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Nice to Meat You Napa

Nice to Meat You Napa

Started off the Holiday season right this year with a trip to Napa on Thanksgiving day with my husband and our boys. We avoided the much dreaded week in the kitchen prepping, brining and baking. This day instead would be a day to remember for holidays to come leaving no messy kitchens behind.

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My two boys Andrew and Curtis

It all started because I missed my boys. Curtis will be 34 in January and Andrew just turned 26. They don’t live at home anymore, so finding a day where we could all be together was key. And spending the day with them and my husband was just what I needed. They were excited about the idea and my husband was willing to be the designated driver, so we were good to go.

There was something seductive about running out to the wine country and avoiding the obligatory family get together. After all, we’ve only ever done this one other time about 11 years ago where we escaped to San Francisco for the day. Curtis attended Sonoma State at the time, and it seemed easier to pick him up from school and take him out for the day. We had a grand time at O’Reilly’s Holy Grail restaurant which has since closed its doors, unfortunately.

Our trip to Napa was even more exciting since we had never been to any of these hotels, restaurants, or bars. My husband forwarded me an email the week before about places that were open for business on Thanksgiving day. So I had a tentative plan in mind which we adhered to throughout the day.

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Curtis’ Bloody Mary

We started off at the Meritage Resort and Spa grabbing a cocktail and a bite to eat at Crush Lounge. Curtis had a bloody mary (after all, it was only 11AM), I had a cosmo and Andrew enjoyed an aged scotch. We snacked on calamari, fish tacos and a burger and fries before engaging in a friendly game of bowling. Yes. You can believe it. It was hilarious seeing my kids and husband throw the ball down the lane after a drinkypoo. We settled on a Star Wars theme, all of us choosing a character. I was C3po, my son Curtis Luke Skywalker, Andrew- Chewy, and Ken Han Solo. We ended the game early because I was doing better than everyone. And let’s face it, you only have fun bowling when you are winning.   

Next stop was BANK Cafe and Bar at the Westin Verasa Napa. They were serving a fabulous meal for $85.00 per person at the La Toque Restaurant, but we weren’t ready for a huge sit down meal. We were just getting started… The bar offered small bites to share and just about anything else you would want from a full bar, but we settled on a licorice flavored sambuca liquor w a coffee bean for me, a Mr Goldsmith #2 cocktail for Curtis which involved Blue Ice Vodka, sage honey syrup, St. George Pear Liqueur, and lemon, and a glass of Cabernet by Faust Napa Valley for Andrew. Barely hungry, we ordered the hand chopped steak tartare with maldon salt on crostini. The flowers in the lobby were stunningly beautiful and I couldn’t help not taking a short video of them.

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My son Andrew and me in front of Archer Hotel Napa

Onward and upwards to the Archer Hotel and Charlie Palmer’s Restaurant Steak Lounge, but first taking an elevator to the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar. It was closed because of the holiday and rainy weather, but definitely worth checking out in the future. The atmosphere was hopping and the bartender gave us the royal treatment. I sat this one out, not needing another beverage, but the boys ordered cocktails. Curtis had the Napa 75 which was made with Hangar One Vodka, yuzuri, lemon verbena, and louis pommery while Andrew was made something special with whiskey, I can’t remember what. All I remember is that it had a foamy egg white thing on top and cute hearts adorning the top of the drink. I also learned how these bartenders taste each cocktail before giving to the customer. They use a straw to dip in the drink and take a taste to see if it is “just right.” Brilliant!

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Fabulous cocktails at Charlie Palmer’s Steak Lounge in Archer Hotel

Napkins Bar and Grill was where we ended up for our Thanksgiving meal. This restaurant was just down the street from the last bar, in fact we could have walked. But free parking was available along the street so we took advantage of that. Curtis ordered the signature citrus habanero wings and  a cocktail with fig as a garnish. I forgot to make a note of this one, but who really cares at this point? I was craving guacamole and chips, Ken had the smoked pork chop, and Andrew ate the Loaded Niman Ranch Burger with crispy onions. The place was lively and colorful and we were feeling good.

