Tag Archives: pecans

Thankful with Sweet Potato Goodness (& so much more)

The words that penetrated my soul the most, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.” This was part of a guest speaker’s story. She was a small Honduran woman, measuring a mere 4 feet and 9 inches, but she made up for it with tremendous heart & conviction. Her name, Danubia Orellana Lopez, and she is apart of the Agros village of Brisas del Volcan.

Danubia was the speaker at the Agros International fundraiser dinner Ben and I attended at the end of October.  It seemed fitting that we attended just days before we plunged into doing this 30 day challenge.  Agros is an amazing organization, who seeks to empower people in Central America & Mexico through micro loans to purchase land.  Many of these people, like Danubia, lived in the slums and had to wake up at 2:30 am to walk 2 hours to get to the farm (to which she & her husband worked for someone else), work an 18 hour day and only get paid $.40 a day.  She recalls the times when payday arrived and the owner of the land wasn’t there to pay her & her husband.  Those were the days when all she could offer her children was water to fill their bellies.  She also recalled a time at the age of 14, when her mother only had 3 eggs to feed the 14 kids….I am truly blessed.

I can’t imagine that world.  To feel absolutely defenseless and unable to give your children a basic necessity.  Agros seeks to extend both physical means to these people who are willing to work REALLY hard to till their land; but, also give them emotional/spiritual means.  They come in to teach the people how to cultivate the land, how to educate themselves, how to make financial deals, etc.  What Agros does, is tell these people like Danubia, that if they are willing to want something more, then they can have it.  More importantly, what Agros does & says to them, “You are worth it!  You have value!”

Danubia spoke of telling her mother that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.  Her mother said, “Danubia, people like us don’t dream, because our hearts just get broken.”  After Agros came in to empower Danubia, her family & community, she and other women worked together to make the men realize that they are just as important & valuable as them.  And you know what, after the women worked just as hard, the men realized that these women, their women, had dignity & value.

When I think about what Evangitality means–this is it.  This is the global representation of it.  It’s finding value, dignity & worth in each individual, because they are created in God’s image.  It’s empowering them by giving them a hand up, and not a hand out.  It’s not entitlement, because there are many people who choose to stay in slums so they can keep their TV or refrigerator.  Instead, it’s for the people who want something more, who want to dream.  Life without dreams isn’t a life worth living, and Danubia knew this.

Walking back to the hotel that night, I told Ben, “You know, the poor in America aren’t that poor.  They still get assistance.  They’re not putting their children to bed without food.”  It has made me more thankful than ever.  And that’s why I give thanks before my meals.  I thank God that I have more than enough to fill my family’s bellies.  So when I’ve been cranky during this 3o day challenge, or hear people whining about, “Oh, I ONLY get meat, vegetables, limited fruit & nuts, and eggs,” I’m reminded of Danubia’s words, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.”  Oh how I have nothing to complain about, and everything to give thanks about.

I’m thankful for simple meals too.  So simple it seems almost too good to be true.

A Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Sea Salted Caramel Frosting &   Oatmeal Carmelitas

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Goodness (printable recipe)

This is for one sweet potato, but you could easily increase the amount and play with the ingredients.  If you’re not a cinnamon fan, sub some nutmeg (but go easy on it) or add some smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

1 tsp coconut oil

dash sea salt

2 Tb pecans

sprinkle cinnamon

Directions: Bake a sweet potato on 350 for 30 minutes or so (check a source, I’m that person who pops it in and doesn’t worry about it).  Do this the day before if you’re having it for breakfast.  Remove the skin and cut up the sweet potato into chunks.

Heat up coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the sweet potato & salt.  Stir around letting it get a bit golden, about 3 minutes.  Add some chopped pecans & a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Cook for an additional 1 minute or so.  Serve and enjoy!


Paleo Week 2: Harvest Salad

I told myself that I would not have any obligation to post everyday during this 30 day challenge, and I’m glad about it.  I went to a conference this past weekend (Friday & Saturday) in Seattle.  I was pleasantly surprised, because my expectations were very low.  I went prepared, while carrying around my little strawberry tote bag everywhere, which was loaded with Paleo supplies (celery sticks, nuts, apple slices, hazelnut butter, etc).  I also discovered that club soda is not nearly as awful when your taste buds have been devoid of sugar.  In fact, the soda water was AMAZING!

