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Dessert Recipes

Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

I really have a thing for pumpkin pie. It happens to be my favorite pie at Thanksgiving. I do have a soft spot for apple pies and I will not turn down a slice of pecan pie.

But there is something about a pumpkin pie! I know many of you have been busy all week prepping for Thanksgiving tomorrow. In case you haven't found a pumpkin pie recipe yet, you may want to try this one. Especially if you are a coconut lover! If you want a more traditional pie without coconut, I have this one for you. Try the maple whipped cream recipe I shared with that recipe...amazing!

Are you looking for a dairy-free/vegan pumpkin pie, this one is a hit!
Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

And it's not just me. My kids request a pumpkin pie on a weekly basis once they know that it is pumpkin baking season over here. I do oblige and I just love the scent of the pie baking.

For those that do not prefer to make your own crust, you could use a ready-made crust.  It's not that difficult to put together your own crust and the flavor surpasses a ready-made crust. It's ok if it doesn't roll out perfectly and it's ok if it shrinks a little while baking. Honestly, nobody will notice. They will just be oohing and ahhhing over your amazing pie! Really, I know they will!!

I love this crust recipe because you add coconut to the dough...and when you take a bite you can taste sweet coconut bits. If you're a coconut fan, it's incredible! If you're not such a coconut fan, you can omit the coconut in the dough for the pie crust. The recipe I found in Food Network magazine also adds 1 Tablespoon of coconut rum to the filling. I omitted it in my recipe, but if you have the coconut rum on hand, I bet it will taste fantastic!
Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

I like to make my pie dough in my food processor. It just comes together easier for me like that. I also make my dough (pasta frolla) for my crostatas in the food processor. Once it reaches that consistency where you know you could work with it, it's ready. If it's too dry, you have to add a little more iced-water. I just stop my processor while it is blending it together a couple of time and check how the consistency is going. I know you can get a better handle of the dough process if you work with it in a bowl. But like I said, I just prefer to use the processor. Here is a great link I've shared before on how to make your dough for a pie crust.  Kate is the queen of pies! Here is a link explaining why you should blind bake.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends! I'm grateful for all of you!!

 Pumpkin-Coconut Pie

  1. for the crust-
  2. 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  3. 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, plus more topping (you can omit coconut from crust if you like)
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 2 Tablespoons sugar
  6. 3/4 cup (a stick and a half) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  7. 1/2 cup of all-vegetable shortening (8 Tbsp)
  8. 6-8 Tablespoons ice water
  9. for the filling-
  10. 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
  11. 1 cup coconut milk
  12. 3/4 cup sugar
  13. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  14. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  15. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  16. 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  1. for the pie dough-
  2. Combine flour, sweetened flaked coconut salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse it one time to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse 4 times. Add shortening one tablespoon at a time and pulse each time you add a tablespoon. The mixture should resemble coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no bigger than peas. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over flour mixture one tablespoon at a time. Pulse once after you add each tablespoon of water. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, keep adding water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing once after each addition, until the mixture just begins to clump together.
  3. Clean off your counter really well or use a pastry board or a nice cutting board. Flour your hands generously. Take the dough out of the food processor. Tilt the rolling pin and sprinkle it with flour as you rotate the rolling pin. Divide the dough into two balls and flatten each into a 4-inch wide disks. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on each disk and then wrap both separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling. When you are flattening the disks, you are not working the dough. You are just simply flattening the shape into a disk. If you are making the pie that day, make sure you refrigerate for at least an hour. Reserve the second disk for your next pie in the fridge. It can stay for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
  4. When it is time to roll the dough out to make my pie, I take it out of the refrigerator and I usually let my dough sit out for about 5 minutes before rolling. It’s hot here in Florida. Doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to get to the perfect rolling temperature.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, form pastry into a ball; shape into a flattened round. Roll pastry 2 inches larger than an inverted pie plate with a floured rolling pin. Fold pastry into quarter folds and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side.
  6. Using a rolling pin, apply light pressure while rolling outwards from the center of the dough. Every once in a while you may need to gently lift under the dough You have a big enough piece of dough when you place the pie tin or pie dish upside down on the dough and the dough extends by at least 2 inches all around.
  7. When the dough has reached the right size, gently fold it in half. Lift up the dough and place it so that the folded edge is along the center line of the pie dish. Gently unfold and be sure to not stretch the dough to fit. Fold pastry into quarter folds and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side.
  8. * If you are only making a single crust pie, use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the lip of the dish. Tuck the overhang underneath itself along the edge of the pie dish. Use your fingers in a pinching motion, or the tines of a fork to crimple the edge of the pie crust.
  9. blind bake the dough-
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake until golden around the edge (about 15-20 minutes). Remove the foil and weights and continue baking 5 more minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.
  11. for the filling-
  12. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin,coconut milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla and spices until combined. Pour into the blind baked crust and place on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake for one hour. Check on the pie after 30 minutes. If crust is already a nice golden color, tent it with foil paper so it won’t brown too much during the rest of the baking. If you are adding coconut to the top, add it on during last 3 minutes of gets brown pretty quickly. Let cool completely and then refrigerate overnight. We didn’t have the patience to wait until it was chilled and it enjoyed it when it cooled completely. Serve with your homemade whipped cream.

