Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie with Kahlua Cream

I have always liked Pecan Pie but no one else in the family really cared for it until I made this version with chocolate chips.

With Christmas nearly upon us, we start thinking about decadent desserts that we may only eat once or twice a year. However, I make this pie at least three times a year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and for my daughter’s birthday. If you are looking for a decadent dessert to serve for a special dinner, you will want to make this Chocolate Chip Pecan pie. It is sure to be a hit.

“Food historians generally agree pecan pie is a twentieth century invention inspired by traditional sugar pies and sweet nut confections. It is a favorite of the American south, as are pralines and other pecan infused foods. Late 19th century newspapers offer pecan pie recipes.” Reference from Food Timeline found here

I grew up in the South but really don’t remember eating Pecan Pie until an adult. There is a mall in Pensacola, FL that was built on a former pecan tree plantation and still had a few trees growing when I lived there. I suppose the fallen pecans were up for grabs because we would sometimes go and collect a bucket or two of them. The pecans then made their way into various desserts with at least one pie for me.

Pecan pie is a custard pie with pecans being the centerpiece of ingredients. The custard filling is nearly always made with Karo syrup. This recipe uses Karo light syrup.

The nuts should be both chopped and whole for maximum pecan flavor and texture while still allowing for easy slicing of the pie.

This pie has both chopped and whole pecans adhering to the above. To make this pie even more rich and decadent be sure to serve it with the Kahlua Cream.

I found this recipe many years ago from Woman’s Day.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie with Kahlua Cream

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 frozen ready-to-bake deep dish pie crust, thawed
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Karo light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Place oven rack in lowest third of oven. Heat oven to 350°.
Scatter chips evenly on the thawed crust.
Mix syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt together until well blended.
Stir in the 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Pour evenly over the chocolate chips.
Arrange pecan halves on top.
Bake 50 minutes or until crust and pecans are browned. If crust begins to
darken too quickly, cover with tin foil.

Kahlua Cream: Beat 1⁄2 cup heavy (whipping) cream and 1 Tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted.  (Optional)  

 

Jack-O’-Lantern Sugar Cookies

Halloween, the night of October 31, that the kids in the neighborhood dress in costume and solicit candy or other treats door-to-door will soon be here. So it is a perfect time to make sugar cookie cutouts in the shape of jack-o’-lanterns.

It’s easy to transform a basic sugar cookie dough into delightful Halloween treats. Using cutters shaped like the jack-o’-lantern or your favorite spooky cookie cutter you can cast a magic spell over you family’s Halloween. The jack-o’-lantern is my favorite symbol of Halloween so that is my choice of cookie cutter.

I used a Williams Sonoma jack-o’-lantern cookie cutter that allows you to “Just press firmly to cut the edges, then depress the spring to release delicate shapes embossed with fine detail.”

jacolantern cookie cutter

cookie cutter

“The jack-o-lantern actually started from an old Irish folk tale, based upon Stingy Jack who liked to steal from his friends and play mean tricks on his family. When Stingy Jack died he was not allowed into heaven but was forced to wander with only a turnip with an ember as its light.

On all Hallow’s eve the Irish used hallowed out turnips as their Jack’s lanterns originally. However, immigrants to America, found pumpkins more plentiful than turnips.”*

*Source for the above can be found at Pumpkin Nook

So began the tradition to use a hollowed-out pumpkin in which holes are cut to represent facial features and lit with some sort of light, the jack-o’-lantern.

I discovered the recipe for this cookie from a 2002 Taste of Home Magazine but the same recipe is available on a lot of recipe web sites.

The cream cheese adds richness to a classic sugar cookie and the cookies practically melt in your mouth. The recipe below is only slightly varied from the one in the Taste of Home magazine.

