Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas Pretzel Treats

It's cookie baking season, and today I made a batch of Rolo pretzel treats --- using Christmas shaped pretzels.  (Rolos are caramel chocolate candies which look like gumdrops.)
This year I found Christmas pretzels at Aldi's.  And other years I have found them at Wegman's.

Super easy to make.  Here's a link to the original recipe:  Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pretzel Treats

It was originally posted March 12, 2014.

And I copied it here for you:

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pretzel Treats

These treats are fun to make!  They taste like turtles, if you know what they are. 

Rolo Pretzel Treats

toasted whole pecans
parchment paper for the baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unwrap all of the Rolos.  And count how many you have in total.
Toast enough whole halves of pecans to match the number of rolos.  Let cool.
Line up enough pretzels to match the number of Rolos you still have left after being unable to resist a few.
Place them in the center of the pretzels.
Bake in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes or just until you see the Rolos start to melt.

Remove them from the oven and then place the pecan halves on top and press down on each pecan.  We learned you have to press in the center.
Don't use the bottom side of the pecan, like above.  Use the pretty side.

Let them cool.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Chocolate Pecan Clusters

They taste like toasted pecans surrounded by chocolate mousse.

Recipe is from a 1970's community cookbook, contributed by Mrs. Harold Gross (Norma).  Today her byline would probably just say Norma Gross.   She used walnuts but I prefer pecans.


Chocolate Pecan Clusters

Makes 30 small or 16 large clusters

1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 squares unsweetened melted chocolate
1/2 c. sifted flour
1/4 t. baking powder
2 cups unbroken pecans (or walnuts)

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, vanilla and beat and beat and beat until creamy.  Mix chocolate in and dry ingredients which have been sifted together.  Stir in nuts, then drop by teaspoon 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. (I used parchment paper instead.) Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

No Corn Syrup Pecan Pie by Colleen

Brown Sugar instead of Corn Syrup
Since I’m on the docket to make T-Day and I haven’t made a pie in years, I thought I would do a trial run.  I wanted to find a recipe that didn’t use corn syrup.  

It is really good and easy to put together.  When I mixed it up, it looked a little scant in the pie dish, so I put a layer of pecan halves on the top of the pie in concentric circles and then sprinkled the top with a little brown sugar.


Brown Sugar Pecan Pie
(adapted from crazy for   by Dorothy Kern)

  • 1 pie crust 9”, from a box or homemade
  • 1 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans 
  • additional whole pecans (up to 1 cup) for making a top layer
  • additional brown sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place pie crust in pie pan and crimp edges as desired. Chill until ready to fill.

Whisk together both sugars, melted butter, salt, eggs, flour, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in pecans and pour in prepared crust.

Add a layer of whole pecans in concentric circles, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Cover edges of pie crust with foil or a pie crust shield. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat on the oven to 350°F and bake an additional 30-40 minutes, or until the middle is only slightly jiggly and the edges are set. Cool completely before slicing.

I made a simple all butter crust (referenced in the pecan pie recipe), which was okay but not great.  For the big day I think I will go with a shortbread style crust:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Baked Cod with Tarragon Lemon Butter Sauce

Baked Cod with Tarragon Lemon Butter Sauce
Any mild firm white fish works well with the recipe.  I use cod, which we can get frozen.  This is an easy weekday meal.  Nothing fancy, just very tasty. 

Tarragon vinegar is important for the dish, so don't skip it. Vinegar will never go bad, so it is good to have in the pantry.  It is in the vinegar aisle if you look for it.  

Fresh tarragon works best, but I find dried tarragon works just as well. 

Tarragon is a mild herb with a pronounced anise (licorice) flavor. 


Baked Cod with Tarragon Lemon Butter Sauce

Serves 2 - 4

6 cod fillets, fresh or defrosted
1 large lemon
1 T. tarragon vinegar
1 T. dried tarragon, or 2 T. fresh 
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 T. butter

In a small bowl, grate the lemon rind, juice the lemon, add the olive oil, and tarragon vinegar, and tarragon.  
Half hour to an hour before baking, coat the fish with the marinade and refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
Remove the fish from the marinade (keep the marinade for making the sauce), season with salt and pepper, and place in one layer on a baking sheet. 
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish.

