Monday, December 27, 2010

Nita's Famous Pecan Logs

This recipe comes from my grandmother Taylor, and was passed around at her funeral earlier this year. I didn't know she had a famous recipe, and thought I really should try it!

Be warned, however, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. Start two days before you want to have the finished product.

nougat cream center:

3 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. Karo syrup
1/4 c. melted butter
1 c. water
2 egg whites, beaten
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt

Combine 3/4 c. sugar, 2/3 c. Karo, 1/4 c. water. Boil to soft ball stage. Pour syrup over beaten egg whites, and continue beating until slightly cool (about 5 minutes). Make a well in center. Let stand while you make second syrup.

2 1/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. Karo
3/4 c. water

Combine above ingredients and cook over medium heat to 258º. Pour all at once into center of egg white mixture. Beat vigorously until thoroughly mixed. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt. Beat well.

Let stand, beating occasionally, until very stiff. Press mixture into a well-buttered 9x13 pan. Cover and let stand a day or two refrigerated. Cut into bars and freeze.


2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. Karo
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. light cream (add 1/2 c. at a time)
1 t. vanilla

Cook sugar, Karo, and 1/2 c. cream, stirring well until it begins to boil. Add another 1/2 c. cream. Cook to 236º. Add remaining 1/2 c. cream and cook again to 236º. Transfer to double boiler to keep hot.

With two forks, roll bar into caramel. Lift out into bowl of chopped pecans. Press nuts onto bar. Cool.

These are delicious and make for an impressive treat, but you do have to work for it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another great recipe from Tasty Kitchen – these were an instant hit with the whole family! The peanut butter is subtle. The pretzels provide the perfect amount of crunch and a nice salty foil for all the sweet. (Nothing ruins a cookie for me like a lack of good salty balance.) I'm sure we will make these again and again.

½ c. butter or margarine (softened)
½ c. shortening
¼ c. creamy peanut butter
¾ c. packed brown sugar
¾ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 ¼. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
¾ c. coarsely crushed pretzels
1 ½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Cream together butter/margarine, shortening, peanut butter and both sugars. When light and fluffy and thoroughly combined, mix in one egg at a time. Then mix in vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Stir into creamed ingredients in 2 or 3 additions, just until thoroughly combined. Stir in pretzels and chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until just browning on the edges and not quite set in the center. Let cool on the baking sheet 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Crockpot Pesto Lasagna

{photo and recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking}

1 (26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
1 (10-ounce) box lasagna noodles
1 (11-ounce) container pesto
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/4 cup water

Put a spoonful of pasta sauce (about 1/4 cup) into the bottom of your slow cooker and swirl it around. Add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (you're going to have to break them to make a layer). Smear ricotta cheese and pesto onto the noodles. Add a handful or two of baby spinach, and top with a layer of Parmesan and slice mozzarella cheeses. Repeat layers until you've run out of ingredients. The spinach is fluffy, so you're going to have to squish it down to make it all fit.

Before closing the pot, put 1/4 cup of water into the empty pasta sauce jar and close and shake. Pour this saucy water over the top of everything.

Now cover up and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for about 3 to 4. You'll know it's done when the top layer begins to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. It will also pull a bit away from the sides. Taste-test a noodle to check texture.

Uncover, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

I love how fast and easy this is! Last Sunday I had Max assemble it right before we left for church, and it was ready to eat when we got home. I whipped up some super-fast breadsticks and we had a delicious dinner.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"My Favorite Salad" Panini

a.k.a. My New Favorite Sandwich

{recipe from Tasty Kitchen}
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • ½ cups pecans
  • ½ cups dried cranberries
  • ½ cups blue cheese crumbles
  • ¼ cups reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 8 slices focaccia bread (I used 12 grain hazelnut bread from Kneaders–swoon!)
  • 2 whole seasoned and grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1 whole apple, cored and thinly sliced

Process the spinach, pecans, dried cranberries, blue cheese and mayonnaise in a food processor until uniformly smooth. (I tried my blender, and it didn't work at all. I had to transfer it to my little food processor. Worked like a dream.)

Spread mixture on each slice of bread.

Top one slice of bread (per sandwich) with grilled chicken slices and apple slices. Place sandwich halves together.

Grill on a panini press or grill pan until bread is toasted. (I used my George Foreman grill. No butter on the bread necessary.)

**In the picture above, I was having leftovers for lunch the next day. I was out of apples, so I had it without. I was also too lazy to get out the grill. It was still delicious, but better with the apple and grilled.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sweet Potato and Brie Flatbread

(Recipe from Real Simple website)

1 pound frozen pizza dough, thawed (I used Marc's fast & easy dough)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 T. olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
4 oz. Brie, sliced (I removed the rind)
2 t. red wine vinegar
4 cups mixed greens (I used arugula)

Heat oven to 425º. Shape the dough into a large oval or rectangle and place on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, toss the sweet potato, shallots, thyme, 3 T. of the oil, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper. Scatter over the dough and top with the Brie slices. Bake until gold brown and crisp, 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, remaining T. of oil, and 1/4 t. each salt and pepper. Toss with the greens and serve with or atop the flatbread.

