Sweet Vanilla Cream Pie

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Matthew’s mom (Chris Tessnear) loves vanilla pie. For years, her mom (Matthew’s grandma, Vember Quinn) made it for her on special occasions. She said she had never quite gotten vanilla pie like her mom’s anywhere else.

Until now.

While searching through vanilla-inspired recipes on Pinterest, we came across a semi-complicated recipe for vanilla bean cream pie. It looked delicious and I thought it could be simplified by cutting out the process of scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean to use during cooking, especially since vanilla extract was also in the recipe. So I removed the vanilla bean (which also made the recipe cheaper and easier to make with common pantry items) and substituted entirely with vanilla extract. The resulting recipe was just as vanilla-sweet and creamy as I’m sure the original was. I also simplified some of the recipe instructions, to where now, this is another of my easiest pies to make, only requiring a small bowl and a pot worth of cookware, a few simple ingredients, and a little time.

Matthew’s mom says this pie is the best she’s had since her mom’s pie, and is in fact, just as good. That’s high praise from a lady who can cook as well as my mother-in-law can! We hope you give this pie a try. We know you’ll love it just as much as we do!

P.S. You could also make the pie’s filling and enjoy it as pudding, without a shell or any additional baking. It would be delicious as a homemade, cooked vanilla pudding! And there are no eggs in the recipe, which I love, because you don’t have to worry about any undercooking. Easy peasy! Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

9 inch pie crust (baked and cooled)

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp. butter

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping: 2 tbsp. melted butter; 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

1. Pre-bake the pie shell on 350 for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and no longer doughy in appearance.

2. Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and put to the side.

3. In a nonstick pan, melt the 4 tbsp. of butter on medium heat. Add the heavy cream, milk and vanilla.

4. Add the dry ingredients (cornstarch/sugar mixture) to the pot slowly and stir with a whisk constantly until the pudding thickens (about 10 minutes).

5. Remove from heat and pour the pudding into the prepared pie crust.

6. Drizzle with the 2 tbsp. of melted butter (I usually melt it in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup) and sprinkle the cinnamon on top evenly.

7. Put the pie in the oven on broil just until the butter starts to bubble. Keep a check on it; this will only take a few minutes.

8. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Slice and delight!

Serves: about 8

Fancy Pecan French Toast for Two

French Toast

We’re big fans of the $1 specialty bakery-quality bread loaves you can buy at Walmart. The bread has a short shelf life, but that just encourages you to get creative in how you use the bread to ensure you make the most out of that $1.

On a recent Sunday morning, Matthew used slices of a French bread loaf and just a few ingredients to whip up a quick and fancy breakfast. Here’s how he made his own variation of French toast for two, using the ingredients from a simple Food Network recipe.

Ingredients

four slices of $1 loaf of bread (we used the specialty Walmart bread, but many French toast recipes call for your plain, stale white bread loaf)

two eggs

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar

1/3 cup of milk

butter

syrup

powdered sugar

brown sugar

pecans halves

Step one: Preheat your stovetop burner on medium heat.

Step two: Thoroughly mix your eggs, vanilla, cinnamon sugar and milk in a bowl.

Step three: Coat your bread slices in the sweet egg mixture.

Step four: Lightly butter (or oil) your pan and place your first two slices of coated bread into the pan.

Step five: Turn your French toast slices once, then repeat the process for the remainder of your bread.

Step six: Cut each French toast slice of bread in half and arrange as you like on a plate. With the ingredients in this recipe, you will have four half-slices each for two plates.

Step seven: Crush a few pecan halves with your hands and sprinkle on the French toast slices.

Step eight: Sprinkle your desired amount of brown and powdered sugars onto your French toast.

Step nine: Serve with the desired amount of syrup.

Matthew’s Take: When I’m cooking for people, I like to deliver a beautiful presentation when possible. There’s so much you can do to make French toast look beautiful. Powdered sugar and pecans (or any kind of nuts or fruit) can make your dish look like something you would get in a restaurant. This recipe is my take on a Food Network basic French toast formula. I added the pecans and sugar topping, but the original recipe suggests the perfect ratio of eggs, milk, cinnamon sugar and vanilla extract. You can take that basic provision and then top the toast with your favorite ingredients. I give this French toast an A+ for presentation, an A for taste and a B for cost-effectiveness. You can make French toast very cheap, with only bread, milk, eggs and a cinnamon and/or sugar ingredient. The pecans, multiple sugars and vanilla are extras that add taste, while also adding a few more ingredients and dollars to that grocery bill. The only reason I didn’t give this recipe an A+ on taste is that I used a French bread loaf that had “everything” seasoning topping on it and, although I brushed the topping off, a slight hint of flavor remained on a few slices of the bread. I would suggest using plain French bread, but I used the loaf we had in our pantry.