Why visit Napoli? A guest post by Tina of Discover Napoli Destinations

Why visit Napoli

Napoli (not to be confused with lovely Naples, Fla!) occupies a privileged position, right smack in the middle of the Mediterranean. It could be for this reason that more or less around the 8th century BC, the Greek settlers decided to stop and create a flourishing colony here!

Why visit Napoli

It COULD be, however, in my opinion, they were captivated by the natural beauty of the Bay, the volcanoes, the thermal waters, the islands that dot the area, and its lush vegetation, in many ways similar to their Greek homeland. Ever since that far-away time, Napoli has been a crossroads of different cultures, each of which has left an indelible imprinting on what came after... It's citizens learned to take the best of each of the different invaders and mold it into something uniquely "Neapolitan"!

A perfect example of this is the tomato, which was brought back from the Americas relatively recently, (by Neapolitan standards!) and which soon became a staple on pizza, spaghetti and so on. Today, tomatoes and their sauce are practically synonymous of Neapolitan food!

For a long time, Napoli was one of the most sophisticated European capitals, second only to Paris, and the elegance of its "palazzi", churches, theaters and gardens can still be admired today. Craftsmanship was of utmost importance and Napoli  goldsmiths, glove and shoemakers, tailors and seamstresses, button-makers were recognized as being among the best in the world. These traditions still live on and there are still many family-run workshops where things are made with the same pride and expertise as in the past. Many world-famous works of art are found in the many museums of the city, and of course, Pompeii, the most incredible open-air museum of the world is half an hour away from the city center.

The food?? The wine??

I would need to write a book to try to make a dent in all there is to eat and drink. Suffice it to say that your taste buds will never forget a Napoli experience!!

photo credits: Tina from Discover Napoli Destinations

Thank you for this wonderful guest post, Tina!
Here is where you can find more of Tina:

For more info on Naples, here are some interesting reads:


Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

My goal by this time in my blogging life would have been to share at least one fried (yeast)doughnut with all of you. I haven't gotten there yet.

It's hard to believe that 3 years ago in November I shared a baked cake style donut. What happened since then? How could I not share any others? I can honestly say they were extremely loved by everyone here at our "baking headquarters"...actually, they were devoured in minutes and I did even leave a few to share with a dear neighbor.  This recipe yielded 8 donuts for me. I did fill the pan almost to the top.
Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Back to these cake style donuts. Can I tell you how much I love my Wilton donut making pan...just love it! I don't use it enough. It's so easy to put together a cake style donut recipe. The possibilities of what you could create are truly endless.

My kids are loving pumpkin every thing these days, so pumpkin it was!

If you ever get a mad craving for pumpkin donuts in the fall, you have to try making your own! These donuts are so easy to put together. They are filled with all of fall's warm spices and a gorgeous cake like texture. The cinnamon-sugar coating is that extra special touch that helps make these donuts one of our favorite fall recipes! If you don't have a piping bag, you could use a large zip-loc type bag and snip a bottom corner off after you fill it with the batter. It really helps to fill the donut tray with the batter to use a bag.

 Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts
Yield: 8 Donuts

  1. For Donuts:
  2. 1 3/4 cups flour
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  7. 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  8. 1/8 teaspoons ground cloves
  9. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  10. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  11. 1 egg
  12. 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  13. 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  14. 1/2 cup milk
  15. For Coating:
  16. 1/2 cup butter, melted
  17. 2/3 cup sugar
  18. 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon (more if you're a cinnamon lover)
  1. Preheat oven 350 F. Spray a donut pan with baking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until combined.
  4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stop 1/2 way in the process to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and incorporate it well.
  5. Using a pastry bag, fill each donut cup with the batter. Fill almost to the top. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until donuts spring back when gently pressed.
  6. Turn donuts out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  7. While the donuts are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another. When donuts are still hot (but not too hot to touch), quickly dip each donut in melted butter, then coat in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve immediately.

Five Reasons why Romagna Should be on Your Italy Travel List

Five Reasons why Romagna Should be on Your Italy Travel List

Five reasons why Romagna should be on your Italy travel list:
I am guessing almost none of you know exactly where or what Romagna is. Somewhere in Europe? Or in Italy? Well, I do know that sometimes it is not very easy to explain it.

Romagna is a place where you can have any kind of adventure; from history, to culture, to food and nature; this region has it all. When you pass from one end of the main road that divides Romagna, Via Emilia, to the other - you will encounter a diversity of accents, dialects, eating, drinking, thinking and living. A colorful palette of tastes, smells, landscapes, histories extending from the flat land, through the hills and Apennines, towards the sea!

It's world heritage listed

Romagna is of UNESCO Patrimony. The area counts 4 cities: Ferrara, Faenza, Cesena, Ravenna, with a variety of unique sites that are among the 49 Italian UNESCO sites. Faenza has one of the most complete collections of ancient and modern pottery of Europe, while the town of Ferrara is itself an important site, together with a complex and unique wetland, Delta of Pò River, full of birds to watch and rare plants and vegetation.

Local crafts

What about taking a piece of Romagna with you? Here artisans are still the richness of the region: handmade and printed fabric, frame working, pottery making, mosaics and many other things. You can see these artisans working on their crafts and you can organize visits to their workshops.

A landscape full of seaside, hills and history

If you do not have enough time or just you do not want anything organized, you can simply stroll around. The seaside has some wonderful places such as the wild and wet area near Ravenna. Do not miss the Piallassa Baiona, a natural reserve with swans and flamingos.

Cesenatico and Cervia are the two main old sea boroughs, built by the Romans with very important antique ruins and ancient buildings. In the surroundings of the cost two main cities, Cesena with one of the most ancient libraries in the world with decorated codex, and Forlì, once a Roman town, with the Cathedral and Saint Mercuriale church and also the San Domenico Museum with a lovely and interesting collection of ancient painters. The hills are home to some undiscovered places: Sogliano, Tredozio, Portico di Romagna. These lands were once under the Tuscan dominion, that is why they are called the Tuscan Romagna.

Medieval boroughs such as Verucchio, Brisighella, Bagnacavallo are for sure a “must” if you have enough time. Romantic and dream-like landscapes with slow tourism are typical of this area.


Her Majesty, the Hand Made Pasta. Let me introduce you to the real glory of Romagna. Everywhere, no matter where you are, you will find little osterias, restaurants, and artisan pasta shops with plenty of different kinds of Romagna delicacies. Pasta in Romagna is mainly made of egg, with a simple mix off lour and salt. Rolling the past was once a woman’s work, passed from mothers to girls, generation by generation. And it was also the main dish of the day, even if most of the time poor people did not have eggs. That is why they invented varieties of pasta without egg.

Romagna has also some unique cheeses; Fossa cheese of Sogliano, Squaquerone, a soft cheese, and Raviggiolo. All of them eaten with the classical Piadina, a ‘’poor bread’’, made with flour and water, and quoted in the famous cooking book of Mr Pellegrino Artusi, the father of the Italian modern cuisine.


