Monday, August 31, 2015

Pecan Pie Cheesecake Squares

I know it's a little early, but I'm already in the Fall baking mode! Here's a new recipe I've just finished that will be great for the upcoming Fall months.  I've been having fun with the Great San Saba River Pecan Company products, and this is another example of what you can do with one of them. 

Lookie... it's loaded with pecans!
Here's the "How To":
First up, prepare the baking dish.  Generously spray a 9 x 13 with non-stick cooking spray. 
Now, for the crust layer. Combine the following 3 ingredients into a medium bowl and work together with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened, then press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and up the sides just a bit all the way around.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
 Tah-dah!  Done with that part. Easy... and no need to prebake it... just set it aside for the moment!  Is there some official way to spell "Tah-dah"?  Hope I didn't get it wrong.  It might be "Ta-da" or "Tuh-dah", or even some no-dash variation.... anyway.... back to the recipe.
Time to make a mixture with the Pecan-Pie-In-A-Jar! 
Ingredients for this mixture:
1 jar of Pecan Pie In A Jar (1 lb. 13 oz.)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Whisk the eggs well, until there is no separation of whites and yolks.
Pour the entire jar of that pecan pie stuff, along with the whisked eggs, into a heavy-bottomed medium sauce pan and stir together until well incorporated before you turn on the heat.  Add the butter and cinnamon, then turn on the heat to medium high, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble.  Turn heat down to medium, and continue cooking and stirring constantly until it thickens.  You want the level of thickness to be beyond what will pour off the spoon.  It should "plop" off the spoon.  It takes about 15 minutes or so. When you get it to the plop stage (I'm pretty sure that's not an actual culinary term used to describe the readiness of anything), remove from the heat and set aside, allow to cool.
It's time now to preheat the oven to 350 degrees!
There's one more mixture to put together... the cream cheese mixture.  Here's what you need:
2 bricks (8 oz.) softened (room temperature) cream cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together at medium speed until smooth.  Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a separate bowl, then add to cream cheese and beat again until smooth.  Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl just to make sure it's all well mixed. 
Add cooled pecan pie mixture (it's ok if it's warm, you just don't want it to be hot), to the cream cheese mixture, and beat by hand until well mixed.   
Then, as seen above, spoon onto, then gently spread evenly over the entire crust layer.

Bake until set, which should be around 35 to 40 minutes, depending on your oven.  There will still be a slight jiggle, especially in the center. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating for at least 4 hours before cutting into squares.  Keep refrigerated.

Here's how they should look.  Don't be surprised if you get some uneven edges when you cut, because the knife will be running into pecan halves, but who cares, right?  There's one sure fire method for getting rid of the ones you don't feel are perfectly cut enough.  Eat them, quick, before anybody discovers some of them weren't perfect.  Works every time for me.....

Thursday, August 27, 2015

San Saba Lemon & Raspberry Pecan Blondies

Oh my goodness!  I've been having fun in the kitchen developing recipes for some of my favorite products.  I recently made a cheesecake with The Great San Saba River Pecan Company Peach Pecan Amaretto preserves.  Well... just so happens, they also have a Raspberry Pecan preserve, so I just couldn't leave that alone. 

These blondies have a substantial enough bottom layer to support the soft, gooey top layer!

I started by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees and preparing a 9 x 13 glass baking dish by spraying it generously with non-stick cooking spray.

Here's the ingredient list:

1  18.25 oz. box Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
3  eggs, at room temperature (divided use)
1/2  stick melted butter
1  tablespoon water
1  tablespoon lemon juice
1  11 oz. jar Raspberry Pecan Preserves  (divided use)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used cinnamon coated but plain is fine)
1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1  teaspoon vanilla

Combine the cake mix, 1 egg, melted butter, water, and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Use a pastry cutter or fork to break the egg up and get most of the cake mix moistened, then just get in there with your clean hands and continue mixing until you can form a ball of dough.


