Pecan Pie

Each Thanksgiving I try to take charge of something new or something more complicated. So far I’ve made side dishes (med), cornbread stuffing (yummy), cranberry sauce (disastrous), and several pies. She and I have our own fair share of failures. Last year her pecan pie was over-baked. My apple pie was under-baked.

Pecan pie is a staple for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. My mother is the only person who eats pecan pie at Thanksgiving. Usually she bakes a whole pie for herself to enjoy for the entire week. While many recipes include alcohol, I went for an old-fashioned recipe.


Ingredients: 

  • Pie crust dough (store-bought or homemade)
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups pecan-halves (You can find these in the baking aisle. You don’t have to split them.)

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 F.

2) Roll out the pie dough onto a lightly floured surface. Trim and crimp crust as desired. Lightly prick the bottom of the crush with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

3) For the pie filling: melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt.

4. Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk into the corn syrup mixture.

Be really careful! If you mixture is too hot, your eggs will scramble! Mine was just a little too hot so there were some heated egg whites. I strained these out with a sieve and it was fine.

5) Put pecans in the pie shell and pour the corn syrup mixture over evenly.

6) Bake until the filling is set (50-60 min.) Cool completely.

Final Thoughts: I’ve never been a big fan of pecan pie, but I stole a bite and loved it! It was fairly easy to make, despite needing a tiny bit more effort than a pumpkin pie. Now that I’ve checked off apple, banana cream, pumpkin, and pecan, which pie should I try next?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

The pumpkin craze continues! I saw this design in a magazine and thought to myself, “I could make that!” A pumpkin chocolate chip cake seemed perfect for a pumpkin-shaped cake. This monster cake is a perfect centerpiece for a big Halloween party. Since it’s technically two cakes, make sure there are enough people to eat it!

Ingredients:

CAKE

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghiradellhi’s bittersweet)

FROSTING

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 cups maple extract
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp water or milk (I used milk)

Instructions:

I made 2 of these bundt cakes, prepared and baked separately. The instructions below are only for one cake.

1) Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10 in. bundt pan.

2) Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl. Whisk until combined.

3) Combine oil and sugar in another bowl and mix well.

4) Add the eggs, one at a time, into the sugar-oil mix.

5) Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the pumpkin, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

6) Fold in the chocolate chips.

7) Bake 60-65 min. or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.

I use a lighter colored pan, so 55 minutes did the trick.

8) Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely,

9) Make the icing. Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.

10) Add the powdered sugar and maple extract. Mix.

11) Add 1-2 Tbsp of water or milk.

This is to get the right consistency. I felt I had the right consistency without any additional liquid, but the milk really helped cut down on the sweetness of the maple frosting.

12) Decorate once the cake is completely cool.

This keeps the frosting from melting off of the cake.

Now to make your pumpkin masterpiece! I froze the two cake that I made, because who has the time to bake 2 cakes, level and carve them, make and dye frosting, then decorate a cake all in one day?

1) Level the bottoms of both cakes.

My cake was still moist even after freezing, so take it slow so you don’t take chunks out of your cake by accident. PS this is a great step for tasting.

2) Place one bundt cake upside down. Place the other on top of the first bundt cake. Use a knife to carve into a smooth shape.

3. Dye your frosting orange (or use pre-made orange frosting). Frost between the two cakes, then cover the rest of the cake.

I really wish that I had made more frosting, or done a light crumb cake layer. There were some patches later on where you could see the dark cake below the icing.

4. Take an ice cream cone and place it in the center hole. Frost this with green icing. Pipe green frosting vines and leaves. Enjoy!!

Final Thoughts: Usually I don’t like to bake cakes that use oil as their source of moisture, but it worked out because of how often I was freezing the cakes while decorating. I didn’t think I would like the maple flavor paired with pumpkin, but it was a nice subtle addition to the flavors. Next time I might cut down on the sugar as it was quite sweet in comparison. I’ve heard milk powder can help thicken frosting without adding sugar.

Pumpkin Beer Bread

As a lover of everything pumpkin (which you may have guessed from the pumpkin recipes I continue to make) I bought a case of Leinenkugel’s Pumpkin Ale. Though I enjoyed it, I don’t drink beer very frequently. I found a way to use at least one of the bottles left over.

I had never baked bread when I first made this. All I knew about bread was that they require yeast and some proofing time, or things like “starters.” Fortunately, this is not that kind of bread!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. pumpkin beer (one bottle)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, melted and divided
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice

Instructions

1) Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9×5 in. loaf pan.

