Monday, November 29, 2010

Perfect Pecan Pie

It feels like forever since I've blogged, and I'm so happy to be back! :)

November is turning into a month when I can pretty much guarantee that I'm going to get sick. I thought I had escaped it this year, but it was just my luck that it crept up on me right before the holiday. Of course, shear panic ran over me as I started feeling icky... Thanksgiving was less than a week away... I needed to go grocery shopping... I needed to be healthy for a short work week... I was in charge of all the desserts this year, so I undoubtedly needed to be healthy for baking! Well, I wasn't able to go grocery shopping and I definitely didn't make it into work. But with the help of my amazing mom, I was still able to pull off all the planned desserts for Thanksgiving. Pecan pie is a must-have holiday dessert for my family, so I wanted to share this very tasty recipe with you because it will certainly find it's way back onto our table a couple more times this season!
Wow. Thanksgiving officially hazed right on by with loads of delicious food and lots of good ole family time. And the rest of the weekend was filled with Christmas shopping and decorating the house with festive adornments. Tree is up. Stockings are hung. There is garland a plenty. Oh don't you worry, I'm not going to let Christmas pass me by!

Ah, it's so good to be back to blogging (I have felt so out of touch!). Hope you enjoy this amazing recipe!

1 1/2 cups shelled pecan halves
1 cup golden or light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
9-inch unbaked deep-dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread pecans on a large baking sheet; place in oven and toast pecans just until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing each until just combined. Pour in pecans and stir to coat. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Adjust pecans so that they are evenly distributed and right side up.

Place on center oven rack and bake for about 60-75 minutes, the center will puff slightly. You can serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: adapted from Bake Me More

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread

As we approach a holiday week (full of family, friends, and all that we are thankful for) I wanted to share this recipe with you. It is super easy (oh so delicious!) cinnamon swirl quick bread. Seriously, they don't call it a quick bread for nothing. You can whip this up within minutes and pop it in the oven before your house guests arrive. The aroma alone will greet them at the door and invite them in to stay awhile.

This bread is an excellent companion for coffee. Serve it up, take a seat, and enjoy the company you're in!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom only of a 9in x 5in x 3in loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1 cup sugar, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, egg and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. In another small bowl, combine cinnamon and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; sprinkle with half the cinnamon-sugar. Carefully spread the remaining batter and sprinkle the top with remaining cinnamon-sugar. Swirl a knife through the batter.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

For glaze, combine confectioners' sugar and enough milk to achieve drizzling consistency. Drizzle over bread.

Source: The Taste of Home Baking Book

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shrimp and Black Bean Chili

A chill is in the air. It's been on and off again these past few weeks, but that's the beauty of Georgia... you never know what the weather will be like when you wake up in the mornings. Except for summer. In August, you can bet your lunch money that it will be hot, and it will be humid. But those days are behind us for now, and we're looking ahead to winter. Last winter was one of our coldest on record (at least on my records). It definitely snowed three times. And well, let's be honest, that is just unheard of around here. And you may ask, how does one Georgian survive such brutal winters? Simple. A couple layers of clothing. Lots of cuddling with the hubby. And warm, savory soups! This year, I plan to be well prepared. I have a handful of recipes that I've been collecting, and I plan to try them all! There is nothing quite like a warm bowl of soup when it's cold outside. Throw in a grilled cheese, and you've just completed one of life's better moments.

So first on the list is this shrimp and black bean chili. The recipe calls itself a chili, but I would consider it a hearty soup because there is a lot of broth... and it just feels more soup-like. You can serve it with a side of rice if you choose. The rice is good if you're trying to spread the meal out a little further, but I can easily go without it. I think I loved this dish so much because it incorporates some of my favorite ingredients. The shrimp and black beans are a given. But also the onion, tomato and bell pepper are staples when I cook, so I pretty much had everything on hand to whip this up.