Lastly we read that Alba was going to have live music, so we voted to go to one last bar before heading back to the East Bay. We drove to the River Terrace Inn and sat at the bar. I honestly didn’t catch what the boys ordered, but I tried Crispin Hard Cider for the first time. It was cold and light, a perfect ending to my day in Napa. The live music was just “okay”, but we were happy to stay out and celebrate together just a little longer.

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The four of us Smyth’s at the Meritage Resort

I can genuinely say that skipping out on the traditional family Thanksgiving was fun and adventurous. The four of us were able to connect on many levels, which wouldn’t have happened if we had stuck to the original plan of going to my sister’s with 15 other family members. There is something seriously attractive about spoiling your kids on a holiday like Thanksgiving. They wouldn’t mind me saying that they felt special and appreciated. Who could ask for more? Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Unconditional love and acceptance especially while sipping cocktails is what the holidays are all about.

And we still made it for dessert at my sister’s after all. We celebrated in the best way and were able to mingle with the folks and cousins while enjoying a Sara Lee frozen cherry cheesecake. Yep. That’s the dessert I contributed to the meal this year. It wasn’t all that bad either. Best of all, I came home to a clean kitchen. There’s something to be said for that.

Happy Holiday’s from my home to yours. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box next year and ditch the relatives for a change. It’s a fun gig once every 10 or 11 years and your kids will thank you.

If you enjoyed this blog, please comment below on somewhere you would like to visit. I’m needing a few good ideas for my upcoming adventures. Do you have a favorite get away vacation you would like to share with the readers? Please feel free to leave a comment.

And once again, thank you for taking the time to stay with me through my travels.  

Gratefully yours,

Teri:)

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“Okay Thanks Bye Love Ya” Benicia and My Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

“Okay Thanks Bye Love Ya” Benicia and  My Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

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Spent most of the day yesterday exploring Benicia California with my hiking friends. We had the best time walking through the small businesses, looking at Christmas decorations and eating our way through town. Today’s blog will be all about our day and I will also share my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe with you.

I am lucky enough to know Sharon who invited me into her hiking group at least 10 years ago. We originally met through the neighborhood swim team over 20 years ago. She also inspired me to put my son into piano lessons at FAME Musice her son Eric was taking music lessons. I’m grateful for all she has done for me and my family over the years. But hiking with her and these amazing women is the most fun of all.

Sharon emails the group which has grown over the years, every Sunday evening about where we will be hiking every Tuesday and Thursday morning. She mixes it up every week, so we are never bored of the hiking trails in the East Bay. I haven’t been as good about attending the hikes recently, but I’m always in for a foodie adventure.

 

Marie organized and executed this exciting fun filled day in Benicia so we could all celebrate the holiday season together. Many of us walked through town first before eventually making our way to The Camellia Tea Room  for lunch. Wanting to warm our bellies with something hot, we sat outside Farm & Flour a cool new brunch place. I bought a loaf of their house made spelt grain bread which came in a cloth flour sack bag. And if I go back, I can get a dollar off my next loaf. Great marketing idea right there, and I will be back. In fact, I was there with my Aunt Teri a few months ago.

 

Next we stopped in Romancing the Home store where we looked at adorable Christmas decorations sold at reasonable prices. I love getting craft ideas and seeing what other artists are making this time of year.

 

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Owner at Juice House Company

Juice house Company caught my eye and so I had to try some of their healthy juice samples. The owner who is pregnant, opened the shop a year ago with her sister and boy is it gooooood. My husband recently bought me a juicer and I love it. I make all kinds of concoctions with tumeric, beets, celery, grapefruit and tons of other fruits and vegetables. I fell in love with “Citrus Sea” made from grapefruit, orange, lemon, celery, cucumber,ginger and cilantro. So refreshing! But the coconut almond milk drink was equally delicious.

