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?

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.

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 Roast with Mushrooms

Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show where the family sits down for dinner, so they can feast on a beautifully cooked roast? I was always a little envious of the giant home-cooked meal. My family saved those kind of meals for holidays like Easter and Christmas. Sundays were usually what my mother called “scrounge night,” which meant we plundered the leftovers from the week or enjoyed a bowl of cereal. My father made simple meals of spaghetti and steam broccoli. I wanted to have a classy home-cooked meal like the Sunday roast.

I found this recipe for a roast. I used venison, but this recipe was originally designed for beef. Don’t be daunted by the thought of cooking a giant hunk of meat. It’s actually simple and amazingly delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (4-5 lbs.) whole beef tenderloin
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 16 oz. cremini mushroom, halved
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • kosher salt and pepper

Instructions:

1)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Rub the beef with the mustard, and season with salt and pepper.

3) Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.

I cut the mushrooms incorrectly! This is why you review your recipe. Cutting them this small made them shrink. There was definitely a smaller ratio of mushrooms to meat, which was unfortunate since the mushrooms were so delicious.

4) Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and into a cast iron skillet.  Place the roast over top of the mushrooms. Add butter to the top of the beef.

5) Transfer to the oven and roast for about 35-45 min. The roast is finished when the internal temperature reaches 120-125 degrees.

 

6) Remove the beef and mushrooms from the skillet to a serving plate. Cover with foil and let rest about 10 minutes.

Resting is super important! If you cut into the meat right after it’s been cooked, you’ll lose all of the juices that keep the roast moist.

7) Place the same skillet over high heat on the stove. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pain. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add butter and thyme, then continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

See how much thicker?

8. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Removing the skillet from the heat when adding cheese keeps the sauce from breaking.

Final Thoughts: I was shocked at how simple this was. The idea of a roast always seemed like a time-consuming, daunting task. It’s a beautiful looking dish. Also, smother that amazing sauce over everything. I need to get my hands on another roast. Just typing this made me want to make it again.

Chicken Picatta

The first time I ever had chicken picatta, I was at California Pizza Kitchen. I had no idea what capers were, but it was chicken, lemon, and pasta, so I figured I’d try it. I instantly loved the flavors. Moist, dredged chicken over thin angel hair pasta is drenched in a bright, zingy lemon sauce. Capers add a pop of brine to counter any sweetness from the cream-based sauce. To this day, it is still my order of choice at CPK.

Trying to make it at home seemed daunting, probably because I was worried about making a chicken picatta that would meet the same standards as the restaurant. The lemony chicken pasta I’ve made before is similar, but heavier than this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in half
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced shallots
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley leaves

Instructions:

1) Salt a pot of water, and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to the directions on the package.

2) Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge the chicken in flour.

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Don’t let the chicken sit too long with the flour before cooking. It won’t be as crispy.

3) Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, flipping once, for about 4-5 minutes per side.

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4) Melt 2 Tbsp butter in the skillet again. Add the garlic and shallots. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

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Don’t wash the pot! The brown stuff from the chicken will help flavor the sauce.

5) Stir in the chicken broth, wine, and lemon juice. Cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

6) Slowly whisk in heavy cream until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the capers.

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I don’t think I let my sauce thicken enough, but at least the flavor was good.

7) Serve pasta with sauce and chicken.

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Final Thoughts: There are a few food bloggers whose recipes I will always recommend. Chungah of Damn Delicious is one of those bloggers. Her recipes never fail to be delicious and easy to execute. I wish I had let my sauce thicken, but it had a strong lemon flavor. Boyfriend dislikes capers, but I love the “pop” of brininess. Any tips on improving the consistency of the sauce?

 

 

Bae’s Favorite Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I’ve been experimenting much more often in the kitchen, which means Boyfriend and I eat out less often. His favorite meal to eat out is from a DIY pizza joint. He makes a huge buffalo chicken pizza with all of his favorites. I’d never made homemade pizza, but I took a shot at recreating his restaurant creation. It’s not really my own recipe, but it’s a step toward making my own recipes!

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for pizza crust. We’ll start there!

Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions:

1) Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a large bowl. Gently stir in the yeast and let stand for about 5 minutes.

Make sure the yeast hasn’t expired.

2) Whisk sugar, oil, and salt into the bowl with the yeast. Add the flour and stir.

3) Spread oil on the inside of a glass bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit for an hour or so until the dough is doubled in size.