So delicious!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fabulous Granola

3 ¼ cups Oats (Old Fashioned or Quick—any combination)
1 ¼ cup white wheat flour-freshly ground if possible
1 1/3 cup shredded coconut
¼ cup flax seed (optional)
1 cup or more coarsely chopped almonds and/or pecans
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/3 cup water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom

Preheat oven to 300. In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, flour, flax seed, coconut and nuts. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, and water and heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together until smooth, and then stir in the salt, vanilla and spices. Pour mixture over the oats mixture and stir will to coat. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Spread mixture on a large baking sheet, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between clumps for the hot air to circulate. Slide it into the middle of the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir to break up the mixture into medium sized clumps. Return to the oven and bake again for 15 minutes before stirring again. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the granola is uniform golden brown and completely dry—this usually takes me about 45 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

(I wish I had taken a picture of it when it was in the oven. For some reason, it smelled like Thanksgiving and I looooved it.)

I got this recipe from and they have many others that I want to try!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Double Chocolate Raisin and Chip Cookies

My family doesn' t like the raisins, so I usually make them without. I love them with raisins, though. These make wonderful ice cream sandwiches!

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa, preferably Dutch-process
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. raisins (you may omit or substitute nuts if you wish)

Cream butter and shortening together until soft and completely mixed. Add sugars and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla.

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Mix with creamed mixture, then stir in chocolate chips and raisins or nuts, if using. Wrap dough and chill thoroughly, preferably for 3 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 350º. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with Pam. (I just use Silpat.)

Make 1" balls of chilled dough and place them about 3" apart on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten each to about 2" in diameter using the heel of the hand or a rubber spatula dipped in sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies have puffed and then subsided to make a crackled surface and are just semifirm in the center. Do not overbake.

Slide the foil onto a wire rack and cool the cookies completely.

*From the Mrs. Witty's Monster Cookies cookbook.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

(I swiped this recipe from my friend Kelly's blog. Her blog is private, so I couldn't really link to it. I think it originally came from Smitten Kitchen. It's Marc's new favorite cake.)

Kelly's notes:

Here's a few of my personal notes on the cake (I know you really wanted to know.). 1. I did not use any peanut brittle. To me, that's just asking for someone to break a tooth. 2. The chocolate cake is a very unique construction, but it is great. I will use this chocolate cake recipe for any chocolate cake I make in the future. 3. The cake is extremely soft. After it was cool, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer until the moment I was ready to frost it, and I didn't have any trouble with crumbs. If you try to frost the cake without freezing it, I think you will be in tears. (I second that!!) 4. I kept it in the fridge, and that made it much easier to slice neatly.

This cake is incredibly rich and intense. Go easy on your pancreas. I would say you could easily feed 24 people with one cake. (I'm going to go with 18.)


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosting, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tarte Chocolat Caramel

from the Chocolate & Zucchini cookbook
serves 12 to 16

Rats! I forgot to take a picture of this! And I made it twice, even. Anyway. It's a delightful combination of chocolate and salted caramel, if you're into that delicious combo.

Pâte Sablée

90g light brown sugar
1 T. good-quality honey
1/2 t. fleur de sel
80g crème fraîche or heavy cream
30g unsalted butter, diced, plus a pat for greasing the pan

280g good-quality bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
240g crème fraîche or heavy cream

Grease a 25cm tart pan with butter. Prepare the Pâte Sablée and line the pan as instructed. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day.

Preheat the oven to 180º C. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden, keeping an eye on it. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Prepare the caramel filling: make sure you have all the ingredients measured out before you start. Combine the brown sugar and 1 T. water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt the sugar slowly over medium-low heat. Swish the pan around from time to time to ensure even melting, but don't stir. As soon as the mixture turns a light amber (avoid overcooking the caramel, which would result in a bitter aftertaste), add the honey and stir to combine. Pour the caramel into the tart shell and tilt the pan slowly in a circular motion to coat the bottom of the shell evenly. Chill for 40 minutes.

Prepare the ganache filling. Put the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer over med. low heat. Pour half of the cream on the chocolate, let stand for 20 seconds, and stir gently with a whisk, gradually blending the cream with the chocolate until smooth. Repeat with remaining cream. Pour the chocolate filling into the shell, and level surface with a spatula. Return to the fridge to set for an hour.

Remove the tart from the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Cut in small slices - it is quite rich - and serve on its own, or with fresh berries. The leftovers will keep for 2 days, tightly wrapped and refrigerated.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Baked Cheesy Chicken Penne

I found this recipe on Our Best Bites. It is truly fast and easy, but it doesn't taste like something you threw together quickly. A big hit with Marc and Max.