It also must be said that I still miss chocolate, red wine, and ice cream doesn’t sound too bad.  However, despite those non-L&G foods, I think I could see making this as part of our lifestyle.  Not necessarily 100%, but in the high percentages.  I will let you know about next week, because I’m told that come third week–your body feels better than good.  The downside to the challenge during this second week is how my performance at the gym has been low.  When running–my legs feel like lead.  When lifting–my arms feel like noodles.  I’m hoping week three will be better than good.

This salad is probably my go to salad.  My friend Jessica fell in love with it that she went out to get the ingredients that day.  And you can easily make it Paleo by nixing the blue cheese (just make sure the cranberries don’t have sugar with them).

A Year Ago: Roasting Pumpkin

Harvest Salad (printable recipe)

Ingredients:

Head of lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf), washed, dried, & torn into bite sized pieces

1 apple (Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp, whatever you want–just not Red Delicious)

1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, Roquefort

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 Tb mustard (regular or dijon)

1 tsp dried basil (crunch it in your hands to release the oils)

Directions:  Pretty straightforward, put the washed/torn lettuce into a big bowl.  Sprinkle the nuts, dried cranberries, & blue cheese on the lettuce.

In a bowl or glass measuring cup, add extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  Add the mustard and whisk together.  It should start to combine.  Add the basil.  No need to pour all of it on the salad, but start small and mix to combine.  If you need a bit more, then add it:)


Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

I just love food magazines, but what I love even more is having an excuse to buy one. We went to Vegas for my sister-in-law’s wedding and if traveling with two children under the age of four isn’t excuse enough–I have no clue what is. We spent the night in Seattle to make it easier to catch our morning flight; however, when you have a little girl who comes in at 4:45 to see if it’s time to go on the airplane…you know you’re in for a rough morning. There was one point of the boarding process where both girls were crying (rather loudly), while I made it a point to not look at the faces on the other passengers & simply survive. I was waiting for those precious words from the pilot, “we’re now at 10,000 feet, so you can turn on any electronic devices…cell phones, music, LAPTOPS (I think only Ben & I heard it this loud).” That laptop was never pulled out so quickly or a My Little Pony DVD popped it so rapidly. I think we made record time.

The day before I had the girls with me on an errand to Target to get the coveted ‘headphone splitter,’ which was about the best investment for $4.99 one could make with an upcoming airplane ride (& two little kids). I’m definitely not above videos at a time like this, so if you’re that mom who has a special bag full of toys, crayons, paper & other distraction keepers…well, bless you! Once the headphones were on, two girls comfortably (and rather quietly) sitting next to each other watching Ponies–Ben and I gave a nod of approval (wondering if parents were approved to get complimentary liquor). That’s when I pulled out the Fine Cooking Magazine and read each article, because I could. I fell in love with this cake and dreamed of when I could make it. And since I still have pumpkin puree in my freezer from the late Autumn of last year–I knew it was destiny. It should be yours too, and that’s why I’m sharing it, because I care about your destiny when it comes to Autumn desserts and not wanting to look bad when you bring a store-bought pumpkin pie. Your friends & family will rave, as mine did with, “mmmm…..YEAH. that was killer. awesome,” or “It was dangerously delicious!”

