Praline Pecan Tartlets

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It’s hard to believe, but I’ve made it over 1 year smoke free. After nearly 30 years of being a smoker, I finally kicked that habit. Those of you that have stopped smoking know this and the smart people out there that never picked up the nasty habit might not, but like others my metabolism went in the toilet when I quit. I ate no more than when I smoked but weight just piled on. I went from my smoking weight of 195 to 225 before I managed to peel off 20 pounds this past summer. Still, the battle of the gut is a constant struggle with me. Working in the food industry, I am surrounded by it 12 hours a day, everywhere I turn! A lead cook will want me to try some sauce (made with butter and whipping cream of course), or my baker will prepare some new treat that I can’t resist tasting, so I’m always interested in bite-sized desserts and treats. These tasty little morsels allow those of us that can quickly consume 1000 calories in a matter of minutes, to enjoy the deliciousness of something decadent and still keep our daily caloric counts in check.

A slice of a common pecan pie like you’d make at Thanksgiving averages about 500 calories (that’s if you slice your pie into 12 servings). If you’ve purchased your pecan pie that number can double, as most thaw-and-serve pies have crusts made with lard.These tasty little phyllo cups have 75 calories each, so you can limit your intake and not feel so guilty. The crispness of the baked phyllo cup with the sweetness of the praline filing and the toasted pecan is just delectable. These are perfect for a party, tea, reception, shower or just to keep in a Rubbermaid container around the holidays. They make great treats for gift giving, especially when pared with some homemade cookies, and they are extremely simple to make. Give them a try and I’m sure you’ll love adding these to your holiday baking repertoire.

For every 15 phyllo cups (available in the frozen pastry section of most any supermarket), you will need:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp+1tsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (you can slightly adjust the flavor to your taste depending on the type of honey you use but I personally just get regular amber honey when I make these tartlets)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (sometimes I substitute 1/4 tsp Jack Daniels whiskey in place of the vanilla, especially around Christmas)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the pecans and mix well. Fold in the chopped pecans. Arrange phyllo cups on a baking sheet, then spoon mixture into the phyllo cups (a heaping teaspoon is a good size to fill the cups). Any extra filling can be evenly distributed between your phyllo cups.

Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the filling sets, the pecans begin to brown the the phyllo cups brown around the edges. Transfer baked cups to a cooling rack and begin your next batch. Be sure to cool these tartlets completely on a cooling rack. If you cool them on a pan or plate they will become soggy on the bottom and you loose that wonderful crunchiness of the phyllo pastry. Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 7.13.15 AM

German Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

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Even after making numerous pecan pies for Thanksgiving, I’ve still got plenty of pecans left from this year’s crop produced by the big tree out back. With that in mind, I ran across a recipe in a recent Southern Living magazine for pecan pie bars and decided to give it a try. Like most every recipe I find, my end result varies a little because I’ll add a little of this or a dash of that; anything I think will improve the end result.

These are delicious! If you’re looking for something different to take to a party or give as a gift this year, give these tasty bars a try!

  • 3 cups pecan halves and pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted sweet cream butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup good quality bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

First, preheat your oven to 350F. Arrange the pecans in a single layer on a sheet pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ pyrex dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving 2-3 inches on each side to extend over the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the foil (I just spray with Pam).

In a food processor, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, cold cubed butter and cocoa 5-6 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry blender tool or even your hands. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your glass dish.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crust with the chocolate morsels. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

While the crust is cooling, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon and the eggs until smooth. Stir in the coconut and toasted pecans and spoon mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour), then chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Lift the baked bars from the pan using the aluminum foil sides as a handle. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars. Peel off the foil and enjoy!

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Here’s my recipe for a true Southern style pecan pie. The bourbon is optional, but it really brings out the flavor in this pie. Give it a try if you love pecans!

 

  • 6 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels (or whatever you’ve got around the house)
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces, divided
  • 1 9″ unbaked pie shell

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla extract, salt, corn syrup and bourbon.

Arrange half the pecans on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the batter over the pecans and top with the remaining pecans. Bake in a 350F oven for about 1 hour.

Be careful to watch the pie as it bakes. If the pecans begin to get too brown, lightly cover the pie with aluminum foil.

 

 

Bourbon Fruitcake Cookies

I’ll admit it, I think fruitcake is just plain disgusting, but fruitcake cookies are a whole different ballgame. These cookies have “just enough cake” to hold all the ingredients together. Be prepared.. mixing these cookies takes a strong arm because of the thickness of your “dough” but they are well worth the effort. This is also a “pricey” recipe to run out and gather ingredients for, so I usually start buying the ingredients as fall approaches and stores start stocking holiday baking supplies. I highly recommend trying this recipe if you have the time, or the desire. You can always give tins of fresh baked cookies as gifts to your friends and they are ideal hostess presents for any Christmas parties you attend.

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup strong bourbon (I use 101 proof Wild Turkey)
  • 6 slices candied pineapple, chopped
  • 1 cup candied red cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup candied green cherries, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 1-15oz package of golden raisins
  • 7 cups chopped pecans

Combine the butter and sugar, mixing well. Add the eggs and beat well. Combine all dry ingredients; add the butter/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk and mixing well after each addition. Stir in the bourbon, fruit and the nuts and mix well to incorporate. Drop heaping teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300F for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.

Grilled Chicken or Pork with Bourbon-Brown Sugar Glaze

 

 

 

The heat and humidity we’re experiencing in the South right now is just stifling so I’m always looking at recipes I can prepare outside on the grill (instead of heating up the kitchen with the oven). This recipe can be prepared either way and it’s extremely easy. Simply put everything in a ziplock bag and toss in the fridge tonight, then cook tomorrow when you get home from work! What could be more “Southern” than meat glazed in bourbon??

This simple marinade becomes a tasty sauce and works well on chicken or pork tenderloin. The meat can either be roasted or grilled, your choice. Be sure to marinate at least 1 hour if using chicken or overnight if using pork to allow the marinade to penetrate into the meat.

 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 2 1# pork tenderloins

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup minced green onions

1/4 cup bourbon (I use something decent but not too expensive, like Evan Williams, Jim Beam, etc)

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp cornstarch

Trim fat from meat and place in a gallon size Ziplock bag. Combine brown sugar, onions, bourbon, soy sauce, mustard and pepper and pour into the Ziplock bag over your meat. Seal and let marinate at least 1 hour if using chicken, or at least 8 hours if using pork, turning bag occasionally. Remove meat from marinade but reserve the marinade to make your sauce/glaze.

Grill meat (chicken or pork tenderloins) until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion reads 165F (chicken) or 155F (pork), but try to not overcook. For ideal tenderness and a juicy product, don’t let the internal heat get above 180F or it will dry out.

To make the glaze, pour marinade into a pot and bring to a boil on the stove. Boiling for 1 minute will cook out the alcohol but keep all the flavors of the bourbon. In a small dish, combine cornstarch with 1/2 tsp water and blend. Pour cornstarch liquid into boiling sauce and boil until it thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

At this point you can serve the meat with the sauce as a “gravy” or you can drizzle over meat and slide into a 400F oven for 5 minutes to become and sweet, tangy glaze.