Thursday, December 19, 2013

Warm Apple-Almond Pastry

This is a dish I used as a Pampered Chef Consultant, and made me fall in love with frozen puff pastry. It makes you look like a gourmet chef when you use it right. You start out with these pale rectangles of pastry dough, which are rather unimpressive. But bake it and it puffs up into this thick golden flaky dessert that make me feels comfy cozy.

photo: bakingladyp
 I wish I had a picture of the one I made today. 
It was so beautiful that I didn't want to cut into it. 
Warm Apple-Almond Pastry
1 c sliced almonds/pecans, divided
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 pk (17.3 oz) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg white
2 red baking apples such as Jonathan
1/4 c. apricot jam (I use orange marmalade)
Optional ingredients:
powered sugar, vanilla ice cream or whipped topping

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grate or chop 3/4 cup of the almonds. In a bowl combine almonds, granulated sugar, flour, whole egg, egg yolk and almond extract; mix well and set aside. Unfold one pastry sheet onto lightly floured stone (cookie sheet). Roll to a 10 1/2 inch square. Prick with a fork. Spread almond mixture evenly over pastry to within 1 inch of edge. Cut apples lengthwise in half. Remove stems and seeds. Slice apple halves crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick slices (I use my V-slicer for this).  Arrange slices in an overlapping pattern over the filling.

Cut remaining pastry dough into nine 1 inch-wide strips. Moisten outer edges of the dough on the stone with water. Arrange five strips diagonally over apples and pressing edges to seal; trim off any extra dough.

Arrange and press remaining four strips of dough around edge of pastry, forming an even border.
To the egg white add a bit of water, mix. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash on the pastry dough.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden brown. Cool at least 10 minutes. Spread warm jam over apples and pastry. Toast remaining almonds in a saute pan until golden brown. Coarsely chop and sprinkle over pastry. Cut pastry into squares served warm topped with powdered sugar, ice cream or whipped topping as desired.

Yield: 12 servings

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pecan Lattice Tart from the Pampered Chef

Image provided by Marci Vanover via Pinterest
Years ago, I was a Pampered Chef consultant. This recipe was always a hit. Flaky, chocolately, fudgey goodness paired with pecans. Of course, it's a favorite!

We love pecans. We always have a 2 pound bag from Costco in our freezer and tub of toasted pecans ready for use at any given moment: in oatmeal, cookies, muffins, or just as a snack.

I had to make one change to the recipe, and that was to toast the pecans. Toasting the nuts intensifies flavor, making it a Super Pecan!

You can do it dry in a skillet or on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350°FI use the oven method, since I do a large batch. Stir occasionally. You'll know they're done by the smell. It'll be heavenly! 

Pecan Lattice Tart
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup pecan halves
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (15 ounces) refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on package
Additional pecan halves
vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
Chocolate Drizzle

Finely chop pecans using a knife, food chopper, or food processor. Heat a medium skillet to medium heat. Add the nuts, and keep them moving, by tossing the nuts or turn them over with a spatula or wooden spoon several times while cooking. Keep stirring until the nuts become darker and fragrant.

Preheat oven to 375° F. In large bowl, combine chocolate morsels and butter. Microwave on HIGH 20-40 seconds until melted and smooth, stirring after each 20-second internal. Add pecans, brown sugar, egg, corn syrup and vanilla to chocolate mixture; stir using a rubber spatula and set aside.

Unroll one pie crust onto a lightly floured surface and roll to a 13-inch circle using rolling pin. Gently roll around rolling pin and unroll onto a lightly floured pizza pan or baking stone.

Unroll second pie crust and gently fold in half. Starting in center, cut folded crust crosswise into twelve 3/4" wide strips.

Spoon pecan mixture over center of crust and spread to a 10-inch circle in center of crust. Carefully twist six of the pie crust strips and place evenly over filling in horizontal rows. (Place longest strips across widest point.) Twist remaining strips and lay over filling in vertical rows, forming a lattice pattern.

Firmly press ends of strips onto edge of crust. Fold edge of crust over ends of strips, pinching edges to seal. Place additional optional pecan halves between lattice strips, if desired.

Bake 28-30 Minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes.

Optional Chocolate Drizzle:

Place 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels into a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave on HIGH 40-60 seconds or until melted, stirring after each 20-second interval. Pour melted chocolate into a small resealable plastic food storage bag; close and seal bag securely. Cut a small tip off corner of bag to allow chocolate to flow through. Pipe chocolate onto top of BAKED tart.

