Vannoliya Pie

Long, long ago when my now big girl, was just a little girl, she would ask me to go through the drive through at Mc Donald’s and get her a “vannoliya pie”. It was the sweetest little thing.

Mickey D’s actually has a few wonderful pies that have well become my favorite. They’ve got the strawberry & cream, the blueberry & cream (it’s hard to find, but it’s good), the pumpkin, the sweet potato (did I have a sweet potato pie there or at Bojangles) and a peaches & cream pie. They’re all good, but I’d have to admit their Holiday {Custard} Pie was one of my favorites. So for Pi-day, I am bringing this thing back to life.

What my little girl called vannoliya pie was a delicious, hand-held vanilla custard pie, wrapped in a flaky, buttery, rainbow-sprinkle infused crust. Totally delicious. Simple, yet complex. A little sweet but not too sweet. I loved it. And she loved it too. What I loved even better was the way in which she’d say, “Vannoliya Pie”. “Vannoliya Pie”. Total music to my ears, and the way that her little voice would say it was even sweeter than the pie.

I could not freeze her in time at that sweet age of 4 years old, but I can make her vannoliya pie, again & again, & again.

For my custard, I started with a crème brulee type of a base. Heavy cream, with sugar, salt, cooked until in thicked, tempering the eggs in, and set aside to cool to make our delicious filling.

For my pie crust, I whipped up a flakey buttery, crust, actually using this recipe, and making sure that the dough did not warm up too much while I kneaded it, I added the rainbow sprinkles, and let it chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.

So, I haven’t quite mastered turning this thing into a hand-held pie, but I do believe that I’ve got the flavor down for the sweet, subtle custard, and the flakey, crusty, buttery, sprinkle-encrusted pie crust. Yay! This one is a win-win!

Vannoliya Pie

For the crust:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of cold butter (cut into cubes)

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 of ice water

1/4 cup non-peril rainbow sprinkles

For the filling:

2 cups of heavy cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 tsp of vanilla extract

3 egg yolks


Making the crust:

  • Begin with very cold butter.
  • Dice the butter into cubes with a sharp knife.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar & salt.
  • Using a pastry blender, cut in butter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add in the ice water, one tablespoon at a time and mix swiftly and gently.
  • Add in just enough water to allow the dough to form into one loose ball.
  • Add in the non-peril sprinkles.
  • Flatten the dough into a disk.
  • Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours overnight.
  • Roll the dough out into the desired size (a 12-13″ circle for a 9″ pie pan).
  • Turn it frequently to maintain it’s shape and to prevent from sticking.
  • Gently roll it over the rolling pin and transfer it to your pie pan.
  • Press the dough evenly into the bottom and the sides of the pie plate.
  • Trim the dough by one inch, to overhang using kitchen sheers or a pizza cutter.
  • Fold the dough under and seal it to form a rim, then crimp the rim with fingertips and knuckles.
  • Using a fork, poke holes into the bottom of the pie crust.
  • Wrap it with plastic wrap in the fridge or the freezer to set it’s shape.
  • The dough must be well-chilled before baking.
  • Add some aluminum foil or parchment paper onto the dough and then weigh it down with uncooked rice, dry un-cooked beans or with pie weights.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees F, for 15-20 minutes or until set and a just light brown. (*Note: You don’t want to over bake it in this process, because you will be re-baking it again once you add the filling).

Making the filling:

  • In a double boiler, warm cream salt, and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks until smooth.
  • Temper in warmed cream into yolk mixture one tablespoon at a time, until fully blended & you’ve added all of the warm cream mixture, to the egg yolk mixture.
  • Pour into pre-baked pie crust and bake in a water bath, for 30-35 minutes, or until firmly set, at 300 degrees.
  • Turn off oven and remove they’re done.
  • Allow to cook at room temperature for 90 minutes in the water bath, and then remove to cool in fridge for 3 to 6 hours.
  • Serve cold with whipped cream (optional) & Enjoy!

Packing Up Christmas: The Christmas Cookies

It’s been a wonderful two weeks and now, in just a couple of days, my kids will be returning to our daily routine & school. As I wind down and reflect back on the things that we have enjoyed so much, there are a few things that I want to wrap up with extra care, as we wrap up Christmas. First things first are the cookie recipes. Well, then there’s also the tree, and the stockings, and the ornaments & all of the festive little things that I have hiding in almost every corner, but the cookies were one of the real highlights of the season.

One of the trays.

I kept a delightful tray of an assortment of Christmas cookies, right in the center or our kitchen, so that anyone walking past could enjoy a nibble or two, throughout the day.