Jack-o'-Lantern Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 4 dozen cookies
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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1 cup butter, softened
3 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon orange food coloring, gel type if available

In a bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and extract and then add the food color. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with your favorite cookie cutter dipped in flour. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

jackolantern cookies

Tips for making the cookies: If the dough comes out of the fridge too hard, just let it stand for a while until easy to handle. And if you take too long to make the cookies and it becomes too soft, put it back in the fridge to let it chill. Also, make sure the dough is on a well floured surface for rolling and dip cookie cutter in flour before each use and flour the rolling pin well also.

A 2-1/2 inch cookie cutter will yield approximately 4 dozen cookies. I used a 3 x 2-3/4 inch cookie cutter which yielded 21 cookies.

Apple Turnovers

Fall trees

Autumn is here and with it comes the beautiful colors of the season. The leaves changing color are a sight to see. This time of year in western Michigan means that fresh local apples are plentiful. Wonderful desserts are just waiting to be made from them. One easy and fairly quick dessert is the Apple Turnover. Combining apples and prepared frozen puff pastry allow you to turn out great tasting Apple Turnovers. Puff pastry has a flakiness and puffiness that a pie crust just doesn’t have. By using already prepared frozen puff pastry from your local grocer, the apple turnovers are a snap to make.

I couldn’t find much on the history of Apple Turnovers but did discover this snippet of information:

“A turnover is a sort of small, typically individual pie or pasty, in which the filling is placed on one side of a piece of rolled-out pastry and the other side is then turned over’ to cover it, forming a semicircular shape. The term is first recorded at the end of the eighteenth century: an old woman preparing her turnovers, commonly called apple-pies’ (Sporting Magazine, 1798). It is occasionally used for savoury fillings, such as meat, but a sweet fruit filling is the norm, and, as the above extract suggests, most turnovers are in fact apple turnovers.” Cited in Food Timeline

This recipe is based on one that my Dad made when I was a child (he was the cook in the family). Of course, he would have used a homemade pie crust instead of puff pastry.

Apple Turnover

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Apple Turnovers

Ingredients

3 cups peeled and diced Golden Delicious apples, or your favorite cooking apple
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 package (2 sheets) Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed (or your favorite brand)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Combine the apples, cornstarch, vanilla extract, cinnamon and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes, until the apples are softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sprinkle the flour on the work surface. Defrost puff pastry per package directions and lay out in one flat sheet on the floured surface. Divide the sheet into four equal squares using a very sharp knife.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons apple mixture into the center of each square. Don’t overfill the square. Fold the puff pastry from corner to corner to form a triangle shape. Seal and crimp with a fork. Brush egg wash evenly over the top of the turnovers. This will give the pastry a nice golden color when baked. Cut 1-2 small slits in the top of each filled pastry.

Bake each batch for approximately 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Note: Puff Pastry works best when cold. Work with one Puff Pastry sheet at a time, keeping the other one in the refrigerator until ready to use.

apple turnovers

Amish Apple Pie

Golden Delicious Apples

Here in Michigan, locally grown apples are starting to appear at the farm markets and yes Fall weather will soon be upon us. Fall weather makes one think of apple pie. Apple pie is good anytime but I like to make this Amish Apple Pie as soon as the local Golden Delicious apples are available. This is a very good apple pie recipe that I discovered years ago. This recipe is from Marcia Adams and her 1988 Cooking from Quilt Country, a wonderful cookbook filled with Amish recipes and information on the Amish people. The cookbook is readily available from online book sellers.

Apple pies have been around since Medieval times and I think we should all be glad they have stood the test of time. Here is a sample of a Medieval recipe for an apple pie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Medieval Apple Pie Recipe

The interesting thing about this recipe is that it has whipping cream in the filling. It is a delicious apple pie with a perfect balance of sweet and tart. This pie is similar to what in the US we call a “Dutch Apple Pie”. Dutch apple pie is one that refers specifically to an apple pie with a crumb, streusel, topping.

This pie is always requested for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. For a long time, it was my daughter’s favorite pie, until she discovered Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie.

