Chocolate Pecan Pie

I’ve been in a chocolate mood lately. It’s not all bad. 😉 Lately I’ve been baking a few repeats, such as mint brownies, but Saturday night I made this chocolate pecan pie. It wasn’t as popular with the Tartlets as the apple pie, but that’s not all bad, either! I’ve made this before and added a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier or Cointreau to the batter and that’s a very good variation.

Fudgy Pecan Pie

9-inch pie pastry, I used my usual recipe

1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. cocoa

2/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c. light corn syrup

1 c. chopped pecans

1 c. pecan halves

Prepare pastry shell. Set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In medium saucepan over low heat melt butter, add cocoa and stir until mixture is smooth. Then remove from heat. Cool slightly. Stir in sugar, salt, eggs and corn syrup. Blend thoroughly. Stir in chopped nuts.

Pour into pastry shell. Place pecan halves on top. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired. Serves 8.

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Daring Little Tart

It’s that time again! Today Lemon Meringue Pies will be sprouting up all over the blogosphere because that was the Daring Baker Challenge selected for us by our host for the month, Jen of Canadian Baker. It also happens to be one of The Husband’s most favorite pies and I have *never* made one for him until now. That’s right, never.

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The first time around, the crust was a little too thick and a tad underdone, the curd was perfect, and I had a little trouble with the oven temp (again!, argh!) so my meringue peaks were burnt in less than half the suggested baking time. He was scarfing down the last piece from that pie as he looked over my shoulder at the computer while I made disgusted sounds over my photos — taken with the fluorescent light (under the cabinet) on one side and blue/white lights (above the stove) on the other side of the pie, making it a strange sea of greens, browns, and purples. “Mmmmm, yeah, I can see this is a definite do-over. You can’t possibly put those pictures on your blog. Mmmm hmmm, yep. I think you might need to make this every day this month, just to make sure you get a good data set.”

I think I’ve been conned. But one of the suggestions for this challenge was to make free form tarts and I really wanted to try that, so I knew I’d be making it at least one more time. Also, I kept imagining it with my homemade blueberry syrup.

For the mini tarts, rather than bake flat disks as suggested, I cut out shapes and then used a piece of foil under it and folded the corners over the top into the shell as the ‘pan’ and then fluted the edges a little with my fingers. Then I folded another piece of foil and tucked it into the center. I don’t have any pie weights and didn’t have beans on hand so some of them puffed up a little in baking, but it wasn’t bad. I baked them for about 20 minutes and then pulled out the center piece of foil and let it bake for another 5 minutes or so, before removing them to cool.

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The curd and meringue went together beautifully again and this time I played around with the meringue a little, making the tartlets a little different. The oven was a little cooler this time so they didn’t burn but they gently browned. I plated it with a little blueberry syrup with white chocolate piped on top.

But this one, after I took a few pictures, I decided to try with extra blueberry syrup (with whole blueberries in it) scooped on top. Oh, yeah! That is just soooo good! This probably isn’t something I would make for me, but I can see The Husband requesting it again, and again, and again! Thanks, Jen!


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Recipe after the jump. Continue reading

Enjoying the Holiday

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. We had a good family day, overall. I don’t like turkey very much so I bought a frozen turkey breast and cooked it so we could have it sliced for sandwiches for simple meals this weekend, but for our family Thanksgiving meal I made a small ham, mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy — not all the extras of a traditional feast, but ham and mashed potatoes are special enough. For dessert we had French apple pie. I don’t know what supposedly makes it ‘French’; we always called it ‘crumb top pie’. It’s probably my very most favoritest pie. I had really nice Braeburn apples for it, too.

On Thursday, we did a little yard work, had our dinner, and went out to our property to have a bonfire with another family. It was cold and windy but The Husband had quite a fire going so we were able to last a couple of hours before our napless wonders started to reach meltdown stage. We had taken separate cars and the truck so the kids and I took off and left The Husband to tend the fire. A couple of hours later, as I was putting the kiddos in bed, I got a call from The Husband. Could I come pick him up? He had a flat tire and was walking home. So, I gathered up the kids and we drove out to pick up The Husband.

