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Friday, November 29, 2013

Chocolate Pecan Tart

So...after my muffin recipe success, I'm feeling about 55% confident and 45% terrified to try doing something totally off recipe again.  Yet, despite my fears and insecurities, I'm being ridiculously brazen about my new-found semi-confidence by trying to make a tart sans recipe.  Making a tart means I cannot sample it first to see how it went...and since this will be for my Aunt Ginny's Thanksgiving dinner...many will suffer if it should not turn out well.  But I went for it anyway, people, and it came out awe...wait for it...some.  It was an extremely nerve racking 45 minutes, waiting and watching, praying the filling wouldn't continue to rise right over the crust and overflow.  So although I feel like a little extra feeling might have been nice, I fear that any more would have ended up all over my oven anyway.  So I decidedly wouldn't change a single thing.  I would make this next year, exactly as I did today.  It was gobbled up by everyone (I'm standing by that unintentional pun, dorky or not.)

This dessert was inspired by the following things:
1) The Danish Pastry House in Somerville, MA - We don't live down the street from here anymore, but when we did, they made the best pecan pie I'd ever taste...and it had chocolate in it!  No pecan pie I've ever taste since has been able to live up to it.
2) My tart pans:  I love these things.  My ma-in-law got them for me last Christmas and I don't use them nearly enough.  They really are the best.  It's so much easier to make a tart look pretty than to make a pie look pretty.  The tart pan does all the work for you.  A pie plate is not much of a helper in that respect.
3) My new favorite pie crust:  I love this recipe and I wanted to see if I could adapt it to a sweet tart...mission accomplished.

So if you like chocolate and pecans and buttery, flaky pie crust, then I think you would enjoy this recipe.  I think it's got the perfect level of sweetness.  I hope you'll agree.

Side note: My blog has become a terrific way for me to keep track of my own recipes.  It's become something of an electronic catalog for myself - and also an on-line menu for my husband. (Could he be any more spoiled???)

Chocolate Pecan Tart

1 par-baked 9-inch tart crust (I used this recipe but replaced 1 Tbsp of the flour with 1 Tbsp of finely ground pecans and 1 Tbsp of sugar instead of just the 1/4 tsp usually used.)
1 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup 60% dark chocolate chips
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the pecans and chocolate chips over the tart crust.  (Feel free to make it look pretty...I just scattered everything.)  Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth and pour over the nuts and chocolate.  Shake the pan so the liquid spreads out evenly.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the middle of the filling is set.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Garlic Shrimp Bake

I'm going to start off a bit negative...I hate taking pictures of my food in the winter.  I lose the light way before dinner is finished cooking and I just can't seem to get the hang of using the flash to get the job done.  So unfortunately, I tend to blog way less in the winter months.  However, this is one of my top five weeknight recipes.  It's quick and easy and so delicious that I need to stop myself from licking the dish as I clean up.  I tend to make it in the winter because it requires the oven.  (Once summer hits I switch to my stove top shrimp tacos.)  This dish is so good that every time I make it, I ask myself why I don't make it every week.  The answer is only because I like to cook so many different things and try out so many different recipes.  So I just had to take pictures and share this recipe as much as I don't feel compelled to go through the process when it's such a struggle to get a good picture.  I did the best I could.  As the shrimp bake, I cook a quick side of string beans or broccoli and some rice.  Tada!

Garlic Shrimp Bake
slightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven
serves 2-4 (if you can hold yourself back from eating half the dish)

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp white wine
salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tsp grated romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Meanwhile, combine the shrimp, garlic, wine, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and pour into a baking dish.  In another bowl, combine the butter, panko, parsley, and cheese.  Top the shrimp evenly with this mixture.  Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through - pink and opaque.  Serve immediately with some veggies and enjoy.  (I told you this was the easiest recipe!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Double Chocolate Strawberry Muffins

Last weekend, I ran out of white sugar and substituted some brown sugar into my spelt muffins...BAD idea.  It turned what was a moist and tasty muffin into a chewy and dry waste of time.  Boo.  So surprisingly, I still felt the desire to experiment this weekend with what I had on hand...and created my very first original muffin recipe!  I've always been scared to experiment with baking, but I figured that if I used a lot of chocolate, then it would be forgiving.  So who knows if this was a fluke, but at least I wasn't throwing anything in the garbage, and I would absolutely make them again.  Unfortunately, Adrienne, the three year old pain in the bum who the muffins were intended to please, is only eating the tops off of them - the top part has less strawberries in it.  Three year olds are so picky!  She loves strawberries and chocolate, but once you put them together, she won't eat it.  So it looks like she's not having chocolate muffins for breakfast this week.  At least that means more for me and Jim.  That's one thing I miss about pre-motherhood life...I usually can't eat anything delicious without Adrienne taking it from me.  It's a rare occasion to eat in peace, or even to just get to finish what I'm eating.  If I'm being honest though...Adrienne must get it from Jim.  Ever since I started dating the man, he's been stealing food from my plate.  Meh.  Good thing those two are so damn cute.

Double Choclate Strawberry Muffins
makes 12

3/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's dark)
1/2 cup sugar (I've started using raw sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup chopped strawberries
2/3 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another large bowl, combine the eggs vanilla, oil, and milk and add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Mix in the chocolate chips and strawberries.  Distribute evenly into lined muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.  You'll want a glass of milk or cup of coffee with this deliciousness.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Minestrone Soup

I am not the biggest fan of minestrone soup, but I try to make a pot of soup on Sundays to have for lunch throughout the week and I like to switch it up.  I found this particular recipe from Giada that actually sounded delicious, and so, despite my aversion to minestrone soup, I went for it and I'm very glad I did.  It appealed to me because of the swiss chard, the rosemary, and the neat little idea of blending some of the beans with some of the broth first so as to thicken it up a little...genius.  It's really, really good.  I can't wait to eat it all week.  I opted to make it vegetarian by omitting the pancetta at the beginning (although I'm sure that would have made it even more delicious, so go for it if you'd like...a little bacon never hurt anyone.)  I also didn't have a parmesan rind, so I just sprinkled in some parmesan instead.  I once made a soup with a parmesan rind and I couldn't taste the addition at all.  Adding some of the actual cheese works better (in my opinion) to making it more flavorful.  So next time you're in the mood for minestrone soup, skip going to Olive Garden and make this at home - it's soooooo much better.

Minestrone Soup
slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 russet potato, peeled, cubed
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the swiss chard and potato; saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and parmesan cheese to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans and parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard rosemary sprig (if you can find it!)

Serve with warm crusty bread and an extra sprinkle of cheese.