In a small saucepan, bring the marinade to boil, and reduce it  a little.  Takes about 5 minutes.

Stir in butter, and keep warm.  Taste it, but probably won't need any salt.  
Pour the sauce over the fish, being generous.  Goes well with fluffy basmati rice.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Spicy Yam Carrot Apple Ginger Coconut Soup

Spicy and sweet.  And a very pretty soup, I must say. Similar to a roasted butternut squash soup, but uses yams instead.  I think it's one of my best "let's see what can be made with what I have" soups.

I've made with and without the coconut milk, but the coconut milk helps to balance the spiciness of the curry powder.  If you don't like spicy soups, this one is not for you.


Spicy Soup:Yam, Carrot, Apple, Ginger and Coconut Milk

2 T. oil (any kind but peanut or avocado/coconut oil works well)
1 large onions, preferably sweet onions like Mayan, peeled and chopped
2 large yams, with orange flesh, not sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb. carrots, about 4 small, scraped and chopped
2 large sweet apple, like Delicious or Jonagold, cored and chopped
1 T. grated fresh gingerroot
1 T. hot curry powder (use less if you don't like spicy)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk (optional)
for garnish:
fresh cilantro sprigs
toasted pumpkin seeds
unsweetened coconut flakes
In a large stockpot, heat the oil, add the chopped onions, and a pinch of salt and cook on medium to let them sweat as you chop up the rest of the veggies and apples.  First add the carrots with another pinch of salt.  Then the yams with another pinch of salt.  Then add the curry powder and grated ginger and mix together thoroughly.  Your onions should be translucent at this point.  Add the apples with a pinch of salt.
Add the chicken stock and the coconut milk.  Bring to a very gentle simmer.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Use a hand blender to create a creamy, smooth soup.  Taste and season as needed, but it should be good to go if you added the pinches of salt along the way.
Serve with garnishes like cilantro sprigs, or toasted pumpkin seeds, or unsweetened coconut flakes or all of the above.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ground Turkey Enchiladas from Colleen

Steve loved this very easy dish I came up with and even ate leftovers on day two!  You can easily double the recipe and make in a 9x13 baking dish.  Warning:  This is assembly, not really cooking!


Ground Turkey Enchiladas

Makes about 4 servings

one pound lean ground turkey
8 corn tortillas
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 small can Las Palmas Green Chili Enchilada Sauce
1-2 cups grated cheese (I use a four cheese Mexican blend)

Brown the turkey and add the taco seasoning (I use regular - Steve doesn’t like spicy) and cook down, per directions.  

Wrap corn tortillas in dish towel, sprinkle with water and microwave for about one minute or until tortillas are soft.  

Pour half of can of chili sauce in a pie plate.  Dip in tortilla to coat on both sides.  Spoon a few tablespoons of turkey meat into the middle of the tortilla and sprinkle with another tablespoon of cheese.  Roll up the tortilla.  

Place in glass 9X9 casserole dish (put a little enchilada sauce in the bottom of the dish first).  Continue until you have filled the tortillas.  If you have left over turkey meat, sprinkle across the tops of the rolled tortillas.  Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the tortillas.  Sprinkle with more cheese and bake until warmed through in 350 degree oven (for about 20 minutes).    

Serve with sour cream and guacamole if you have it and a salad.      

You can prep this and refrigerate the casserole earlier in the day, and then heat up at dinner time.  It will take longer to heat through - so maybe tent with foil?

Easy Salad Dressing:  Mix jarred salsa with some sour cream.  Chop romaine lettuce and radishes and whatever else you like in your salad.  This dressing is too heavy for baby greens, but works great on crunchy romaine.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sheet Pan Dijon Balsamic Chicken with Veggies from Mary

"Mary's Roasted Chicken with Veggies from Clean Eating"
Mary and I had coffee this morning and she brought along a recipe which she had made recently from Clean Eating magazine that looked so good that I want to make it, too.

