Mini-Me Caramel Apple Pies

My name is Amanda and I am addicted to sweets.

Like over-the-top, can’t control myself, would shove 15 cupcakes in at one time if I could manage it, addicted.

And I’m not one bit biased when it comes to sweets – I’ll eat any and everything – from candy and cookies to cupcakes and pies, if there is an unhealthy amount of sugar and fat in it, chances are I’ll inhale it.

There’s something about the holiday season (and all the cookies, candies, hot chocolate and pies that come with it) that reminds me just how gluttonous my sweet tooth is.

So while I’ve been curbing my sweet tooth over the last few weeks (and hopefully the next gazillion months), I’ve decided that when I do splurge on something sweet, it’s going to be really, really good.

Case and point: Mini Caramel Apple Pies.

They’re so, so, so good (and I imagine just as bad, bad, bad).

Are they something you should be eating everyday? Definitely not. Luckily though, they’re high maintenance enough that you won’t want to make them everyday!

But they’re a great treat every now and then and the making them miniature-sized makes them the perfect little pie to bring to a family gathering!

Be forewarned, these are super duper sweet (and worth.every.calorie).

Mini Caramel Apple Pies
(Makes 12)
Pie Crust Ingredients:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
3 TBS sugar
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vodka (I used a fruiffy whipped cream flavored version, don’t worry the alcohol bakes out!)
1/2 cup cold water

Filling Ingredients:
4 Large Apples (Use a combination to make a more complex flavor profile, I used 1 Granny Smith, 1 Braeburn and 2 Jonagolds), diced into small pieces
1/2 stick butter (to cooke apples in)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg (or to taste)
Splash of nondairy milk (I prefer almond)

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS corn starch
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup nondairy milk (I prefer alomnd)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Crumb Topping Ingredients:
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (yes, MORE sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter (yes, MORE butter)

Directions for pie crust:
Blend “wet” ingredients, butter, sugar, vodka, water and shortening. Fold in all purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour and salt. Knead until a smooth dough. Roll up in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Directions for apple filling:
Dice up all yoru apples and heat them up in a skillet with butter on medium-high heat. Add splash of milk and sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top. Cook for about 10 minutes or until apples are half-way cooked.

Directions for caramel sauce:
In a small sauce pan, bring butter and milk to a low boil on medium high heat. Stir in sugars, salt and extract. Add cornstarch and stir like a mad woman (or man). Allow mixture to bubble and boil, while stirring rapidly with a whisk (don’t let this mixture settle for too long, it’ll burn and stick to your pan). Repeat for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens when removed from heat. (The longer you let it sit, the more it will thicken up).

Directions for crumb topping:
Pop the ingredients into a food processor and blend minimally to achieve a crumbly texture. Be forewarned, this part is a pain in the butt and is more than worth it.

Directions for mini pies (finally!):
Preheat oven to 375.
Take your dough and grab smaller than a baseball but bigger than a golf ball sized balls. Roll them out and place them in a greased muffin pan. Repeat until all 12 muffin cups are filled. (Tip: make sure some crust hangs out over the edge so the gooey caramel apple filling doesn’t burn and stick everywhere).
Stir apple filling into caramel sauce and fill muffin cups a little more than halfway.
Drop liberal amout of crumb topping on mini pies and bake in the oven on 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (or until edges of pie crust are lightly brown).

Enjoy.every.last.calorie.

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Blessed

Sometimes, I can be a bit of a negative Nelly.

While I like to sound all cool and say I’m neither a glass half empty or glass half full kind of gal (it totally depends on what’s in the glass, am I right?), the truth is I’m more of a «it doesn’t matter what’s in the glass because it’s dirty, chipped, too small, too big, too wide, the wrong shape and no matter what I’m going to dislike it» kind of gal.

I know, it’s utterly infuriating and depressing, right? Trust me, it’s even worse when you have to live with it, ALL the time.

It’s not so much that I enjoy the bad «juju,» it’s just that it’s so easy for me to slip into that way of thinking; you know, the kind where you see the absolute worst in everything (even cuddly kittens and puppies’ wet noses). I feel all woe is me about anything and everything; from not being sure that I’m really where I should be in my life, being envious of my friends and family for their super important careers, education and lifestyles, to wishing I just had the white picket fence and 2.5 kids right this very second (or at the very least, wanting it). I’m not kidding friends, when I throw myself a pity party, I throw myself a pity party about every.last.thing.

