Monday, November 27, 2017

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Here's a crowd pleaser of a dessert that is the perfect thing to make for your next party. They're VERY rich with chocolate, crunchy and nutty from the pecans, and sweet and gooey all at the same time!
 I made them for Tory and Ryan's house warming party and they were an instant hit. Ryan was the first to sample them (an immediate thumbs up), Gregg was a HUGE fan, Kelli said they were "Slammin'", and pretty much everyone wanted to know when I would be sharing the recipe! Well, everyone, here you go! The recipe is from a blog called Bake or Break, and it's pretty awesome. Make them for your next party and I promise you'll have everyone asking you for the recipe!!

3 cups pecan halves
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Arrange pecans in a single layer of a shallow baking pan. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Stir halfway through baking. Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x 13″x 2″ baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two short sides. Grease foil. Whisk together the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and cocoa. Add the cold butter, and combine with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press the mixture into the bottom and about 3/4-inch up sides of prepared pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over crust. Allow to cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.
 Place the eggs in a large mixing bowl, and beat lightly. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Whisk together until smooth. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Pour evenly over the partially baked crust. Bake 28-34 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the filling has set. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
Then, refrigerate for an hour. Using foil overhang, lift the bars from the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.

 I used a food processor to cut the butter into the flour mixture. It was SO much easier. I also used parchment paper instead of foil to line the pan. Either one will work!
I think the next time I make them, maybe I'll use Hershey's milk chocolate instead of semisweet chips. I found them to be quite rich, almost too chocolatey for me. (I said this to Carly and she said "is there such a thing???"). I also wonder how butterscotch chips would be... hmmm...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Glazed Cranberry Bundt Cake

 If you're looking for an easy dessert that screams HOLIDAYS, this is it! I found this recipe on the back of a bag of fresh cranberries and immediately set it aside. I cut it out, and stuck it to my fridge with a magnet for a year until I was ready to try it. Well, I finally tried it! OMG, it's seriously delicious. The cake is dense but light, and it's so moist, I'd say this is one for the books. Add a few fresh cranberries and an orange glaze and you have the makings of a showstopper!
 TBH, the cake was supposed to bake in a 9x13 pan, and the recipe said nothing of a glaze. But I like how a Bundt looks, and I love a rich and creamy glaze drizzled over the top, so I went with it!
 At first I couldn't decide if this was more of a Thanksgiving thing or a Christmas thing, but basically decided that it's great for both! Yes, it's red and white and looks very Christmasy, but Thanksgiving is the official holiday season kickoff, right? So, it works there too!
 Regardless of when you decide to make it, or in what pan you decide to bake it, one thing is absolutely certain.. Everyone will love it! Definitely add this one to your holiday repertoire!

3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 (12oz) bag fresh cranberries

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Beat the eggs and sugar until slightly thickened and the mixture has almost doubled in size, about 5-7 minutes. Add softened butter and vanilla extract and mix for 2 more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the rinsed cranberries and stir until mixed throughout. Spread into greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool almost completely in the pan before turning out onto a plate.

For the glaze:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream (plus more, if needed)
1/4 tsp orange extract

Using a wire whisk, combine all glaze ingredients until smooth. Add more heavy cream if needed to make just the right drizzling consistency. I like to use a big spoon to scoop big blobs of the glaze across the top and then just let it ooze down the sides.
Yup. blobs and ooze. definitely culinary terms.

 -To keep your cranberries from sinking to the bottom of the cake, take a 1/4 cup of the flour for the recipe, and toss the cranberries with it until they're coated. Then stir them into the batter as directed. The flour coating will help them stay suspended in the cake!
-I think the next time I make this, maybe I'll add a little almond extract. Just sayin!
-If you'd like to bake it in a 9x13 pan, you only need to bake it for 40-50 minutes. And instead of the glaze, you could use any other favorite icing (cream cheese icing maybe?) or just simply dust with powdered sugar.
-Oh, another thing that's worth noting.. Yes, you read the ingredients correctly. This recipe has no leavening agent in it. No baking soda, no baking powder, no vinegar or lemon juice, no ingredient that will make the cake rise (which is why it comes out so dense and fabulous). It's that first step of whipping the eggs and sugar the gives rise to the cake. Make sure you don't skip it!!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Kale with Bacon

