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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pecan Pie


I have been trying to compile some of my grandmothers', great-grandmothers', aunts', and great-aunts', recipes over the past few years so that we have as many family favorite recipes preserved as possible.  I feel blessed to have some incredible cooks in my family and really want to make sure that their special dishes are preserved to be enjoyed for many more generations.  Thankfully, the women in my family were generous in sharing recipes so it usually only takes a phone call or two to track down what you are looking for.

However, the one problem I've run into is a little trouble with translation.  This especially happens when recipes are written in someone's "shorthand", when the person was writing the recipe down by memory and leaves out a key ingredient-- like eggs, or where the recipe was written 50 or 60 years ago in vernacular that I am not familiar with now in 2011.  For instance, a lot of old Southern recipes seem to call for "sweet milk" when they really mean just regular milk, or they'll call for "3 sticks of oleo" which was a common term for margarine.  So, now I know, just swap these out for milk and butter and crisis averted.  It gets even harrier when, like the other day, I was reading one of my Grandmother's recipe cards, and the recipe for a cake filling called for "butter the size of an egg." Huh? This can, and has, made for some disastrous baking attempts as I try to wade through some of these old-time recipes.

My Grandmother makes the greatest pecan pie.  She is known for it.  There are many many ways to make pecan pie but hers is my favorite.  You can use light Karo syrup or dark Karo syrup.  You can cook the syrup and pour it over your pecans, like a caramel-- you get the picture.  My Grandmother's recipe is super easy and doesn't require a cooked syrup prior to baking which I love. Her version uses light Karo syrup, my particular favorite. I did have to make this 2 times to work out the kinks so the recipe I'm posting is with my edits.  My Grandmother's recipe calls for 1/4 tsp. of salt but she uses salted butter in her baking, and I use unsalted, so I increased the salt amount for my recipe.  I also found that while you must beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy it is important to NOT overbeat the eggs in the step where you mix them in with the vanilla and Karo.  You don't want to mix in a lot of froth and bubbles which can keep your filling from setting.

Finally, You can use the pie crust of your choice.  I've shared my favorite homemade pie crust before and linked to it below.  In the pictures, I used a refrigerated pie crust because I was running short on time.  This is a very easy pie to make and a good option for a Thanksgiving dessert.  There's nothing better than pecan pie and some whipped cream on Thanksgiving!


My Grandmother's Pecan Pie


Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Pecan halves to garnish top of pie
Unbaked pie shell.  My favorite recipe for pie crust is here.
egg white, mixed with a little water to brush on pie crust.

Instructions:
Prepare a single pie crust in a 9 or 10-inch pie pan.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter in a mixing bowl.  Add sugar and cream together until light and fluffy.  Add Karo syrup, salt, vanilla and then eggs.  Mix  until just combined, but do not over-mix or allow to become frothy.  Add pecans.  Pour mixture in pie crust. Line the entire top of pie with pecan halves in a decorative pattern. Brush crust with egg wash.  Bake on lower shelf in the oven at 350 for 40-45 minutes



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red Velvet Bundt Cake for National Bundt Day



Did you know today is National Bundt Day? Well Happy Bundt Day! I happen to be a big fan of The Food Librarian's 30 Days of Bundts where for the last few years, Mary makes a new and different bundt cake each and every day for the month leading up to November 15th.  This is the third year of her, "I Like Big Bundts" (Hee) series and I get ridiculously excited in anticipation of this event each year, being the fan of the bundt cake that I am.

Mary has asked us all to join her in submitting a bundt for National Bundt Day so my choice is a Red Velvet Bundt with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I thought it was very festive for the time of year.  This recipe comes from one of my favorite go-to cookbooks, Delightfully Southern by Lucy M. Clark.  I especially turn to it at the holidays to find good easy, tried-and-true dishes that will appeal to people of all ages.  This cake is another winner from that book and produced a delicious tender ruby red cake with perfectly creamy cream cheese frosting.  It is easier to make this than a layered red velvet cake which makes this an attractive option for holiday baking when time is short!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

For the Cake:
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbs. cocoa
1 tbs. cider vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a tie, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla and food coloring.  In another large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cocoa.  Dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and add to the buttermilk.  Stir in the flour alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cake is done.  Cool in pan for about 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tbs. milk, if needed

Combine butter and cream cheese and blend until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in powdered sugar.  Beat until creamy.  Add milk, if needed, to make frosting the spreading consistency you prefer.

