Winter

Buttery Pecan Pie + Announcements

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William and I have been away from the blog for several months now- but for good reason!

We have moved back to Alabama and into a new home. Going from a tiny, city apartment to a house with a yard is a wonderful lesson in time management! As anyone with a home of their own can attest to, there is always always always something that needs to be cleaned or fixed or mowed or paid for… this is what I get for wanting the ‘charm’ of an older home! While we absolutely love having our own home, we are perhaps missing our California maintenance man, Mario, a little too much! ūüôā

We are also just finishing a kitchen renovation (yay!). We spend so much time in our kitchen, we knew it would need a little makeover! For now, my vanity has been assuaged with the transition from dark oak cabinetry and yellow speckled counters to light greys and whites and a gorgeous, gigantic– errr, I mean functional– farmhouse sink!¬† Doesn’t the room look ten times larger??

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And last, but certainly not least, we recently welcomed our first child, a baby girl. Ava Marie is the most beautiful baby, the reason for many sleepless nights, and she is already brightening our days with her precious smile. She is the light of our lives, and we are so excited to one day share our joy of cooking with her!

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With so many changes it has been difficult to keep up with the blog. However, we are  cooking up a storm and have several new recipes to post.

Since moving back, for the first time in several years William and I had the pleasure of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family here in Alabama. We knew we had to bake something for the event, and because we have discovered a couple of prolific pecan trees in our backyard, we decided to gather, shell, toast them for a nice pecan pie.

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I found a recipe from one of my favorite cooking bloggers, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. This pie is amazing, but not the easiest dessert to put together. However, it was so much fun and, despite being time consuming, so delicious that we will definitely be making it again–perhaps for the upcoming winter holidays!

My biggest pet peeve about pecan pies is how cloyingly sweet they can be. It’s too much and often overwhelms the delicate, buttery flavor of the pecans themselves. There are several things about this recipe that I think make it better than the standard, toothache-inducing pecan pie.

First, the homemade crust. I always use salted butter and actually add a bit of extra salt in my homemade pie crusts. Perhaps this stems from my obsession with the play off of salty and sweet flavors. Perhaps it comes from my surefire belief that in the battle of salty vs sweet, salty always wins. Who knows! Regardless, the homemade crust provides the perfect salty and buttery complement to the sweetness of the filling, while also highlighting the buttery nuttiness of freshly toasted pecans!

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Second, the filling itself has two components: the typical gooey pecan pie filling as well as a layer of semisweet chocolate ganache. The filling is made with a British cane sugar syrup instead of super processed Caro syrup, and it develops a wonderful, burnt caramel flavor. The bitterness of the chocolate provides an additional foil, allowing relief from the sugar!

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Chocolate Pecan Pie
makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick salted butter
1/4 cup cold water

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for the filling
2 cups pecans
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup [can be found on Amazon, if not at Whole Foods]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon bourbon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs

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First, make the crust. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks. Use a pastry blender or food processor to combine the flour mixture with the butter until a mealy consistency is achieved. Add the water [about 60mL] and work the dough to form a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

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After the dough is done refrigerating, roll it out into a 13″ circle. Place it in a 9″ pie pan. Trim the edges and shape to your liking, or use the extra dough to decorate it! [I’m still getting the hang of making pretty, homemade pie crusts, but it’s a creative experience, so don’t expect Martha Stewart results the first time and just have fun with it!] Freeze the raw pie crust for 20 minutes.

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While the crust is freezing, toast your pecans. Spread them out on a pan. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF and bake them for 12 minutes, stirring often. When the pecans are done being toasted, place them in a large bowl to cool off and increase the oven temperature to 400¬įF in preparation to par-bake your pie crust!

Take the crust out of the freezer and cover it with buttered tin foil (butter side down! ūüėČ ). Place rice or pie weights on top of the tin foil to keep the crust from shrinking and losing its shape. Bake at 400¬įF for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven.

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Freeze the partially baked crust for 15 minutes. While the par-baked crust is freezing again, prep the chocolate ganache. In a small pot, over medium heat, combine the chocolate and heavy whipping cream until a smooth texture is achieved. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the crust and freeze for another 20 minutes.

