. No, I have never tried to make dirt taste good but I figure that was a very high compliment coming from my youngest son.

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On the few occasions that we have unexpected company or I don’t feel like making a complicated dessert for a family gathering, I can make Banana Bread Bars in a little over an hour. That is my kind of cooking. The next time your bananas start turning brown don’t toss them or freeze them. Turn them into Banana Bread Bars. Pretty Quick and Pretty Easy.

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Banana Bread Bars

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
2 large eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shift flour, baking soda and salt together into a small bowl and set aside.

Place bananas in a large bowl and mash. Mix in vanilla extract and eggs. Set aside.

Melt butter in a medium size sauce pan over medium high heat. Add sugars. Stir until sugars melt and are smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 8 – 10 minutes.

Add cooled sugar mixture to bananas. Slowly whisk flour with bananas and sugar until totally blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour mixture onto a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper. Spread out evenly in the pan. Chill in the frig for 15 minutes then bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Stick a toothpick in the center of the banana bread to see if center is cooked. If it comes out clean the banana bread is done. Let cool then cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

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Fruit and Nuts Cookie Bars

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I have been searching for cookie recipes that were easy to make and included mascarpone cheese. I found a couple of recipes but changed my mind and decided to come up with a cookie bar that included nuts and dried fruit. I could try to say the nuts and fruit made the cookies healthier than a regular cookie but who would I be kidding!

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I usually use pecans in my dessert recipes but I decided I wanted to use some thing different so I chose walnuts. Walnuts of course go great in any cookie. To compliment the nuts I used dried chopped plums instead of cranberries just because they looked interesting and they were on sale.

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Since I have been working on improving my baking skills I was pretty confident I could pull off making a tasty cookie bar. The issue would be whether or not my son would like them because they had both nuts and fruit. He is more of a chocolate chip cookie or oatmeal raisin kind of person. Nuts and dried plum? I was not too sure about that. I was pleasantly surprised that he really liked the cookie bars and didn’t even ask what was in them. One step closer to being a real baker!

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Fruit and Nuts Cookie Bar

Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter softened
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup dried cranberries or dried chopped plums
¼ cup golden raisins (optional)
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter over medium high heat then stir in brown sugar. Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let mixture cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl combine four baking soda and salt. In another bowl mix eggs, vanilla and cooled sugar. Slowly add flour to butter mixture and stir until well mixed. Stir in nuts and dried fruit.

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour cookie mix onto parchment paper and spread it out. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool then cut into 2 inch squares.

Enjoy!

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Fruit Cups

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When you think of fruit cups I am sure you think of fresh (or canned) fruit chopped up and mixed together. Kind of like the fruit cup they would serve you in grade school for lunch. Well this Fruit Cup is nothing like the fruit cup from our childhood memories. My alternate version of a fruit cup is a pastry cup full of fresh (or canned) fruit simmered down with pecans then topped with a glob of vanilla ice cream.

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I came up with the idea of creating pastry fruit cups when I was thinking of what else I could make with the extra large muffin tins I used to bake big muffins. I also was trying to decide what to make with the leftover pastry dough my mom gave me so I could work on a new quiche recipe. Rather than make a big pie I thought I could create individual Fruit Cups that would be like a slice of pie.

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The great thing about Fruit Cups is that you can fill them with any kind of fruit you like and make several different types at once. For this post I tried making peach fruit cups. They tasted like mini peach pies with a hint of pecans. Apples were a good substitute for the peaches when I made this for my hubby because he likes apple pie but blueberry and blackberry also work well with this recipe. I just had to tweak it a little and instead of using brown sugar and cinnamon I used only regular sugar and lemon zest to brighten the flavors.

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Try making Fruit Cups the next time you have a desire for pie but don’t want the whole thing only a muffin sized slice.

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Fruit Cups

Ingredients:
1 pkg of Pillsbury pie sheets (or your own crust)
2 15 oz cans peaches in heavy syrup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup pecans chopped
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp of water
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 4 large muffin tins with cooking spray.

Add peaches with syrup, butter, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg to a medium sized pot and simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat.

Cut out four 6 ½ inch circles (I used a cereal bowl to measure) from the pie sheets re-rolling the excess dough if necessary. Place each circle in the muffin tin then with a slotted spoon fill will fruit & nut mixture. Add a little of the juice from fruit to each cup. Fold over top of pie sheet to close the cup. Brush with egg wash and then vent with a knife. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until crust is golden brown. Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Optional:
Sliced Apples
Blueberries
Blackberries
Strawberries

If using berries, substitute sugar for brown sugar and add a little lemon zest.

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Skillet Apple Pie (Adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s recipe)

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The skillet apple pie recipe I am sharing was adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s skillet apple pie recipe. I was watching her show one day and she made an amazing looking pie in just a few minutes. I figured if she could whip together such an amazing dessert in no time flat I should be able to do the same. I just transformed a few of the ingredients she used and cut out others. Trisha’s recipe called for a cinnamon and sugar mixture but I used each one separately plus added a little nutmeg. I am also not big on sugar coated pies so I did not sprinkle the top with the same cinnamon sugar combination she used inside the pie. Of course if you like a lot of sugar feel free to sprinkle the crust with cinnamon and sugar.

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I have to admit when I first saw the recipe for a skillet pie I thought peaches would be better than apples. I imagined using fresh peaches cooked down just a little bit with cinnamon and sugar. Unfortunately, peaches are not in season yet so I stuck to the recipe and used apple pie filling. Give me a few months and I will definitely try the recipe using fresh peaches.

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The results of the pie were absolutely wonderful if I do say so myself. Flaky and delicious this is as close as you can get to an apple pie made from scratch. Quick and easy is my recipe mantra and Skillet Apple Pie hits the mark on both counts. Even on those days you are too tired or cranky to spend a lot of time in the kitchen you can pull this dessert together in less than 15 minutes. Okay, so you do have to wait for it to bake but it is truly worth the wait.

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Skillet Apple Pie (Adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s Recipe)

Ingredients:
1 box Pillsbury Pie Crusts (2 crusts per box)
½ cup light brown sugar
½ stick of butter
½ tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 21 oz can apple filling
1 tbsp butter melted
9” iron skillet
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll each pie crust.

Spray cooking spray around iron skillet. Melt ½ stick of butter in skillet over medium low heat. Add brown sugar and let melt into butter stirring occasionally. Remove skillet from the heat and add one pie crust to the skillet. Gently push the pie crust down into brown sugar and butter. Add pie filling and sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg. Place second pie crust over the filling and turn crust edges inward. Brush top with 1 tbsp of melted butter and then place small slits in the top of the pie to allow the steam to vent. Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Optional:
Try this recipe with a peach or cherry pie filling. Adjust using cinnamon and nutmeg if using cherry pie filling.

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