Maple-Glazed Rosemary Pecans

So I guess I’m not the only person who has no-recipe recipes. I was a little concerned with this, as it is a little vague, but it turned out quite smashing.

D&D_2677I love sugared nuts and fresh rosemary goes so very well with the slight sweetness of fresh, fat pecans – great pairing. Now you do have to spend the dead presidents on the maple syrup and I do that anyway, but this is an application where you want top quality everything. Don’t skimp. The pecans are locals – Renfroe – the best available around here and are always stored in the refrigerator. The Maldon is from SaltWorks – affordable, easy shipping costs, and lots of other salt options to try.  Rosemary has to be freshly cut from whatever little/big plant you have.

I start a rosemary every early spring in a pot and then move it to a strange little place in our yard. There is no watering going on there, it is bordered by our driveway and is backed by a brick way – oh, and it it west-facing. That is prime real estate for rosemary. Hot and dry makes excellent rosemary. The first one I planted there went from a 4 inch pot to a 4 foot wide plant. I miss that thing – garden remodel and stupid mistake. But I now have a new little plant in a pot to start again.

2 cups raw pecan halves
Maple syrup
Flakey salt – Maldon
Fresh rosemary leaves, minced
Zest of a lemon

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay pecans on single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle a few rosemary leaves on top. Add lemon zest. Drizzle with maple syrup, enough to coat with more for pecans to sizzle in. Sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt. Mix it all together with a spatula.

Bake 5 – 7 minutes, checking regularly. Remove when syrup is bubbling and the nuts are beginning to just brown. Let cool, turning to coat with any maple, rosemary, and salt. Check for salt and make sure it is where you like to balance the maple syrup and accent the rosemary.


Notes: Next time I make these I will add some heat, probably cayenne, but maybe a dash or two of hot sauce in the maple syrup would be good. Next time, and there will be a next time, I will squeeze the lemon juice over the hot pecans as they come out of the oven.

If a recipe calls for flakey salt, I always use Maldon. Worth every penny and every pinch.

Pastrami & Swiss Sandwiches

I made this for the Super Bowl as a pre-St. Patrick’s Day test run. I did a half recipe because it was just going to be me and the MotH for the Super Bowl, but I used the other half of the dinner rolls for the Pull-Apart Cheeseburger Sliders. Made lots of sense. I was also really lazy and baked them in disposable foil trays. Not a bad idea when you get right down to it.D&D_2666

12 soft white dinner rolls*
6 Tbs Dijon mustard – divided
8 ozs thinly sliced pastrami
16 ozs Boar’s Head sauerkraut, drained very dry
8 ozs deli Swiss sliced medium
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs grated yellow onion or shallot
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice rolls in half horizontally. Spread 4 Tbs mustard on tops and bottoms of rolls. Arrange roll bottoms in baking dish. Layer on pastrami, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese. Season with black pepper and cover with roll tops.

Combine butter and shallot in a bowl. Microwave until butter melts and onion is soft, about a minute. Add Worcestershire, garlic salt, 2 Tbs mustard and stir to combine. Brush tops and edges with mixture, pouring remaining solids over sandwiches.

Cover dish with foil and let sit 10 minutes to absorb sauce. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is melted about 7 – 9 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Source: Cook’s Country

*You can always use King’s Hawaiian Rolls for something like this, but you have to factor in the sweetness level of King’s  – personal preference. I got my rolls from the bakery department at the Publix and they were great. They held up well to all that was put on them.

These were quite good and reheated well – there were only a couple left and they made a very agreeable breakfast later in the week. I do eat odd things for breakfast, but to each his own – I’ve never been a cereal breakfast kind of person.

Chili Cheese Dog Bread

Love chili dogs? I do. Even as a decade-long vegetarian, I craved chili dogs when I was pregnant with the Boy. I really think there needs to be more research done on cravings while pregnant. Or cravings when you’re sitting in the hospital only able to have ice chips. Either way, more research – I will be happy to assist.

So this is, after all, just a really big chili dog for a crowd. Or just for me. This is also a total cheat meal / appetizer. You don’t cook anything really. You heat, shred, cut, top, bake, and garnish, but really cook absolutely nothing.

To me this is wide open for all kinds of adjustments, additions, and alterations. How about some alliteration?D&D_2673

1 loaf French bread
1 1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded or more as needed
1 can hormel chili, no beans, heated in a small sauce pan
Nathan’s hot dogs
2 Tbs chives, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Slice French bread in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the bread to make a trench in each side. Take 1 cup of cheddar and divide between each half of bread. Place the hot dogs end to end and fit into bread. Feed any “extra” hot dog to patiently (Ha!) waiting dog.

Spoon chili over hot dogs and top with remaining cheddar. Place on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into 3 inch segments. Garnish with chives.



Add cole slaw on top (this will lead to a rant I’m not quite ready to dive into …. yet) after all toppings are heated and cheese has melted. Placement, my friends is very important.

Chopped onions / scallions on top. Could also sauté onions until golden.

Well-drained sauerkraut on top of chili, but under cheese.

