Pecan Bars

Pecan pie in a bite-sized bar is perfect to serve as a holiday dessert.  These pecan pie bars have a tender shortbread crust and all the flavor of pecan pie.  The filling contains some of the classic ingredients from a pecan pie.

The Pecan Bars are great any time of the year but are especially good for Christmas desserts.  Dipping one end in chocolate makes for a tasty and beautiful presentation.

I have made these bars several times in the past.  Always, before I used Ina Garten’s recipe from her cookbook The Barefoot Contessa.

The recipe in this post is still adapted from Ina’s cookbook but it has been halved by food blogger  The halved version uses less butter and pecans.  The original recipe uses 9 sticks of butter and 2 pounds of chopped pecans.

If you are looking for a new dessert for this Christmas, I recommend these bars.

Pecan Bars

  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Crust:

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose-flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 lb pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray the bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch baking pan with baking spray.  Line the pan with aluminum foil leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished bars out.  Lightly spray with baking spray and then set aside.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined.  Press the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan.

The dough will be sticky, so you can use a piece of plastic wrap (or plastic baggie) around your fingers to help prevent the dough from sticking to you.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned.  Allow to cool.

For the toping, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir.  Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the heavy cream and chopped pecans.  Pour over the crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set.  Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool.  Cut into bars.  (Dip one side of the bar in melted chocolate and place on wax paper until set, if desired.)  Makes approximately 20-25 bars.  

Have a safe and Merry Christmas.  Below photo is from my archives.



Libby’s New Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving in the USA is fast approaching.  A favorite Thanksgiving dessert of many families is pumpkin pie.  Chances are the recipe for the pumpkin pie is the one from the back of Libby’s canned pumpkin.  It is a vintage recipe dating from the 1950’s.

However, Libby’s has a new pumpkin pie recipe, “New Fashion Pumpkin Pie”.  It is a change from their vintage 1950 recipe.  The new recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk in place of granulated sugar and less evaporated milk.  It also slightly increases the amount of ground cloves,  The new version also has a shorter bake time.

The recipe makes a lot of filling.  I had about a cup of filling leftover which I discarded.

I have made the pie on three separate occasions, back in April and then a couple days ago  I baked two pies for this post.  I gave one to my grandson who loves pumpkin pie.  He said the pie was very good.

This new version pumpkin pie is very quick and easy to make and bakes up a very tasty pie.  I can recommend it if you are looking for a pumpkin pie recipe for your Thanksgiving dessert.

Libby's New Pumpkin Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell, thawed if frozen

1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 cup Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 (14-ounce can) Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.  Beat eggs in large bowl.  Stir in pumpkin and dry ingredient mixture.  Gradually stir in sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.  Carefully pour into pie shell.  Bake in preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350°F; bake for 30-40 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 2 hours.  Serve immediately or refrigerate. 

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Below is a photo of the Grand River that I took about a week before our first snowfall.


Easy Chili

Cooler weather has finally arrived in West Michigan which makes it a perfect time to serve up a big bowl of chili.  Although, soup or chili is good anytime of the year (in my opinion).

This is a mild and easy to make chili that can be ready in less than an hour.  However, if you want a spicier chili, add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne powder when you add in the Seasoning Mix.

Quick and easy, this recipe uses a packet of McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix,  The sautéed diced onions and green bell peppers add a taste of freshness to the chili.

If you are looking for a quick and easy Chili recipe, this is the one to try.  Cheddar cheese is a great topping for the chili.

Easy Chili

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 pound ground chuck or beef
1 package McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, undrained
1 can  (16 ounces) Bush’s Chili Beans, medium chili sauce, undrained
Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, sauté the onions and diced bell pepper just till softened.  Add the ground beef.  Break it apart with a wooden spoon.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the beef is browned, stirring occasionally.  Drain the fat, if needed.

Stir in the Seasoning Mix, tomatoes, and beans.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot with assorted toppings, if desired.

We are starting to get some color here in the Grand Rapids area.  Below is a photo of a pretty country road not too far from my house.

Plum Cake

Michigan plums are a delicious fruit whether fresh, frozen or canned.  The harvest season for Michigan Plums begins in August and ends in September.  While most of the plums are eaten fresh some of the plums are canned and frozen.  A few Michigan Plum Facts:

Michigan produced 2,000 tons of fresh and processed plums in 2009, generating $1.3 million.  Most Michigan plums are of the Stanley and Damson variety.  Stanley plums are larger, elongated freestone European-type plums with blue-black skin and yellow flesh.  Source is

This Plum Cake is an easy to make and rustic looking cake that is sure to become a family favorite.   It  is a delicious cake that can be enjoyed warm with vanilla ice cream or cold with whipped cream.  It is also good with a morning cup of coffee.  It is a light cake and not too sweet.  I had enough plums that I baked the cake twice.  I used Michigan grown Stanley plums for this recipe.

