Friday, February 29, 2008

The Aunt's Corner - Damaris - Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

This recipe comes from my Aunt Damaris.Damaris is married to my Uncle Bill, my mom's older brother. She is very smart and I really enjoy being around her. She also has a great sense of humor and is really fun to talk to. She is a good cook, and her pie recipe has always been a hit whenever I have baked it. It is easy to make and is basically fool-proof. I use All-Ready pie crust dough, but you can make your own or also use the frozen kind if you prefer. I have also baked this in the Bama brand individual frozen pie shells. They come 8 to a pack, and I think this recipe will fill about 12 of them.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

1 Pillsbury All-Ready pie crust
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup Hershey's Mini Morsels
3/4 cup pecans

Place pie crust in pie pan. Combine ingredients and pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Combine ingredients:

Pour into prepared crust:

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The top will be a crusty golden brown, and the inside sumptuously chocolate.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spiedie Marinade

Gil found the recipe for this marinade in a magazine many years ago. It was introduced by Italian immigrants in upstate New York. It originally was actually a shish kebob, and the word "spiedie" (pronounced "speedy"), is the diminuitive of the Italian word, "spiedini" (brochettes cooked on skewers). Anyway, enough explanation. We have used this marinade with chicken and pork for years and it is absolutely fabulous. Sometimes we make kebobs, but this time I chose not to in order to save a couple of steps.

Spiedie Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp salt

chicken breasts (cut up if doing kebobs)
bell pepper
tomatoes, squash, whatever else you like

Combine ingredients. Pour over chicken and vegetables. Cover and marinate at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. Thread onto skewers and grill.

Combine marinade ingredients:

Pour over chicken and vegetables. This time I used red and green bell pepper and portobello mushrooms:

Marinate for at least 4 hours, or all day if you can:

Place on skewers or grill whole:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Taco Soup

Last Sunday at work, one of my nurse friends, Christie, told me about her Taco Soup recipe. She talked about how easy and delicious it was and I thought about it for the rest of the day. On the way home, I bought the ingredients and made it for dinner that night. Oh my gosh, was it good! Christie told me the basic ingredients that she used, and I added some of my favorite things and was able to put it together quickly and easily. You can add whatever else you would like, and make it as spicy as you want to.

Taco Soup

1 - 1/2 lb ground chuck
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 carton chicken broth, plus maybe about 1 cup of water
2 packages of Taco Seasoning Mix
1 can black beans, drained
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 package frozen corn
salt and pepper to taste

Brown ground chuck with onions and bell pepper. Drain. Combine all ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Top with crushed tortilla chips, cheese, and/or salsa.
Yield: About 6 servings

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Strawberry Valentine Cake

Sorry to be doing this post after Valentines Day, but I made this for a party on the 16th.

I used the Strawberry Cake recipe from Bay Leaves that I previously posted to make this heart-shaped cake. I got the idea of how to make the heart shape from a cookbook I had as a child. The recipe is amazingly delicious, but I had to add an extra box of confectioners sugar to make the icing stiff enough. So, have an extra one on hand!

I lined an 8" square and an 8" round pan with parchment, then greased and floured them:

I poured in the batter:

Then I baked them according to the recipe directions. They came out of the baking pans easily because of the parchment. Then it just peels off.

I cut the round cake in half and played with it until it was all level:

I placed it on a large platter and put pieces of parchment under it to keep the icing from messing up my platter:

Then I frosted the cake and piped homemade whipped cream around the edges.

It was a tasty Valentine treat, full of strawberry goodness.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Herbal Hostess Gift

We were invited over for dinner the other night by some very special friends of ours, Randy and Belinda, and I wanted to take her a nice hostess gift. Belinda likes to cook as well as garden, so I decided to put together a basket of fresh herbs for her. I found the herbs at Leaf and Petal in Mountain Brook. They have everything, including baskets, moss, ribbon, etc, and they will even custom create it for you. I'd already found a basket somewhere else, so I just bought the herbs and the moss. I chose flat leaf parsley, basil, and lavender. I trimmed down separate zip lock bags and placed each plant inside one to protect the basket from moisture. Then I simply wedged the plants into the basket and placed the moss around it. Then all it needed was a little bit of ribbon.

Very quick, easy, and fun to do.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chocolate Mint Heart Cookies

The base of this recipe came from the Nestle Toll House Treasury cookbook, which I bought many years ago. I had to alter the original recipe because it called for Nestle Mint Chocolate Morsels which, sadly, became endangered in the late eighties, and are now totally extinct. I guess I missed my opportunity to be an activist for that cause.

So my present preference is Ghirardelli Semisweet Morsels combined with peppermint extract. The flavor is very reminiscent of a Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie. They could, of course, be cut with any shape cookie cutter, and the mint could totally be left out for those who don't care for it, but IT'S JUST SO GOOD.

