Monday, December 31, 2012

Brisket and Non-Dairy Cornbread

One of my best friends and I get together every other week or so for lunch since we work a few blocks from each other, but we try to get together with our husbands as well every month or so.  It's nice because while she and I are sorority sisters who have known each other for 10 years now, we've become friends with each other's husband and the two guys have become friends as well.  To a point where our husbands argue that we're their friends.  Anyway, we had the two of them over for dinner the other night.  I knew when we invited them that my meal would have to be either meat or parve since my friend is allergic to dairy.  Fine with me, that meant I could break out my nice china for the meal! But what to make?

A few weeks ago, during Hurricane Sandy, my husband and I were at one of my other best friend's home to recharge our phones, check work e-mails and generally just warm up while we had no power.  My friend invited us to stay for dinner, and from the yummy aroma in the air, we couldn't resist accepting the invitation.  She served the most delectable brisket.  Of course I had to ask her for the recipe!  This was the perfect thing for our dinner party.

Thankfully I was planning on being home for most of the day of this dinner.  The brisket cooks low and slow - 250 degrees for 7 hours.  For sides I made a dairy-free cornbread, roasted potatoes and steamed greenbeans.    It actually lead to a pretty relaxing day.  I made the cornbread in the morning, put the brisket it, put the potatoes in the oven when the brisket came out to rest and then steamed the beans.  I served a black bean hummus when they first arrived and then a salad.  Dessert was a zucchini bread, which I will blog about later this week.  All in all, I think it was a pretty successful dinner party!

Brisket (very slightly adapted from

1 beef brisket (estimate 1/2 lb per person)
garlic salt
onion salt
celery salt
3 ounces liquid smoke
Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle barbecue sauce

- Trim fat from brisket.
- Sprinkle meat liberally with all the salts.
- Line a baking pan with enough foil to seal over the meat.
- Put meat on foil lined pan and pour the whole bottle of liquid smoke over the meat.
- Seal the foil and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day drain the meat and sprinkle with worcestershire sauce.
- Cover with the foil.
- Bake 6 hours in a 250 degree oven.
- Open foil and pour on the whole bottle of barbecue sauce and bake 1 hour longer.
- let rest for 30 min before serving

Dairy-Free Cornbread (recipe from Whole Foods)

1 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal 
1 1/2 cup flour
6 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup plain soy milk or rice milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup corn oil


- Preheat oven to 400°F. Oil a (9-inch) square baking pan and set it aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a second large bowl, whisk together soy milk, eggs and oil. Add milk mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Maple-Walnut Chicken with Sweet Potato Aioli

For Chanukah this year my father bought me the book Kosher by Design: Short on Time which he had seen at a relative's house a few months ago and kept in mind to give me.  It is exactly what it sounds like - a kosher cookbook with recipes that don't take too long to make.  When I got home, I thumbed through it and made mental notes about which ones I wanted to try out.

One that immediately jumped out at me was the Maple-Walnut Chicken.  It sounded like the perfect mix of sweetness with the chicken.  And it comes with a sweet potato aioli, so what's not to love about it?!  We had this with brussels sprouts to add in a little more veg to our meal.  This was simple to make.  While there was a bit of measuring to be done, there was no real chopping, etc to get this ready, which always adds on a lot prep time.

I made a few minor adjustments on this.  First off, the recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes. thank you!  Maybe it would have shaved a few minutes off my cooking time, but I feel no need to use canned veggies when I can go out to the store and pick it up fresh.  I also halved the recipe (no need for 6 pieces of chicken for the two of us) and I found that halving the panko/maple syrup ratio for the crust didn't have the right consistency, so I upped the amount of syrup.

This was seriously delicious.  I was a little jealous when my husband brought the one extra piece for lunch today.  He ended up eating it cold (he seems to have an aversion to using his office's microwave) but I would recommend heating it up after.

