Pecan Pie Tarts

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The thing about pecan pie…20131028-214954.jpg

Everybody likes that sweetness, but you can only take so many bites of it before you overwhelm your palette. That’s why when I saw Hungry Girl‘s recipe for mini Pecan Pies, I thought “Of course!” Bite-sized is better for this dessert.

I’ve done quite a few mini pies though, and for this one I wanted to try more of a tart/ pinafore bite. So I chose a different phyllo dough, and I’m glad that I did.

Ingredients20131028-214906.jpg

1 package phyllo dough pies (or crust if you want to shape your own)

1/3 cup pecans, chopped

2 T brown sugar

1.5 T coconut oil

1/2 packet stevia

1/2 t vanilla extract

dash of salt20131028-214918.jpg

dash of cinnamon

Directions

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your dough as you like, i.e. if you bought the mini pie crusts, assemble those. Place in preheated oven until slightly golden brown (about 5 minutes).

-In a pan, drop in nuts and oil, making sure the nuts are coated well. Then add the remaining ingredients. Turn over until nice, sweet and crunchy sugar layer forms.20131028-214942.jpg

-Assemble the tarts by spooning your nut mixture into the centers of the tarts, filling to the top. Return to oven and bake another 5-8 minutes or until toasted and golden brown. Serve warm if you can, with whipped cream or mint garnish, if you like.

Other Fall Food Recipes from CC:
Yam’O’Lanterns

Pumpkin Chili

Mini Pumpkin Pies for One

 

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Pumpkin-Parsley Pizza Pie

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When my friend Amelia mentioned her pumpkin pizza in a Facebook post, I was perplexed. 20131029-203319.jpg

Pumpkin puree for sauce? Pumpkin pulp as a topping? Can that really taste good?

Yes. I’m always surprised when sweet-savory combinations work so well. I’m not sure why I always forget this little culinary truism, but I’m always pleasantly reminded.

Pumpkin as a topping, and a sauce that’s part pumpkin, part marina is oh so sweet, and it gets an herb-y fresh kick from our good friend parsley. I mean, really good. If you live pumpkin, you really should try this pairing.

And where’d I get the “pumpkin pulp”? The jack’o’lantern I carved all by myself (first time!) this year.20131029-203437.jpg

Ingredients

Dough

1 t honey or agave nectar

1/4 of a yeast packet

1/4 + 3 T whole wheat flour

1 T rolled oats

1 t cornmeal

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Seasonings: garlic, basil, oregano

Topping

2 T slice pumpkin pulp

1 T tomato sauce

1 T pumpkin puree

3 T fresh, shredded Mozzarella

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Crushed red pepper

Directions

Dough:

-In a bowl, dissolve sweetener and yeast in 2.5 T hot water. Let stand for about five minutes.

-Add flour and salt to the yeast mixture and stir ’til a soft dough forms. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

-Place in bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top. Let rise ’til double in size, about 30 minutes.

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.20131029-203335.jpg

-Punch down and work in seasonings. Roll into a circle or square shape. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and begin topping process.

Topping:

-In a small dish, mix the 1 T marinara and 1 T pumpkin puree to make the suance. Rub sauce evenly over the dough in a thin layer, and then sprinkle cheese on, too. Arrange pumpkin pulp evenly on top. Sprinkle parsley on top.

-Place back in oven for about 5 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Slice and serve warm.

Pizza Muffins

Thai Flatbread Pizzas

Zucchini ‘zas

Yam’O’Lanterns!

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The one time I tried to carve a pumpkin by myself, I found out it was hard. Scraping and scratching out the stringy insides took forever; carefully carving the thick pumpkin walls took longer.20131019-115459.jpg

Patience: a virtue I’ve never known well and can’t summon for the art of pumpkin carving.

But I can make meals FAST! Thats what I’m good at. I’ve been eating a lot of fast meals recently, to my regret, because this first semester in my PhD program at TCU has been full of studying, events, making new friends, studying, writing everyday, all the time, and studying some more. I’ve gotten good at having some standby ingredients on hand all the time so when I am home I get a wholesome, nutritional meal with “real” ingredients, but I’ll admit that my creative cookery has fallen way by the wayside.20131019-115446.jpg

One of the ingredients I always have on hand are sweet potatoes–been eating them like a fiend! I’ve found that if you microwave the sweet potato fries for a bit, then crisp them up in the oven, things go much, much faster.

