How to Make Simple Pumpkin Hand Pies

How to Make Simple Pumpkin Hand Pies | Writing Between Pauses

The other day as I left work, I got the idea in my head that I needed—absolutely, positively needed—pumpkin pie. Not just any pumpkin pie, but a hand pie.

Hand pies are, obviously, small, hand held pies. And pumpkin pie, traditionally, is not a great filling. The recipe that most people use for pumpkin pie is quite runny with a lot of egg and cream. The entire drive home from work, I found myself thinking of ways to make pumpkin pie filling without evaporated milk and 5 eggs. There had to be a way, right?

I ended up (of course) searching Pinterest and cobbling together 3 different recipes for pumpkin hand pies. They were super simple to make and even though I tried to keep the portions smile, I made 12 hand pies and have enough filling in my fridge for at least 12-24 more. (That’s… a lot of hand pies.)

Pumpkin Hand Pies

(I know this isn’t a great photo. Low light, what can I say?)

Here’s my recipe:

  • 2 rolls of refrigerated pie crust (you can make your own, but I had store bought in my fridge)

  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt

  • 1 egg

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves

  • Egg wash (1 egg + water)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, start by unrolling your pie crust and rolling it a bit with a rolling pin to flatten it completely and thin it out a bit more. Then, using a pumpkin cookie cutter, cut out pie shells. Arrange half the shells on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The other half, cut out jack-o-lantern faces or “pumpkin marks”. Put about 1-2 teaspoon of filling (it will depend on the size of your cookie cutter; my pumpkins were quite small, so 1 teaspoon was almost too much!) in the center of the bottom shells, brush with egg wash, then top with the decorated pie shell. Press around the edge with a fork. Repeat until you’re out of dough or filling*. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until browned.

*Extra filling can be stored for about a week or so. I ended up baking mine in muffin cups on top of graham crackers!

You can also sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar after brushing with egg wash; I am going to try that next time and see if it makes them just a bit prettier.

How to Make Pumpkin Hand Pies
Simple Pumpkin Hand Pies

That’s it! Simple, easy, delicious hand pies! I am actually going to try doubling the filling recipe and using it in an entire pie, as I like the taste of the filling a lot more than usual pumpkin pie. It is less sickly sweet and more nuanced, thanks to the Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Let me know if you try these—I’d love to know what you’d change to make them better!

4 Desserts to Make for Christmas

4 Desserts to Make For Christmas | Writing Between Pauses

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I love baking. It makes me so happy! In recent months, I've been trying to expand my baking schedule to include things that aren't just cookies and cupcakes. I've made scones, trifles, brownies and bars, candy, and biscotti in the past year or so. It's been so fun to experiment, try new recipes, and learn more about baking than I ever thought possible. 

I've collected my favorite Christmas dessert recipes to share here. I tried to include one cookie recipes--because cookies are, after all, very easy to make and dress up. Add ice cream and you've got ice cream sandwiches; layer with whipped cream and you've got a cookie cake; dunk into hot cocoa and you've got magic. Here are 4 desserts that will put you in the Christmas spirit... just don't forget to share with your friends & family!

1. Candy Cane Brownie Trifle

Candy Cane Brownie Trifle

Listen: brownies. Candy canes. Whipped cream. Chocolate sauce. 

Need I say more? Served in a gorgeous wine glass (or, you know, just a bowl works too!), it's the perfect dessert. You can use homemade brownies, box mix brownies, or even pre-made brownies, pre-made whipped cream, and store bought chocolate sauce for the easiest, most delicious dessert in the world. Perfect for last minute parties that you forgot were happening. 

2. Grinch Sugar Cookie Bars

Grinch Sugar Cookie Bars | Writing Between Pauses

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is one of my absolute favorite Christmas movies--so, of course, these bars are right up my alley. Delicious, soft sugar cookie dough topped with delicious, creamy icing. Easy, delicious, and totally Christmas-y--also, perfect for a movie viewing party!

3. Gingerbread Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread Bars | Writing Between Pauses

Gingerbread is one of my favorite treats to have during December--and these bars combine it with my favorite frosting, cream cheese frosting. I absolutely love these bars and make them, actually, a few times a year, including for my birthday! They're also great to wrap and give as gifts, because they are so sturdy and transportable. 

4. Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

Red Velvet Cookies | Writing Between Pauses

I love red velvet cake--so when I first found this recipe, about 4 or 5 years ago, I immediately jumped to make these cookies. They are soft, cakey, and slightly chocolatey... and so, so good. They are super Christmas-y looking too! I make these every year for cookie exchanges and they are always a big hit because they are so unique. It's also fun to use mini Andes pieces (with the green stripe) for a little extra Christmas flair! 

5 Easy Autumn Dinners to Make This Month

5 Easy Autumn Dinners to Make This Month | Writing Between Pauses

The truth is I’ve been hoarding Autumn recipes on Pinterest for weeks. About halfway through August, I started really craving soup. Two weeks ago, when it started to rain in Oregon, Danny had to remind me that we can’t eat just soup all week. Why not?! For that reason, I limited myself to ONE soup recipe in this round up. Why? Because maybe you aren’t into soup as much as I am or maybe you don’t own a crockpot. No matter what, these recipes scream Autumn—they are warm, cozy, and a little heavy. Enjoy! 

1. Crockpot tomato soup

This is one of my favorite soups of all time. I used to hate tomato soup—that is, until I started making tomato soup this way. I use the above recipe, but I changed a few things to make it my own. Mainly, I don’t use a parmesan rind (dairy free) and I don’t add any milk or cream. I do sauté the onions and garlic before adding to the crockpot. I add sweet mesquite seasoning, lots and lots of garlic, and a little pinch of cinnamon (you heard me). If you want to add some extra nutrients, a bag of spinach before you blend it up really punches up the health aspect. 

2. Butternut squash and spinach tortellini

I love a pasta, especially in the winter. One of my favorite ways to eat pasta, especially heavy dishes like fettuccines and mac’n’cheese, is to use blended up squash instead of something like heavy cream and cheese. This butternut squash and spinach tortellini recipe looks so good and it’s perfect for a weeknight dish when it’s a little rainy outside. 

3. Sweet potato & black bean tacos

A list of easy recipes wouldn’t be complete with tacos. Tacos are one of the easiest things to make on weeknights—and I love using Fall veggies like sweet potatoes, delicata squash, and butternut squash alongside black beans. I would also probably add some sweet corn if your local farmer’s market has any left! 

4. Salmon & potato bake 

Creamy potatoes and salmon in one dish? Sign me up, I’m there. This would be perfect for a Friday night when you just want something heavy and warm to soothe your soul. 

5. Spinach & lentil fritters

I’ve been a little obsessed with fritters lately. Something about them is just very Autumnal to me. These lentil and spinach versions really back a punch. Serve with some pita or nan and some cucumber-yogurt dipping sauce and they’d be absolutely delicious. Or serve with mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. Either way, serve them because they’re yummy. 

4 Genius Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time & Money

Every Sunday, I do meal prep. This isn't something I've always done and to be completely honest, I dread it every single week. It's something I cannot do when Forrest is around because he loses his mind the moment he sees food. 

This is my way of saving: meal prep isn't fun. I won't pretend it is. However, I always thank Sunday me when Wednesday rolls around and Forrest is scream-crying because he has a fever from his molars and I just cannot cook

If you're like me and you end up buried up to your eyeballs by halfway through the workweek, then these meal tips are for you. 

1. Set aside one day, two hours, and do it. 

This is the most basic of basic tips, but meal prep doesn't have to take an entire day. In fact, I beseech you: don't torture yourself by meal prepping all day. Here's how I typically meal prep: 

  • I make my husband's lunches for the week (always stir fry). 
  • I make my husband's breakfasts for the week. 
  • I make something we can use in meals every single day (like a huge batch of roasted veggies or a bunch of rice). 
  • I make something I can grab as a quick lunch every single day (like pasta or chicken). 

That's it. I don't make huge batches of overnight oats or cute little jars that take up way too much room in my small fridge. I don't torture myself. Don't torture yourself. Set aside two or three hours in one day, plan a menu for the week, and execute it. 

2. Remember to actually eat the things you prep. 

Okay, another really basic tip: remember to eat all this stuff. Whenever my husband forgets his lunch, I basically want to start tearing the doors off our house. (I don't. But I want to.) Remember to keep a list on your fridge or phone of what you have prepped, as well as a rough outline of things you can make every day. I personally do not like to do a menu plan for each day because, guaranteed, by Tuesday evening, I will rebel. Instead, I just make a list of what I have and what possible combinations can come from that. 

