A Great Pie Taste-Testing! / $50 to Williams-Sonoma

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mrs. Smith’s. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Say “I” if you love pie!  And if you love free money, you can put some whip cream on top of that! This should be a fun post for you.
Recently, Mrs. Smith’s asked us to try their new Mrs. Smith’s Signature Deep Dish pies, and also sent us a sweet prize to give away too.

$50 to spend at Williams-Sonoma!

I’m actually one to bake my pies from scratch. But in a crunch, Mrs. Smith’s is my store-bought pie to fall back on!

My husband and kiddos love pie from anywhere, so they were all over this one! So I thought it would be fun for them to have a great pie taste-testing!
And guess what? No one disagreed!
Imagine that.

The kids were napkin-bibbed, with forks and fists.
They were ready to stuff their pie-holes.
(Pun intended.  ; )
Here’s what Mrs. Smith’s was dishing up for us:

Signature Deep Dish Cherry Pie with Butter Fudge Sauce
Signature Deep Dish Peach Pie with Cream Cheese Icing
Signature Deep Dish Dutch Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce
Signature Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Icing

And the kids got tasting, all of them!
And I just took photos . . . . . .


Time to switch plates.

Discerning the flavor.

They were loving every minute!

And you can bet Michael/Daddy was off-camera to the side, tasting them all too.

And also having fun designing some more with the sauces and icing.

Afterwards, each one of the kids wrote down their reviews on all 4 of the pies they tried, in one of my many notebooks.

They were so cute and serious about it. Like real little food critics.

 Here are some of their comments:
“The peach pie tastes great, and the cream cheese topping was better than I thought!”
“One reason I liked the apple pie is because the apple and caramel blend perfectly together.”
“The peach filling was sticky and gooey, which made it even better!”
“The cream cheese icing was a good choice for the sticky peach!”
“I liked the pumpkin pie. The spices taste good with the pumpkin.”

You can learn more about Mrs. Smith’s Pies on their Facebook or follow them on Pinterest


So the pie-tasting began so late in the afternoon, that the kids pretty much had pie for supper.  I did have them eat at least a small and healthy meal afterwards, just so I would feel better about it.
And then their Daddy took me out to dinner. And we had a wonderful time.

 NOW……. who wouldn’t be interested in winning this?!
Yes. A $50 Gift Card to Williams-Sonoma.  And with it, I will also send you a coupon for a free Mrs. Smith’s Signature Deep Dish Pie of your own.
Someone is going to win. And it might as well be you! Right?

You can shop, and then have some pie! That’s what I’d call a good day. ; )


Just follow the requirements below, and you can consider yourself in it, to win it!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!
 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Pumpkin Shaped Cookies

It’s the first day of November, and we’re still riding high on the beauty of Autumn all around us! I think we’ve done more baking than ever this year as well.  I had an idea about trying to make some pumpkin shaped cookies, using a dough recipe I already had, and they came out so great!  These are beautiful cookies to have around on Thanksgiving, or anytime during the pumpkin/Autumn season, and they were fun to make, too.  It may seem like a lot of steps, but it is easy, and the dough recipe itself is very useful!

The dough is the same recipe from my God-Mother’s Italian cookies, found here in a post called Cookie Love.  It’s a very I am going to give you the recipe right here as well, but you really can see how it is made at the other post.  *Please note; you can mix the ingredients to make dough with a Kitchen Aid Mixer, but we did not have one at the time of the other post, so we did it by hand. For these pumpkin shaped cookies, we did use the mixer since we have one now. It’s just easier and faster with a mixer, but still doable by hand.

Ingredients

  • 4  C Bleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1  C Sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Baking Powder
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2C Land-O-Lakes Margarine
  • 4 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 C Milk
  • Confectioners Sugar
  • A Little Extra Milk for Glaze
    . . . . . . and some kind of Coloring.

Which brings me to this stuff . . . . . .

Wilton’s Icing Colors. 
Even though it says for icing, it works for any food coloring. I love it, because it IS concentrated.  It gives a nicer color, and is more potent, so it gets the job done easily.  Food coloring drops to me are a pain. It takes too much to get the depth of color you want, and adds a water content at the same time that you may not want. So this stuff is the bomb for me. It’s what I used to color my cookie dough orange. It is also great for icing, and we use it for that in this recipe too. ; )

1. In a large bowl (or your Kitchen Mixer bowl),  put in flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, margarine, vanilla, and milk.