I know, you’re wondering how I’m married and have friends when I’m such a soul-dampening succubus. The good news is I can pull myself out of these types of moods, usually before wreaking too much havoc in my life  (or else I’d just have something else to complain about).

I should probably extend my forever gratitude to my incredibly loving husband, ever-understanding mother, mood-lightening father, my too-generous-for-his-own-good brother, my always-there-to-lend-an-ear aunts and cousins and my best friends for always holding my hand (or lying in bed with me and watching a marathon of Sex and the City) and reminding me that I’m not a terrible mom, I’m just human.

For the last week and a half I’ve been miserable and loving my own company. I’ve been whining to myself about not living the American dream, not having enough money, not exercising enough, not eating as good as I should be, not being a better friend, not making enough time for everyone in my life; you name it, I’ve found a way to make it ridiculously pessimistic.

And then something incredibly small happens, the tiniest thing and I’m reminded what an absolute (pardon my French) ass I’m being. And I slowly get myself out of my funk.

Today I found a vintage cookie press from the 1950s. It happens to be the exact same one my grandmother used every Christmas when all the women (and kids) got together and made our holiday cookies to divvy up into tins and take home (just enough to tide us over until our big Christmas party where we’d indulge in far more than any family should). I knew it was her exact one because of the copper accents on the actual press and the weird camel disc it came with. I remember being little and trying to figure out why on Earth anyone would ever need to make a camel cookie (I’m still trying to figure that out). And my husband ordered it for me, without question, because he knew I’d been holding out for a vintage cookie press and not one of the crappy plastic ones they sell nowadays. And it’s not so much that «getting a gift» cheered me up, it’s the memories this 60-year-old press is bringing back and the ones it’s going to allow me to make with my daughter.

And boy, my daughter, I can’t tell you enough how blessed I am to have her. Here I can’t turn my brain off about whether and when to have a second child, when there are people out there dying to have a first that haven’t. To those of you experiencing that pain, I’m sorry, and I’m embarrassed to seemingly take for granted what an amazing miracle my little girl is. She really, really is.

And we have these friends, these superb people in our lives, ones who celebrate our anniversary with us, ones who see our daughter as their own and ones who listen to the rambling texts of their college friend who isn’t too sure what she’s doing with her life. We are so blessed.

And what about the food? From the Christmas season’s first sugar cookies to Brussels sprouts roasted in olive oil and sea salt, it’s all about looking at the bigger picture. It’s my daughter’s eyes when she tries a new food (and loves it) and my husbands excitement when I make him his favorite vegetable ever. With sometimes above average skills in the kitchen, being able to cook my way out of a bad mood is such a wonderful outlet.

And let’s not forget Christmas — the most wonderful time of the year. Nothing can bring you out of a pity party faster than remembering how fortunate you are (especially when you have a roof over your head, food in the fridge and a beautiful, healthy family). Although, the hot chocolate, lights, tree and pretty villages don’t hurt the spirit either.

Not to mention my daughter’s eyes when she takes it all in.

It’s settled, I’m so blessed. Really blessed.

What do you feel blessed with?

The perfect pumpkin pick me up

This week in the Chubby Vegan Household, we dove headfirst into the world of healthy cookies.

And let me assure you, my little girl is a cookie pro.

We didn’t ease in to anything this week, we jumped on the healthy train and never looked back.

It is with great pleasure I post our Pumpkin protein plumps!

These cookies have a really, really earthy taste. Not recommended for the sweetest of sweet tooths, but a great little cookie to start your day off with.

Pumpkin protein plumps
(Makes 3 dozen)
Ingredients:
1 can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I promise you won’t know they’re there!)
1/3 cup date sugar (I know it says «sugar» but it’s made from dates and it’s surprisingly delicious)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 TBS pumpkin pie seasoning (or to taste, my first batch with only 1 TBS was really bland)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 TBS molasses
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cups spelt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds ground up (don’t skip this part, they give a nice crunchy boost)
Sesame seeds (enough to roll the cookies in)

Instructions:
Cook the lentils and then blend in a food processor with the date sugar.
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a bowl, mix pumpkin and pureed lentil/date sugar mixture. Stir in applesauce, vanilla extract pumpkin pie seasoning and oats. Add ground up pumpkin seeds.

