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Chocolate Pecan Pie

November 30, 2012 9 comments

Katie Bug – Our New Dog

Matt’s birthday was this past weekend. Since his birthday is around Thanksgiving, pumpkin often figures into his birthday dessert. I’ve made an effort to change it up over the years and have made him a mocha ice cream pie, panna cotta, pecan pie, and bread pudding. Matt is not a huge cake fan, except for carrot cake (maybe next year?!?). This year, we had a few friends over to celebrate Matt’s birthday and to meet our new dog – Katie. Yes, that’s also my name. When you adopt a senior, special needs Aussie you can’t just change her name, so we call her Katie Bug, Katie Jr., Katie Pup (I’m now known as Katie Human to our friends), etc. I hope she can one day join me on a rug in the kitchen while I cook. Right now, she is too scared to venture into the kitchen unless it is a quick visit for a green bean treat. She loves her green beans! I loved that Will kept me company in the kitchen. I didn’t mention it, but we lost him in July. He was almost 15½. He was a wonderful dog and is greatly missed. We are thankful to share our home with another dog. We adopted Katie on November 17th, she is a sweetie and a welcome addition to our family. 

I baked Matt one of his favorite desserts for his birthday – a chocolate pecan pie. I made it completely from scratch. Haven’t done that in years. Yes, I cheat sometimes and use store-bought crust (Immaculate Baking Company’s refrigerated pie crust is good and easy). When I say “by scratch,” I mean it: gathered the pecans while walking through our neighborhood, shelled them on the front porch (yes, we live in Alabama!), and made the crust (thank you Ina Garten). Then topped the pie with a little “Matt Man” cutout :).  Hope you like it. It’s great for a birthday (or any day!).

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie (Print recipe)

Crust:

6 tablespoons cold salted butter

2½ tablespoons cold vegetable shortening

1½ cups flour

1½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Dice the butter. Put the butter and vegetable shortening in the refrigerator while you prepare the dry ingredients. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is about the size of peas. With the processor pulsing, gradually add the ice water. Pulse until the dough begins to form a ball. Pour dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Take care not to overwork it. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll into a circle on a floured surface, gently fold, place in a pie dish, and crimp the edges.

Filling:

3 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 cup corn syrup or golden syrup

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ salt

2 cups pecans

¼ to ½ cup chocolate chips (depends on how much you like chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly beat the eggs. Stir in the sugar, syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour pecan filling into pie crust.

To prevent over-browning, you can cover the crust edges with pie shields or pieces of aluminum foil. Bake on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes (see tips for doneness, below). Remove crust shields after about 45 minutes. Cool for 2-4 hours on a wire rack before serving.

Doneness Hints from the Karo website:

Pie is done when center reaches 200°F. Tap center surface of pie lightly – it should spring back when done.

Variation:

For something different, add ¼ to ½ cup of shredded coconut.

Credits:

The crust is based on a crust recipe from Ina Garten and the pie filling is based on the Karo Syrup recipe.

 

Spicy Lentil and Kale Soup

November 6, 2012 4 comments

Lentil and Kale Soup

It is certainly closer to soup season in North Alabama. We’ve had some freezing temperatures, just enough to make us bring in the giant Ficus and harvest our sweet potatoes. But then this weekend, it was in the upper 70s. Interesting weather so far!  Regardless of the weather, this is a great soup. It doesn’t need a long time to cook, but the flavor improves as it cooks. It is similar to my Egyptian Style Red Lentil Soup but this has kale. Actually you could use most any variety of greens – you just might need to make a few adjustments. If you using a quick-cooking cooking green like cabbage or bok choy, just put it in later. You could also use collards, broccoli rabe, or even mustard greens. I haven’t tried this, but a sweet potato (freshly harvested from the Smith-Jordan garden) would probably be good in place of the regular potato. Play around with the spices, add some cinnamon or allspice if you want to mix it up even more. Use water or veggie broth. Have fun with this recipe and enjoy…

Spicy Lentil and Kale Soup  (Print recipe)

3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large potato, diced in small cubes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ teaspoons freshly ground cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or a hefty pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups red lentils

4 cups veggie broth*

2 cups water (might need more)

1 bunch kale, stems removed, chopped

Optional Garnish: Kale Chips

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onions, celery, carrots, and potato. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, Aleppo pepper, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Cook another 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add lentils. Stir in the veggie stock and water. Add the kale. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked, about 45 minutes. Garnish with crispy kale chips and serve.

