Give the Gift of Food: Double-Drizzle Pecan Cookies

 

Food gifts are always welcomed gifts and each year on Christmas Eve, I like to bake something delicious to give to my friends and family. Continue reading “Give the Gift of Food: Double-Drizzle Pecan Cookies”

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Pecan Sugar Cookies Made Easy

Each of my co-workers received a stack of four cookies.

If you’ve ever been to the Cracker Barrel gift shop, you may have noticed the Gooseberry Patch line of cookbooks. This recipe for Pecan Sugar Cookies is taken from the Christmas in the Country edition and is one of the easiest and most tasty cookie recipes I’ve ever made. Continue reading “Pecan Sugar Cookies Made Easy”

Holiday Cheese Ball with Sweet Heat

imageThe cheese ball. What a great concept…a ball of cheese. Who wouldn’t want to eat that?

It’s one of those appetizers that’s always present at family gatherings in the South, especially around the holidays. I’ve seen savory cheese balls and sweet cheese balls. There’s a variety of different recipes out there, but this one comes from Mama with a few of my own touches. I contributed this cheese ball to my office Christmas party and it was a hit! It has pops of red and green color for the holidays, and it’s versatile. You can add or take away whatever flavors you like. Spreadable and creamy, this cheese ball has crunch and sweet heat. It’s cold and satisfying.

The cheese ball comes together quickly and is edible right away, but has a more firm texture when chilled. I recommend making it a day ahead and letting it set up in the fridge overnight. If you’re short on time, 30 minutes to an hour will do.

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup of pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • A few jarred jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • A tablespoon of jarred jalapeno pepper juice
  • A handful of maraschino cherries, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion (I used purple for the color, but a sweet Vidalia onion would be great too)
  • Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Braswell’s Green Pepper Jelly
  • 1/4 cup of pepitas (Pumpkin seeds)
  • Seasoned salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Georgia pecans, toasted and chopped

Directions
Dry roast pecans in a saute pan over medium heat, flipping occasionally until fragrant and golden (5-10 minutes). Set aside. Using a hand mixer, blend the cheeses together until incorporated. Add in remaining ingredients, reserving the pecans for the outside, and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Blend on low-speed until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixture out onto plastic wrap and form it into a ball. Remove the plastic wrap and roll the ball in the chopped pecans until covered. Let chill. Serve with buttery crackers, like Ritz, toasted bread or even Scoops tortilla chips.

Note: If you’re using a food processor to chop your onion and bell pepper, be sure to drain any natural water from the vegetables before adding them to the mixture. Additional water will make your cheese ball runny, and you wouldn’t want that.  

Presentation
Serve the cheese ball on a round dish if you have one! It enhances the natural shape of the appetizer and is fun to surround with crackers. Presentation is everything! I served the cheese ball with snowflake-shaped crackers for a little Christmas cheer, but this recipe is wonderful year around with whatever kind of crackers you like. Enjoy!

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Foolproof Apple Crisp for the Love of Fall

There are 14-layer cakes, lattice pies, meringues and souffles. Then, there’s Apple Crisp. Labor intensive, complicated desserts have their time and place, but a dessert that’s good enough for a weeknight is good enough for me. No other delicacy screams fall and comforts the home and heart like it. What’s more, the dish is easily adaptable for large or small crowds. Dinner for two? Serve it in ramekins. Family coming for Thanksgiving? It’s time to dust off that trusty ol’ casserole dish. With its warm nutmeg and cinnamon spices, served alongside a scoop or two of cold vanilla ice cream, it’s the fall season in a nutshell (or in this case, a bowl). Continue reading “Foolproof Apple Crisp for the Love of Fall”

An Autumn-Inspired Pork Chop Package

wpid-20121023_203126.jpgAt the start of each new season, there are a few dishes I anticipate cooking greatly. My Apple-Pecan Honey Stuffed Pork Chops in White Wine are at the top of the list in the fall. Apples, onions, pecans and nutmeg exemplify autumn in this comforting, home-cooked meal. It starts on the stove top and finishes in the oven. Special enough for company and simple enough for a weeknight, these tender, juicy pork chops put chicken and beef to shame. It ought to be a crime to eat this good!

Let’s get cookin’! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3-4 thick cut pork chops
  • Salt, pepper and nutmeg seasonings
  • 1-2 Tbs honey
  • 1 medium granny smith apple
  • 1 small Vidalia onion
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • Unsalted butter
  • White wine of your choice, I used Pinot Grigio

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Start by dicing a granny smith apple, an onion and your pecans. Be sure to dice them up small, keeping them the same size for even cooking. A smaller dice will also make your pork chops easier to stuff.

Melt a tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the diced apples, onions and pecans, season with salt and pepper and dot with butter. Cook for a few minutes, then drizzle in some honey for a touch of sweetness.

Meanwhile, prepare your pork chops. Season both sides with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Rub it in good.

It’s really important to get a thick cut pork chop for this recipe. They should be at least a 1/4 of an inch thick.

You’ll need a small, sharp pairing knife to make the incision. Cut them right down the middle, keeping the back and sides of the pork chop intact but making a large enough incision to create a good size pocket. Don’t be scared. Own it!

By this time, your stuffing will be ready. With a large serving spoon, fill each pork chop to the brim. Pack the stuffing in there, getting down in the crevices. Don’t overfill them, but make sure each one is plump. If you put too much stuffing in the pork chops, it’ll just fall out during cooking. You want them to hold as much as possible. Just remember, deep pockets do the trick. You can use toothpicks to secure them, but I find they just get in the way.

In the same pan (easier clean up and building flavors – winning), melt another tablespoon or two of unsalted butter. Gently lay your stuffed pork chops in the pan and brown on each side for 3-4 minutes until the outsides are golden brown and caramelized. When you flip them, handle with care. You will lose a little stuffing, but don’t fret. Before transferring to the oven, hit the pan with a good splash of white wine and inhale. 😉

Finish cooking the pork chops in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. I find it much easier to finish a thick cut of meat in the oven than on the stove top. The meat cooks evenly and you don’t have to worry about one side getting darker than the other or constant flipping. Plus, you’re not standing over the stove and you can take a moment to sip some wine or devote your attention to side dishes.

They taste phenomenal–warm flavors of nutmeg and pork compliment tart apples in every sweet and savory bite. Don’t forget to drizzle the chops with the pan juices. Having one of these on your plate is like having your own little gift. You’re also getting fruit, protein and vegetables all in one little package. What’s not to love?

A sweet potato or brown rice are a pork chop’s friend.

Feel free to change-up the stuffing. Rosemary is awesome with pork. Don’t like pecans? Use walnuts. Even if pork is not in your diet, chicken is always an alternative. The idea is to have fun and experiment with flavors. Enjoy!

What are your favorite fall meals?

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