Romagna wines are a unique experience and also a way to understand this soulful land. In Summer almost every borough (most of them are part of an ancient defensive system created by the Byzantines and Romans to protect the access to the sea against the barbarians) hosts a wine fair where local producers show up their bottles, let you proudly taste the precious red nectar and explain how they made it.. You will be quite surprised about the quantity and quality of the producers, considering that Sangiovese is the kind of grape they all use. Pure or blended, this wine is delightful. You may not know that the most famous and world spread Chianti is made by Sangiovese grapes! Stunned? Well, it’s true. Romagna has also some other interesting wines such as Burson of Bagnacavallo, a wild grape discovered at the beginning of the last century by a local wine maker and now produced by 16 cellars united by a very strict producing rule. The white wines are also very interesting: Albana, Trebbiano, and other wines with local dialect names that tells the birth and history of them, such as Pagadebit (pay the dues), since that kind of grape was very strong and even with bad season, peasants could produce wine to pay their dues

Something more to say? Are you curious? Let’s visit Italy off the beaten paths, it’s more than you can imagine!

All text and photo credits: Alessandra Catania ( 21grammy ).
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Pumpkin Challah Bread - #TwelveLoaves

Pumpkin Challah Bread

Pumpkin season arrived here in our house in a flurry! As soon as the calendar officially turned from summer to fall, the pumpkin baking frenzy began. It has not stopped since that day, and there is not one customer here complaining!

There has been pumpkin breads (quick and yeast), pumpkin pies, pumpkin pancakes. We have been baking with pumpkin every week! I can't be the only one that adores pumpkin baking this much.

Pumpkin Challah Bread

So when it was time to get to our November theme of Pumpkin for #TwelveLoaves, I was sure I knew what I would make. I wasn't going to mess around and think about the idea for days. I went straight to something I knew we all loved: Pumpkin Challah Bread!

Pumpkin Challah Bread

#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and run with the help of Heather of girlichef, which runs smoothly with the help of our bakers.

Our host this month is Renee from Kudos Kitchen by Renee, and our theme is Pumpkin.

Some notes on the bread: because of the addition of pumpkin, the dough is a little more wet than my typical challah bread. I did add a little more flour than I normally do (maybe 5 cups instead of 4 1/2) The dough yields two large braids.  You could create so many other shapes with this dough.  I found this gorgeous pumpkin challah centerpiece. Such a great idea for Thanksgiving! I even found one shaped like turkey! Here is a video on how to make a pumpkin challah bread. I can't forget to mention how wonderful the bread is to use for French toast (if you have any leftover!).

Pumpkin Challah Bread
  1. 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  2. 1 teaspoon sugar
  3. 1 cup warm water (no more than 110°F [43°C])
  4. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  5. 4 1/2 to 5 cups bread flour, or 5 1/2 to 6 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  6. 3 eggs
  7. 1/4 cup peanut, corn, or canola oil
  8. 1 cup canned pumpkin
  9. 2 teaspoons salt
  10. Egg wash:
  11. 1 egg yolk
  12. 1½ teaspoons water

  1. In a mixer, with a dough hook attachment, add the warm water and yeast. Mix until blended. Add the sugar and mix about a minute. Let the yeast work its magic for at least 10 minutes (the yeast should bubble).
  2. Slowly mix in 1 cup of the flour until combined. Mix in the eggs one at a time until they are combined. Add another 2 cups of the flour, oil, pumpkin and salt. Mix together on medium-low speed stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the rest of the flour (the remaining 4 cups) and mix until combined. Stop the machine as you add each cup of the flour to scrape the sides of the bowl and incorporate the flour. Because of the pumpkin, you may need to add a little more flour until it's the right texture. Mix on low speed for 12 minutes until dough is incorporated. Be sure to give your mixer a break and as you don’t want to burn it out. Add flour if needed 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough will be a little sticky but also firm.
  3. Take dough out of mixer bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl (when I put the dough in the bowl I swish the dough around the bottom of the bowl and then flip it over so all of the dough is covered in a light film of oil. I use vegetable oil). Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1-1 1/2 hours).
  4. Punch down the dough. Divide dough in half. Divide the each portion into 3 equal portions (you will have 6 portions). Shape each portion into a ball, and allow it to rest with plastic wrap on it for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Roll each dough ball into long piece. Braid the 3 strands together to form a loaf. Place the braided bread on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the other 3 portions of dough. Cover and let rise in a draft free place for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. While resting, preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. When ready to bake, brush with egg wash.
  7. Bake the challah for 35-40 minutes (on 350 F). The bread should be golden brown. Ovens may vary so check your challah at about 30 minutes and see how it’s doing. You test if it’s done by tapping the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, it needs a bit more time.* Be careful to not burn your fingers like I did when you do that test. Let it cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature


How Bologna Seduced Me- a guest post by Sarah Dowling

Bologna, Italy

I live in Bologna, Italy. It’s certainly one of the more uncommon places for American tourists to visit when they come to Italy, and an even more uncommon place for expats to settle down in. Maybe its because of the common confusion between the Oscar Meyer bologna sandwich meat (pronounced “bah-low-nee”) whose mysterious, unappetizing ingredients have very little to do with the actual city of Bologna (pronounced “bah-low-nya”). Or maybe it’s simply because Bologna doesn’t have that initial infatuating beauty that exists in popular Italian cities such as Florence, Venice or Rome. I honestly don’t really know why people don’t know about Bologna. It’s a great city! It has some of the best food in the world! Nevertheless, I do know one thing - although I love Bologna dearly now, I must admit it wasn’t always so.

 When people ask me why I chose Bologna (a very common curiosity), I’m always a bit ashamed to admit that I didn’t actually choose Bologna.

The truth is when I first came to Italy I dreamed of starting my Italian new life in Florence - you know, the typical Under-the-Tuscan-Sun drama. Renaissance charm, elegant architecture,  surrounded by the beautiful Tuscan hillsides - bella Firenze! It was for me, as for many others, the most beautiful city in Italy. Love at first sight.

As fate would have it, Firenze and I were not meant to be together (one of my first of many experiences in Italy that taught me that some things in life simply don’t go the way you plan them to). When I first moved to Italy, I was living in Florence, searching for a teaching position. After two months of job hunting, my bank account was running pretty low and I knew I had to take the first teaching job I could get. So when an English school in Florence offered me a teaching position at their other location in Bologna, I accepted.

I thought after a few months, I would be able to transfer back to Florence when a position there became available. Of course, I never did and here I am, more than two years later, still living in Bologna. I could have moved by now if I wanted to, but I haven’t because you see, Bologna not only chose me, it seduced me.

I wish I could take credit for using this idea of “seduction” to describe my relationship with Bologna. Unfortunately, I’m borrowing it from someone who came before me, another victim to Bologna’s seductive powers.

Her name is Mary Tolaro-Noyes and she’s the author of a book called Bologna Reflections. Like me, Mary is an American who sort of stumbled upon Bologna, without really expecting to fall in love with it. She first came to Bologna in 1994. Although she now lives in California, every year since then she has returned to Bologna.

Recently, I had the honor to meet Mary. We spoke about Bologna and how it seduced us. Although she’s old enough to be my Mom, we share a very similar sentiment about Bologna. We didn’t choose Bologna - Bologna chose us. It wasn’t love at first sight. Yet somehow through a series of what I like to call “aha!” moments, we fell in love.

Why do two American women like us love Bologna? For starters, there’s the amazingly rich food - fresh handmade egg pasta, rolled out and cut into long golden tagliatelle ribbons or cut into squares, stuffed with pork meat, and carefully shaped into the famous tortellini bolognesi. The mortadella (baloney’s glorified, much tastier cousin) melts in your mouth like butter.

OH and the butter! I mean, they use butter instead of olive oil here. Where else in Italy do you see butter?

Then there’s the incredibly unique architecture - did you know that Bologna has more than 40 kilometers of covered walkways? Thanks to the protective portici or archways, one can freely walk around the city, rain or shine, always covered.

Another amazing fact about Bologna is that it is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. It’s a city full of history, but also young life, which maintains a bustling, alive atmosphere, but also an affordable cost of living.

I could go on and on about all the wonderful things that I love about Bologna, but it probably wouldn’t make much of an impact on someone who has never experienced it themselves. So I’d like to challenge anyone planning a visit to Italy soon to work into their itinerary a stop in Bologna. It’s conveniently located between Florence and Venice (in fact it’s a main stop on many of the northbound train lines to Venice), and although I’d recommend spending at least several days here, one or two days is sufficient to have a taste of its seductive splendor - or at least its tortellini!

Thank you for this beautiful post on Bologna, Sarah!!

Here is where you can find more of Sarah: