Nan’s Fudge Sauce

Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Sauce

Nothing says Happy New Year quite like a good cocktail, or a nice piece of ice cream cake.  At least that’s what we decided this year.  After a week off from work, and we still had New Year’s to look forward to, things were looking good.  We had ample time to really think hard about the dessert we would prepare.  Normally I put that kind of thought into the cocktails that I make, but this year things were a little different.  I really put together the cocktail list in a matter of minutes, but we spent hours going back and forth on the dessert.

The dessert was really created around a centerpiece, and that was my grandmother’s chocolate sauce.  My mother had made some when she was visiting, and we still had a lot left over.  This is not your ordinary chocolate sauce either – I seriously could eat it with a spoon, it is so perfectly balanced.  So, it was not crazy at all that we had to create a dessert in order to incorporate her sauce.  Ice cream was of course the first thing we thought of – but it was New Year’s Eve – a special celebration – it had to be outrageous.  I am not sure whose idea it was to create a brownie bottom, but we debated the brownie bottom vs. the chocolate chip cookie bottom for quite some time – at one point we even had both in the dessert – but we ended up settling for the brownie.  Then it was time to choose the ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip was the clear winner for a while, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that some people don’t like mint.  Also – I thought that the richness of the brownie needed some type of vanilla in the ice cream.

It wasn’t until we were at the store – after spending 15 minutes with multiple selections in our cart, that we ended up with chocolate chip cookie dough.  We added a little whipped cream on top, and then poured the chocolate sauce all over.  Wow. That is just about all I can say.  Here’s to a New Year filled with health, happiness, delicious food and creative cocktails.  What more could you want?

Ingredients

Brownie

  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Chocolate Sauce

  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

  • half-gallon chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
  • whipped cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate and milk in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and eggs. Add milk mixture and 1/2 cup chocolate; stir to combine.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan with a piece of parchment paper that over hangs on two of the sides – then butter the parchment. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a rack.

When brownies are completely cool, let the ice cream sit on the counter until it is slightly softened (so it is spreadable).  Spread the ice cream on top of the brownie in the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap, and put back in the freezer until frozen solid.

To make the fudge sauce, melt butter over medium heat.  Add unsweetened chocolate & melt, stirring. Add cocoa, sugar, and milk and stir well to combine. Boil a few minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat then add vanilla and salt. Stir to combine.  Keeps in refrigerator for a few weeks. Heat GENTLY in microwave to soften & serve.

When you are ready to serve, you can lift on the parchment paper and place the entire cake on a cutting board and cut into 16 squares.  Put some whipped cream on each piece, and top with warm chocolate sauce.  Enjoy!

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Nan’s Fudge Sauce

Maple Caramel Corn

Maple Caramel Corn

It is hard to believe there are just a few more days until the holidays, I feel like the lights and festivities have just begun!   I hope everyone is completely prepared, with all your shopping done – and you are just relaxing this weekend…right.  I know how it goes, it is never that easy.  All I have to say is I am so glad I started making jam last spring, it really made my gift giving a lot easier this year.  Of course I didn’t make nearly as much as I usually do – but I still made enough to make it through.

If you are trying to decide what to make for your friends, family and neighbors, I am here to help.  I decided to post just a few of

my favorites for you – and all of these are easy enough to bang out in a day – and you still have 5 days until Christmas!

Here are a few of my favorites:

1)  Pear Vanilla Jam

2)  Chocolate Almond Toffee

3)  Salted Pistachio Brittle

4)  Vanilla Bean Caramels with Fleur de Sel

5)  Rocky Rods

And now for a new one to add to the list – this Maple Caramel Corn that we made at The Pantry Holiday Gift Making class – with kids.  We couldn’t stop snacking on this, it is quite addicting.  Boy would I be happy with this as a gift.

I wish all of you a very happy holiday – I hope you spend it with the people you love, and with food that you have been craving.  And most of all, I hope you can relax just a little…that would be the best gift of all.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons high-heat oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • flaky sea salt for finishing

Preparation

Preheat the over to 250 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium-high heat.  Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.  When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/4 cup of kernels in an even layer.  Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds.  Note:  this method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

Return the pan to the heat.  The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once.  Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner.  Keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release; this makes the popcorn slightly drier and crisper.  Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat.  Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and transfer the popcorn from the pan to the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, spices and water.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Continue to summer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 3-4 minutes.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whish in the baking soda and vanilla.

Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn.  Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt.  Place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.  Gently break up the popcorn and serve.

