Saturday, October 25, 2014

Upside Down Pecan-Apple Pie, A Cane River Region Recipe!

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a very tasty recipe to celebrate book releases! (Yes, PLURAL.) First, I had a Love Inspired book release earlier this month.
And then there's The Pepper in the Gumbo which is up for preorder now! I really LOVED writing this book. Sort of You've Got Mail and 84, Charring Cross Road- with lots of Southern cooking and romance!
 Then this box showed up at my door and I got to hold my latest Austen Takes the South book in my hands!  Isn't she pretty!!!??? Releasing Nov. 11th!
So, when I was researching my new series set in Natchitoches, Louisiana, I needed a good cookbook. I asked my facebook friends and apparently this is THE cookbook for Louisiana. It's like the JOY OF COOKING down there. Everybody's got one, usually handed down. It was originally published in the 1950's and now you can buy it on Amazon. Love that!
Poor me, I had SO MUCH RESEARCH to do. And by research I meant cooking and eating. I decided not to include this recipe in the back of the first book in the series, but it caught my eye and I wanted to try it out. Upside down apple-pecan pie sounds interesting, doesn't it??

Bake at 350F for an hour.
4TBS butter
2/3 brown sugar
2/3 cup pecans
2 unbaked pie crusts
6 cups sliced apples
1 tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 TB flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

 There's Mr. Tin Pie Plate! We've missed you!!
 So combine the brown sugar and the butter and press into the bottom of the pan. This will melt and make a caramel under your pie.
 Press the pecans into the mix and you can make it fancy if you want.
Put the bottom crust over the mix, leaving a few inches over the sides.
 Like so.
 Put in the apple mixture. Mmmmmm....
By the way, these pies (I actually made two) come from the apples from our own trees. But these are special trees. We have a compost pile where we throw veggies and peels and such. My husband noticed a few seedlings had sprouted so he transplanted them into the corner of the yard. I didn't really pay attention to them. I think I noticed them a few times a year. Scrawny branches, tiny little stunted apples, the trees were no taller than my youngest child for years. And then this year, the apples grew BIGGER. I was so surprised! It took seven years for a little seed to give back another apple and even though I'd completely forgotten about those little trees, they were working hard the whole time. I imagine them saying to me now, "How you like THEM apples??" lol
 Put on the top layer an pinch closed the edge. This was a very juicy pie (and actually set off the fire alarm twice) so be sure to set something underneath to catch the drips.
 OK, here's the first pie and it smells AMAZING. But I'm not completely sold on it yet.
I'm going to attempt to turn over the pie into this deep dish. The entire family has crowded around to watch. (Mostly because I set off the fire alarm and they're huddled together for warmth while the smoke leaves the house.)
 Here's the second pie and although it doesn't look fantastically pretty, there's nothing like hot aple pie right from the oven.
 OK. It actually wasn't that hard to flip. I'm wondering if the caramel burned. I'm skeptical.
 Moment of truth, with lots of caramel sauce drizzled on it.
And some whipped topping. The verdict was..... *drum roll* The family declares this THE BEST PIE EVER.
And since I usually post a kid pic but they were all outside playing by the time I sat down to write this, I'll put this one here...
My oldest always reads to the younger kids every night and this photo really made me laugh. At first I thought of Cerberus, the three headed dog. And then someone said it looked like Huginn and Muninn, the Norse mythological crows that perched on Odin's shoulders. Lol.
 So there you go! I hope you're all having a wonderful and productive fall!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Butternut, Greens and… Bacon!

Missy Tippens, here. I know we've been talking a lot about pumpkin this month. (See, I've even got pumpkin all over my house in our hand soap!) But today I thought I'd share something else fallish: butternut squash.

I had a nice squash and decided I wanted to combine it with pasta. So, after digging, I found bacon (good with just about anything!). And I had greens. I decided that would be great all together!
I'm doing this the easy way. I don't cube raw butternut. Too difficult! I roast it, then cube it.

Cut it in half. Scoop out seeds. Put several pats of butter in the scooped out part. I also buttered the neck of the squash.

I wanted to use half for dinner. And to save the other half for lunch tomorrow. So for the savory side to go with pasta, I added salt and pepper. For the leftovers, I sprinkled on brown sugar.

Roast at 400 degrees until done. It took about 45 minutes for this large squash.

While it's roasting--

Wait, what's that on the counter?? How did that get there (she asks while chewing sweet baked goodness)?

Okay, back to the healthy squash. :) While it's roasting, get the pasta noodles boiling.

Also, cook the bacon.

** Tip: Chop raw bacon with kitchen scissors. It's much easier to cook. This was the first time I've tried bacon that's nitrate/nitrite free. It looked more like ham but cooked up DELISH, just like regular bacon. And I think it tasted even better!

When it was browned, I was going to drain it, but realized this type bacon made less grease. Since I needed some oil anyway to cook my greens, I left the bacon in the pan and tossed in some chopped garlic. Then added the greens.

