Monday, November 29, 2010

Mini Southern Pecan Pies

Since everyone starts thinking "healthy" as you stuff your face with food during the holidays, I decided to make a twist on a classic family recipe this Thanksgiving. I took my grandmother's delicious Southern Pecan Pie, and made it into bite sized versions, so that no one would feel guilty about trying just one. 

I took a pre-made pie crust (2 actually) and cut small circles in it using my stainless steel 1/2 cup measuring cup. It was about 2.5" in diameter, so you could use a Tupperware lid too... whatever you have that is close to this size. I just cut them out with a knife, and then pressed the dough circles into my mini-muffin pan. Then I made the recipe below, and simply spooned the contents into each mini crust. I baked them for the same amount of time as a regular pie, and they turned out just perfect! Try them with your favorite pie filling for a small but savory dessert!

Southern Pecan Pie
1 cup Sugar
4 Eggs
1 1/4 cup Dark Corn Syrup
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 cup broken Pecan pieces (make them small for the mini pies)
1 9" pie crust (or 2- 9" pie crusts for minis)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, boil the sugar and corn syrup together for 2-3 minutes. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, and make sure you don't make them too stiff. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the eggs, stirring as you pour. Stir in the butter, vanilla, and pecans. Spoon into the pie crust(s) and bake for 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you and your families have a very 
Happy Thanksgiving

 Many THANKS to you who read this blog, too!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quick Quiche

We are doing a little something different for Thanksgiving tomorrow. We are celebrating with my husband's family by having a brunch! Since we all love breakfast foods, we thought that would be a good way to start the day before many of us have other places to visit, for turkey and stuffing. I am making my Quick Quiche by request.

This Quick Quiche recipe has been in our family for a few generations, and it is my go to entree for baby showers, wedding showers, brunch, and any event in between. It can be prepped the night before, and never disappoints with guests. It originated as a CRAB Quiche, but I substitute other ingredients, as you will see in the variations below.

1/2 cup Mayonnaise (I always use light)
2 eggs, whisked
2 Tbsp Flour
1/2 cup Milk (I use whatever is in the fridge, which is usually low fat or skim)
2 cups shredded Natural Swiss Cheese
1 can Fancy Lump Crab Meat, drained and flaked

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap a premade pie crusts, and place it in a pie plate. I like to add a First Slice bake in spatulas under the crust that make getting the first piece out so easy! Whisk the eggs in a small bow. Add the mayonnaise, milk, and flour. Stir in the cheese and crab meat until well blended. Pour into pie crust, cover crust edges with foil (so they won't burn), and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Variation #1: Bacon & Cheddar Cheese
Substitute one cup of Swiss Cheese for Shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese. I like to substitute the precooked microwaveable bacon for crab, and I use all 12 pieces, broken in small bites. Follow the rest of the original recipe.

Variation #2: Spinach & Feta Cheese
Substitute one cup of Swiss Cheese for reduced fat Feta cheese. I like to substitute a microwaveable package of frozen spinach for crab, and once you cook it, drain well and flake it with a fork before adding it to the mix. Follow the rest of the original recipe.

A special note: Swiss cheese and mayonnaise are the special ingredients here. They cannot be substituted, for they change the consistency and flavor of the dish. Low-fat shredded Swiss cheese, if you can find it, will also not melt, therefore you have to stick with the regular natural kind.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hostess Tips #1 and #2

I am going to begin a little recurring topic titled Hostess Tips. Now, I know that seems a little redundant because this entire blog is supposed to be tips and recipes, but the simple but important ones need to stand out. It is also a way to share some of my own experiences on what not to do. So here's to Hostess Tip #1

Wine = Black Shoes

It all came about in a simple conversation between friends. She passed me an incredible Pumpkin Martini recipe, since I love anything pumpkin flavored. I told her a story about how I made pumpkin martinis for a party once, with a not-so-positive end result. And the end of the story resulted in my Hostess Tip #1.

The thing is, when you are throwing a party, the easiest recipes are for cocktails. And how delicious if you could make a couple signature cocktails for your party, in cute glasses, with twisty straws or a festive garnish!! You immediately serve your guests your signature cocktail as they arrive, and soon thereafter, you serve the food you have slaved over that you hope they will also love. There is just one problem... pumpkin martinis don't go well with the Teriyaki chicken skewer appetizer, Paula Dean's potatoes, the Tuscan tossed salad, slow roasted beef tenderloin, nor the dessert of rich creme brulee. They will feel sick, maybe even before the salad. Trust me... I haven't had a pumpkin martini since.

Such a rich or strong cocktail may be delicious by itself, but when paired with a menu, you have to think about its elements. The heavy pie filling and cream and alcohol in the pumpkin martini should be served as dessert, and never before. Not only will you be on a sugar rush, but you will be full before the food ever arrives. And the lingering taste will ruin all the beautiful flavors of the meal to come. 

Enter WINE. Wine is like black shoes.... it goes with everything. If you are not sure what wine to buy, get several different bottles! Red and white! Smooth or dry! Chances are, one will be the perfect pairing for your food, and a few more may work nicely too. (Most people like wine, and if they don't, have beer and water in the fridge. Seriously, who doesn't like wine?). Wine doesn't ruin the flavor, or fill you up after one glass. It only enhances what you are eating. And then maybe you'll have room for the creme brulee.

However, if you are insistent on a signature cocktail, then skip to Hostess Tip #2:

Cocktails + Food = Love Match

You have to pair your cocktails with the food you are serving. Have to, for the sake of your guests. If you are clueless as to how to pair food and drinks, here are some great resources to help:

Food Pairing - a quick and easy reference guide online Guide: How to Pair Cocktails and Food - a great article that keeps it simple for all to understand with Fiona Beckett-if in doubt about what wines to pair with food

What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg- a great book, even as a hostess gift... maybe a hint to a hostess who needs to read this post!

So this holiday season, please use these tips for your party planning. And the last tip (a bonus!)- if in doubt about serving spirits before dinner, serve the signature cocktail as dessert. Surely, even if your guests are full, they will have room for just one sip. Cheers!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Give Thanks

I came up with a quick and easy centerpiece for fall and Thanksgiving, all for about $10.

 My local grocery store had bags of gourds and mini pumpkins on sale for $2 each, and I also picked up a bag of oranges for $3, and some whole cloves for $3. At home, I used the cloves to decorate the oranges - just stick them in! I decided to decorate a few oranges with dots and with stripes.

Half way through the oranges, I realized I could spell out words (and luckily had enough oranges left!), and so I came up with T-H-A-N-K-S. I pulled out my two large glass canisters and my antique Candlewick cake plate, and arranged  them in a trio on the table. Then I filled the canisters with mini pumpkins, gourds, and the plain oranges. I left a few of the beautiful orange and green gourds out to be placed with the alphabet oranges. What do you think?

I know that the oranges may not last until Thanksgiving, but it was so easy and quick to do that I can always whip up another batch before Thanksgiving.  Maybe even do multiple groups of different words, things to be thankful for.

This would also make a great place setting for your Holiday table. Just use the letter of the guest's first name spelled out in cloves, and place the orange on their plate. Guests will have something sweet and savory to take home with them. 

Since our dining room is in the middle of our house, I see this centerpiece a million times a day, and it constantly brings me warmth. The smell of the oranges and cloves has filled the house with their autumnal aroma, and the simple word of THANKS is a constant reminder of all we have to be thankful of this year.