Then press the dough mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven, leaving the oven on at 350 degrees.  Next, place the entire jar of preserves into a small bowl and remove 1/3 cup of them and set aside (no need to whisk  or warm up). Whisk  the larger portion to loosen to a easily spreadable stage.  Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, you may need to heat the preserves.  If so, you can warm them in a saucepan over low heat or microwave them at 50 % power until just liquid enough to spread easily over the dough, but this probably won't be necessary. 
Spread the preserves over the dough and sprinkle with chopped pecans as shown.
Next, combine the condensed milk, 2 remaining eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix at medium speed until smooth.  The mixture will be thin and bubbly on top. Slowly pour it over the top of the preserves/pecan mixture.  Some of the preserves and pecans will show through. 
Next, drop spoonfuls of the preserves you set aside onto the milk mixture and then gently swirl it a bit using the tip of a butter knife.
Here's what it looks like prior to swirling!
Now, return it to the oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until it is set.  The top should be nicely browned and it will still have a slight jiggle to it.  It will firm up as it cools!

Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.  I chose to loosen it around the edges of the pan and remove it to my cutting board to cut into squares, but you can just cut it in the baking dish if you prefer.  Use a sharp serrated knife to cut them with for best results.

Optional:  Dust with powdered sugar after cutting.
These are so delish!  Now I just need a nice hot cup of coffee and it's a good start to a great day!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Instant Gratification Salsa

Were it not for me, the tortilla chip industry might go under.  There are always bags of them in the pantry. Big bags.  If not, my husband begins to spiral downward  into his "where's my chips and salsa" panic mode, and I don't like it when that happens, so to keep his panic devils away, I just make salsa to go with his tortilla chips, and he's a happy guy. 

What used to be my emergency back-up salsa has pretty much turned into my all-the-time version just because we like it so much, and it's so easy and quick to make.  It's nothing like the old version, for canning purposes, using all fresh ingredients and spending a few hours in the kitchen getting it done.  This stuff just goes right into the fridge, where it will keep for 3 weeks, but it never lasts that long. 

I start out by grabbing 4 cans of tomato products out of the pantry.  I go with 1 mild and 1 regular can of Rotel tomatoes, and 2 cans of Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted ones.  I really love this brand of fire roasted tomatoes in this salsa because it adds a great smoky flavor - so much better than any other brand I've used.  Next, I drain the two cans of fire roasted tomatoes until most of the liquid is out, then I dump all 4 cans of tomatoes into the food processor. I don't drain the Rotel tomatoes. 

After that, I toss in some salt (not quite a teaspoon... I use the "palm measure" method), about a  tablespoon of sugar (yes, sugar!!!), and about a tablespoon of lime juice.  Finally, I add 3/4 of a scoop of Simple Salsa and process it to the degree of smoothness I want it to be at.  All that's left to do is taste it, adjust the salt, sugar, Simple Salsa amounts if necessary, and I'm done.  I jar it up into wide mouth jars and into the fridge it goes. 


You can add anything you want to this... onions, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro... use all regular or even hot Rotel tomatoes... but I don't.  We just really like this smoky, slightly sweetened version.  Whatever you do, don't forget the salt!  The nice thing about making any salsa is that you can start with lesser amounts of the spices and taste your way up to eventual perfection as you increase the ingredients to your liking.  If you don't have any left to jar up by the time you're done doing that, uh.... oh well, you won't have any jars to wash, right?

I discovered Simple Salsa at a booth they had at a local garden show.  I bought 2 canisters of it, one mild, one not.  I've had to re-order via their site, which is
It can be added to soups, stews, dips, steaks, chicken, fajitas... it's not just for salsa.  It's good stuff!

No panic devils are getting the best of me! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

No Measure Puff Pastry Pinwheels

I love easy baking, I mean, sometimes you just need easy.  Good and easy, that is.  If the end product isn't good, the "easy" is pointless.  Here's one that's good and easy!  Puff pastry pinwheel recipes have been around for a long time, and what's good about them is how versatile they are.  You can go sweet or savory.  They're the perfect appetizer size, and people really like to eat them! Well, not all people -I do have a friend that can't eat garlic and utterly detests the taste of parmesan. I can just see him now, rolling his eyes and thinking how horrible and disgusting these would be.  He certainly wouldn't like them. Sorry Neil.

