Chocolate Pecan Pie

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I’ve obtained several cookbooks and baking books since I got married 6 and a half years ago. During the days of low carb dieting in my past, I would peruse longingly through the beautiful pictures in the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbook series or Taste of Home magazines. It was cathartic in a strange, carb-obsessed way. However, now the “dark ages” without carbs are only a distant memory (bread is the meaning of life), and my culinary literature collection continues to grow.

I love all the books on my shelves, but there is only one that I have of which I want to make every single recipe. That book? Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Talk about sensory overload. Everything sounds, looks, and reads positively scrumptrulescent. It’s really quite overwhelming. Even better, since owning this precious classic, every recipe of Dorie’s that I have made has become an instant favorite of mine. She really knows her stuff.

The most recent recipe of hers that I have made is her chocolate pecan pie. I happened to have a leftover pie crust in my fridge a few weeks ago and the urge to bake hit me on a Sunday afternoon. This pie popped into my mind as I had been thinking of making it for awhile, and away I went. The end result was a nice spin on what I consider traditional pecan pie. The chocolate and cinnamon are a really delicious addition and this treat would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving menu (well, actually, not great for people with nut allergies so check on that first!).  It would be even better with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Printable Version

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch single pie crust
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) pecan halves or pieces
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips because I didn’t have baking chocolate)

Directions

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a pie plate on a cookie sheet lined with parchment  paper and set aside.

2. Whisk together the corn syrup and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Carefully whisk in the butter, followed by the eggs (one at a time) until well-combined. Next, add in the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt and stir to incorporate. Tap the bowl against the counter to remove air bubbles and then mix in the chocolate and pecans.

3. Carefully roll out the pie crust and gently mold into the pie plate. Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. While the pie is baking for the first 15 minutes, make a foils shield for the crust by cutting out the center of a 12 inch square of aluminum foil (directions here).

4. After the first 15 minutes of baking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and place the foil shield on top of the pie crust to prevent over-browning. Bake the pie for an additional 2o minutes, or until the pie no longer jiggles when gently tapped. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a baking rack until it reaches room temperature.

SourceBaking: From My Home to Yours by: Dorie Greenspan

The Amish “Monte Cristo”

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For all the food purists out there, I want to start by saying I understand this sandwich is not a true Monte Cristo. A Monte Cristo (based on my dining history and a quick google search), is a ham/turkey and cheese sandwich that is dipped in an egg/milk batter and then pan fried like French toast and served with jam. It is a delightful combination of sweet and savory and a fabulous Sunday brunch meal.

This version has not been dipped in a batter, but it contains the other components and I thought it wouldn’t upset the food gods too much if I deemed it the Amish Monte Cristo.

What makes it Amish, you may ask? Well, all of the ingredients come from an Amish origin. Not only did I grow up in an area that has a dense population of Amish; but there is a small settlement of Amish about 20 minutes west of Columbus in Plain City. On my days off of work, I sometimes venture out west to stock up on a few items. The bread, ham, and cheese all come from an Amish Farmer’s market in Plain City. The apples are from an orchard back in my hometown; and the apple butter was made by my in-laws, who share a family tree with this unique group of people.

The good news is you don’t have to have super magical Amish ingredients to make this sandwich. Just some good (as Ina Garten would say) ham, cheese, apple butter, apples, and bread. It’s a fast and tasty way to dress up a boring ham and cheese sandwich on cold Fall nights.

Amish Monte Cristo

Directions:

1. Spread a generous amount of apple butter on 2 slices of bread

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2. Layer one slice of bread with thinly sliced apples of your choice (I used Honeycrisp)

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3. Top with ham and swiss cheese.

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4. Grill in a lightly-buttered, heated pan until the cheese is melted.

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5. Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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Oh sweet baby Jesus- I do love Septembers. While I enjoy summertime, I sometimes get a little overwhelmed with how chaotic it can get. Weddings, traveling, cookouts. It’s all wonderful stuff, but I find I always welcome the return to routine that the ninth month of the year brings. We are home more on the weekends and football Saturdays seem to make time slow down a little bit.

Another good bonus is that I have more time to bake. I made these particular  cupcakes for my friend Jess’s owl-themed baby shower that her husband’s side of the family threw her. I also made pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream, but these were my favorite of the three. The cake has a lighter texture and the addition of real vanilla bean takes the flavor up a notch. The fluffy buttercream frosting is delicious and a perfect pairing with the cake base.  I found the idea for the royal icing owl toppers from the fabulously-creative Bridget at Bake at 350. I am always amazed at the magical nature of royal icing and was very pleased with how these babies turned out. They are a much cheaper option than the cupcake-toppers available online and in craft stores.

I will definitely be saving these recipes for future vanilla baking adventures.

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing

Printer-friendly version

Yield: About 2 dozen cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cupcake Directions

1. Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisktogether the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 mins). Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter fully incorporated and smooth, then gradually add in the last of the dry ingredients.