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Now it is time to prepare the filling. Melt together the butter, dark brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt in a small pot (you’re welcome to re-use the one from the ganache). Let this mixture simmer for several minutes until it thins out and darkens in color. Next, add in the bourbon, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the toasted pecans and stir it all together! Let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring in the eggs. [You need the eggs to hold the filling together, but you don’t want them to curdle by stirring them into a mixture that’s too hot.] Once your filling is completed, remove the crust from the freezer and pour it over the chocolate layer of the pie.

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Bake the pie at 350¬įF for 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie should still look gooey, but it will set during cooling time.

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Pecan pie can be served at any temperature really, but this one is best served warmed or at room temperature so the chocolate is easy to eat. We were also able to refrigerate it and it was still delicious a week later! It needs no accompaniments, so you can skip the ice cream or whipped cream, if you like!

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Enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

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It has been a very long time since I lasted posted, and (unsurprisingly) a lot has happened. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October!! It is a very exciting time for us, and the first trimester was a roller coaster of nausea for me. Our cooking has been minimal the past few months, as I have been living off of my cravings for subways sandwiches and mashed potatoes!

I have also been craving  citrus fruits way more often than I ever did before! Perhaps I need the calcium? Either way, we found a way to make citrus fruits unhealthy and sugary and delicious- put them in sweet rolls! These are essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruity filling instead of the more traditional nut and spice filling.

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Typically these kinds of sweet rolls are made with oranges, but we made them with tangelos (the zest and juice). I preferred the tangelo flavor because it is tangier. Also, the rind is much brighter in color, which makes for great photos when you add in the zest!

You can serve these for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack! It does make a large batch, and they don’t stay moist for too long- so I recommend making these when you’ve got lots of hungry mouths to feed!

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The recipe was inspired by an orange roll post from Lemon-Sugar, who uses traditional citrus and no zest! It was super easy to make, even in our small kitchen with no mixer. It is rather time consuming, but these tasty treats make the wait worth it!

Enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

(makes roughly two dozen rolls)

Ingredients

for the dough
2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
5 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs


for the filling
1 tablespoon tangelo zest (from about 1 tangelo)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1/2 cup salted butter¬†at room temperature¬†[especially if you don’t have a mixer, it’s best to take this out as early as possible so that it can completely soften]
1 cup sugar

for the icing
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

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First, make your dough. Preheat the oven to 200¬į¬†F and after it has preheated, turn it off. Combine the warm water with the yeast to proof your yeast- you may even wish to add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to feed off of. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes. I usually proof yeast in the oven, but it was very reactive and I just left it on the counter this time around!

While the yeast is proofing, melt the butter in the microwave. I did probably one minute on 50% power, just enough to get it melted, but no more. Whisk the honey into the butter.

In a large bowl, measure out four cups of AP flour. Combine with the salt. Fold in the proofed yeast.

When the honey-butter mixture has cooled down a bit, whisk in the eggs. Then, add this to the larger flour mixture.

Fold it all together with a rubber spatula. In different environments dough will form in a unique way. My recommendation is to keep folding until it all comes together in one big heap. If you can stick your finger to it and pull away dough (meaning, it’s¬†super sticky), add a bit more flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time, and do not go over 6 cups! We needed about 5 1/2 for ours, thus we added 1 1/2 cups to the original dough. Work it as little as possible in between additions. You do not want your dough to get tough and you don’t need it to lose all stickiness. It¬†should be pretty sticky, but it should at least all stay together even when you put a finger on it.

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Butter the bowl well and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it somewhere warm- either your oven or maybe even a microwave! Let it rise for 1 hour.

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While the dough is rising you can make the filling, which takes like two minutes. With the remaining 58 minutes you could watch your favorite show or go to the gym to make up the the insane number of calories you will be consuming from these rolls. William and I chose the former. ūüôā

To make the filling, start by washing and zesting a tangelo. We got one tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of juice from a single tangelo. Juice the tangelo and strain the juice into a bowl. Combine 1/4 of the juice with all of the zest in a bowl. Add in the sugar and room temperature butter. Blend them together until a paste is formed.

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When the dough has finished rising, and is about doubled, prepare a large work surface by covering it in parchment paper and sprinkling it with flour. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl. This gets all of the added air out and allows for the rolls to cook more evenly. Spread the dough carefully into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.