I used the Power Greens (a mix of baby spinach, kale and swiss chard).

I sautéed until greens wilted.

When the squash is fork tender, remove from oven and let cool a bit. Then sliced criss-cross patterns through one half.

Once it's all sliced, you can scoop the cubes out. Add to the greens and bacon.

Serve on top of pasta. I also topped with fresh parmesan. This was so good! And nice and colorful.

Enjoy for a nice fall meal!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Most Amazing Apple Cake Ever!

I'm not even kidding!!!!!


We started with a Sunday afternoon urge to bake. This comes over me and Amanda on Sundays when her husband Paul (Mary Ruth's father) goes to the Buffalo Bills games... and then Amanda comes and hangs out at my house.

Usually I need her to FIX SOMETHING. She's very handy and she built this awesome produce wagon for me this summer.....

But on fall days we like to bake and have football on and sometimes I make her do really fun stuff like scrub off old wallpaper.... She hates that.

But this particular Sunday a few weeks back, we needed to do Apple-y-Goodness. So she found a couple of recipes online and I tweaked them by accident....

And we came up with the most wonderful, splendoriforous apple coffee cake I've ever had. And it all starts with a MIX!


1 Yellow cake mix
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil

Blend together on low, then turn to medium for two minutes.

Spread half in greased and floured 13" x 9" pan.

FILLING:  (Mix together)

4 big apples, peeled, cored and chopped (about four cups, I don't think there's such a thing as too much apple!)

Mix together:
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar

Spread apples over the cake batter in pan. Sprinkle with HALF the nut mixture. Drop the rest of cake batter onto top of filling, blend to cover apples....

And then top with rest of streusel swirl deliciousness.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes.

 We used the toothpick test to make sure it was done. Moist crumbs and applishous goodness are okay on the toothpick. Raw batter (while delicious!) messes with the texture!

Take out of oven....

Now you could add a powdered sugar glaze to this.

Some places suggest caramel syrup, drizzled over it.

It really doesn't need any extra calories, this cake is ABSOLUTELY marvelous and tempting and melt-in-your mouth delicious as is!

We loved it. Everyone loved it. It was a huge success!



Dave and I went down to North Carolina to visit our daughter, son-in-law and three precious grandchildren over the last weekend, so I'm playing "Catch Up" with work, but what a great time we had!

This is Annie, their youngest.... She's hysterically funny, she talks non-stop, (I wonder where she gets that from?????) and she's just a little bit BOSSY.... Stinkin' cute, right?

And this was from our family celebration.... Katie is standing behind me, on the right, and Nathan is over my right shoulder.... So we had a weekend with these three and LOVED IT!

We spent a half day at Gettysburg on the way down because I've never been there. I was properly humbled by how blessed we are to have had brave soldiers fighting for freedom for generations.

God has certainly blessed America!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fall Pantry Organization has it's rewards!

The weather's turning colder. Pumpkins are out but the farmers market is getting a bit sparse.
Then there was the reminder to be prepared for pandemics. Not my favorite P word.  But it did make me look in my pantry. Now there's a horror story right there.

I didn't take a before picture. But it was bad. The shelves were half empty. Half full bags turned over on their sides. How had it gotten to it's "after an earthquake"-like state?

Wellllllllllll. We only use fresh veggies in the summer. I don't buy preservative-laced food. If it isn't "clean" food, it isn't in our pantry.  I make it through the winter thanks to freezing. But this year, for a lot of reasons, including very bad spring weather, I didn't get a lot of freezing done.  

It really wasn't the fear of an Ebola pandemic freaking me out when I looked at the pantry. Nope. When you have lived through hurricanes and ice storms, you learn a well-stocked pantry can keep you from traveling roads with folks who think they can drive on slippery asphalt or keep you from starving while you wait a week for the power to come on. Or say everyone in the house has the flu? Do you really want to go to the grocery store in your pjs?

For us, long term storage stocking up means canned goods like chicken noodle soup, canned ravioli and Frosted Mini-Wheats for ManO, gluten-free snacks for me, dried fruit and nuts, oatmeal, and Spam. But most of all, getting my act together meant getting my pantry in order. I'd already decluttered back in the spring but I needed to organize.

Where to get ideas: I researched the net. I visited Pinterest.  Traveled to I looked in TJ Maxx and Target.  Pondered closet organizers in hardware stores. Bottom line?  I decided I'd rather spend my money on food rather than racks and boxes and other storage containers to make my pantry "pretty."  Not to mention, I found out canisters don't necessarily keep out bugs. So I turned my rabid attention to the ZONE method, putting foods together by their use or type of meal.

The Top Shelf:  Water filters, plastic bags, parchment paper and such as well as cookbooks are up here. Sadly, I only pull out the family cookbooks at holiday time. The rest of the time, I'm on  But I broke down and bought a fill it yourself recipe book to keep all my most used GF recipes at hand.  