 Next, mix in all of the spelt flour. Begin adding the all purpose flour until you reach a lumpy, stick consistency (think chocolate chip oatmeal cookies). You may not use ALL of the all purpose flour or you may need more, this depends largely on the gooeyness of your canned pumpkin and the water absorbed by your lentils. The important thing here is the consistency.
These cookies will be lumpy and sticky. If you add so much flour that they become more doughy and sugar cookie like, that is too much. We want them lumpy and sticky enough for you to form a messy ball (which you will then roll in sesame seeds to control the sticky issue).
Pour your sesame seeds (or if you’re really, really crazy about pumpkin seeds you can crush more of those and sub them for sesame seeds) into a bowl and set aside.
Once you’ve got the batter where you need it to be, roll it into ping-pong sized balls and then roll around in the sesame seeds, coating the ball.
Smoosh them with your hands into plump discs and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake on 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes (or until the bottoms become light brown).
Don’t let them deceive you, they dry out really quickly if you leave them in too long. They should be firm, but still springy.

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When reducing my stress increases it …

The holidays are a time for family, more cookies than any one person should eat, Silk nog, cheesy Christmas movies and love.

Oh, and did I mention stress? The holidays seem to bring out the frazzled, burning-both-ends, a little scary, stress in most of us.

While often times this stress festers during a shopping war, a mile-long traffic jam at the mall or a burnt 19th batch of cookies, every once in a while there is no real cause, there’s just stress. And more stress. And anxiety. And more anxiety.

Last week we had dinner with our family friends. They have a little boy just a year older than Pearyn, so we always let the kids do a mini gift exhange (aka, us creative moms churn something out for our little one to give to each other’s little one). For the little man this year I made a scarf. A bright blue, green and yellow scarf (which I’m happy to report he wears in the house, anytime he feels a drift).

That’s right folks, not only do I work, keep my daughter from putting herself in harms way everyday and put dinner on the table and delicious cookies in the cookie jar, I like to knit as well. It’s a hobby that comes in spurts, and I’m currently on a mission to knit the Chubby Vegan household more scarves and hats than any family of three needs. I realized something today while I was knitting, though. What is supposed to be something I do to unwind and shut my mind off a bit, results in my clenched jaw and several other parts as well.

I am incapable of relaxing.

It started sometime after graduating from college. I spent four years majoring in English (in addition to pitching for the school team, having the best friends a girl could ask for, working tedious waitress jobs and meeting the love of my life), then all the sudden I graduated and had to do something with said degree.

Somewhere along the road I decided the only way I was going to be successful as an adult is if I hung up that fun, carefree side of myself and worried my life away.

I find ways to take seemingly relaxing activities and warp them into chores of doom. I worry that my knit isn’t tight enough or my rows aren’t straight enough. I love yoga, except I spend so much time analyzing whether I’m in the right pose that I forget to calm down and stretch my muscles. I’m not against the occasional glass of wine here or there, but let’s face it, I’m already the Chubby Vegan Mom, I don’t need to be drinking any more calories.

Do you see how I just turned my stressing out about how much I stress out into worrying about gaining weight? It’s seriously a talent, I know.

So while it’s too early to call this a New Year’s resolution (and well, let’s face it, I never stick to those anyway and I really, really need to stick to this promise), I’m going to let myself off the hook more often. I don’t need to be perfect at everything, heck I don’t need to be perfect at anything.

I just need to be the best version of me I can be — mistakes and all, burnt cupcakes and all, neurotic tendencies and all, extra love handles and ALL.

If I can focus on being the best Amanda I can be (did you even know my name was Amanda!?) maybe I won’t be worried about being everything to everyone, it’ll come naturally.

So let’s hear it CVM followers, what do you do to unwind during the holiday season? Better yet, what can I do to start unwinding during the holiday (and every other) season?

Have you made your Not New Year’s Resolution this year?