3. It's ok to be simple. 

I recently started following a budgeting program and one of the most revolutionary tips was, dinners don't have to be over-the-top insane, crazy. Dinners don't have to be three or four courses. BLTs and salad is fine. Chicken and veggies is fine too. You don't need to go crazy! It's healthier, and will save you money, to not feel like you have to prep a ton of food for each dinner. My advice is to go after simple meals and items. Chicken with rice and veggies can be just as delicious as a huge, hearty, steak-and-potatoes meal. My husband's favorite dinners are stir fry days, when I literally just reheat roasted veggies with some teriyaki sauce, add some chicken, and cook some chow mein noodles. Minimal effort, truly. 

4. Stretch what you make with bulk items. 

When I prep rice and vegetables for the week, I make sure to have things like pre-cooked chicken, beef, and meatballs in the freezer. I usually keep a batch of turkey meatballs and beef meatballs frozen and thaw as needed. I also cook ground beef with peppers and onions and freeze in bags to use for spaghetti, tacos, lasagna, and more. Chicken is easy to cook in the oven, cool, and freeze in individual servings to be de-thawed as necessary. Having these things in your freezer can be added to your weekly prepped items, like rice and roasted vegetables, for a quick lunch or dinner. Keeping canned goods (like black beans, corn, and chickpeas) on hand can also be a quick addition. 

When you meal prep ahead of time, you save yourself time and you save money. None of these items are particularly expensive and if you shop sales, you can get good deals on ground beef and ground turkey to cook in advance. 

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5 Meals for Baby-Led Weaning

By the time I had Forrest, I hadn't heard about baby-led weaning. Which is surprising, because I'd read about just about everything else. I didn't learn about baby-led weaning (or, BLW) until almost 6 months later, when moms in my mom group were starting to introduce solids (or talk about the unnecessary introduction of purees, same difference, I guess). 

I introduced solids at 5 months (I know, blasphemy), which is pretty controversial in the mom world. Most pediatricians recommend not starting until 6 months OR when a baby can sit up. Well, Forrest wasn't sitting up by 6 months, but he WAS eating me out of house-and-home with formula, so, you know what? Solids it is. 

We started with purees and kept with purees for a long time. Whole foods made me nervous. Babies can choke on just about anything, including rice cereal, which is approximately the texture of thinned out Elmer's glue, so I wasn't 100% sold on the idea of handing Forrest a piece of chicken. 

As Forrest got bigger, and started eating stage 2, 3, and 4 purees, I realized he was ready. He was ready to try this BLW thing. He was 7 months old by then and eating just about everything I offered him on a spoon. 

We started having toast in the mornings with him--toast with avocado or just butter or occasionally peanut butter--and he loved it, often eating an entire piece of toast on his own. Forrest has only choked on one thing and that's a meatball; and, to be honest, it's because he was shoving pieces of it into his mouth as fast as he could. 

I recently was writing down the foods he has the easiest time eating and I realized other moms who are nervous nellies about introducing table foods might appreciate these. Here they are. 

1. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Who doesn't love a nice grilled cheese? I make Forrest's two different ways: either with olive oil, 1 slice of bread (cut in half), and cheddar cheese; or with cream cheese and mashed fruit. He likes both and while yell if I don't hand him pieces fast enough. 

2. Quesadillas

A common thread among these foods is that they are easy to pick up and chew on for him. Quesadillas are one of those things. I usually mash up refried beans, avocado, and cheese (plus any veggie puree I have on hand to make it healthier), spread on half a tortilla, top with the other half, and then grill until a little crisp, but still soft. He will eat the entire thing if I let him. 

3. Toast

Toast, like sandwiches and quesadillas, is easy to pick up. We do avocado on toast, mashed banana on toast, fruit puree on toast, peanut butter, butter, jam, cream cheese... whatever I've got on hand, if it spreads on toast, he's probably eaten it. 

4. Roasted Carrots

Okay, this isn't really a meal, more of a snack. Available finger food baby snacks out there are very... binding. It's rice puffs or corn puffs or generally processed stuff that kind of, well, gross. And if it's not rice puff things, it's straight up choking hazards; those yogurt melt drops for babies are seriously gag-worthy and I've heard of way too many babies choking on them! I cut up two big carrots into sticks, roast them, and keep them in a container in the fridge. I can microwave them for a few seconds and give them to Forrest to gnaw on while I finish his dinner. 

5. Fruit Smoothies

Fruit smoothies are easy to make and it helps babies learn to use a sippy cup. I make mine with a pouch of fruit puree (usually whatever is leftover from breakfast), a scoop of Greek yogurt, a bit of apple juice, and water to thin it. I just shake it up in Forrest's sippy cup and let him go. If you use a puree pouch, it often has veggies in it too, so you're basically supermom. 