To serve, cut into wedges and serve with ice cream or whipped cream

Source: Pampered Chef

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Grandma's Baked Beans

So canned baked beans are OK, but not great. Unless you use them as a basis for "cheater" beans! My wife's brother had these as a family gathering and asked me for the recipe, so here it is.

  • 2 (29 oz) cans of pork-n-beans
  • 2 large chopped onions
  • 2 large chopped green peppers
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked, cut up
Combine ingredients in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
Bake 2 1/2 hours covered with foil at 325.
Uncover, bake another 30 minutes.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Super Saturday: Freezer Dinners

My workplace is moving farther away from my house in a few weeks, so I will be getting home from work later. This means I will probably be unable to help make dinner, leaving my wife to do it all herself. Making dinner whilst taking care of 4 boys is a real challenge, so we decided to make a bunch of freezer dinners, making it easier to get dinner on the table when the kids are a challenge!


  • I like to make beans in a crock pot, but I only have one crock, so I do some of them on the stovetop. If you have two crock pots, you can do the black beans the same way as the red/white beans.
  • Brown rice has more fiber and nutrients, but you could use white rice if you prefer.
  • Make sure your kitchen, stove, sink, and dishwasher are clean/empty before starting, and clean up messes as soon as you get a chance!

Master Schedule

Preparation (the night before):

Prepare 1 pound of black beans for cooking

  • Pick through the beans, looking for bad/broken beans, rocks, etc.
  • Rinse the beans
  • Soak in salted water overnight

Prep your aromatic vegetables:

  • Chop 6 onions and 6 bell peppers
  • Mix together and divide in two (large bowls or plastic bags)
  • Mince 12 cloves of garlic and divide in two (keep separate from the other veggies)
  • Peel an additional 9 cloves of garlic, but do not mince them. Put them in a plastic bag
  • Refrigerate everything until needed in the morning


Step 1: Crock Pot Beans

  • Prep one pound of dried red beans and one pound of dried white beans as described above, omitting the soak
  • Quarter a large onion like you would an apple. Smash 6 of the cloves of garlic (but do not pulverize)
  • Put the beans, onion, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 12 cups water in a crock pot on high.Cover and cook for 4-6 hours or until the beans are creamy.

Step 2: Black Beans

  • Drain and rinse the brine from the black beans
  • Quarter a small onion like you would an apple (or use 2 or 3 quarters of a big one). Smash 3 of the cloves of garlic (but do not pulverize)
  • Put the beans, onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 bay leaf, and 6 cups of water in a cooking pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover, and cook for 60-90 minutes, until the beans are creamy.

Step 3: Brown Rice

  • Cook 3 cups of brown rice (enough to make 9 cups cooked) according to the package directions
  • Do this whilst the beans are cooking.

Step 4: Spicy Meat Sauce

  • Keep an eye on the beans and rice cooking on the stove whilst doing this step. Both the rice and beans benefit from cooking slowly, so keep the burners low to prevent burns.
  • Make a triple batch (3x) of this blog's Spicy Mexican Meat Sauce.
  • You will use one of the batches of onions/peppers and one of the batches of minced garlic that you prepped last night.
  • I did this over two stovetop burners in my turkey roasting pan.
  • Instead of using the canned tomatoes and paste as described in the recipe, I bought a Costco-sized can of crushed tomatoes in puree (106 ounces)
  • I also used 3 ounces of lime juice from the green squeeze bottle instead of fresh limes
  • After cooking, let cool and portion into freezer bags. Freeze!
  • This meat sauce is great for sloppy joes, taco salads, tostadas, topping baked potatoes, and baked in the oven with cornbread mix on top!

Step 5: Lime Refried Beans and Rice

  • By now, the black beans and the rice should both be be cooked. Drain them.
  • Pull the onion and garlic chunks from your beans when draining them!
  • Make a triple batch (3x) of Lime Refried Beans and Rice
  • We used the reserved tomato juice from the canned tomatoes instead of broth as described in the recipe
  • The recipe says to sprinkle half of the beans with cheese. This is because half of my kids can't eat cheese. I didn't notice this until after posting the recipe card on the blog. You can just put cheese over all of it.
  • We bought 6 5-inch by 7-inch disposable aluminum baking pans and portioned the recipe into them. Don't bake them today, just freeze them. (Bake them when you want to eat them).
  • You can use this whenever you would eat beans and rice: in burritos, with grilled chicken or fajitas, or with the meat sauce above!
You're almost done!

Step 6: Ham and Barbecue Bean Skillet

  • By now your crock pot beans should be complete. Drain them.
  • Make a triple batch (3x) of Ham and Barbecue Bean Skillet.
  • You will use the remaining onions/peppers and garlic from last night.
  • I used the widest cooking pot I had for this.
  • Be gentle when mixing in the beans so you don't mash them up too much.
  • After cooking, let cool and portion into freezer bags. Freeze!
All done :) Congratulations!