Mmm. I'm smiling just thinking about it. :)

Yields 6 servings
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup picante sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 lb cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
cooked brown rice, optional 

In a large saucepan, saute onion and green pepper in oil for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in black beans, tomatoes, broth, picante sauce, cumin and basil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.

Add shrimp (I tossed my shrimp in Season All to give it a little flavor). Simmer 3-4 minutes longer or until heated through. Serve with rice if desired. 

Source: slightly adapted from Taste of Home 2010 Best Holiday Recipes magazine

Shrimp on Foodista

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

I love cupcakes. How could you not? Everything about them is precious. Over the past year or so I have discovered lots of creative ways to make a variety of fun cupcakes. Whether it's through flavor combination, yummy fillings, or unique designs... the possibilities just seem endless. And while trying new creations is always entertaining, every so often, you have to revisit the classics.
I made these cupcakes for our friends who were recently blessed with a beautiful baby boy. Matt and I were supposed to meet little Brady, but unfortunately plans changed that day and our visit was postponed. So we had to enjoy these tasty cupcakes on our own (in Brady's honor), and oh boy, they were good! A classic vanilla cake topped with a delightful buttercream frosting. These babies are timeless. You can dress them up for any occasion, and they are guaranteed to please a crowd. 

Yields 12 cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature 
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until no flour pockets remain.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake 20-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

For frosting...  In a large bowl, whip butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Gradually add confectioners' sugar. Add vanilla, mix until incorporated. Frost cupcakes; decorate as desired.

Friday, November 12, 2010

White Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies

Wow. What a week! I think I've had about 10 of those moments when your head starts to spin and you wonder… what day is it? where is the time going?  is it the weekend yet?
And what about the fact that we are two weeks away from Thanksgiving. How did that happen?? That means I have to start planning for Christmas soon!!
We all have these moments in our life, when we just can’t seem to grasp hold of our days. And if today is one of those days for you, I leave you with these… white chocolate pumpkin cookies. 
Smile. :) Your day just got better!
These cookies are soft and fluffy in texture. The delicate spice will unfold in your mouth, sweetened beautifully by white chocolate. These cookies are irresistible!
Pumpkin recipes have been popping up all over the food blog network (I’ve partook in a few of my own). But these cookies fulfilled my pumpkin cravings this year - absolutely phenomenal! 
Yields about 30 cookies
1 cup Libby's canned pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. 
In a large bowl, using and electric mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla and egg. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet, smooth out to obtain desired shape. Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly browned, cookie should spring back when softly touched. Let cool on pan for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling. 
Source: adapted from Kirbie's Cravings

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Brownies

I know I've mentioned my weakness for chocolate and peanut butter before, and these brownies were no exception. They are thick, moist, cake-like, and heavenly!

I made these for a coworker's birthday. She has always been super supportive of my baking, so I asked her what her favorite dessert was (so I could bake it for her) and without hesitation she said brownies. :) I knew I had this recipe marked on my "to bake" list, and she had no objections to trying something new.
If you're not a huge fan of peanut butter, there is plenty of batter to make regular chocolate brownies (and it would definitely stand well on it's own!). I would just bake them in a slightly smaller pan for a thicker brownie because that's what I loved about these... there was a whole lot of baked goodness in each bite!
Taste tested and coworker approved. These brownies were delightful!

Yields 20 brownies
3 eggs
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Filling:
2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp 2% milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13in x 9in baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. 

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs, butter and vanilla until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Reserve 1 cup of batter for topping. Spread remaining batter into prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and milk on low speed just until combined. Carefully spread over batter. Drop reserved batter by tablespoonfuls over filling. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack. Chill until serving.

