Cheesy Green Bean Casserole

ncChsyGrBnCass2nm We all know and love that Green Bean Casserole, don’t we? It’s so good, I’m not sure why I only make it at the holidays–there’s no reason why you couldn’t make it any time of the year, right? But it’s especially nice at times like Thanksgiving and Christmas, when it’s cold outside and everyone is wanting to include warm and comforting side dishes in their holiday feast. There are many variations of this recipe, and when I make mine, I always add cheese, sour cream, and Half & Half (light cream) to make it extra cheesy and creamy. I love this casserole with cheese added in, and if you’re a cheese-lover, I think you will too! So here’s my version of this classic side dish and I hope you enjoy it!

CHEESY GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE by NancyC, adapted from French’s Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1/2 cup Half & Half (light cream) or milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (regular or light)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or substitute garlic powder)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 (14.5-ounce) cans green beans (or substitute 7 1/2 cups cooked cut fresh green beans or frozen and thawed green beans)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 2/3 cups (or 2 2.8-oz. cans) French Fried Onions, divided

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In large bowl mix soup, Half & Half (or milk), sour cream, black pepper, onion powder, and soy sauce. Stir in green beans, mushrooms (if using), cheese, and 1 1/3 cups (or 1 2.8-oz. can) French Fried Onions (save the other can for sprinkling on top after baking). Spoon mixture into a 9 x 13″ pan or 3-qt. baking dish. Bake at 350˚F for 27 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling at edges. Remove from oven, lightly stir the mixture in the pan or baking dish, then top with remaining 1 1/3 cups onions (or the second 2.8-oz. can). Bake an additional 5 minutes until onions are golden.

ncChsyGrBnCass1nm Do you make Green Bean Casserole for your holiday meals? With or without cheese? And what other side dishes do you like to serve?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener and I’m Lovin’ It at Tidy Mom.

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Fresh Pear Crisp

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It was nearing the end of summer when Sylvia told me her pear trees were going to produce quite a bit of fruit. She didn’t like pears, so asked if I could use any when they were ready to pick. Of course I said yes, because it would be the perfect opportunity to use them in a fall recipe! I love eating pears, but don’t bake with them that much, and I’m not sure why–I guess I think of baking with apples more than pears. So I was inspired to bake something with Sylvia’s pears. And it’s always nice being able to use fresh-picked, organic fruit in a recipe!

This Fresh Pear Crisp is what I ended up making. It’s very yummy and the crumbly, buttery topping is so good! It actually tastes a lot like apple crisp, so apple–lovers will like this too. If you have any fresh pears on hand, this is a good recipe to use them in. Or, if you just have apples, substitute those instead. Or use some apples and some pears and make an apple-pear crisp. It’s very easy to make–the most time-consuming part is peeling and chopping the fruit, but it’s definitely worth it!

FRESH PEAR CRISP by NancyC

Makes a 9″ deep dish pie plate or 9 x 9″ square pan

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 5 cups peeled and chopped fresh pears (about 7-9 medium–size pears; or substitute apples for apple crisp; or use both pears and apples for an apple-pear crisp!)

Topping:

  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 9″ deep dish pie plate or square pan well; set aside.

In large bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, blending well. Toss the chopped pears in this sugar mixture, coating pears evenly, then place in your greased 9″ deep dish pie plate or square pan.

In another bowl, blend flour, oats, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans; stir in melted butter with a fork to get a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle this crumb topping mixture over the pears and bake at 350˚F for 35 to 40 minutes, until topping is golden brown. Serve warm by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

As I mentioned earlier, this pear crisp tastes a lot like apple crisp. If you’d like it to have more of a pear taste, just use 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and no nutmeg in the fruit mix–and add a little lemon juice, about 1 teaspoon (the lemon juice tip is from my friend Davin who is a great cook and baker, but I have not tried that myself yet in this recipe). Have you been using pears much in your fall baking?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener, Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy, and Show and Share at Coastal Charm.

Autumn Bouquets

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I am such a jar and bottle-saver! I save glass jars and bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I was starting to get quite a collection and running out of space to put them, so I thought I’d make some autumn bouquets to give to my flower-loving friends.