Keeps in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Maple Caramel Corn

 

Eggnog Pancakes

Eggnog Pancakes

Well, the holidays are in full swing – I wish I could say I was ready for them.  Every year I am behind, but this year things are a little out of control.  They are so forgone, that this weekend I completely forgot about the Rocky Rods, that my friends and neighbors look forward to each year.  Needless to say, I am going to have to make it up to them in other ways.  Maybe some Valentine’s Day treats instead?  I just couldn’t fit it all in, and in order to avoid a complete nervous breakdown, I had to prioritize, and unfortunately they didn’t fall to the top.

Something else that completely slipped my mind – my annual holiday post highlighting my favorite gifts for the season.  So here I am, with my list.  Every year it is so easy, and this year was no exception.  I created this list in about 5 minutes – and if it helps just one of you with holiday shopping this year, it was completely worth it.

  1. The Nutra Ninja Blender Duo - wow, this blender blew me away…I was not really a blender person before I used this – I love the smoothie cups it comes with, not only do the smoothies blend perfectly, clean up is a cinch.  I cannot recommend this one enough…
  2. Artic Chill Cocktail Muddler – this is a must if you are a cocktail maker – particularly if you like making drinks with fresh herbs like mint – I have also used this with peaches and cherries, and it does wonders.  Before I had one I used the back of a wooden spoon – I had no idea was I was missing.  It is the grooved nylon tip that does all the magic…
  3. Lori’s Salt Caramel Syrup – I am not much of a syrup person, that was until I tried this stuff.  I seriously could drink this in a glass, it is that good.  Oh, and put on top of these eggnog pancakes?  Just stop.  We were all licking our plates in delight.
  4. Lemon and Lime Juicer – I didn’t realize how easy it could be to use fresh lemon or lime juice before I got this contraption.  There is no reason to ever buy bottled lemon or lime juice again – this makes it so quick and easy, and seriously your food will taste better using fresh juice.
  5. Large Cookie Spatula – this has been on my favorite holiday gifts list ever since I started this.  I use this for just about everything – cakes, roasts, anything that has to be moved, and requires a large surface area to do so. I have even got my husband to start using it…

You can thank my mother for the recipe – when I was in Madrid a couple of weeks ago, she woke up at 6am, just to make these for my girls before they went to school.  They loved them so much, I had to give them a try.  They are a perfect holiday treat – particularly if you have some eggnog that you are looking to use up.  Fortunately school break is coming up, and you won’t need to get up before sunrise to make them…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (fresh) or cinnamon
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 2 cups eggnog (can be low fat)
  • 1/4 cup oil

Preparation

Combine dry ingredients and whisk to combine.  In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  With a wooden spoon, mix wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until combined.  Do not overwork, the batter may be lumpy.

Heat a small amount of butter or oil and cook pancakes on medium (or if using a non-stick pan, you might be able to skip the butter/oil).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:   Eggnog Pancakes

Green Eggs and Ham

Green Eggs and Ham

I don’t deal with this much anymore, but when my children were younger, I felt like I should change their name to Sam.  And for those of you who have made the connection, you are correct, they did not like green eggs and ham. Now if they were just eggs and ham, move out of the way.  But anything green just turned them off.  It was funny, when they were babies, they LOVED their green peas, avocados, and pretty much anything I put in front of them.  It was such a treat to have anything other than milk, that they could actually touch and play with, and more often than not find a way into their mouth.

When I hear from new parents that say their baby is not a picky eater, I congratulate them – and then tell them not to freak out when that ends.  It will come back – particularly if you don’t make a big deal about it.  We never forced our kids to eat anything, and always asked that they took a “no thank-you bite.”  If they ended up liking it, they could have more.  No pressure.  I actually thought I was a genius and was the only one to have it all figured out – and then I read this book.  It was seriously one of the best parenting books I have ever read (ok, maybe I have only read a couple, but still).  I felt like he had written this book about me.  And it just so happens that he is the father of a parent at my daughter’s school.  Still, affirmation feels good.

So, when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, it actually made me laugh.  Then after I finished laughing, I ran to the kitchen to try them out.  I have been hanging on to this post for quite a while, waiting for the perfect opportunity – and I decided that now was the time.  When you are trying to figure out what to bring to that holiday potluck, or what to bring to that party you were invited to – look no further.  These were amazing.  They were polished off instantly – and my children helped out.  Fortunately they are over their green fetish now.  These are good for any season, but I have to admit, the red and green is just a little festive.  So just like the book, give them a try, and I am sure that you will eat these little babies just about anywhere…

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 3/4 cup diced avocado
  • 2 tablespoons grated red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ounce prosciutto slices, crisped and crumbled

Preparation

Steam eggs in a vegetable steamer 16 minutes; cool slightly, and peel. Slice eggs in half lengthwise, and remove yolks; mash yolks.