Friday, I actually got up at 3:47 AM to go to the Kohl’s sale (starting at 4 AM). I missed out on the comforter I was hoping to get, but did get a couple of other things. I got home around 7:30 AM (I also had to go to Meijer and get dishwasher detergent — who runs out of dishwasher detergent on Thanksgiving? Me!) and The Husband went out for his own Black Friday experience — he got himself two new pairs of shoes! We went out to change the tire on the truck and checked the mileage — The Husband had walked about 5 miles before he found a house with lights on Thursday night.

Put the spare tire (which had been handily stored in the shed at home — with the jack!) on the truck and . . . guess what? It was flat too!! Seriously. So we went back to town and bought a tire. Fortunately, there are no long lines at the tire store on Black Friday! 😉

We also bought a cell phone. We are renouncing our Luddite ways and entering at least the latter part of the 20th century, if not quite embracing the 21st yet. I still don’t know the cell phone number, though! It’s really meant to be more of an emergency usage thing than everyday, so don’t expect a call soon. It’s turned off.

A is for Apples and Alcohol

I think I’ve mentioned here at an earlier time that in grad school one of my guilty pleasures was a glass of Camas Winery Palouse Gold Mead and a sliced apple. It was a perfect dessert, so I completely understand why our wonderful host for Sugar High Friday, Andrew of Spittoon Extra, chose a theme of apples and alcohol. I was fairly certain, however, that I wasn’t going to get by with a simple fresh apple and mead pairing! 😉

A week or so ago I was making cider slushes for the kids — just drop some ice cubes in the blender with some apple cider and zap it until it’s thick and smooth. As I was serving the drinks, it occurred to me that a little cointreau added would make a tasty drink. Not for the 3 – 10 yr old crowd I was serving, of course, but something to make later for The Husband and I.

It does, in fact, make a tasty drink. I added 2 oz of Cointreau to ice and cider to make about 3 cups of drink. Of course, the alcohol doesn’t freeze like the rest so you taste Cointreau right away, but it’s a nice drink.

Still, I was fairly certain our host was looking more for something to be baked. Since I was out of town and without a car this weekend, I ended up making my concoction at the last minute but I’ve been planning it for some time.

I only wanted a small dessert, so I made it in a disposable 4″ pie shell.

Apple Mead Pie

pastry:
scant 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 + Tbsp. half and half

Cut butter into flour. Add just enough half and half to form a ball. Divide into two slightly uneven balls. Roll out, using the larger one for the base.

filling:
1 Honeycrisp apple, sliced
1 scant Tbsp. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. mead
1/2 t. brown sugar

Stir together apple, flour, cinnamon, and mead. Layer neatly in the pastry lined pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover with top layer of pastry.

Bake at 375 F about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

PS. Andrew has the roundup posted. The variety in desserts and alcohols is amazing! Go check it out.

Taste of Spring

Blogging events are highly addictive, but it really helps to post once you’ve made the recipe! 😛 You need to see Meeta’s blog, “What’s for lunch, Honey?” and experience a little virtual dining. She’s hosting a ‘monthly mingle’ and this month’s theme was a taste of spring.

The Husband and I are both from rural backgrounds so, technically speaking, my recipe isn’t a spring recipe in our area b/c strawberries and rhubarb won’t be ready for a month or more. But since much of our produce comes from warmer climes shipped to my Grocery store, somewhere it’s already spring and strawberries and rhubarb are indeed showing up in a presentable fashion on the shelves.

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When the Husband and I first hooked up, the man ate meat and potatoes. He would eat dessert too; he was a starving grad student. But if you placed a banana and a piece of chocolate cake in front of him and asked him to choose one, he’d pick the banana — unless he was really hungry, in which case he’d just eat both. This behavior was alien to me. In my family you ate dinner b/c that’s what came before dessert. He *did* eat most of what I made and he really liked my apple cobblers, but he was hooked when I made his absolute favorite pie — strawberry rhubarb.

