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.

Source: kaleandcaramel.tumblr.com/maple-rosemary-pecans

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.

Christmas Eve Buffet Cheese Ball

So I think this year, I might subject friends and family to my odd sense of nostalgia and hope I, the one who has this in my memory, am not disappointed.

For some reason, known only to herself (she never did explain it), my mother left me in charge of deciding the food for Christmas Eve. Not the making in all, or even most, cases, but the deciding. In our family which was rather large even though is was just my 3 siblings, me, my parents, and our older siblings kids, we opened presents from each other on Christmas Eve, so it was a night of perpetual snacking and in my case eating enough vanilla taffy to almost (almost, but not quite), make myself sick. Oh, and fudge too. And I don’t even like fudge (Groundhog Day.)

D&D_1499This was one of the things that I wanted every year and also made myself – not exactly difficult even though we had no food processor or mini chopper. You just did it the old fashioned way, by hand – no harm in that. I have no idea where this came from, but in my made-up back-story for it, it was a contribution to a local newspaper from some woman who would call herself by her husband’s name, you know what I mean. Instead of Mary Smith, she would be Mrs. John Smith, like she didn’t have an existence outside of him – yes, going off the rails here a bit, but that kind of thing just makes me slightly crazy.

Here for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

Several questions arise – the first being do they still make dried beef in those odd little jars (not that I could tell, and I looked), where is it in the store if they do and what are my other options? I’m thinking pan fried proscuitto minced.
Also – only 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar. First, must be Cabot seriously sharp, but needs to be orange for color contrast and it will most certainly be more than 1/2 a measly cup. Please.
I will taste and check the horseradish level, but must be careful not to blow everyone’s palate. I tend to like just a click more horseradish than most people.

What I did make –

8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded at room temperature
3 Tbs well drained horseradish
1 cup minced dried cranberries
3 scallions minced
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Coating:
1 Tbs chives, minced
3 scallions, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, and horseradish until well combined. Add in cranberries, scallions, and pecans. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic and chill until firm.

When ready to serve, mix coating ingredients in a wide bowl, and roll cheese ball in to cover, pressing in as necessary. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

23 December 2017 – for Christmas Eve.
Never hurts to try something new, esp. if it is really good – and um, it was.

Banana Nut Bread

I just cannot stand bananas. It is the texture I think, but, let’s just say, ugh. But here I am making banana nut bread from my mom’s recipe again. Just like so many years before.

I miss that I can’t make it for my dad anymore. But this, to me, more that just about anything else, is Christmas.

It would not be Christmas without toasted (under the broiler) banana nut bread slathered in too much butter for Christmas Day breakfast/brunch. Sausage balls are the close second.

D&D_2576This keeps well. And if you make a loaf and split it and put half wrapped in two layers of heavy duty foil in the freezer you can pull it out in March and it is still amazing.  That is what I did for my dad – half a loaf to eat now and the other have to save for a couple of months. You can make this anytime of year, really, but – it is just Christmas. And my family’s tradition.

8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 1/12 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I upped this – my mom only used 1 cup)

Grease and line a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with parchment paper and spray again with baking spray.  Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda – typically, I do this on a piece of waxed paper. In the stand mixer, blend the butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs, one at a time until blended. Add the mashed bananas and blend until combined. Mix in dry ingredients. Add pecans and mix well.

Turn into loaf pan and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and increase temp to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

21 December 2017 – post procedure – funny, that – that is a story for a whole different day.(said in the voice of River Song from Dr. Who – the Matt Smith version). Dear lord, I am a dork of the nth degree. And obviously, the drugs are still having an impact of sorts.

300 degrees 1 hour – turn 1/2 way through
345 degrees 15 minutes – turn
20 minutes more – check with long wooden skewer – damnation – perfect.
9 x 5 inch Williams Sonoma gold-ish large loaf pan

D&D_1599

Work Hack – good for breakfast or lunch as long as you have Kerry Gold butter.

Pecan Tassies

Another Christmas requirement. I just cannot help myself. I need them for Christmas. No, I really need them. I am sure I have been making these for, dear lord, 20 years or more and they are still as good today as they were back then. I do have much better mini muffin pans now but I remember the good old days of making these. And they were messy days indeed. Also lots of hand washing dishes. Even though I do that now too. Please need a new dishwasher – just to be spoiled again. D&D_2545.jpg

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1  1/2 cups pecans, chopped (I mix both pecans and walnuts. I like the meaty texture of walnuts.

