Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake

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I think the term “dump cake” is a little misleading–it just doesn’t sound very appetizing! It’s true that you do kind of “dump” most of the ingredients into a large bowl, stir them together, and pour in a pan…and then just sprinkle on the toppings–in this case, dry cake mix, pecans, and toffee bits. With melted butter drizzled over everything. And it turns out so yummy!

There are all kinds of dump cakes you can make, and this Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake is a great one to try out this time of year. The pumpkin, spices, and toffee bits all give this cake a great fall flavor. It’s really more like a pie without the crust than a cake, with a crunchy, nutty topping and pie-like pumpkin filling. If you’re a pumpkin-lover, you will enjoy this recipe. Even people who aren’t crazy about pumpkin pie seem to like this.

PUMPKIN PIE DUMP CAKE by NancyC, adapted from AllRecipes

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (15.25 oz.) package yellow cake mix (or use spice cake mix)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350˚F degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13″ pan.

In large bowl, mix pumpkin, light brown sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and salt, blending well. Stir in the evaporated milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pan.

Sprinkle all of the dry yellow cake mix evenly over the pumpkin mixture, then sprinkle the chopped pecans and then the toffee bits evenly over top of cake mix. Drizzle melted butter evenly over everything.

Bake at 350˚F for 60 minutes, until edges are lightly browned (it may be a little soft in the center, but will set as it cools; also, the cake may sink slightly as it cools). Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. You can serve just as it is or with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream. And maybe even a drizzle of salted caramel sauce on top if you really want to make it decadent! :) Refrigerate any leftovers.

As I mentioned, this is really more like a pie than a cake, and very easy to make, as all dump cakes are. Have you made a dump cake before? What kinds of ingredients do you like to use in yours?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

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Avocado Hummus and a Featured Soup!

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Avocados are so good and since I was making some more homemade hummus, I decided to experiment by making an Avocado Hummus. It came out pretty much like I thought it would–really smooth and creamy, with that great avocado flavor, but also the traditional flavor of hummus mixed in. It makes a great dip, served with pita bread, tortilla chips, or crackers– or spread it on some crusty bread and top it with tomatoes and some crumbled feta cheese for a light lunch! If you like trying different flavors of hummus, you’ll have to make this sometime!

AVOCADO HUMMUS by NancyC

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1 to 2 fresh cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into small chunks
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Put all ingredients, except the salt, in a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. If mixture is too thick, blend in an additional Tablespoon or two of water. Stir in the salt, to taste, if desired, then spoon hummus into a small bowl and serve with pita bread, tortilla chips, or crackers.

I’ve also made Lemon Artichoke Hummus, Black Olive Hummus, Black Bean Hummus, Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus, Pumpkin Hummus, and a basic Hummus. I never seem to get tired of eating it!

I wanted to mention, too, that I have a healthy soup recipe featured in Raw Food Magazine, in their latest September/October issue!

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It’s a digital magazine filled with lots of healthy recipes and articles on fitness, nutrition, and living a healthy lifestyle. You can find out more about it at RawFoodMagazine.com.

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You can also find my recipe for Tomato Basil Avocado Soup on my blog right here. It’s an easy, delicious, raw food recipe. Do you use raw food recipes often?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener.

7 Anti-Aging Foods

I saw an article at Sharecare.com about seven foods they refer to as “anti-aging powerhouses.” These foods may also help cut your risk of heart disease and cancer when incorporated into a healthy diet. So if you’re interested, here’s a condensed list of the seven foods–you can visit Sharecare.com for more details!

  1. Berries–They lower your disease risks and also help prevent memory loss. Eat 1 cup of any kind of berries, fresh or frozen, at least 3 times a week.
  2. Salmon–A good source of omega-3 fatty acids, it helps fight heart disease and is also good for your skin. The article recommends having two 3-ounce servings per week.
  3. Nuts–Although they’re high in fat, it’s heart-healthy fat; and nuts are also good sources of protein, magnesium, and B and E vitamins. Eat a 1/4 cup serving of almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pecans up to 5 times per week.
  4. Dark Leafy Greens–Spinach, romaine lettuce, collard greens, kale, and chard are good sources of fiber, vitamins C and K, folic acid and lutein. They also contain lots of vitamin A which helps keep your skin soft and supple. Two servings per day are recommended–and a serving is 1 cup cooked greens or 2 cups raw greens.
  5. Whole Grains–Referred to by Sharecare as a “nutritional powerhouse,” whole grains–like brown rice and quinoa, to name a few–can help prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. Try for 3 to 6 servings a day. A serving might be one slice of whole-grain bread, 1/2 cup cooked grains, or 1 cup whole-grain cereal.
  6. Yellow and Orange Vegetables–Think carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and other deep yellow and orange veggies. They can lower your cancer risk and help protect you from colds, infections, and sun damage to your skin. Two 1/2 cup servings a day are recommended.
  7. Yogurt–Plain, low-fat, or nonfat…all are good sources of B vitamins, protein, and calcium. Look for yogurt with active cultures–probiotics–which also help fight against disease-causing germs. Have at least 4 cups a week if yogurt is your main source of dairy.