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Take your filling and drop spoonfuls across the entire sheet of dough. You will then need to spread the filling with your hands. Your dough should be sticky and the filling is a bit granular from the sugar, so the process will take some time and patience. Spread the filling generously across the entire rectangle of dough.

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Next comes William’s favorite part! Rolling the dough. This is not an easy task, but it’s fun- don’t let yourself get frustrated with any mess you make, it will all be tasty and beautiful in the end! You need to roll the rectangle into a¬†very¬†long cylinder. Try to keep it as tight as possible, gently pressing down and squeezing the dough when necessary. If you need to stretch out the dough to help this process, you can, as long as you don’t poke too many holes in it!

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When all is said and done, hopefully you have a giant cylinder of dough snaking its way across your countertop!

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Butter several pans. [We really like using round glass or ceramic pans for rolls, it seems like they cook better in these and the heat more effectively reaches the center of the pan, fully baking all of the dough.] Using your sharpest knife, cut 2-inch slices and carefully place them in the pan. It helped having two people in the kitchen for this. When you move them, you do have to be pretty careful to keep them together and not let any filling fall out.

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When all of the rolls are cut and in their pans, let them rise for another half hour.

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Preheat your oven to 375¬įF. When you bake the rolls, be sure to bake them all on one rack, to insure even cooking. We did 20 minutes on the top rack, and 5 minutes on the bottom rack. During the last five minutes we also needed to cover them with tin foil so that the tops would not be too browned.

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I will say, the baking is always a little stressful for me. We do not have the best oven, and it doesn’t seem to heat things very thoroughly. This can be especially problematic with breads, and sometimes the center goes uncooked. This technique of moving our pans around worked very well for us and they were all perfectly cooked!

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While the rolls are baking, you can make the icing. It’s super easy! In a medium sized bow, whisk together another 1/4 cup of juice, and another tablespoon of zest, along with a bit of orange extract. We did need to zest one more tangelo for this, but if you have a really good plane grater, you might not find it necessary! Combine this with the powdered sugar and cream. You may need to add additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the consistency that you like.

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I prefer fairly thick icing, as it photographs better and coats the rolls a bit better.

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When the rolls come out they are ready to be glazed and served! [Do not skimp on the glaze, yes, you have enough to cover them!!]

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Enjoy!

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Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup cr√®me fra√ģche + more to top¬†[if you want to keep it vegan, skip the cr√®me fra√ģche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of cr√®me fra√ģche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional cr√®me fra√ģche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ

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I highly recommend trying this BBQ recipe, even if you are normally a meat-eater. Using jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork is nothing new in Asian cuisines, but we are bringing it down to the Deep South! We pair a braised jackfruit BBQ with traditional Alabama white sauce, and it is absolutely delicious!

This is a vegetarian spin on an old and classic BBQ sandwich. You can even make it vegan by leaving off the white sauce (or making vegan white sauce)!

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Jackfruit is a stringy, Asian fruit that can be eaten sweetened or in a brine. It can be bought fresh at supermarkets during certain times of the year- however it is difficult to find and doesn’t quite match the texture of BBQ, when cooked from the fresh fruit.

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That being said, you should try to look for canned jackfruit. Be very careful when you are looking for this product canned. Be sure that you find jackfruit in brine, NOT in syrup. You cannot use the syrup jackfruit for this recipe, so it’s a waste of your money (and personally, I think the syrupy jackfruit tastes awful). If you insist on finding it in a store- check an Asian supermarket. When my mom prepared this BBQ in Alabama, she was able to find it with ease at Birmingham’s Asian supermarket. Here in California, though we have multiple Asian markets, none of them carry canned jackfruit. All of that is simply to say: my recommendation is actually to just buy canned jackfruit from Amazon. You can be sure you are getting the right kind, it is reliable in terms of delivery dates, and you don’t have to drive anywhere!

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William and I had planned on making this months before we ever got around to it because we had the hardest time finding the right jackfruit. However, all of our efforts ended up being worth it because it is so yummy! It is also super easy!

Enjoy!

Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

Ingredients
1/2 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 large, yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 20 ounce cans jackfruit in brine
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup traditional, red BBQ sauce (make sure this is vegetarian friendly!)
salt and pepper to taste

traditional buns and any fixin’s¬†including Alabama white BBQ sauce (a recipe for this unique and amazing vinegar-based sauce can be found here)

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First, clean and mince the peppers. Make sure you clear out all those seeds, and I’d recommend rubbing your fingers with a bit of olive oil beforehand to prevent that burning from occurring afterwards.

Chop the onion finely- you can dice it if you like, it can be in pieces a bit bigger than the peppers!

Mince the garlic.

Combine the peppers, onion, and garlic in a large, shallow pan with the olive oil. Let these cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

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Next, tackle this jackfruit! You will need to rinse it in water to clean off the brine. Then, carefully cut out any pieces of the core that you can see. It is the whitest, most solid, and almost spongy part of the fruit. This part of the jackfruit isn’t bad to the taste, but it will mess with the texture of your BBQ, and we don’t want that! Once you have your jackfruit cleaned and de-cored, you can set it aside.

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Turn back to your pot and turn the heat up just a bit to get a simmer. Stir your onion mixture. Add in the cumin, paprika, and liquid smoke.

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If you are using a pre-made vegetable broth, add it into your pot. We use a bouillon base and added that with water. Stir everything together and turn up the heat to a good simmer.

Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding in the jackfruit and BBQ sauce.

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After adding in the BBQ sauce and jackfruit, let the mixture cook¬†on lower heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can season with salt and pepper. Do a taste test after 15 minutes and if it’s tender enough for you- you’re ready to build your sandwich! Let your own BBQ preferences be your guide to how long you should keep this on the stove!

Build a traditional sandwich using buttered, sesame seed buns, pickles, and Alabama white sauce!

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Make a mess and enjoy!

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Almond Date Pinwheels

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Pinwheels are a classic winter cookie, in my mind- like thumbprints, gingerbread men, and cucidati- they usher in the Christmas season! This recipe was truly a shot in the dark when William and I created it. We had some extra dough while making cucidati this season, so we decided to put it to good use.

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These cookies are made with dates, almonds, and figs. We added no spices considering the impromptu nature of the experiment, and it actually turned out amazing! However, I think if you want to make it fancier or give it a more complex flavor, you could add similar spices: allspice, cloves, and even orange extract.

These are much easier to construct than the cucidati and that is convenient, but you will still need a food processor and large workspace to create the pinwheels.

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This recipe was basically made up on the fly, but it turned out so well, I thought I’d share it.

Ingredients

1/2 recipe cucidati dough
~1 ounce dried dates
2 ounces dried, mission figs
3/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup sliced almonds

We Sliced and de-stemmed about 10 dried dates, and 1-2 ounces of dried, mission figs. Then, we boiled them in the simple syrup and let them sit for half an hour. We then combined the sweetened date-fig mixture in a blender with 1 cup of sliced almonds.

Finally, we spread the mixture onto a long, flattened square of excess dough.

We rolled the dough up and sealed it with a bit of water. We then sliced it into little pinwheels with a sharp knife, and finally cooked it following the same process as with the cucidati.

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Slice carefully with your sharpest knife, and lay them onto parchment paper. Some of the date filling may squeeze out on one side if your knife is a bit dull. To keep your pinwheels pretty, lay them down on the parchment paper with the messy side down.

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Enjoy!

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Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

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Thanksgiving 2015 was many things for me– for us (I’m getting more used to saying that now). It was my first Thanksgiving as a part of an engaged couple. This year, thinking about all of our family back in Alabama, Thanksgiving was especially difficult. I will admit that there were times when all of this cooking felt decidedly pointless. I had many thoughts:¬†why am I doing all of this for just the two of us?¬†who really cares? what are we doing? this is so much work and effort for a celebration with only two¬†people.

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It was a real struggle. There were times when I almost quit cooking entirely, and I came close to calling off the meal.

However, we kept cooking and ended up having a good time and making a great meal!

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For us, any great cooking adventure starts with an equally fabulous bottle of wine. We found a great bottle of red and opening it up as the rosemary-sage rolls were headed into the oven was a calming moment for me. Everything seemed to be coming together, and it began feeling much more like the cozy Thanksgivings I know and love!