I love the variety of sizes and colors of these bottles! Each one of them had some sort of food item in them–after the contents were used up, I removed the labels on each bottle so I could reuse them as vases and tied autumn-colored ribbons around them before filling with flowers.

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These three glass bottles were all once containers for vanilla, almond, and orange extract.

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These two jars originally had jam in them.

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Another unique-looking bottle and jar: the small clear bottle in the foreground was from Cracker Barrel (it was a miniature maple syrup bottle–the kind they give you when you order pancakes). The larger brown glass jar in the background is actually a vitamin jar. Who would’ve thought it would make such a great vase?

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This vintage-looking soda bottle was from Cracker Barrel, too–they sell a variety of vintage sodas in their country store, and some of them have such great designs, you hate to toss them out!

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This bottle is one of my favorites–it has a long neck and a rounded base, so no worries about this tipping over! This originally had some white wine vinegar in it.

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And this large bottle had some apple juice in it–I love the detail of the leaves at the top of the bottle–much too pretty to get rid of!

Most of my labels came off pretty easily just by soaking the bottle in hot soapy water–I left the bottles in the water overnight. But sometimes I come across really stubborn labels, and on those, I sometimes use nail polish remover. I’ve also heard that Goo Gone works too, although I haven’t tried that yet. If you use products like these, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.

Are you a glass jar and bottle-saver too? Using them as vases is one way to upcycle them. Do you have other ways of reusing pretty jars and bottles?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy and Show and Share at Coastal Charm.

7 Easy Fall Treats

If you’re looking for ideas for sweet fall treats, here’s a roundup of some I’ve made before. They’re fun and colorful and very easy to make, which is a plus! Have fun trying some of these out!

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Candy” Corn Pay” Day Mix for sweet-and-salty lovers, and just 2 ingredients–candy corn and peanuts! This is probably the easiest treat you’ll ever make! Pack some up in treat bags to give away.

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Candy Corn Trail Mix is also really easy and yummy, made with Golden Grahams, pretzels, peanuts, golden raisins, dried cranberries, sunflower kernels, M&M’s, chocolate chips, and candy corn, of course!

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How about some Owl Cupcakes? Yummy and chocolatey, with Oreo Cookie and M&M eyes!

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Candy Corn Bark will satisfy any sweet tooth and is a feast for the eyes with all the colorful goodies in it!

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Candy Corn–Peanut Popcorn Balls are super fun and make great homemade treats!

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Candy Corn M&M’s Crispy Bars are definitely hard to resist!

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And Acorn Treats are so much fun–they’re the perfect bite-sized treat!

These are all so yummy! Have you tried making any of these treats before?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Big and Small Things

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The God who created, names, and numbers the stars in the heavens also numbers the hairs of my head….He pays attention to very big things and to very small ones. What matters to me matters to Him, and that changes my life.

ELISABETH ELLIOT

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

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Caramel apples are the best…I love the combination of gooey, buttery caramel and crisp, slightly sweet and tart apples. Yum! What could be better? Maybe nothing. Or maybe this Caramel Apple Coffee Cake! It has yummy bits of caramel and chopped apple, and a sweet, crunchy, brown sugar/oatmeal topping. There’s also some Greek yogurt mixed in the cake batter to make it extra moist. It’s a great combination, and it tastes best served warm, while the caramel bits are still soft and gooey. It makes a sweet autumn breakfast with a hot cup of coffee or tea!

This recipe also gave me a chance to try some samples of butter I had received from Président® Premium Butter–they had sent me a Butter Bar, a tub of Spreadable Butter, and a container of their Sea Salt Butter. It definitely is a premium butter–made from cultured cream–and is so good, whether you use it in baking, cooking, or just as a spread on crackers or bread. It’s actually the #1 butter in France. I used some butter from their unsalted butter bar for this recipe.

CARAMEL APPLE COFFEE CAKE by NancyC

Makes an 8 x 8″ coffee cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup chopped, peeled tart apple (I used a Granny Smith apple)
  • 2/3 cup Kraft Caramel bits

Topping:

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour an 8 x 8″ baking pan; set aside (if you use a 9 x 9″ pan, your cake will be thinner and baking time will be a little less; I think this works best with an 8 x 8″ pan).

