Tag Archives: pecan

A Simple Sweet Ending

I just cannot fathom having folks over for a meal and not offering them dessert.  Having something sweet always makes for a happy ending to the evening.

This is a super simple cookie bar recipe that is perfect to serve at or take to a cookout or picnic.  My mother made them frequently during my childhood, and she thought my readers would enjoy them, too.

Brown Sugar Nut Bars
Yields about 40 cookies

1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract (or almond or maple extract)
1 cup Pecans, chopped (or other nut)
Optional ingredients – 1/2 cup shredded coconut or 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove the butter and brown sugar from the heat.  Add beaten eggs, flour, baking powder, and stir until well blended.  Then add extract and nuts and stir.  Other ingredients can be added now.

Turn out the cookie dough into a well-buttered 13 x 9-inch pan.  Spread and pat down with fingers.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  The cookie dough will be lightly browned and will pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester will come out clean.

Let cool approximately 10 minutes in the pan.  Cut into bars and let cookies completely cool on wire racks.

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Did You Eat Your Veggies Today?

I really enjoy the taste of vegetables, and I appreciate that they are good for me, too.  But, I like to ensure that I’m doing what is best for my body and I am not consuming or serving harmful chemicals.

Because of that, I choose to shop for organic produce.  And, to me, organically grown fruits and vegetables taste better.

But, organic produce not only avoids harmful pesticides or herbicides, they may also have more nutrients.  Recent research has shown that the conventional farming industry’s desire to grow bigger vegetables more quickly by selective breeding and synthetic fertilizers can decrease produce’s ability to synthesize nutrients or absorb them from the soil.  Without the use of synthetic fertilizers, organic farming creates more stress on plants.  This stress causes plants to protect themselves by producing more phytochemicals, like antioxidants.  This higher amount of phytochemicals benefits humans who eat them.

Trust me, I understand that sometimes you don’t have a choice between organic or conventional produce or you can’t afford the options.  I do buy conventional produce occasionally, and I remain cautious about pesticide consumption.  Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has created a handy shoppers’ guide of the fruits and vegetables most likely to test positive for high levels of pesticide (the Dirty Dozen) and those least likely to test positive for pesticides (the Clean Fifteen). I downloaded an application for my IPhone that helps me keep track of what I should pursue as organically grown, or what is acceptable as conventionally grown.  So, I try and buy (or pick my own) organic options for at least produce from the “dirty dozen” list, but I’m willing to go the conventional route sometimes for the “clean fifteen” list.

The Dirty Dozen: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears.

The Clean Fifteen: onions, avocados, corn, pineapple, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwifruits, cabbages, eggplants, papayas, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Here’s something you can do with your pesticide-free sweet peas…

Pecan Honey Butter Peas
Serves 4

16 oz package of frozen peas
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup pecans

Spread pecans on a baking sheet and toast in a 250 degree F oven until fragrant.  Cool and then chop.

Prepare peas according to package directions.  Drain well.

In a saucepan, melt butter.  Add honey, and chopped pecans.

Combine well and add peas.

Quickly stir, remove from heat, and serve.

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And The Bourbon Trail Goes On…

We’ve continued to savor the flavors of Kentucky since returning home.  I especially enjoy the combination of booze and dessert.  Here are a couple of my favorites…

Since a barrel may be used only once to age bourbon, Kentucky has a flood of used bourbon barrels.  Many are used to age scotch, but recent years have them holding beer, as well.  We picked up two varieties of bourbon barrel beer – a stout from Bluegrass Brewing Company and an ale from Alltech.

Both are delicious and our a wonderful companion to vanilla ice cream in a beer float.

Bourbon Barrel Beer Float
Makes 2 floats

4 – 6 scoops premium vanilla ice cream
12 oz bottle bourbon barrel beer (ale or stout)

This is a super easy dessert.  Put two to three scoops each of vanilla ice cream in two pint glasses.

Slowly pour 6 ounces of beer in each glass.

Sip through a straw and try not to pour yourself another…

A popular dessert in Kentucky is a pie made with bourbon, chocolate, and nuts.  A version is sold in most restaurants, but only Kern’s Kitchen can call it “Derby Pie” after having it trademarked both in Kentucky and the Federal Government.  The family rigorously defends this trademark, so in restaurants or recipe books you will see the pie referred to as “First Saturday in May Pie,” “Pegasus Pie,” “Thoroughbred Pie,” or other such winks to the reference.

The Dessert That Cannot Be Called Derby Pie for Fear of Trademark Violation
Makes 1 9-inch deep dish pie

9-inch deep dish pie crust
1 1/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light Karo syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup chocolate chips

I won’t provide pie crust instructions here, but you can follow mine, or create your own.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread pecans onto a baking sheet and place in oven for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and slightly toasted.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Line pie pan with pie crust, flute edges, and place in refrigerator while you prepare filling.

Blend melted butter, sugars, and Karo syrup in a medium bowl.  Stir in beaten eggs, vanilla, and bourbon.  Set aside.

Take out pie crust and sprinkle chocolate chips and pecans in bottom of pan.

Add egg and sugar mixture.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until filling is set, and crust is lightly browned.

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Fresh Basil Pesto with a Texas Twist

There is a booming crop of basil in the yard of our rental house.  The obvious way to use fresh basil is to make pesto.

Pesto is typically made with not only basil, but also pine nuts or walnuts.  I decided to take a different tack.  I used locally grown pecans like a good little locavore, and I added a jalapeno for a little zing.

Texas-Style Fresh Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 jalapeno, diced, optional
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

It is best to use a food processor, but you can use a blender, too.  Combine the basil and pecans, and pulse a few times.  Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the processor/blender is on.  Stop to scrape the sides with a spatula.

Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.  Add the jalapeno, pulsing yet again to blend.

Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

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September is National Bourbon Heritage Month

Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…I’m just kidding.  I do enjoy any recognition of bourbon, though.  Bourbon is one of my favorite spirits, and I appreciate its impact on American history.

National Bourbon Heritage Month is the celebration of bourbon as America’s Native Spirit.  On August 2, 2007, the US Senate declared September as “National Bourbon Heritage Month.”  The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, passed by unanimous consent.  The resolution reinforced the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon America’s Native Spirit by celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.  At that time (1964), Congress established guidelines for the distilling of bourbon and declared that only whiskey made in the United States can be called bourbon.
I celebrated my legacy this weekend by making some popcorn balls, which were a favorite of my family when I was growing up.  These continued the tradition.

Bourbon Pecan Popcorn Balls
Makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch balls

4 quarts popped popcorn
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp bourbon
1/2 to 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Carefully remove any unpopped kernels from popcorn.  Put popcorn in a large (or 2 medium) buttered baking pan.  Keep warm in a 250 degree F oven.

Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan.

Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Cook until mixture reaches 255 degrees F on a candy thermometer, stirring frequently.

Remove saucepan from heat.  Quickly stir in vanilla, bourbon, and pecans.

Pour mixture over popcorn, stirring to mix well.

Butter hands or lightly cover with cooking spray.  Form popcorn into balls with hands.  Watch out the mixture will still be hot!

Let cool on wax paper.  Once completely cool, wrap individual balls in plastic wrap to store and serve.

They are perfect for tailgating or Halloween parties.  Wrapped and kept in a dry place, they will stay fresh about 3 to 5 days.

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