 Ok, this one's quick and easy peasy. I know kale is very trendy at the moment, but when you get right down to it, there are many reasons why everyone is going crazy for it. Well, for one thing, it's like super crazy good for you. It has a ton of vitamins C and K and beta-carotene and antioxidants and about a bazillion other nutrients that I can't even pronounce. And on top of all of that, it's delicious!!! It's hearty enough that it still keeps its integrity when you cook it (instead of just turning to mush), and it doesn't disappear in the pan the way fresh spinach does when you cook it.
 This recipe is from Taste of Home, and I knew it was a winner at first glance. Frankly, you can cook anything with bacon, onions, and garlic, and I'm in heaven. When I made it for my Friendsgiving dinner, it was a big hit! But no one needed to know how easy it was. And remember, your Mom always said to eat your greens, right? She was absolutely right!
 I think maybe Popeye would have eaten kale instead of spinach if he had cooked it with bacon and onions and garlic. Just sayin!

2 pounds fresh kale, trimmed and torn 
8 bacon strips, diced 
2 large onions, chopped 
4 garlic cloves, minced 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper

 In a large saucepan, bring 1 in. of water to a boil. Add kale; cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels; drain, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings. In the drippings, saute onions and garlic until onion is tender. Drain the kale; stir into onion mixture. Add salt, pepper and bacon; heat through. 

If you're not a fan or pork, try turkey bacon instead!!
For a little extra added flavor, try cooking it in chicken broth instead of just plain water!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cider-Glazed Turnips & Apples with Sage & Bacon

 Here's another fabulous side dish that falls right in line with my latest obsession with apples and sage. It's from, and I absolutely fell in love at first bite. It also fits my criteria for the perfect Thanksgiving dish because it's easy, you can do it ahead of time, and you can adjust the amounts to feed however big of a crowd you're having at your table this year.
 It's a pretty simple dish, but it really hits a lot of different notes that all work perfectly together. You have the sweetness from the apples and cider and the freshness from the sage, both of which mellow that sharp bite that the turnips can sometimes have. And we all know everything is better with bacon, right?  That just goes without saying! It makes everything rich and special enough for your holiday guests.
 The other thing that I love about this recipe is that it is cooked on the stove top, not in the oven. If you've ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that oven space is precious real estate that is not always readily available when you're trying to get everything cooked and hot at the same time. Having the option of cooking something without using the oven is a life saver (not to mention a time saver as well!) You just sit it on the back burner and let it braise until everything is nice and tender, and the cider is sweet and syrupy. YUM! Oh, and if you're not a fan of turnips, I think maybe you just haven't found the right recipe for them. This could be the one to change your mind! And if you've never tried them, well, now is the perfect opportunity! Enjoy!

1-1/2 lb. small purple-top or white turnips (about 9 small)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 cup apple cider
2 tsp. granulated sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large firm, sweet apple such as Pink Lady or Braeburn
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage

Peel the turnips and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut each half into wedges 1 inch thick at the widest point. Put the bacon pieces in a large skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off the bacon fat from the pan and set the pan back on the burner. Add the butter and, when it’s melted, add the turnips, apple cider, sugar, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan with the lid slightly askew, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook at a steady boil, shaking the pan occasionally, until the turnips are just tender but not soft (a pairing knife should enter a turnip with just a little resistance), 8  to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and core the apple and cut it into 1/2-inch slices. Uncover the pan, add the sliced apples and sage, and continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to a sticky glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. The turnips should be soft and the apples should be crisp-tender. (If not, add a few tablespoons of water and continue to cook for another 1  to 2  minutes.) Toss in the cooked bacon and season to taste with black pepper and more salt if necessary.

I know I usually like to switch things around and tweak a recipe here and there, but for this one, I didn't change a thing! It's just absolutely delicious as it is. I used Honeycrisp apples, because they're my favorite. What's yours? I also didn't drain out all of the bacon fat as instructed, because... bacon.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Apple, Sausage, and Parsnip Stuffing with Fresh Sage

 Here's a stuffing recipe that I found on As soon as I saw it I thought "well, if THAT doesn't scream THANKSGIVING, I don't know what does!" Sausage stuffing with fresh sage? I mean, COME ON! And the apples and parsnips bring a sweetness to the party that is simply just perfect!! It's definitely something new and different, but it's classic at the same time. Cool, huh?
 Now, if you've read any of my other recipes, you know that I can't leave a recipe alone. In this case, I didn't change the ingredients listed in the original recipe, I changed the AMOUNTS. Apparently, the folks at Epicurious were feeding an army, and their amounts were about twice as much as I needed for my 9x13 casserole dish. Then again, they used part of it to stuff the turkey, and part of it to bake in a dish. Since I prefer to stuff the turkey with aromatics, I just cut the recipe in half (except for the butter and chicken broth) and that's how I have listed the recipe below. It worked perfectly! However, if you have quite a gang to feed, or if you prefer to stuff your turkey with stuffing instead of aromatics, then by all means double everything and go for it!