Plum Cake

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 pound plums, pitted and quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, and beat on low speed until smooth.  The batter will be thick.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Arrange the plums on top, skin side up, in a circular pattern so that they mostly cover the batter.  Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar over the plums.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until golden on top and set in the center.

When the cake is hot out of the oven, run a knife around the edges of the pan and then remove the springform edge, leaving the base in place.  Let the cake cool on a rack completely.  Slice and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge.  

Recipe is adapted from one of my favorite food bloggers, Once Upon a Chef, Jennifer Segal and can be found here.  Jennifer is also the author of two cookbooks.

      Once Upon a Chef: Weeknight/Weekend: 70 Quick-Fix Weeknight Dinners + 30 Luscious Weekend Recipes: A Cookbook and Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook: 100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes.  

Both cookbooks are available from Amazon and also from Apple Books.

I purchased both cookbooks from Apple Books and highly recommend both of them.


Peach Popsicles

We are fortunate to have a lot of peach orchards here in West Michigan.  Most of the Michigan peaches are grown in the west central to southeast corner, close to Lake Michigan.  The very popular Red Haven Peach, popular throughout the U.S. was introduced in 1940 in nearby South Haven.  Info is courtesy of

I used Red Haven peaches that I purchased from Little Farmers Acres for the peach popsicles in this recipe.

These Peach Popsicles are perfect for hot summer days.  They are a cool and creamy treat that is not too sweet.

Peach Popsicles

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
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(4) fresh peaches
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Half and half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and dry the peaches. Cut in halves and remove pits and discard.   Leaving the skin on, dice the sliced peaches. Should be about 3 cups.  Set aside 1 cup of the diced peaches.

Add the 2 cups of diced peaches, heavy cream, half and half, sugar, and vanilla extract to a food processor.  Process until the mixture is smooth.

Stir in the reserved 1 cup of diced peaches. Carefully pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze for 6 hours or overnight before serving.

Let thaw at room temperature for about 5 minutes before eating for extra creaminess.

I used popsicle molds from Prepworks by Progressive Freezer Pop Maker that I purchased at Amazon.  If you don’t have popsicle molds, use small paper cups and popsicle sticks.

It seems like the deer are coming around more frequently.  Here is a young one from a couple of weeks ago.  Probably came around looking for my hostas.

Apricot Tart

I bought some beautiful apricots from Robinette’s, a nearby local orchard.  It is my favorite place to buy cherries, apricots, peaches, and apples.  They also produce their own wine and hard cider.  Robinette’s has more than 20 Michigan-made wines and ciders that can be sampled in their Tasting Room.

If you can find Wewalka Puff Pastry, I recommend it.  This is an excellent puff pastry and easy to work with.  The puff pastry is refrigerated and not frozen.  However, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is a good substitute and more widely available.

Apricot Tart

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 package of prepared Puff Pastry, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup apricot preserves
3  1/2 – 4 cups halved, pitted apricots, cut into 1/4 inch wedges
1/4 cup apricot preserves, warmed

Unfold the puff pastry and place in an 11 inch x 7 inch loose bottom rectangular tart pan.  Place the puff pastry over the fluted tart pan and press the dough to the bottom.  Cut off any excess dough from the sides of the pan.  Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent it from puffing.  With a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the crust with 1/4 cup apricot preserves.

Lay the apricot wedges out in 4 rows on the dough.  Overlap the apricots as you place on the dough.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden and the apricots are tender.  Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack.

Gently brush the warmed apricot preserves over apricots.  Serve warm or at room temperature  with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Refrigerate leftovers.  

I used Wewalka Puff Pastry.

Be safe everyone.


Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

I had planned to post a recipe using local strawberries but the season was very short due to all of the rain on the plants.  I have been able to get local raspberries which I used in this recipe for the Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream.

The raspberry industry in Michigan is relatively small but the berries are a welcome sight at farm markets.  A lot of the raspberries are used by chefs in Michigan restaurants.  Source.

The Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream is made in an ice cream maker.  I have had my ice cream maker for 3 years and am pleased with it.  I have the Cuisinart Ice-21 model which makes up to 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.  It is easy to operate and makes delicious ice cream.  It is available from Amazon for about $70.

This recipe is a non custard type of ice cream which makes it a lot easier to prepare.  Even without an egg custard base, it is still rich and delicious tasting with a slightly tart raspberry flavor.

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream is a cold and creamy dessert that is perfect for hot summer days.

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

Raspberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups raspberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Ice Cream

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Raspberry Sauce

Combine raspberries and granulated sugar in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Press the raspberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Cool the sauce to room temperature, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  You should have about 1/4 cup of sauce.

For the Ice Cream

In a medium bowl, add the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight.  Turn on the ice cream maker; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Spoon one half of the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and then drizzle some of the raspberry sauce on top.  Repeat with the remaining ice cream and raspberry sauce.  Swirl the layers together.  Cover and freeze overnight until firm.  Makes about 5 cups of ice cream.  

