Monday, April 21, 2014

Chewy Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies

My plan was to find a recipe that would give me a soft, chewy pecan cookie.  Not only did I find the perfect recipe but I found so much more.  

Years ago I had a Maraschino Pecan Cookie that was out of this world.  Over the next few years I spent many hours trying to find a recipe to recreate that wonderful cookie.  I finally gave up and honestly had almost forgotten about it.  That is, until I took my first bite of these Chewy Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies.  This is it!!  All I have  to do to get the cookies from my past is add maraschino cherries and voila!!  No, I haven't tried adding the cherries yet, and this recipe isn't about the cherries, but I just can't contain my excitement!   

These little gems are habit forming, you will not be able to eat just one!  Remove them when they start to brown around the edges.  They should be puffy when you take them out of the oven and as they cool they will flatten slightly.   By the time they are cool they are perfection!  

Chewy Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 c. finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer.  Add the vanilla and egg and mix until combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix just until combined.  Fold in the pecans.  

Drop by heaping tablespoonful onto parchment lined pan.  Bake for 8 - 12 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.  Remove from pan to a cooling rack and cool completely.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Berries on a Cloud

If you haven't quite decided which dessert to serve on Easter, take a look at this.  This would be the perfect finishing touch to your Easter dinner! 

I first tried this last summer at a friends house.  Unable to get the original recipe I started searching for something similar and was thrilled when I found this version.  I seem to like every dessert I try, but this may be the most scrumptious dessert I've ever had.  The meringue is truly like a cloud in your mouth.  The filling is similar to cheesecake, but lighter, and it is just perfect with the meringue.  Then, as if that is not heavenly enough, adding the fresh fruit, lemon zest, and a splash of lemon juice to the pie filling takes it over the top!  This is the perfect spring/summer dessert!  

You can substitute cherry pie filling if you prefer.  You can also add fresh blueberries or fresh raspberries instead of the strawberries, or add all three!  I hope you'll give this delicious dessert a try, it is sure to impress!  

Berries on a Cloud


6 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. sugar

2 (3-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. whipping cream
2 c. miniature marshmallows

Berry Topping
1 (21-oz.) can blueberry pie filling
2 c. fresh strawberries
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest

Heat oven to 275°.  Grease bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with electric mixer on high speed until foamy.  Beat in 1 3/4 c. sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy.  Do not underbeat.  Spread in pan.

Bake 1 hour.  Turn off oven; leave meringue in oven with door closed for 12 hours.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 c. sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  In a chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff.  Fold whipped cream and marshmallows into cream cheese mixture.  Spread evenly over meringue.  Refrigerate at least 12 hours but no longer than 24 hours.  

In a medium bowl, mix all topping ingredients until well blended.  Spoon over individual servings of dessert.  Store in refrigerator.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fresh Green Beans with Bacon and Garlic

You know by now that I'm as southern as they come, and proud of it.  I was raised on "cooked to death" green beans and I still love them to this day, especially at mama's house!

These days it seems that I have so much going on that sides are an afterthought.  I need something fast and simple that the family will eat.  My kids prefer steamed green beans and my Steamed Green Beans recipe is one of my favorites.  I make them at least twice a month.  However, I like to change it up sometimes too.  This is a easy and delicious way to do that.

Greg has a firm belief that bacon makes everything better.  I must agree, it takes these green beans to another level.  Add the garlic for extra flavor, with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and you have a winner!

Fresh Green Beans with Bacon and Garlic

24-oz. fresh green beans
6 slices thick-cut bacon, fried and crumbled
1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
kosher salt
fresh black pepper

Blanch the beans in a large pot of salted, boiling water for about 4 minutes, or until they are crisp tender.  Drain and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain again and set aside to dry.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds, stirring.  Add the green beans and toss to coat.  Stir in the crumbled bacon.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

South Carolina Chicken Bog

South Carolina Chicken Bog, I had never heard of it until a few days ago.  Michelle, a friend from Florida, was telling me about it.  I met Michelle when she was Savannah's 3rd grade teacher and I helped her out after the birth of her second son.  Her family became very special to me and I will always treasure our families connection.  She has lived in South Carolina on more than one occasion and found David, the love of her life, while she was there.  Everything I know about this dish, which is very little, I have learned over the past few days.

Michelle tells me that this is a dish traditionally served with South Carolina Barbecue.  She was kind enough to share the recipe, which came from the grandmother of a friend in South Carolina.  I wasn't able to wait for the barbecue though, I had to make it right away.  This is one time that my impatience paid off.  We had a fabulous dinner at home Sunday night after a long weekend out of town.

I read that Chicken Bog is categorized as a "stew".  I don't want to upset anyone from South Carolina, but for the sake of describing this dish to those of you unfamiliar with it, here's my take.  My bog wasn't as wet as a stew but also, it wasn't as dry as a jambalaya.  It just fell somewhere in the middle, the perfect balance of wet rice with chicken and sausage.  I used half of a roaster so I may have had a little more chicken than the typical bog but it was delicious.  If you are looking for something fast and delicious for dinner give this wonderful Chicken Bog a try!