Quick Recipe Card: Ham and Barbecue Bean Skillet

This is a wonderful side dish for a summer picnic.

Make several batches to freeze, so you always have something to take for your next potluck.

Quick Recipe Card: Lime Refried Beans and Rice

Monday, April 29, 2013

BBQ Brisket

So my boss sends me an email the other day and asks me, "Where is your recipe for brisket? I want to barbecue one this weekend," and I realized I have never posted it! This forced me to collect my notes and document this delicious recipe for all of my Texas-loving barbecue friends!
Note: fans of this blog may notice that the rub and sauce recipes are recycled from other posts!


  • One beef brisket, fat cap trimmed to 1/4 inch thick.


  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly toasted and ground from whole seeds would be best)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika would also be OK)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle chile powder (1/2 tsp if you don't like heat - wimp!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


  • one 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (or brown sugar, but I like the molasses better)
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves


Thoroughly mix all rub ingredients (I like to pulse them together in a food processor). Work the rub into all surfaces of the brisket. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap, put on a tray or sheet pan, and marinate in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours, flipping 2-3 times during the marinade (if you can).

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a saucepan. Head over medium heat until bubbles start to form, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust sweetness with 2-4 tablespoons of molasses/sugar if you like it less tangy. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Heat the smoker to 225 degrees. Place the marinaded brisket in smoker, fat side up, and apply smoke for 2-3 hours. Baste with sauce and let smoke for another hour. Flip the brisket over, baste with sauce again, and smoke for another 3-4 hours. At this point, it generally has enough smoke flavor for me, so I remove from the smoker, baste with more sauce, and cook in a low oven or crock pot for another 4-6 hours to tenderize it. If you like your brisket super smokey, or have a very thick brisket, you may want to smoke it longer instead of bringing it indoors. Once the brisket is fork tender, let cool for 10-20 minutes and slice across the grain. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chuck Roast with Gravy

So pot roasts on this blog are nothing new. However, I think I have made some improvements to the process and I'd like to document them here. As always with pot roasts, low and slow is the way to go, but if pressed for time, you can increase the heat a little; raising the temp to 275 degrees should shave an hour off the cook time (while sacrificing some of the tenderness).

  • 3-5 pound chuck roast, trimmed of large hard clumps of fat
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
Heat the oven to 210 degrees. Season the chuck roast with salt, pepper, and cumiin. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large dutch oven. Brown roast on all sides. Remove roast from pan and set on a plate. Reduce heat to medium and cook the onion, carrot, and celery until they start to brown around the edges. Mix in garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Mix in tomato paste and cook for another 30-60 seconds, until the tomato paste thickens and darkens slightly. Add the broth, stirring vigorously and scraping loose any brown bits off the bottom of the dutch oven. Stir in Worcestershire and vinegar. Add the bay leaf, roast, and any collected juices from the plate. Cover and cook in the oven for 4-5 hours or until desired tenderness is achieved.

When tender, remove the roast and set on a cutting board. Drain and reserve the juices out of the dutch oven, straining off the vegetables. Let the juices sit until any fat separates out of them. Skim off the fat using a spoon (or just drain directly into a fat separator). Add the fat back to the dutch oven. Heat over medium heat until shimmering and whisk in the flour. Once the flour has toasted to a blonde color, wisk the remaining juices back in. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. After it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer. If too thick, add up to 1/2 cup of beef broth to thin it out (remembering that the gravy with thicken slightly as it cools when served). Reduce heat to its lowest setting. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more salt, pepper, Worcestershire, or balsamic vinegar as desired. Slice the roast (or chop, if you prefer) on the bias and add to the simmering gravy for 1-2 minutes to let the gravy infuse into the meat. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice (I like short-grained brown rice a lot for this).

Friday, March 29, 2013

Eggy Oats

photo source: Blogilates
I saw this Microwave Minute Muffin on Pinterest, and thought that the boys would enjoy it. The first time they said it was too firm. I tweaked it until it was an "edible" consistency. Still delicious. Still filling, but now there is no way I would be able to get it to stand up on a plate. We have this most mornings. 

1/4 cup quick cook oats
3 Tbs milk (rice or almond milk, the vanilla almond is especially tasty)
1 egg
1/8 tsp kosher salt (or a pinch, 1/16 tsp of table salt)
1 tsp sugar/sweetener (to taste)
filling: cranberries, toasted pecans, toasted coconut, raisins, cinnamon, etc. . .
a mug

Put oats in a mug. Pour milk on top. Add the remaining ingredient and mix. Microwave for one minute, then stir. 

