Category Archives: Holiday Desserts

Pumpkin Bread (Trader Joe’s)

There are days when you don’t have time to prepare a loaf of bread from scratch and that’s when high quality mixes can be a blessing. Trader Joe’s has some of the best bread mixes I have tried and I often pop a loaf in the oven when I need a break from homework or just want something to snack on. All you have to do for their pumpkin bread is add eggs, oil, and water to the mix, pop it in a pan, and you’re done. Your friends will never know you didn’t spend hours in the kitchen waiting for the dough to rise. This particular mix is only available in the fall, so stock up on it! My roommate Michelle suggests eating a warm slice with a glass of milk. Yum.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 55 to 60 minutes

Ingredients (from side of box):

Pumpkin bread with homemade glaze.

  • 1 full package of mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1/2 cup almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar and small amount of milk (if maxing glaze)

Instructions (from side of box):

  • Prepare: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a standard 9×5 pan with butter or cooking spray.
  • Mix: Combine eggs, oil, and water in a medium bowl. Add mix. Fold together with rubber spatula until batter is smooth (approximately 1 to 2 minutes). For holiday bread, add cranberries and/or almonds.
  • Pan: Spread batter in pan, filling corners and leveling top.
  • Oven: Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan. Yields 10 to 12 slices per loaf.
  • If making glaze: Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with milk, adding teaspoons at a time to desired consistency.  Spread over warm loaf. Cool before slicing.
  • Muffins: Follow mixing instructions. Portion batter into lightly greased standard muffin tins, 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes.
  • For high altitudes: Add 2 Tbsp. water to above ingredients.

Trader Joe’s Baking Tips:

  • All ovens bake differently. Always double check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer before baking.
  • Check bread at the minimum baking time by inserting a toothpick in several locations. If the toothpick comes out clean, the bread is finished. If not, bake for an additional 5 minutes.
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Breads, Desserts, Holiday Desserts



Cranberry Streudal Pie

(Original source:

I made this pie for Dad’s 68th birthday. He was experiencing some serious back pain at the time and was on intense painkillers. I wanted to do something to lift his spirits, so I stayed up until 2:00 am the night before baking this pie and brought it by the house after class on his birthday. Since Dad’s birthday is November 23, he saved most of the pie for Thanksgiving two days later. (Of course I also baked an apple pie and pumpkin pie for the holiday).

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes



  • 1 lb. (16 oz. or 2 cups) fresh cranberries
  • ¾ cup white sugar*
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup walnuts (optional)**

*This is a very tart pie. Add more sugar if you like your pie on the sweeter side.

** I don’t use walnuts because no one in my family likes them. You may substitute for a different kind of nut (i.e. pecans) or simply leave them out.

Streudal Topping

  • ½ cup walnuts– optional
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. shortening (butter)
  • Pastry shell for 9 inch single crust pie


  • Smash cranberries.***
  • Stir in sugar and 1/4 cup flour.
  • Pour filling into pie crust.
  • Smash walnuts into small pieces. Stir in brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and shortening with a pastry blender or Cuisinart. The mixture should be crumbly. Sprinkle over pie.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 minutes, or until done.

*** You can smash the cranberries with a Cuisinart or potato masher. If using a Cuisinart, add berries very gradually and alternate between “Chop” and “Puree” settings. You don’t want the berries to be liquefied, but they should be crushed into pieces and easy to mix with the sugar and flour.



Sweet Potato Pie

Aunt Gail

Truly a Southern pie, this is my favorite dessert, period. Aunt Gail was a marvelous cook and she never made a dish I did not enjoy. My step grandmother Martha Webster Thompson made the best sweet potato pie on earth and used to serve it to me with sweet tea while I did my homework at her house in Martinsville, VA as a kid. Unfortunately, none of us ever got Martha’s recipe, but Aunt Gail’s comes very close.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-50 minutes

Ingredients:Sweet Potato Pie


  • 1 ½ cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs. potatoes)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. salt


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups evaporated milk (large can)


  • Combine dry ingredients.
  • Beat eggs with milk.
  • Mix all together and blend until smooth.
  • Heat filling in a sauce pan until almost boiling, and then pour into an unbaked pie crust.
  • Bake 15 minutes at 425; reduce heat to 350 & bake 15-20 minutes more.

Chef’s Tip:
If possible, use organic sweet potatoes. You will notice an enormous difference in the flavor of the pie.


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Pumpkin Pie


Original Source: The Perfect Hostess Cookbook, by Mildred O. Knopf

A traditional dessert during the holidays, you can also serve pumpkin pie any time in the fall or winter. This is Dad’s favorite pie that I make. One Thanksgiving, he ate half of a pumpkin pie all by himself. The secret is in the molasses and brandy!

In my experience, this recipe yields enough batter for two pies, although Grandmama’s recipe does not say so. Try it for yourself and buy (or make) two pie crusts in case you have extra.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients: *

Pumpkin Pie

  • 2 deep dish 9 inch pie shells
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups pumpkin **
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. brandy (optional)

*Cut recipe in half if only making one pie.

**Be sure to use a measuring cup. Do not trust the number of ounces listed on the can of pumpkin. Always buy one more can of pumpkin than you think you need, as pumpkin is often sold by weight, not by volume. If you have extra pumpkin left over, cover it with saran wrap and refrigerate. You can save it for another pie!


  • Mix: sugar, flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  • Add and blend well: pumpkin, molasses, and butter
  • Beat: eggs
  • Add: milk and brandy
  • Pour into pie crust and bake for 40 minutes at 425 degrees or until knife comes out clean.

Serving Suggestion:
Serve with fresh whipped cream if desired.

Chef’s Tip:
If your pie comes out with a pudding-like consistency, do not worry! Simply refrigerate it over night and it should be ready to eat in the morning.


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Apple Pie


You can’t go wrong with this apple pie recipe which Grandmama got from “Aunt Babe.” While apple pie is traditionally an autumn dessert, you can serve it any time of year as this is the ultimate all-American pie.

When I was eight years old, Grandmama taught me how to make apple pie. Back then, we lived in Cambridge, MA. Mom was in bed recovering from an operation and Grandmama stayed at our house to take care of me and my brother Gabe while Mom got back on her feet. She sat with me at the kitchen table and showed me how to carefully arrange the apples which I did “all by myself!” Of course she made her own crust, which I am not as good about doing. Every day Grandmama stayed with us, she tucked a note in my lunch box on a paper napkin with a smiley face that said “I love you. Have a good day at school!”

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 50-60 minutes 

Ingredients:Apple pie


  • 2 deep dish 9 inch pie crusts
  • 6-7 large cooking apples*

* When using store bought crusts, I’ve only needed 3-4 apples because these crusts are not very deep. Grandmama suggests only using Granny Smith apples, but I like to mix them with other varieties (i.e. Macintosh, Fugi, and/or Gala) for a different flavor.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 level Tbsp. flour


  • Put half of filling over unbaked bottom crust and pour the rest over top of the sliced apples.
  • Dot with 2 Tbsp. butter and cover with the top crust.
  • Pierce top crust with a sharp fork or knife to let steam out as it bakes.
  • Put in pre-heated 450 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Turn down to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes more.
  • The pie is done when juice bubbles on top.

Serving Suggestion:
For apple pie ala-mode, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Chef’s Tip:

When sealing the top and bottom crusts, use your index finger to press them together. You can use the tongsof a fork to reinforce the seal. Be sure to not fill the bottom crust too high with apples. Otherwise, the filling will spill in the oven. (Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience). If your apples won’t fit, it’s best to save them for a second pie.

Apple pie


Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Desserts, Holiday Desserts, Pies


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