*You can use 4 cups of veggie broth and 2 cups of water or you can use 6 cups of water. The veggie broth adds more flavor, but it is also delicious with only water. If you want a thicker soup, you can use less liquid. Depending on your lentils, you might need to increase the liquid if it is too thick.

Lemon Ginger Honey

October 19, 2012 5 comments

Lemon Ginger Honey

With the cooler temperatures of October, I am more inclined to drink hot tea. I enjoy hot tea with milk and sugar but that’s not the healthiest way for me to drink it (especially with my dairy and sugar sensitivities). Usually I drink it plain or with honey and lemon, unless it is spicy chai. With chai, I prefer coconut milk.

We had half a jar of local honey that crystallized so I made lemon ginger honey. I heated the honey, added fresh lemon slices (no seeds) and chunks of fresh ginger. So far, it has been in the refrigerator for about a month. The fruits are softer and the honey tastes more “flavored” as it has aged. I tried it in hot tea and by itself when I had a cold. It is nice and soothing to a scratchy throat! The ginger chunks are delicious; they taste like candy. If you are inclined, you can even eat the lemons (rinds and all). It reminds me a bit of orange marmalade combined with lemon curd. Guess that would be lemon marmalade :)

Lemon Ginger Honey

12 ounces of  honey in a 24-ounce glass jar

2 large lemons, sliced*

1 large piece of ginger, sliced or cut into chunks

Heat the honey until it is warm. You can do this in the microwave or you can place the glass jar in a pan with very hot water. Warming the honey is particularly useful if the honey is crystallized. It also helps the honey meld with the lemon and ginger. Place the fruit in the jar, alternating lemon slices with the ginger. Push down with a spoon as needed. You want the mixture packed in the jar. Store in the refrigerator for at least three days before using, this gives the flavors a chance to blend. Then enjoy it!

*Wash and dry the lemons. Cut the lemon lengthwise. Place the flat side on the cutting board and cut thin, half-moon slices. Remove any seeds.

 

Tomatoes

July 18, 2012 4 comments

Tomatoes from Our Garden

One of my favorite things about summer is fresh tomatoes! I’m not a fan of the heat and humidity in Alabama, but they certainly make wonderful growing conditions for tomatoes. In our second year of gardening, we are growing several varieties of tomatoes – Cherokee Purple, Chello (yellow/orange cherry), Mr. Stripey (orange and yellow), Arkansas Traveler (pink), Green Grape, Black Cherry Tomato, and Jubilee (yellow and orange). Quite the colorful harvest!

My favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes – salsa, pasta sauce, soup, salad, and sandwiches! Or, just eat them plain! Growing up, tomato sandwiches were an almost daily fixture in the summer. I like traditional tomato sandwiches, but my favorite is a toasted, open-faced sandwich. Growing up, we called it a Summer Sandwich. Matt and I enjoyed our first sandwich a few weeks ago. Tastes even better when you grown the tomatoes in your garden! The sandwiches are especially good if you are local and can purchase FredBread. Great bread baked in downtown Huntsville, by a guy named Jeff!

I haven’t included any measurements in the “recipe.” This is just a general guideline. Feel free to customize it to your tastes. Hope you like it!

Summer Sandwich
(a.k.a. Toasted Open-Faced Tomato
Sandwich)

Bread

Mayo

Mustard

Tomatoes, sliced

Salt and Pepper

Onions, sliced

Herbs, fresh or dried, basil, parsley, etc.

Cheese

Slice bread. Spread with mayo and mustard. Top with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add onion slices. Top with herbs. Cover with cheese. Toast in a preheated 350º F toaster oven (or regular oven) until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with a few extra fresh herbs if you want. Serve and enjoy the taste of summer!