2.    Mix it all together with fork at first. Once it starts to form, you can use your mixer or clean hands.

3. Flour a counter or big board.

4. Remove dough from bowl, and knead for several minutes, sprinkling the surface more if the dough starts sticking.

5. Grease baking sheets with vegetable oil. (You probably can use Pam Spray…if you’re a fan of that.)

6. Once your dough is formed, it’s ready to color. Using a toothpick, mix up the orange container of coloring gel, and just wipe the toothpick onto your dough.  Then fold it in and knead the dough some more until the color works through and is uniformly mixed into the dough. Add more color as needed to get the desired  density of color.

** Two Things to Note Here:  A) This gel will likely stain yours hands and/or clothing a little, so use kitchen gloves and an apron is your concerned with that.  B) The color will lighten/fade a lot after baking.  So keep that in mind. Although the dough may appear too dark orange, they won’t be when done. (See photos of baked cookies for reference.)

7.   Grab a piece of dough, and begin to roll into a ball between the palms of your hands.  You want it to be about the size of say….a large cherry tomato.  You can place them directly on the cookie sheet, or keep working on a floured surface, such as a cutting board.

8. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

9) First poke your finger down into the center of each orange dough ball.

10) Then, taking a toothpick, stand it up beside the dough ball, and press in your indentations for the pumpkin grooves, as seen above.

Make the indentations deep!  Really lay that toothpick in there, and rock it to the top, so the grooves are made all the way to the top.  The cookies will puff while baking, and you will completely loose your groove indentations if you don’t make them deep pre-baked.

They should look similar to this when the are done.   My little girl Olivia was a great help forming the pumpkins!

11) Now transfer to cookie sheets with  thin metal small spatula if need be.  (Try not to squich your pumpkins, as the dough is soft!) Place the dough pumpkins on the cookie sheets,  about an inch 1/2 apart, staggered.

**You will have more pumpkins waiting for their turn in the oven.  This dough makes at least a few dozen, depending on the size of your cookies.

12) Bake full sheets for 8-10 minutes.  You want them to be pale – not browned, but if you are wondering if they are cooked enough, open one with knife and see if it is baked through well. If not, put back in for 1-2 minutes more, depending on how doughy they still were.

13.  Remove from oven………and then place them each on a cooling rack.

  For cookie glaze:  
14) In a small bowl, pour some confectioner’s sugar, and add a little milk.  I don’t really measure the sugar or milk here.  I recommend adding one tablespoon of milk at a time, and stir well. You want the glaze thick, as it will be much easier it will be to work with if it is not thin and runny.. You will be surprised at how much powdered sugar you need!

15) Add in green gel coloring and mix well.

16)  When cookies are completely cooled, transfer your green icing to a piping bag with a very fine point tip, or if need be, a zip-lock bag with the very tip of the corner snipped off.

17) Just pipe on a stem in the center top of the pumpkin, a leaf if you are really good, and maybe make some curly vines coming off.

As you can see, my piping skills could use some practice.  But I thought they came out so adorable, and they are as delicious as the Italian Cookies recipe! It’s all the exact same ingredients, except for the tasteless coloring.  What I love about this dough recipe, is it is flexible to make many different looking cookies.

Alexis kept some of the dough before it was colored orange, and made these traditional cookies. . . . . .

Also quite Autumn looking!
The cookies can be sealed in an air tight container, or even put in the freezer the same way, for a coming holiday, or unexpected company.

We hope you try this recipe out, and have some fun making them yourself. Your mouth will surely thank you!

. . . . . .

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Recipe for Apple Pie Pops

 If you only knew the recipes I see in a day, a week, a month – that I have every intention of making!  I get to really making some, but most not, simply because there is really only so much time in a day, and so much food we can eat in it!  Granted some (little) people (my kids and husband), eat way more than others (myself.)  I actually am one of those with big eyes. I can be starving, and then eat 2 crackers, and I’m good. My kids cannot believe how little I eat. I just get full easy. Still, I consider myself a food lover, if only in my head. I love to find recipes, plan great food for my family, and photograph it too. And I really do enjoy eating. I’m just done sooner than everyone else.

Anyway, I first saw these pie pops almost 2 years ago at Bakerella‘s site.  I believe it was not even a new post when I had stumbled upon it. As soon as I saw them that first time, I immediately fell smitten.  She had seen them at yet another’s site. Since then I have seen them 100 times, all over the place.  Of course, you can make these pie pops with any kind of pie filling you’d like. But I have a particular fondness for apple pies, so that’s what I was planning to make.  We do a lot of baking in the Fall, so last year got away before we made them. But not this year! This past weekend we finally made them, as well as some cute cookies I’ll be sharing soon too!

So although these are not my idea, I thought I’d share how we made our Apple Pie Pops.