Baked Cheesy Chicken Penne
based on a recipe by Martha Stewart

  • 6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound penne rigate
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each), halved horizontally
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 10 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded provolone* (6 ounces) you could also make that 1/2 mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 6 ounces)
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter two shallow 2-quart baking dishes. If you're going to freeze one, use a disposable foil pan. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta and set aside.
  2. While pasta is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise. While chicken pan is still hot, toss the mushrooms in and saute until golden brown (3-4 minutes). Use a little extra olive oil if needed.
  3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot (I just use the pot I cooked my pasta in), melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking constantly, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer. Keep whisking frequently as sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. take the pan off the heat and and gradually stir in provolone and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  4. Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes. If freezing, place remaining parmesan cheese in a zip-top baggie. If cooking, sprinkle on top.
  5. Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Freezer instructions:

To freeze, prepare through step 4 and then let pasta cool. Cover pan well with plastic wrap. Place extra cheese in baggie (for topping) on top and then cover entire pan well with foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To bake, preheat oven to 400. Remove foil and plastic from pan and set cheese baggie aside. Place foil back on pan and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil, stir pasta, and top with cheese. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly throughout.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pizza Bianca

This recipe comes from Jim Lahey's My Bread. I find the name misleading, as it is closer to focaccia than what we think of as pizza. Think of naked pizza dough, drizzled with olive oil, coarse salt, and maybe some fresh herbs, and you'll be right on point.

More importantly, it is delicious.

Lucas was gone when we ate it, and I put the last piece in his lunch the next day. He thought he hit the jackpot. (He did.)

Pizza Bianca

3 c. bread flour
1/4 t. yeast
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. cool water
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (plus more for coating the bowl & brushing)
1/2 t. coarse sea salt
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed (optional)

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Lightly coat a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, about 9-12 hours. (A longer rise would cause the dough to be less elastic, and it needs to stretch.)

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. The dough will be quite loose and sticky. Using floured hands, fold the dough over itself two or three times and nudge it into a loose, rather flat, ball. Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with the coarse salt (which will graduately dissolve on the surface.) Let rise until doubled, 1-2 hours.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, with a rack in the center, and place a pizza stone (at least 14" in diameter) in the center of the rack. (If you don't have a pizza stone, use a baking sheet.)

Generously dust a pizza peel with flour and place the ball of dough in the middle. Spread out your fingers like a claw and drive your fingers into the dough, but do not puncture it. You want to simultaneously create dimples in the dough and spread it out across the peel. Continue working your hands across the dough and dimpling it until you have a bumpy disk about 12" in diameter. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the rosemary leaves, if using.

Shake the pizza onto the baking stone. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown on the mounds but still pale in the dimples. Transfer to a rack to cool for at least a few minutes before slicing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crockpot Potato Soup

This recipe is from A Year of Slow Cooking. I am making friends with my crockpot and loving this blog.

5 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced in 1 to 2-inch chunks
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (I use jarred)
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper (you might want to decrease this for less kick)
2 quarts chicken broth
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, to add at the end (I always use reduced-fat cream cheese)
crumbled bacon, grated cheese, and green onion as garnish

Use a 6 quart or larger slow cooker. Peel and dice the potatoes, and put them into the stoneware. Add onion and garlic. Sprinkle in the seasonings, and pour in the broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4. The potatoes should be fork-tender. You can use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in the soup, or a hand-held immersible blender. (I left a few chunks in mine.)

After smashing the potatoes, crumble in both packages of cream cheese, and put the lid back on. Cook on high for about 30 minutes, or until the cream cheese is completely dissolved. Stir a few times during the 30 minutes.

Garnish with crumbled bacon, green onion or chives, and cheddar cheese. Serve with homemade bread if you really want to crank up the comfort food factor.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crockpot Thai Coconut Chicken

Another recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking. Delicious! And Thai doesn't get any easier than this.

1 13.5-oz can coconut milk

1 T brown sugar
1 T soy sauce
1 T Thai red or green chili paste, or more to taste (I used red, and went with 1.5 T)
1 t fish sauce
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1/2 large eggplant
1 sweet potato
chicken thighs (I used 7 frozen boneless, skinless)
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated.

Combine the sauce ingredients: coconut milk, soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, and fish sauce in the bottom of your crockpot stoneware. Taste. If you think you need more chili paste, add some, carefully. It's hot stuff!

Add the chicken pieces to the sauce, flipping them over a few times so they get nice and saucy.

Wash and cut the vegetables, and add to the crock.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-6. This is done when the chicken is fully cooked and the vegetables have reached desired tenderness.

Serve over white rice.

(The best thing about this was that Marc, Max and I all enjoyed the eggplant! I never cook with it, we didn't think we liked it. We liked it in this.)

Crockpot Apricot Chicken

Another one from A Year of Slow Cooking. Seriously fast and easy, and better than my old apricot chicken recipe! (oops, forgot to take a picture)

11 oz jar of apricot preserves
1 t dried minced onion flakes
1 T dijon mustard
1 T soy sauce
1/4 t ginger
1/4 to 1/2 t red chili flakes
6 chicken thighs or equivalent body parts
a few pecan halves, optional

I used frozen thighs. Drop the chicken into your crockpot.
In a small bowl, mix all the other stuff and pour on top of the chicken.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, high for 4-6--if your chicken isn't frozen, your dinner will cook faster.

Serve with white or brown rice and veggies. (Toss on a few pecan halves if you like. We do.)