There were cookies being made by the dozen’s. It became a game fun for the kids to guess that I was making next!

Here are the tops of the alaforjes.
These are the biscotti in progress.
These are the peppermint blossoms, waiting for their caps. 🙂
The caps. 🙂
Biscotti in the making.
The power. (Lol!)

Here are five, out of maybe ten, recipes that I made this Christmas, that I think, four of them at least, should be a staple to your Christmas “pantry”.

Grinch cookies.

The Grinch Cookie

If you are making cookies this Christmas (or next) and you have kids or you are going to someone’s house the has kids, then (unless there’s a food color aversion or some other allergy), you need to make the Grinch cookie.

Why? Because kids love the Grinch cookie! They absolutely do! You can have a dozen other varieties of festive looking cookies, and if there’s any cookie that they’re going to go for first, it’s going to be that one!

Peppermint Blossoms

The next kid-favorite are the peppermint blossoms. Kids love the peppermint blossom cookies. Why? Because they have those yummy candies in the middle.

Peppermint blossom cookies.

In fact, my kids call these, the “Candy Cookie”. After all, who doesn’t like a cookie with a cute little piece of candy on top?!

Holiday Biscotti

Now this year, I did not make my original holiday biscotti recipe as I have done in Christmas’ past, but I did make a variation of biscotti and the adults seem to gravitate towards this one.

The (biscotti) loaf, before cutting & the second bake. Biscotti literally means, “twice cooked” or “twice baked”.

Maybe because it’s not super sweet or maybe because it’s reminiscent of something to be enjoyed with a morning cup of coffee? No matter what the flavor. My biscotti is always a hit. I tend to stick with recipes that balance a fruit with a nut or a chip, or something that can be an unexpected note within the texture.

Pre-bake, biscotti loaves.

I also found that I personally enjoyed a smaller slice of biscotti, than the usual longer strips that I typically make.

Russian Tea cakes

You can’t make Christmas cookies without making Russian Tea cakes or as some may call them, “snowball cookies”. You just can’t do. Don’t. You can’t. You have to make these come Christmas-time. And if you don’t make any other cookies for your family, friends, or neighbors, than make these.

Russian tea cakes.

They’re simple, easy to make (you don’t even need any eggs!) and have a classic flavor that will send a reminder to anyone’s taste buds of Christmas.

Russian teacakes on a plate before their second dusting.

Without fail, if you make these and take them somewhere, someone, at least one person will say:

“My aunt used to….” or “My grandmother used to….” or “My mother used to….” These are the type of cookie that create or bring back memories, so make them. So make them for sure!


I wouldn’t necessarily call these a Christmas cookie because they are really a great to have year-round but they are one of the cookies that I made this Christmas.


Alajores are a Latin-themed cookie which are basically made up of a two tender shortbread cookies, sandwiched together with a caramel called dulce de leche, that are then dusted in powdered sugar.

The alajores tops.

I actually dust my cookie tops before I sandwich them together to give them a nice, clean look.

Alajores complete!

I loved having a festive plate of cookies for my family to enjoy during the holiday season! It was just one more way that the magic of Christmas was felt!

Christmas cookie tray. 🙂

Grinch-Inspired Crinkle Cookies


I’m loving all things “Grinch” right about now.  We recently took the kids to see the new “Grinch” movie and every where you go, there’s little reminders of it.

After making them their own Grinch-pancakes, I decided to make some of these Grinch-inspired Crinkle Cookies.

They’re super easy to make.  And I like the fact that I initially made up a big batch a dough, just a small batch of cookies, put the rest of the dough in a Zip-lock bag in the fridge, and have just been taking it out in little amounts to make them a small batch of cookies to enjoy at the end of their night with their hot cocoa.

If you’ve ever made snowball cookies, these are quite similar.  You mix all of your ingredients together until fully combined, roll them in the powdered sugar, set them directly onto your cookie sheet & bake.

Unlike the snowball cookie batter, these don’t need to be refrigerated before you roll them and bake them.  My Russian teacake dough, usually needs to set in the fridge for about a good hour before I can really roll them and have nice firm balls that will set up and not crumble when I go to roll them a second time.

If you have heart shaped sprinkles that are ready to go, then of course use them.  If you don’t, try taking a few red Wilton candy melts wafers and break them into small pieces to decorate the top of your cookies to make them officially, “Grinch-ed”.   Creamy, buttery & even a little bit crunchy.  You can’t go wrong with that.