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There are a few dishes that I will always associate with Thanksgiving. I usually don’t eat them outside the context of the holiday and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t feel right without these sides. A vegetarian, sage dressing is one of those dishes. Green bean casserole with crispy onions on top perfectly pretends to be the vegetable of the table. We had all of these things ready to go into the oven and complete our meal, when I decided that candied, gelatinous cranberry and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes were not dessert-y enough.

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So, we decided to make a¬†pie, because, why not? Pies are chill, right? And, as if we didn’t have enough to handle in our tiny kitchen, I had the bright idea to try a brand new kind of pie with special decorations on top. I’m not even a pie expert, but I suppose the wine had me feeling overzealous.

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The above pie is the result of our adventure in Thanksgiving baking. While the filling did overrun the edges a bit, it is an absolutely delicious dessert and I highly recommend it. However, we spent an inordinate amount of time hand-making those tiny decorations. The acorn is mine and the holly leaves are William’s creation.

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Let me just say- it is 100% not worth your precious Thanksgiving day to sit around building decorations to make your pumpkin pie look more like fall. Pumpkin itself is the essence of fall, and when you’re left with a tiny hunk of plain p√Ęte bris√©e, you won’t care that it looks like an acorn, just that it isn’t nearly as good without the delicious bourbon-pumpkin filling!

Bourbon Pumpkin Pie

makes 1, 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons salted butter
~5 tablespoons ice water

for the filling
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons bourbon (your favorite- we used Bulleit, but Knobb Creek would work well too)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1 /2 teaspoons Vietnamese cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

for maple whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup

9″ pie pan and pie weights (or dried rice/beans)

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Begin by making your crust. Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until it looks almost like butter flour or dry cheese curds.

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You will need to shift the dough around in your food processor to let it come together. Add in a few tablespoons of ice water. Pulse the food processor. Continue adding a bit of water and pulsing just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap it in parchment paper and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the dough has chilled, carefully roll it out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into your pie pan and trim the edges. You can also crimp the edges, but I didn’t spend too much time on this. Prick the crust with a fork and put it in the refrigerator to chill for another half hour. All of this chilling time is very important to keep the butter solidified and it helps make for a flakier crust.

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After the crust¬†has chilled again, place tin foil over¬†it¬†and fill it with pie weights. Bake it at 375¬įF for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for 5 more minutes.

While the crust is baking, combine all of the filling components in a large bowl.

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Let the crust cool to room temperature, then carefully pour the filling into the crust. You will have extra filling, be careful not to overfill the crust like I did! Bake at 325¬įF for an hour.

While the pie is baking, make the whipped cream. In a food processor, combine cold whipping cream and maple syrup. Beat together until stiff peaks form.

Cut the pie and serve immediately!

This pie is particularly good with the cold whipped cream spread on top of it!

 

 

Smashed Potato Soup

smashed potato soup

Whenever I want a hearty, vegetarian-friendly soup I go to this potato soup. Recently, I spruced it up a bit to make it more flavorful and easier to actually make.

Many potato soup recipes call for a blender or food processor. I have several issues with this. First, on a really basic level it concerns me to put boiling liquids into any machine that will spin them around at high speeds. It just doesn’t seem super safe. Second, I will be honest with y’all, it’s just too much effort. I have to get the cuisine art out of the top shelf, which requires William’s help because I can’t even reach it, I have to put the thing together, then I have to take the soup in batches and process it, probably burning myself in the process and accruing double the dishwashing duty I had originally planned for. Just…no. Finally, I really like preserving the natural texture of mashed potatoes. I think they are delicious, and in soup form with cheese, fake bacon, and all sorts of other things on top– I mean, it’s amazing.

Really, that’s why I’m calling this “smashed potato soup”. It’s probably the weirdest thing about the recipe, but you do have to spend some time smashing the potatoes against the side of the pot. However, it gives you complete control over the texture of your soup and it means no messy/dangerous boiling-liquids-in-the-food-processor situations! ūüôā

smashed potato soup

Smashed Potato Soup
makes about 6 servings (assuming 2 cups per person)

Ingredients
3 tablespoons salted butter
2 large shallots, minced
1 head of garlic (peeled, whole)*

3 lbs yellow potatoes, diced
2 large leeks cleaned and cut

5 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon herbs d’Provence
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
1/3 cup sour cream

optional toppings
cheddar cheese
fake bacon
sour cream
chives

*You can slice off the end and it makes the entire clove much easier to peel.

smashed potato soup

Melt the butter in the bottom of a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the minced shallots and the garlic head. The garlic should be peeled, but does not need to be chopped as it will naturally dissolve into the soup! Let this simmer for a few minutes, until the onions and garlic become browned and fragrant.

