How to Cut an Avocado (Without Cutting Your Hand)

Learning how to cut an avocado is simple, fun, and yields a whole fruit’s worth of smooth, creamy green goodness. If you love avocado but don’t quite know how to approach preparing it at home, we’ve got some time-tested tips for breaking into this belo…

Learning how to cut an avocado is simple, fun, and yields a whole fruit's worth of smooth, creamy green goodness. If you love avocado but don't quite know how to approach preparing it at home, we’ve got some time-tested tips for breaking into this beloved staple of the produce aisle. Soon you’ll be slicing and dicing avocado for guacamole, sandwiches, burgers, salads, toast (or, if you're looking to breathe new life into the concept, avocado toast salad, or simply eating it on its own with a sprinkle of salt and lemon juice.

How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe

Slicing a perfectly ripe avocado is much easier than slicing an overripe or underripe one. Squeeze the avocado gently—almost barely—toward the middle (where the center of the pit would be located) to avoid bruising it. If it yields under the slight pressure of your fingers, it's ripe and ready to eat. If it buckles, it may be overripe (but still likely good to eat), and if it doesn't yield at all, it may need another day or two on the counter before it's at peak deliciousness.

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Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia is a creamy fruit salad loaded with pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut and miniature fruit-flavored marshmallows.

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Ambrosia Salad is a creamy fruit salad loaded with pineapple, mandarin oranges, coconut and miniature fruit-flavored marshmallows. 

Overhead view of ambrosia salad in a serving dish

You guys, December is seriously flying by. My to-do list is a mile long and just seems to keep increasing.

But for some reason, I’m really not that stressed out about the holidays.

Maybe because 30 people won’t be crammed in our house and there aren’t any games to plan or menus to coordinate. While I have all the feelings about Christmas 2020, it’s sort of refreshing not to feel the stress creeping in.

But that’s pretty much how I’m feeling in the moment. Ask me again in a few days and I’ll probably be all kinds of sad eating Oreos dipped in peanut butter, or hopped on cold brew wrapping gifts at midnight. Who really knows?

One thing I do know is that this simple Ambrosia Salad is one of my fave dishes during the holidays and it’s still happening even if our typical Christmas dinner is not.

Also, don’t @ me about this not being a salad. I get it. There’s no lettuce, but there’s a bunch of stuff tossed together in a bowl and that’s salad enough for me.

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Skillet Cranberry and Apple Cake

This easy skillet cake with cranberries and apples highlights some of my favorite fall flavors – in a lightly spiced batter.

This easy skillet cake with cranberries and apples highlights some of my favorite fall flavors – in a lightly spiced batter.

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 Fall and winter are such cozy seasons for baking that I find myself with something in the oven at least a few times a week. This skillet cake is a wonderfully versatile recipe that you can really serve any time of day.

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This post is sponsored by Lodge Cast Iron. Their new bakeware line is gorgeous, sturdy, super versatile (hello, stove to oven to table!) and sure to become some of your favorites. I’ve used Lodge Cast Iron for years in my kitchen and I was very excited to learn about their new line of bakeware including this Baker’s Skillet which is perfect for everything from a savory quiche to a simple and comforting cake like this one. 


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Have a slice with tea or coffee in the afternoon, but make sure to save a bit for breakfast the next day too. Or, you can dress it up with a little bit of confectioner’s sugar and whipped crème fraiche for a gorgeous, low lift dessert.

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 The addition of rye flour here makes the cake exceptionally tender and I love the addition of tart cranberries for both color and a little pop of bright flavor that offsets the sweet and spice. If you don’t keep rye flour you can substitute and equal amount of all purpose or whole wheat flour, and feel free to sub pears for the apples too. 