1 lb loaf sliced sourdough bread with crust, cubed
1 lb sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 lb hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups celery. chopped
3/4 cup (1  1/2 sticks) butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cubed
1 lb parsnips, peeled, cubed
1/4 cup packed fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Bake bread cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté sausages in very large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking into pieces with spoon, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl; add bread.
Add onions and celery to same skillet and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes; transfer to bowl with bread. Melt 1/4 cup butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes; mix apples into stuffing. Melt 1/4 cup butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add parsnips and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes; mix into stuffing. Melt 1/4 cup butter in same skillet. Add sage and sauté until dark green, about 2 minutes. Mix sage and butter into stuffing. Season with salt and pepper.
Place in buttered casserole dish. Drizzle with 1/2 cup chicken broth. Cover with foil.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake stuffing covered until heated through, about 1 hour. Uncover and bake until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

When I brought some to my brother, Chris, he said he wished that it would hold together a little more. Since there are no eggs or any kind of binder to the recipe, the best way to keep everything together is to chop everything a little more finely than I did, and don't skimp on the butter and chicken broth. Again, the amounts are just guidelines. Add them til it's enough!
This can absolutely be prepared a day in advance. Actually, you could even do it TWO days in advance if you cover it tightly with foil and keep it in the fridge until it's time for baking.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Joey's Cauliflower and Carrot Gratin

 If there was ever a dish that screams home cooking, it's a casserole. By definition, a casserole is a dish served in the pan in which it was cooked, and it often has meat and vegetables and a crunchy or cheesy topping. That sounds like home cooking to me! For this casserole, there's no meat, but the veggies are a match made in culinary heaven! Who would have ever guessed that something as simple as cauliflower and carrots would go so well together in a casserole???? Well, Pillsbury, for one, which is where I first discovered the recipe.
 But here's the thing.. when I first made Pillsbury's recipe, I found the cheese sauce to be just SO bland. Like, there wasn't really anything special about it. It just tasted like melted American cheese. Now, I love American cheese as much as anyone, but for a casserole to be good enough for Thanksgiving, it needed to be just a little more fabulous, in my humble opinion. So I gave it a little makeover. OMG it was SO much better!!! Clearly, they should have asked my opinion as they were developing this recipe! LOL I'm not even kidding. Just the addition of a couple extra ingredients pushed everything WAY over the top and suddenly now we've gone from boring to showstopper!
 So if you're looking for a new something to add to your Thanksgiving menu, consider giving this one a try! Even if you're not making it for a big holiday meal, it's still easy enough for a simple Sunday supper. This just might become a new favorite!

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into thick coins
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
6 tbs butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 or 2 two big pinches of dried or fresh thyme leaves
3 tbs flour
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 slices American Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 1/2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
In a large pot, bring about 8 cups of water to a boil. Add carrots and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in 4-quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Cook onion in butter about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and thyme. Saute a minute or two longer. Stir in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper with whisk; cook about 1 minute or until bubbly. Slowly stir in milk. Cook and stir until bubbly and slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cheeses until melted. Stir in carrots and cauliflower. Pour into casserole. In small microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 3 tablespoons butter on high for 1 minute or until melted; stir in bread crumbs. Sprinkle over vegetable mixture. Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

For a little extra something, add a splash of white wine to your cheese sauce. It will elevate it to "special occasion" status!
Use whatever veggies you like! You could absolutely add broccoli or parsnips or even just baby red potatoes. Anything you like!
Not a fan of American cheese? Use any kind you like? Any cheese that melts really well will work!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