Add in the diced potatoes, leeks (chopped and cleaned), and vegetable broth. Simmer for twenty minutes.

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Add in the bay leaves, salt, pepper, and other herbs. Let simmer for another twenty to thirty minutes. Continually stir the mixture, checking on the doneness of the potatoes. Depending on what type of soup you want (brothier vs creamier), you can let the soup simmer for less time or more! The longer it simmers the more smashed the potatoes will be, and the creamier the soup will be.

Once they become soft enough to smash, use a large spoon to slowly smash them against the side of the pot. The soup will slowly become thicker. The thickness is totally up to you! If you would like to completely process the soup in a food processor, you can, but I prefer the hand method so I can get the exact thickness and potato chunks that I want!

Peel the carrots. Chop the carrots and celery. Add these into the soup and cook for another 10 minutes. Continue stirring and smashing the potatoes.

Add in the sour cream and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

After this, your soup is ready to serve with any and all desired toppings!

smashed potato soup

Enjoy!

Conchiglioni Ripieni al Forno (Baked, Stuffed Pasta Shells)

conchiglioni

This recipe is one of my favorite meals when I want a big plate of pasta! It is easy to make and delicious!

Recently, my grandmother made something similar to this for me and I won’t lie- hers was better (but isn’t that always the case?). I believe she stuffs the¬†conchiglioni¬†with ricotta and mozzarella, but I like to sub in some cottage cheese to make it less fatty. This probably contributes to the change in flavor and texture. If you want to go all out, and not worry about the nutrition of it, I’d actually recommend using all ricotta. In my state of pre-wedding figure-concern, I felt the need to switch it up. It was still delicious, and super easy!

conchigioni

 

Conchiglioni Ripieni al Forno

serves 8-10

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons minced, fresh parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt

12 ounces conchiglioni grandi

32 ounces pasta sauce (store bought, or homemade like this)

several large pans (13 x 9)

fresh basil and parmesan to top

conchiglioni

 

First, create your filling: combine the cheeses, eggs, parsley, pepper, and salt in a large bowl.

 

Cook the pasta according to box instructions. Use a good amount of salt, pepper, and olive oil in the boiling water so that the shells are flavorful and do not stick to one another. Let them cook to be al dente and drain them to cool.

conchiglioni

 

Take half the sauce (about 2 cups) and spread it across the bottom of one 13 x 9 pan. Stuff each shell with a tablespoon or two of filling and carefully place it into the pan.

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Top with parmesan and bake at 375¬į F for about thirty minutes, or until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling. Do the same with a second pan and the remainder of the shells and filling.

Top with fresh basil. Serve immediately (I count around four shells per serving).

Enjoy!

Smashed Potatoes

smashed potatoes all dressed up

This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.

DSC_0224

 

Ingredients
1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

smashed potato ingredients

To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

herbs, butter, veggie broth

After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
potatoes in the broth

Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

squished potatoes

Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

potatoes out of the pan

Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

scrape the pan

Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

butter in the pan

After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

second round potatoes

Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.

Minestra con pasta e fagioli

minestra

 

I am exploring a new cookbook,¬†Share: the cookbook that celebrates our common humanity. It was published by Women for Women International, an organization that helps women in war torn countries. Aside from learning about their stories, I’ve found some neat recipes that I¬†never¬†would have tried before.

This book is really fun to flip through because the recipes come not only from the women being helped, but also the women doing the helping. This provides for an interesting look at food around the world– who’s using enriched ingredients, which traditions favor simpler dishes, etc. I hope to make many of these recipes, especially those that are a bit more unique. However, I started off with a hearty stew that pretty much any mediterranean foodie knows: pasta e fagioli.

minestra

Pasta e fagioli¬†is a very traditional, Italian stew¬†(pasta and beans), and I want to talk a little bit about the terminology here. I have labelled¬†this post in particular as¬†minestra. Any students of Italian will naturally question this, because the word that most commonly refers to “soup” is zuppa.¬†The history of these terms is fascinating, and really important in terms of how we should view dishes like these.