Maple-Walnut Chicken with Sweet Potato Aioli (slightly adapted from Kosher By Design: Short on Time)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, divided
freshly ground pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 cup panko
2 sweet potatoes
1 1/2 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp mayonaise
1 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.
- Place a chicken breast smooth-side down on a cutting board.  Lift up the tender and if necessary, make a cut to form a long pocket.  Repeat with the remaining breasts.
- Stuff each pocket with 1 tbsp walnuts and drizzle 1 tsp maple syrup.  Close up the pocket.  Place pocket-side down on prepared pan.  Repeat with remaining breasts.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- In a small bowl combine the vegetable oil, Dijon mustard and thyme.  Brush eat cutlet with this mixture.
- Bake for about 18 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- While the chicken is baking, pierce the sweet potatoes several times with a fork.  Place on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high for 6 minutes.  If it is not yet tender, cook for additional time.  Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup maple syrup and panko to make a paste.
- After the chicken is baked, remove from the oven and spoon and press on the panko paste to form a crust.  Turn the oven to broil, return the chicken to the oven and broil 6-8 inches from the heat source for 3 minutes, until crust is golden-brown.
- Cut the sweet potatoes in half and scoop the insides into a bowl.  Using a fork, mix in the light-brown sugar.  Whisk in the mayonnaise and 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup.
- Serve each cutlet with a dollop of the aioli.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brown Sugar Cookies

Another addition to my holiday treats I gave out this year was Brown Sugar Cookies.  The recipe is from my Best Bakesale Cookbook that I bought to support Cookies for Kids' Cancer.  I had everything in my pantry, so this was easy to throw together.

My cookies didn't end up looking like the picture next to the recipe (they look like they spread out nicely, mine didn't spread so much) but I think that the flavors were all still there, so I don't think it was that much of an issue.  I used my deep teaspoon scoop to put them on the baking sheet.  After I did my first batch and noticed they weren't spreading, I ended up flattening the next few trays, which made them look a bit better.

I had made different things for my family and my husband's family (mostly due to the Chanukah parties being a week apart and wanting to try new things and not just repeat everything for the second round).  These were in the second round, so they went to my in-laws.  When it came time for handing out presents, I passed the treats out to everyone.  About 10 minutes later I see my husband's uncle sitting on the couch popping these in  his mouth one after another.  I gave a good amount of cookies to each family, but I'm not quite sure my husband's aunt got to enjoy any of these, as they were most likely gone by the time they got in the car to go home!

Brown Sugar Cookies (as printed in Best Bakesale Cookbook)

1 1/2 stick butter (6oz)  unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Add the egg and beat well.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Place the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a separate bowl and mix well.  Add to the butter mixture and beat until everything is well incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
- Drop large teaspoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake until the edges are just brown (8 - 12 minutes).
- For crispy cookies, let cook on the sheet.
- Let the cookie sheet cool completely between batches and repeat with the remaining dough.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

French Farmhouse Garlic Chicken

Garlic is one of my favorite ways to add flavor to any dish.  When I saw this recipe for French Farmhouse Chicken in the Better Homes & Gardens Big Book of 30-Minute Dinners I saw that it called for 40 cloves of garlic.  Yes, you read that right, 40 CLOVES.  Crazy, right??  Well, I decided to give it a shot, and I am very glad that I did.

This dish was easy to make after a long day.  Peeling the garlic did take some time, and although the recipe says if you're pressed for time you can peel it after cooking, I think it was worth it to do it before.

And no garlic clove went to waste.  This is definitely a meal to have when everyone's eating it.  Otherwise, make sure you have plenty of breath mints on hand!

French Farmhouse Garlic Chicken (from Better Homes and Gardens)
makes 4 servings

4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 3/4 pound total)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
40 small cloves of garlic (peeled or unpeeled, halving any large cloves)
1 tbsp cooking oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp dry white wine or chicken broth plus,  divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
4 tsp all-purpose flour
hot mashed potatoes or cooked rice

- Rinse chicken; pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper.
- In a 10-inch skillet cook chicken and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes or just until browned, turning once.
- Slowly add 1/2 cup white wine or broth, lemon juice, basil, and oregano,.
- Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the chicken is tender and no longer pink.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and garlic to a warm serving platter.  Keep warm.
- In a small bowl stir together the flour and the 2 tablespoons dry white wine or broth.  Stir into pan juices and bring to a boil.
- Cook and stir for 1 minute more.  Spoon sauce over chicken.
- Serve with potatoes or rice.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mini Cheesecakes with Strawberry Sauce

Since I am off work this week I am able to sit down and go back to post the things I made back in October for my party.  This recipe is definitely apropos for the holiday season, though.  With all the parties going on this month, these are perfect to serve to crowds both large and small.  And you can make them in advance, which is always an added bonus during this busy time of year.