Source: Taste of Home Fall Baking Cookbook magazine

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

What's better than a homemade chocolate chip cookie? Um, I would say a 14-inch homemade chocolate chip cookie cake. :)

I made this cake for my sister in law's birthday. I've tried this recipe before, but it didn't really turn out as I had hoped due to the cheap disposable pan I was using. The flavor was definitely there though, so I tucked the recipe away... determined that I would eventually give it another shot. This time I made the commitment and bought a solid pizza pan (no more disposable!). I've wanted to try making homemade pizza anyway, so I figured the purchase was a valid one. My pan worked like a charm. This cookie cake was awesome! Now, I just have to commit to the pizza making. :)
The birthday girl seemed happy with her cake, and Matt has already put in a request for his birthday cookie cake. I figure, if my homemade pizzas don't work out, I'll justify the purchase of my pan with lots and lots of cookie cakes! This is a nice change up from the traditional layer cakes and super fun to decorate. Definitely a party pleaser!

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 container each of chocolate and vanilla frosting

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 14-inch, round pizza pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, mixing until incorporated, then add vanilla extract and finish mixing. Fold in dark and white chocolate chips. Spread across the bottom of the prepared pan.

Bake until edges are golden and the cookie is set but the center is slightly soft, about 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Decorate with frosting. Cut into wedges to serve.

Source: adapted from

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Calling all you pumpkin bakers... I know you're out there... This recipe is for you!

I made these cheesecake bars to share at my tennis match a couple of weeks ago, and they were scrumptious! They were such a treat after coming off the courts regardless if you won or lost, because everything about the day seemed right when you bit into that pumpkin goodness.

This cheesecake was so tasty; I just had to make it again. And that I did, so we could share with our friends at work... and savor a few more bites ourselves. :) This is a great dessert to take along to a party or gathering, and your family and friends will love them!
Yields 24 bars
Graham Cracker Crust:
2 cups graham crackers crumbs (about 13 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 can (15oz) Libby's pumpkin
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
24 walnut halves 

Spray a 13in. x 9in. baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Seal graham crackers in a large ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, crush into crumbs. In a small bowl, combine crumbs and sugar. Stir in butter. Press mixture onto the bottom of the prepared dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in pumpkin, flour, pie spice, and vanilla (scraping down sides of the bowl as needed). Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust.

Bake 35-45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Cut cheesecake into 24 bars; top each with a walnut half.

Source: adapted from Taste of Home Fall Baking Cookbook magazine

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mocha Cupcakes

How about a little mocha for your Monday? I made these cupcakes this past weekend and decided to post them right away because they were heavenly, and I'm all about starting the week off with some baked goodness! 
My office had a department outing on Friday; we played laser tag and it was so much fun. It was my first time playing laser tag, and I loved it! I was skeptical at first, but I work with an energetic group of people and found myself highly entertained. My team won; go blue team! :) And then, I won a gift certificate for a nice dinner for two (date night!) to a restaurant in town. My week definitely ended on a high note, so I was ready to keep it rolling when I got home. That was my motivation behind baking these delightful treats while my darling hubby grilled us a lovely steak dinner; what a fantastic start to my weekend!
I set out originally to make toffee mocha cupcakes (a recipe I've had my eye for a while), but I was rushing to get the cupcakes in the oven before dinner and completely forgot to mix in the toffee... whoops! So I settled for plain mocha cupcakes, however, these were the complete opposite of plain. These luscious cupcakes are full of flavor and will undoubtedly gratify any sweet tooth. I highly recommend these with your morning cup of coffee... nothing quite like (delicious) cake for breakfast! :) Enjoy!

Yields 16 cupcakes
2 tbsp instant espresso granules
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tsp instant espresso granules
miniature semisweet chocolate chips

For cupcakes... Dissolve espresso granules in boiling water; cool. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with espresso mixture.

Fill prepared muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake 24-26 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

For frosting... In a large bowl, whip butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Gradually add confectioners' sugar. Add vanilla, mix until incorporated. Add espresso, and mix until incorporated. Frost cupcakes; sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Source: adapted from Taste of Home Fall Baking Cookbook magazine, frosting adapted from Brown Eyed Baker's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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