The Baking Shelf: Gluten free flours, mixes and other grains, condensed milk, pumpkin, spices, extracts and four kinds of sugar for holiday baking. If it wasn't before the holidays, this shelf would be practically bare, even with my reorganization.  Money saving organization: I have baggies of spices and mixes that I stand up in dollar store plastic napkin holders. 

The Quick Meal Shelf: On the left, I put my various sauces and GF pastas, stir fry ingredients, and condiments.  On the right, breakfast stuff like oatmeal and Frosted Mini Wheats. Okay, mostly Frosted Mini-Wheats. ManO is obsessed like a toddler who will only eat one thing. And that thing is Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast.  Why yes, that is a bag of potato chips on the quick meal shelf. Don't judge.

The Long Term Storage Shelf:  The canned goods here have a long shelf life. There is enough here to survive two weeks. Yeah, I won't make it through a zombie apocalypse but will make it through a North Carolina storm. My rule of thumb is to always replace what I take out but, if I have the option of buying fresh ingredients, ignore this shelf as much as possible for true emergencies. has a list of items you should have on hand in case of an emergency but googling emergency preparedness works too or maybe even zombie apocalypse.

Floor level:  My bulk paper products and bags go here.

Sigh. I've worked over several days on the pantry. But I'm not done. It's a work in progress. ManO keeps moving stuff because he likes it better in one spot or another. I have some dead space that needs to be thought about and used better. But I did mention rewards.

I decided to make my pumpkin ice cream as a motivation.  After three days of hard work, I rewarded myself with a variation of my three ingredient (whipping cream, condensed milk and vanilla) ice cream. You can find the original post and vanilla ice cream recipe hereWhip the cream before folding in the condensed milk, 3/4 can of pumpkin and one tablespoon pumpkin pie spice. Throw it in an ice cream making and voila.

But then I decided to get wild and crazy and top it with a pecan praline sauce.         

It doesn't get much better when you find a praline sauce recipe that doesn't require corn syrup or a candy thermometer. This is my adaptation of several I found on the web. Just remember you must use butter to make this recipe work.

Easy Praline Sauce 

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup organic half and half 
1/2 unrefined organic cane sugar
dash salt
vanilla to taste
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped or pieces (optional)

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Mix half and half, sugar and salt together then pour into the pan, whisking constantly. Continue to stir until sugar is dissolved and sauce thickens. Take off heat, add vanilla and stir. Cool for a half hour or so, stirring occasionally. Add pecans, stir and serve over ice cream. Store leftovers in refrigerator up to four days.

Note: Some folks leave out the nuts and use it as an easy caramel sauce. 

You can also add gingersnaps or other types of cookies on the side to really make it special.
So how is your fall pantry looking? Is there anything you make sure to stock up on before winter, bad weather or flu season set in? Do you have a favorite sundae combo as a reward for good behavior or a bad day?  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Deadlines, Revisits and The End

I don't know about y'all but I'm loving these revisits. Not because they're easy, but because it's like a Best-of. The Who's Who of some of our favorite recipes. So while Jan and I succumb to deadline mania, you get to reap the rewards.

What do you do when your bananas look like this? 
Well, in my house, it calls for a batch of banana nut bread. Over the years I've tried lots of different recipes. Some good, some not so good. The recipe I'm going to share with you today is one of the best I've tried. Of course, it's courtesy of Martha Stewart, so what would you expect.

You're going to need:
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (Martha says unbleached all-purpose; I used the better-for-bread variety)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or four smaller pans (I opted for the smaller pans).

With an electric mixer (perhaps one named Edna), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and beat well.
Sift the dry ingredients together and combine with the butter mixture.

Blend well. Add the bananas, sour cream (the ingredient I think makes this recipe stand out), and vanilla. Stir well. (I used my electric mixer on the lowest speed)

Stir in the nuts.

Pour into prepared pan(s).

For one large pan, the instructions are to back for one hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. For my four small loaves, I found 40 minutes to be just right.
Turn baked loaves onto rack to cool.

I love keeping these little guys in the freezer so they're ready whenever I need them. Sometimes, I'll put them in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon and give them as gifts.
Of course, they also go perfect with cup of tea. I'm having a little one-on-one with some Cream Earl Green. He's so smooth, you know.

Tea's on, gang. Who's ready to join me?

Okay, even deadlines can't keep me from my tea. It's the fuel I need to keep my brain cells firing.
So I've got a Nov. 1st deadline. Yesterday I typed THE END on my rough draft. 
Okay, so my rough isn't that rough. Now it's on to the polishing. A little spit, some elbow grease and, Lord willing, that puppy will come out shining like a diamond. Or at least a CZ. 
And while THE END isn't really the end, there's something about getting the story out of your head and onto the page. Wouldn't you agree?
Now I can fix whatever's wrong. But the story is complete.
Of course, it's just a matter of time before the next characters come knocking.
And so goes the life of a writer.