Cranberry-apple pie with streusel topping.

Best pie ever…

Being held lovingly by (and soon to be devoured by) the best husband ever.

(I wish you could see his shirt. There is a duck on it, with its shadow being cast in the background like a duck shadow puppet… so witty!)

All that to say- I am officially in love with cranberries. I’ve always been a fan of the punch-you-in-the-mouth-they’re-so-sweet dried ones, but I bought my first bag of fresh cranberries this fall. I’m sure that I will be buying more before they go out of season.

Apple pie on its own never fails, but adding cranberries really gave the pie some extra oomph for me. The apples are sweet and spicy with the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of ginger. The cranberries are tart and therefore make for a wonderful complementary flavor.

Inspired by this recipe, I cut it down a little to fit into my regular pie pan, and replaced the top crust for a streusel topping.

Do you like streusel? Have you ever eaten just the streusel topping off of a muffin, only to leave the rest of it untouched and waiting for someone else to eat its ugly, bald, streusel-less self?

…will neither confirm nor deny that I have done such a thing.

Cranberry, pomegranate, and kale stem stuffing.

Pomegranate seeds are beautiful… like little red jewels.My family had a pomegranate tree in the backyard as I was growing up, so I was used to having them every winter season. Unfortunately, this also means that I never fully appreciated them until after they weren’t as accessible. Isn’t that always how it is? Now, when I get my hands on one, I make sure to enjoy every last juicy, tart, full-of-anti-oxidants seed in the fruit.

My mom fondly referred to them as “messy red fruits” for the obvious reason of them being rather messy to open up. Since the rest of my family was afraid of the mess, my dad took great pride in making an event out of busting open 4 or 5 pomegranates at a time. He’d spread paper towels around his cutting board, make sure the world knew that he was about to embark on a valiant project, and would begin hacking and peeling away. We steered clear until he was done, at which time there would be a full bowl of pomegranate seeds for the taking… effort-free pomegranate seeds!

Since I no longer live in a house with a pomegranate-whisperer, this trick has made enjoyment of the fruit possible for me…

Fill a bowl with water, submerge the pomegranate into the water, cut it open, and then peel the membrane away from the seeds with your fingers. The seeds will float to the bottom of the bowl, the membrane pieces will float to the top, and any squirting juice will diffuse into the bowl of water. And all shall be right and good in the land of pomegranates.

Now, to the actual point of this post… stuffing.

This was my first time making stuffing from scratch- and it was surprisingly easy. Alright, not incredibly surprising considering stuffing is, well… soggy bread.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love to make use of everything in my fridge. Most of what I end up cooking is inspired by at least one ingredient that needs to be used up. The great thing about stuffing is that the bread is supposed to be dried out before the juices are added. Why would I buy a new loaf of bread when one that is a liiiiiittle past its prime would actually be better? (I’m not talking mold or anything, just to be clear! Just a little less soft than when I brought it home.)

Kale!

Ingredients:

1 loaf of bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes*

2-3 T butter

1/2 onion, chopped

2 apples, chopped into 1-inch cubes

stems from a bunch of kale, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 teaspoon each of sage, rosemary, and thyme

1/2 cup dried cranberries

16 oz chicken stock

seeds from 1/2 large pomegranate

Directions:

1) To make the stuffing bread cubes, bake the bread cubes at 300 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. I let them sit out over night, as I did it the day before, but if you are going to be making your stuffing right away, you may want to bake them for 5 or 10 more minutes.

2) When the cubes are ready, brown your butter, and then drizzle most of it over your bread cubes. Use a spatula to distribute the butter throughout.

3) Saute onions and kale stems in the remaining butter for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Stir in the spices.

4) Add the cooked veggies, chopped apple, and cranberries to the bread crumb mixture. Transfer to a baking/casserole dish (mine fit in a 2-qt), and then slowly pour the chicken broth over the cubes, stirring the cubes while you are pouring to ensure that the broth is equally wetting the bread. Depending on how big your loaf of bread was, you may need more or less chicken broth. You want the stuffing to be moist, not saturated or drippy.

5) Pop the dish into the oven at 375 for 30-45 minutes. As long as all the flavors have melded together, it should be fine. Stir in the pomegranate seeds right before serving. They will have a “seedy” bite, but I personally like this texture-feel!

*I used whole wheat bread, and not an entire loaf. This is because this is what I had… it turned out to be 5 cups of dry bread cubes. You may use any type of bread, and you may use more (or less!). Just adjust the chicken broth accordingly.

Snickerdoodle Cookie Cupcakes!

I hereby present to you… the most wonderful combination of cake and cookie that this girl has ever tasted.Underneath that modest exterior of what looks like a regular boxed cupcake is the magic of cookie, cake, and frosting working together to form beautiful harmony in your mouth.

For some reason, cookies on their own tend to bore me. I think it’s a texture thing? And cake on its own… let’s be real, here… cake on its own can be rather boring. I love the decorative aspect of cakes, do not hear me wrong! I will walk by the bakery section at the grocery store needlessly… only to gawk at the fabulous artistry displayed in the glass cases. But when I’m feeling like dessert, cake would probably be my last choice.

However… I loved this cupcake. Let’s not even call it a cupcake- the cake part of it probably only constituted one-third of the body of the thing. The bottom layer was more dense than a cookie would be if baked on its own, the frosting on top was simply decadent, and the cake layer in the middle rounded the whole thing out.

There’s nothing like a good baked good and a cup of joe. If you are a snickerdoodle fan, I urge you to head on over to How Sweet It Is and make these tonight.

I happened to have snickerdoodle dough left over from making cookies a few days earlier, and I just added some cinnamon to yellow *box cake batter for my cake layer. I followed the frosting instructions to a T, though, and it was wonderful.

Do NOT forget to top them with cinnamon sugar… they look 10 times prettier this way, and add enough “oomph” to take them over the top!

I hope you are loving the fall weather as much as I!

*I have a hatred for box cake… but I was out of milk and had to resort to using what I had on-hand! Don’t judge me!! So, you also have a right to use boxed cake it you like. Please don’t use a snickerdoodle cookie mix, though. That’s just gross.