For my bridal shower last year my bridesmaids each brought a dish to serve.  One bridesmaid, Jamie, brought these mini cheesecakes, which came from a family recipe.  I am not usually a big cheesecake fan (most places I've had it the slice is huuuuge like at Cheesecake Factory or Junior's in NYC), but the individual size makes these just the perfect amount of cheesecake.  After the shower there was a decent amount leftover (as there is at any party with multiple desserts) so my mother-in-law (who hosted the shower at her home) popped some in the freezer and served them with our Rosh Hashannah meal later that week.

These are great leftover.  We had a few left after our party as well, so we wrapped them individually in foil and froze them.  The day before we waned to eat them we popped them in the fridge then took them out before we sat down to dinner so they came back up to room temperature by the time we ate them.

Mini Cheesecakes (a family recipe from Jamie at Skinny Apple, Fat Appetite)


24 Keebler Ready Crusts, Graham, individual sized

4 Eggs

1 Cup Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla

3 Bricks Philadelphia Cream Cheese


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and cream

cheese until smooth.  You can use either a standup mixer or a hand


Pour approx ¼ cup of filling into each individual crust.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Allow cheesecakes to cool completely before eating.

Strawberry Sauce 


2 cups fresh strawberries, cut

¼ cup sugar

1 tbsp lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.

Cook on medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Allow sauce to cool completely before serving.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels

One week ago today 26 innocent children and women lost their lives on what should have been just a regular school day at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  In the wake of this tragedy, many people are asking what they can do to help the victims.  Today, the blogging community is gathering together to honor the victims and to spread the word about Newtown Youth & Family Services which has been helping families for over 30 years in the Newtown area and is assisting the survivors (parents, students, school staff and others) and the families of the victims with counseling, etc.  To donate to this non-profit organization, please go to

I had this post for holiday treats ready to go for this morning, which was just going to be an additional holiday treat that I wanted to share, but after I heard about the Cookies and Crafts for Sandy Hook movement, I knew this would be an appropriate post.  While I made these on my own, these can be made with kids.  You can have them help dip the pretzels and sprinkle the peppermint onto them.

I'm sure everyone is holding their loved ones a little tighter this week; I know I am...

Another addition to my holiday gifts was chocolate peppermint pretzels.  I came across this recipe in Runners World Magazine, of all places.  It mentioned the anti-oxidants of the dark chocolate along with the nutrient-rich carbs from the pretzels.  This way, it makes us feel better about eating chocolate covered pretzels, right??  And the best part is, 70% chocolate doesn't have any dairy in it, so as long as the pretzels don't either, these are parve so you can have them after a meat or dairy meal.

The original recipe says to use a microwave-safe bowl and to melt the chocolate in the microwave.  I'm always skeptical about that because you can end up over cooking it and the chocolate isn't as smooth and easy to work with.  My favorite way to melt chocolate is to use a double boiler.  I have this bowl from Pampered Chef and I love it!

A few tips - after melting the chocolate, I put the pretzel in the bowl and used a toothpick to pick it up by the bottom opening, letting the excess chocolate run off before putting it down on the parchment paper.  This worked, though every so often I had to get a new toothpick because the old one broke.  Also, for the peppermint sticks - we used mini candy canes.  Unwrap them, put them in a Ziplock bag, and use a hammer or mallet to crush them.  Not all the way down to a fine powder, but close enough that you can sprinkle the bits and be able to eat them easily.

These were so ridiculously easy to make that I will definitely make them again.  Peppermint for the holidays, maybe nuts for another time of year!

