Caramel Pecan Pie

When I asked Bob what kind of dessert he wanted me to make for the holidays, he said pie. When I asked what kind of pie, I got the answer I expected – pecan pie. Bob was raised in the south so pecan pie is taken fairly seriously. I’ve made some good ones before, but decided to up the game a little and make a caramel pecan pie.

I thought about not using a recipe and coming up with my own, but this was going to go with us to his sister’s for the holiday, so I decided against just winging it. Unfortunately I forgot the pie – I left it in the microwave to cool so Arthas would not get to it (that is a thing in our house) and totally forgot it. The internet has a ton of recipes for pecan pie, and quite a few of them are caramel pecan pie. I settled on this one from Spicy Southern Kitchen that looked both easy and good. For the most part I followed this recipe – I did use pecan pieces instead of half pecan and I upped the amount of nuts to almost three cups, and I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the caramel just as it finished – and the results were amazing. High praise all around so I’m definitely keeping this recipe.

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Seriously – just make it. It’s that good and totally worth every calorie.

 

“Right Proper” Tofu and Brussels Sprouts

A few weeks ago Bob and I did our annual DC trip. We had an amazing meal at the Fancy Radish, a completely vegan restaurant. I honestly can’t say enough about that meal, but this post isn’t about that – although I’m pretty much betting we end up back there next year because it was so good.

This post is about a dish we shared at another restaurant, the Right Proper Brewing Company. While most of the meal was good, the Brussels Sprouts from the appetizer list was just fantastic. When we were done eating, I had really, really wished I had the sprouts all to myself for dinner.

So what does any self-respecting home cook do when faced with a fantastic dish that you know you can’t get again for a while (that is possible to make – I am not attempting the Fancy Radish dishes …. they were a little too different than what is in my repertoire to really attempt)? You make you own version.

Because this was a lunch dish, I wanted more than just the Brussels Sprouts, I wanted some tofu and rice too. I figured this would increase the protein and the full feeling factor. I didn’t have a recipe for any of this … I just went with what I had on hand, a little knowledge from having made pieces of this in different forms before and a bit of tasting along the way.

Recipe:

  • Brussels Sprouts (I think I had 10 oz)
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2/3-3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tbs. ginger (puree from the refrigerator section of the grocery)
  • 2-3 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
  • 1 Tbs.  rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. corn starch
  • salt and pepper
  • oil – I used a combination of olive oil and sesame oil
  • Scallions (optional)
  • Dry roasted peanuts (optional)

Brussels Sprouts:

Pre-heat oven to 400. Wash, dry, and trim the Brussels Sprouts. Cut in half and toss with about 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes tossing half way through. You want the sprouts crispy and slightly charred, but not burnt.

Tofu:

Cut tofu into cubes of desired size. Lay flat on a cutting board lined with a paper towel. Layer another paper towel on top and press down. Let sit for a few minutes while you make the sauce.

Transfer the tofu to a bowl or a zip top bag and add 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Toss to coat.

Heat oil in a frying pan (I used half olive and half sesame for a bit of extra flavor but you can use whatever you like). When oil is hot, add coated tofu to the pan. Spread out and let cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the bottom is crisp and lightly browned/golden in color. Turn and toss to ensure the oil is evenly distributed. Cook about 3-5 minutes, until the second side is golden in color.

Thai Peanut Sauce:

Combine soy sauce, peanut butter, ginger, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar and maple syrup. Mix well and taste. Adjust amounts as needed – more soy for more salt, maple syrup for sweetness, peanut butter to cut the salt, chili garlic for more heat. You could also thin it more with warm water, but I like a thicker sauce.

To Plate:

IMG_20181216_115836Spoon rice onto the plate. Top with Brussels Sprouts and tofu. Drizzle sauce (be generous – this dish is really about the sauce) over everything. Top with chopped peanuts and scallions if desired.

IMG_20181216_121220The best part of this – leftovers!

