This season I finally had a chance to scratch one off of my Bucket List. I’ve always wanted to visit New England in the fall. I had always heard that the changing of the leaves is spectacular, and I wanted to be there during the peak week. (Me and everyone else on the planet, I discovered!) While our Sonoran Desert holds its own beauty, brilliant red, yellow and orange leaves are pretty scarce. My trip to Woodstock, Vermont was worth the trip, and while there, I wanted to immerse myself in the New England food scene. That brings me to maple syrup. I couldn’t get enough of it, whether it was on my breakfast pancakes, a delicious ham slathered in a Vermont maple glaze or those iconic maple leaf-shaped candies. I came home with plenty of bottles of syrup which came in handy for this scrumptious holiday Maple Pecan Pie. This time of the year, while pumpkin pie is the go-to, pecan pie is right up there in popularity, and this version is definitely holiday worthy! It starts with a light and flakey crust, the perfect bed for a sweet, nutty and maple syrupy filling. So just in case searching for perfect holiday pies is on your bucket list, this one will not disappoint!
It’s people like Chef Lisa Brisch that makes me a better recipe writer, cooking instructor and just a better cook, period. Lisa is one of the instructors that I work with at Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School in Scottsdale. Right before Easter this year, I happened to be setting up for my class when hers was finishing up. She had prepared something I had never heard of; a Carrot Soufflé. The minute I tasted it, I immediately decided to add it to my Easter Brunch line up. Let me tell you the ending to this story. I could’ve easily dropped all of my other entrees and sides and just made 8 casseroles of Carrot Soufflé because my family literally drew straws to see who would take home the leftovers. Unfortunately, there were none. They practically fought over who would get the last morsel of this unbelievable side. Even if you think you’re not crazy for carrots, this dish goes beyond flavors you can imagine, and it’s as light and billowy as it gets. So, Lisa, I hope you don’t mind, but I want the world to taste this delicious treasure, because recipes like this are just too good to enjoy once a year for an Easter buffet. Just a word of warning. Have plenty of copies of the recipe handy. Your dinner guests won’t even finish the first bite without asking for it. Check out some of Lisa’s classes at www.sweetbasilgourmet.com.
Surprise Filling Apple Pie
Homemade fresh-out-of-the-oven apple pie ala mode. Pretty hard to beat. When I got a letter this week from Sun City resident Eva Meeks, it included a recipe for an award-winning apple pie that she had clipped from a magazine a few years ago. Here’s part of Eva’s letter:
“During the 4th of July holiday I hosted a pot luck for my family and decided to bake my favorite apple pie. I’ve been making it for several years now, and it’s always a big hit. Apparently this pie won some blue ribbons at state and county fairs. All I know is it wins hearts every time I make it for friends and family. It has a surprise filling that really adds a nice flavor. I thought you’d like to try it.”
Well, Eva, you thought right! I wasted no time peeling the Granny Smith apples and mixing up the “surprise” filling. I’m so happy Eva “blind bakes” (also known as pre-baking) her bottom crust. I’ve always done that as well because the bottom shell stays somewhat crispy after filling and baking. I’m also a fan of cooking my apples just to soften before filling the pie shell. Eva softens her apples in the microwave and then adds the rest of the ingredients. If you’re an apple pie lover, dish this one up with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in for a big surprise!
Italian Crème Cake
I’ve always thought this cake is perfect for Easter time with its fluffy white frosting. Elaine Nall’s Italian Crème Cake is just plain crazy, out-of-this-world delicious. Period. The recipe was given to Elaine, a longtime Scottsdale educator, more than 40 years ago and it has withstood the “friends and family favorite” test ever since. It’s apparently the most requested dessert at Nall Family birthdays, anniversaries, holiday gatherings and even at Elaine’s church group—the one that has met for four decades every Christmas for a White Elephant sale. I’m just happy that when daughter-in-law Donna Nall quietly mentioned to me that Elaine was famous in the family for this cake, I paid attention. In between three ever so rich-tasting layers of buttermilk cake is a luscious slather of cream cheese and pecan icing. Yes, it’s absolutely perfect for Easter, or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, just because, for no reason…
Watch my How To Video for Italian Crème Cake here!
Italian Crème Cake
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
I’ve had the recipe for the famous St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake in my “must bake” folder for several years now. I didn’t really know anything about it. I just knew if it had gooey and butter in the title, it was destined for my oven. Then I forgot about it, until one of my cooking pals, Janne Mahan, moved to St. Louis, Missouri. There, she established a book club, and then the pandemic put a halt to group gatherings. Her book club then began to via Zoom video conferencing. Since the members of Janne’s book club were also foodies, I thought it might be fun to have her poll the group and let me know what their very favorite St. Louis foods are. As it turns out, top of the list was the St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. It was the perfect excuse to pull out my folder, dig for the recipe and get to work. Holy Cow. No wonder it’s a favorite! This cake is one sweet St. Louis treat! It’s dense and rich and acts a bit like a brownie with a dusting of powdered sugar baked into the top. It has two distinct layers; the bottom one is the pound cake and the top is a blend of cream cheese, powdered sugar and eggs which provides the gooeyness. It’s perfect as a coffee or snack cake and is a great make-ahead treat to transport to a picnic or party. Not only is St. Louis the home of the world’s tallest arch known as the Gateway to the West, but also the city rich with ooey gooey goodness!
Watch my How To Video for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake here!