Stir avocado, onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and salt into yolks. Divide among whites; top with prosciutto.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Green Eggs and Ham

Fennel Blossom Soup

Fennel Blossom Soup

Is it seriously Sunday already?  Where did my relaxing weekend go?  I guess that’s what happens when you have a child with the flu, Thanksgiving, a Birthday celebration and a sleepover with 4 tweens all in one long weekend.  I should have known it was going to end like this, but for some reason I was hoping for a little quiet time somewhere in between all that.  If I can make sure the rest of the family doesn’t get the flu, then maybe everything will be ok.

Nothing is as it should be right now.  It is hard to explain – but even my husband agrees that my universe is just plain off.  The reasons why are just too difficult to explain, but even he had no advice to offer.  He just shook his head.  The conclusion that we came to is that we just try too hard, and it is time to stop.  Sometimes it is best to just let it go and have some fun – playing hard to get might just be a good thing.  Fortunately I can always count on food – healthy, fresh and locally grown.  And there is no need to play any kind of games.

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables of all time – and it is not often that it gets center stage.  Usually I use it in a recipe with other main ingredients – but this time I wanted it to shine.  This recipe came to me through my weekly CSA basket – along with some delicious fresh fennel straight from the farm.  This soup captured the beauty of the vegetable completely.  Every bite was better than the last – and the fennel flowers on top as the garnish was the icing on top.  What a wonderful healthy soup to look forward to at the end of a long day.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fennel, diced
  • 2 cups leeks, sliced, white part only
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons fennel blossoms, plus additional for garnish
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Preparation

Cook the leek in the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the leek wilts. Add the fennel bulb and chicken broth. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in the fennel blossoms Purée the soup in two batches in a blender until very smooth. Be very careful when doing this – fill the blender no more than half full so that the hot soup does not splash out, and pulse it in quick spurts before switching it on continuously. Pour it back into the saucepan and reheat it until it simmers. Taste the soup, season with pepper, and add salt as needed. Serve hot or chilled, garnished with a small pinch of fennel flowers.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Fennel Blossom Soup

Burmese Semolina Cake

Bermese Semolina Cake

I am going to try and get this post out before my head falls onto the keyboard in utter exhaustion.  I am not sure which time zone I am in at the moment, but I know that I am not really in my own.  It is somewhere between here and Madrid – but I still managed to get all my errands done this weekend – and drive the kids all around the city.  Yes, I am finding that I am not only a Mom with a full-time job, I now have a part-time role as a chauffer.

Coconut anything still fascinates me.  I love that tropical flavor it has – and all of a sudden I close my eyes, and I am on the beach wearing my straw hat (the sun is not good for you).  I am also a sucker for simple yet strange recipes – which this one definitely qualifies for.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit months ago.  At first glance, there were not a lot of ingredients, and one of them was coconut milk.  Then I read the description – I could almost taste the cake before I made it.  The thought of a creamy and custardy cake was exactly what I was in the mood for.

This cake was very interesting.  Without the coconut ice-cream, I was not overly impressed. I did like the texture of the cake – although it didn’t have ton of flavor – that was until the coconut ice-cream went on top – then I felt like I was on vacation.  It’s just amazing how food can do that, and boy do I need a vacation – with some coconut ice-cream on the side please.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, divided, plus more
  • cups semolina flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • cups half-and-half
  • cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Coconut ice cream and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (for serving)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°. Butter an 8×8” baking dish. Toast semolina in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until darkened and nutty-smelling, about 2 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk egg, coconut milk, half-and-half, sugar, salt, and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in semolina and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from the sides of saucepan, about 4 minutes. Scrape batter into baking dish.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack. Brush cake with remaining 1 Tbsp. butter; let cool slightly. Serve with coconut ice cream, topped with coconut flakes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Burmese Semolina Cake

Apple Streusel Muffins with Maple Drizzle

Apple Streusel Muffins

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, next to dinner, lunch, and all the snacks in between.  I definitely like to eat all day, it keeps me going.  My most favorite days are when I can start off with a couple of hard boiled eggs, and then a couple hours later, I eat a muffin.  That only happens when there are muffins in the house, and they didn’t all get claimed by the kids – which is not that often.

Last night I was exhausted – and I knew I had to get up super early in the morning – not my regular early time, but a couple of hours earlier than that.  Unfortunately for me, I was up most of the night worried that I would sleep through my alarm.  Boy do I hate when that happens.  Instead, I very lightly slept (if at all), and turned off my alarm before it even went off.  I was so tired I wasn’t even hungry.

When I finally was hungry enough to think about food, these muffins were what came to mind.  Right out of the oven, with a nice cup of tea.  These muffins have been long gone though, but I still think about them.  I know what you are thinking – what is so special about these?  Well, it was the maple drizzle.  It was almost like I was eating an apple pancake shaped into a muffin with some syrup on top.  Yes, they were that good.  The perfect breakfast to get you out of bed – and from Cooking Light, what could be better?  Sleeping in and then eating these muffins…

Ingredients

Streusel:

  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons spelt flour (if you don’t have spelt flour you can use all-purpose)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Muffins:

  • 5 ounces spelt flour (about 1 cup) (if you don’t have spelt flour you can use all-purpose)
  • 2.5 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

To prepare muffins, weigh or spoon 5 ounces spelt flour and whole-wheat pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine buttermilk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and egg in a bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in apple. Divide batter among 12 paper-lined muffin cups; top evenly with streusel. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely.

Combine powdered sugar, syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon water in a bowl; stir until smooth. Drizzle evenly over muffins.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Apple Streusel Muffins with Maple Drizzle

Autumn Sangria

Autumn Sangria

There is both an art and a science to turning lemons into lemonade.  I may not be a glass half-full type of person, but for some reason, when it comes to food – that is my specialty.  At work. people often joke about my motivational speaking.  But still, they keep drinking the lemonade and showing up each and every day.  It is what keeps me going, and puts a smile on my face – even if the lemonade wasn’t as sweet as we all wanted.

I never really thought about it like this, but for me – turning lemons into lemonade is similar to turning wine into Sangria.  I love a good glass of wine, but it is not what I look forward to on a Friday evening after a long hard week.  It is a well balanced cocktail that really puts a smile on my face.  Last weekend I was invited to a party and was asked to bring mixed drinks.  I was right in the middle of an extremely busy weekend – if I wasn’t driving kids from one place to another, I was in my office on the computer.  There was not a lot going on in the kitchen this weekend – and I had these drinks hanging over my head.

I could have just brought some bottles over to the party and mixed drinks a la minute…but I wanted something easy.  Something that was already prepared, and that people could just pour for themselves.  It finally hit me – it was time to turn lemons into lemonade.  Maybe it was because I was thinking about my upcoming business trip, or because I was looking at all the apples and pears on the counter – but I knew that Sangria was answer.  I went right back to the computer, and started searching for the perfect recipe.  I wanted something with fall flavors – something not too heavy, but perfect to go with a meal.  I found this recipe on NeighborFood Blog and it was exactly what I was looking for.  This Sangria was probably the best I have ever made, it just oozed of fall flavors.  The cinnamon was incredible, with all those apples and pears – it was like a pumpkin pie in a glass.

So the next time you are looking to turn lemons into lemonade, I have a better idea…turn wine into Sangria.  Then invite me over for a drink.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of pinot grigio (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 3 cups apple cider + ¼ cup maple syrup whisked in (the maple syrup part is optional)
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ cup bourbon (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 pears, chopped
  • 2 plums, chopped

Instructions

Mix all the liquid ingredients together in a BIG pitcher and stir it up really well. Drop in the cinnamon sticks and fruit, give it another good stir then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Give it one more good stir before serving.

Note:  if you do not drink alcohol, or want to make a version for kiddos, use a bottle of sparkling cider instead or wine and bourbon, and add the cinnamon sticks and fruit.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Autumn Sangria

Apple-Toffee Hand Pies

Apple-Toffee Hand Pies

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders today, and for part of the day, I actually felt like I was actually going to be able to breathe again.  My mind is like a three-ring circus these days.  When one act finishes, there is another act starting up on another part of the stage.  There is always something going on, and everyone around is becoming way over stimulated.  It is hard to know when to just stop the show.  So far that has not happened yet…and it is becoming a little scary.  Can the performers actually keep going day after day, night after night?  No way, it is not sustainable…but somehow they keep going.