 

Mini Pot Pies

If you know me – or have read this blog for a while – you probably know I have a minor obsession with savory pies. I love the flaky crust that surrounds an entire meal, but making them can be a bit of a pain. However, after Thanksgiving, I took some leftover chicken and made mini chicken pot pies for Bob and some friends, and little vegetarian versions for myself. I was very happy with my savory pie – and all the chicken ones were eaten, so I’m assuming they were good. (Bob says they were so I’ll go with it.)

IMG_20181123_141645I started with the vegetables for the pies – essentially I made the same filling except I added chicken to the mix after I took out some of the filling for my pies. Onion, carrot, celery and garlic made the base, liberally seasoned with salt and pepper. Once cooked a bit, I added vegetable broth and then some heavy cream and parmesan cheese. That was it. The dough was  basic pie dough, rolled thin and everything was baked in muffin tins. They came out pretty too.

I loved my pie. A touch salty, a touch creamy and filled with vegetables. the crust really made it all come together.

It’s been a bit since I made these, but I think the recipe is right. Taste along the way and you will be fine.

Recipe:

  • Basic pie dough
  • Leftover cooked chicken (about 1 cup if using)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 handful parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for pan

Pre-heat oven to 375. Grease muffin tins.

Chop Carrot, onion, celery and garlic to desired size (I like rough chopped for a rustic feel). Heat a tablespoon of oil in a hot pan and then add vegetables. Cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the vegetable broth and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for another 10 minutes. The broth should be mostly absorbed.

Add chicken if using, otherwise, skip. Add cream and combine. Reduce heat a little and cook until the cream begins to thicken just a little then remove from heat and add the cheese. Mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

While the filling is cooking, roll out the pie dough very thin. cut into circles to line the tins, and leave enough dough to form a top crust.

Fill the lined tins with filling, then cover with another circle of dough. Bake about 35 minutes until the dough is flakey and a little browned. Remove from tins and enjoy hot or room temperature.

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Roasted Vegetable Risotto

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – risotto is not that hard. It does take time, but it you are okay without perfection, risotto is a great dish to make. It is my go-to dish when I’m tired and can’t think straight, but don’t want to go out for dinner. It can be made with whatever you have on hand and is a very filling meal. I love risotto and think more people should make it.

This version was better than I thought it would be. I had extra vegetables in the fridge from earlier in the week and had a long, tiring day at work. So … roast the vegetables in the oven, grate some cheese and make a risotto.

Recipe:

  • 1/2 large yellow squash (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 handful asparagus (or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup aboro rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pat butter (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup shredded pecorino or other hard grating cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine (totally optional)

Heat the oven to about 375 degrees. (Ovens vary, so some may need to be at 400 and other 350 – just use whatever temperature you generally roast vegetables at). Set vegetable stock/broth to simmer in a pot on the stove.

Cut vegetables to about 1 inch pieces. Coat in a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 12-15 minutes, tossing half way through. Vegetables should be roasted, but not burnt. Remove from oven.

While the vegetables roast, dice the onion and garlic. Heat a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add aboro rice. Toss rice to coat with the onion and oil then let toast for a about two minutes, stirring frequently. If using wine, add here and stir until it is absorbed/evaporated. Add one cup of broth and mix. Let simmer over medium heat until absorbed. When the rice/pan is dry, add more broth and stir. Continue adding broth, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time until rice is fully cooked – about 25-30 minutes. Before the last of the broth is fully absorbed, add the roasted vegetables and mix well.

Once the last of the broth (you may not use all of it) is absorbed, remove from heat and add butter and half the cheese. Mix well. Squeeze the lemon over the pan of risotto and mix again. Add a little more cheese and mix. Plate and top with a little cheese.

 

Three Bean Chili

Whole Foods had canned beans on sale the other week and I stocked up. I figured it’s October and we should be getting chili weather soon. It’s not to be. We are still in the upper 80s and low 90s half way through the month. I finally decided I didn’t care that the weather is still saying summer – I want chili.

img_20181014_090920So … clean out the fridge and the cabinet and let’s see what we come up with. Three cans of beans, 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes, some vegetable broth, spices, a needs to be cooked now yellow pepper and half a red onion. That’s it. At the end – shredded cheddar cheese that I picked up a while back for tacos and you have a meal. I was a little surprised at how well this turned out – and it was even better as enchiladas later in the week. (I forgot to take a picture of that though.)