 

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Owner of Pink Arrows Boutique

Can we talk about the cutest boutique on the planet? Pink Arrows Boutique is a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the visit. I didn’t catch the  owners name, but she was warm and answered all of our questions. This #boho style is infectious and I wanted one of everything. I limited myself to one cute red and black Bella Dahl flannel top, which she graciously gave me $10.00 off. I so appreciate it when businesses offer up discounts like these and I’m happy to make repeat purchases from them.

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The luncheon at the Camellia Tea Room was fabulous and everything you expect from a Tea house. The service was outstanding, our waitress even offering me an extra tea pot of hot water because I like my earl gray tea weak.The best bite of the day was the egg salad on a crispy and buttery focaccia bread. To die for! Good thing I got to eat two of them. Plenty of the other standards like a lemon tart with raspberry, a scone with currants, cucumber sandwich, oatmeal raisin coconut chocolate chip cookie, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and plenty of clotted cream and jelly (not homemade 😦 ) I didn’t care for the water. Tasted funny to me, but there was plenty of tea going around. 

Lastly, I heard I needed to check out One House Bakery just down the street. Everything there seemed outrageously edible, yet I had just eaten. I will definitely be going back with my mom Diane and her husband Tom very soon as this kind of place is right up their alley. And funny enough, my friend Nancy saw my Instagram post You Tube One House Bakery yesterday of this place and dropped off a chocolate raspberry roulade to me this morning. She got excited about all the sweets and breads and met a friend for breakfast there. You can’t imagine my surprise when she knocked at my door with the most decadent cake ever made. Yum! And I didn’t share. It was that good.

 

I continue to be grateful for these simple pleasures of day outs with friends. There’s nothing better than celebrating the holidays with the ones you love. If you need a fun get away, check out downtown Benicia. You will be glad you did.

 

And now for my gingerbread cookie recipe that I promised. This recipe is altered from my friend Julie Birnbaum’s recipe I received many years ago. Julie and I were in a knitting group together while our kids were in school. She made these for us one year and I fell in love with the recipe. I’ve been  making them ever since. I haven’t knitted in years, because I’d rather be baking or gardening instead.

And here’s a recent blog on my time entertaining with Lise from my hiking group and her husband in Genoa Nevada.

Please comment below on your favorite holiday cookie and where you got the recipe from. And feel free to follow my blog. I’d love to share more recipes with you.

 

Teri’s Cut Out Gingerbread Men Cookies

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#Christmas #Cookies #Gingerbread

 

Ingredients:

1 C Unsalted Butter

1 C Granulated Sugar

½ C Molasses

1 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1 t cloves

1 t cardamom

1 t nutmeg

½ t Maldon salt

 

2 whole eggs

1 t vinegar

 

5 C unbleached flour

1 t Baking Soda

 

Directions:

In a saucepan, melt sugar, butter, molasses, salt and spices. Cool and move to a large mixing bowl.  Mix in 2 eggs and vinegar and add flour and baking soda until well blended.

Scoop out large portions onto parchment paper and place in fridge.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut men out with your favorite cookie cutters. Use raisins and red hots for eyes, nose and mouth.

Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for approx 8 minutes, or longer depending on how thick your cookies are. Cool on rack.Decorate with royal icing.

 

 

 

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Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

Explore the Epicenter of Food and Wine at Cia Copia Napa

I’m always looking for an excuse to take a day trip to the heart of downtown Napa, and yesterday was no exception. Many days I will drive aimlessly through the towns I want to blog about just hoping to find a hidden gem. Finding the Culinary Institute of America at Copia was just that. Today’s blog will be about what they are all about and my experience there.