Berry Mojito Sorbet

Here’s another recipe using the mint simple syrup recipe from a few weeks ago. Having simple syrup already in the refrigerator makes a quick sorbet since it saves a step. Also, there is no need for extra time to cool the hot syrup.

For this sorbet, I used a combo of frozen blackberries and blueberries because we had leftovers from last summer. Fresh berries would also be great in this recipe.

Berry variations:  You could use all blueberries or all blackberries. Just adjust the quantities. If you use only blueberries, use 4 cups. If you use a mixture of berries, use 2 cups blackberries and 2⅔ cups blueberries. If you use all blackberries, which I’ve never tried, use about 6 cups. The reason is that when you strain the puréed mixture, you will lose some purée the seeds are removed. The blackberries I used were very “seedy” so I had to supplement with some extra blueberries. You want to end up with just under 4 cups of puréed fruit.

I decided to make this Berry Mint Mojito Sorbet to take to our friends’ house last night. I’ve only made it one other time. Nothing like cooking experiments among friends! Marshall and Melanie recently built a brick pizza oven in their backyard and they invited us over to celebrate our recent job news with a pizza dinner. Matt received a promotion at work and I love my new part-time editing job. Woo hoo, job-wise it was a good week at the Smith-Jordan house.

Back to the pizza and dessert…we all provided different toppings and made our own pizzas (most of the toppings came from our gardens!). I knew we would eat a lot, so I wanted to make a light dessert. However, I had no idea we’d eat that much. Oh my goodness, the pizzas were incredible! Aside from the pizza in Italy on our honeymoon, these were the best pizzas I have tasted. They were so worth the gluten splurge. By the end of the pizza fest (or pizza feast), I was glad we had a light and refreshing frozen dessert. Melanie had sliced fresh peaches with honey and citrus, a perfect accompaniment to the sorbet. Fresh berries and mint leaves are also nice additions. Hope you enjoy this refreshing summer dessert:

Berry Mojito Sorbet

2 cups blackberries

2⅔ cups blueberries

¾ cup mint simple syrup

2 tablespoons lime juice (I only had lemon juice, but it worked)

1-2 tablespoons rum (optional, but the alcohol helps the texture)

Pinch of salt

Optional garnish: berries, sliced peaches, and sprigs of mint.

Serves: 8-10

Heat half of the berries in a saucepan on medium heat for about 3-5 minutes. You want to heat them until some of the berries pop. Remove from heat and add the other berries. Purée them in a blender or in a food processor until almost smooth. Strain the berries using cheesecloth, a sieve, or a chinois conical strainer to remove excess seeds. I strain the mixture directly into my large quart Pyrex measuring cup because it has a spout and this makes it easy to pour the base into the ice cream freezer. [Plus, this container fits perfectly in an ice bath (to speed up the chilling time). You can skip the ice bath step, just make the base and let it chill for several hours or overnight. You want the base as cool as possible before you churn it.]

Add the simple syrup, lime juice, rum, and salt to the strained berry purée. Taste and adjust as needed. Depending on the sweetness of the berries, you might want to add more simple syrup or more lime juice if they are very sweet. Place the Pyrex container in an ice bath for a quick chill. Then chill the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let ripen (firm up) in the freezer before serving. Serve with berries, peaches, and sprigs of mint if you want.

 

 

Ginger Ale Carrots with a Kick

April 12, 2012 4 comments

I volunteered at WLRH earlier this week for their spring fund drive. While waiting for the phones to ring, the volunteers were sitting around, chatting about cooking, recipes, food blogs, etc. Someone mentioned they wanted a recipe for glazed carrots. I told them about a recipe Alton Brown made on Good Eats that I would share on my blog sometime in the next few weeks.