Imagine my delight when I saw Apronstring’s Yam’O’Lanterns recipe. A few more minutes added to my sweet potato prep gave me a fun food-craft to try on the fly. Here’s my make-it-fast variation of this festive fall food.

Ingredients

1-8 oz. sweet potato

cooking spray

optional: sea salt

Directions20131019-115512.jpg

-Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

-Using a sharp knife, slice your sweet potato into rounds as you usually might (mine were about 1/5″ thick). Then, use a sharp paring knife to carve in the faces you like. When ready, transfer to a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

-After that, transfer to prepared sheet. Spritz on some cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt or other seasonings you like (rosemary would be a delicious one to use for these). Toss them up a bit for good coverage and pop in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, longer if you made thicker slices. Remove when cooked all the way through and crispy around all the edges.

Chili-Lime Jicama Fries

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I will never be able to say jicama correctly on a first attempt.

English: Jicama at a market in Taxco, Mexico

English: Jicama at a market in Taxco, Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The J always gets me.

But I will always be grateful for this oddly sweet fruit and how well it pairs with spicy seasonings.

And for a foodie blogger I’ve never met, Annalisa from Annalisa’s Organic Kitchen, for sharing this recipe idea. I’ve tweaked things a bit, per usual, but it’s very similar and very easy to make.

So my Southwestern recipe kick continues, and I find another delicious recipe I probably wouldn’t have tried in the Midwest. The times are changing, but I’m not complaining…

Ingredients

1/2 medium jicama
1/4 small lime
1 t coconut oil
a few dashes of chili powder
dash of dried cilantro, cayenne pepper, and onion salt

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

-Peel jicama and cut into sticks that are similar in shape to a French fry.
-Mix the jicama sticks up on the greased cookie sheet. Squeeze the lime over the top, and toss, and squeeze again.
-Sprinkle the  coconut oil over the fries, and then the remaining seasonings until fries are well coated.

-Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or so. For an extra crisp fry at the end, turn on the broilers for about a minute–but don’t do this if your cookie sheet is not “broiler safe” or won’t be able to stand the heat.

-Remove from the oven and ready yourself to enjoy one heaping serving of jicama, crispy, spicy, and sweet.

Southern Style Pinto Beans

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I’m a little closer to the equator now and although I would’ve never expected it, I’ve been eating beans of every Tex-Mex variety like they’re going out of style.IMG_1224

So while peeking in my pantry for ideas the other day, I spied a bag of dried pinto beans I bought last fall in Iowa in an effort to reduce my sodium intake (sans canning preservatives). I tried the “slow-soak” method of softening the beans and it took too long and didn’t turn out that great. But I’m somewhere new now, so I figured why not give it another shot.

Slow soak did not work, again. I even soaked three times the recommended time. No softening to be had. I strained them, popped them in the fridge for a few days, and returned feeling challenged but determined.

Not another slow soak for me. This time I boiled them for just 8 minutes and the results were much better, allowing me to try my hand at Southern Style Pinto Beans, which are a lot like refried beans, but of course I’m not going to add any hydrogenated oils.IMG_1198

And really, all the recipes I drew preparation ideas from were pretty easy and healthy already. So here’s my version, done in a slow cooker. It’s not single-serving style, but cut anything by 1/4 and you’ll have it anyway or email me and I’ll help.

Ingredients

1 pound pinto beans, softened

1/5 cup diced onion

1/2 T cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and a dash of cayenneIMG_1196

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (or more water)

Directions

-Place onions and beans in a slow cooker on low. Stir in spices and liquids.

-Cook for about 4 hours, stirring every half hour or so. And pay attention to liquid levels, so if the bean mix appears to be drying out add another 1/4 cup of water or more if necessary.

-Place in food processor. Blend until smoother but still lumpy. Return to slow cooker if your meal isn’t prepared yet and keep on warm or serve. (But serve warm because this is the one time when cool beans aren’t so cool…)IMG_1223

Appetizer Idea: Unfried Mac-and-Cheese Bites

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Taste the unfried side…photo (18)

That rings in my head. It’s got to be a slogan for some company, although I’m not sure what at the moment. It’s possible that it’s just a rhyme I’ve made up to.

But it’s sticky. No, not like fried sticky. It’s an idea–and a health habit–that sticks, i.e. has staying power. Nothing truly good comes from anything fried, not in the long-term (health wise) or in how you feel right after eating something fried.

