Spicy Savory Pecans

Pan of toasted pecans.
Each year at Christmas I make batches of spiced pecans as gifts for neighbors and friends.  I usually make the savory variety rather than the sweet.  This recipe is super easy and the results are yummy.

Recipe: 2 cups pecan halves
             1 tablespoon butter
             2 tsp soy sauce (lite version with less salt)
             1/2 tsp salt (optional)
             1/8 tsp hot sauce (I use Texas Pete)*

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  In 8 or 9 inch cake pan, combine pecan halves and butter.  I usually melt the butter and then add the pecan halves.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter.
Add 2 cups of pecan halves to butter in pan.
Toast for 30 minutes in preheated 300 degree oven.
Toast in oven 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from oven and add other ingredients.  I usually mix the soy sauce and hot sauce together before adding to the pecans.  Toss to mix well.  Yields 2 cups.
Mix 2 tsp soy sauce and 1/8 tsp hot sauce and add to toasted pecans. 
 * These are not actually very hot--just enough spice to be interesting.

Apple Cranberry Tart

Apple Cranberry Tart. 

Along with an advertisement for Viking River Cruises came this recipe for an Apple Cranberry Tart.  I had apples and cranberries, and I made my own almond paste (a new experience) so for Thanksgiving this was a different dessert.
Adding a layer of almond paste in crust. 

Add apples and cranberries.

Add topping. 

Out of the oven.  

Taking one of the Viking River Cruises is on my bucket list, and if this recipe is indicative of the kind of food they serve, then I'll be in for a treat.

This was good, but perhaps a little too sweet (I suppose because of the almond paste which was very sweet.)

Making My Own Almond Paste

Almond Paste

I have a recipe that calls for almond paste that delicious something that is found in lots of Danish and French pastries.  The recipe I was using for an apple cranberry tart called for almond paste.  Sure I could go out and buy some already made, but since I am trying to learn new things in the kitchen why not make my own especially since I had a bag of whole almonds.  First I had to blanch (remove the skins) from the whole almonds.

Place whole almonds in bowl.
Pour boiling water over almonds and let stay for 1 minute.  Do not oversoak.

Now the skins will peel off very nicely.  Let the blanched almonds dry. 

Once the blanched almonds had dried, I was ready to make the almond paste.

1.1.2 cups blanched almonds
1/1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon almond extract

Add almonds and sugar in a food processor and process until  the almonds are finely ground.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture forms into a dough and pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Wrap the almond paste tightly in plastic wrapp and store in a ziploc bag.  Can be refrigerated up to 3 months or frozen for up to 6 months.

This was used in the apple cranberry tart I made for Thanksgiving this year.  Another blog will feature that tart.

Of Course I Know How to Cook Steelcut Oats, But.....

A Bowl of Trader Joe's Steelcut Oatmeal. 

I've found a way to have quick cook steelcut oats, and that may sound like heresy to those who love steelcut oats and who know that it takes about 45 minutes to cook them. ( I need to mention here that I do NOT like quick cook oat flakes that you get in little individual packets.  Those are not steel cut.)  Trader Joe's has developed frozen steelcut oatmeal that is absolutely delicious and quick. *

For $1.69 you get two plastic-wrapped hockey pucks of cooked-then-frozen steelcut oatmeal. Hard as a rock, they go into a bowl and into the microwave for two minutes on high. Take them out and stir and back in the microwave for another 1 or 2 minutes.  You can add raisins, or diced apples, or fresh blueberries at this stage if you wish. 
After two minutes stir, and here's where I add raisins or apples.
Add some pecans and half and half and you are ready for a healthy bgreakfast.

Of course, I could cook up a  batch of steelcut oatmeal myself, then divide it up into an ice cube tray. Depending on my hunger level, I could go for a couple cubes, or more. This is more time consuming and not really any less expensive. By the time you buy the steelcut oats, and cook them for 40 or 45 minutes, you're really not saving money and certainly not saving time.  