5. Once ingredients are well incorporated, mix the batter for 2 minutes longer to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Using a 2 inch ice cream scoop (or large spoon), distribute the batter evenly, filling each well 2/3 full.

6. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean. Cool on wire rack. Decorate with vanilla buttercream icing as desired (recipe below).

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
  • 3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted***
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream

Frosting Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high speed for a few minutes with a mixer with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and gradually add in the powdered sugar (about 1 cup at a time), mixing on low speed after each addition until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 4 tablespoons of cream and beat for 3 minutes. Store in an airtight container or ice cupcakes right away.

Source: Cupcakes- slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction; Frosting- Savory Sweet Life; Owl Royal Icing Cupcake Toppers- Bake at 350

Turkey Meatloaf

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I give myself a big fat “F” for my ability to keep up with my food blog this summer. While I love to bake and cook, I have admittedly not been interested in doing either the past few months. In fact, up until recently, I’ve been eating a pretty bland and boring array of foods. My appetite has changed a bit; but for a good reason- Robert and I are expecting our first child this Winter! We couldn’t be more thrilled to meet our little guy and I am so grateful to be well into the second trimester and getting back into the groove of life. My morning sickness has thankfully subsided (I really empathize for those women who have to endure that symptom throughout pregnancy) and my energy is great.

I am trying to cherish this time of growing a human life and not try to look too far ahead, but I can’t help but think of the person our little “Meebs” will become. What will he look like? What kind of personality will he have and what will his interests be? You know, important things like what will be his favorite cookie?

 I am taking advantage of my energy spurt and hoping to get back on the blogging bandwagon.

Turkey Meatloaf

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking sheet/jelly roll pan with tin foil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the oats and milk. Thinly slice 1/4 of the onion and set aside. Finely chop the remaining onion. In a large bowl combine the turkey, oat mixture, chopped onion, bell pepper, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix just until well combined.

Transfer the mixture to baking sheet and shape into a loaf about 5 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches high. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatloaf and sprinkle with the sliced onions. Bake for about 1 hour or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees.F.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to15 minutes before slicing.

Source: Ellie Krieger

Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

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You know those moments where all seems right in the world? Where you are overwhelmed with feelings of contentment and you try to take a mental snapshot so you can refer back to it when some days are less than great? I recently experienced that. I was driving home on back roads after spending the day with my mother. It was a gorgeous day and the temperature was just right for cruising with the windows down. I had my IPod on shuffle when a song from Sam Cooke came on. Sam Cooke was one of my grandmother’s favorite singers, or so I think- she seemed to listen to his music a lot. I know most of his greatest hits and the melody that was coming out of my speakers sent me back to endless summers spent vacationing with family in Ontario, Canada. I remembered the sensation of my bare feet in the evening grass, the sound of crickets chirping throughout the night, and the smell of bacon in my grandmother’s kitchen around dinner time (my favorite time).

Of course, there was a dull ache in my stomach from the sadness of missing my grandparents; but I also had a overriding feeling of thankfulness for my wonderful childhood experiences and excitement of the memories that are still waiting to be made. I couldn’t help but smile. It was a nearly perfect blip in time.

On an unrelated note- this recipe for olive oil dipping sauce served with fresh artisan bread is a great starter for summer meals on the back porch. Fresh or dried herbs can be used and I prefer to quadruple the herb mixture and save it for use on several occasions. It’s easy and delicious.

Happy Monday, everyone!

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Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

Printable Version

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or according to your taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. Stir together the dry spices in a small bowl. Mix in the garlic until it’s dispersed evenly.

2. Place herb mixture on a small plate. Pour olive oil over herb mixture and serve with fresh artisan bread.

Source: My Baking Addiction

A Gender Reveal Cake

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A little over a month ago, I had the honor of making a gender reveal cake for a lovely fellow physical therapist and her husband. I was so excited. In case you haven’t heard of this type of cake before, the expecting couple has the ultrasound tech write down the gender of baby during the “big” ultrasound. The tech then puts the secret information into an envelope and the couple gives it to a baker, who then either bakes a pink or blue cake and/or fills the cake with pink or blue icing.

The beautiful momma-to-be requested a white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and a coconut garnish. I used my favorite white cake and buttercream recipe to make it all happen. I then tinted the icing that would fill the cake with the top secret dye color, which by the way ended up all over my hands. I had to scrub and scrub to clean everything off- for a few minutes I thought I’d need to wear gloves when I delivered the cake. Crisis averted. Whew!

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It was so much fun doing this type of cake. The anticipation of the couple cutting in and finding out whether they would be having a son or daughter had me on edge.

Oh and by the way…

here’s what I filled the cake with…

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It’s a GIRL! Congratulations you two. She will be one lucky baby.

