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No Pumpkin? No Worries!

Pam offers three mouth-watering alternatives for holiday dessert

Thanks to various weather conditions across the country, it's entirely possible that pumpkin will be hard to find this holiday season. With that in mind, I decided to share three non-pumpkin pie desserts for the fall and winter holidays, all of which can use refrigerated pie dough, making them delicious AND doable.

First up is sweet potato pie. Sweet potato is a dead ringer and a wonderful stand-in for pumpkin. Cooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave takes only 10 minutes, compared with the usual one hour in the oven. And pureeing the sweet potato filling in a blender before pouring it into the pie shell guarantees a light silky texture. The use of bold spices and evaporated and condensed milks — both sweetener and dairy in one — result in a highly flavorful, substantial pie filling.

If pumpkin is plentiful in your area, you can easily turn this sweet potato pie into that other traditional dessert. Just substitute a 15-ounce can of pumpkin for the two sweet potatoes. So, sweet potato or pumpkin, this is your go-to pie recipe.

Fried Apple Hand Pies remind me of my grandmother, who used fry them up nearly every time we'd visit. It was her way of showing love. My version is simpler. While she made her crust from scratch — with lard from the pigs she raised — I make mine with pie dough from the grocery store's refrigerated section. She cut her dough circles with a well-worn paring knife. I use cookie cutters. She drained her pies on brown paper sacks; I set mine on wire racks. If I'm not mistaken, her filling was straight-ahead apple while I spice mine up with ones she'd never heard of. And while I've got state-of-the-art thermometers for testing oil temperature; she had her ways. Would she approve of all of my shortcuts and gadgets? While she was an old-fashioned country cook, she was a forward-thinking woman. If she were alive today I think she'd give me her blessing.

Last, there's a Chocolate-Pecan Galette, a super easy alternative to another holiday classic. It's chocolate, cheesecake and pecan pie all rolled into one. The cream cheese offers a light sweet tang to this rich, intense pie. It also creates a naturally dry layer, which allows the pie bottom to bake up crisp and golden. No more soggy-bottomed pie! And no pie plate needed either. Just spread the cream cheese layer over the rolled out refrigerated pie dough, top with the chocolate pecan filling, fold the dough over and bake.

So — canned pumpkin, or no, you've got some really tempting options to end your holiday meals.

Next: Pam's sweet potato pie recipe. >>

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