The printable version is here:


Grinch-Inspired Pancakes

It was a lazy Sunday morning & I had had it in my mind for a while that I would make Grinch pancakes for the kids one weekend & this weekend was my weekend.  Since it was the first weekend of the month & we’re entering the Christmas season, I want to be intentional to enjoy each & every moment, and to slow down long enough to make memories that will last them a lifetime.

We had taken the kids a while back to see the new Grinch movie & then to IHOP to have the Grinch pancakes and I just knew, that I knew that this was something that I could make at home, so I did.

I have a pancake & waffle recipe that I have been making from scratch for quite some time now & I knew that a small scoop of the food coloring was going to give us the color that we wanted.

Whether or not it would be the exact shade of Grinch, I didn’t know, but that was okay.  If I can make any Grinch treat at home for my kids, they will be happy.

Here’s how I made them:

In a large mixing bowl, combine one cup of all purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt, two teaspoons of baking powder, two tablespoons of sugar, and then stir well to combine.

Next add, an egg, two tablespoons of vegetable oil, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a cup of milk and stir until completely blended.

Next you’ll need to add about 1/4 of teaspoon of green food coloring.  Now, I prefer to use the gel food coloring because it’s a lot richer when it comes to the base of the color without using a lot and if you do it right, (by not using a lot) it doesn’t drastically alter the taste of whatever you are making.  So, for this particular recipe, you are literally going to use no more of this particular food coloring, then what I have on this knife right here:

which is about 1/4 teaspoon, measured.

Blend in the food coloring until there are no streaks and the color is smooth all the way through, and make pancakes over low to medium heat.

So I learned something in this whole process:

If you make these pancakes over medium-high heat, like you would normal pancakes, they will start to brown.  And for the Grinch pancakes,  you don’t want any brown if you can help it.  It takes away from the lovely green color.

Here is the printable for this recipe:

Oh, and my frosting…yes, yes, I know, it looks a little clumpy.  Well, that was a mommy-whip-up-something-yummy-fast, kind of a thing.  (I used a little sour cream & confectioners sugar that I didn’t pre-sift before mixing).  Oh well.   My kids devoured it!     

Happy Grinch-Deliciousness!  

Sweet Bean Pie Recipe

This Thanksgiving (and every Thanksgiving) it’s all about the pie for me.  “Eat some turkey, have a few sides & save some room for a slice or two of pie”.  That’s the game plan, right?  That’s me every time, and that is the way to make sure that my Thanksgiving Day dinner is complete!

I found this recipe years ago, and I’ve made it over a dozen times & I tell you, there hasn’t been one time that I have made this pie and not had someone say, “What is in that pie?!” followed by a “That was really good.”

Well, it’s usually one of those… “I’ll tell you later” sort of scenarios because we don’t want to scare anyone away, right?

This pie is made with some of the most unsuspecting of ingredients, but the way that it all blends together is just pure magic.  It’s buttery and delicious & won’t scare your neighbors and friends away, unless you spill the….ahem…beans…before they have a real chance to taste it.  After all, that’s what the pie is made with.  Beans.  You can even call them “magic beans” if you’d like.

One full cup of a can of unseasoned mashed beans are your answer.  You take one can of pinto beans, drain them and mash them and you’re on the start of making this delicious pie.

After you mash your beans, you’ll blend in your eggs, granulated sugar, light corn syrup, and a couple of teaspoons of good vanilla extract, for good measure.

*Note: I usually fully blend my mixture with a hand-held blender before adding the pecans, just to make sure that I have  smooth base texture to go with.


Next, one and one half cups of pecan pieces go in, and Voila!

Well, not quite, “voila” but we’re almost there.

Before adding your pie filling to your crust, you should line both pie crusts with parchment paper and dried uncooked beans.  Now, there are beads and things about there, that can help you with this.  But if you don’t have these special pie beads, then just a layer of parchment paper and regular dried beans from the store will do.  Then bake your pie crusts for 10-12 minutes on 350 degrees before adding your filling.

Once your pie crust has come out of the oven and cooled about 10 minutes before adding your filling, go ahead and add the filling and then wrap the edges and bottom of the pie pan with foil, leaving the face of the pie exposed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes with the foil on, and then for the last 10-12 minutes remove the foil edge from the pie, to finish.

45 minutes later, you should have two nicely golden finished pies.  Allow the pies to cool completely before cutting.

If you’re struggling with the fact that this pie was made with a can of beans, then let me give you a fair warning in telling you that once you taste one bite of this pie, even if just a nibble, you will want to have another slice again & again, and again.

