Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Brunette Bars

I don’t normally make blondies as I love the chocolate of brownies. However, I’m at the point in my cycle where I don’t need a lot of chocolate to satisfy my cravings. The one cup of morsels hit the spot beautifully. Because this recipe has dark brown sugar and a lot of cinnamon it makes them dark enough to fall into a class all to themselves so I’m going to call them brunettes.

To increase the moisture, I added a tablespoon of pure cane syrup. Steen’s is dark and luscious. If you don’t have access to that, molasses can be substituted. I used a high quality Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzeys and I used a Mexican vanilla extract to up the cinnamon flavor just a little more.

Diamonds aren’t a girls best friend – these bars are! Rich and flavorful, they satisfy both the sweet and chocolate cravings.

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Brunette Bars

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Steen’s Cane Syrup or molasses
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate morsels

Butter an 8×8 baking pan.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in the cane syrup or molasses. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Once the butter brown sugar mixture has cooled, combine it into the flour mixture. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla extract and stir just until incorporated. Fold in bittersweet morsels.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes.

Optional topping: Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the top of the brunettes after they’ve been cooling for ten minutes. Sprinkle over 3 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar. Allow to finish cooling before slicing.

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Satsuma Margarita

I have plenty of satsuma’s from our trip to Southern Orchards so for Taco Tuesday, I decided to make satsuma margaritas. A major ingredient in margaritas is an orange flavored liquor like Triple Sec, Cointreau or, my favorite, Gran Marnier. Added with the intense flavor of the satsuma and it makes one irresistible cocktail.

Sweet and tart and very refreshing!

Satsuma Margarita

1 ½ ounces Tequila Reposado (I used Cazadores)
2 ounces satsuma juice
1 ounce orange liquor like Triple Sec or Gran Marnier
1 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar, optional

Peel and separate the segments from a satsuma. Rub one segment along the rim of each glass and dip the edge into flake salt. Drop another segment into each glass with some ice.

Put the tequila, satsuma juice, orange liquor and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with several pieces of ice and shake until ice cold. Taste for sweetness and add agave nectar as necessary. Strain into the prepared glasses.

Balance a final satsuma segment along the rim and serve.

Satsuma Fortuna Cocktail

Michelle and I went by a U-pick satsuma orchard outside of Mobile, Alabama just a little ways off I-10. For $20 you got use of a clippers, a red wagon and could fill a 5 gallon bucket with the citrus from the trees of Southern Orchards (they also ship for those out of area) .

For those who don’t know, satsumas are a type of mandarin orange that grows in the South but is a more cold tolerant, so it grows outside of the citrus areas of Florida. They are quite sweet – especially if you can hold off harvesting until after the first freeze.

Once we got to my house, we juiced our haul. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

I drank nearly a quart as we were juicing! I reserved some of the liquid sunshine for Michelle to make a satsuma cheesecake and some of the juice I froze to drink through the coming long, dark winter. What wasn’t already reserved, we used to make a cocktail that is sort-of a love child of a Bahama Mama and a Pina Colada.

Who wouldn’t be fortunate to have parents like that? It is very refreshing and those who don’t have satsumas can also make it with orange juice.

Satsuma Fortuna Cocktail

4 ounces pineapple juice
4 ounces satsuma juice
3 ounces cream of coconut
2 ounces spiced rum
2 ounces light rum
1 cup ice

Place all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour into festive glasses to serve. Makes 2 strong drinks – feel free to reduce the alcohol.

Choose wisely grasshopper

In yet another example of the importance of proper punctuation, I took the words of Master Po from the 1970’s tv show, Kung Fu, and took out the comma as I am offering a choice of Grasshopper cocktails today.

Classic Grasshopper

1 oz (1 part) Crème de cacao
1 oz (1 part) Crème de menthe
1 oz (1 part) Heavy cream
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake briskly and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Serve straight up; without ice.