I usually spray the pan with Pam then use a paper towel to make sure everything is coated and wipe out the excess.

2) Pour the pumpkin beer into a sauce pan and whisk vigorously for 1-2 min. (without heat) for flatten the beer.

3) Heat over medium until boiling, whisking occasionally to help keep the foaming down. Reduce by half (for about 15 min.) and set aside to cool slightly.

Don’t let it cool too much! You’ll want the pumpkin to dissolve.

4) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

5) In a smaller bowl (or the pan you used to flatten the beer), whisk together the beer, 2 Tbsp melted butter, canned pumpkin, molasses, and ground spices.

6) Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix with a spoon until no dry ingredients are left.

Don’t use a whisk like I did! This is not a batter, it’s a dough. It will get stuck to everything.

7) Pour half of the remaining melted butter into the loaf pan.

8) Put the dough into the pan and drizzle the remaining melted butter over the top.

9) Bake 45-55 min. until a knife can be inserted into the center and come out clean.

Final Thoughts: Isn’t it beautiful? I love the amber color. It was a nice mild flavor with hints of beer, spice, and pumpkin, but none overpoweringly so. If you really want a tasty snack, slather it with apple butter!

Chorizo Sweet Potato Hash

Pumpkin isn’t the only thing in season right now. Sweet potatoes are a diverse ingredient that pairs well with sweet and savory flavors, whether its sweet potato pie or whole roasted sweet potatoes. I found this recipe for chorizo sweet potatoes in Food Network magazine. I’ve never cooked chorizo, but I love to eat it!

The original recipe was stuffed whole sweet potatoes, but those are more difficult to take to work, so I cut them and roasted them instead.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp pickling spice (I’d never heard of it either! McCormick brand is in the spice aisle at the grocery store)
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (if you don’t like eating this usually, buy the single serve cups!)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 8 oz chorizo
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • chopped fresh mint (optional)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450. For whole potatoes, pierce all over with a fork and microwave 20-25 min. For roasted sweet potatoes, slice into bite-sized cubes. You won’t need to microwave the cubes.

2. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pickling spice and cook about 1 minute, until toasted.

 

3. Transfer the spiced oil to a mini food processor or spice grinder. Grind or pulse until the pickling spice is finely ground for 1 minute.

4. Transfer the oil into a bowl. Stir in the yogurt, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper. Set aside.

5. Soak the raisins in 1/2 cup warm water for about 10 minutes.

Does anyone know what this does? I think it’s to rehydrate them? Maybe it makes them softer…

6. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring often, for 5-6 minutes. The meat should be brown and crisp.

 

Be careful when cooking this. It’s difficult to tell when the meat is fully cooked, because it has been spiced red.

7. Add the pine nuts to the meat. Cook for 30 seconds until the nuts are lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

8. Drain the raisins and stir them into the chorizo.

9. Arrange the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then either rub the whole sweet potatoes with salt and pepper, or sprinkle evenly over the pieces.

Roast the whole potatoes for 10 minutes OR Roast the cubes for 35-40 minutes.

10. Top the sweet potatoes with the chorizo mixture. Serve with yogurt sauce on top or on the side!

Final Thoughts: I could eat this every day! Sweet potatoes and chorizo go so well together; the sweet and spicy flavors match perfectly. And the spiced yogurt sauce brings down a little bit of the heat. The pine nuts added some much needed crunch, though I probably could have cooked them longer.

A few weeks after I made this, I had a sweet potato and chorizo breakfast skillet. I like this better.

Korean Beef Meal Prep

In my junior year of college, my best friend announced she was moving to South Korea. She didn’t speak the language and knew a little about the culture, but it was still quite sudden. When she came back, she could fluently speak Korean. She also came back with an extensive knowledge of Korean food. She started taking me with her to local places, ordering food that I hadn’t heard of in a language I can’t understand. Needless to say she helped develop a love of Korean food.

Every week I make a recipe to bring to lunch for work. When I found that one of my favorite bloggers had a recipe for Korean beef, I knew I had to try it. It’s a mock-bulgogi that has quickly become one of my favorite recipes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chopped spinach (I bought 2 bunches, but 3 might have been better.)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp Sriracha (I actually used gochujang- a Korean fermented chili paste.)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I always use venison of course)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp sesame seeds

You’ll need more spinach than you think.