Sweet bean pie a la mode may be the order of the day for the first slice & then sweet bean pie a la eat, will likely be the order for all of the remaining slices. 🙂

Sweet bean pie

Adapted from Grandma’s Recipes Collection

1 can of pinto beans (rinsed, drained & mashed)

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 stick of butter (softened, not melted)

1 1/2 cups of light corn syrup

3 eggs

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups of pecan pieces

2 unbaked deep dish pie crusts

Aluminum foil


One a large plate, with a fork, mash your rinsed & drained beans.

Add the mashed beans to a large mixing bowl, and then add the sugar, light corn syrup, butter, eggs and vanilla.  Mix on medium high speed with a hand blender until fully blended.  With a large spoon, stir in the pecan pieces.

Set aside.

Pre-bake your pie crusts for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, with a layer of parchment paper and dry beans in the center.

Remove the pie crusts from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before adding in the pie filling.

Pour in the pie filling and cover the outside edge of the pie crust with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  After 35 minutes, remove the foil from the pie edge and continue baking for another 10-12 minutes.

Once golden brown, remove pies from oven onto a baking rack or mat to cool.  Wait 30 minutes to an 1 hour before slicing to allow the pie to set, then enjoy!

To enjoy with or without ice cream, is now the question?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clean Eating Sweet Potato Butter Recipe

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, this past weekend, I got the itch to throw something in the crock pot.  Maybe a meal, maybe a treat, it didn’t matter what.  Something about the fragrances coming from a slow cooker, when you don’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere are just so comforting to me.  So here’s a recipe that I found online that I decided to give a try: Clean Eating Sweet Potato Butter.

I have had sweet potato butter before.  I have had apple butter, pumpkin butter and peach butter but this was my first time making anything other than apple butter at home before.

This recipe is rather simple & honestly if I could do it over again (which I probably will when I make another batch) I would not cook it as long.  I cooked it for the directed amount of time and thought just by looking at it that the sweet potatoes were not cooked long enough, but they were.  Mistake #1 but a lesson learned.

I started with sweet potatoes, and added some molasses, apple cider, cinnamon spice, a pinch of salt, bourbon vanilla extract and fresh grated orange zest.  I didn’t see the need for the orange zest and will omit that in the future.

I sprayed the bottom of my crock pot with non-stick pan spray and then lined it with a crock pot liner.  Adding 3 cups of chopped sweet potato.  I removed any dark or brown spots that might have spoilage.

Then I added the remainder of my ingredients, the molasses, the cider, the salt etc.  I almost never make something like this without the addition of teaspoon or two of vanilla extract.

I did cook my sweet potatoes for too long.  The instructions said to cook them in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours, but I cooked them for ten.

I felt that this overcooked the sweet potatoes bit but the flavor was still there.

So what are you making in the slow cooker this fall season?

Clean Eating Sweet Potato Butter

Original AuthorThe Gracious Pantry

This version made my: Things She Makes

  • 3 cups peeled sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Spray the bottom of your slow cooker with non-stick spray.

  2. Cover slow cooker with cooker line.

  3. Add all ingredients to the pot, and set on low temperature setting for 8 hours.

  4. Turn off crock pot and remove liner and contents.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

  5. Puree and blend with hand mixer.  Once mixture is completely cool at the air tight canning jar or mason jar.  Refrigerate.  Serve over toast or a homemade buttered-biscuit to enjoy.


Homemade {Skinny} Pumpkin Spice Latte

“Well, hello, flavors of fall…..”

This time of year, a little bit of fall has been sprinkled into everything.. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, pumpkin patches await, and the flavors of fall await, from breads, cookies & hot morning (or afternoon) drinks.  I love a good pumpkin spice latte.  So I figured, why not try my hand at making my own at home and I did.  And it turned out DELICIOUS!  And now I want to share it with YOU!

Please note: This recipe was for one serving of latte but you can double or triple it to make as many servings as you would like. 🙂

It starts out with a little bit of almond milk.   We usually keep almond milk on hand, and it’s one of my main go-to’s as an alternative for regular milk, calorie wise.  So to make this a “skinny” latte (meaning less calories) I thought that it would be great.

Then I added just a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

If you mean business with your vanilla then you will:

(1) Use pure and not imitation extract and

(2) You might even use something like this, that I found at Trader Joes.  I like it because the flavor is bold and you can taste the difference when added to your recipes.

A dash of nutmeg.

We can’t have a fall-themed warm & cozy treat without nutmeg.  You just can’t..

One tablespoon of canned pumpkin puree.  This is two 1/2 tablespoons, in the picture below.

And 1/8 cup of sugar.  You can adjust the amount or type of sugar if you’d like.  Agave, maple, honey, brown sugar, or sugar in the raw also sound like great options.