A Year Ago: My Roots (Machaca)

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake (printable recipe)

This is adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine. The original recipe calls for adding candied ginger to the nuts (1 1/2 Tb chopped) after the nuts have been thoroughly coated, but I didn’t have any, so I sprinkled in ground ginger instead. This cake probably takes about 2-3 hours to make from start to finish and should be made the day of or cover in a cake dome for up to 2 days. The nuts will not be as crispy the second day. When you are browning butter, it is even more essential that you use your olfactory senses (smell) than your eyes. It will go from a popcorn smell to a nutty (walnut, hazelnut) smell.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

6 oz (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, more for pans

9 oz (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, more for pans

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp ground nutmeg

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups Sucanat sugar

2/3 cup Rapadura sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree, (how to roast & puree pumpkin)

For the Topping:

1 1/2 Tb unsalted butter

2/3 cup pecans

1/2 cup unsalted, raw pumpkin seeds

2 Tb Sucanut sugar or light brown sugar firmly packed

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground ginger

For the Frosting:

4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

5 oz (1 1/4 cups) powdered sugar

Make the Cake: Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bottom & sides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Melt the butter in a 1 quart heavy bottomed pan, stirring occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown (around 4-6 minutes) and when it smells nutty. Pour the butter into a small bowl and allow to cool, but not set for about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add all of your dry ingredients and whisk them together (flour, spices, salt, & baking soda). In a large bowl, combine all of your wet ingredients, except the butter (note: sugar is almost always considered a “wet” ingredient) and thoroughly mix (Pumpkin puree, eggs, both sugars, buttermilk). With a rubber spatula, stir in the dry ingredients from the medium bowl until just combined. Now, whisk the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.

Bake the cakes for 28 minutes (again make use of those olfactory sensors during baking as I baked my cakes for 27 minutes, because the cake smelled done), or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool 10 minutes in the pan. Using a butter knife, run it around the outside of the cake to loosen and then turn it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the Topping: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans & pumpkin seeds and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pumpkin seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar/Sucanat & salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in ginger. Remove from heat and cool nuts in pan.

Make the Frosting: Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1 quart pan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (just like before for the batter) until it turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4-6 minutes. Pour browned butter into a bowl and allow it to sit on the counter for 5 minutes to let the solids settle. Carefully transfer bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from the bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids. Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese & brown sugar on medium-high speed until light & pale and brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the powdered sugar until it is nice & fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemblage: Get a large cake plate and place one cooled cake top side down. Spread about 1/2 -2/3 cup of frosting on the cake. Take your other cake and place it top side down. Frost the top and sides with remaining frosting. Top the cake with glazed nut/seed topping. Serve immediately. **If you’d like, you could take 1/2 cup of the nut mixture and sprinkle it over the first layer of frosting to sandwich it between the two layers. Then, use the remainder for the top.


Quicky Sticky Biscuits

I recall a moment in time when our dear friend Hilary asked Ben, “Benny, what would be your top 10 books of all time?”  Now, as my husband is a an avid reader as aforementioned, it would seem difficult to find a top 10.  In fact, he just told me yesterday that he checked out the most books from the library than anyone else in his whole elementary school (back when he was in elementary school).  But, he quickly named one off the top of his head (which is another hard thing for my introverted husband to do…he’s more methodical about his ideas & words), 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

If I could summarize what it is that he likes about it (as do I), I would say it’s a book of self-discovery put into action.  It helps you find out who you are, what you are capable of and putting it into practice.  This is huge for Ben.  And as I’ve been married to him for 7 1/2 years now and a mother of two, I have SO appreciated this philosophy on life.  It helps with focusing on the areas of life which are important, but not urgent.  An example of this would be setting a date night with Ben, because although the dishes, laundry & bills are the urgent items in life…having uninterrupted time with my spouse is important for the long haul.  It’s learning to not live life putting out the fires (searching at 5:00 what to make for dinner, searching for a snack 20 minutes too late as your child (or you) screams their head off).

As we approach the New Year, our family is writing up a Mission Statement, in order to live in the Important, but not Urgent.  We are seeking to know what is best for our family and what aligns with our values, dreams & beliefs and not some other family.  Our mission statement will give us direction for our long term goals and help us navigate in our short term goals.  It is also mailable, because visions change course and we need to adaptability.  I not only want to create a haven for Ben & the girls (and other children we might be blessed with), but also for people outside of it.  For our extended family, friends, and the stranger & neighbor who we barely know.  My life has been richly blessed by people who extended kindness, grace & overwhelming care when I needed it most.  And sometimes it was surrounding a dinner table with food, while other times it was around a dinner table with a listening ear & loving embrace.