Chocolate Mint Cookies

1 12 oz pkg Ghirardelli semisweet morsels, divided
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract
1 egg

Melt one cup morsels in microwave at 30 second intervals and stir until smooth. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, an peppermint. Beat until creamy. Add egg and continue beating until smooth.Gradually add flour mixture. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for about an hour. Preheat oven to 350.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough out to about a 1/4" thickness. Cut with desired cookie cutters. I use an extra wide spatula to lift them from the counter to the pan. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-9 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely.

1 cup semisweet morsels
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 tbsp corn syrup
2 1/4 tsp water
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Combine ingredients in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Stir until smooth.

Dip 1/2 of each cookie into the dip and scrape off the excess. Place on wax or parchment paper lined cookie sheets and chill until the glaze sets, about 15 minutes.

Roll your dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin:

I used small hearts (above) and large hearts (below). I actually preferred the smaller one because it they were easier to dip.

Melt the glaze together in a double boiler. (I actually did it in the microwave).

Cool the baked cookies on racks:

Dip each cookie into the glaze, scraping off the excess. Lay on parchment or wax paper to cool. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the refrigerator, the glaze stays set and can remain at room temperature.

This makes a very elegant cookie, and the mint flavor goes perfectly with the chocolate.
Try them, and give those little Girl Scouts a run for their money.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Lasagne Casserole

The other night I was in the mood for something Italian, but didn't want to go to the effort of making lasagne. So I compromised by using some of the ingredients in lasagne to make a simple casserole. I used radiatore pasta (Italian for radiator), because it has a nice bite and it holds sauce really well. You could use whatever pasta you have on hand. You could also increase the amounts of cream cheese and ricotta.

Lasagne Casserole

8 oz pasta
1 lb ground chuck
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu Traditional)
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup ricotta cheese
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
cheddar or mozarella cheese
parmesan cheese

Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain. Brown ground chuck in a skillet and drain. Return to the skillet and add pasta sauce and wine. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Combine ricotta, cream cheese, and seasonings.
Place pasta in a greased baking dish. Spoon cheese mixture over the pasta. Top with the sauce. Sprinkle liberally with cheeses. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions:

Simmer sauce for about 10 minutes:

Place pasta in a greased baking dish:

Top with ricotta mixture:

Then sauce and cheeses. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes:


Friday, February 08, 2008

Basket of Valentine Treats

Gil and I were invited to the beach last weekend to spend some time with our friends Mimi and Ken. I wanted to take them something, and since it was getting close to Valentines Day, I decided to theme it as such.

Reynolds makes foil cups in different shapes which are fun and simple to bake in. I used the star in a previous post. This time I used the heart shape:

I placed the hearts on a cookie sheet and sprayed them with cooking spray:

Then I filled them with brownie batter from a boxed brownie mix. I added 6 oz of semisweet chocolate morsels and 3/4 cup of pecans to the batter. I baked them for about 25 minutes at 350. After cooling, I frosted them with canned chocolate frosting. Homemade would always be better, but time was of the essence because I had been busy. I topped them with some cute Wilton sugar hearts that I found at the grocery store.

After the frosting had hardened a little, I placed them in clear acrylic bags and tied them with red and white ribbon. These will come out of the foil cups easily for serving, but I left them in for the trip.

I also included some pistachios and conversation hearts:

I completed the basket with some really nice cheddar cheese, Carr's crackers, and a Hershey's Symphony bar, which is Mimi's favorite. I found this neat white basket in the floral department at Western in Mountain Brook. A bottle of sparkling cider or wine would also be a nice touch.

So, if you need an idea for your Valentine, or a hostess gift for Valentines Day, make them a basket of treats.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Baked Pork Chops in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce

I love the flavor that wine adds to sauces, particularly to tomato sauce. When a liquid, such as wine, is reduced, it is simply boiled down until the flavors are concentrated into a smaller volume. I used a few basic ingredients to create a sauce that took only minutes to prepare, but it had a flavor like it had simmered all afternoon. I used pork chops, but this would also be great with chicken.

Baked Pork Chops in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce

4 boneless pork chops
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 to 1/2 cups red wine, divided
1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 - 1/2 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet and lightly brown the pork chops. Set aside. Saute onion and bell pepper in the skillet until tender. Add 3/4 cup of the wine and cook on medium for about 6-7 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the pan drippings. Once the wine has reduced and thickened, add the tomato sauce, remaining wine, basil, salt, and pepper. You ca increase the basil to taste, if needed. Fresh basil would be even better. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Place pork chops in a greased baking dish. Pour sauce over the chops and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Brown the pork chops in olive oil:

Saute the onion and garlic in the pan drippings. Add a little more oil if needed:

Add wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly:

Reduce until thickened:

Add sauce and seasonings and simmer. Then pour over pork chops and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes:I served it with rice and peas. The sauce had a very rich wine flavor.

And it was super easy.