South Carolina Chicken Bog

half of a chicken
water to cover
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. Polish sausage, cut into 1/4" slices
1 med. onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. long grain rice
2 c. chicken broth
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix

Place the chicken in a Dutch oven and cover with water.  Add salt and pepper, to taste, and boil until chicken is done.  Remove chicken from broth and let cool.  Remove the chicken from the bones and set aside.  Strain the broth into a bowl.  Skim the fat from the top and reserve 2 c. of the broth.

In the same Dutch oven melt 1 tbsp. butter.  Sauté the onion and sausage in batches, removing each batch before starting another.

Add the chicken, sausage and onion back to the Dutch oven.  Add the rice, chicken broth, and soup mix.  Stir to mix, bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to low.  Cook until rice has cooked, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Frozen S'mores Bombs

When I found this recipe I was so excited about making it with my friend's daughter, Katy.  She and her family were planning a visit to the farm a while back but the trip had to be postponed.  As of today, the trip still has not been rescheduled.   When I recently had a sweet craving I decided to give this recipe a try since I had all of the ingredients on hand.  Wow, were they delicious and so easy!  Just what I needed to calm the beast within that craves sweets.  If you have small children at home this would be a great recipe to get them involved in.  Not only am I looking forward to seeing Katy when she visits the farm, but I'm looking forward to having another Frozen S'mores Bomb!!

Frozen S'mores Bombs

12 wooden picks
12 marshmallows
1/2 c. milk chocolate morsels
1 tsp. shortening
1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs or other finely crumbled cookie crumbs
2/3 c. toffee bits
wax paper

Insert pointed end of each wooden pick into flat side of each marshmallow.

Combine morsels and shortening in a small microwave-safe glass bowl.  Microwave at high for 1 minute or until melted; stir until smooth.  Dip marshmallows into melted chocolate, coating sides and bottoms completely.  Quickly dip bottom of each marshmallow into cracker crumbs; roll sides in toffee bits.

Place coated marshmallows on wax paper lined jelly roll pan; freeze 20 minutes.  Drizzle with any remaining chocolate, if desired.  Freeze until ready to serve.  Store in freezer in a zip-top plastic freezer bag up to 1 week.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chocolate Coffee Cake

Weekend breakfasts are my favorite meals.  Weekday morning are hectic with everybody rushing to get ready and go their separate ways.  Other than a "get up" or a "good-bye", few words are spoken during that time.  When the kids were small we sat down for dinner together most evenings, but with Wesley's class and work schedule and Savannah's senior schedule, things have changed a bit.  I'm sure, as teenagers, they are fine with no family meals.  However, knowing they will both be out of the house soon, I try to take advantage of any time I can get.  Weekends are slower and we can usually sit down and actually have a conversation.

This is usually the time for Greg's cooking skills to shine.  After all, he is the omelet king at our house.  However, occasionally, I am in charge and I prefer carb filled treats.  French toast, pancakes, or coffee cakes are among my favorites.

Here is a coffee cake with a has chocolate!  I think this coffee cake gets better with time.  You could actually bake this cake a day or two ahead of time and store it in an airtight container. This is great for the weekend because the cook can sleep late too!

Chocolate Coffee Cake

For the Chocolate Chip Crumble:
1 1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
12 tbsp. butter, cold and cubed
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cake:
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. butter
1 c. granulated sugar (but can use 1 1/3 c. if you prefer a little sweeter)
3 lg. eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. sour cream
Powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with baking spray and set aside.

For the crumble:  Mix the flour, sugars, and salt in a large bowl.  Work in the butter until the mixture comes together like a dough.  Work in the pecans and chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.  Refrigerate.

For the cake:  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.  Toss the chocolate chips with a tablespoon of the sifted mixture.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar in three additions, creaming for 1 minute after each.  Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well to incorporate.  Add the vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the crumble mixture over the cake.  Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve, if desired.   

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Venison Steaks in Sweet-Sour Sauce

It's no secret that I live with two men who love to hunt.  They expect me to cook up something wonderful with what they kill so I am always on the hunt for new recipes.  To be honest, I will not eat all cuts of wild game meat and when I do I prefer a sauce on it.  The sauce just seems to help cover up any wild taste that it may have.

This is a great recipe from Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin.  It was really easy and quick too, which I loved!  I used the back strap for this recipe and it is a recipe I will definitely make again!

Venison Steaks in Sweet-Sour Sauce

1 venison loin or large tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of fat
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp. seedless raspberry jam
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 c. cold water
1 tbsp. peanut oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. chopped shallots
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. hearty red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)

Cut venison into 4 steaks and using a meat pounder, pound the steaks gently until each is about 3/4-inch thick.  Rub the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme.  Arrange the steaks in a single layer on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours before cooking.