Have baby-led weaning tips of your own? Send them to me on Twitter!

5 Halloween Recipes to Try This Year

I love Halloween. I look forward to it every year. I love the candy, I love the desserts, I love scary movies, and I love costumes (even though I rarely have an opportunity to dress up). This year, since Halloween falls on a Saturday, it means everyone has a little more time to get into the spirit and make some Halloween magic. Why should Christmas get all the fun recipes? 

1. Pumpkin Cheesecake Mummies

Not only do these look really yummy, they are very easy to make. Personally, I think they'd be fine with just some Halloween sprinkles if you're not up to, um, making mummy faces. 

2. Monster Cookies 

Ok, I'm obsessed with these cookies and will absolutely be making them (if Forrest lets me). Normally, monster cookies are just chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with a bunch of other stuff added. These ones have eyeball candies. Tell me that's not awesome. 

3. Caramel Apple Bites

Caramel apples are hard to make and somewhat intimidating--all that caramel! However, little bites means you won't have to commit to eating an entire apple covered in roughly a cup of caramel. Follow the troubleshooting tips on this recipe for best results. 

4. Cheesy Breadstick "Bones"

You have to have one non-sweet treat at Halloween and cheesy breadsticks are always a good choice. These ones use packaged dough for minimum effort, but you could also use homemade pizza dough. 

5. Harvest Hash Trail Mix 

Mm, trail mix--with Bugles, candy corn, and more. This would make a great treat bag for your most special trick-or-treaters. 

What Do You Eat for Dinner?

I recently read an article about at-home meal kits, like Blue Apron and Plate. The idea behind these kits is to provide families and individuals with the ingredients necessary to try new meals. Why? Because the average American family eats out about 18 times a month and otherwise, they cycle through about 10 meals that they cook consistently over and over again. 

That fact--that the average family cycles through about 10 meals that they always cook--made me think about what my meal staples are. When the going gets rough and I don't feel like cooking, what do I make? 

  1. Spaghetti. I would say that some form of spaghetti or pasta is on everyone's list of "go-to meals." It might be spaghetti with red sauce (like me) or alfredo or lasagna or something like that, but pasta is on nearly everyone's list in one form of another. 
  2. Salmon with rice & sweet potatoes. This is a pretty standard protein+carb+veggie dish that I make all the time... and I'm sure others do. 
  3. Barbecue chicken sandwiches with coleslaw. This is one of Danny and I's absolute favorite summer meals that we can make a variation of throughout the year thanks to my crockpot. However, after getting pregnant, I couldn't handle shredded chicken so we hadn't enjoyed it for a while. 
  4. Tacos or burritos. Another very standard staple. I use fat free refried beans and ground beef to make a filling that's great for tacos, burritos, salads, etc. 
  5. Pizza/calzone. I make a pretty awesome pizza dough (it's very easy), so I make pizza or calzone at least once a week or so. It's a great way to get the pizza fix without buying a pizza. This way, I can make it a little healthier. 
  6. Hamburgers with box mac & cheese. This is probably the unhealthiest thing in my rotation, but I just love that orange box mac & cheese. 
  7. Grilled cheese & soup. Soups are usually stew; chili; veggie; or potato. Usually homemade, but occasionally I buy potato soup. 
  8. Breakfast for dinner. Pancakes or waffles, eggs, and bacon is my usual go-to for a quick and easy dinner. But if I feel like getting crazy, I will sometimes make biscuits and sausage gravy or some kind of fancy omelette. 

That's it. I can't even think of 10! I have 8 meals I usually make for Danny and I. I can think of some I make a few times a year, like rouladen and colcannon or flautas, but aren't "staples" quite the way these ones are. 

Writing these down made me realize how much I need to add variety to our dinners. (Full disclosure: from February to May, I think I cooked a real dinner twice. And that was because other people were coming over.) I have so many cookbooks that I never use. Maybe it's time to put them to use...

What are your go-to meals? Can you think of 10? 

Your New Holiday Cookie: Chewy Molasses & Cocoa Cookies

Molasses cookies and I have a complicated relationship. Mainly that I deeply love them and they are often really difficult to make. Molasses cookies walk a fine line between chewy and crisp. And you know what I don't like? Crisp cookies. I like soft, chewy, warm, melt-in-your-mouth cookies. None of this crunchy stuff -- I reserve that sensation for popcorn and chips.