Apple Cranberry Pie

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the pie the inspired the apple cranberry sauce from two weeks ago…this is it. You’re welcome.

For the past couple of years, M and I have attended a huge potluck feast rather than having a tiny Thanksgiving all to ourselves. This is fantastic for being able to eat many different dishes without having to cook them all, but does have the downside of often eating things at room temperature, regardless of what their ideal temp might be. There are always numerous pies in many different flavors, and going home hungry is pretty much impossible. I usually contribute to the event with homemade dinner rolls, but I may switch it up this year.

Despite the multitude of desserts, I always personally bake pies just for the two of us. M doesn’t get excited about pumpkin pie (weirdo) and apple is typically his flavor of choice. Last year, I found an apple cranberry pie that sounds amazing, and, (with M’s blessing), opted to make that instead. I don’t hate plain apple pie by any means, but there are many other flavors I consider to be much more enticing.

I will never give up my pumpkin pie, but for a fresh flavor, this might be a new fall favorite. Traditional apple and cozy spices are complemented perfectly by the tart cranberries. It lends a more complex profile without being overwhelming, and still works just as well for both dessert and breakfast as your traditional apple. I’ve always been partial to the more tart fruits, and the addition of cranberries here is a wonderful update. A little almond extract completes the whole experience.

As a bonus, the cranberries also add some beautiful color to your place. Bright red cranberries make the dessert table more festive both in flavor and presentation, and you can really up the ante with some fun pie crust cutters. Arranging leaves is way less tedious than a lattice crust, and even more impressive looking; a win-win situation in my book. Paired with homemade cinnamon ice cream or cinnamon whipped cream (recipe included), the tart pie and creamy topping are a perfect end to any fall day.

If you’re looking for a way to add some flair to the table this year, look no further than this pie. It’s sure to be a hit, and maybe even a new holiday tradition.

Apple Cranberry Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes one standard pie

Ingredients

pastry for a double-crust pie

3 large apples, cored, peeled, and sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract

optional crust topping
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

cinnamon whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, spices, and extract. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Roll out half your pie crust into a circle (as close as you can), then gently drape into the bottom of your pie dish. Trim edges to a half inch or so wider than the plate.
  4. Gently spoon your filling into the crust, using a slotted spoon to avoid the excess liquid.
  5. Roll out your remaining crust and arrange on top of the filling however you like (I used pie crust cutters for the shapes here), pinching together any seams. For bonus presentation points, crimp edges with your fingers or a fork, or arrange cutouts along the edge. If you do a full crust on top, cut a few vents for steam to escape.
  6. In a small container, stir or shake remaining cinnamon and sugar together. Sprinkle evenly on top of the pie (I use an empty spice container.)
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. If necessary, tent the pie with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.
  8. Let pie cool on the counter for at least three hours.
  9. Just before serving1, make the whipped cream. Using a hand-held or stand mixer, whip cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
  10. Add in sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and continue to whip to desired consistency.
  11. Serve pie at room temp, topped with cinnamon whipped cream or cinnamon ice cream. (Or your favorite vegan alternative.)
  12. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap or foil.

Notes

You can make the whipped cream ahead of time and store it in the fridge, but you may want to whip it again just a bit before serving as it tends to loosen over time. It only takes a couple of minutes so I typically just make it on demand.

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Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Oatmeal is my go-to breakfast for all but the hottest months of summer, and somehow I rarely get tired of it. My default is peanut butter and banana with copious amounts of cinnamon, but depending on the season and produce availability I’ll occasionally concoct new flavors. As a huge fan of pumpkin pie, blending that flavor into my morning meal seemed an obvious advancement.

I always buy pumpkin puree from Costco, in those delightful 3-packs of 29oz cans, which typically leaves me with some leftovers after making whatever recipe for which I’ve opened the can. Oatmeal is a great way to use up leftovers but also an excellent reason to open a brand new can. All the cozy feelings of pumpkin pie in a much healthier version to start your day.

I opted to complement the pumpkiny goodness with a homemade pumpkin spice mix, but you can absolutely substitute a store-bought pumpkin pie spice if you prefer. With my cinnamon obsession I like to tailor mine a bit more cinnamon heavy, and mixing up your own allows you to kick up or tone down the individual spices to suit your preferences. If you do use the store-bought version, I *highly* recommend twisting a tiny amount of freshly ground pepper into each bowl, as it really adds a little extra something. I patterned this off of my favorite pumpkin pie recipe, and I now consider it a necessity in all things pumpkin.

For protein boost, I stir in chia seeds and chopped walnuts, but these are completely optional additions. If you’re more of a pecan person, use those instead. Since pumpkin is not sweet on its own, a little maple syrup brings out the pie flavor we all know and love. I keep my oatmeal fairly low on the sugar content, but no judgement if you want extra maple syrup stirred in or drizzled on top.

