Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pecan Pie Bars

We're in crunch mode: Thanksgiving dinner is hours away and if you're like me, pie making is scary business. But I'm here to reassure you, it's going to be okay. Because if all else fails, just make the filling in all its perfection and just dump it into a simple shortbread crust. Then you can have pie bars instead of just pie. 

These were originally for a potluck at work where it's much easier to do a grab and go system than slice up a pie. Personally, I ate about six of these because they're buttery and full of chocolaty goodness. And as we've established, I'm now a pecan convert as opposed to my previous pecan't view. I'm using this filling for pecan pie today but in light of my pie failures (another post, another time), kinda wishing I had made these instead.

The shortbread crust is very simple to make, Mixing lots of butter (don't tell anyone before they eat, it's worth it), flour and powder sugar, we make a doughy mixture. This is then dumped into your pan and pressed out flat and even. The crust is pre-baked for 10-15 minutes while preparing the filling.

The filling will be extremely gooey which is why it's important to have your crust even. Eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla are all mixed together before adding the pecans and chocolate. Everything is folded together so you get chocolate and pecans in every bite. 

Once the crust is ready, pour the filling into the pan. Bake until the mixture is set and allow to completely cool before cutting into squares. This filling can also serve as your pecan pie filling with a shortbread crust, store bought crust or if you're daring, homemade crust (adventures for another post).

Thank you for reading and I hope you and yours have a very happy Thanksgiving!!!

adapted from Joy the Baker's recipe in Homemade Decadence*


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 cup of chocolate chunks

*and by adapted I mean trying to write this from memory

  1. Prepare a 9x13 inch pan by spraying with non-stick spray, lining with parchment paper and spraying the paper with non-stick spray. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine the softened butter, flour and powdered sugar until well combined. 
  3. Dump the crust dough into the prepared pan and press out until the crust is evenly distributed in the pan.
  4. Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden brown. 
  5. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  6. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chunks. 
  7. Pour the filling mixture into the baked crust. The mixture will spread out completely so it's important that the shortbread crust covers the entire pan.
  8. Bake the bars for 30-45 minutes until the filling is set. 
  9. Allow the pan to cool completely before cutting the bars into squares. 
  10. You can make this recipe gluten free by substituting the all-purpose flour for nut flour or you can create a section with no shortbread, only filling, but it will be a little messier to eat. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I'm pretty sure that at 25, I know what I like (and don't like) to eat. I know for a solid fact that brusselsprouts and asparagus are bitter and gross to me. However, I will concede that other vegetables have grown on me. My mom use to say "you'll love these when you're older" which I thought was silly because why would she give me brusselsprouts nooow when I wouldn't love them until laaater? Needless suffering.


One thing that I have grown to love is squash. Butternut squash is the star of the squash family but we mustn't forget about its shorter cousin, acorn squash. My mom would make this dish with nuts and spices filling the hollowed out acorn. Granted, at the time, I really only liked the brown sugar smothered parts of the squash and not the squash itself. Acorn squash also make a lovely addition to a Thanksgiving centerpiece, plain or painted.

For our purposes though, we'll eat them. The acorn squash are sliced open so their seeds can be scraped out, much like a pumpkin. I also cut out some of the squash to make more room for the nut mixture. I recommend slicing off a small piece of the bottom of the squash so they sit flat. This is not something I did but regret. In a 350 degree oven, the hollowed vegetables are lightly drizzled with oil and placed face down on a baking sheet to roast. This takes about 20-30 minutes which is plenty of time to make the stuffing.


In a small bowl, oats, raisins, brown sugar, pecans and all-spice are mixed together. You can really make whatever combination you want for the stuffing. I basically made some loaded oatmeal. Once the squash is roasted, they are each stuffed with as much goodness as possible and then topped with a slice of butter. It's just enough butter to drench the brown sugar and oats but not enough to negate the healthy factor of squash.


The acorn squash are now returned, upright in a ramekin dish or upright on the baking dish, to complete cooking. I found another 15 minutes in the oven did the trick. These guys will be hot hot hot when you take them out of the oven so allow to cool for a few minutes before serving to guests (or yourself).