And then there is this one which is like drinking dessert and is sneaky strong!

Grasshopper Milkshake

1 cup mint chocolate chip ice cream
1 oz Crème de cacao
1 oz Crème de menthe
 
Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until well mixed. Serve in an insulated mug.

If you don’t have mint chocolate chip ice cream, use vanilla.

Pecan Pie Kahlúa Cheesecake

We decided not to make a traditional pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Instead, Michelle made her wonderful Greek yogurt cheesecake with some Kahlúa coffee liqueur. While that was absolutely delicious, we topped it with a pecan pie topping (that I’ve used before on brownies) which also had Kahlua in it.

We reduced the sugar (none in the crust and down in both the cheesecake and topping and eliminated the corn syrup) so I’m hoping my diabetic sister and pre-diabetic brother-in-law will have eaten enough protein to be able to have a generous slice. Otherwise, more for me!

Pretty and so very good!

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Crust:

10 tablespoons melted butter
3 cups graham cracker crumbs

Filling:

4 packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur

Topping:

2 ¼ cups whole pecans
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or Kahlua Coffee Liqueur)

In a food processor, mix together butter and graham cracker crumbs for the crust. Press into a 10 inch springform pan, coming a little up the sides. Bake 10 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Lower oven temperature to 200 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and whip together until fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the Greek yogurt, vanilla extract and Kahlua Coffee Liqueur .

Pour into pan and tap against the counter to bring up any bubbles.

Bake for 2 ½ hours. If it still jiggles, cook for 30 minutes more. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with door cracked open for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edge, about an inch deep to loosen. Leave on the counter to cool for thirty minutes to an hour. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight before topping.

Make the pecan pie topping:

Coarsely chop about 1 cup of the toasted pecans. Leave the remaining ½ cup whole.

Place butter, brown sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is completely smooth and bubbling all over, about 10 minutes. Whisk in ½ cup heavy cream until completely combined and bubbling again.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped and whole pecans and vanilla extract (or liqueur, if using). Set aside to cool to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.

Unmold the cheesecake from the springform pan and pour over the pecan pie topping. Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.

It was so beautiful and tasted so good plain, I had to post a picture of that, too.

Yummy!

Olive Bread

I was told by my friend, Jamie, that November 17 is National Homemade Bread Day. Therefore, I made a loaf of olive bread to honor the day. My usual recipe makes two loaves so I cut things down as it is just me at home.

The comforting aroma of fresh bread is enhanced with the rich scent of the olives. The loaf is delicious on its own and makes a great ham sandwich (think mild mannered muffuletta). It goes even better with a bowl of French Onion Soup. I went to la Madeleine for my soup and supplemented their cheese with some gouda.

Soft interior, chewy crust and a deep olive flavor. So good!

Olive Bread


2 teaspoons active dry yeast 
1 cup warm water (110°F)
½ cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
3-4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water; let the mixture stand until bubbly, about 5 minutes. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the olives, 3 cups flour, olive oil, salt and yeast mixture. Knead on medium speed until the dough is soft and smooth, 10 to 12 minutes. Add additional flour if dough is too sticky. Turn the dough out onto to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, rotating to completely cover in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour more. 

On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough out. Stretch the sides of the dough inward to the center, working all the way around the loaf to form a tight, round shape. Pinch the seam and turn over the dough and roll the bottom on the counter between your hands to smooth the seal. Set the dough on a baking stone. Dust the top with flour and cover with the overturned bowl and let rise 30 to 45 minutes. 

Preheat an oven to 400°F. 

Using a serrated knife, cut a large, shallow X on top of the loaf. Place baking stone with dough in the oven. Place a 9×13 roasting pan on the bottom rack and pour 2-3 cups of boiling water in the pan. Bake until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35-40 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf.