The final touch is a dollop of heavy cream; this is non-negotiable in my personal opinion, as it really improves the texture, adds a wonderful creaminess, and balances the whole flavor profile. Half and half could be substituted in a pinch, but the heavy cream is the more delicious option. A single tablespoon won’t hurt you, as fat and protein are both things your body needs. (If you are vegan, you could probably substitute full-fat coconut milk, or whatever your favorite cream replacement might be. You *can* just leave it out, but it’s really better with something creamy stirred in.)

Start your fall mornings off right with a hearty bowl of oatmeal, plus all the happiness of a pumpkin pie. (But if you prefer to start your day with the real thing, you’ll get no judgement from me.)

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Makes one serving

Ingredients

pumpkin spice mix
1 T ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
pinch of freshly ground pepper

oatmeal
1/2 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup oats
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix
1 T maple syrup
1-2 T chia seeds, optional
3/4 cup water
chopped walnuts, optional

1 T heavy cream (or half and half, or vegan alternative)

Directions

  1. In a small jar, combine spice ingredients. Stir or shake until well mixed.
  2. Layer pumpkin, chia, spice mix, walnuts, and oats in a microwave safe bowl.
  3. Carefully pour in water and transfer to the microwave.
  4. Microwave on medium power for 4 – 5 minutes (stirring after 1-2 minutes), or until oats are softened and desired texture is reached.
  5. Stir in maple syrup and cream, then serve immediately.

Notes

You can also substitute store-bought pumpkin pie spice, if you prefer.

Sweet Potato Alfredo

Consistent readers will know about my obsession with sweet potatoes, but if you’re new here perhaps you haven’t been initiated yet. I could (and sometimes do) eat sweet potatoes with every meal, and they are definitely one of my favorite autumn flavors. I’m not dissing pumpkin by any means, but the sweet potato is an extremely versatile flavor and I love it equally in both sweet and savory dishes.

When the weather cools most of us gladly welcome the cozy comfort foods like pasta and chili, and I’m no exception. Pasta is a wonderful meal on a cold day, and a good creamy sauce is hard to beat. However, most of them are rather heavy (both in calories and in experience) and it’s not always what I’m looking for. This sauce was somewhat of an experiment born of Pinterest inspiration, but I have a feeling I’ll be meal-prepping it often for lunches this year. The picture might look like mac and cheese, but it’s actually a sweet potato Alfredo.

The thick and creamy experience of a quality Alfredo sauce is typically reached with, well, heavy cream. In this case it (obviously) comes from the sweet potato, which admittedly surprised me in how excellently it works. Honestly, it kind of blew my mind. The flavor is also fantastic, and not just for die-hard sweet potato fans. Smooth and creamy like a sauce should be, a wonderful fall flavor, and quite a bit lighter than your standard heavy cream experience.

Personally I think it’s delightful all on its own, but for a little crunch some toasted walnuts are a great addition. It’s hard to go wrong with cheese, so I added some parmesan as well; I also think chèvre would be a welcome addition and I’ll be trying that next time. If you feel the need to add a meat, a sprinkle of crumbled bacon or pancetta would complement everything nicely. I’m also excited to play with some different flavor profiles in the coming months, and I’ll be sure to share them all as I have time.

Next time you need a comfort food with maybe fewer calories, give this pasta a shot – be sure to let me know what you think!

Sweet Potato Alfredo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb (ish) dried pasta

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree1
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbsp dried sage or rosemary
salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings
toasted walnuts or pecans
parmesan or goat cheese
crumbled bacon or pancetta

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; reserve 1  1/2 cups of water, drain, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. For added flavor, continue to heat until it begins to brown.
  3. Vigorously whisk in flour until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add milk and continue to whisk until mixture bubbles and thickens; this will take a few minutes.
  5. Stir in sweet potato, and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Optionally, use an immersion blender to get the sauce nice and smooth. If sauce is too thick, add water about two tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached (I usually add about 1 cup total).
  6. Add sage or rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, then let simmer for a couple of minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  7. When sauce is ready, stir into pasta and continue to simmer until everything is well combined and heated through.
  8. Serve immediately, optionally topped with nuts, cheese, and/or protein of choice.
  9. Pro tip: Reheats well if you add a little extra water to the bowl before microwaving.

Notes

You can puree ahead of time in a blender or food processor, or just mash it well and then use an immersion blender while making the sauce to smooth it out.

Apple Cider Brie Bread

Montana continues to torment me with gorgeous days in the 40s before it kicks back up to nearly 70 again. I am ready for soup and sweaters, dangit. Fortunately this recipe is delicious independent of outdoor temps, so we can enjoy it all year round.

I’ve been making whole wheat beer bread for years, largely as way to use up beer taking up space since I don’t care for it in beverage form. Last year while planning my April grilled cheese series, I debated an apple and cheese combination but ultimately went in another direction. (I may revisit this series next April, stay tuned.) However, it reminded me of the perfect pairing of apple and brie, and it stuck in my mind as something to work in another area. With a garage overwhelmed with hard ciders (I am really bad at drinking, guys) and no reason any beer-esque beverage shouldn’t work, I modified it to utilize some of those bottles.