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla, blending well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chopped apple and caramel bits.

Pour or spoon batter (batter will be thick) into prepared baking pan. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over batter.

Bake at 350˚F for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm.

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I had to do quite a bit of experimenting with this coffee cake before it came out right and my taste-testing friend Rick helped me refine it. I really appreciate those friends who taste-test for me and fortunately, they never seem to get tired of it! :) Have you been baking any caramel-apple flavored desserts?

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

Pumpkin Spice Granola

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After making a few pumpkin recipes that didn’t require much pumpkin, like the Pumpkin Pie Latte and the yummy Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars, I still had some pumpkin to use from the can. So I decided to continue with the … Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars

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Have you ever heard of a “Dessert Mash-Up”? If you haven’t, it’s simply a yummy creation of two different desserts combined into one! It’s also the name of a new cookbook that has recipes like Blueberry Muffin Waffles, Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast, Chocolate Cheesecake Sandwich … Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie Latte

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I was ready for a nice coffee break last weekend ago and decided to treat myself to a Pumpkin Pie Latte. No, I didn’t go to a coffee shop for my latte–I made it right at home, and it was really good! I … Continue reading

Apple-Zucchini Bread

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Apple-Zucchini Bread just seems so perfect for this time of year–early fall is when I’m inspired to bake apple-flavored things! This recipe not only has apples, but zucchini, too, which is great–you can never have enough good zucchini recipes for all that … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

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I love baking with sweet potatoes–I’ve made Sweet Potato Bread, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Loaded Sweet Potato Muffins, and Sweet Potato Cinnamon Cake… so I thought it was about time to try a sweet potato pound cake! I found a great-sounding recipe at Taste … Continue reading

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Spread or Dip

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After I made my Pumpkin Hummus, I had half of a can of pumpkin left over. What to do with it? I thought some of it might be good in a cream cheese spread. I was inspired by this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I wanted to sweeten the spread with honey instead of sugar (although you could use brown sugar instead if you want to have a thicker spread) and made some other changes, and this is what I ended up with!

It’s a lightly sweet and spicy spread with a very creamy texture that’s great on bagels or pumpkin bread for breakfast. Or, use as an appetizer spread on crackers or as a dip for fruit. It’s very soft and creamy when you mix it up so it does need to be refrigerated for at least an hour or two after mixing. Even after it’s refrigerated, it’s more creamy than other cream cheese spreads I’ve made–so if you want a thicker spread, use brown sugar instead of honey and omit the vanilla. If you don’t have all the spices I used in this, you can use 1 1/4 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.

PUMPKIN SPICE CREAM  CHEESE SPREAD by NancyCreative, adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese or light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 Tablespoons honey (or substitute brown sugar for a thicker spread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In medium bowl, blend all ingredients together until smooth (if using an electric mixer, blend on medium speed). Pour mixture into a small serving bowl, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of spread. Serve on bagels or pumpkin bread for breakfast. Or, serve as an appetizer with crackers or apple and pear slices.

If you like pumpkin-flavored things, you’ll need to try this out! What other ways do you like to use leftover canned pumpkin?

Pumpkin Hummus

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I started eating hummus about 10 years ago. A coworker and friend of mine made the best hummus, and he’d bring me some every so often. And I have been a big hummus fan ever since! I usually make this hummus recipe, but I thought I’d try making some hummus with pumpkin in it for the holidays. I liked most of the ingredients in this Pumpkin Hummus recipe and this one, so I used them as a starting point. I really like this Pumpkin Hummus! It’s a great healthy dip–really smooth and creamy, with a light pumpkin, savory taste. Perfect for balancing out all those holiday sweets! If you’re making this for a party or large group, you may want to double the recipe.

PUMPKIN HUMMUS by NancyCreative

Makes about 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), drained
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or a little more, to taste)

Add all ingredients in a food processor, starting with the garbanzo beans, and process until smooth.

To serve, spoon out on a platter or in a small bowl. Sometimes I garnish it with a little paprika. Serve with veggies, crackers, or pita bread.

It’s nice when a dip that tastes good is healthy, too! What are some of your healthy holiday snack recipes?