Friday, July 31, 2009

Pecan Pressure

On Thanksgiving almost ten years ago when my sister was a newlywed, she volunteered to bring the Pecan Pie to her in-laws holiday dinner. With a propensity for running behind schedule and still figuring out how to juggle two families for the holiday; she prepared the pies from scratch but ran out of time to bake them before she had leave for my family's house for lunch. She decided that she would bake the pies in my mom's oven as we all enjoyed lunch. They would be ready in time before she had to make her way to her second destination and none of her in laws would know about her scheduling snafu. As we sat down to eat she put the pies in the oven, set the timer and then headed into her first tryptophan overdose of the day. Exactly 45 minutes later the timer went off just in time to allow for the 15 minute cooling period and then off to the in laws. As she opened the oven door she realized she had made a terrible mistake. She had put the pies in and set the timer, but had neglected to turn the oven on. Her pies had sat in the oven for 45 minutes unaltered. We were all too engrossed in the happenings of the Thanksgiving feast to notice that there were no baking smells escaping from the kitchen.With no other options left, she had to arrive at her first in-law holiday dinner with a pre-made supermarket pie.

Pecan Pie Cookies
Adapted from Land O' Lakes Butter


Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla


Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all cookie ingredient
s except flour and baking powder in large bowl.

Beat at medium speed until creamy.

Reduce speed to low; add flour and baking powder. Beat until well mixed.

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Make indentation in each cookie with thumb; rotate thumb to hollow out slightly.

Combine all filling ingredients

in small bowl;

fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon filling.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

Recipe Tip
These cookies can be made ahead and stored in the freezer up to 3 months. Place cookies in containers with tight-fitting lids, separating layers with waxed paper.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh, Baby...Shower

This past weekend my sister and I threw a baby shower for our brothers wife. I was in charge of all of the food and decor and I had such a blast pulling everything together. I centered the decor around the shower invitation and created what I thought was a perfect list of baby shower finger foods for the menu. These Spinach and Artichoke Puff Pastry rounds were one of the items I made in addition to several others. I made a bunch of things that I have blogged before and have included pictures below so you can see them in action! There were several other menu items, but I didn't get pictures of them all due to the hustle and bustle once the shower started.

Spinach and Artichoke in Puff Pastry
Adapted from Southern Living November 2000


Makes 4 dozen

  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry

Drain spinach well, by placing in a clean dish towel and twisting each end of the towel.

Stir together spinach, artichoke hearts, and next 5 ingredients.

Thaw puff pastry at room temperature 30 minutes. Unfold pastry, and place on a lightly floured surface or heavy-duty plastic wrap. Spread one-half spinach mixture evenly over pastry sheet, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Roll up pastry,

jellyroll fashion,

pressing to seal seam;

wrap in heavy-duty plastic wrap.

Repeat procedure with remaining pastry and spinach mixture. Freeze 30 minutes; cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. (Rolls may be frozen up to 3 months.)

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Other Food and Decor:

Mini Cheesecakes and Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Baby Button Cookies in Cellophane bags with matching stickers for the favors

Ham and Cheese Skewers with Matching Flags

Monday, July 27, 2009

Midwest Morsels

A friend of mine at work is from Ohio. One time at happy hour she was talking about her hometown and I asked her if she liked Buckeyes. I wanted to be able to relate and of course the only thing I could come up with was associated with food. What can I say? - Food is my thing. I don't know much about Ohio except for the fact that most people from there are crazy about these little candies. As soon as I mentioned them she perked up and expressed her love for them. I promised to make them for her and made a practice batch for Forrest to take to his softball game. There were three Ohio natives there and they all gave them the Ohio State seal of approval.

Buckeye Candy
Adapted from Nestle


  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter, (not all-natural)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 3 3/4 cups (16-oz. box) powdered sugar
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

LINE baking sheets with wax paper.

BEAT peanut butter and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in powdered sugar until mixture holds together and is moistened.

Shape into 1-inch balls; place on prepared baking sheets. Freeze for 1 hour.

MELT morsels and shortening in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute; STIR. Morsels may retain some of their shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until melted.

DIP peanut butter centers into melted chocolate using a toothpick,

leaving a small portion of the center uncovered.

Shake off excess chocolate and scrape bottom of candy on side of bowl.

Return to baking sheets; refrigerate until chocolate is set. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Perfect Picnic Pasta

My friend Sarah and I recently went to see 42nd Street at an outdoor theater in Northern Virginia. Wolftrap is an outdoor performing arts amphitheater with in-house (covered, fixed) and lawn (uncovered, grass) seating. If you choose to buy lawn tickets you have the luxury of bringing in your own cooler packed with goodies. I love this option! You bring a blanket, some of these, a little of this and an ice chest packed with a picnic catered to your liking. This recipe was perfect as the starch in our picnic basket and even better later as a snack during "We're in the Money".

