Recently while doing some shopping for autumn-themed tablewares, I spotted a set of beautiful white pumpkin place card holders. They were smooth porcelain and flecked with gold, and to me they looked like little confections. Judging their size and shape, I knew just how to make an edible version when I returned home.

If you're looking for a way to fill your holiday table with pumpkin-centric treats, then boy, do I have the goods for you! I recently created a gallery of easy recipes (you might call them hacks) for HGTV.com using canned pumpkin pie filling. The presweetened and spiced filling makes a nice shortcut to delicious fall-themed treats that aren't a lot of work for those donning the chef's hat.

There are sixteen recipes total in the gallery on HGTV's website, but I thought I'd give a little sneak peek of my favorites,  like these Pumpkin Pie Phyllo Bites. They use ready-made phyllo shells so you can whip them up in just minutes!

Autumn offers the best indulgences, and I've given myself full permission to partake of its treasures. So far this includes a daily cup of hot apple cider, marathon granola-eating, and studying all varieties of warmly spiced baked goods as if I were going to be tested on the subject later.

This bundt is a result of that research and I'm not afraid to say it: I'm obsessed with this cake. It is so delightful with a moist pumpkin-spiced interior, a drape of sweet cream cheese glaze, and crunchy sugar-lacquered walnuts.

Today is the kind of chilly autumn day that makes you take stock of your tea cupboard and requires a cozy cinnamon-spiced treat. I'm all for a repeat of these apple-cherry turnovers I made a couple of weeks ago. They are totally scratch-made with firm granny smith apples, dried cherries and an all-butter puffy crust that turns golden as it bakes.

These may look like ordinary cookies, but they are so soft and fluffy I hesitate to call them cookies. They're more like a hybrid of cake and cookie... so would that make them cakies? Is that a thing? It should be!

The pumpkin-flavored batter is lightly sweet and chock full of chopped pecans. A drizzle of caramel on top adds just the right amount of sweetness.

Years ago I picked up a 'Best of the Best' cookbook while traveling through Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. It was one of those modest-looking regional cookbooks bound with a plastic comb that might have been compiled by a local church or rotary club. This muffin recipe is a favorite from that book, although I've since lost my copy and fear it has been accidentally donated. Last week I found the recipe on a sheet of paper that I'd typed for my mom, and although it's not pumpkin-spiced or fall-themed, I couldn't wait to share it. The muffins make a nice breakfast at any time of year and they are extremely easy to make.

I remember the recipe's headnote stated the origin was from Sedberry Hotel, a McMinnville Tennessee establishment (and apparently a pretty ritzy one for the place and time) which opened in early 1900. It closed in the 1950's, but thankfully the muffins survived.

Fall and winter holidays are well on the horizon, so I've been exploring savory bites that will make nice appetizers and party food. These little wild mushroom pies fit the season perfectly, and they've checked all the boxes on my requirements list. They're cozy, tasty, and look seriously inviting on a serving tray.

One of my favorite projects at this time of year is to bottle up homemade vanilla extract using vanilla beans and vodka (remember this post?). The beans take a couple of months to steep and are ready just in time for Christmas gifts. However, over the past few years vanilla bean prices have been prohibitively expensive, and so it made my favorite fun and economical holiday gift not so economical. If you're an avid baker, no doubt you've noticed the increase in bean prices and even in store-bought vanilla extracts. There are many reasons for this escalation such as poor weather conditions, low crop yield, and labor-intensive harvesting (read more here). Although some news outlets are reporting relief in sight, we've yet to see it.

This year I decided to bottle lemon extract instead, and for a few good reasons. 1.) I've missed the ritual of it all: bottling, tagging, observing, monitoring, and shaking the bottles over 6-8 weeks time. It's a nice sort of anticipation. 2.) Lemon extract goes in many delicious baked things, especially at Christmastime (see Lemon Sparkler Cookies, for starters). 3.) Lemons are currently affordable in my neck of the woods. 4.) Bright ribbons of lemon rind tint the vodka a sunny color over time, which makes this homespun gift pretty.
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