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels (recipe slightly adapted from Runners World Magazine, December 2012)

1 12-ounce package bittersweet (70%) chocolate baking chips
1 tbsp butter
15-20 whole-grain pretzels
3 peppermint sticks, crushed ***I used about 10 mini-candy canes

- slowly melt the chocolate and the butter either in a double boiler or in a microwave safe bowl, stirring often.
- Dip the pretzels into the melted chocolate and place on a parchment-lined tray.
- Let cool slightly, sprinkle with peppermint
- Refrigerate to cool completely.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pecan Sandies

For the holidays this year I decided to give our families containers of holiday treats.  We buy gifts for our parents and nephews, but we see aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc so I always felt weird not having things for everyone we spend the holiday with!  So I made a whole bunch of cookies and other holiday treats.  Everything seemed to get good reviews (and my husband kept telling me to take pictures for my blog already so he could eat more), so hopefully they weren't just being nice!

One type of cookies I made was pecan sandies.  I had never had them before, but I kept seeing recipes for them in all of my cookbooks, plus Food Network Magazine included them in a spread on holiday cookies, so I decided to give them a go.  After looking at all the different recipes, I opted for the one from Food Network Magazine, as they looked the most interesting (most were just basic round cookies, these were textured and had a pecan on top, so it looked nicer than the rest).

The original recipe calls for turbinado sugar, which I didn't find at either of my regular markets (I'm sure if I looked elsewhere I could have found it, I was just short on time) so I improvised a bit.  I think they came out great, and will definitely make them again.

Pecan Sandies (slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine)

2/3 cup pecans, plus 36 more for decorating
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
brown sugar for sprinkling

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until browned (10-12 minutes).  Let cool completely.
- Sift 3/4 cup flour, the salt and baking bowder into a medium bowl.
- Pulse the toasted nuts with the remaining 2 tbsp of flour in a food processor until finely ground.
- Beat the butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).
- Add the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, then stir in the nut mixture.
- Pat the dough into a rectangle on a piece of plastic wrap; wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours or overnight)
- Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment into a 9-by-6-inch rectangle, slightly less than 1/4 inch thick.
- Sprinkle the dough with brown sugar.
- Slice the dough into sixths cross-wise and length-wise to make 36 rectangles.  ***I used a pizza cutter for this step
- Arrange the rectangles about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Pierce each rectangle a few times with a fork, then press a pecan onto each.
- Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway though, until golden brown (10-12 minutes)
- Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

I love the holiday time and all the yummy treats that come with it.  I think no matter what religion you are, you can appreciate a good cookie.  When my running club announced the date for our annual holiday party and said that everyone could bring either an appetizer or a dessert, I knew I wanted to make something festive.  I had never made gingerbread men before, but I always enjoyed eating them, so I decided to whip up a batch for the party.  First stop was to NY Cake & Baking Supply, which is not too far from my office to pick up the proper cookie cutter.  I had to leave the store quickly or else I would have bought almost everything they sell!

I turned to my trusty How to Cook Everything where I found the recipe for "Aunt Big's Gingersnaps" which has an adaptation to make them into Gingerbread Men.  The recipe is very simple to follow.  As with most cookie recipes, you have to let the dough chill for a bit in the fridge, so I made the dough Friday night, then chilled it until Saturday morning.  That afternoon I decorated them and let them set before the party that night.  For the icing, I mixed 1 cup confectioner's sugar with 2 tbsp boiling water (if the icing is too thick, just add more water).  I put it into a sandwich bag, cut the tip of the corner off and piped the icing right onto the cookies.  For the most part, they came out looking well, though there were a few "special" ones.  A few I salvaged, turning a wonky face into something different - one ended up with eyebrows, and another became a vampire.

The cookies were a hit at the party, too!  It was crowded, so not a lot of people saw me bring them in.  The pile kept getting lower and lower, and when people found out I brought them, they told me that they'd already had a few of them.  If they were going back for seconds, then I don't doubt these were delicious cookies!

