Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

I come from a long line of oatmeal cookies aficionados. I usually make a few batches for my folks any time I spend more than a weekend at their house. This time, is no exception. I made this batch with pecans instead of raisins.

Sometimes raisins can be a little too much sweet. In contrast, these cookies are nutty and delicious.

Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 cups old fashioned oats (not instant)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Cream together the butter and the sugars. Add in the eggs one at a time. Add in the vanilla and beat to combine. Add flour mixture and mix well. Add in pecans and oats. Stir well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Stuffed Focaccia

As readers of this blog know, I really like focaccia bread. I’ve got recipes HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. The difference here is I’m using sponge to start things off.

This is a stuffed focaccia with sausage, onions and peppers plus cheese because who doesn’t like all of those things? Especially together and with a yummy bread packaging. I can totally see making this again for a Super bowl or World Cup party.

Not only does the entire house smell wonderful from the yeasty bread baking but it tastes awesome. Meaty, with gooey cheese and such a delicious focaccia. Think of this like a cheesesteak muffuletta.

It works best if you have a springform pan as the sides could blow up if left on its own and it would be hard to get out of any other kind of pan. I used a 9 inch one but, if making for a crowd, go for a slightly larger one and make this thinner to eat as a snack instead of a meal.

Plan your time as this takes three rises, not counting the sponge time. That’s once during the dough cycle on the machine, once in a warm place to double and then the final before baking.

Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Focaccia

Sponge:

½ teaspoon instant/active yeast
3/4 cup unbleached bread flour
½ cup warm water

Dough:

1 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon instant/active yeast
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
3 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt

Meat and Cheese Stuffing:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of sausage (I used German Sausage removed from their casing)
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, sliced very thin
1 bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cup Provolone (or any good melty cheese – mozzarella, monteray jack, cheddar) cheese, grated

Topping:

Coarse salt
fresh chopped rosemary
olive oil

For the Sponge: Whisk to combine yeast and flour. Add the water to and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least two hours and as long as overnight.

After the sponge has developed, place it in a bread machine. Add the water, olive oil, yeast, rosemary, flour and salt in the order suggested and set it for the dough cycle. Once the dough has risen in the machine, remove and place in a well-oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a towel and let sit in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.

Prepare the stuffing while the dough rises, as you want it to come to room temperature before placing it in the dough.

Remove the sausage from its casing and brown with the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drain and remove from the pan. Wipe out the pan, leaving 1 tablespoon of fat. Melt the butter and sauté the onion for about 10-15 minutes or until golden. Add in the bell pepper and season with the salt and pepper and the garlic. Sauté until the garlic is fragrant and then remove from the heat. Add the onions to the sausage and set aside. Do not refrigerate.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide in half. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil. Stretch half of the dough into a disc and place in the bottom of the pan. Press it out to the sides. Toss the sausage and onions with the cheese. Spoon the mixture into pan, leaving about a finger width border around the sides. Stretch the other piece of dough into a disc and place on top of stuffing. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.

Just before baking, drizzle olive oil over the dough and sprinkle with coarse salt. Add a sprinkling of fresh chopped rosemary. Dimple the top of the dough with your fingers, leaving indentations.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the top is deep golden brown. To serve, slice into wedges and eat like a sandwich.

This stuffed bread is great the next day, too. Simply place leftover on a pan in the oven at 375 and bake for about 15 minutes, or until warmed through.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin

For New Year’s day, I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen so I did a quick rub and sear of a pork loin and then put it in the crock pot to cook away. The rub plus the honey mustard sauce makes for a delicious flavor over the low and slow cooked meat.

We served the pork with some cornbread dressing (recipe HERE) and roasted Brussel sprouts.

Any leftovers make for great sandwiches the next day.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin

1-3 lb pork loin

3 tablespoons Rustic Rub (see below)
1 tablespoon ground rosemary

¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Rinse pork loin and pat dry. Mix the Rustic Rub and Rosemary together with your fingers. Generously coat all sides with the dry rub mixture and massage into the meat. Place a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and, once the pan is good and hot, sear all sides of the pork loin. This will take about 4 minutes per side.

Whisk together honey, mustard, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.

Place seared pork loin in the slow cooker fat side up over low heat. Pour the honey mustard sauce over the meat. Cover and let cook for 4-6 hours. Baste with the pan juices at 2 and 4 hours. Pork loin will register 145 degrees F when done.

Let rest 10 minutes while you cook up the Brussel sprouts. I use this recipe (minus the cumin).

My base pork rub is Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Rustic Rub:

8 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons cayenne
5 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
6 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme

Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Yield: 2 1/4 cup

Overnight Breakfast Casserole for Two

I had a plumber scheduled to arrive first thing in the morning. As I just wanted to roll out of bed right before they arrive, I set up a breakfast casserole the night before so all we needed to do is preheat the oven and pop it in for a while.