A quick vignette to illuminate my point:

Shortly before the 4th of July this year, a friend of mine indulged in a fried mac-and-cheese burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines. The thing was a spectacle with it’s layering of mac and cheese and “buns” made as large mac-and-cheese bites, similar to the ones made popular by Sonic and other fast food chains. Was it comical? Absolutely. Did it make everyone cringe a little? Yes. There’s something appealing to us Americans about indulgence and extremes. I get that. But we also know better.photo (16)

Epilogue: Dear friend did not finish that burger. He took the rest for lunch the next day, his girlfriend squealing uncomfortably at the thought of it being reheated.

My purpose in telling you this story is to lead you to another option. You know I’ve been experimenting with egg roll wrappers lately, and so with some cheesy cauliflower left over from my Healthier Mac-and-Cheese You Can Microwave, I set out to make an appetizer comparable to the cheesy, carby bites so many crave, sans the grease.

How’d they turn out? In my humble, disapproving-of-all-things-fried opinion, REALLY GOOD! Perfect crunch. Perfect amount of cheesiness, and anything but hard to make.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappersphoto (19)

1 single-serving container of Green Giant Cheesy Cauliflower

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin, or a regular cookie sheet if you don’t have a mini-muffin one. Set aside.

Using a pizza cutter, slice the egg roll wrappers in half to get two triangles for each square sheet.

Gently press the middle of each triangular wrapper into the tin or lay flat. In the center, spoon in warmed cheesy cauliflower mix. Be conservative in how much you spoon in. A little dollop goes a long way.

The next part is tricky. Fold the edges of the wrapper over and tuck them under the bottoms to form the ball. You’ll have to finagle them a little to get them just right, but keep calm and fold gently. When you’ve achieved folding that makes them look like small balls or popovers, pop them in the oven for about 7-9 minutes, or until the outer edges are brown and crispy. photo (15)

Serve warm in a favorite dipping sauce or with a sprinkle of pepper as I did. Enjoy!

A Healthier Mac-And-Cheese in Your Microwave

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Disclaimer: This recipe is not perfect. The cheesy cauliflower packages bought in stores were a quick fix and per the suggestion of Hungry Girl, but gosh are they good, and they make for a reasonably healthy splurge.image

I give that disclaimer because the cauliflower-and-cheese steamers do have more preservatives in them than I typically like, but this recipe is such a good comfort food option, especially for those wanting something comparable to regular macaroni and cheese.

My slightly altered version uses whole-grain noodles, a dash of mustard, and some Parmesan. You can omit, but I promise you if you try it, you won’t want to.

So if you’re jonesing for mac-and-cheese or if you’re interested in increasing the veggies in your diet, you’ll like this. I promise.

AND you can make it in your microwave, and fast! check it out.image

Ingredients

1 single-serving package of Green Giant‘s cheesy cauliflower steamers

1/4 cup whole-wheat elbow macaroni

2/3 cup water

1/4 t Dijon mustard

1 t Parmesan

sprinkle of pepper

Directionsimage

-Just like in my Mug’O’Mac recipe, use a large mug or other microwave-safe bowl, and add in pasta and water. Microwave the pasta on high for about 2 minutes; then stir and microwave for 2 more minutes. Note: The water may overflow in the microwave, so to prevent this, add a little less. Or if you lose too much, add a T or so more. At the same time, you can microwave the cheesy cauliflower serving as directed.

-If the shells still aren’t soft, repeat microwaving and stirring until they are. Mine were ready after only 4 minutes. Drain any excess water very well.

-Mix the dry noodles and the cheesy cauliflower together along with the mustard. You can omit mustard if you like, but I think it gives a really nice flavor. Blend well. Sprinkle Parmesan and pepper on top.image

-Place back in microwave and cook for 1 more minute. Alternatively, I gave mine a nice crispy coating on top by broiling for about 2 minutes. Either way will be delicious if served warm and when in need of carby comfort.

Sweet Potato Hash + Egg

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If you love fun food like I do.IMG_1293

If you adore anything avian (birds, nests, eggs).

If you love comfort food.

You’ll love this.

Sweet potato hash gets a salty-sweet kick with a little onion salt and an egg bakes in the center for a most delicious pairing that would be fun to make with kids.

Or even, fun for a twenty-something gal who likes breakfast for dinner every now and then.

If you think it’s hard to make, think again. Nothing I make is very challenging, really. I have limited time and limited patience most nights, like most people. So I try to cook fast, but well. IMG_1296

So don’t let a spud and a bird’s egg scare you. Try this recipe. You can even try it in the microwave.

