Pretty Apple Pie

My husband loves a good PIE crust, and what better to fill it with than APPLES! I always used to be afraid of making my own CRUST, but this one turns out perfect every time. Try it for Thanksgiving or your other HOLIDAY festivities this year—you won't be sorry you did!

Pretty Apple Pie
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons shortening
4 to 5 tablespoons ice cold water

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 to 4 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water (minus 1 tablespoon if using the vanilla below)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla (optional)
6 to 8 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

To make the crust, combine the flour and salt and then blend with the shortening and water using a pastry blender. Separate dough into 2 balls and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in flour to make a roux. Add remaining ingredients and let apples cook in sauce while you get the crust ready to put in the pie pan and until they are tender.

Roll out the crust and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Pour filling into crust and then top with second rolled out crust and then crimp the edges together and cut some "vents" in the top of the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until a nice golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

TIP: Make your ice cold water by actually adding ice cubes to it before you add it to the recipe! Also, if you want a little thicker pie crust, try 1-1/2ing or even doubling the recipe. Any leftover dough can be used to make cute little decorative cut-outs like the leaves on my pie above. 

BONUS TIP: If for some reason the outside edges of your crust are getting too browned (or more than the rest of the pie), cover them with aluminum foil to prevent burning.


Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes

OK, this is another EMBARRASSINGLY easy recipe, but I just had to SHARE it because it tasted so good! If you like BANANAS and you like peanut butter, this one is DEFINITELY for you!

Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes
2 cups Bisquick
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 ripe bananas, mashed
Favorite peanut butter
Maple syrup

Mix together the Bisquick, eggs, and milk. When mixed together, stir in the bananas. Cook as you would a normal pancake. When done top with a thick layer of peanut butter and maple syrup. Makes 6 or so servings.

TIP: You can easily cut this recipe in half if there's just a couple of you. Also, try adding some sliced banana on top of the peanut butter for even more banana taste. This is seriously good!


Easy Crockpot Chili

I always think a warm HEARTY dinner tastes best when it's COLD outside, don't you? I also think Crockpot recipes tend to be pretty EASY and almost always yummy! Well, I decided to perfect my CHILI recipe this year, and boy was it tasty. Hope you like!

Easy Crockpot Chili
2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained
1 onion, chopped
1 can kidney beans, with liquid
1 can chili beans, with liquid (this is basically seasoned pinto beans)
1 can black beans, drained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes (leave whole or blend until smooth)
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
Dash of garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons ketchup

Here's the easy part: combine all ingredients in a 3- to 5-quart slow cooker and cook on low heat about 6 hours. Serve topped with grated cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream and, of course, some yummy cornbread on the side! Makes 6 to 8 servings.

TIP: You can try using cooked shredded beef roast instead of the ground beef, or you can use cooked ground turkey. Whatever you prefer! Also, another good topper to go with the cheese and sour cream is crushed Fritos or tortilla chips. SUPER GOOD!


Rosemary Chicken

This is another great recipe from my book, 101 Things to do with Cheese. Gosh, I really LOVE that book and all the CHEESY recipes in it! This dish is definitely no exception, and I HOPE you like the amazing flavor of the ROSEMARY—one of my favorite herbs!

Rosemary Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 package dry Italian dressing mix (I didn't have this and substituted 1/4 cup Italian dressing)
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or a heaping tablespoon of dried)
Salt and pepper, optional

Place chicken in a 3- to 5-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with the Italian dressing mix and 2 tablespoons melted butter. (NOTE: Since I used the liquid dressing, I decided to eliminate this butter.) Cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours.

Put remaining tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and melt. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add the half-and-half, chicken broth, and cream cheese; stir until smooth. Add mixture to the cooked chicken in the slow cooker and then sprinkle with the thyme and rosemary. Cook 1 hour more. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice and a yummy steamed veggie. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: I used whole milk instead of half-and-half because that's what I had in the fridge. I'm guessing 2% percent would be fine as well. Feel free to stir the thyme and rosemary into the cream cheese mixture before pouring it over the chicken. Oh, and this would also be yummy served over some sort of noodle, maybe something like angel hair.


Easy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is from my FRIEND Stephanie Ashcraft and appears in her newest book, 200 Cake Mix Creations. I love how easy these COOKIES are, and even better, how amazing they TASTE! I really can't think of a better FALL treat than these moist little cookies. Mmmmmmm!

Easy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 box spice cake mix
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 egg
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, use a spoon to mix together the cake mix, pumpkin, and egg. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes; cool for 2 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

TIP: The recipe also works just fine without the egg, but I like to throw it in for good measure. Cinnamon or butterscotch chips are also pretty good in this recipe if you want to try something new, but I prefer the chocolate (always!).


Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I was recently WATCHING an episode of Barefoot Contessa and she made this AMAZING sounding soup. I was inspired to try it, but SIMPLIFY it at the same time. I think I came up with a WINNER, but let me know what ya think!

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 sweet apples
1 large sweet onion
1 tablespoon curry powder
Salt and pepper
1 cup water
1 cup apple juice
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch pan with a drizzle of olive oil in the bottom; set aside.

Peel and cut the squash, apples, and onion into uniform pieces. Place in the prepared pan, drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle the curry powder, salt, and pepper over top. Toss to coat and add more oil if necessary to get a good coating. Bake in the oven until tender, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When done, blend the mixture with the water and apple juice until smooth. This will have to be done in batches. To finish, pour thick soup mixture into a soup pot and stir in milk. Warm through over medium heat.

TIP: This is a pretty thick soup, so feel free to add more liquids. My husband said he would have liked more apple juice, but I would add more milk myself, so whatever you think! I loved the consistency this way though. Also, I served my soup garnished with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and grated fresh Parmesan cheese. Really yummy!


All Night Sticky Buns

I saw this RECIPE on some tv news segment years ago, and it's so EASY I just had to share it. We make these for SPECIAL occasions at our house and even though there's only three of us, we POLISH off the whole thing in 2 days or less!

All Night Sticky Buns
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
12 to 16 frozen rolls
1 small box instant butterscotch pudding
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Spray a Bundt pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Arrange frozen rolls over nuts. Sprinkle the dry pudding mix over the rolls. Combine the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon; pour over rolls. Place pan in a cold oven for 8 to 10 hours (overnight!). Remove pan from oven in the morning and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake sticky buns for 25 minutes and then invert onto a platter and serve. 

TIP: If you don't have a Bundt pan, I've also used an 8-inch square pan and that seems to work just fine. Also, a great addition to this recipe would be a sprinkle of chocolate chips with the nuts. :)