Anyway, I almost always have a few packages of puff pastry in the freezer, so after looking online at lots of puff pastry recipes for something different than my usual to do, there they were - pinwheels.  I decided.... heck, I don't even need a recipe for these things.  I'll just make 'em with what's in my pantry and fridge and see what happens.  So that's what I did, and I didn't measure a darn thing.  Guess what?  They were really good. 


I raided the pantry and fridge and took these things out to use:
  • jarred spaghetti sauce
  • Italian herb seasoning
  • Garlic powder
  • Grated parmesan cheese
After rolling out the pastry sheets to a longer, thinner rectangle on a lightly floured surface,
I simply spread a thin layer of the sauce with the back of a spoon onto the pastry, then sprinkled some Italian herb seasoning and garlic powder over the sauce.  After that, I sprinkled on the parmesan cheese.  I did take care to stay about an inch away from the edge of the pastry on the long side, so I could dampen the inside edges with a little water to prevent them from pulling away as they baked.

I carefully rolled the pastry sheets up into a log and placed them on a baking sheet and stuck them in the freezer for about 15 minutes so they would cut nicely.  I wasn't particular about the exact width of each slice when I cut them, I just tried to stay at about 3/4 of an inch. I brushed the tops with a wash of 1 egg and a little water - something I always do when baking puff pastry because it gives the surface a glossed finish for a nicer presentation.   I placed them on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray and baked them at 400 degrees for about 18 - 20 minutes, until they were nice and golden brown on top.

I could have heated up some of the left over sauce and used it for dipping, but I didn't think of that until it was too late.  Maybe next time.....

I'll be experimenting with pinwheels again, these were so good ... oh... and so easy!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Strickland Springs Skillet Peach Cake

It's the perfect time to bake with beautiful fresh peaches, or, you can use frozen or canned in this recipe if fresh ones are out of season.  I make this in my good old trusty 10 inch Lodge iron skillet. This is a very simple recipe using few ingredients.  It may be summer, but pair this warm cake up with some really good vanilla ice cream, and you won't care how hot it is outside! 
I know... the name is a little long... I could have just called it "Peach Cake", but, hey.... I decided to name it after the East Texas country oasis I will someday call home.

Here's how you make it:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and then melt 1/2 stick of butter and spray your skillet with a little non-stick spray before you pour that butter into your skillet.  My skillet is well seasoned, but I do this anyway.  Don't have an iron skillet? Just use what you do have.  A baking dish of any sort will work, you want something smaller than a 9 x 13, such as a 8 x 8.   If you use a dark pan, the baking time may be shorter, so keep an eye on it, and even if you use a non-stick pan, spray it anyway with some non-stick spray.  You'll thank me when it's time to clean the pan.

Cut 5 or 6 fresh peaches into bite sized pieces and set aside. 
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup chopped pecans and set aside.

Now, into a medium bowl, put:

1  cup all-purpose flour
3/4  cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk all that together, then pour in 2/3 cup of whole milk and whisk just until well mixed.

Pour the batter into the skillet, directly over the melted butter.  Drop the peaches into the batter.  I do this by hand, picking the peaches up and covering the entire surface of the batter with them.  Use a spoon if you don't want to do it my way!  Don't stir... the batter will rise up slightly around the fruit.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar, pecan mixture all over the top and return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. 

When you see nice browning all around the edge and the batter has risen in the center, it's done.  You should be able to see nice bubbles happening throughout it.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before serving.  Next time I make this, I think I will add about a half cup of good peach butter to the batter, just for extra flavor.

You can always use other fillings with this recipe if you want - apples or berries would be good, to name a few, and you can also double it and bake in a 9 x 13.  Now, excuse me... but I've gotta go see if there's any vanilla ice cream in my freezer!!!