In Italian,¬†zuppa¬†refers to a soup with broth and chunks of bread,¬†no pasta. Apparently, the term actually comes from a Gothic word meaning “soaked bread.”¬†On the contrary, my new favorite,¬†minestra,¬†is a soup that does usually involve pasta. Nowadays, this soup is typically considered a first course (not fancy enough to be an entree). However,¬†minestra¬†was originally the main (and only) course given to slaves in ancient times, and the term comes from the Latin¬†ministrńĀre, ‘to supply.’ (Thanks to this Italian Life for the crash course!)

minestra

Obviously, I geeked out a bit at that! On a more serious note- I don’t believe we need to look at this simple¬†minestra¬†as just a first course. This soup was originally meant to sustain men and women throughout an entire day. It might be vegetarian, but it’s jam-packed with protein and carbs. I “beef” it up a bit by adding in a fabulous herb mixture, but this soup can truly be anything you want it to be. The base is a vegetable broth with pasta and beans. You decide the rest.

Because it’s summer, and I am on a farmer’s market roll, I decided to throw in some seasonal veggies as well. Thankfully, this soup also doesn’t take long (about forty to fifty minutes in all).

minestra

 

Minestra: pasta e fagioli
serves about 4, as a main course

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves
3/4 large onion
5 small carrots (with stems)
2 ribs celery
14oz can cannellini beans
14oz can diced tomatoes (if you can find San Marzano, bless the town you live in for carrying them and please make use of them!!)
4-5 cups vegetable stock (I use Knorr¬†bouillon cubes, because it’s cheaper)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 medium zucchini
2 bay leaves
1 cup macaroni

optional for topping
parmesan cheese (leave off for vegan option)
dill, Italian parsley, and carrot-top herb mix
salt and pepper

minestra

The most tedious thing about this recipe is all of the chopping you are going to have to do! (It’s totally worth it though, so don’t let that scare you!)

First, chop the garlic and onion. [Pro-tip: Bring a miniature cutting station to your living room couch and a bunch of tiny bowls. I watched some Mad Men while making this, so I was chopping everything and separating it out before I even approached the stove!]

minestra

Next, chop off the stems of the carrots (but save those leafy greens for later). Peel the carrots and quarter them. Honestly, you can probably get away with just slicing the carrots, but I knew I wanted a softer stew, so I went ahead and cut them into smaller bites. I even added in a big carrot because it seemed like a good amount of orange…I wouldn’t recommend it, because it ended up leaving me with little broth and LOTS of stuff in my soup! In the end, it will be delicious anyway.

minestra

Trim and chop the celery, adding it into the bowl with the carrots.

minestra

 

In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and add in the garlic and onions.

minestra

After about a minute, add in the carrots and celery. Make sure you stir everything a bit so that the onions do not overcook at the bottom of the pot.

minestra

Let this cook for about five minutes. During this time you need to rinse and drain the cannellini beans, and prepare your five cups of broth. Drop two or three cubes of Knorr bouillon into 5 cups of boiling water and stir until the cubes have dissolved. If you are using pre-made broth, you’ve saved yourself some time (and an extra pot)!

When the carrots are tender but still have their color, add the beans, diced tomatoes, and broth into the pot. This mixture needs to simmer for about twenty minutes.

During this time you can: watch more Mad Men, finely slice a zucchini (if you want to add that), and chop up your herb mixture.

minestra

For my herb mixture, I used 1/4 cup dill, 1/2 cup Italian parsley, and the stems from my carrots! I washed them all and bunched them all together and chopped them. This was hastily done because I was hungry for soup, so you could probably mince them carefully and separately and it would be fancy and beautiful, but that’s not really what¬†minestra¬†is about, so I say just go for it and slow down just to enjoy the flavors at the end!

minestra

After the twenty minutes is up, add in the peas, zucchini, bay leaves, and pasta. Stir everything together really well, and leave it to simmer for another ten minutes.

Next, serve each bowl with a heaping pile of fresh herbs and Parmesan. Add some salt and pepper to the top for taste.

minestra

 

Enjoy!

 

minestra