And stir, with a whisk.  You want your pumpkin to be completely blended in to your milk mixture.  Remember, this is a latte, and a latte usually means a steamed milk.  So we’re going to cook this pumpkin in while it’s steeping with the milk.  So that we have a nice, smooth, well-blended pumpkin spiced latte.

Once it’s fully blended we will turn on the heat.  You’ll want to continue the stir this over medium high heat in your saucepan for about 7 minutes.

Once that’s done, add it to your favorite mug, top with whipped cream and some cute sprinkles and you’re good to go.


Now to make sure that this treat, truly was “skinny”, I used this fat-free whipped cream:

So what yummy treats are you loving this fall?  Are you going to try to make any at home?

homemade {skinny} pumpkin spice latte

(Makes 1 serving)

3/4 cup of almond milk

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

a pinch of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree

1/8 cup of sugar (substitute amount or type of sweetener for your liking)


In a small saucepan, add almond milk, vanilla, nutmeg, pumpkin, sugar and stir.  Stir with a whisk until all of your ingredients are fully blended and there are no visible clumps of pumpkin puree left.

Over medium high heat, continue to stir for 5-7 minutes until the mixture has come to a light boil and starts to steam.  Remove from heat and pour into a mug of your choice.  Top with whipped cream & garnish with your favorite seasonal sprinkles.  Enjoy!



Pumpkin Spice Glazed Donuts

It’s time to make the donuts! 

I’ve been itching at the chance to make some delicious baked homemade donuts this fall.  It’s been a while since I’ve made any donuts & since we’re still in the middle of “pumpkin spice everything” I thought, what better type of homemade donuts to make then, pumpkin spice donuts?!

Who can resist anything pumpkin during fall, right?

* This post may contain affiliate links.  See side bar for full disclosure. *

In a large mixing bowl, I combined all of my dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder & pumpkin pie spice) until completely smooth.

Then I added all of my wet ingredients (the eggs, the oil, & the vanilla) along with pumpkin.


I mixed until completely smooth & then set it aside and got my donut baking pan ready.


After I sprayed my donut pan with a generous dose of non-stick pan spray, I filled each section 3/4 of the way with my pumpkin batter.  Here is the pan that I used.

A gave them a gently shake and tap on the counter to even them out and then baked them in a 350 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.

Part-way through (at about 12 mins) I couldn’t resist, I had to peak just to make sure that they were coming along okay.

After 18 minutes I removed them from the oven and let them set for about 6 to 10 minutes while I made the dipping glaze.

(I set them out on my baking rack after ten minutes, to allow them to cool & to get them ready for the glaze).

I melted 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, and 2 cups of powdered sugar & whisked until smooth.

One at a time, I dipped them in the glaze, and some I drizzled over.

I added a mix of toppings, from top left – plain pumpkin spice glaze, glaze and white sprinkles, glaze with half gold sugar/ half clear crystal sugar.  Bottom left: mini chocolate chip, glaze striped, and pumpkin spice glaze pecan.

This by far, is my favorite thing that I have made all fall!

pumpkin spice glazed donuts

Dry Ingredients
1 3/4 cup + two tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of salts
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

Wet Ingredients
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (almost all of one 12 oz. can)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar


In a large bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and pumpkin pie spice) until fully combined.  Add in the egg, oil, and canned pumpkin.  Stir until fully blended.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray donut pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Fill cavities 3/4 of the way with pumpkin batter.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then remove from pan.  Set on a baking rack to cool.  Place parchment paper underneath the baking rack to prepare for glazing and toppings.

To make the glaze:

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter until boiling.  Add the pumpkin pie spice.  Remove from heat.  Wait 2-3 minutes and then add the heavy whipping cream, stirring constantly.  Allow to cool 5 minutes, then add the powdered sugar, stirring constantly.  When the top of the glaze is cool to the touch, begin to dip or drizzle over donuts.  Enjoy!



Childhood Favorite: Swirled Peanut Butter & Jelly

I came across this at the grocery store the other day and it totally brought back memories: one container, beautifully striped peanut butter and jelly!

I hesitated at first as I know that my kids are not allowed to have this at school, but they can still have it at home, at least.  Right?  Well, I caved in and decided to get it.  I used to love when my mom would pick this out at the store.  As a kid, what can be better than your two favorite {lunch} things all in one.  We used to get the Smucker’s brand, but let me tell ya, this one will do.

I recently had a craving for a little toast & peanut butter and jelly and this jar fit the bill.  It immediately brought me back to my childhood days…..

Striped pb & j, or better yet to fluffer-nutters…

What’s one thing that when you eat it, you can’t help but think about being a kid again?