Wild Rice Casserole

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After a month-long hiatus, I’m finally resurfacing with this wild rice casserole recipe. April was a bit of a blur with birthdays, a trip to Tennessee, and some home projects. I’ve really missed giving the blog some attention and I have a lot of new recipes to share in the upcoming weeks. For starters, this casserole comes from a new cookbook I recently purchased, Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. It’s not really a typical, canned soup type of casserole that we are all used to. It’s made with simple kitchen staples and topped with a nutty Gruyere cheese. It makes a great side or main dish and it tastes great reheated the next day.

The original recipe called for cremini mushrooms, but I just used the white cap mushrooms I had on hand and the dish was still scrumptious. This is a very adaptable recipe and it can be made ahead of time and popped in the oven whenever you are ready for some grub.

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Wild Rice Casserole

Printable version

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms (I used white cap)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice (or brown rice)
  • 1/3 cup Gruyere (or swiss) cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, optional

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with butter or oil) a 9×13 inch or 10 inch round baking dish.

2. Whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, mustard, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan over high heat. Add in the mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Allow the mushrooms to cook, without stirring further for about 5 minutes. Then, continue to stir and coo until the mushrooms are browned. Add in the onions and cook until translucent, for about 2-3 more minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Next, add in the cooked rice and stir until evenly mixed in.

4. Remove the pan from heat and add the rice mixture to the cottage cheese mixture. Pour into the baking dish and top with the gruyere cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the casserole is hot throughout. Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme, if desired.

Source: Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson

Robert’s 27th Birthday Party

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This past week, Robert officially joined the “late twenties” club. To celebrate we had a group of friends over for homemade pizza, final four basketball (still sad the Buckeyes weren’t there), and birthday cake. The menu was pretty simple and highlighted some of Robert’s favorite foods- pizza (with sriracha sauce and jalapenos), chips and salsa, caramelized onion dip, Jess’s German potato salad, chocolate chip cookies, and dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting. I noticed that the parties we throw tend to encourage heartburn. Sorry, friends. I think a vegetable party is on the agenda for this summer.

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As usual, the company was the best part of the night; but I unfortunately got swept away in the fun (and wine) and didn’t get a chance to take many pictures. We are truly so thankful for the wonderful people we call our friends.  Our lives are enriched because of with whom we have the honor of sharing life’s experiences.

Jonah and Kate- lovebirds.

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Athena was in heaven with all of the loving Chelsea was giving her.  DSC_8381

Alex and Catie- two of the smartest people we know. Just look at them being so intelligent.

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And then there’s Greg. A father-to-be!

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Athena was exhausted from her late night of partying.

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**Sap-filled paragraph warning**

And, of course, I can’t go without mentioning the birthday boy himself. Robert and I have been married for over 5 years and together for more than a decade. There is no one I love or respect greater. Sure, we drive each other crazy sometimes. Like when he doesn’t make the bed or when I drive a freshly-washed and waxed car in the rain; but with each passing year, I grow to love him even more. He’s loyal, genuine, kind, and driven. While I can be riding high on an emotional roller coaster from day to day,  he is always calm and level-headed. I’m honored to call him my life’s companion. I just pray that he doesn’t wake up one of these days and realize he got the raw end of the deal. Happy birthday, Robert. I love you. Here’s to many more chocolate-filled years.

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Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

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Last Friday night I was procrastinating and not cleaning our house before Robert’s parents arrived, so I decided to make some homemade Easter Peeps from a recipe I found on Pinterest. It was a gloriously fun time. I was singing my own made up songs (“Everybody Chunk Out Tonight,” sung to the tune of “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight,” is my current personal chart topper) and life was grand. Then I became a little impatient. Instead of letting the candy fluff cool, I decided to just keep things moving along and pipe it. It didn’t go well. My visions of beautiful, hand-crafted Peeps turned out looking like neon blobs of dog excrement in reality.

Nailed it. 

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So instead of putting peeps on the blog today, I made carrot cake whoopie pies. Fortunately, these cookies are a delightful spring treat. They’re chocked full of shredded carrots and a great spicy blend of cinnnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Because my Peeps were an utter failure, I am bringing these bad boys home for Easter instead. When one door closes, another opens.

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Happy Easter, everyone!

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Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

Printable Version

Yield: About 16 cookie sandwiches

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots

For the filling

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Set aside 3 cookie sheets lined with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

2. Place the butter and sugars in a bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, spices, soda, powder, and salt in a separate medium bowl. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn it back on at low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the vanilla. Carefully add the dry ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time,  and beat just until combined.  Lastly, add in the grated carrots and mix until just mixed.

3. Using a small 1.5 inch cookie scoop to place the batter evenly onto the cookie sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.  Use your fingers to lightly press down on the dough to ensure a smoother cookie. Bake for about 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies spring back when gently pressed. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to parchment paper to cool completely.

4. To make the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the milk and vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the powdered sugar until the frosting is well mixed.

5. Spread or pipe the frosting onto the flat side of one of the cookies. Place the flat side of another cookie on the icing and store in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer.

Source: Cookies- Tracey’s Culinary Adventures; Filling- Old Thyme Cookbook