Mix the ketchup, jam, soy sauce, and water together in a small bowl, set aside.

When you are ready to cook the steaks, heat the oven to 160 degrees.

Heat the peanut oil and 1 tbsp. of the butter in a large heavy skillet until hot.  Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper, place them in the skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  Transfer the steaks to an ovenproof plate, leaving the drippings in the pan, and keep warm in the oven while you make the sauce.

Add the shallots to the drippings and sauté for about 20 seconds.  Add the vinegar and wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Add the jam mixture and mix well, then stir in the remaining 1 tbsp. butter.  Boil for 10 seconds, then strain through a fine strainer.

Place a steak on plate, coat the steaks with the sauce, and serve.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pan-Roasted Quail with Gravy

This week is going to be a wild game week.  I know that will not appeal to some of you but for those of you who are looking for delicious recipe I hope this helps.  With Greg and Wesley both bringing home their kills I am always searching for delicious ways to prepare wild game.

I had never eaten quail until I fixed this dish.  I'm not sure if it's always this good, but this is fabulous!!  I'm talking, on my list of favorite foods, this is toward the top!  I served the quail and gravy on mashed potatoes and could have licked the plate had it been ladylike!

(You can easily find quail in the freezer section of the store.)

Pan-Roasted Quail with Gravy

8 dressed quail
freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 packets granulated chicken bouillon (4 g each)
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. to 1 1/2 c. water
fresh parsley, chopped, if desired

Sprinkle the quail with salt and pepper and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add the quail and brown on both sides.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the chicken bouillon granules and flour.  Stir with a whisk to make a roux.  Slowly add water until mixture reaches a thin gravy consistency.  Add quail back to the skillet.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.

Serve on mashed potatoes or rice, sprinkle with parsley, if desired.   

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spinach Salad with Manchego, Apples, and Almonds

With spring and warmer weather I start grilling on a regular basis and I prepare lighter dishes, especially salads.  I love to play around with salads, trying different dressings and adding different ingredients.  I like variety and this is a delicious way to get your greens.  If you don't care for spinach you can substitute baby lettuces or ever arugula in this recipe.  The greens will wilt fast so toss just before serving.

Manchego cheese is a firm cheese made from the milk of sheep.  It has a soft, buttery texture and a nutty flavor.  I recommend Manchego for this recipe but if you can't find it you can substitute with a Parmesan or a Romano.

Spinach Salad with Manchego, Apples, and Almonds

For Salad:
5 oz. baby Spinach or baby Lettuces
1 crisp apple (I used Granny Smith)
3 1/2 oz. Manchego cheese (aged 6 to 12 months), thinly sliced
1/2 c. almonds, lightly toasted if desired
For Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. finely chopped shallots
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Make the vinaigrette by whisking slowing whisking the oil into the vinegar.  Add syrup, mustard, shallots, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Place the spinach (or lettuce) in a large bowl.  Add a small amount of vinaigrette and toss.  You are looking for all of the spinach to be covered with the vinaigrette, if more is needed add a little at a time.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Place on a serving plate and top with apples, cheese, and almonds.  Serve immediately.   

Monday, March 17, 2014

Buffalo Sliders with Blue Cheese Slaw

Sliders are the perfect size for an appetizer or you can serve more than one for a meal.  These came together when Greg came home and told me about some Blue Cheese Coleslaw that he had on a business trip.  I love blue cheese so I immediately started trying to find a recipe.  I knew if couldn't have onions or my family wouldn't eat it and I didn't want it to have a strong blue cheese taste.

This recipe was perfect.  The blue cheese taste is very mild and it compliments the buffalo perfectly.  This would be a great weeknight dinner or game day appetizer.  You need a bun that will hold up to the chicken.  I used potato dinner rolls from the deli department and they worked great.

Buffalo Sliders with Blue Cheese Slaw

Ingredients for sliders:
1 c. Frank's RedHot sauce
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half crosswise
8 slider buns

Ingredients for slaw:

1 (16-oz.) pkg. shredded coleslaw mix
1/2 c. cider vinegar
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions for sliders:
Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add the hot sauce and seal, pressing out excess air.  Turn to coat chicken with hot sauce.  let marinate in refrigerator, turning occasionally for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.

Heat grill to medium high.  When the grill is ready remove the chicken from the marinade, letting excess sauce drip off, discard marinade.  Grill chicken until done, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Grill buns to lightly toast, if desired.

To assemble, place 1 piece of chicken on each bun.  Top with slaw.  Serve with additional hot sauce, if desired.

Directions for coleslaw:
Pour the coleslaw mix into a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, mix the vinegar, sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.  Bring to a boil.  When the sugar has dissolved, pour over the slaw mix.  Toss to coat and let stand for 15 minutes.

Drain the slaw mix in a colander and return to the bowl.  Toss with mayonnaise, sour cream, and blue cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.