I hope you would be encouraged by the people who have done the same for you, or how you have been that person in times of need.  May 2010 bring you clarity of perspective, dreams to dream & a dinner table open for an invitation.  Maybe these Quicky Sticky Biscuits will cut through the awkwardness and create a yummy slice of hospitality.

Quicky Sticky Biscuits (printable recipe)

Recipe is adapted from the book, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor.  These biscuits are not for the faint at heart.  They are rich & buttery and they’re not ashamed to show it.  If you’re looking for something light or watching your figure, be warned, as these biscuits will blow your 2010 resolution diet out the window.  BUT, they are definitely amazing and worth bringing to a family brunch (so you won’t be tempted to eat too many).

For the Sticky Pecan Sauce:

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

For the Biscuits:

4 cups bleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup (2 sticks) very cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

1 1/2 to 2 cups cold buttermilk (I used 2 cups)

For the Topping:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted (depending on how rich you want them, use 1/4 cup for less rich)

POSITION A RACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OVEN AND PREHEAT TO 425F.  Grease a 9×13 inch pan with softened butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

TO MAKE THE SAUCE: Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter.  Melt over low heat.  When the butter is melted, increase the heat to high and bring to a gentle boil.  Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the chopped nuts.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Set aside.

TO MAKE THE BISCUITS: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender (if you don’t have a pastry blender than use two butter knives to cut the butter).  Blend until most of the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, with some of the bits of butter the size of small peas.

MAKE A SHALLOW WELL IN THE CENTER OF THE FLOUR MIXTURE AND POUR IN 1 1/2 CUPS OF THE COLD BUTTERMILK (I used the whole 2 cups at this point).  Use a fork to blend the buttermilk into the flour to create a soft dough.  If the dough seems too dry as you are stirring it, add the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to make sure it comes together.  Pat the dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle.  Use a sharp chef’s knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into 12 square biscuits.

TO MAKE THE TOPPING: In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with some of the melted butter and sprinkle with some of the cinnamon-sugar.  Place the biscuits, evenly spaced, cinnamon-sugar-side down, into the pecan syrup-lined pan.  Brush the tops (once the bottom) of the biscuits with more melted butter and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon-sugar.

BAKE THE BISCUITS UNTIL GOLDEN BROWN AND PUFFY, and the sticky pecan sauce is bubbling around them, 15-17 minutes (it took more like 23-25 minutes for me).  Cool slightly, then place a large serving platter over the top of the pan and invert it.  Remove the pan and allow the pecan sauce to fall around the biscuits.  Use a small spatula to scrape any residual syrup from the pan onto the biscuits.  Serve immediately (but they taste pretty darn good hours later).


Pumpkin Pecan Scones

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Today at church service was the first day that I didn’t have either of my girls with me from start to finish.  It was nice to be able to worship and take in those precious moments of simply being.  Our church family is going through I Corinthians right now.  Our teaching pastor, Jim, spoke about the crux in the Corinthians lives.  He was relating it to his mountain climbing experience; with the crux being the challenge/obstacle in the climb to get over.

This central idea of the crux was woven throughout the message, and eventually got me asking, “What is the crux in my life’s journey?  What is the crux in my journey via mothering…via marriage…via my growing up family?”  Sometimes the crux is only there for a season in our lives and it strengthens us for future cruxes, which are five times larger.  Other times the crux is something that keeps getting brought up.  In those instances, maybe the crux keeps coming up because we truly haven’t dealt with it.

Just in the mountain climbing scenario, the crux is only truly conquered when we deal with it head on.  We cannot ignore it, climb around, or sit beneath it; rather, we need to do the hard work and climb over it.  I believe the best part about this is how Jesus is waiting for us to ask for his help.  (He’s only going to help when I ask for it.  He never forces himself on me) The same is true for friends & family helping us get over the crux; but, only when we ask for their help.