For any apple filling for baked goods, you want to start with good, firm apples, and a mix of the tart and sweet variety. Whether they are evenly mixed, or a little more of the sweet or tart, is all up to your preference.  I chose to keep it even, and used Granny Smiths (tart) and Golden Delicious (sweet).

One of the greatest parts of making any baked goods that call for apples, is using my Aunt Dot’s apple peeler-corer-slicer.  The peeler part actually needs to be replaced, but we have not been able to find it yet.  But that’s alright – so we peel the apples by hand for now, or forever. We still feel so blessed to have this antique of my beloved aunt’s, that is such a part of my most fondest childhood memories.

But I’ll admit, it’s damn handy!

Apple Pie Filling Recipe

6 C. peeled *apples, chopped small, and evenly sized as possible
3/4 C. sugar
2 T. all purpose flour
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. nutmeg (Optional. I don’t like it.)
1 T. lemon juice

*Reminder: Use a mix of sweet and tart firm apples.

Mix it all up well in a bowl.

Pie Crust Dough: You can make your own, or use store-bought ready pie crust, such as Pillsbury.
On a flour dusted surface, roll out your dough.  If you are using ready pie crust that is already round, remember that the size of the circle of dough does not matter for our purpose with pie pops, as it would for a pie dish. So you can roll it out larger and thinner than as it comes, and get more out of it. (We wish we did roll ours out thinner, and will next time. I’ll tell you about that at the end.)

Use a scalloped or plain circle cutter, or any other manageable shape that you would like, that is about 2 inches in diameter.  I like the idea of our pops looking like real little pies, but using shapes like an apple, or a maple leaf, or a pumpkin, etc., would also be cute.  Cut your shapes out of your crust dough as closely as possible, to get as many out of your dough as you can. Weed out the scraps of dough, re-roll, and use again. (As seen 2 photos up.)

Put a good dollop (what a great word…dollop..) of apple filling in the center of half of all of your cut dough shapes, because you’ll need the other half as tops, of course. You want to put as much as possible on there, but remembering you’ll need to cover it with the other dough circles, and be able to seal it. Too much apple filling will be a problem, and too little will just be….sad.

Transfer your pie bottoms with the filling onto a greased or sprayed cookie sheet.
If it easier for you, you can transfer the dough shapes first, and then put the filling on.

Also add your pop sticks. These are found in the candy making aisle of the craft stores. Now, I have seen that some cover their sticks with aluminum foil, to prevent them from burning. That is too tedious for me, and I was sure they wouldn’t burn anyway, and they didn’t, except where they got a little juice on them. No biggie, and still not worth covering them in foil. But you do what you want!

You may want to pre-heat you oven at this point, to 375°

 Now put on your tops. We had a little dish of water, just to dip one finger in, and wet the under-edge of the top all the way around, just to help it stick the bottom better. It also helps to stretch the top piece out bigger, to better fit over your dollop : ) of apple filling.
To make the wavy edge like a real pie, just cut off the end of a pop stick, and use it to press grooves all the way around each pie. This is a a bit tedious too, but one that is worth it to me!

Lastly, just brush each pie pop top with a little egg white, and if you wish, sprinkle with a bit of sugar for sparkle. The egg whites really help the pie crust kind of blister and look nice.

When the oven is up to temperature, you can put your pie pops in for 12-15 minutes.

How’s that for a high cute factor?
We bagged each one, and tied them closed with a little red stitched ribbon. Presentation is everything, Folks!

As mentioned earlier, we did not roll out our dough as thin as we will next time. Our pops seemed to be a little more crust, and a little less apple filling than we would have liked. We must remember the filling soaks in just a bit, and the dough really puffs as it bakes into pie crust. Nonetheless, they were oh so good, and next time they’ll be perfect. : )

There are SO many Fall-time apple treats to enjoy – Apple Pie Pops, big Apple Pies, Apple Crisp, Caramel Apples, Apple Sauce, Apple Cake, Apple Cider…..it’s endless, and there are no complaints here! My favorites are Apple Crisp and Apple Pie, both with Vanilla Ice Cream, please.
Do you eat more apples this time of year? What are your favorite apple or Fall treats?

******

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A Surprise, That Was a Piece of Cake!

Our biggest girl, Alexis, had a birthday on July 5th.  She turned 15! There is so much I could tell you, about how special this girl is. Especially given her age. But I’ll save that brag for another time.  For now, I’ll just share 2 things that I want to say about her turning 15:  1) The teen-years horror stories I have been repeatedly been told to expect?  They haven’t hit yet.  2) In many ways, she seems so much older, than just 15. And not just because she is way taller and bigger than her Mama.