Gingerbread Men (as printed in How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 heaping tsp baking soda
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt

- Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses until smooth.
- Mix the baking soda with 2 tbsp hot water and beat into the dough.
- Combine the flour, spices, and salt in abowl.
- Add the dry ingredients to the dough and beat well.
- Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you are ready to roll it out.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- When the dough is sightly softened, roll it out as thinly as possible; use a gingerbread man cutter (or hand-cut if you're brave) to cut the cookies out.
- Bake on ungreased  baking sheet until golden around the edges (about 10 minutes), watching carefully to prevent burning.  ***For softer cookies, remove the dough from the oven when the center is still puffy and soft
- Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rach to cool.
- Decorate if you wish.
- Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to several days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cranberry & Chocolate Cookies

Last year my husband and I went to the New York Chocolate Show.  One of the events on the day we were there was a cooking demonstration by Johnny Iuzzini, who we had watched as a judge on Top Chef: Just Desserts.  At the end of the demonstration Johnny mentioned that he'd be signing autographs over by the bookstore section, and aside from his own cookbook he would love for us to purchase another book - the Best Bake Sale Cookbook, which was published by the founders of Cookies for Kids' Cancer.  We thought it was such a good cause, that we made sure to purchase that book.

One of the recipes in it is for cranberry and chocolate cookies.  Essentially it's a chocolate chip cookie with the added yum of dried cranberries.  What's not to like???  I had made these previously to bring to a party and they were a hit there.  This year I participated in a holiday cookie exchange, and while I had a few ideas of what to send, I knew these were tried and true, so I opted to make these to send off to her.  I also included them in my gifts for my family for Chanukah along with a few other treats.

The cookies are extremely simple to make (basically just throw everything in the mixer and then put on a cookie sheet and you're done).  I hope that when they make it to my secret cookie exchange buddy she and her family enjoy them!

And if you get a chance to check out the charity's web site, please do; it's a great cause!

Cranberry and Chocolate Cookies (as published in The Best Bake Sale Book)
yields 3 - 4 dozen cookies

2 1/2 sticks (10 oz), unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper
- Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, one at a time, beating well between additions.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Place the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and mix well.
- Add the dry mixture into the butter mixture and beat until everything is well incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the chocolate chips and cranberries and beat again.
- Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
- Transfer to the oven and bake until the cookies begin to brown at the edges (12 to 15 minutes).
- Cool on the cookie sheet.
- Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining dough.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Pie

This month's theme for What's Baking was "Pies".  With Thanksgiving happening, who didn't have an excuse to participate without having to plan out what/when to make?!  I re-made a pie that I had tried out a few years ago.  One problem we usually have at Thanksgiving is that everyone gets so stuffed with appetizers and the main meal, that when it comes to dessert, everyone looks wistfully at the spread and stays as far away as possible from the table.  I had made this pie a few years ago (after finding the recipe online), and literally had to guilt my dad and his cousin into trying it (they split a piece).  I had some and thought it was delish, but didn't think it was such a big hit due to the response I received that year.

Fast forward to this year.  I knew I wanted to bring a pie based on the WB theme.  I ran a few ideas by my husband, and mentioned the chocolate pecan pie I had made years ago.  His face lit up with anticipation when I told him, so I figured why not give it another shot?  I also decided to up the ante a bit and make my own pie crust.  I was nervous at first, but after making it, I realize how easy it is!  Though I do admit, my rolling skills need some improvement (it was a little thicker in some areas than others).  The original recipe calls for a caramel sauce, but honestly, I don't think it needed it, so I left it off.

The response to the pie was much better this year.  Maybe people had better portion control during the meal?  I don't know, but almost half the pie was eaten at Thanksgiving and we sent a couple pieces home with my second cousin (who loudly announced after taking a bite that my husband was a lucky man).

And yes, not only does my husband agree with that sentiment on a regular basis, but after having this pie (and making sure we had some to take home), he has a new line to add to the list of why he's lucky.

Emeril's Rich Chocolate Pecan Pie (very slightly adapted from a post by Good Morning America in Nov 2008)

1 1/2 cups pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips  
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell (****the recipe for pie shell is below****)
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt  

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Spread the pecan pieces and the chocolate chips evenly on the bottom of the pie shell.
-In a mixing bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together.
- Pour the filling over the pecans.
- Bake until the filling sets, 50 to 60 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

Basic Pie Dough (as printed in The Craft of Baking)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup ice water, plus more if needed

***For best results, measure out ingredients and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes before making the dough

- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt; pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and the shortening, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with some larger pieces remaining.
- With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, processing just until the dough begins to bind and holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hand, 5 to 10 seconds.  If the dough is too dry, add a bit more water, 1 tbsp at a time.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface and shape it into a flattened disk.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or over night (the dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Honey Cornbread Muffins