  • 2 medium acorn squashes
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of uncooked oats
  • 1/2 cup of pecans (or desired nut)
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • Dash of all-spice (or cinnamon or cloves etc.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Cut the tops off the acorn squashes, not quite in half but enough to expose part of the hollow center. Also cut a small portion off the narrow bottom of the squash so they can stand flat.
  3. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and threads of the squash. We want there to be enough room to add the oat-nut mixture later.
  4.  Brush the exposed areas of the squash with olive oil before placing face down on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  5. Roast the squash for 20-30 minutes until the insides looks brighter and the outside looks dark and oiled.
  6. Combine the brown sugar, oats, nuts, raisins and spices in a bowl. Mix well so you get a little bit of everything in each bite.
  7. Once the squash is ready, remove from the oven and place face up in the ramekin dishes (or on the parchment). Stuff with the nut mixture. 
  8. If using the ramekins, place them back on the baking sheet for cooking.
  9. Top with 1/2 a teaspoon (normal slice) of butter.
  10. Place the dishes/squash back in the oven and allow to finish cooking for another 15 minutes. 
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before digging in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Simple Applesauce

When I was a kid, my grandparents lived out in California. What was once their neighborhood is now the headquarters of Apple, for geographic reference. In their backyard was an apple tree which I always thought was strange since apples seem more of an East Coast treasure whereas citrus fruits would be something I'd expect from California. Since they ended up with an abundance of apples, my grandmother would make applesauce each year.

Although I wasn't there annually for this treat, I decided to make some applesauce with the last round of apples from my apple picking adventures. I used a recipe from the Pioneer Woman to start and found out it's amazingly simple to make applesauce. Once the apples are peeled and cored (no washing! Yeeeeess), they are tossed in a bowl with some cinnamon and allspice. You can skip the allspice if you want or even substitute for nutmeg or cloves.

I added a squeeze of lemon juice and a hefty dose of brown sugar. I'm a brown sugar fiend and would happily snack on the hardened pieces that don't quite break apart. All of this goodness is mixed together before being added to a pot with some apple cider (or apple juice if you prefer). Everything is left to heat up and cook down. The apples will release some of their own juices so don't worry about the liquid volume.

Once the apples were nice and tender, I set aside some baked apples for ice cream topping. The rest were pureed with an immersion blender and tada! Applesauce. I fully intend to eat this applesauce by the spoonful in large quantities but it would pair well with ice cream, pork chops, latkes or used in baking instead of butter. I think there's a way you can do that.

As we round out the pumpkin/apple season, we're off to squash and then cookies and egg nog. I'm pretty pumped and even though egg nog is currently available in the grocery store, I'm holding off until my house smells like trees.

adapted from The Pioneer Woman (makes about 4-5 mason jars)
  • 12 small apples (or 6-8 regular sized ones)
    • Note: I used golden delicious but you can use other varieties too
  • Generous 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • Juice from half a lemon (or one squeeze from the lemon juice bottle)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
  1. Peel the apples and use a corer to divide into slices.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the apple slices, spices, brown sugar and lemon juice.
  3. Add the apple mixture to a medium size pot. Pour the apple cider over the mixture.
  4. Cook the apples over medium heat until the fruit is cooked through and tender.
  5. If desired, set aside some apple pieces to use as dessert topping. 
  6. Otherwise, use an immersion blender to roughly blend the mixture into an applesauce consistency. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

It's getting to be that time of year again. The weather is turning cold but not yet bitter cold like what we see in February. Colds and sneezes are going around like crazy and it's just the right sunlight for a hot bowl of soup. Last year I went a little soup-crazy and I make no promises that soup adventures won't happen again.

Apparently this year 'cauliflower' is a buzz word in the food world. I'm not a big fan, opting to mask the cauliflower in other things rather than eating it straight. I highly doubt I will ever make cauliflower soup alone but to try a new soup, I ventured into the spicy world of tortilla soup.

This always makes me think of winter and a family friend who made this for me back when I was a kid. Initially I was concerned about soggy tortillas in my soup but once they're fried, they add a nice crunch. Like most soups, this is pretty low maintenance. The biggest challenge for me was frying the tortillas which admittedly, resulted in some burnt chips.