Her birthday held one tradition that all of her others have . . . . . .

She had her ‘birthday number pancakes’.  Except she had them in the afternoon, instead of breakfast.  And then quite honestly, the rest of the day went quickly downhill from there. Complete with tears.  From ME; not Alexis.  Because I felt so bad, her day was going all kinds of wrong. The car even broke down on the way to bowling, which was something she wanted to do with her family on her birthday. It’s a little thing, to go bowling, but it’s what she wanted. (And hey, I’m all for beating the pants off anyone, any day! I don’t even care if it’s your birthday!)  So after Michael tried fixing the car for an hour or so, and he made a phone call to have his auto-place friends bring him a part, the kids and I ended up walking in the horrific heat and humidity, for a mile or so, to our nearest home base; our church!  At least it was cool and peaceful inside. And really, I was needing to feel near to God, by then. I was so sad, about the awful memories we were making, for our girl’s 15th birthday.  So we hung out with Jesus, until Michael came to get us.

 I then demanded a re-do-birthday for Alexis for 2 days later, on Saturday.

THAT day went MUCH better.

(Isn’t she beautiful? Her braces are coming off soon, and I can’t wait to take her real 15-year birthday photos.)

I was excited for re-birthday, because I knew I had a surprise, that was going to knock her flip-flops off!

You see, weeks earlier, I had shown her this cake online, that I had seen on Facebook, that a friend had made, and then I started seeing all over Pinterest.  I thought of Alexis the second I first saw it, because it was made with her 2 very favorite candies: M&M’s, and KitKats. When I showed her, she was like, “Oh-my-GOSH! I wish I could have th-aaaaat!

But never in a million years would she EVER expect to have one for her birthday cake, nor would she even agree to have one. And do you know why? Because her little brother has a severe peanut allergy, and she doesn’t believe either of those candies to be peanut-safe-enough.  She’s become a real self-taught-expert, on products and companies, and their manufacturing practices. Now, none of the kids eat much candy at all. Not only because not much of it is safe, but because we try to make as healthy choices with what we eat, as we can. But, treats are allowed now and then.  Still, Alexis is adamant about not taking chances, and is a real advocate for protecting her brother.  I’ll tell you more about that in a moment but first, I have to show you these photos:

She knew a cake was coming, but just look at the surprise on her face when she IT . . . . . .

She was SO SURPRISED.  She LIT UP when she saw it – brighter than the birthday candle on her cake.  She went on, and on, and just could not get over, that I had made that cake for her, that she only dreamed of.  My face hurt from smiling so much, watching her with this cake, the whole time. 

She was concerned of course having her little brother there at the table with her. Or even having the cake in the house!  But really, we took the necessary precautions, all the way. To start, the candies are not made with any peanut products. But they are just manufactured with peanut products.  So there is no way, we would ever let Shane, our peanut-allergy-boy, have any of it.  But . . . . . cake itself was just the inner circle of the cake . . . . . . about 4 inches in diameter.  We kept the ring, and frosted that separately, for the rest of us.

So this cake really was her very own individual cake.  Decorated with the M&M’s, and KitKats. 

(I wish, that her wish, comes true.)

So let me tell you just how much of an advocate she has always been for her brother. 
Aside from being an expert about what brands are safe and which aren’t, and aside from the sacrifices of her favorite things she has made for her brother, she did something else when she was only 10 years old, that I think, was pretty impressive.
With Plain M&M’s always having been her favorite candy since she was a little girl, she felt strongly that everyone should be able to enjoy them too. When we discovered (when he was 1 year old) that our little boy had such a severe peanut allergy Alexis soon realized that there were billions of people all over the world with the same common allergy, who would not be safe eating even Plain M&M’s, because the Mars Company manufactured both peanut M&M’s, as well as the plain ones, on the same machinery.  And at the very least, in the same factory. There is such risk of contamination. And in fact, the chance that peanut fragments, or even a peanut M&M, could be in a Plain M&M bag. It’s happened.

This mix of manufacturing the 2 together,  really upset her, for chocolate lovers all over the world. For a long time. So when she was 10-years old, she decided to do something about it.  She wrote a petition-letter to the Mars Corporation.  In it, she introduced herself with her name and age, and then wrote them the story of her brother.  She then went on to urge them to please consider manufacturing their peanut M&M’s, and all peanut products, in a separate facility.  She even explained, in her own words, how she believed their profit was probably suffering, due to the billions of peanut-allergy-people, who could not purchase and eat their plain M&M’s.  And so creating a separate facility to keep plain M&M’s safe, would increase their sales.
And then . . . . . . she approached people she knew everywhere she could, and explained to them what she was doing.  She told them why she was writing the Mars Corporation, and she collected over 60 signatures!  People happily signed it, and were always asking her if she heard back yet. They agreed with her mission, and supported her, after she had educated them on the manufacturing situation.