Amish Apple Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Amish Apple Pie

Streusel
⅓ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Speck of salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Filling

4 large apples, Golden Delicious or other baking apples (4 cups)
1 unbaked 10 inch pie shell
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a food processor bowl, mix the first 6 streusel ingredients. Add the butter and process until the mixture is crumbly; it should still have a dry look to it — don’t over process. Add the nuts and then set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core and thinly slice apples; there should be 4 cups. Place apples in the pie shell.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Beat the egg in a medium bowl, and add the cream and vanilla. Add the sugar mixture to the egg mixture and blend. Pour over the apples. Bake for 1 hour in the lower one-third of the oven.*

*After 20 minutes baking, sprinkle streusel over the top and continue baking approximately 40 minutes longer, or until the top puffs and is golden brown.

Amish Apple Pie

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle

Mid to late June here in Michigan means strawberry season. Once you see those ruby reds you know summer has officially begun. So make the most of the season and get cooking with some lovely fresh strawberries. This Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle is an excellent recipe to get started on.

In fact, I only make this trifle when locally grown strawberries are available. It is a beautiful dessert that makes any summer meal special. A plus factor is that it can be made ahead and it is better served a day after it has been made. If the local strawberry seasons lasts long enough, I make this trifle for the 4th of July, and it has become a traditional dessert.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe I discovered several years ago in a Taste of Home magazine April/May 1999. The original recipe can also be found on the Taste of Home web site.

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle

2 pints fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup sugar, divided
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 loaf (10-3/4 ounces) frozen pound cake, thawed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Additional strawberries, optional

In a bowl, toss strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar; set aside. Let the strawberries stand at room temperature until juices are released, at least 30 minutes.

In a bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream; set aside.

Drain strawberries, reserving juice; set the berries aside. Gently toss cake cubes with reserved juice. Place half of the cake in a 4-qt. trifle dish or serving bowl. Top with a third of the cream cheese mixture, half of the strawberries. Repeat layers. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture. Garnish with the additional strawberries if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Yield: Approximately 10-12 servings.

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle

Creamy Nacho Potato Soup

This is such a tasty soup and good anytime of the year. Using a packaged potato mix, makes it quick and easy to put together. I’m not fond of the packaged potato mixes but have to admit that I keep boxes of this mix on hand; just for this soup. Try it. I think your family will love it.

The soup is adapted from a recipe published in Quick Cooking Magazine, May/June 1998 edition. If you prefer a milder soup, use the mild flavor of Rotel’s diced tomatoes and green chilies.

Creamy Nacho Potato Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 package (5-1/4 ounces) au gratin potatoes
1 can (11 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (10 ounces) Rotel Original diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
2 cups water
2 cups Half and Half Milk
2 cups finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

In a 3-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, combine contents of potato package, corn, tomatoes, and water; mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add the Half and Half and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. If soup is too thick, add additional milk until desired consistency is reached

Garnish with additional cheese, if desired. Serve with a soft roll or square of cornbread.  

 

Nacho Potato Soup

Grilled Burgers

I love grilled hamburgers. I mean who doesn’t love a juicy, smoky grilled burger? I use a natural gas grill for all of my grilling and in my opinion it is just as good as a charcoal grill.

For a better burger, flip them just once while grilling.

Linda Stradley of What’s Cooking America web site notes that “…even the ancient Egyptians ate ground meat, and down through the ages we also find that ground meat has been shaped into patties and eaten all over the world under many different names.”

So get out there and start grilling some burgers. It will surely please your family.

Grilled Burgers

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
Kosher or Seasoned salt
4 slices Cheddar Cheese
4 hamburger buns

Divide the meat into four equal portions. Form each portion into a 3/4 inch burger. Season each side with the salt.

Heat the gas grill to high. Grill the burgers approximately four minutes on the first side with the lid closed. Flip over the burgers and grill approximately three minutes. Add a slice of cheese to each burger and continue grilling until the cheese is melted. The above times on my grill and on high heat produce a well done burger. Reduce the cooking time if you prefer a medium rare burger.

Serve the grilled burgers on hamburger buns with your favorite condiments. If desired, also serve with tomato, lettuce and onion.

grilled burger