Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

I was invited to make some cookies that would represent Georgia in a few baskets for quilt judges coming to town for the greatest show in the state.  (Yes, that is my humble opinion.)  Our quilts (more than 325 of them!) were the star of that week, but I'm glad my cookies gave a little of the local sparkle to the important ladies who chose the winning the quilts.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

3 sticks of butter, brought to room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 t. salt 
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans (I use my food processor on toasted whole pecans)

In mixer blend butter and sugar, do not over beat.  Add vanilla, almond extract and salt.  Mix just to combine.  Add flour and again, mix to combine.  Take bowl from mixer and add the pecans by hand.  I use a rubber scraper to get the best possibility of getting pecans throughout the dough.  

Lay a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper on the counter.  Turn the dough out and form a log 2" wide and wrap in plastic or waxed paper.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or overnight.  

Set oven to 350 F

Slice the log in 1/4" slices and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  These will not rise or spread much so you can place them closer than you would for chocolate chip cookies.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until edges are lightly browned.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A non-baked, non-dessert entry... hmmm, a salad with no lettuce

I haven't ever shared a recipe that wasn't a dessert and I don't even really have a recipe to share and yet here is the dish that I have had so often this summer I felt it was time to share it with anyone who may also have a garden and need a thought that might not already be in her mind.

Literally, this is cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and feta cheese.  It is dressed with which ever vinegar I like (I've been loving red wine vinegar, but have also used balsamic, spice infused balsamic, rice wine vinegar and cider vinegar.) and oil, usually EVOO but at least once it was just a little canola oil.  Pinches of salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you like.  Hubby likes basil or rosemary. I like them and thyme and oregano.  At least once I used a little cardamom (obviously not from my garden) and I haven't found a thing that didn't work well.  

Lettuce was gone from my garden back in May but this way salad continues straight into September.  This can be used as a side dish, as a lunch, it can be packed in a pita or rolled in a tortilla with a little roast chicken or pork from the night before.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Katie Blue's Special Chocolate Brownies

Now, let me say that I have found Baker's One Bowl Brownies to be wonderful  I've used many variations with add-ins.  My daughter on the other hand has developed a desire for a more chocolate brownie.  She has liked the Ghirardelli Brownie mix for a while now and I have to tell you I understand where she's coming from but I'd rather mess with my standby recipe and see if I can do something good with it.  Turns out I could.  Nice to know that when I'm making a LOT of brownies for a bunch of marching band kids I find a way to impress my daughter, too.  Enjoy!

Katie Blue's Special Chocolate Brownies

4 oz Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate (one small box or 4 blocks of chocolate from a large box)
1.5 sticks of butter
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. flour
1/4 c. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. mini chocolate chips

Do not use a mixer, I promise this goes together fast with a wooden spoon and produces the best brownie dense texture if not over mixed once you add the flour.

Set oven 350 F

Prepare a 13x9 pan with butter or Pam.  (Are you kidding?  Use butter, I promise it makes a difference.)

In a bowl combine flour, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips.  Set aside.

Break Baker's chocolate into large bowl, microwave for 30 seconds.  Add butter, microwave again for 30 seconds.  Stir and continue until all is melted and nicely combined.

Add sugar and mix then add eggs, stirring after each addition to combine.

Add flour mixture and scraping the bottom of the bowl, make sure you are getting everything combined.

Pour into prepared pan, spread evenly.  Bake 30-35 minutes (or until your house smells chocolate fragrant) a toothpick should give you some crumbly bits.  I use a quarter sheet pan and find that the 30 minutes are sufficient.  Baker's Chocolate warns you to not over bake their brownies.  LOL

Better Strawberry Pie

Honestly I've been too busy to type much this summer, but I have been baking and you will benefit dramatically as I get caught up with the pictures I have taken and get recipes or pointers posted.

A true story:  When we were dating, which was a long time ago, Hubby used to talk about the great fresh strawberry pies he enjoyed in Florida.  Living up north, some how it wasn't something I had even heard about, much less eaten and I certainly hadn't ever made it.  By an act of God a college friend Hubby thought the world of lived a few blocks away from me.  Jamye was a a great lady and she could make a lot of southern things.  She was kind enough to share her recipe for strawberry pie with me.  I made it and it didn't work.  I tried it again, it still didn't work.  It was so long ago I can't even remember what didn't work, only that it didn't impress Hubby and I didn't care for it.  After we were married I tried for a couple of years to find a recipe and ultimately decided to leave this one for trips to Florida because there were many other things to make.  This spring Hubby mentioned that he would like a strawberry pie and for whatever reason I began doing some research.  I toyed with a couple of recipes and cobbled together the one that is now known as "Better Strawberry Pie".  I hope you enjoy it!
One perfect slice of the better strawberry pie.

Better Strawberry Pie 

1 baked pie shell 

4 c. fresh strawberries

1 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c. strawberry jello powder

Heavy cream kept very cold

In saucepan whisk cornstarch, water and sugar until smooth.  Place on medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Whisk until mixture is thickened, about one minute.  Take pan off the heat and set aside to cool for two hours.

Meanwhile, select the prettiest of the strawberries and set it aside.  All the rest should be hulled and halved.  Arrange these in the pie shell with the one as the center of your artwork.  You can place this in the fridge but I just leave it on the counter waiting for the gelatin baptism.

When the sauce is no longer warm slowly pour it over the berries, make sure each berry gets coated.  Don't worry about the way the gelatin pools, I promise you it evens itself out as you gets it around.  I confess, the first one of these pies had me spooning gelatin sauce over each berry.  I've learned that just isn't necessary.  Use every bit of sauce. (That means use a rubber scraper to clean out your saucepan.)  Put the pie in the fridge for at least an hour and then whip the amount of cream you think you will need.  Honestly I'd rather whisk up enough for two slices and save the rest for fresh whipping the following day but you can do as you choose, maybe you'll even cover the whole pie with whipped cream.  What I know for sure is that you will love this if you love strawberries.  Enjoy!