She addressed an envelope herself too, and mailed her petition-letter to the Mars Corporation.  She fully expected to hear back from them, and was hopeful they would see that she had a great idea, and that they would indeed make the changes needed, to bring billions of peanut-allergy sufferers the joy, of being able to eat plain M&M’s, safely. And frankly, so did I.  She checked the mail every day, and kept asking for a long time, if there was any mail for her, from the Mars Corporation.

But she never did hear from them. At all.

I was really sad for her, and really as disappointed with the Mars Corporation, as she was.  As her mother, it broke my heart to see nothing come of her determined and brave efforts . But that aside, you’d think that they would have been considerate enough to at least reply.  Especially upon receiving such a heartfelt letter, complete with signatures she advocated for herself, from a 10 year old little girl!  You know? It’s just kind of….heartless.  Not to mention, unprofessional, in my opinion.

But nothing. Still. And as you know . . . . . .

She’s  15 now!

Still no word, from the Mars Corporation.

So now, you may understand what a big deal this cake was. It really knocked her flip-flops off, just as I thought it would.  She loved every single bite. She said so, most ever single bite.

And I had to remind her not to talk, with food in her mouth. 😉

She ate a good-sized piece herself every day. 

Over the course of the week, she did share some with her father, and her Uncle B (twice).  I declined. But it was nice of her to offer.

And although I am sure the cake was enough to make her completely content, we did give her another gift . . . . . .

Which was just what she wanted. (Because she told me, when I pressed her about what she’d like for her birthday.)  Which I know is really not for her, but for us. See, she figured we’d feel like we got her a birthday present, by getting her this Dick’s Sporting Goods Gift Card. But it’s so she can buy her own sport gear and attire she’ll need this year herself, instead of us having to buy it for her.  Because she always wants to pay for her own things, knowing we’re strapped sometimes. She can’t fool us. ; ) 

Or maybe we’re fooling her, since we bought the card. Hmmmm. 

Not sure who won that mind game, come to think of it.

Her trio-siblings also had their own surprises for her, including a pack of sports cards from her sister.  Which, actually had a sports card in it that is worth some money! That surprised everyone, since O bought the pack at the Dollar Tree Store!

All-in-all, or should I say after-all, she did have a Happy Birthday.

She had her cake, and ate it too.  And that was something, she never thought she’d do.
 Now if you’d like to sound off below, about how disappointed you are in the powers that be, at the Mars Corporation too, go right ahead! I sure won’t stop you.  Cursing is even allowed this time.

(Just kidding about that last part. The kids like to read the blog too, and we must be a good example! ; )  

Oh who am I kidding. They live with me have heard those words before. ; )


Granola Goodness

We love granola around here!  It’s such a good and wholesome snack, handful after handful, with CrUnCh!  (Oh, how I love crunch.)  It’s really a great way to start your day off right too, in the morning!  Throw some in a bowl with a few splashes of cold milk, or load it on top of a serving of yogurt!

Unfortunately, it’s next to impossible to find ‘peanut-safe’ granola at the markets.  Added to the allergies now, is cashews and pistachios. Even small amounts of granola are kind of pricey to buy, ready-made, anyway.  So, if we want granola (and we do!), it’s up to us to make it homemade.  But we don’t mind, because it’s easy and fun to make, and we can make BIG batches.

We have posted another granola recipe here on the blog before, and that one can be found here.  There is so many ways to make granola! Experimenting with different ingredients, is half the fun and surprise!  Here is the granola recipe we’ve been crunching on this week!

Granola Goodness

(Note: All C.(cup) measurements are heaping – not level.)

  • 4C rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 C shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 C wheat germ
  • 1 C chopped *unsalted nuts
  • 1/2 C natural bran (We used Fiber One cereal.)
  • 2 C raisins
  • 1/2 C cooking oil
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

(*For allergy safety, we rinsed and dried whole walnuts by the fire, and then shelled them and chopped up fresh.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a small saucepan, combine oil and honey.  Stir over low heat until the honey is melted and it’s warm and blended with the oil enough. (About 5 minutes.)  Stir in vanilla.  Pour oil mixture over dry ingredients, little by little, mixing to blend well.  Spread mixture on two cookie sheets, and bake for for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned, stirring and flipping mixture over about half way through time. Let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 12+ cups!