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This is ‘farm food’. It isn’t fancy gourmet stuff. This is the simple, rustic, real thing. Maybe it will be called ‘retro’ soon.  😉  But one thing is certain — our entire family loves this. Thing 4 (2 yr old) kept saying over and over tonight, “Mmmm, Mom, this is really good. This is *good* pie. I LIKE this pie!” It was a great dessert for our dinner tonight — pasta with shrimp, broccoli, asparagus and carrots.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

6-8 stalks rhubarb, sliced and blanched
1.5 qts strawberries, sliced
1 – 1.5 c. sugar (depending on your preferred sweetness level)
squirt of lemon juice
1 egg
1.5 Tbsp cornstarch

if desired, add zest of orange and juice of 1/2 orange (I didn’t add those this time, but Grandmother Alexander always made hers that way)

The pie crust is my same old favorite recipe.

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Hopefully we get another day cool enough for baking soon, b/c I think the whole family would like to see this repeated in the near future.

I’m Back With Fake Foods

We’re back from the beach and, while the car is cleaned out, the house is strewn with laundry in all stages and misc “stuff”.

Two years ago when we made the trek to FL, with the brand new trailer the Husband had spent weeks building and had just finished the morning we left, we were in a horrible crash in Hoover, AL on the return trip which totaled the car and the trailer (although, thankfully, no one was seriously injured). Now every time we pass from Cullman, AL (around mile marker 300) until about mile marker 240, I’m a jittery mess. The Husband wishes I’d just pass out for the entire length of AL. I have a loathing for all things ‘Bama since that trip. I’m sorry if you are from AL and like it there . . . my experience seriously tainted my view.

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This time we witnessed an accident in TN on the way down. Crazy Man in a little Dodge Shadow was weaving back and forth, driving fast and erratically. I pleaded with the Husband to NOT pass Crazy Man b/c I didn’t want him lodged in my door so he dropped back and let another car get between us. We watched him run off the road on one side, jerk the car back on the highway and then weave his way to the other side. He spent a considerable amount of his driving time riding on the dividing lines. Suddenly he was weaving on the center line and BAM! he ran into the back corner of a semi. But he hit on the corner and, when the semi slowed, the car slid sideways and got under the trailer bumper tangential to the trailer and traffic. Amazingly, no one else hit him or was hit as the truck skidded to a halt and the Shadow’s tires went up in a black cloud and everyone on the road slammed on their brakes to avoid colliding. Crazy Man got out of the car and we pulled over. Another couple pulled over and said they had called 911 a few miles back to report the Crazy Man’s driving. He was seriously impaired. He immediately grabbed a cigarette and started smoking it . . . what’s that you’re trying to cover, Crazy Man? The Hispanic truck driver and his wife seemed to *believe* Crazy Man when he started saying that his brakes didn’t work — Hello? If your brakes don’t work it doesn’t affect your ability to *steer* and you certainly don’t have to drive 75 mph *uphill* and you could certainly get off at an exit and slow down and use your emergency brake to stop. Not buying it, Crazy Man. After 45 min of waiting, the other couple came back to say they were going on — the police had their cell phone number and info . . . still no police on the scene . . . but they pointed out that the truck had only a little black smudge on the bumper to indicate it’s involvement in the accident while Crazy Man’s car was totaled — hood smashed in nearly to the windshield, etc — and the man says — Now that there, *that’s* justice. We waited for the police for another half hour or so. By the time the police arrived, Crazy Man was trying to say the truck driver was changing lanes and hit him. Urgh! We finally got back on the road and made it safely through AL and to FL. Whew!

We stayed in Cape San Blas this time. We’ve been to the Destin area about 5 times (I can easily recommend both the Southern Resorts rental company and the Maravilla condo/beach house complex) , Seagrove once, and decided this time we wanted to be further away from people even in the off-season. Unfortunately, that also meant being away from the Food Network and HGTV, which was somewhat disappointing but we had a great beach and, due to so few people and the lay of the land, etc, there were TONS of seashells on the beach.