In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the flour and pat into two disks and chill for an hour or so but I usually let it chill overnight.

Lightly beat eggs and add sugar and vanilla and stir in pecans (or whatever combination of nuts).

Press dough into greased mini muffin pans and fill with nut mixture with in 1/4 inch of the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 28 minutes turning pans half way through.

22 December 2017 – make dough, morning; 23 December – bake – 3/4 c pecans & 3/4 c walnuts. In my opinion, it needs the walnuts – it is definitely a texture thing, if that makes any sense at all.

Sweet Potato Casserole – required for Thanksgiving

This is such a family tradition that I am sure I have posted about this to the point that everyone might just be sick of it. That said, I just cannot help myself. It is not Thanksgiving without it. Or Christmas either, for that matter.

D&D_2344The recipe is from my brother’s wife. It was a tradition in her family and when she brought it to our family – well, let’s just say that was it. One of us, usually me, always made it for Thanksgiving and now I have been making it for our family, including the MotH’s family that I just cannot get out of it – not that I would want to. It is just dumbly good. It is just expected on Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Never hurts that this is when sweet potatoes are really cheap either.
How cool is it that one family’s recipe becomes another’s and then another’s. I guess that is the value of tradition – that, and excellent food.

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes – lately, I prefer roasting them ahead of time
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes or more
1 cup chopped pecans – or more if you prefer, which I do*
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Put sweet potato mixture into glass casserole dish**.

In another bowl, blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture – use your fingers, it is easier that way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until brown on top and slightly bubbly around the edges.

D&D_2306*I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup because that is what you should do.

**You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – thinner sweet potato layer and more crunchy bits on top).

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Sweet Potato Pecan Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 

So what do you do when you have extra roasted sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? Make anything that sounds good then feed the rest of the sweet potatoes to the dog. At least that is what we do at our house. Who knew dogs liked sweet potatoes? The things you learn. This is half the original recipe and makes 12 cupcakes.

D&D_23201 cup roughly chopped pecans – oops, forgot
1 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a large lemon

2 tsp lemon juice powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans/walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until fragrant.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, Grate nutmeg over the top of the mixture and whisk together.

Beat together sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

Whisk together sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just blended; fold in pecans (again – oops).

Line cups of muffin pans with foil liners and spray with vegetable spray. Spoon batter into cups filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 – 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans and cool for 1 hour until completely cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon juice powder  – taste and adjust. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth). Frost cupcakes and top with chopped pecans if desired.

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

D&D_2316

Need cupcake carrier – this is just sad. 

New recipe

Okay without nuts, but would be better with – pecans or walnuts

Good without frosting too, we’ll just call it breakfast, yep. Not sure, but I think it is the orange juice that makes it. Will certainly be making these again. Think they will go over well at the office.

Bittersweet (Duck Egg) Brownies

I’ve been thinking about what to do with my latest batch (dozen) of duck eggs. They are just slightly richer and sometimes a little larger than chicken eggs, though not always bigger. I’m not a huge brownie person, but think about it – rich eggs in lots of chocolate. I can see how this should be a very good thing. I can also see how my friends who really like chocolate will like them – at least I hope so. D&D_2172

16 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into Tbs
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (Ghirardelli)
4 eggs – fresh local duck eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. fine salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (Renfroes’)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper; grease paper. Set pan aside.

Pour enough water into a 4-quart saucepan that it reaches a depth of 1″. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium bowl; set bowl over saucepan. Cook, stirring, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

Whisk together eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt; whisk to combine. Stir in chocolate mixture; fold in flour. Pour batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 30–35 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Cut and serve.

Source: Saveur – Nick Malgieri (Nick’s “Supernatural” Brownies)

I cut these into small bite-sized pieces and I am glad I did – they are super rich. In my head, these need to be crumbled into some vanilla ice cream – and that, in and of itself, is rather funny, since I’m (again) not a huge brownie/chocolate fan and really do not care for ice cream either. But I really need to get the boy to get some soft serve from somewhere and give that a try.

The pieces in the center are almost fudge like and the ones on the edges, my favorite, have that little crispy bit of edge. Really, for someone who does not care for brownies, these are pretty damn good. But, rich, oh. so. very. rich.