Hope this is a helpful reminder for you to work these into your diet! I like all the foods on this list, so I just need to remember to eat enough of them each week. Do you eat many of these healthy foods already?

Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

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I bought some salted caramel sauce earlier this summer at the grocery store, and I could hardly tell that it was salted! So I made a note to try making a homemade salted caramel sauce sometime, and I finally had the chance. This Easy Salted Caramel Sauce is definitely salted and has a great buttery, sweet-salty flavor!

My recipe uses both granulated sugar and brown sugar–if you use dark brown sugar (see jar of sauce right behind the plate of apples in the photo), your sauce will have a darker color and just a very slightly stronger caramel flavor. If you use light brown sugar (see jar of sauce in background), your sauce will be lighter in color and slightly more buttery in flavor. I’ve made it both ways and I like both–the difference is not that big and the caramel sauce tastes great both ways!

Use this caramel sauce as a topping over ice cream, as a fruit dip for apples or pears, or drizzle it over cakes or muffins…it adds a great flavor when you’re wanting something sweet, salty, and caramel-y! I like drizzling it over apples, and the apples I used here are called SweeTango® apples (I received a few complimentary apples to try out), which are crisp and sweet with a little tart punch. They tasted great with this caramel sauce!

EASY SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE by NancyC

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (dark brown sugar with give you a deeper-colored caramel sauce)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half (light cream)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cut into slices
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or sea salt (for less of a salted flavor, just use 1 teaspoon)

Mix the sugars, heavy and light creams, and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir gently for 15 minutes while ingredients are melting and cooking–mixture will thicken slightly. Turn up heat to medium and cook for another 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, as mixture comes to a full boil. Then let mixture continue boiling for an additional 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove sauce from heat and stir in salt. Cool caramel sauce for about 15 minutes and pour into a canning/mason jar.

Use caramel sauce warm or let cool in jar another 15 to 20 minutes before storing in the refrigerator, tightly covered, until ready to use. The caramel sauce can be stored up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

To reheat, place uncovered jar in microwave and heat for 30 seconds; remove and stir sauce, then heat for an additional 30 seconds (or longer, if needed) and stir again before using.

I love the flavor of caramel, especially in the fall. You can’t beat caramel and apples together! Do you have a favorite caramel treat?

Maple Oat Pecan Muffins

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Breakfast just seems more like breakfast when maple syrup is involved! And as fall approaches, I like to use maple syrup in my recipes. These muffins have pure maple syrup in them and oatmeal is also an ingredient, so I like to think they’re a little healthy, too! :)  Chopped pecans also give these muffins a hearty texture and flavor. They’re topped with a very thick maple glaze, but you can leave the glaze off if you want…if you make them without the glaze, I recommend serving them warm with butter! These are just the thing for a fall breakfast or brunch!

MAPLE OAT PECAN MUFFINS by NancyC

Makes 20 muffins

  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup  (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Maple Syrup Glaze (recipe below)

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper baking cups. In medium bowl, combine oats and milk; let stand for 5 minutes.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.

Going back to the medium bowl, stir the maple syrup, melted butter, and egg into the oat-and-milk mixture. Then add all of this mixture to the flour mixture in the large bowl. Stir just until moistened, then fold the chopped pecans into the batter.

Spoon batter into the lined muffin cups, about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean or almost clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan onto a wire rack. Either serve muffins warm without adding the glaze, or let them cool completely and then top with the Maple Syrup Glaze.

MAPLE SYRUP GLAZE

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • pecan halves for garnish (optional)

Mix all ingredients together, blending well. This is a thick glaze–almost a frosting–if you want a thinner glaze, you can add more milk and maple syrup. Use a small spoon to add the glaze over each muffin top, then add a pecan half on top, if desired. Let the glaze set and serve.

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You can serve these muffins with the glaze and a pecan on top, or with just the glaze, or no glaze at all…whatever way you like best!

The pure maple syrup gives these muffins a wonderful flavor and sweetness! Do you use maple syrup as a sweetener in any recipes?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener and Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Spinach, Blueberry, and Blue Cheese Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

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I took a short break from the internet at the end of August, and I can’t believe we are into September already! But it’s still officially summer and the weather is still warm for many of us, so I thought I’d post a recipe for a fruity, cheesy salad. Salads make great light lunches on hot, humid days and it’s even more convenient when you can make them ahead of time for work or just to have handy at home. I found lots of great grab-and-go ideas in Mason Jar Salads and More by Julia Mirabella. The salads are made by layering the ingredients vertically in Mason jars (the 9781612432892.011dressing usually goes on the bottom–this salad is an exception). In addition to recipes for salad lunches, the book includes some breakfast smoothies and oatmeal you can make-and-take in mason jars, as well as other healthy lunch options that include pasta and rice. There are some snack ideas, too, and lots of great homemade vinaigrettes to try out.