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The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is a food lovers dream come true. The gorgeous 8000 ft modern campus has cooking classes, wine tasting classes,opportunities to host private events and much more. Classes include introducing you to the many different spices, teaching easy entertaining tips or throwing an upscale cocktail party just to name a few.
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The Store at Copia didn’t disappoint. Shop everything culinary from pairing knives to a wide selection of fancy vinegars. Their selection of cookbooks was outstanding  and I wanted one of each. They also had a cookbook display of the chefs that graduated from the Institute which was very cool. Celebrities like Cat Cora from Iron Chef, Amanda Freitag from Chopped were two of them that I can recall.

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I wanted to try something from their bakery cafe, but needed something more substantial since I skipped lunch. I didn’t sit down at the restaurant, but it looked warm and inviting. To be honest, the grounds were mostly deserted. I was surprised. Their gardens were plentiful consisting of fresh herbs like basil, sage, parsley, which they use in their farm to table dishes.

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They also offer an outdoor Jackson Family Wines Amphitheater in case you need a wedding venue. Or if you prefer, they have a garden balcony that overlooks their lovely Copia gardens. The property was originally developed by Julia Child and Robert Mondavi.Their community conversational events look enticing too, You’ll hear from local chef’s such as Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, or Alice Waters from Berkeley’s Chez Panisse.

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But pretty much no one needs a reminder of what Alice is known for. The Edible Schoolyard Project is what Alice’s mission is all about. Her hope is to help every child by having a sustainable national edible curriculum from prekindergarten through high school. An honorable concept.

 

Have you thought of taking a  class at CIA California Campus? Could you see yourself taking a hands on cooking or baking class? Or how about learn how to make jam and jellies? Here’s my blog on how I make my blenheim apricot jam. It’s truly the best served on a cheese platter w marcona almonds, various cheeses and crostini. Also make sure to check out my next blog on the Chuck Williams Exhibit at Cia Copia opening soon.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my write up on my few hours in Napa California. If you want a great foodie experience it should be on your bucket list for sure. I can’t wait to take advantage of the 20% off class coupon that I found at nearby Oxbow Public Market.The cheese making class looks intriguing…

 

Feel free to share this or follow me so you get my future blog posts and recipes. Cheers to your August 2018. Hope you make it special.

 

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My Guilty Pleasures: Dark Chocolate Truffles, Magic Cookie Bars and Biscotti

My Guilty Pleasures: Dark Chocolate Truffles, Magic Cookie Bars and Biscotti

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As I’m sitting here writing I decide to check my purse for a little something sweet. I usually have dark chocolate on me at all times. It’s insane, I know. But who doesn’t love chocolate? Instead of eating the Dove miniature that I usually embibe in, I was happy to discover I put some home made chocolate truffles in my purse this morning. My dark chocolate truffles are the perfect treat when you need a little pick me up. They are my “go to” guilty pleasure in a pinch. Recipe here for Ganache

 

Some folks require ice cream to satisfy their cravings, and I’m not opposed to that at all.In fact, a scoop of coffee ice cream with chocolate chunks is just the right amount of sweet and a nice boost in the mid day if you like coffee.

 

Speaking of desserts, I met a few friends last month at a nearby restaurant called Parada. Sharon, Elyse, Linda and I were celebrating Lisa’s birthday during lunch on a quiet Saturday afternoon. I’ve known these women for over 20 years since our kids attended the same elementary school and swim team. We spent time at boy scout outings together camping and hiking. It was nice to get together and share stories, lunch and get caught up.

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The food at Parada was delicious. We shared the roasted chicken, had a few salads and a couple of appetizers. The only disappointment was finding out that they didn’t offer dessert for the birthday girl. What’s up with that? Why would I go back to this restaurant again knowing they choose not to surprise their guests with a little something sweet at the end of their meal? Luckily, I brought everyone individual servings of my magic cookie bar that I had made the night before. You see, my family is not big on chocolate. Hard to believe, huh? So I happened to have a huge pan of these delicious treats to share and celebrate Lisa’s birthday. And I like to get these wonderful goodies out of my house before I eat them myself. Lisa was thrilled!