I used 4 corn muffins that I made earlier in the week (recipe HERE) but sandwich bread works just as well.

We ended up not putting it in until lunchtime (as I felt guilty eating while the plumber worked) and the added time of the soak wasn’t an issue. The texture was great and the flavor delicious.

We reheated the leftovers the next day and it was still delicious.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole for Two

4 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt and pepper
½ teaspoon dry mustard (I like Colemans Dry Mustard Powder)
4 cornbread muffins, crumbled or 4-5 slices of sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup cubed ham

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard. Layer bread, ham and cheese alternately in bottom of shallow casserole dish. Pour egg mixture over all and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Michelle and I were feeling adventurous this holiday so we kicked up the traditional pecan pie a notch. I had seen an episode of Pati’s Mexican Table where she combined Mexican flavors with American classic foods and Dulce de Leche Chocolate Pecan Pie was one of her recipes. It looked good but a little sweeter than my tastes run, so we switched out the crust and made a couple other minor adjustments.

You lose a little of the top to the foil but leaving it off makes the pie darken too much. Here it is perfectly browned.

Decadently good with the caramel adding a lovely flavor with the toasted pecans. As my friend Charlotte learned, don’t go with too big of slices as it is so very rich it will be hard to finish in one sitting.

We served it with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream. Recipe HERE.

Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

Dark Chocolate Pie Crust

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons cold butter
ice water and vodka

For the Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Pecan Filling

3 eggs
1 can Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce (we used Eagle Brand)
½ cup dark brown sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
⅓ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

First make the crust. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Break up the shortening and butter into smaller pieces and drop into the processor bowl. Pulse maybe 10 times more until the mixture is crumbly and the butter and shortening are well distributed.

While the machine is running, drizzle in the 1 1/2 tablespoons ice water and 1 1/2 tablespoon vodka (don’t worry, the alcohol cooks off), and stop just when the dough comes together. Open the machine and feel the dough, if it comes together when pressed between your fingers, it’s ready. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and bring together with your hands into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a cocoa’d surface (instead of flour). Fit the dough into a 9″ pie pan that you have coated in shortening. Prettify the edges. Put the crust back in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the filling – In a bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy. Add in the Dulce de Leche caramel sauce, brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and salt and whisk until it is well blended. Stir in the chopped pecans and chocolate and mix well.

Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Pour the filling into pie crust. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes with the foil on. Then remove and continue to cook until the pie is set and the top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

Corny Corn Muffins

I’ve been working on my corn muffin recipe – I needed something a little less cakey, so I tweaked a cornbread recipe I saw on America’s Test Kitchen. I’m not a real fan of sweet cornbread, so I reduced the sugar in the recipe – they used a ¼ cup! I also upped the frozen (and thawed) corn and, therefore, upped the salt slightly as well.

These were perfect little bites of corny cornbread and, while they were excellent warm with a glass of milk, I can’t wait to have them with the Senate bean soup I have in the slow cooker.

Whatever you don’t eat up right away with a bowl of soup or with some beans, you can freeze and then crumble the leftovers to make a terrific cornbread dressing that works as a side with pork, chicken and, even, turkey. I posted a recipe HERE with my cornbread stick recipe.

Corny Corn Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn kernels – frozen is fine but thaw first
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Place the corn in a blender and puree. Add the brown sugar, buttermilk and eggs to the blender and blend them up. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just mixed. Gently fold in the melted and cooled butter.

Butter a 12 cup muffin tin. Place ¼ cup of batter in each space. Smooth the top with your fingertips. Bake in a preheated 400 degrees F oven for 22-25 minutes. Tops will be golden brown. Remove the muffins to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

 

Overnight Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

When I think of having cinnamon rolls in the morning, I find myself dreaming of Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls. You’ve got to wait for satisfaction, though. I gotta say the flavor of the rolls is great after the long, slow rise.

I do have a couple of quibbles, though. There are no pecans in the original and he makes way more than I usually want to make at any given time. Therefore, here is the fixed and halved recipe.

Before frosting

The recipe should have made about 6 large buns. Not paying attention, I was cutting each section in half and before I knew it, I had 8 rolls plus two ends that I merged together to get a final bun. Still plenty of cinnamon pecan rolls for a family.

I also added Grand Marnier to the icing for a hint of orange and to cut the sweet.

Rewarm the next day in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

Overnight Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

Dough
2 large egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 1/8 teaspoon yeast
1 1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Icing
2 ounces cream cheese
1 ½ tablespoons milk
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier liquor

In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add 1 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; mix until moistened and combined. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add another cup of the flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the filling ingredients of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pecans in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 8×8-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 12 by 6-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge. Gently press the filling into the dough.

Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 8 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in a cold oven with the light on. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven had come to temperature, place the pan of rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the Grand Marnier until combined. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.