Southern Peanut Soup

The weather has changed for colder and I decided to make a soup I haven’t had since I left Georgia. No, I take that back. I had a bowl in Williamsburg, Virginia a while back. I got this recipe from a brochure we picked up at the Georgia welcome center many, many years ago.

Southern peanut soup is different from the many West African varieties as there are no tomatoes in it and no additional veggies or greens added. Just onions, celery, milk, broth and peanut butter. It can be gussied up with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts on the top or a dash or two of hot sauce but I find it perfect just as it is.

The soup comes together quickly and is rich and creamy. So yummy and comforting!

Southern Peanut Soup

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion (about ½ cup) finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery (about ½ cup) finely chopped 
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ cup peanut butter (I’m a big fan of Skippy)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon seasoned salt (I used Lawry’s)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the celery and sauté until soft. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly. There should be no darkening of the roux as all you’re doing is cooking the flour.

Slowly whisk in the milk and stir well to remove any lumps. When the soup thickens, after about 10 minutes, whisk in the peanut butter and broth. Reduce the heat to low and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

If you want a very smooth soup, pour through a strainer and discard the solids. I strain out the solids and put them in the blender to purée. Add back to the soup and stir to combine for a thicker, fuller bodied soup.

Bring soup back to a simmer and serve. This is one of those soups that is even better reheated so I’ve been known to make it around lunch time and put the entire pot in the fridge and then bring it out to reheat for dinner.

No Added Salt Party Mix

I have a friend coming to town who is on a salt free diet. There will be a Saints game while he is here and I wanted to make a party mix that he could enjoy.

I’m using a salt free blend from Penzey’s Spices called Arizona Dreaming. It is spicy and flavorful with ancho chili pepper, black pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, cilantro, lemon peel, chipotle pepper, red pepper, jalapeño and cocoa. It adds wonderful flavor but not a lot of heat.

In my go-to party mix (Circles and Squares), I use Worcestershire Sauce. Because that has a lot salt in it, I instead replaced the sauce with Liquid Smoke to add a depth of flavor without added salt.

It is quite delicious and a good replacement for salty snack mix. Unfortunately, the Saint’s game today (they lost 10-20 to the Steelers) was not as enjoyable as my mix!

No Salt Added Party Mix

1 box Crispex cereal (15 oz) about 12 cups
1 box Cheerios cereal (8.9 oz) about 6 cups
2 cups unsalted roasted cashew halves and pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (I used Figaro)
1 tablespoon Arizona Dreaming (or other salt free spice mix)

Mix cereals and nuts together in a large roasting pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the liquid smoke and salt-free mix. Pour over the cereal, stirring well to coat evenly. Bake 1 hour in a 250 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Quick Mushroom Barley Soup

I was over near the Uptown Crescent City Farmers Market today and stopped in to pick up a beautiful selection of mushrooms.

Feel free to use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe but aren’t these amazing?

Cascadia, king trumpet, and oyster mushrooms

I made a quick, small batch soup recipe that is the perfect amount for me to have seconds tonight and to have enough left over for another meal. Also, remember, barley will still absorb liquid off heat, so be prepared to add more liquid when reheating.

This is a comforting soup that has a lot going for it, with minerals and vitamins in the mushrooms and a good source of nutrients and fiber in the barley. Plus it is super tasty!

Quick Mushroom Barley Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (about ½ cup), chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook 10 minutes, until soft and tender. Add butter and mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated. Add in minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add water, chicken broth, barley, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30-45 minutes or until barley is tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

I was craving chocolate and went with my old stand-by brownies that I use a hand mixer and mix in the double boiler. Not a lot of mess and comes together very quickly so you can get to eating!

Darkly chocolatey and with a dense, fudgy texture.

Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

2 cups (12-oz. package) Bittersweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (I went with pecans I had lightly toasted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Melt 1 cup morsels and the stick of butter in large, heavy-duty saucepan or a double-boiler over low heat; stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking soda. Stir in remaining morsels and nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack before slicing and consuming.