I know it's been a while since my last post.  A lot has gone on since then - a hurricane which led to a week with no power, then trying to get caught up with life before going away for a week, and then Thanksgiving.  What a month it's been!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, here is a favorite recipe of mine.  My family's gatherings are quite large.  Back in the day, my grandmother played host to so many people that the already-large-enough-for-20 table was extended so it went from one end of the large dining room all the way into the living room!  Now my aunt & uncle play host and this year had about 25 people.  As with most holiday meals, some guests bring food to contribute to the meal.  A few years back I was trying to come up with a side dish I could bring.  I decided that I wanted to bring cornbread, but how could that be served easily to the large crowd?  I could make it in a large baking dish and cut it up to serve, OR I could just make them the easy to share size of mini muffins!  I found this recipe online at  It's super easy to follow, and easy to convert to mini-muffins.

Now each year this is one of the things I contribute to our Thanksgiving meal, always to rave reviews.

Honey Cornbread Muffins (from Food Network's Down Home with the Neelys)

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk (I used skim)
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. 
- Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

(for full-sized muffins):
- Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. 
- Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers.
- Bake for 15 minutes, until golden
Yields 12 muffins

(for mini muffins):
- spray mini-muffin pan with Pam
- evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the tin (I used approx 2 tbsp per cup)
- Bake for 12 minutes until golden
Yields approx 40 mini-muffins

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits

This month's theme for What's Baking was Cooking with Sweet Potato and/or Pumpkin.  While I could eat sweet potato every day of the week and be perfectly happy, I like to use What's Baking to expand my palate, so I opted to go with a pumpkin recipe.  This month's Food Network Magazine included a recipe for Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits.  As soon as I saw this, I knew it was the recipe I wanted to use.

I had almost everything on hand, except for the pumpkin, so it just took a quick stop at the store and I was good to go.  The steps were easy to follow and it only took me about an hour to make these.  The one thing I did differently from the printed recipe was that I didn't have a 2 inch cutter, so I used the smallest thing I had - a 3 inch round glass.  Instead of making 16 biscuits like the recipe says, I ended up with 10 (it could have been a few more, but I was lazy and didn't want to roll out the leftover dough and use a second baking pan).

They ended up being very tasty.  You can taste the pumpkin, but it's not overwhelming.  At least in the few bites I got in before my husband stole the rest of the biscuit I was eating for himself (after eating 2 of his own!).  So I think if he's the judge, then these were a big hit!

Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits (as printed in Food Network Magazine, November 2012

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced, plus melted butter for brushing
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/4 cup heavy cream

- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl.
- Whisk in 1 tablespoon parmesan.
- Add the diced butter and work it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
- Mix the pumpkin and cream in a small bowl and pour over the flour mixture.
- Mix with your hands or a fork to make a soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle using a floured rolling pin.
- Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch-round cutter and arrange about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
- Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parmesan.
- Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the biscuits cool slightly before serving or cool completely and freeze.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin-shaped Cheddar Cheese Ball

Instead of having a boring tray of cheese and crackers out for our party, I wanted to do something different.  Food Network Magazine had this recipe which was shaped like a pumpkin.  How unique but easy to do?!  But that recipe made nacho-flavored cheese, which didn't fit in with the rest of the dishes I had planned, so I set out to find a cheese ball recipe that better suited my menu.  I came across this one from, which seemed simple enough.  Of course, I have no idea what "cheddar cheese food" means.  My guess is that they meant Veleveeta which if you look on the Kraft web site it was originally advertized as a "Cheese Food".  I decided to nix the Velveeta, and went with regular sharp cheddar.

The trick for this is to have it at room temperature.  I left it on the counter for a few hours until it was malleable.  Then threw everything in my standing mixer and set it to 4 and let it beat away and mix everything together.  The original recipe called for 2tsp of garlic salt, but if I ever make this again I'm only using 1tsp, as I found it a bit too garlicky.

To make it look like a pumpkin, you cut out the stem of a green pepper, make a little notch in the top of the ball and press the pepper top into it.