One of my cruxes is being too helpful when people are hurting, but they’re not willing to change.  I take on more than I should bear and it slowly destroys me (something I am trying to climb over).  It’s learning to set up boundaries, knowing when to say no, and stripping off the Savior complex (not an easy task).  But I’m hopeful!  And with that, these yummy scones are an easy way to be helpful to anyone you meet without taking on more than you should bear (except eating a few too many).

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Pumpkin Pecan Scones (printable recipe)

I was looking to create a scone recipe based on a wonderful pumpkin cookie I made from here. Now if you’re one of those people who is impartial to Starbuck’s Pumpkin Scones than you need to make these.  Because these ones will knock your socks off and the Starbucks version will be a distant memory, while you’ll be having a “define the relationship” with these pumpkin scones.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup sugar (I use unrefined)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I seriously believe freshly grated makes a difference, but you could use the ground nutmeg from the store)

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup buttermilk (extra for brushing the tops of the scone prior to baking)

1 cup pumpkin puree (I used my own pumpkin puree, because that’s what I do, but I understand not everyone has this fetish, so buy canned pumpkin)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup toasted & chopped pecans (plus some additional for topping, totally optional)

turbinado sugar for sprinkling

frosting recipe below

Preheat oven to 350.  Dump both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices into a food processor.  Process for 30 seconds (this will sift it, aerate it and incorporate all the ingredients).  Dump the butter on top and pulse (for 1-2 second intervals) about 8-10 times.  Dump contents into a large bowl & set aside.

Combine buttermilk, egg, pumpkin puree, & vanilla in a small bowl or mixing cup.  With the dry ingredients, make a hole in the middle and pour wet ingredients into the hole.  Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula just till the wet & dry ingredients have been combined.  You don’t want to over mix, because you’re aiming for a biscuit texture (which requires visible pieces of butter).  Then, add the chopped pecans and combine with your hands (because that’s what they’re here for), once again being delicate with the dough. The dough should be a bit sticky, which is okay.

Separate the dough in half.  Sprinkle flour on a flat surface and form one of the halves into a circle.  I don’t use a rolling pin, but use my hands to shape the dough into a circle measuring about 1/2 inch high and 6-8 inches round (really you’re aiming more for the 1/2 inch height and the diameter is merely a gauge).  Cut into 8 pieces.  Repeat process with the other half.

Put a sheet of parchment paper on baking sheet.  Place the scones on top.  Brush with buttermilk & sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  **Make frosting after your scones are baked, because the frosting has little window in terms of pliability/workability.**  Top with frosting/icing & a pecan (or a some chopped pecans).  Serve with some coffee.

Frosting

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons milk (I used whole milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup powdered sugar

Combine butter, brown sugar, milk, & vanilla in saucepan over medium heat.  Cook long enough to melt butter and sugar dissolves.  Take off heat.  Add powdered sugar and mix to combine till smooth.  Use immediately by spreading on top of scones.


Something Quick

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So I made this yummy Salmon Chowder last night for our small group gathering, but I don’t have the recipe as it was a do it as I go sort of thing.  The greatest part to me was the pureed celery root, which if you’ve never tried it you truly must and this is the season to do it.  Quick, go do it before time runs out.

Aside from the salmon chowder, I have to say that I love my small group and how it’s made up.  We are in this transition period.  You know the transition of figuring out how to meet together, have adult conversations, while seven little monkeys all under the age of 3 are running, crying, & shouting around the house.  Nonetheless, we’re figuring out our rhythms and it just might be working.

We meet twice a month as a large group where we share dinner.  I make the main dish and everyone brings something else to share.  It’s this beautiful meld of hospitality at it’s finest.  We see each other as we are, much like the dishes we bring.  The food doesn’t have to compliment one another, be exquisite, or honestly, it doesn’t even have to taste the best.  What it is is that we are simply taking time to breathe, love, & enjoy one another.

Our meal last night was salmon chowder (which I took inventory of what I had and threw it in the pot), leftover salad from the previous night and some corn thrown in on top, freshly picked blueberries with sliced strawberries, and sliced watermelon from the day before.  Then, there’s our group, a campus pastor, stay-at-home moms, linguist, financial advisor, nutritionist & physical trainer, baker & cook, horse instructor, engineering, & economist.