Skillet Rye Cranberry Apple Cake

Makes one 9 or 10-inch cake

 3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup (160g) crème fraiche

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup (130g) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (65g) light rye flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped apple, from 1 large apple

3/4 cup (75g) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 teaspoons crunchy sugar like turbinado 

Confectioners sugar and whipped crème fraiche to serve, if desired

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter the Lodge Bakers’s Skillet or 9-inch cake pan

2. In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and eggs until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the melted butter, crème fraiche, and spices. Whisk until smooth and emulsified. 

3. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk until almost combined. 

4. Switch to a rubber spatula and add the cranberries and apples. Fold to combine making sure no streaks of flour remain.

4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter with an offset spatula. Sprinkle the sugar over the top. 

5. Bake until puffed and golden, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature with a dusting of confectioners sugar and whipped crème fraiche if desired.

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Banana Cream Pie

Classic Banana Cream Pie with a cookie crumb crust, vanilla pudding, fresh bananas, and fresh whipped cream is the treat you need right now.

Classic Banana Cream Pie with a cookie crumb crust, vanilla pudding, fresh bananas, and fresh whipped cream is the treat you need right now.

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This Classic Banana Cream Pie is from Erin Jean McDowell’s STUNNING new MASTERPIECE - The Book on Pie (affiliate link). This book has something for everyone from brand new beginners to experienced bakers looking to up their game.

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There are recipes for everything from perfect dough to some of the most beautiful decorative crusts, juicy fruit fillings, and towering gorgeous toppings I’ve ever seen. For my first bake from the book, I wanted to choose a classic and also something with PUDDING and whipped cream. Because, hello, pudding is an incredibly delicious food that doesn’t get enough credit.

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Erin’s version of this classic has a roll out crust, but had some chocolate cookies and biscoff to use up (and I didn’t have the patience to chill pie dough) so I went the crumb crust route, but I don’t think Erin would mind. The book is made to mix and match crusts, toppings, and fillings to your hearts content, and every recipe has amazing troubleshooting tips and variations too. Happy Pie Baking everyone!

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Classic Banana Cream Pie

Excerpted from THE BOOK ON PIE © 2020 by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Photography © 2020 by Mark Weinberg. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

MAKES: ONE 9-INCH/23-CM PIE

DIFFICULTY: MEDIUM

FILLING

452 g / 2 cups whole milk

118 g / 1/2 cup heavy cream

150 g / 3/4 cup granulated sugar

37 g / 1/3 cup cornstarch

3 g / 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

56 g / 2 large eggs

64 g / 3 large egg yolks

28 g / 1 ounce / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

10 g / 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

One 9-inch / 23-cm pie crust (see below), blind-baked, and cooled completely

450 g / 3 or 4 medium bananas, peeled and thickly sliced

Full Batch of Classic Whipped Cream (page 111/below)

1.     Make the filling: In a medium pot, bring the milk and heavy cream, to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

2.     Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt to combine. Add the eggs and yolks and whisk well to combine.

3.     When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, pour about one quarter of it into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper them. Pour this mixture back into the pot, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low, switch to a silicone spatula, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles break the surface. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it’s melted and the pudding is smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

4.     Strain the pudding into the cooled pie crust and spread into an even layer. Cover the filling with plastic wrap placed directly against the surface and refrigerate until fully cooled and set, at least 2 hours (or up to 24 hours).

5.     When ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap and arrange the bananas in an even layer on top of the pie, overlapping the slices so they are well packed together. Spread, spoon, or pipe the whipped cream topping on top. 

MAKE AHEAD AND STORAGE

The crust can be blind-baked up to 24 hours head. The pie can be prepared through step 4 up to  24 hours ahead and kept refrigerated. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

 Basic Crumb Crust

MAKES: ONE 9-INCH/23-CM PIE

DIFFICULTY: EASY

Crumb crusts are even easier than press-in cookie crusts. You don’t even have to bake them—see the variation at right. The crumbs can be made out of cookies, crackers, cereal, pretzels, even potato chips! Sometimes sugar or other flavorings are added to the crumbs (here the sugar is optional), and then fat (usually melted butter) is added to bind the mixture to form a crust. The crumbs can be coarse, for a crunchier texture, or finer, for a smoother texture. Different base ingredients will behave differently, so the first time I test a crumb crust with a new ingredient, I always have a little extra on hand in case I need more crumbs, or a little extra melted butter, should it be needed.