Instructions:

1. In a large saucepan, cook rice according to the package. Set aside.

2. Boil the eggs to desired consistency. I prefer medium-hard boiled eggs.

3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the spinach until wilted.

 

 

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and Sriracha (or gochujang).

This sauce is super sticky. It will congeal if you don’t stir it every now and then.

5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Make sure it crumbles, then drain the fat.

 

Basically up until you add the meat, the steps are the same as how you prepare the spinach.

6. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and green onions, allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.

I stirred the sauce prior to adding it into the meat.

7. Place the rice, eggs, spinach, and ground beef mixture into meal prep containers. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds if desired.

I left the garnish off of the food, but added a little extra gochujang to the meat. It was the perfect meal.

Final Thoughts: My dad said this was his favorite lunch I’ve ever made. I was disappointed that I didn’t make enough spinach, but since I doubled the recipe, we had plenty of food. I could eat this every week for lunch. Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, all delicious.

Hearty Beef or Venison Stew

Fall is around the corner, which gives me an excuse to start fall recipes. Stews and soups are one of my favorite types of dishes, because they’re simple to make. There’s also an incredible variety of flavors for the same basic idea. Throw a bunch of food and spices into a pot and you’ve made something tasty! I tend to eat lots of gnocchi so this beef stew recipe looked to good to pass up!

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 lbs. chuck roast, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart warm water
  • 3/5 cup frozen peas
  • 1 package gnocchi
  • 2 carrots

Instructions:

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Coat with the olive oil. Brown the meat in a pan over medium heat. Transfer the meat to a bowl.

 

 

2. Add 2 Tbsp butter and some olive oil to the pot. Saute the onions for about 5 minutes, until they’re translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute.

3. Stir in the flour and paprika. Cook about 1 minute. Be careful not to let the flour burn!

4. Pour the water into the pan. Bring the water to a simmer. (This is called deglazing the pan.)

5. Add the beef cubes, bay leaf, cloves, and thyme. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer 2.5 hours.

6. Add the potatoes and carrots. Turn the heat up to medium low. Simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through. Add the gnocchi 5 minutes before the end of the cook-time, then remove the pot from the heat.

You can test the potatoes by pushing a fork through them. If they’re relatively soft and easy to puncture, they’re ready.

7. Add the peas and stir. Cover the pot with a lid and let sit for a few minutes.

8. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Final Thoughts: This was such a hearty and delicious stew. I looked forward to eating leftovers every day. This recipe may be more suited for wintertime, but I truly enjoyed the mix of textures and the strong flavors. The cloves in particular were a nice surprise! Give it a try and comment with your results!

Venison Pohya

When I was living with my father, the majority of the meat in our fridge was wild game, hunted by my father, brother, or brother-in-law. As an avid hunter, my father subscribes to multiple hunting magazines, including one called Field & Stream. Sometimes they publish recipes. Recently we found a traditional Native American recipe called “poyha,” a venison and corn dish.

You’ll need a cast iron pan and a food processor or blender for this recipe, so it should be considered an intermediate or advanced recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. venison
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped with white parts separated from the green
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 ears corn or 2 cups frozen corn (you should only need to buy one bag)
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2 eggs
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal

Instructions:

1)  Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a cast iron skillet over med-high heat. Add venison and cook. Stir to break up until the pink is mostly gone.

2) Add the white parts from the scallions, red onion, and garlic. Cook until fragrant and the onions are softened. Transfer the mix to a large bowl.

 

3) Add 1/3 of corn to bowl with venison.

4) Combine the remaining corn with the cranberries. Pulse in a food processor until roughly chopped but not pulverized. Transfer this to the bowl of venison, including any juice.

 

 

5) Add the eggs, green scallion, salt, and pepper. Stir. Add cornmeal and blend.

Try not to work the meat too much.

6) Wipe out the skillet. Add 1 Tbsp oil to coat the sides and the bottom. Scoop the venison mix into the skillet. Flatten with a spatula. Cover tightly with foil.

7) Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes or more.

Please don’t burn yourselves on the pan. Cast iron will retain heat as much as possible.

Final Thoughts: This was an absolutely amazing recipe! My father and I were stunned by the savory flavor with just a slight tangy sweetness from the cranberries. We both ate seconds; leftovers were gone by the next day. Well done Field & Stream. I may look for more recipes from them to try.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!