- When my boys want maple syrup in their eggy oats, I decrease the milk to 2 Tbs or it's too runny. Then I'd have to nuke it for a little longer. Those 15 seconds just take up too much time in a morning of rushing about to get ready for school ;)

- Instant oatmeal: Add milk and egg, stir up and cook. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dairy-Free Potato Chowder

So I like chowder a lot. I also have kids who can't have dairy. This creates a conundrum, since chowder is normally made with a milk/cream base. However, I have been experimenting with using dairy substitutes in my recipes, and I found that almond milk works almost as well as regular milk for most dishes. After making it a couple of times, I think I've got this recipe down!


  • 6 slices bacon (save the fat)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • vegetable, canola, or olive oil (as necessary, see recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (maybe)
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and rinsed
  • 1 quart almond milk (or rice milk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon old bay seasoning 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper)
  • 3 green onions, chopped for garnish
Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or pot over medium-low heat. Remove cooked bacon and lay on paper towels; set aside for later. Estimate (or measure) the rendered bacon fat. You need 1/4 - 1/3 cup, so add oil if there's not enough or remove any excess. Sweat the onion, celery, garlic, and salt together over medium-low heat until the onion and celery are soft. Sift the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the flour becomes slightly toasted, stirring constantly so it does not burn. Add the potatoes, milk, old bay, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the flour (and get any stuck bits off of the bottom of the pot). If your "milk" is unsweetened (usually labelled "unsweetened" on the box), add 1 tablespoon of sugar (to taste). Simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning as desired (i.e. add more old bay, salt, or pepper if you want). Ladle into bowls and top with the green onions and crumbled bacon.

NOTE: If your family has no problems with dairy, you could make this with 2% or whole milk. Since I personally have no issues with dairy, I add a couple of tablespoons of finely shredded cheddar cheese to my bowl! I also like to add crackers.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Caribbean Bean Soup

What is a Caribbean bean? Well the most popular beans in Caribbean cooking are black beans and red beans. However, this soup isn't only about the beans; it uses several other Caribbean flavors: garlic, cumin, lime, and cilantro.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 2 cans black or red beans, or one pound of cooked dried beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sweat the onion, carrots, jalapeno, and garlic with the salt, pepper, and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes, until the carrot has softened (do not let the vegetables brown, turn heat to medium-low if necessary). Meanwhile, puree the beans with the chicken broth in a blender*. Add to the softened vegetable mixture. Raise heat to medium until simmering. Reduce to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more salt and pepper to taste and serve in soup bowls, topping with sour cream and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

*Note: If you like the texture of whole beans in your soup, only puree half of the beans with the broth. Add the un-pureed beans to the soup as soon as you add the bean/broth mixture.

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free Pancakes

Pancakes are a delightful weekend breakfast treat! There are many recipes for very nice pancakes available, so why bother writing another? Because most of them require butter, milk, or other dairy products. Also, many of the commercial mixes contain both dairy and soy products, making them unsuitable for people with certain food allergies or intolerances. A few years ago, I came across a recipe for pancakes that were free of these allergens and I've been playing with it, tweaking the recipe to improve the flavor and texture. I think I've got it down now, so I'm ready to share it with you!


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup non-dairy milk, such as rice milk, coconut milk, or almond milk (the latter being my favorite)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons applesauce (unsweetened - no sugar added)
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil (not "vegetable" or soybean oil, if you are trying to keep it soy-free)


After collecting all your ingredients, but before you mix or measure anything, preheat your griddle to 350 degrees (or medium-high if you don't have a thermostat). Also, turn your oven on to it's lowest setting and put a baking sheet lined with a tea towel in it.

Whisk together the flour, powder, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl to remove any clumps and evenly distribute the ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, egg, and applesauce until the egg and applesauce are thoroughly mixed into the milk. Finally, pour the liquid mixture onto the dry ingredients and whisk until there are no more dry clumps, although you should not mix until totally smooth or the pancakes will be too tough - it will only take 10-15 seconds of whisking to bring it all together.

Brush a light coating of oil onto the hot griddle. Using a disher (ice cream scoop) or ladle, gently pour batter onto the griddle. Flip when the bubbles begin to set around the edges and the cooked side is golden brown. Cook another 2-3 minutes until the other side is set. Place each batch on the baking sheet and cover with another towel until ready to serve (they will keep 20-30 min). This recipe makes about 15 pancakes, but you can double it to serve a crowd.