Crumb crusts don’t generally require chilling before baking, but you can refrigerate for up to 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes, if desired, to firm them up before baking. I’m also including information in a chart on page 40 to help you adapt this easy recipe for any pan size.

 210 g / 1¾ cups cookie, cereal, chip, or cracker crumbs (I used half chocolate cookies and half biscoff -Yossy)

Up to 50 g / ¼ cup granulated sugar (optional) (I skipped it because my cookies were very sweet - Yossy)

2 g / ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

85 g / 3 ounces / 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more if needed

1.     In a medium bowl, stir the crumbs, sugar, if using, and salt together to combine. Stir in the melted butter and mix to combine. The crust should easily hold together in clumps when you press it together between your fingers (if it doesn’t, add a little more melted butter, 14 g /  1 tablespoon at a time, until it does).

2.     Press the crust evenly into the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch / 23-cm pie plate: First make an even layer in the bottom of the pan, then press the rest of the crumbs up the sides (or halfway up the sides—see page 61). Sometimes I use the bottom of a small dry measuring cup to help press the crust in evenly; this is especially helpful in the corners of the pan.

3.     Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C (don’t use a Baking Steel/stone when baking a crumb crust). To parbake the crust, bake (no docking or pie weights required) for 10 to 12 minutes, until it begins to lightly brown at the edges (or, for darker crumbs, smells lightly toasty). To blind-bake the crust, bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until it is deeply golden brown and/or smells toasty.

PIE PEP TALK

What to Do When a Crumb Crust Shrinks: One of the most common problems I’ve seen with crumb crusts is that they can shrink or slump down the side of the pie plate when the crust is parbaked. Luckily, this is easily corrected. If you notice that your crust is starting to shrink, remove it from the oven and use a crust tamper (see page 20) or a small metal measuring cup to press the crust that slumped down back up the sides of the pie plate. If this happens consistently when you make crumb crusts, try tamping them down more aggressively and/or refrigerating for 30 minutes before baking.

Classic Whipped Cream

MAKES: 141, 283, OR 422 G / 1, 3, OR 4 CUPS, DEPENDING ON THE BATCH YOU CHOOSEDIFFICULTY: 

DIFFICULTY: EASY

It’s never a bad idea to serve pie with plenty of whipped cream. Think your pie is sweet enough? You can leave the sugar out—ain’t nothin’ wrong with plain ol’ whipped cream. For a luxurious twist, try the mascarpone variation below.

 FULL BATCH (for generously covering the whole pie)

235 g / 1 cup heavy cream

50 g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 g / 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1.     In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the cream on medium-low speed until it begins to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream, then continue to whip to medium peaks. Add the vanilla, if using, and mix to combine.

 MAKE AHEAD AND STORAGE

Plain whipped cream is best made just before it is used, but you can intentionally under-whip the cream (to just under soft peaks), then finish by whipping by hand when you’re ready to serve. It will hold this way for up to 4 hours. The mascarpone variation can be made up to 6 hours ahead and held in the refrigerator. Whip a few times gently to refresh before using.


Excerpted from THE BOOK ON PIE © 2020 by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Photography © 2020 by Mark Weinberg. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 


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Simple Baked Apples

Inside-Out Apple Crisp- Baked Granny Smith Apples stuffed with oats, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. A simple, quick dessert for a cozy fall evening.

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These Simple Baked Apples use just a handful of ingredients to make a delicious fall dessert. Serve with caramel sauce for a more elegant twist on an apple crisp! 

Overhead view of baked apples in a white baking dish

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been staring down a very large bag of apples we picked up at the orchard.

It was definitely a case of being in the moment and buying all the festive things at the little orchard store. From apples and handmade caramels to gallons of cider and cute pumpkins, we went all in.

These simple baked apples were the perfect way to use up some of those apples for a quick and delicious mid-week treat!

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Fun Lunch Ideas for Kids

Healthy and fun lunch ideas that are perfect for school or home. Even the pickiest of young eaters will love these nutritious and delicious lunches! This post is sponsored by Kroger. Whether children are in school or learning at home, the lunchtime dil…

Healthy and fun lunch ideas that are perfect for school or home. Even the pickiest of young eaters will love these nutritious and delicious lunches! This post is sponsored by Kroger. Whether children are in school or learning at home, the lunchtime dilemma is the same. What should we make our kids for lunch and…

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Oven-Roasted Plums

I made a statement recently on social media that plums were my favorite fruit. I guess I said the same thing about cherries, at some point, which I was reminded of. But I’ll confess that I may have also said the same thing about nectarines, figs, mangoes, and litchis at some point in my life. However plums really are my favorite fruit, and I’m happy…

I made a statement recently on social media that plums were my favorite fruit. I guess I said the same thing about cherries, at some point, which I was reminded of. But I’ll confess that I may have also said the same thing about nectarines, figs, mangoes, and litchis at some point in my life. However plums really are my favorite fruit, and I’m happy that they stick around from summer all the way through the beginning of fall.

There are a lot of plums out there. In Northern California we had big purple Santa Rosa plums, as well as an array of others with names like Elephant Heart and Angelino, as well as pluots, a hybrid of apricots and plums. While they don’t show up in Paris, there are green Reine Claudes (which are close to being at the top of my list for favorite varieties of plums), tiny golden Mirabelles, and sturdy Quetsches, which hold their shape relatively well during baking. And while they’re not as tart as U.S. varieties (most of the tartness of plums is in their skins), they are reliably good, and flavorful, when baked or oven-roasted, as I often prepare them.

Continue Reading Oven-Roasted Plums...

Peach Almond Crisp

Peach Crisp-a simple peach crisp made with fresh peaches and topped with a sweet almond oat topping. Add a scoop of ice cream for an extra special summer dessert. Peach Crisp Millions of peaches, peaches for ME! Don’t you just love that song? It …

Peach Crisp-a simple peach crisp made with fresh peaches and topped with a sweet almond oat topping. Add a scoop of ice cream for an extra special summer dessert. Peach Crisp Millions of peaches, peaches for ME! Don’t you just love that song? It always gets stuck in my head, especially when I am eating peaches…

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Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies

Are you a lime lover? If so, you will love these Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies! Sweet and soft, with the perfect amount of chew and fresh lime flavor. I don’t know what the weather is like in your area, but here in Ohio, we’re in that odd phase of the year where one day it’s […]

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Are you a lime lover? If so, you will love these Chewy Lime Sugar Cookies! Sweet and soft, with the perfect amount of chew and fresh lime flavor.

Chewy lime sugar cookies stacked on a parchment-covered cutting board next to a glass of milk

I don’t know what the weather is like in your area, but here in Ohio, we’re in that odd phase of the year where one day it’s 90 and the next it’s 65.

While I am a true fall lover at heart, we’re still trying to hold onto the last couple of weeks of summer.

Which basically means I’m still whipping up key lime and fresh berry desserts all while craving pumpkin roll and a big slice of pumpkin crunch cake.

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Pineapple Salsa

This fresh and simple Pineapple Salsa goes great with fish, chicken, tacos, or tortilla chips! It is easy to make and a summertime favorite! Pineapple + Salsa = Amazing You can’t beat a fresh, juicy pineapple. Well, maybe if you were eating that …

This fresh and simple Pineapple Salsa goes great with fish, chicken, tacos, or tortilla chips! It is easy to make and a summertime favorite! Pineapple + Salsa = Amazing You can’t beat a fresh, juicy pineapple. Well, maybe if you were eating that fresh, juicy pineapple in Hawaii. The pineapple in Hawaii is by far…

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