An onion, garlic pieces and spices are all sweated together before adding diced canned tomatoes and vegetable broth. This is all blended together before adding the 'meat' of the dish which happens to be meatless! Yellow peppers and black beans are the last veggies for this guy. Everything is simmered together until the peppers are cooked.

Topped with the tortillas, cheese, cilantro and avocados, this was a perfect lunch on a crisp November day. Of course, I didn't actually top this with avocados because I ate all of them before I could put them on top of the soup but you get the idea. It had just the right amount of kick for me but if you like extra spicy things, you can add some chopped jalapenos.

This dish is vegetarian friendly and if you use gluten-free tortillas, is also gluten-free! However, dietary restrictions aside, this would also fair well with some shredded chicken or pulled pork. Next time...

From Joy the Baker

  • 3 medium tortillas, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (complete with juice)
  • 4 cups (or one container) of vegetable broth
  • 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 chopped yellow pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Fry the tortilla pieces in two batches. The first batch will take some time to cook, make sure to flip them over. The second batch moves very quickly.
  2. In the same pot, add the chopped onion, minced garlic and spices. Cook the onion until translucent and the ingredients are sweated together. Note: I could never host a cooking show because I always cry when I chop onions.
  3. Add the vegetable broth and diced tomatoes (complete with juice) into the pan. Using an immersion blender, coarsely blend the soup together.
  4. Add the chopped pepper and black beans to the soup. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes until the pepper are cooked and tender.
  5. Serve hot and top with the tortilla chips. You can also add cilantro, avocado, cheese, radishes etc. to the soup. I recommend only adding the chips when you're ready to eat the soup and not leave them in there overnight or between servings. You want them nice and crispy! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spooky Caramel Apples

I must say, this was the busiest Halloween I have had possibly ever. Between work parties and house parties, there were three different costumes going around and an equal number of spooky treats. Cupcakes are an easy go-to for parties because they're single-serve. I try to keep the treats to things people can grab and go with. Like mini-caramel apples. All of the things.

A few months ago when Halloween started taking over Pinterest, I saw these dark caramel apples and thought they would be a great Snow White inspired treat. However, they turned out to be quite a challenge. I went apple picking late in October so a lot of apples were picked over but apparently no one likes golden delicious. There was an abundance of golden delicious apples, including several that were nearly bite sized. My issue with caramel apples is they're so hard to start into because you just get your face all sticky trying to take the first bite. But with the smaller version, it seemed perfect for a party treat.

My plan was to make caramel apples pops with Halloween sprinkles coating some of the caramel apples. Everything was going well with the caramel making and the food coloring, I even sampled the caramel and it tasted amazing. However, it was simply sliding off the apples. I tried cooling the caramel for awhile in the fridge which did help but ultimately, I had some sticky slimy caramel apples. Perhaps if I had chilled the apples, that would have worked better. Lessons for next time.

They never quite got to that solid state like at the apple orchards but they must have still been good because they were all eaten up! I also managed to spill a fair amount of caramel and sprinkles everywhere. It basically sounded like a rain stick in my living room.

Overall a successful spookfest was had by all. And most importantly, IT'S ALMOST CHRISTMAS TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!! Too much too soon? I think not.

makes about 18 small caramel apples
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  •  Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2-3 drops black food coloring (or combine red, blue and yellow together)
  1. Wash, dry and de-stem the apples prior to dipping in caramel. Line the clean apples on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Attach lollipop sticks or natural sticks to the top.
  2. In a heat proof, microwavable bowl, combine the water, corn syrup and sugar. Cook in the microwave until the mixture is a deep amber color. You can also do this on the stove.
  3. Once the sugar is darkened, stir in the heavy cream, salt, vanilla and food coloring. Stir until combined and then add the butter until it is melted and smooth.
  4. Allow the caramel to cool slightly. Dip the apples in the caramel one at a time, turning to coat the entire apple. Ideally, the excess will drip off of the apple in about 20 seconds and you can then place it back on the wax paper.
  5. Dip in sprinkles if desired. If the caramel isn't sticking to the apple, trying cooling the caramel longer or chill the apples.