Molly’s Take: How do I love this French toast – let me count the ways! Not only is it fluffy, soft and deliciously moist, this French toast is covered in tasty toppings that enhance its hearty, pancake-y exterior. Now, you have to know me to know how absolutely crazy it is that I like this dish. I have a bad history with French toast (a church camp experience in which I was forced to play dizzy dodgeball in the summer heat after eating a ton of it along with chocolate milk=bad idea), and I generally dislike pancakes. Yes, I dislike – and have even used the term hate – pancakes. But since Matthew and I have been together, I’ve developed a more open mind toward them. On a recent trip, I even ate them twice! This breakfast dish reminded me of pancakes, but was so much more hearty and nowhere near as mushy as pancakes can be. It was like perfectly fluffy pancakes with a soft, yet firm, sugar-dusted exterior. Altogether, if I gave this dish a grade, it would definitely be A+.

Five-Ingredient Homemade Poptarts

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We found the inspiration for these on Pinterest and decided to add our own different fillings. The original recipes we found called for strawberry or other berry preserves (which are more expensive), but we used a few different kinds of jelly we had on hand. Here’s the recipe – with just five ingredients! As always, check out our take below.

Ingredients:

Two frozen roll-out pie crusts

Any kind of jelly, jam or preserves

1 cup powdered sugar

App. 1 tbsp. milk

Sprinkles, optional

Step one:

 Defrost the frozen pie crusts (either by microwaving for a few seconds or leaving at room temperature until soft) so you can unroll them. Cut them into small rectangles, all the same size. You should end up with six, and you can make two more with the edges. (The ones made from the edges will only look as good as your skills can make them.)

Step two:

Put about a tablespoon of jelly onto half of the squares like this.

step one

Step three:

Take the non-jellied pieces of pie crust and put them on top of the jellied pieces. Seal the edges and crimp with a fork.

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Step four: 

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Depending on your oven, it might take longer, or shorter, so keep an eye on them. Let them cool completely before icing.

Step five:

Mix the topping! Stir together the powdered sugar with the milk, adding more milk if necessary. Stir in sprinkles and spread on the cooled poptarts.

step three

Your finished product:

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Matthew’s take: I don’t eat a lot of store-bought PopTarts because they’re an unhealthy food item I can stay away from, but I do enjoy them. The thought of making our own pastries intrigued me, and I got even more excited at the thought of including local jellies, including blackberry and elderberry fruit spreads canned right here in western North Carolina. My high interest in this recipe didn’t end in disappointment after we tried the recipe. These poptarts are just as tasty as their name-brand counterparts, making eight of them only cost us about $5 (remember, they are homemade and require a few ingredients) and each one only nets about 300 calories, including the sugary icing (which I would leave off if I made them regularly because you wouldn’t lose much in the way of taste and the jelly would still provide the sweet factor). These poptarts would be great to make with or for your kids and, while they’re thought of traditionally as a breakfast or snack treat, they’re sweet and versatile enough to pass as a dessert. They get an A+ for ease and cost, an A for taste and an A for presentation.

Molly’s take: I loved these super easy-to-make poptarts and enjoyed the fact that they tasted homemade, while at the same time, like a rather fancy pastry you could get at a coffee shop. My favorite was probably the blackberry, but any jelly would work. Just be careful about really thin jellies, because while baking, our elderberry jelly poptart filling leaked out onto the pan a little. I wouldn’t leave off the delicious, unhealthy icing, because I’ve always loved iced Poptarts. (Of all kinds, but especially brown sugar cinnamon and s’mores.) As a homeschooled kid, Poptarts were very often my morning meal. And the more sweet and sugary, the better. My mom and I would usually spread butter on a few wildberry or blueberry Poptarts and bake them in the oven before eating them. That gave me a serious love for some buttery poptarts. That said, these are great and you should try them.