I wasn't aware of the magazine --- she has a subscription and really likes it--- so she gave me a copy to take home.  Looks great.  Thanks, Mary!
Here's a link to their website which is chock-full of  healthy eating information and recipes:


Sheet Pan Dijon Balsamic Chicken with Veggies
(from Clean Eating)

Serves 4

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup avocado oil, divided
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp pure maple syrup, divided
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp each chopped fresh thyme and rosemary
1 tsp hot sauce (choose a brand without added sugar)
4 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 carrots, cut into thin sticks
2 cups broccoli florets
½ small yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp each sea salt and ground black pepper

1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, whisk together vinegar, 2 tbsp oil, mustard, 1 tbsp maple syrup, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Pour half of marinade into a large bowl and add chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours. To remaining half of marinade in saucepan, whisk in remaining 1 tbsp maple syrup and hot sauce; refrigerate marinade in saucepan.

2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a bowl, toss carrots, broccoli and onion with remaining 2 tbsp oil; spread on one side of baking sheet. Remove chicken from marinade and place on other side of baking sheet. Discard marinade. Season chicken and vegetables with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in center of chicken reads 165ºF and vegetables are fork tender.

3. Meanwhile, place saucepan of reserved marinade over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Drizzle sauce over chicken and vegetables.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Balloon-Sized instead of Bite-Sized
Bloopers in the kitchen:  Mom's Goulash, Ina Garten's Puff Pastry appetizer, Queso dip, Spiced Nuts, Toasted Oatmeal Muffins, Quinoa with Coconut Milk and Veggies, just to name a few.

Not everything turns out.

We cook all the time, both of us, usually rotating whose turn it is.  

Tom makes mistakes, too, but usually doesn't classify them as such. Recently, there was an incident where 1 tablespoon of salt instead of 1 teaspoon became "I know what to do the next time I make this."

We mostly post things that we want to make again.  Sometimes things just don't work out the way we thought they would.

Like the puff pastry appetizer I made for David's birthday.  The flavors were great---soppressata salami, Gruyere cheese, and Dijon -- but impossible to cut and eat.  Later, Tom reworked it into a mini-version without the puff pastry for another birthday party.

This week it was Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Quinoa with Broccoli, Cauliflower and Toasted Coconut.  With all of these ingredients I thought it would be packed with flavor, but it was blah.

Mom's Goulash. I remember her making this --- a homemade version of hamburger helper.  Better left to memory.  
Not worth the effort
Spiced Nuts:  I thought it might be nice to have an alternative to our usual cashews to serve with drinks. I made two versions of Ina Garten's recipe.  Her way and then I made a middle eastern version.  Both were over roasted, heavy and just not worth the effort to make. And expensive. 
Toasted Oatmeal Muffins:  I thought this would be a home run.  Toasted the oatmeal. The house smelled fantastic.
Ground it up, as the recipe specified.  And then the whole thing turned into a texture and taste similar to cream of wheat. Yuk!
Never melted
Queso Dip:  This one was a real disappointment. 

We had been to a hip taco restaurant in Buffalo where they served an appetizer of melted cheese in a small cast iron pan along with tortilla chips. Everyone loved it.  All ages.  Dipping in the hot cheese was fun.  What a good and easy idea!  And I had just gotten 2 small cast iron pans from my mother-in-law's estate, so this could be THE new easy appetizer.  The cheese never melted.  I obviously chose the wrong kind of cheese.

The kitchen, for me, is a place to play and experiment --- to try new recipes and make up ones with ingredients we have on hand.  And Tom likes to "improve" every recipe he makes, with his own touches and embellishments.

I think that's how we avoid cooking becoming a chore, as I know it is for many, many people who have to put a meal on the table day in and day out.


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Clam Chowder with Sherry

Sherry adds a bit of pizazz to this clam chowder.  The recipe uses canned clams --- and they are perfectly fine.  A good weeknight meal because it can be made in 1/2 hour and uses pantry items.

If you are watching calories, you can substitute 2% evaporated milk for the half'n'half.  