Recipe:

  • 1 can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can white bean (pick your variety)
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1 pepper (I had yellow on hand, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated/shredded cheese for topping (optional)

Peel and dice the onion. Dice the pepper. Drain and rinse the beans – set aside.

Heat about 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan that can be covered. When hot, add onion and pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Onion should be translucent and peppers should be softer, but not mushy.

Add spices and toss to coat. Cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add tomatoes and half the vegetable stock. Mix, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add beans and mix well. Add the rest of the broth. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Uncover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Check and adjust seasonings.

 

 

Bacon Bread

It has been a very long time since I made bacon bread. A very long time. But it was Dad’s birthday and I wanted to make him something that I knew he would like. So … bacon bread.

Bacon bread was inspired by the bacon buns grandmom use to make. She never wrote down the recipe so when I started to try to figure it out, the bread never turned out exactly right. But eventually I got it right. There is a slight sweetness to the bread which matches to the salty bacon. Add some onion and keep some of the fat from cooking the bacon and you get a moist bread that tastes delicious. I’ve thought about trying to make a vegetarian version, but I don’t think it would work nearly as well.

The nice thing about this dough is that there is enough for two loaves. I could have made one large one, but making them slightly smaller means less baking time. It is also easier to tell when the bread is done and the crust is pretty without getting overly dark.

Recipe:

  • 3-4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon yeast (or one packet)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg (optional) for brushing on top
  • 12 oz. bacon
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (if using uncured bacon – skip if bacon is cured)

Heat milk, water and butter until warm (120 degrees). Add yeast and let sit for five minutes until foamy. Combine one cup of flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir together. Slowly combine the yeast mixture, the mix (using a dough hook if using a mixer) until a very soft dough forms. Add the eggs and one additional cup of flour and mix well.  Beat on medium-high speed (if using a mixer) for two to three minutes. If mixing by hand, mix until soft dough forms and is smooth. Mix in about a half cup flour and mix well (about 8 minutes with mixer).

Flour a clean surface. Turn dough onto floured surface and add about 1/3-1/2 cup flour to the top. Mix and knead the dough by hand for about ten minutes. Add more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, but keep dough soft. Return to bowl, cover and let rest while you make the filling.

Rough chop the onion so the pieces are small enough to be in a filling, but large enough to be noticed. (No, this isn’t very precise, but that’s okay – the onions can be a variety of sizes and it still works). Chop the bacon into pieces, discarding some of the fat as you cut.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and once heated, add bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until bacon is cooked. Drain the fat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chopped onion. Cooke, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Drain fat again. If your bacon is uncured, add maple syrup and stir well. Remove from heat.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into large rectangle. Add half the filling and spread evenly over the dough. Tightly roll the dough starting from the long edge. (Fold dough over edge, pick up and roll onto itself until you reach the end.) Form rolled dough into a circle and place seam side down on a baking sheet. (I like using a Silpat as I find it keeps the bottom from burning for me.) Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover and let rest/rise in a warm area for about an hour.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Once pre-heated, beat remaining egg and brush onto the loaves the bake for about 35 minutes. If loses sound somewhat hollow when tapped, they are done.

Let rest and cool on wire rack.

Israeli Couscous White Bean Salad

In my quest to pack my lunch, and pack things that A) can be eaten in a car, B) do no require a microwave or refrigerator, and C) will fill me up I’ve started eating more beans than I ever had before. I’m still not crazy about the texture of beans, but I’m getting there.

This salad I found in the NY Times Cooking section and have to say, I kind of love it. It holds for a while and has both protein from the feta and beans and grains from the couscous to fill me up. Add in some heirloom tomatoes and basic from the garden and what is not to like. Admittedly I can’t eat this while driving, but it can be eaten in a parking lot and it holds up well with an ice pack in my lunch bag. We had this for dinner one day as is, then I added some celery and yellow pepper to the leftovers to stretch it for lunch for a few days. The only real change I made to the original salad was using cannellini beans instead of pinto and adding a little more garlic (I think 2 large cloves instead of one).