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We had lots of beach to ourselves to build mermaids:mermaid.jpg

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and to check out the wildlife:

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like this grumpy looking fellow, whom we disturbed during sandcastle construction:

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Unfortunately, I misunderstood the meaning of ‘our only store in town’ and decided to drive 20 miles further to get groceries the first day we were there and ended up in a tiny Piggly Wiggly that had NO SEAFOOD — in FL?! A few yards from the beach?? Also, I couldn’t find any sunscreen in the store . . . ?!? I was a little grumpy when I got back to the condo b/c it was Sunday and the little seafood shops were closed so you couldn’t tell if they were closed just for Sunday or if they weren’t open for the tourist season yet. A few days later I tried the store that was closer only to find out that it was a different store than I thought and was a much larger Piggly Wiggly that did, in fact, have fresh bay scallops, fresh shrimp and fresh red snapper. Aaaahhhh! That’s more like it. 😉

Because our family numbers six and the car has finite space, I try to pack very lightly and get what I need there and then be frugal as regards to using it all up before we leave, etc. The first few times I took along flour, sugar, baking powder, and about half the kitchen, or so it seemed. Some condo kitchens are more well-stocked than others but this one was particularly Spartan. Just the basics (not even salt and pepper in the cabinet). I only packed our 1 gallon pitcher and two-burner griddle to supplement. So the cooking was exceedingly simple. One night I wanted some biscuits to go with dinner but didn’t just want plain white fluffy Bisquick biscuits so I added about 1/4 c. shredded colby/jack cheese and of the 1 c. of liquid, I used about 1/4 c. Italian salad dressing and the rest milk. I bought a garlic pepper grinder and a pizza seasoning grinder and added a few twists of each to the batter as well. Not quite the Red Lobster cheddar biscuits, but they were tasty.

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Another night I wanted to make a dessert but didn’t want to really bake so I made a Faux Frozen Mousse or Frozen ‘Cheesecake’ or some such Fake Food. I filled a Piggly Wiggly graham cracker crust with a mixture of a small tub of Lite Cool Whip and two Yoplait containers of blueberry yogurt. Then I froze it until dinner time. It was tasty, popular, and a nice light flavor to follow the seafood dinner.

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Can She Bake a Cherry Pie, Charming Billy?

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I think the Husband (whose name is NOT Billy) would say that I have passed the Cherry Pie Test for spousal suitability, many times over, in fact, and left my mother some long time ago! 😉 Today is National Cherry Pie Day and Thing 1 asked if I would please make a cherry pie b/c she especially likes how I ‘decorate’ them. I couldn’t quite remember how I usually do this and I didn’t have it written down anywhere, but now I will, sort of.

Those of you who frequent this blog but who don’t attend church with me must wonder what sort of baby factory we have when I say that once again I’m making a meal for a couple who just had a baby. Well — it’s a wonderful baby factory! 😀 Just wait until August/September b/c I think within a month’s time I know five couples who are expecting a new baby and, NO, we don’t belong to a mega-church. Those whose taste I know better than others will get something beside the usual citrus grilled chicken and potatoes! 😛

For today I wanted something a little different than a generic cherry pie. One of my favorites is Cranberry Cherry Pie. I used the No Fail Pie Crust recipe I posted some time ago. I made a 10-inch deep dish pie for us and I bought a disposable pie pan for the New Parents and those things are considerably smaller — 8 or 9″ and fairly shallow. I ended up with more cherry than cranberry rather than my usual split (typically for my 10-inch deep dish I use 2 cans pie filling and 1 can cranberry sauce but if I would have added more cranberry sauce today, it would have been way too much filling).

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3 cans cherry pie filling (2 were ‘lite’/less sugar but not with sugar substitutes and was a ‘more cherries’ can)

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

orange zest

several (4-5) tablespoons of orange juice concentrate

nutmeg (I’d guess 1-1.5 teaspoons — I just sprinkled it on top and stirred it in)

cornstarch (a couple tablespoons)

I think I usually use egg instead of cornstarch b/c the mix looked much lighter when I stirred it up than I remember it. I haven’t cut into it yet to see how the texture came out because for dessert tonight the family wanted to eat what we made with a little leftover pie crust, a ‘black bottom’ banana cream pie:

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Banana cream pie is the Husband’s favorite pie. I sliced bananas into the bottom of the crust, made a chocolate ganauche and poured over them, then topped with the sickeningly sweet concoction of Jell-O pudding (a mix of vanilla and cheesecake flavores, made with less milk than normal) and Cool Whip. The kids love the top and I go along behind them eating up the chocolate left on their plates! 😉