Clam Chowder with Sherry

Serves 4

4 slices of bacon
2 T. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
a bottle of clam juice plus the juice from the canned clams
1 cup dry white wine
4 firm white potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sizes
2 cans clams (one can of chopped and one can of whole)
(best quality you can find -- we use Maine canned clams)
2 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 t. paprika
few shakes of Tabasco sauce
2 cups half and half
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup medium dry sherry (good quality)

In a large stock pot, fry the bacon until crisp,  Remove bacon to paper towels (to drain and crisp them) and set aside.  Remove any extra bacon fat, and leave 2 tablespoons in the pot.

Add the butter to the bacon fat in the pot and heat over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion, and cook, add a pinch of salt, and the bay leaf, and dried spices, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or so or until translucent but not browned.

Add the clam juice from the bottle and drained from the cans of clams, and the white wine.  Scrape the bits along the side and bottom, then add the potatoes.  Simmer just until the potatoes are tender about 12 minutes if you used very small dice, longer if you go for chunkier potatoes.

Stir in half and half.  Add the clams, remove the bay leaf,  add the Tabasco.  Bring to a very gentle simmer, which will take about 3 to 5 minutes to get there.  Don't boil!  Season with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat, then stir in the sherry.

Chop the bacon into bits, and add it back into the soup.

Serve with a crusty roll.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Peanut Butter and Honey Blondies

I happened to turn on the TV one day back in August to check the weather, and saw Grant Melton on the Rachel Ray show making these blondies.  He is an over-the-top personality and I wondered if he was all show or if his recipes were any good.  He does clever adaptions of classics, and kitchen "tricks" like using saran-wrap in his measuring cups for sticky ingredients.

So, I finally got around to trying this recipe this week, and made them as gifts for some guys who were helping me with a carpentry art project. 

Tom says he really likes them, and he doesn't usually like peanut butter in things, such as Reese's peanut butter cups.  I will definitely make these again.  I think our grandkids would like them. 


Peanut Butter and Honey Blondies
(Grant Melton on the Rachel Ray show)

Makes 16 

3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1.5 cup flour
1 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped for sprinkling (I used dry roasted and did not chop)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8-inch square baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang. (This will help with removing the baked blondies.)  I used aluminum foil, and greased the foil with the butter left on the butter wrappers.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk butter, sugar, peanut butter and honey.  (Grant uses plastic wrap in his measuring cups when measuring sticky ingredients.)  Whisk in eggs until well combined. 

Using a large spatula, fold in the flour, salt and baking powder.  Pour batter into a baking pan and spread into a flat layer.
Sprinkle chopped nuts on top and bake until edges start to become golden brown, 20-25 minutes (Mine take to 30-35 minutes.  Don't take them out too early.)  Let cool, then remove blondies from the pan and cut into 16 squares.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Dijon Marinade

Cindy says, "So tender--- could have cut it with a butter knife!"
I have made this recipe twice now for different birthday occasions.  The first time I got the meat directly from the butcher at Wegman's.  The second time from the butcher at Morgan's Market in Penn Yan, which is known for the quality of their meat.  The first time was really good. The second time was even better. 

This is a very simple recipe to make, but does require attention in the roasting step.  Beef tenderloin is best cooked rare to medium-rare.  

On both occasions our guests raved about the meat.  It was absolutely delicious.  We will definitely make this recipe again. 


Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Dijon Marinade
(from Ina Garten)

Serves 5-6

2 1/2 - 3 pounds filet of beef, i.e., beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied if necessary
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Or as I did, use a pyroceram Corningware casserole dish which is broiler safe.  Put the beef on the pan.

Combine the mustard, balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt in a small bowl. 

Using a basting brush.  Generously coat the top and sides of the beef.  Sprinkle on the coarse black pepper. 
Here is the most important step!  Place the roasting pan in the hot oven and roast for exactly 30 minutes for medium-rare.  25 minutes for rare, and 35 minutes for medium.  Remove the pan from the oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Allow the beef to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Slice and serve warm.  

Happy birthday to David and Cindy.  We sent each of them home with a couple pieces of meat to enjoy the next day..