With the frozen cut oats from TJs I get two servings out of one hockey puck at about 42 cents per serving.  And even if you want the whole puck it is only 85 cents.  An inexpensive and healthy breakfast.   Not to mention what I save in time.  I am certainly planning on keeping a box of these on hand for the cold mornings when I am hankering for a quick breakfast of a bowl of steel cut oats.  

* A Disclaimer:   I need to mention that I am in no way compensated from Trader Joe's for promoting their product.  But hey, Trader Joe's if you are listening maybe this is worth a free box or two, what do you think?

Not My Usual Thanksgiving Pecan Pie This Year

About this time of year I venture over to the Farmer's Market and get my yearly supply of pecans. I use the pecans for pies and for making Hot Pepper Pecans. One of the pies I usually make at Thanksgiving (and again at Christmas) is the Southern Pecan Pie.  I ran across a recipe recently for Pecan Pie Bars, and I've decided I will break from tradition and try these.  These can be frozen and can be used for finger food should I decide to have an open house or whenever someone drops by unexpectedly.  They will also make good holiday gifts.

Pecan Pie Bars

1 1/2  cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cup brown sugar
2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (if you are using unsalted butter)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche or heavy cream
2 cups of chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9x13inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

Make the crust by creaming together 1 cup butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, in a stand mixer.  Add flour, salt, and mix until crumbly.

Press the crust into the foil lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

As the crust bakes, prepare the topping by combing 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, honey, and creme fraiche in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer for one minute and pour in the pecans.

Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the topping over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.

Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.

Use the foil to lift the bars and transfer them to a cutting board.  Peel off the foil and slice into bars.

This recipe doesn't use eggs, but many of the recipes that I checked for pecan pie bars do.  I think I will make a second batch using a recipe that calls for eggs, because I always use eggs in a pecan pie.

Sweet Potato Cornbread (and Milk)

Sweet potato cornbread. 

I like sweet potatoes and I like cornbread, so I was eager to try this twist on cornbread.  The recipe was in today's News and Observer.

1/2 cup of creamy wheat (Cream of Wheat) (I used polenta or you could use cornmeal.)
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I grate fresh nutmeg.)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used creme fraiche.)
3/4 cup milk 2 tablespoons olive oil

Coat a 10 inch cast iron skillet with oil and set it in the oven and then preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Mix together all the dry ingredients.
Whisk together the remaining ingredients until they are thick but smooth.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients slightly until just incorporated.
Remove skillet from oven and carefully pour in the batter.
Bake about 25 minutes until the top is puffy and golden.
Remove from oven and place about 4 pats of butter and let sit for a few minutes.
Serve while hot.
Dry ingredients. 

Wet ingredients. 
Out of the oven and buttered. 

Ready to eat with a glass of milk. 
I think it would have been a bit better made with Cream of Wheat, because the polenta made it a bit grainy.  I never have Cream of Wheat on hand though.  Or cornmeal would probably work too, but I didn't have any on hand.

Brussel Sprouts with Apples, Pistachios, and Creme Fraiche

Brussel sprouts with apples, pistachios, and creme fraiche

A recipe in the News and Observer inspired me to cook some brussel sprouts although I didn't use their recipe,but I found a recipe that used fewer ingredients and one that did not include bacon or pancetta.


  • 10 ounces brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 Fuji Apple, unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large dollop of crème fraiche

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a cookie sheet, toss the sprouts together with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, redistributing once or twice, until properly brown and crispy.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, stir together the balsamic and honey over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Let bubble for two minutes or so, until the mixture is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and pour over the apples, pistachios, and sprouts. Toss together, taste for seasoning, and serve immediately with a generous dollop of crème fraiche.
Apples and pistachios
Roasted brussel sprouts.

Add a dollop of creme fraiche and enjoy.

This is a great recipe for a side dish, and I think I will use it as a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner this year.