 Can one really ever have too many potato recipes???? I think not! So here's an easy one that you can prep the night before your big holiday meal, and then just turn it on in the morning. SO easy!!!
 When you're cooking for a crowd and you have several pots and pans going at the same time on the stove, isn't it nice to know you have another alternative? Of course, I'm talking about your slow cooker!!! To be quite honest, I've been using mine quite a lot lately and it has become one of my most favorite items in the kitchen. It works miracles! Even the novice cook will have great success using a slow cooker, especially with a recipe as easy as this one. I got it from a video on and it's pretty amazing. They did mention one thing, though. The longer your potatoes cook, the more they will brown around the edges of the crock pot. They advised scooping away the browned bits if you don't want them mixed into your mash, (I also wonder if giving it a stir every so often will prevent it from becoming brown), but frankly, I didn't see this as a problem. Did you ever watch Chef Anne Burrell? She's always saying "brown food tastes good!" And guess what! She's not wrong! I say let them get brown, mash 'em all together, stir in your butter and cream, and savor ever single bite! Now THAT's what I call Thanksgiving mashed potatoes! Boom.

5 pounds russet potatoes
3 to 4 cloves garlic, optional
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 3 1/2 cups milk, or a mixture of milk and cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter 

Chopped chives, for garnish, if desired

 Lightly grease the slow cooker insert with butter or cooking spray. Peel the potatoes and chop into 1" small pieces. Transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker. Smash the garlic cloves, if using, and drop on top of the potatoes. Stir in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper. Pour in 1 1/2 cups milk. Cover the slow cooker and cook 4 to 5 hours on HIGH or until the potatoes are very tender and soft. Turn the heat to WARM.
 When the potatoes are done, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir 2 cups milk, or a mixture of milk and cream, into the melted butter and warm gently over low heat. If you used garlic but don't want the potatoes super garlicky, remove the garlic cloves and discard. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard any browned bits on the sides of the pot, if desired. Use a potato masher or ricer to mash the potatoes right in the pot. When the potatoes are as smooth as you like, slowly stir in the warmed dairy and butter. The potatoes will look soupy at first but the potatoes will quickly soak up the liquid. Add an additional 1/2 cup of milk or cream if you want them to be even creamier. Taste and season with additional salt or pepper, if desired. To keep the potatoes warm, leave in the covered slow cooker on the WARM setting for up to 4 hours. 

For dairy free potatoes, just use chicken or vegetable broth instead of butter and cream. 
For a little variety, add other root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, and/or carrots.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Baked Mashed Potatoes

 If you've ever cooked a big holiday dinner, you know that one of the most important things to consider is time management. So how do you get everything done and hot and on the table at the same time??? You do as much as possible in advance! And this is the perfect recipe to do a day or two ahead of the big meal. You can literally make and assemble this entire dish and then bake it in time for dinner, or you can even do everything, baking included, and then just heat it up when the time comes.
 I literally can't even remember where I got this recipe. I think it may have been something that I just threw together one night and then jotted down for a later date, and now here we are! This is absolutely one of my very favorite mashed potato recipes of all time, like in the history of ever, so you should definitely give this one a try!

5lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
8 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup (or more) french fried onion rings

Peel and quarter your potatoes. Place potatoes in a giant bowl of cold water. Swish them around to rinse away most of the starch, then drain. Do this two or three times. Boil potatoes until fork tender and then drain very well.
Use a potato ricer or food mill to mash the potatoes into a big bowl. In a small pot, melt together the cream cheese, butter, and cream. Stir into mashed potatoes. Season well with salt and pepper. Place potatoes in a 9x13 casserole pan. Sprinkle with onion rings. Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden on top.

-My best tip for making mashed potatoes is to use a ricer. It gets out all of the lumps! (if you're not familiar with a potato ricer, it basically looks like a great big oversized garlic press!) If you just use a regular hand masher, you may not get all of the lumps, which is fine, but I prefer a smoother mash. Definitely do NOT use a big mixer to mash your potatoes. The texture will become like glue!
-Be sure to rinse the peeled potatoes a few times before you boil them. Getting rid of that extra starch will give you a fluffier potato. Otherwise all of that starch will turn your potatoes into spackle.
-When you melt the butter and cream and cream cheese, it may seem like there's far too much liquid for that amount of potatoes, but just go with me on this. It will all stir in, and you'll have beautifully rich and creamy potatoes!
Be sure to season well! The potatoes will take more salt and pepper than you think they will!
For a little extra flavor, add some fresh garlic to the pot when you melt the butter and cream mixture!