Ingredients

1-6 or 7 oz. sweet potato

1 egg

dash of onion salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a ramekin. Set aside.IMG_1283

Cut your potato into four pieces. Heat for 30 seconds to soften a tad. Then take to the scraper and begin making hash with your shredder. You could process in a food processor, but you won’t get hash shreds, really.

Once your shreds are ready, put them in the ramekin. Shape a little hole in the center for the egg. Crack it and drop it in the center. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the egg and shreds are fully cooked.

Alternatively, if you want to try this in the microwave–which I also did once because I really didn’t have any patience that night–microwave your shreds in the ramekin for 3 minutes. Add in the egg as you would if you were baking, and microwave for another 1-2 minutes, being careful to listen for overheating or that unwelcome yolk-pop sound.IMG_1295

Sprinkle with a little pepper, hot sauce, or whatever else you like on your eggs and potatoes, and enjoy!

Appetizer Idea: Southwestern Egg Rolls

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Another egg roll wrapper recipe comin’ atcha!photo (42)

Why? Because I had a bajillion of them and a hankering for some crispy appetizers! Yes, the egg-roll-wrapper saga is not over. And I question whether or not its crispy goodness should.

Since I’m headed to Texas, I thought I’d try a Tex-Mex recipe, for festivity’s sake.

And like anything I do, this recipe is simple, easy, and fast. Planned for the live-alone girl (or guy) in mind, and made to pack a flavorful pop the “Everything’s Bigger” state can love.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappers, sliced in halves

1/4 cup black beans (or pinto)

1/4 cup fresh corn kernelsphoto (41)

1/2 small Roma tomato or 3-4 grape tomatoes

1 T chopped onion

dash of minced garlic

dash of: cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro

twist of lime

optional: Chipotle Ranch dressing

Directionsphoto (39)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

In a small skillet, combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, garlic, spices, and lime. Saute until veggies appear fully sauteed and seasoned.

Transfer veggies to your four eggroll strips. Parcel out less than you think to each. Divide evenly, but “eyeball,” as my mother would say, to see if you might add a bit more. Before you start to roll, be careful to overlap to create a longer roll and make sure the ends connect up so none of the filling comes out. This is also why you have to underestimate how much veggie filling is needed because more often than not, you’ve added more than can fit.

Bake until crispy and the wraps start to flake up with air bubbles. Serve hot in cool dipping sauce if you like. Que bueno!

Burgie in a Nest

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Burgers are coming in all kinds of packages these days. I’m always happy to see restaurants that offer whole-wheat bun options, less happy when I see disgustingly indulgent bun options, like the fried mac-and-cheese buns at Zombie Burger. Yes, ZB in downtown Des Moines is an excellent restaurant, very tasty choice with lots of creations, but the mac-and-cheese burger that has mac on a burger between two fried mac-and-cheese patties as buns: disgusting.CC Pics 018

And then there are those who offer protein-style options, like lettuce wraps, which I really like. Quesadilla wraps are big now, too.

So in my quest to use up all 21 egg roll wrappers purchased for a single-serving recipe way, way back at the start of summer, I had another idea. Most have been appetizer ideas, but this is a wrapper idea. Wrap a burger in an egg roll wrapper for a crunchy alternative to buns that adds a nice texture.

And it’s just cute. To me it looks like a little infant burger poking out of a little nest.

The reality is that it’s actually a substantially-sized venison patty that packs a lot of delicious flavor, but back to being cute…

Here’s how to wrap your burgie in its nest for an alternative to the bun that’s a little more fun.

Ingredientsphoto (27)

1 egg roll wrapper

4-6 oz. burger, cooked

toppings of choice

Directions

Preheat broiler to high or set your oven to bake at 450 degrees. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.

Lay the burger on the egg roll wrapper, in the center. Now slide it down closer to one corner. Not all the way, but close. Fold the two perpendicular corners over the sides of the burger, tuck the closest corner over the top of those and fold under. With the flap that hasn’t been folded yet, curl that underneath the burger for extra support/ crunch.CC Pics 038

Note: Make sure your burgers aren’t dripping in grease as that’ll cause the wrapper to not crispy up, just stay soggy.

Broil for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. If baking, expect the crisping to take a little longer, more like 6-7 minutes.

Let cool a tad and then tuck in your favorite toppings. Crunch in and enjoy!