Recipe from Delightfully Southern



Monday, November 14, 2011

Lightened Sweet Potato Casserole


In my family, especially on my Mother's side, sweet potato casserole is a given for Thanksgiving dinner-- you just cannot have Thanksgiving without it.  While the family recipe (from my Grandmother) is really scrumptious with a streusel pecan top, it is a calorie-laden bomb (one year it literally became a bomb when I dropped it in the dining room and it exploded all over my relatives, but that's another story for another time).  I do love sweet potato casserole though, and it's one of the things I look forward to most on the Thanksgiving table.  I wanted to find a recipe that was more conducive to making during the fall that wasn't so heavy, so that we could enjoy it more often than just once a year.

A couple of years ago, I turned to my favorite healthy recipe source, Cooking Light, and found this recipe for sweet potato casserole.  While it has a marshmallow topping instead of the streusel topping I'm used to, I love marshmallows so that was fine with me.  I decided to give this recipe a try when we were having guests for dinner (I know, always a risky idea, but they are the kind of good friends who would be up for ordering pizza if everything stunk, so I knew it would be ok).

This ended up being one of my favorite sweet potato casseroles ever and has become one that I make often during the fall and winter.  I even ended up making it for Thanksgiving and Easter last year instead of our family's usual recipe. Can you believe it? I almost feel guilty as I'm typing that! :) I promise I'm not just saying I like it because it's "light," I'd make it even if it weren't.  First, it's really easy to make, so if you are making this on Thanksgiving, it's one casserole you can put together in about 15 minutes.  Second, the sweet potato is so perfectly flavored-- a little brown sugar, vanilla, butter, and salt-- I just love that sweet/salty combo!  It really goes perfectly with the marshmallow pecan topping.


Sweet Potato Casserole


Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender.  Drain and cool slightly.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Add sugar and the next 3 ingredients (through vanilla). Mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher.  Fold in 1/4 cup of pecans.  Scrape potato mixture into an even layer into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of pecans; top with marshmallows.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden.

This recipe makes 16 servings.  1 serving= 5 Weight Watcher's Points Plus (1.6g Protein, 33.1 Carbs, 5.5g. fat, 2.5g. fiber)

Recipe from Cooking Light



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and a Cup of Peet's Medium Roast Coffee


Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since my last post.  I have all of these good intentions, like-- I'm going to post every day (HA!) or, maybe every other week day, or--- I'm going to work really hard and write a bunch of posts in advance and have them all ready to go and distribute in a nice neat little blogger package.  *Sigh* hopefully one day!

Anyway, I am working on some scrumptious posts for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the coming weeks that I am really looking forward to sharing-- some old family favorite recipes and some new recipes that I have been drooling over in some of my dog-earred holiday magazines (and of course, some that I found on Pinterest)!

I was very excited a few weeks back when I was notified that I was going to be receiving a box of coffee goodies from Peet's Coffee.  Some of you may have picked up on my coffee addiction, so as you can imagine I was super excited to be receiving some of their new blends to sample.  Well a few days later, this showed up at my door:


Peet's sent me a bag of each of their new medium roast blend coffees to try- Cafe Domingo and Cafe Solano (Not to mention a killer travel mug-- and I am a travel mug connoisseur--no drips, spills, or leaks to speak of which means a great mug indeed). Since the first thing I do in the morning is switch on my coffee pot, it is not a problem for me to sample coffee, but my directive was to pair one of these blends with a dessert or breakfast item.  I had been craving bread pudding lately-- it just seems like such a nice fallish dessert-- and I had this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce in my "to-make" pile.  So I thought, Aha, perfect, I'll make this and a nice big pot of coffee.

Please go out and make this bread pudding immediately!  :) If you are having house guests for Thanksgiving, this is such an easy dessert that takes minutes to throw together, but with that caramel sauce no one would ever know that in a million years.  It's so good.  The sweet caramel poured on top of the lightly spiced pudding is completely irresistible.  In fact, the next time I make this, instead of serving the sauce on the side, I'm just going to go ahead and pour it on top of the pudding and let the caramel really absorb into the bread as it really makes the entire dish.

This was a fun project for me as I enjoy lingering over coffee and dessert after a nice dinner with friends or family-- it's always the best part of the meal.  We also recently had company and I made the Cafe Domingo in the mornings for our guests. The medium roast coffee was smooth but flavorful and a nice choice for company, where you don't always know what people's coffee preferences will be.  We went through multiple pots and the consensus was that the Cafe Domingo was a hit!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

*Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients:


Bread Pudding
2 cups half and half
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tbs. dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes egg bread, such as challah (about 10-ounces)
optional: 1/2 cup golden raisins

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt

Powdered sugar

Instructions:
For Bread Pudding;
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl to blend.  Fold in bread cubes.  Stir in raisins. Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch glass.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce:
Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.  Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding.  Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Recipe from Epicurious

*Disclaimer:  As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received coffee products from Peet's Coffee to sample.


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