I like to turn my oven on low for about 1-2 minutes, then turn the oven off and place the dough inside the oven. This keeps the dough warm and unaffected by any drafts. As long as your house is warm enough, there shouldn’t be an issue with leaving it wrapped on the counter.

4) Once the dough has risen, knead the dough a few times on a flat, floured surface.

I do something a little different. I “punch” the dough to deflate it, then recover and let it rise again for another 30 minutes. This makes a very “bready” dough that rises high.

5) Place the dough on a pizza pan. Roll or press the dough into a circle. Curl the outer edges of the dough toward the center (to make that edge you usually see on pizza).

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Now for toppings!

  • Herbed butter, about 1/4 cup, melted
  • Spicy buffalo sauce, about 1/2 cup
  • Mozzarella, about 1-2 cups, shredded
  • Parmesan, about 1/2 cup, shaved or shredded
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cilantro,
  • Fresh basil
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Pepperoni
  • Buffalo chicken pieces

Notes about the Ingredients: To make your own herbed butter, I usually melt butter and add in garlic powder, Italian spices, and onion powder. As for buffalo chicken, we get pre-cooked, grilled chicken breast which we soak in buffalo sauce. None of this is really exact, especially since Boyfriend loves to pour as much as he can onto a pizza.

6) Brush the dough with herbed butter so the entire crust is covered, including the edges.

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7) Brush or pour buffalo sauce over the crust, this time avoiding the edges.

8) Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over the buttered crust.

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9) Sprinkle the garlic and herbs over the cheese. Try to distribute evenly.

10) Sprinkle red onions, then buffalo chicken on the pizza. Finish with pepperoni.

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Boyfriend likes to “fill up the empty spaces” with pepperoni.

11) Bake  ???

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Final Thoughts: I like a thicky, bready crust, so this may not be for you if you prefer thin crust. I love the crust, as does Boyfriend. The toppings are much better suited to Boyfriend’s tastes. My ideal toppings would include herbed butter, cheese, spinach, mushrooms, plain chicken, and olives. Then I’d probably drizzle the cooked pizza with some of my fig balsamic vinegar from Colorado. If you haven’t had balsamic vinegar and pizza, you’re missing out!

Did you try Boyfriend’s toppings, or did you substitute your own? Post pictures of your pizza creations!

Valentine’s Brigadeiros

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s that time of year again. When you think of Valentine’s, the first thing you think of is most likely chocolate. We’ve all gotten the Whitman’s Sampler or the Dove box, but I don’t think there’s anything quite as romantic as making someone a special treat. Usually, people make truffles, but I wanted to go for something a little more unique.

 

Brigadeiros are basically a type of truffle. It’s a Brazilian dessert that tastes sort of like a mix between chocolate truffles and fudge. Then you cover them in sprinkles. I learned about them while watching the 2016 Rio Olympics, and I’ve wanted to try making them ever since!

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sprinkles

Instructions:

1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the condensed milk, butter, heavy cream, and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat.

 

2. When the mixture starts to bubble, add the chocolate and cocoa powder. Whisk well to remove all the pockets of cocoa powder. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until it is dense like fudge (8-10 min.). Use low heat or the sides will burn the fudge. If you undercook it, the brigadeiro will be too soft; if you overcook it, it will be too chewy. It’s done when you swirl the pan and the mixtures slides as one soft piece, leaving a thick burnt residue on the bottom.

3. Slide the mixture into a bowl. DO NOT SCRAPE THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

 

I know this is weird, but if you scrape the bottom of the bowl you might get some burnt or congealed bits that will ruin the texture of your truffles.

 

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

5. Scoop the mixture by the teaspoonful. Roll it into a ball with your hands, about 3/4 in. in diameter.

6. Place the sprinkles in a bowl. Roll the brigadeiros through the sprinkles to cover the entire surface. Store in an airtight container for 2 days or up to 1 month in the fridge.

The original recipe showed chocolate sprinkles, but I wanted to be a bit more playful for the holiday.

Final Thoughts: In regard to taste, I prefer a more traditional truffle you might find in a chocolate box or at someplace like Godiva. Fortunately, my coworkers loved them. They were pleasantly surprised by their Valentine’s treat. They are soft and just the slightest bit chewy. The condensed milk really softens the chocolate flavor (which may be why I don’t like them as much). These were a great success!