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Here’s Elyse and Lisa entering the Peruvian Restaurant Parada.
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Magic Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

2 Pkgs of Graham Crackers crushed in food processor

1 stick unsalted butter melted

1 tsp cinnamon

½ C sugar

 

2 Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk

2 C Chocolate Chips High quality like Ghirardelli, Valrhona

1 ½ C Shredded or flaked coconut

1 C toasted and chopped Walnuts

Directions:

Melt butter in small saucepan. Place graham crackers in food processor (or crush in a extra large ziplock bag with a rolling pin). Add sugar and cinnamon to crushed crackers and blend. Add melted butter and blend again.

 

Place mixture in a foil lined or parchment lined 13 X 9 pan. I used a slightly larger pan my Pampered Chef Bar Pan. Smooth. Sprinkle chocolate chips, coconut and walnuts over crust. Pour 2 cans of condensed milk over the top. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30- 40 minutes until brown and bubbly. Cool. Cut into squares and serve warm if possible.

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Bonus Recipe:

My friends on Instagram are waiting for my cranberry orange and pistachio biscotti recipe. I made these crunchy and tart cookies to bring to Tom my step Dad. He has been suffering from the lousy cold that is going around so these cookies are sure to cheer him up. Here’s the recipe:

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Cranberry Orange and Pistachio Biscotti

 

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Sugar (Plus 2 T to sprinkle on at end)

1t Baking Powder

3 Eggs

2 T Brandy

2 T Cointreau Liqueur

1 t vanilla

1 t Anise extract

Zest from 1 large Orange

1 C whole fresh cranberries (Can substitute dried)

1 C toasted Pistachios

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix flour sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl.

In medium size bowl, whisk eggs, brandy, cointreau, vanilla, and anise.

Add egg mixture to dry ingredients until combined. Mix in pistachios.

Transfer dough to a prepared lined sheet pan. Shape dough into a 5inch wide and ½ inch high loaf. Sprinkle on 2 T granulated sugar.

Bake until firm and dry about 30 to 35 minutes when it is golden brown.

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Remove pan from oven and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ to ½ inch thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto the sheet pan and bake again until golden brown about 7 or 10 minutes. I prefer them not too crunchy, so I don’t bake them too long during the second bake only 7 minutes.

If you have any questions for me or you want to talk about your guilty pleasure, leave me comments below. I’d be honored.

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Pumpkin Pie for Vegans, 28 years of Wedded Bliss, and a trip to Millennium

Pumpkin Pie for Vegans, 28 years of Wedded Bliss, and a trip to Millennium

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Okay. I know it isn’t Thanksgiving, but I grew a huge gorgeous pumpkin and a kabocha squash  in my vegetable garden and I need to make a dessert. And my husband and I celebrated 28 years of marriage last week! Whop! Whop! I’m really excited that I grew and harvested these. I mean, why is this pumpkin ripe already? I always thought they needed a few months to be sweet and ripe enough before we get to eat them, but I’ve never grown one before.

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Here it is hanging on a trellis in my front yard with my panty hose!

I’m sure I could make a pumpkin soup with a toasted pumpkin seed garnish on top a dollop of creme fraiche. Maybe I’ll make that too, but first let me get back to the PIE.

I asked my friend Cathy what her fav vegan recipe was and she shared this with me. She told me it is to die for and was happy to let me give it a try. The four of us met at Millennium  Restaurant a few weeks ago and I was blown away with their Vegan menu. We had already eaten dinner and just decided to take a drive over to this new place. I loved the bar and atmosphere and loved how things were presented. We opted to share the chocolate peanut pretzel torte. It was divine! The menu described it as having a peanut mousseline, a chocolate-caramel ganache, a chocolate peanut butter bark, salted caramel sauce, and served with a Brother Thelonious Ale Ice Cream (who ever that is…) Of course we had been drinking wine all night and normally I would have had a coffee with it to cut the sweetness. Thankfully, it wasn’t too sweet, just right and couldn’t believe it was a vegan recipe. Nothing bland or blah about it.

