Healthy eating: Give thanks and eat pie (in moderation)

I hope that everyone had a safe and lovely Thanksgiving holiday. I missed gathering with friends this year- — not only for the wonderful company and conversation but also for the variety of food that everyone brings. Family gatherings are steeped in food traditions, which makes them comforting and welcoming.

In our house, my husband and son make a traditional French-Canadian meat stuffing every year. I make a simple, unadulterated cranberry sauce that my mother used to make. Side dishes vary- — riced potatoes, sweet potato casserole, corn pudding, bread stuffing, wild rice, Brussel sprouts, Green beans, Parker House rolls — from year to year.

With only three of us for the Thanksgiving meal, the big decision was “What kind of pie”?! We like to go the traditional route with pecan pie and pumpkin pie, but with only three of us I had to come up with a better solution. It did not feel “healthy” to bake (and therefore eat) two pies! So I created a pumpkin pie with a pecan topping. If you don’t like pecans, feel free to use another nut for the praline. The end result is decadent but like all sweet things, practice moderation and eat a piece mindfully. Savor every morsel slowly.

This is a recipe that will be used for many holidays in the future–our family is adding it to our rotation of holiday food traditions.

Pecan Praline Pumpkin Pie



One unbaked pie crust (homemade or store bought)

Egg wash for pie crust: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk


One 15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup half and half

Praline topping
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Whipped cream for serving


I prepare my pie dough before I begin making the pecan praline pumpkin pie. Make the pie dough the night before because it needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours before rolling out and blind baking.

Roll out the chilled pie dough: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the chilled dough. Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9×2 inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is completely smooth. To make a lovely thick edge, I do not trim excess dough around the edges. Instead, fold the excess dough back over the edge and use your hands to mold the edge into a nice thick rim around the pie. Crimp the edges with a fork or use your fingers to flute the edges. Carefully line the inside of the pie with two pieces of parchment paper, as shown in the photos and video above, then pour in the pie weights. Make sure the weights are evenly distributed around the pie dish. Chill the dough in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes– this helps prevent the crust from shrinking. (You can actually fill with pie weights before or after chilling, it doesn’t make a difference.)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pre-bake the crust: Bake the cold pie crust (with weights!) for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes as you prepare the filling. You can pre-bake the crust up to three days ahead of time. Cover cooled crust tightly and refrigerate until ready to fill.

Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, half and half, in a large bowl until completely combined and smooth.

Remove pie weights (and parchment) from crust. Pour filling into warm crust. Brush edges with egg wash.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the center is no longer jiggly. It can still be a little sticky in the very center on top, just as long as it no longer jiggles when you lightly tap the pan. During bake time, if you find the edges of the pie crust are browning too quickly, apply a pie crust shield or a ring of aluminum foil to protect it.

Topping: Remove pie from the oven and add the topping. I like to make the topping as the pie bakes so I have it ready. Using a fork, mix the pecans and brown sugar together. Drizzle in the maple syrup and mix until combined. Spoon on top of the pie, then gently press it down with a spoon or fork so it sticks on top of the filling.

Return pie to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Use a pie crust shield to protect the crust from over-browning, if needed.

Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely, at least 3-4 hours. If not serving right away, cover cooled pie and store at room temperature for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Serve room temperature or cold with whipped cream.

Cover and store leftover pie in the refrigerator for up to five days.


Pie Crust: If using homemade or store-bought pie dough, you still need to pre-bake it. If needed, you can use a graham cracker crust or gingersnap cookie crust instead of traditional pie crust. Pre-bake the cookie crust at 350°F for 10 minutes. No need for pie weights if using a cookie crust.

Pumpkin: Canned pumpkin is best in this pumpkin pie recipe.

Spices: About 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice can be used instead of ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

—  By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at


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