Saturday, November 21, 2015

Beyond Pumpkin Pie: Gluten-Free Pecan Tassies

It's true...not everyone likes pumpkin pie.

I'm not sure who these people are....not me for sure, but I know they are out there!

I think they might prefer something different this Thanksgiving so I wanted to share with you an dessert that we just made in a Williams-Sonoma cooking class which would be a great alternative.

These wonderful little bites or tassies are reminiscent of a pecan pie. Yes, they are delicious and very easy to make. They are the perfect bite of something sweet for those that don't like pumpkin, or had to much to eat during Thanksgiving!

Another plus is that they are gluten-free, and they take a little help from pecan pie mix in a jar.  Couldn't get much easier than this!

Enjoy this alternative for dessert this holiday season!

Gluten-Free Pecan Tassies


9 oz. (280 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
24 Tbs. (3 sticks) (12 oz./375 g) unsalted butter, at room
3 cups (15 oz./470 g) Cup4Cup Gluten-Free Flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
1 jar (1 lb. 12 oz./875 g) San Saba Pecan Pie In-a-Jar
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (4 oz./125 g) coarsely chopped pecans


Place the cream cheese, butter, flour and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, work the ingredients together until they form a uniform dough. Divide the dough in half and shape into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Position racks in the lower and top thirds of an oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Spray two mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until uniformly combined. Add the pie filling and melted butter and stir until combined. Stir in the chopped pecans and set the filling aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide each disk into 24 balls, each about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Place 1 ball of dough into each mini muffin well. Using your thumb and fingers, press the dough into the bottom of each well and press along the sides until the dough reaches the top.

Carefully spoon filling into dough, about 1 heaping Tbs. per well, stirring the filling occasionally to make sure the pecan pieces are evenly distributed.

Bake until the dough is golden brown and the top of filling looks sugary and crunchy, about 30 minutes, rotating the muffin pans 180 degrees and from top to bottom about halfway through baking. Allow the tassies to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then, using a small offset spatula, carefully transfer the tassies to a wire rack. Let cool completely before serving. Makes about 4 dozen tassies.

Source:  pictures and recipes are from Williams-Sonoma

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thanksgiving Favorites: Side Dishes

Right about now everyone is in full planning mode for one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving!

Have you planned your menu yet?  Well, if you are looking for some different side dishes I've got some great ones for you. Every year I cook our traditional favorites, and try 1 or 2 new side dishes for a little variety along with the tried and true.  

Often I'll make a different winter salad or a different vegetable to go along with our favorites.  This way I get to try something new and possibly add to my yearly traditions.  That's how today's menu was developed.  Taking dishes from friends and family that you just love and want to enjoy as a new tradition.

One of my favorite salads is this Winter Slaw.  It's the perfect light yet seasonal dish to accompany the rest of your menu.  

Winter Slaw

serves 8

adapted from: Make It Ahead a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
1/2 pound large kale leaves, center rib removed (6-8 leaves)
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed halved and cored
1/2 small head of radicchio, cored
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (6 ounce) chunk good Parmesan cheese
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans

With a sharp chef's knife cut the kale, Brussels spouts, radicchio crosswise into thin shreds, as you would cut cabbage for coleslaw, and place them in a large bowl.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour enough dressing on the salad to just moisten it, reserving the rest.

Shave the Parmesan in big shards with a vegetable peeler. Add the cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans to the salad and toss it carefully to avoid breaking up the cheese. Check for seasoning and add more vinaigrette if necessary, and serve cold or at room temperature.

Make it ahead: Prepare the salad ingredients, store in plastic bags, and refrigerate for a day or two. Make the vinaigrette and refrigerate for up to one day. Toss together a few hours before serving.

Other favorite side dishes:

Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root are wonderful! They just have that extra something taste. I'm making these for our dinner this year.
Green Beans with Glazed Shallots and Lemon and another new tradition as a side dish.  I love the bright lemon flavor.
Apple, Cranberry and Pecan Stuffing is a wonder tart version with an earthy nutty flavor.  Use croutons to save time!

Recipes below...

Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root

by Williams-Sonoma

2 large celery roots, about 2 lb. total, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick
2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick
Kosher salt, to taste
3/4 cup half-and-half
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Put the celery roots and potatoes in separate large saucepans. Add water to cover and a large pinch of kosher salt to each pan. Bring both to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Just before they are done, place an ovenproof serving bowl in a 200°F oven. (There is no need to preheat the oven.)

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the half-and-half and 2 Tbs. of the butter and heat until the butter melts. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm. Drain the potatoes and celery root, then return them to one of the large saucepans and set over medium-low heat; shake the pan until the vegetables begin to stick to the bottom. Remove from the heat.

Pass the vegetables through a ricer into the warmed serving bowl. Alternatively, pass the vegetables through a food mill, or mash them in the pan with a potato masher. Stir in the warm half-and-half mixture. Season with kosher salt and white pepper. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and swirl the top of the puree. Top with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and serve immediately. If necessary, keep warm in a 200°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or cover the bowl and set it in a pan of hot water.

Green Beans with Glazed Shallots and Lemon

2lb. small green beans, ends trimmed
2 Tbs. olive oil
6 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the beans and rinse under cold water, then drain again.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When it begins to sizzle, add the shallots and saute, stirring, until glazed and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with tongs, until the beans just begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and juice and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the parsley, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer the beans to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Serve 6 to 8.

Apple, Cranberry and Pecan Stuffing

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 Fuji or McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch dice
1 lb. dried bread croutons
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
3 to 4 cups chicken or turkey stock, warmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and apples and saute until tender and caramelized, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the croutons, cranberries and pecans and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. 
Add the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring to evenly moisten the croutons. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.  

Spoon the stuffing into a buttered 2-quart baking dish and cover with foil. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue baking until the stuffing is crisp and golden, 20 to 25 minutes more.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Slow Cooker Meal: Hawaiian Style Chicken

Sometimes you don't have time to "cook" a meal.  You know what I mean?

These days are busy for everyone.  The holidays are coming and there are so many things to do. Planning the big day meal becomes a project in itself.  Plus there are just everyday life things that get in the way, like work, errands, kids activities, chores. You know the drill.

I had a day like that the other day.  We had just returned from vacation.  I didn't get to the grocery store before the new work week started so I just needed something I could cook for Monday's dinner that was fast and super easy using a few ingredients that I had on hand.  Something I could just dump and go.

That's where the slow cooker comes in to play.

It's a godsend I tell you!

You can prep a meal the night before in the crock and put it in the refrigerator, or do it the morning of, turn it on a go. When you come back 8 hours later BAM! you have a wonderful dinner waiting for you.  

So I found frozen chicken which I thawed overnight, and a few fresh veggies and a couple of pantry items and I was all set to make a Hawaiian Style Chicken.  This is a super easy version of teriyaki chicken.  All you have to do is make the rice and a salad when you get home and dinner is served!

Now don't be put off by the lack of ingredients in this dish.  It is super flavorful guaranteed. Something the entire family with enjoy and very kid friendly.  Sometimes simple but flavor punching ingredients are the best.  You'll end up with a sweet and savory dish that's great over rice but would be perfect as sliders on a Hawaiian roll.   

Enjoy a quick and easy dinner!

Hawaiian Style Chicken

serves 4

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 15 oz cans of pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
1 onion, sliced
2 orange or red bell peppers, diced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 c soy sauce
cooked hot rice for serving

To a slow cooker add the chicken, pineapple with the juice, onions, bell pepper, brown sugar, and soy sauce.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Break the chicken into chunks if needed.  Serve over hot rice if desired.


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