Millennium didn’t disappoint. I only wished we had started there in the first place. The food is special and the people are adorable too. Had to take a pic of this guy the pastry chef. Waaay too Berkeley if you ask me.

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Back to the pumpkin pie recipe. Well almost… My niece Keri who just recently graduated from USD and got a full time job (good for you Miss Keri) and is eating only Vegan recipes so she should appreciate it. Got to love her. She is one of a kind. Here we are picking her up from the airport a few weeks back. She’s sporting her new coral earrings and necklace we got her for graduation too.

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Here’s the pic of the gorgeous peanuty chocolaty caramely vegan dessert from Millennium. It reminds me of my elevated Rice Krispie Munchie Bar dessert that has peanut butter, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Nutella and tons of butter. Def NOT vegan. I will have to share that recipe next!

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Here’s the pumpkin pie recipe as promised. I will also share more pics of it next time I make it.

Pumpkin filling

Ingredients:

3 C Cooked pumpkin or butternut squash

½ C Pure Maple Syrup or Agave Syrup

½ C Coconut Milk or use your favorite non dairy milk

4 tsp coconut oil (melted) or can use extra light olive oil

½ t Cinnamon

½ t Ground Ginger

1/4 t ground Cloves

¼ t ground Nutmeg or freshly grated

½ t Maldon Salt

2 T Arrowroot powder

1 t Agar powder

1 t good quality Vanilla

 

 

Pecan Topping

Ingredients:

2 C Chopped Pecans or Almonds

½ C Light Brown Sugar

1 T Cornstarch or Unbleached Flour

⅛ C Honey

1/2 t Maldon salt

Directions for Making the Topping:

Chop pecans/almonds coarsely. Put into a bowl and toss w brown sugar, cornstarch/flour, honey and salt. Set aside.

 

Pie Crust 

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, cool enough to be solid
  • 6-8 tablespoons of ice water

Directions: In a food processor add flour, salt and sugar. Cover and pulse once or twice. Add coconut oil in spoonfuls on top the flour, cover and pulse 7 or 8 times until well combined. Take cold water and pour into opening of processor while pulsing until moist.

Turn onto parchment paper or Saran Wrap, make a disc shape cover, and put in fridge to rest for at least 20 min.

After 20 min roll out pastry dough onto floured counter into a round shape a little bigger than your pie dish. Place crust into a deep dish pie dish (or whatever you have) and crimp edges with your thumb and pointer finger in a decorative manner.

Place crust into fridge while making filling.

Directions for Pumpkin Filling:

Cut Pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Cut pumpkin in large pieces and place on large baking sheet covered w foil flesh side down for 1 hour until knife inserted easily and pumpkin is cooked. Cool. Remove skin and puree cooled pumpkin in a food processor until smooth. Use left over for pumpkin soup or pumpkin bread. Previous blog recipe here Pumpkin bread 

Measure out 3 Cups and place in processor. Add maple syrup, coconut milk, coconut oil, , spices, salt, arrowroot powder and agar powder. Puree until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crust from fridge and pour pumpkin filling into pie shell. Bake for 45 to 50 min. Remove pie from oven and top with pecan/almond mixture. Bake uncovered another 15-20 min until pecan/almond topping is browned and crumbly. Cool for at least a couple of hours before slicing. 

Serve with vegan ice cream or non dairy whipped cream. My husband was a happy camper eating this delicious pie on our anniversary.

Altered from recipe Cathy gave me. She found it here  recipe 

As always please leave a comment or two and don’t be shy about sharing my blog.

Enjoy!  

Teri:)

 

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