Typically, I’m not a huge fan of glazed carrots; they are a tad too sweet for my taste. But I like ginger ale and chili powder so I tried Mr. Brown’s recipe a few years ago. They were delicious!  I have since tweaked the recipe a bit (kicking up the heat), but I stayed fairly true to Alton’s original recipe. Here is a link to his original recipe:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/glazed-carrots-recipe/index.html

Coincidentally, yesterday I was at Garden Cove and they had carrots on the sale table – .75¢ for a large bag of Georgia carrots! I couldn’t pass up such a bargain. So here’s my spicier version…

Ginger Ale Carrots with a Kick

2 tablespoons butter (margarine or coconut oil)*

3 cups sliced carrots (3-4 carrots, thinly sliced)**

½ teaspoon salt

12 ounces ginger ale (I used Reed’s Original Ginger Brew)

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

pinch of cayenne, chipotle, or Aleppo pepper, optional

1 tablespoon maple syrup (honey or agave), optional

½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger or a pinch of powdered ginger, optional

1 tablespoon fresh parsley (flat or curly), chopped

Mix 1 tablespoon of butter, carrots, salt, and ginger ale in a large sauté pan that has a lid (Recipe will work in a regular pot with lid, but it will likely take longer for the glaze to thicken and reduce.  A covered wok would also work great.). Cover with lid and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Cook about 6 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, chili powder, and cumin.  If you want to kick up the flavor, add the cayenne, maple syrup, and ginger. Turn up the temperature to high.  Stir and cook about 4 to 7 minutes until tender (it depends on the size of the carrot slices, the ones I bought were huge and took longer to cook).  Stir constantly so the carrots do not burn. The sauce will thicken and make a nice glaze on the carrots. Remove from heat. Top with chopped parsley and serve.  Makes about 4 adult servings (as a side dish).

*These carrots can be made vegan with an easy substitution of margarine or coconut oil for the butter.

**I used 4 extremely large carrots and ended up with just over 4 cups of sliced carrots.  Truthfully, the carrots were a tad dry.  In the future, I will add a bit of water or more ginger ale if I use that many carrots. Luckily this is a really forgiving recipe and tweaks to it are perfectly fine.

Pretzel Button Snacks

April 4, 2012 6 comments

This is a quick snack that is perfect for parties. Hopefully there is enough time for you to try them this Easter weekend. This is also a versatile recipe with all the different flavors of Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s that are now available. The flavor combinations are almost endless! There are also lots of new candy colors that make this an especially cute snack! If you want to coordinate with party colors, you can even order special colors of M&M’s from their website (http://www.mymms.com/).

Variations:

  • I tried these with Rolos and pecans. Not bad for a “quick turtle” candy treat. Sprinkle with a little flake salt for an extra sweet and salty treat.
  • Spelt pretzels are also very good in this recipe for people on a wheat-free diet! I like the spelt pretzels from Newman’s Own.
  • Removing the wrappers from the Kisses takes the most time (aside from the cooling).  To save time, you can use jumbo chocolate chips, sometimes found in the baking aisle.  They won’t be as chocolatey, but I bet they would still be delicious. 
  • You can also use chocolate disks or wafers found at cake supply stores (like Lynelle’s in Huntsville). 
  • Future experiment:  I think mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would be delicious, but I’m not sure how they would look (not that it really matters, since the taste would be so good!).
  • I don’t think the peanut M&M’s are as “cute” as the regular sized M&M’s, but they still taste good!
     

 Pretzel Button Snacks

1 bag pretzels (squares are perfect; round, or traditional also work)

1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (most any flavor would work)

1 bag M&M’s or Reese’s Pieces (most any flavor would work)

Preheat oven to 300º F.  Line a baking sheet (preferably with sides) with parchment paper.  Cover with a single layer of pretzels.  Place a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each pretzel. Carefully move the baking sheet to the oven.  If you jostle them too much, you might end up with lopsided pretzel buttons (not that I did this or anything :-).  Bake for about  2½ to 3 minutes. Watch them while they cook; you don’t want them too melted.  You want them just melted enough to hold an M&M.  Remove baking sheet from the oven.  Immediately, press an M&M into each melted Kiss so it looks like a button.  Don’t press too hard or chocolate will squish everywhere. Allow the chocolate to harden before storing or serving.  You can either do this at room temperature (if you have enough time) or in the refrigerator (if you have enough space).  Store in an air-tight container.