My test batch I made exactly as one would with regular beer (well, with less sugar), and was surprised at how much I loved it. With a much more subtle taste than a beer bread, it makes a great side dish for anything where you are looking for a more neutral flavor. Goes great with chicken soup, tomato soup, or anything you’d normally pair with beer bread. If I’m honest, I make this version a lot more often than the beer version, just because it’s so much more versatile in its complements.

However I felt I could improve the individual bread experience, and set out to do just that. With the addition of grated apple and diced Brie, it turns the bread into something to enjoy all by itself. It’s a wonderful breakfast or afternoon snack, and is delicious toasted and plain, or with a light spread of tart jam or peanut butter. Unlike beer bread, this version also pairs well with tea, which is nice for those of us that don’t drink coffee late in the day (or at all…weirdos).

So whether autumn has truly arrived or not, comfort yourself with a tasty batch of cider bread, and toast (wink wink) to the new season.

Apple Cider Brie Bread

Adapted from Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Makes one 9×5″ loaf

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 (12 oz) can or bottle hard cider

1 medium apple, grated (no need to core or peel; just pick out the seeds while you’re grating)
4 oz Brie cheese, diced (leave out to keep vegan)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.
  3. Pour in the cider and stir until completely combined.
  4. Gently fold in apple and cheese.
  5. Scrape into the prepared pan, smoothing the top as best you can.
  6. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out crumb-free.
  7. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Excellent solo or lightly toasted and spread with a tart jam.

Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta

During the summer I rarely eat pasta as I prefer lighter and cooler meals in the hot weather. As the temperature drops and the leaves change, I reintroduce pastas and soups into my regular rotation. However, with Montana’s bipolar weather patterns, fall typically holds as many days in the 70s as it does in the 40s, which makes my usual bulk preparation a bit more challenging. Quinoa salads are great for this, because they are excellent both warm and cold, making it easy to match the weather and my mood for the day, but I don’t want to eat one every week. Another option are vegetable-heavy pasta meals that don’t involve a heavy sauce.

This recipe is partly inspired by my favorite cookbook, written by an elite distance runner. It’s full of hearty and delicious meals that aren’t “skinny” but still full of veggies and healthy fats. I modified my version slightly, adding Brussels sprouts and changing the spices a little, based off a similar recipe online. The result is a colorful mix of veggies and pasta, falling somewhere between a light summer entree and a cozy fall one.

Brussels sprouts are a winter staple for me, as they keep well in the fridge and roasting them is simple and always delicious. (They are also sold at Costco, which admittedly factors heavily into my produce selections.) The butternut squash takes a bit more effort to prepare, but you can really streamline the process by buying the pre-diced version. This does feel slightly ridiculous, but it saves a huge amount of time and effort so personally I think it’s worth the extra couple dollars.

Browned butter adds a nice caramel flavor, complimented by herbs and a few red pepper flakes. I kept my sauce on the light side as I wanted the veggies to shine, but absolutely double the sauce recipe if you want a more decadent experience. I opted to add toasted walnuts for some crunch, and parmesan (because you can’t go wrong with cheese) for a delicious protein boost. I personally loved this recipe in its original vegetarian state, but some crumbled bacon or prosciutto would be a nice addition as well.

It reheats nicely for leftovers, and is also pretty good cold if you didn’t add too much extra sauce. Welcoming in the fall vegetables without the heat or heaviness of a chili, it bridges the divide from summer to winter with a more gradual shift. If, like me, you’re in a place that can’t quite make up it’s mind about the weather, a batch of this will be that perfect mix of cozy and cool.

Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta

Inspired by Maebells and Run Fast, Eat Slow
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 lb pasta (I used casarecce)

for the sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

optional toppings
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until squash is well coated. Spread in an even layer on one baking sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, mix together Brussels sprouts and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, mixing until well coated. Spread in an even layer on the other baking sheets.
  4. Sprinkle both sheets with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Roast for 30 minutes (squash on top), stirring halfway through, until squash is tender.
  6. Remove squash from oven and move sprouts to the upper rack, roasting another 5-10 minutes until browned and crispy.
  7. Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  8. When the veggies have about 10 minutes remaining, make the sauce: melt butter in a large pot (I used a wok) over medium heat. Simmer until it begins to darken and contains brown flecks, stirring occasionally.
  9. Turn off the heat and stir in garlic and spices.
  10. When the veggies and pasta are done, stir gently into the sauce until completely combined and evenly coated.
  11. Serve hot with extra grated pepper, optionally topped with one tablespoon each of Parmesan and toasted walnuts.

Notes

I kept the sauce fairly light as I wanted the veggies to shine through. If you’re looking for a rich, buttery experience, feel free to double the sauce recipe.

To toast walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until warmed, lightly golden, and a little crunchier (about 5 minutes).