Tonight there was a little break in my show though, and for about 60 minutes, I was actually floating.  There were a lot of stories about Paris, and about the people in France – how they don’t like to bake – that’s what bakeries are for…and then there were the descriptions of different recipes.  Wonderful recipes, where you can obsess over how delicious the end result is.  And those cream puffs…that were filled a la minute.  Pinch me.

Yes, tonight I was lucky enough to see Dorie Greenspan talk about her latest book.  She is just incredible – such a pleasure to experience.  It really reminded me why I started this blog to begin with.  It was a break, a deviation of normal life – and a way to share recipes and food with others.

I have not had a lot of time to focus on posting lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking.  It is my favorite season right now, and I have not be wasting it away – but I also have run myself ragged trying to keep up.  I saw this recipe twice before I really couldn’t let another weekend go by before making them.  This recipe came from Cooking Light - although one of my favorite food bloggers also recently posted her version.  What a cute and delicious treat.  The only thing I would change here is to use a homemade crust – but desperate times call for desperate measures – and I settled.  The concept was perfect, and the filling tasted like fall…and next time with a homemade crust, these will shine – just like the tight rope walkers…yep, the circus is starting up again.  The show must go on.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely chopped Gala or Rome apple
  • 2 tablespoons toffee chips
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 12 cubes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine apple, toffee chips, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Roll the pie dough on a lightly floured surface into 2 (12-inch) circles. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut each dough portion into 12 rounds. Discard any remaining dough scraps. Place 12 dough rounds on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush half of the beaten egg over dough rounds. Spoon about 1 tablespoon apple-toffee mixture onto each round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges of the dough. Top each round with 1 piece of butter. Top pies with remaining 12 rounds of dough; press edges together with a fork to seal. Brush remaining half of beaten egg over each pie. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Apple Toffee Hand Pies

Pear Vanilla Jam

Pear Vanilla Jam

I can’t believe that October is almost over – where did this month go?  Time is just flying by, and I am seriously concerned if I blink, I might just miss something big.  October is my favorite season, and I love to savor every minute of it.  The farmer’s markets are just overflowing with amazing produce right now – and colors.  Even as busy as I have been, I have tried hard to carve out time each weekend to meander.  Usually my mind starts racing though…and I think of all the things I want to make.  Then I calm myself down, and decide if I can just make one favorite every weekend, that will be enough, but it never is…

Last spring when I was in Paris, we finally made it to this jam store that I had read about.  We walked in, and I was overwhelmed.  I thought I had a jam problem…but my pantry only has a few shelves full.  This place was overflowing with jam, all types.  It was incredible.  Then we started sampling, and I swear I was in some type of jam coma – because why on earth would I ever buy jam?  I could go into business myself.  But no, I couldn’t stop myself.  I ended up with this jar of Pear Vanilla Jam.  It was the most delicate yet sophisticated flavor of jam, and one that I just had to have.  The consistency was perfect – nice and runny.  I had to make it for myself.

I have been waiting months to see if I could reproduce that delicious concoction of pear and vanilla, and finally the pears have hit the market in full force.  Last weekend I gave it a try – and the flavor is spot on – the problem is that the consistency is a little more firm than I would like.  I am fine with it though – once it gets on that warm English muffin, it softens right up.  Although I found another really good way to serve this jam…with some creamy blue cheese.  Wow.  Talk about savoring the season.  Just give me some cheese and this jam, and life can get as hectic as it needs to be.  I will be sitting on the side, savoring every minute.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chopped Bartlett pears (or any smooth, thin-skinned pear. There’s no need to peel.)
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 packet liquid pectin

Preparation

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine chopped pears, sugar and vanilla beans (and all that bean-y goodness you scraped out). Cook over medium heat until the fruit can easily be smashed with the back of a wooden spoon. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to break the fruit down into a mostly-smooth sauce (remove the vanilla bean solids before blending).

Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for a full five minutes in order to active the pectin, so that the finished product will have a nice jammy consistency.

Fill jars, wipe rims to remove any residual jam, apply lids (heat canning lids in a small pot over very low heat while you’re preparing the jam to ensure a good seal) and screw on the rims.

Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (start the timer when the pot has returned to a boil). When the time has elapsed, remove jars from pot and place the jars on a towel-lined countertop. Let them cool undisturbed for at least two hours. During this time, the lids should seal. Check to ensure the jars have sealed by pushing down on the center of the lid. If it feels solid and doesn’t move, it is sealed.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pear Vanilla Jam