Prosciutto and Olive Pasta Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light August 2004


2 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups uncooked bowtie
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (about 1 ounce)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl,

stirring well with a whisk; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Add pasta, parsley, and remaining ingredients to vinegar mixture; toss well to coat. Cover and chill.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shrimp Skewers - Second Set

I almost didn't post this because it was really too easy to be considered a recipe and I had just posted another shrimp skewers recipe recently. But this was too yummy to deny its presence on the blog. The spicy chorizo and the citrus flavored shrimp made a great pair. So here goes....

Grilled Shrimp and Chorizo Skewers
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living 2009


Serves 4

  • 12 jumbo shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined, tails intact
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 8 ounces dried chorizo, cut on the bias into sixteen 1-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Toss shrimp, garlic, oil, and lime juice in a large baking dish. Cover, and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak 8 wooden skewers in water. Or use metal skewers like me and skip this step.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Thread 3 shrimp and 2 slices chorizo onto each skewer, alternating pieces.
Season with salt. Grill until shrimp are opaque and chorizo is slightly softened, about 3 minutes per side.Serve the grilled skewers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


One day my sister was sitting in the other room as her husband and four year son played Lego's in the adjacent bedroom. She was sifting through emails as she casually listened to her son and his father having a conversation. It started off pretty benign and quickly took a turn for the worse. Scout (her son) asked his Daddy if anyone was ever mean to him when he was a little boy. Robbie (her husband) responded in the affirmative and asked why his son was curious. Scout proceeded to explain that one of his friends at school told him that he hated him earlier that day. My sister was crushed, how could anyone say such a cruel thing to her special little son? Not wanting to get involved where she wasn't needed, she let them talk through the situation on their own over the toy building blocks.

But her lack of interference didn't mean she wasn't still extremely upset about what she overheard. She understood kids could be mean, but it took on a whole new meaning when someone was directing that animosity toward her own offspring. She was devastated. She called me to report the situation and then she called my parents. We tried to comfort her; however we did little to calm her frustration. As she lay down to sleep that night her husband explained that it would be OK. He told a story of how when he was the same age as Scout some of the kids at his school used to pick on each other as well and it rarely had any type of lasting effect. She asked brokenheartedly, "Well did anyone ever tell you that they hated you?" To which Robbie responded, "No, but they used to tell me that my Daddy ate leeks." What?!? She couldn't help but laugh which was exactly what she needed after her evening of worrying. Although the insult seemed to pale in comparison to the one her son had suffered, it made her realize that tomorrow was another day and that her son would be just fine.

Creamy Artichoke Soup
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, washed well and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish


Heat olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and the garlic and stir.

Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the artichokes, stock, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender,

about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches*, puree the soup.

Add the 2 tablespoons mascarpone and blend again to combine. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/3 cup mascarpone to soften.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Dollop the top of each of the soups with a spoonful of the softened mascarpone cheese and top the cheese with chives.

* When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wheat Wrap Walter

My Daddy has an aversion to bread, he says it's fattening. Which it is, but who doesn't indulge once in a while? Not my father, he is very strict with the dietary restrictions he sets on himself. He is on a very stringent heart healthy diet and he rarely strays. During the week he is on his own for lunch while he works and is in control of what he decides to eat. The weekends are a different story. He runs my poor mother ragged trying to come up with ideas of lunches to feed him that do not incorporate thick, fluffy bread. At this point, I think she has made every wrap known to man. In fact, there was a period when I still lived in New Orleans that I thought my dear dad was a broken record as I heard him request something on a "wheat wrap" almost every Saturday. As I made this simple lunch I knew it would be the perfect recipe for them to try. So Mom, here is your lunch for next Saturday......

Chicken, Mushroom and Fontina Quesadillas
Adapted from Cooking Light July 2009


4 servings (serving size: 1/2 quesadilla)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup presliced cremini (baby portobellos) mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 (10-inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast (about 8 ounces), i used a rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Fontina cheese
  • Cooking spray

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cremini mushrooms, sliced onion, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, and sauté 30 seconds.

Add vinegar; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates.

2. Arrange half of mushroom mixture over half of each tortilla.

Top each tortilla with 1/2 cup chicken, 1/2 cup arugula,

and 1/4 cup cheese;

fold tortillas in half.

3. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel. Heat pan over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add tortillas to pan, two at a time.

Place a heavy skillet on top of tortillas; cook 2 minutes on each side or until crisp.