Steam dogs in beer first (with a sliced onion), dry and continue with recipe.

Roast Beef and Avocado Finger Sandwiches

What is up with me and finger sandwiches for the holidays? Strange.

I haven’t made this appetizer in several years. I remember it being good and that the Boy likes it and that’s about all based on my meticulous notes. I wanted something simple this year for the holidays and while these flavors don’t scream “holidays” at all, they are good nonetheless.

D&D_1493The first time I made this was in the summer and it worked then as well. The important thing with this recipe is to make it at the last minute and not let the bread get dry. Cover with a damp paper towels and some cling film until time serve.

1 ripe Hass avocado
juice of a lime
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 slices white bread, very thin slices – White Mountain
2 Tbs Duke’s mayo
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, more if you like
1⁄2 lb thinly sliced rare roast beef

In a small bowl mash avocado. Stir in lime juice, chives, salt, and pepper.
Spread avocado mash over 6 slices bread, dividing evenly.

Mix mayonnaise with prepared horseradish.
Spread other 6 slices bread with about 1 teaspoon each horseradish-mayonnaise.
Top with roast beef, dividing evenly.

Gently press avocado-topped bread slices onto each sandwich.

Using long serrated knife, trim off crusts and cut each sandwich lengthwise into thirds.

Makes 18 or so.

16 August 2008 – v.g.

If you have more filling, make more sandwiches. They will not go to waste.

This is just such a great flavor combination and you think the horseradish might over power, but it does not. The creaminess of the avocado and especially the sharpness of the lime all mix together with the roast beef.

You can also toast the bread before you make these and that is good, but don’t go overboard with damp paper towels then or the bread loses it crunch.

Turkey Tea Sandwiches

I tried this on a total fluke and I’ll be damned it they were not delicious. They are one of the Boy’s favorite things. They make no sense, but still work in a simple way – a mixture of flavors that just, oddly, work.

D&D_2578I have no expectation that any of you will try it, but sometimes you just have to let that kitchen curiosity loose and do something for the hell of it. I do that a lot – hell, experimenting in the kitchen is the best part, in my opinion.

12 ounces (1 bar and a half)^ cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
Pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf dense cranberry-walnut bread, thinly sliced at the bakery
1/3 pound thin slices smoked turkey breast – from the deli

Combine the cream cheese, scallions and the salt and pepper in an stand mixer and mix together.*

Lay out 8 slices of bread and spread them all with a decent layer of scallion cream cheese. Place a generous layer of turkey on those slices. Basically just make a sandwich with bread, cream cheese spread, in whatever form it takes, and turkey. This is not rocket science people.

put the sandwiches on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, cover with damp paper towels and wrap the sheet with the ever difficult cling film. Refrigerate until the cream cheese is firm.

Cut off the crusts of each sandwich with a serrated knife and cut each sandwich in half diagonally and then cut each half diagonally again, to make small triangles. Serve chilled or at room temperature (my preference)

Source: Ina Garten with my some few changes.

^Or go all in with two bars of softened cream cheese – why not?

*I added a few extra chopped dried cranberries and some minced chives to the mix.

If you cannot find a dried fruit/nut bread, just find a bread you like – something hearty – and add the dried fruits and nuts to the cream cheese. It works and I have done it several times.

Make sure a decent amount of salt is involved. Some lemon zest probably would not go amiss. A thought for next time perhaps.

Spinach Dip

I did not make spinach dip this year for Thanksgiving since it was just a family meal and no need for any more leftovers than we already had, so I made this for Christmas Eve. Because for the Boy this is a requirement. You know when he runs out of Hawaiian rolls, he will use regular sandwich bread and make a sandwich out of this.

Not sure how I feel about that, but now that I am thinking on it. This might make a base for a pretty good grilled cheese (w/some cheddar or something) sandwich on some crusty Italian bread from the good old Publix. Might need to give that some more thought and surprise the Boy with it.

D&D_14958 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, drained and all the liquid pressed out
1 can water chestnuts, minced*
King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add vegetable soup mix, and mix to combine thoroughly. No, I mean it. This is important.
Add spinach and water chestnuts and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or so before serving. You do not want it to be ice cold – not good eats. Serve with Hawaiian rolls. Sliced horizontally and then vertically, so you get 4 pieces of Hawaiian bread from each roll.

Serve and make a total pig of yourself. It is just inevitable.

*I think you can get minced water chestnuts at the store, but I like sliced and then I mince them myself. I am not sure the Boy knows they are in there, but …. we’ll just keep quiet about it then, won’t we.

There is nothing terribly special about this, but it is another of those traditions that started back in my trouble youth, as Jimmy Buffet would say – read: early 20s. Another recipe that my mom let me add to the Christmas eve tradition and it just stuck. Nothing wrong with it being vegetarian and I do not do much mayo or any sour cream – the original recipe was overloaded with it. Again my friend Marie is the one that said, put the cream cheese it – have been doing it ever since (like the late 80s – oh, lord).   I added the Hawaiian rolls a few years later and that really works well.

That said, any holiday is better with a great dip. Or two, or ten.

Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.