Cheddar Cheese Ball (slightly adapted from

8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (at room temperature)
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 tsp. garlic salt 
A couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce 
Nuts, chopped
- Mix real well until all blended
- Put into small mixing bowl that has been lined with Saran Wrap and chill overnight
- While in wrap, form into a ball
- Before serving, roll in nuts
- Serve with crackers of your choice

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Party Recap

October is a big month to celebrate in our home - my husband's birthday is in October, and our 1st anniversary is less than 2 weeks later.  In addition, although we had some friends and family over for a meal, we never actually had a party.  Most of our friends had either been in our apartment in passing or not at all, so we figured it was high time to have some people over.  Our apartment isn't too large, so we couldn't invite everyone, but we asked a handful of friends over.  Neither of us had ever really hosted a party before, so we just jumped in feet first and tried to not screw it all up.

Things we learned from our party:
- always plan ahead.  Leave plenty of time for shopping, setting up and cooking.
- while making everything from scratch sounds like a wonderful way to impress your friends with your cooking skills, it's ok to buy some things pre-made to cut down on prep time.
- Set everything out the night before, so you know what serving dishes/utensils you need and where they will go.
- Don't worry too much, it'll all be done, and if it's not, your guests will never know dishes were missing!
- Open the plasticware the night before.  The plates we got had a film on them and had to be washed as guests were about to arrive.

Our party was apps & desserts.  We served dairy and parve dishes.  This was our menu (I will make the links clickable as I post the recipes throughout the week)

Tapenade with pita chips
Hummus (store-bought) w/pretzel chips
Butternut Squash soup (served in mugs)
Veggies & dip
Avocado Tartlets
Cheese Ball w/crackers

Mini cheesecakes

We had a few other things in mind to make, but ran out of time.  In the end, it didn't matter and it seemed like everyone had a good time.  And now we will be better equipped to play host and hostess next time! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

French Toast Casserole

This month's Recipe Swap theme was Breakfast.  I was very excited about this, because during the week breakfast in our home usually consists of cereal or oatmeal (in the colder months) and on weekends it's nice to have something a little more special.

My assignment was French Toast Casserole, submitted by Coleen at Does Not Cook Well With Others.  It's similar to a dish my father makes that I've been dying to try, but swap rules say that you have to make the recipe given, not just something inspired by it, so my dad's recipe will be a post for another day.  I know how much I like that French toast, so I was excited to try this one out!

The recipe is simple to follow.  The only thing to take note of is that this needs to set for at least 8 hours in the fridge and then come back up to room temperature before cooking for 50 min, so you need to prep it the night before and take it out of the fridge almost 2 hours before meal time.  This is a meal you definitely have to plan ahead for.

I copied the recipe below from the recipe given me, but I did end up using some slightly different ingredients.  The recipe calls for Pepperidge Farm Hearty White bread (according to reviews on the original recipe post on Cooking Light, that's the bread that holds up best after soaking up the custard).  Well, I wasn't going to a big grocery store that week.  I ended up at a country food market that's known for its baked goods, so I bought a loaf of their country white bread and used that.  They also didn't sell reduced fat cream cheese, so I bought the full fat kind (it's not like I was eating this entire thing in one sitting, right??).

I think it still came out great.  Of course, there were only two of us eating it, so I ended up having it not only for breakfast on Sunday, but also Monday and Tuesday and still had about half of the pan left.  I think this is the kind of dish you only make if you have plenty of people to help eat it!

French Toast Casserole (given to me by Does Not Cook Well With Others

16 slices Pepperidge Farm Hearty White bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes 
Cooking spray 
8 ounces ⅓-less-fat cream cheese at room temperature 
8 large eggs 
1 ½ cups reduced fat (2%) milk 
⅔ cup half-and-half 
½ cup real maple syrup (not pancake syrup) 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the cubes evenly in the dish.  
Beat the cream cheese until smooth (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add in the milk, half-and-half, maple syrup and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  
Pour the custard over the bread cubes. Cover the dish and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.  
When ready to serve, remove baking dish from refrigerator and let come to room temperature on the counter (about 30 minutes).   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake for 50 minutes or until custard is set. Serve warm or room temperature.
Sift powdered sugar over casserole just before serving, and serve with additional maple syrup.