I decided to make the Spinach, Blueberry, and Blue Cheese Salad and instead of using the Red Wine Vinaigrette that the original recipe calls for, I made the Blueberry Vinaigrette. I thought the blueberry-spinach combination was really good, and I loved the taste of blue cheese with it, too. The Blueberry Vinaigrette was great on this salad–it added even more blueberry flavor. If you like fruit and cheese, this salad is a great way to enjoy those mix of flavors. Some of you may not be crazy about blue cheese, so if that’s the case, you could try substituting feta cheese. This is a really easy salad to put together–hope you enjoy it!

SPINACH, BLUEBERRY, AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD WITH BLUEBERRY VINAIGRETTE from Mason Jar Salads and More

Makes 1 serving

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, divided
  • 1/4 cup shaved or sliced almonds
  • 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons Blueberry Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1 quart-size Mason jar

Place the blueberries, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil until it is the right consistency.

Place the blueberries in the bottom of the Mason jar. Next make layers of 2 cups spinach, the almonds, and the remaining 1 cup spinach. The final layer should be the blue cheese. If you’re eating this right away, you can pour the vinaigrette over the salad and serve. If you’re storing this in the fridge for later, see below…

On top of the blue cheese, make a parchment paper cup (cut a square of parchment paper to an 8×8″ size; place it over the jar and push down to form a little cup). The edges of the parchment paper should extend beyond the edge of the jar; bend edges downward over the outside of the jar.

Pour the vinaigrette into the parchment paper cup and twist on the lid, making sure it is tight. Refrigerate until ready to eat and mix the vinaigrette in with the other ingredients in your salad. Note: !f you’re going to eat this salad on the same day you make it, you can put the dressing in the bottom of the jar and eliminate the parchment paper cup. Otherwise, the salad will last longer if the blueberries don’t sit in the dressing.

BLUEBERRY VINAIGRETTE

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh blueberries
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 to 5 Tablespoons olive oil

Place the blueberries, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly add the olive oil until it is the right consistency.

I love using fresh fruit in salads–it adds so much extra flavor! What fruits do you like using in your salads?

Banana-Zucchini Bread

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If you imagined what Banana-Zucchini Bread would be like, you’d probably guess that it would be moist, because it has both zucchini and bananas in it, after all. And you would be right–about this recipe, anyway. It has the perfect moist texture–not overly moist, but just right. And the bread rises so nicely. I was afraid it might sink in the middle like some other moist quick breads I’ve made before, but not this one! It has a nice loaf shape with a rounded top and makes two 8 x 4″ loaves. If you use 9 x 5″ loaf pans, the bread will be thinner and baking time may be a little shorter. But I think this recipe work best with the 8 x 4″ size pans, so keep that in mind if you try this. It’s a great end-of-summer bread that puts both your garden zucchini and ripe bananas to great use!

BANANA-ZUCCHINI BREAD by NancyC

Makes two 8 x 4″ loaves

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup non-GMO canola oil or light olive oil
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
  • Optional: 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4″ loaf pans; set aside.

In large bowl, beat eggs, then blend in sugars and oil. Add bananas and vanilla extract and blend well.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; stir into egg/sugar/oil mixture. Add shredded zucchini and nuts, if using, and and stir just until combined.

Pour into 2 greased 8 x 4″ loaf pans and bake at 350˚F for 48 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely (you may have to loosen the edges of the loaf just a little with a knife, and then the bread comes out very easily from the pan).

Some other really good zucchini breads I recommend are: Zucchini Spice Bread, Lemon-Zucchini Loaf with Lemon Glaze, and Carrot-Zucchini Bread.

Are you growing zucchini in your garden this year? What kinds of recipes do you like to make with it?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener and Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Deviled Egg Potato Salad

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Two of my favorite summer foods are deviled eggs and potato salad. So why not put them together? I decided to try that out, and found that this Deviled Egg Potato Salad is soooo good! The deviled egg mixture is … Continue reading

Berry Walnut Granola

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I am a big fan of granola, and I prefer homemade–I think it tastes so much better! I’ve posted several recipes for granola bars, like Crunchy Honey Almond Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate Granola Bars, and chewier Granola Bars. I’ve also made an unsweetened Cranberry Raisin … Continue reading

Cocoa Banana Smoothie

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I think this just may be the hottest week of summer. And that calls for a smoothie–even better, a chocolate smoothie! There’s a soy and non-soy version for this recipe, so you can take your pick. The smoothie I made … Continue reading

Strawberry Banana Muffins

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My latest banana-inspired recipe also has fresh strawberries in it–the perfect muffin for summer! They’re so moist and full of delicious chunks of fresh strawberries. I love how the sprinkling of coarse sugar gives these muffin tops a little sparkle and … Continue reading

Chilled Cucumber Soup

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Chilled soups are perfect for summer! And if you like cucumbers, you’ll want to try this one! It has Greek yogurt, green onions, fresh dill, and parsley in it. Some lemon juice and salt give the flavor a little punch and I also added some garlic … Continue reading