I used freezing instructions for the Cuisinart Ice-21 Ice Cream Maker.  You will need to freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Have a wonderful and safe summer.  Below  is a picture of a butterfly enjoying the Bee Balm in my yard.





Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie is a favorite of the American South and has long been a favorite of mine as well.  This pie is not just a traditional pecan pie but a Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie.  The chocolate chips add amazing flavor to an already delicious pie.

I have been making this pie for several years.  Friends and family members are always happy to receive the delicious pie as a gift.  Don’t reserve this pie for the holidays.  It is a perfect pie for anytime of the year.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 frozen ready-to-bake deep dish pie crust, thawed

1 cup Karo light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Place oven rack in lowest third of oven. Heat oven to 350°F.

Mix syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt together until well blended.
Stir in the chopped pecans and chocolate chips.  Pour into the thawed pie crust.
Bake 50 minutes or until crust and pecans are browned. If crust begins to
darken too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.  Refrigerate any leftovers.  

Note: “Food historians generally agree pecan pie is a twentieth century invention inspired by traditional sugar pie and sweet nut confections.”  Reference from Food Timeline found here.

Hopefully, real butterflies will soon be out in our gardens.  Be safe everyone.



Maple Walnut Muffins

Once again I was recently gifted with some homemade maple syrup from a family member.  The maple syrup was made from maple trees within the Grand Rapids area.  Some of the maple trees tapped were located on my daughter’s property.

Below are pictures of one of the tapped maple trees and the finished product: maple syrup.

Vermont leads the nation in the making of maple syrup (1.9 million gallons yearly), Michigan is in the top 10 U.S producers, usually around fifth place (producing around 90,000 gallons per year).  Although according to Michigan State University Extension, Michigan has enough trees to outproduce Vermont.  Only about 3 to 5 percent of the sugar maples are currently being tapped.  Source is mlive

When it comes to maple syrup, we must not forget our friends from the North.  Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of maple products ($381 million in 2016).

Maple syrup is great in cooking and baking and not just as a topping on pancakes and waffles.

I found a great recipe for Maple Walnut Muffins.  These muffins use real maple syrup to sweeten and flavor the batter.  The flavor from the maple syrup is more subtle rather than pronounced, and the muffins are not overly sweet.

Maple Walnut Muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup maple syrup, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth, then gradually add the maple syrup and extract, beating constantly.  Add the sour cream and egg and beat until combined.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in the walnuts.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about two-thirds full.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.    Makes 12-14 muffins.

1.  The butter and maple syrup did separate when I was combining the two ingredients, but everything came together once the flour mixture was added.
2.  Recipe adapted from New England Today Food and original recipe can be found here.

Below is a picture of a friendly Blue Jay that comes around often, always looking for peanuts.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

There used to be a steakhouse restaurant here in Grand Rapids that had a Chicken Pot Pie Soup on their menu.  That was my favorite menu item to order whenever we went there.  Instead of Puff Pastry, they topped the soup with pieces of baked pie crust.  It was delicious.

I have been making Chicken Pot Pie Soup for a few years now and it is a favorite of mine.  It is a creamy soup that has all the flavors of a chicken pot pie and made even tastier with puff pastry croutons.  It may just be my favorite comfort food.

Although it is spring here in West Michigan, we still have some cold days and a bowl of hot soup is always welcome.

The soup is very easy to make.  I used the chicken breast from a rotisserie chicken, frozen peas and carrots, and store-bought puff pastry, making for an easy preparation of the soup.

If you can find Wewalka European Bakery Style Dough Puff Pastry, I can recommend it.  It is refrigerated and not frozen.  It is made with butter and easy to work with.  If you can’t find the Wewalka brand, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is widely available in the frozen foods section of your grocery store.

The puff pastry croutons make a decorative topping for the soup and are also good as a snack.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Puff Pastry

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (if frozen)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned Pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

For the Soup

3 cups diced cooked chicken breast
2 cups peas and carrots, thawed if frozen
1 cup pearl onions, thawed if frozen
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine (or additional chicken broth)

1 to 1 1/2 cups half and half milk

For the Puff Pastry

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl beat the egg with the tablespoon of water and set aside.  Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl and set aside.

Unfold the puff pasty.  Lightly brush with the beaten egg mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with the seasoned salt mixture.

With a cookie cutter, cut the puff pastry in to heart shapes (or desired shapes).  Transfer each piece of pastry to the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

For the Soup

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, peas and carrots, and pearl onions.  Set aside.

In a dutch oven or large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add in the flour, salt, pepper, and thyme and stir until well blended.  Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and wine and whisk until combined.  Add in the chicken, peas and carrots, and pearl onions.  Bring the soup up to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Turn off the heat and add in 1 cup half and half and stir to combine.  If soup is too thick, add in the additional 1/2 cup half and half.

Serve the soup topped with the puff pastry croutons

With the rollout of the vaccines, hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  Be safe everyone.

Below is a tree that blooms in my yard every year.  I believe it is a wild crabapple tree.

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