There is a realness and understanding that we don’t have it together, that we might come grumpy and distraught, that marriage isn’t easy when you have toddlers and babies, and we might even say some stupid, “why did I just say that?” sort of things.  It’s not perfect, it’s not polished, and sometimes it’s not always fun, but I would say that there is a mutual appreciation, respect, honesty & love, which permeates through our gatherings.

Here’s something quick you can pull out with company, your family, or give to someone who needs it.  It’s a combination of sweet, tangy & crunchy.

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Cabbage-Apple Salad (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:

half of green cabbage, sliced thinly

2 apples, sliced thinly

1 cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of kosher salt

1/8 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Prepare:

Put butter in a skillet over medium-high heat till melted.  Add pecans and stir to coat them.  Cook while stirring for about one minute.  Add brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne & salt; stir till nuts are coated, about 1 minute.  Transfer nuts to foil or parchment paper to cool.

Combine olive oil, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, & dijon mustard.  Stir to combine & set aside.

Put your sliced cabbage & apples in a bowl.  Add your nuts and pour dressing on top.  Combine and serve.


How ’bout them cookies?

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Okay here’s a challenge, go to all of your cookbooks (including magazines) and see how many different chocolate chip recipes you come up with.  I know if I were to go through all of my magazines & cookbooks I would easily have 25-30 chocolate chip cookie recipes, all with some slight variations.  This leaves me with that feeling of “where do I begin?,” especially since they can’t ALL be the best, or the most chewy, or the softest, or the…fill in the blank chocolate chip cookie.

Some people are fortunate enough to have a chocolate chip cookie recipe handed down to them from their mother or grandmother, but that’s not the case for a huge chunk of us.  I remember thinking as a young girl that chocolate chip cookies are just not that good, because they always had to be dry, hard, and slightly burnt on the bottom.  Well, that’s how my mom made them for the most part (she didn’t always make them like that–sorry mom!).  As a kid, you tend to think rather concretely with black and white glasses on, which makes it hard to think outside the box.  It’s like my sister-in-law thinking spaghetti was a disgusting food, until that is, she went to college and realized it was only the kind she ate as a kid wasn’t the best.  We have these ingrained tendencies that stay with us, even when we become abstract thinkers.  That was my case with the chocolate chip cookie.

Luckily, I’m way beyond that stage of my life and know better.  I know that a true chocolate chip cookie was destined for something grand & wonderful.  It is meant to be crisp when you first bite in, then soft & slightly chewy on the inside.  It should be buttery with complex notes of butterscotch & nutty aftertones.  And definitely have a good ratio of chocolate chips & toasted pecans throughout.  Well, my friends, I do believe I have found that cookie.  It doesn’t require a hand mixer or a kitchen aid, but simply your trusty arm strength.  They will be gone quickly after baking.  You’ll easily have put on 2 pounds once you’ve devoured five in one sitting, but man they’re addictive.  So make them and let me know what you think.

**Disclaimer: I’m not going to say they are the BEST, because everyone claims that they’ve found the one recipe.  However, I will say they are the best of all I’ve made and are definitely multi-dimensional when it comes to a chocolate chip cookie…so what are you waiting for?

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Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies (printable recipe)

This recipe is taken from Cooks Illustrated.  I have not adapted anything and find it best to do exactly as the recipe says, as there is a science behind the whisking 30 seconds and letting it rest 3 minutes.  As it rests the sugar rests in the liquid, causing more of it to dissolve; thus, a caramelizing effect takes place, creating a broader compass of flavor.  Melting the butter, instead of creaming, lends the chewiness factor, along with the addition of one egg yolk.

Makes 16 large cookies

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Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar (don’t be tempted to use light brown sugar & make sure it’s moist or your cookies will dry out)

1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 large (18-by-12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet (don’t use nonstick, because you need to gauge when your butter is browned) over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl.  Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.                                                                              
  3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.  Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.  Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.  Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop).  Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 ddough balls per sheet.  (smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches).
  5. Bake cookies one tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.  Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.