Friday, 28 November 2014

Pulled Pork!/Thanksgiving-Christmas Transition

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you all!
My household celebrates today by figuring out how to store all of yesterday's leftovers while transitioning to the Christmas season with lights, a mini-tree, and a sleigh bell for the dog that is already driving my boyfriend crazy.

Our Thanksgiving feast; Course #2
Given the food hangover we all have, cooking will be minimal and meals will include sneaking bits of the chocolate-pecan pie (omg you guys, SO good) and eating pulled pork sliders - also leftover based.

I opted for pulled pork because I am one of the few who doesn't like turkey and opts for a more Southern alternative but it's also a great dish to throw in the crock pot and come back to hours later.

To start: Place a 2lb, boneless pork loin in a 3.5-5qt crock pot, poke it full of holes with a fork (do this on all sides), rub with salt and pepper, and slather with 3 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce. I chop up some garlic and onions to sprinkle over the top, along with an even coating of brown sugar.

Place the crock pot on 'low' and leave for 5 hours. Check on the pork loin at 5 hours - it should be a bit tough and a whitish-pink on the inside. Some of the fat should have also melted off, forming a thin sauce with the cooked vegetables, brown sugar, and bbq sauce. Ladle this over the pork loin and let cook for another 3-4 hours, checking it every hour. When it's done, large chunks should easily fall away when plied with a fork.

At this point, take the pork loin out of the crock pot (don't turn off) and place on a large cutting board to pull. You can pull the pork by hand (old school style) or use two forks to pull and shred the pork. Set aside when done.

Turning your attention back to the crock pot - use a sieve to strain the mixture of fat and bbq sauce into a medium-large pot and set aside.

Place the pulled pork back in the now empty crock pot and cover with an additional 2 cups bbq sauce and a few tablespoons of the sauce you just strained. Mix and turn the crock pot setting to 'warm.' This will let the pulled pork continue to soak up the bbq sauce mixture while not drying it out.

I give it another hour or two from here, based on how much time you have but you can let it sit for as little as 30-45 minutes and serve.

*Remember that sauce you strained and put aside? Place the pot over medium-high heat, whisk in 2 tbsp butter, and equal parts flour and water (starting with 1/3 c of each). The mixture will thicken as you whisk and you may need to add another tbsp or two of water, depending on how thick you want it. Once done, remove from heat and serve with the pulled pork as gravy.

Plate with some toasted bread and maybe a bit of leftover mash and enjoy!


- 2lb boneless pork loin
- 3 c bbq sauce (homemade or Jack Daniels honey bbq)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 large, sweet onion, chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 c bbq sauce (same as above)


- strained sauce
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/3-3/4 c AP flour
- 1/3-3/4 c water 

- 3.5-5qt crock pot
- large sieve
- cutting board

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Chocolate Pecan Pie


Happy almost Thanksgiving! No feast is complete without pumpkin and pecan pies but while i'm a huge fan of pumpkin in most forms, I am not all that jazzed by the thought of candied pecans. Skipping this traditional staple however, is not an option as my boyfriend's favorite cake is pecan pie (his exact words), so i've been searching for a recipe that modifies it enough to have some fun with it while keeping it close enough to the classic that no one gets upset (boyfriend).

When I found this recipe from Our Best Bites, I knew i'd hit gold. A pecan pie that lets me add/melt down candy? We have a winner!

The recipe itself is super easy. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, roll out your crust (see how to do this here), and turn your attention to the filling.

This recipe is awesome because it uses candy, specifically Rolos, to get a perfect chocolate caramel flavor - no double boilers and chocolate chips or careful melting down of caramel squares required. Simply place the Rolos in a large pot on medium-low heat, with the butter and milk, stirring until melted and combined. *The candy melts extremely quickly, so it's better to take the few minutes necessary to stand there and stir it 'till mixed as averse to leaving and coming back to find it burnt and separated. Once done, remove from heat and set aside, stirring occasionally to keep from setting.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt, using an egg beater to mix until frothy and bubbly. Slowly add the chocolate-caramel mixture in and lastly, stir in the pecans by hand. The batter will be very thin, so don't worry about it.

Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pie tin and place in the oven for 40-50 minutes. The pie is done when the filling jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven, let cool, and serve with ice cream or fresh whipped cream.


- 1 9″ pie crust (see recipe here)
- 40 Rolo candies, unwrapped (or 60 mini ones because they're already unwrapped!)
- 1/4 c butter
- 1/4 c milk
- 1/2 c dark brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/3 c pecan halves

Monday, 24 November 2014

Jalapeño Cheesy Bread

I'm sandwiched between 'work' and all of the work I have to do for the various Thanksgivings I'm attending/hosting this week, so I'll be brief. If you want an easy party trick to impress your colleagues or friends, this is it! I've used this recipe several times and it never fails to impress. All you need are jalapeños, cream cheese, shredded cheese, a basic bread dough, and 2 1/2 - 3 hours lead time. This recipe requires patience but the payoff is well worth it.

To start:

Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix lukewarm water with yeast and lukewarm milk. Whisk together until the yeast has dissolved and pour into the larger bowl, along with the melted butter. Knead together, either with a dough hook or by hand. I found the dough to be a bit dry, so add a few more tbsps of water as necessary. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl (vegetable or olive oil will do but why waste the olive oil, right?), cover with a damp cloth, and place in a warm, dry place for 60-90 minutes and let rise. The original recipe says you should chill the dough here and that works well if you need to hold off on the rest of the recipe for a while (will keep for 4 days) but I always skip this step and have no issues.

While the dough is rising, rinse and slice the jalapeños, removing the seeds, and placing them cut side down, on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Set your oven to broil and put the jalapeño tray on the middle rack for about 6 minutes. Once the jalapeños are blistered and blackened in places, they are done. Remove from heat and put in a ziploc baggie, placing them in the fridge to cool for at least 15 minutes. Once cooled, remove the skins (they should peel right off) and dice. Mix the diced jalapeños with the cream cheese and set aside.

Punched down dough
Once the dough has risen to double its original height, punch back down and place back on the lightly floured surface. Separate the dough into two halves and roll each out into a long rectangle - about 8-10 inches wide by 16 inches long.

Working with one half of the dough, spread half of the cream cheese, jalapeño mixture on the surface, leaving about half an inch of space around the edges. Cover the mixture with shredded cheese and carefully roll the dough up, starting from the outside, long edge. Pinch the seems together and place, seam down.

Next, using a knife or dough scraper, cut the log of dough in half, lengthwise.


Set both halves cut face up and begin to braid the dough, twisting the halves together while remembering to keep the cut faces up. *It is much easier to start the twist in the middle of the dough and work your way out towards the ends, tucking them under when you reach them.

Repeat with the second piece of dough and place both, side-by-side, in a greased 13x9 pan. *Placing them in this pan will force them to keep a nice, square shape while they bake and you will have to squish them a bit to fit but don't worry about it. At this point, I was worried about the two loves baking into one, giant piece but my roommate told me to try a technique her dad uses, which is not unlike the process used to shape and bake baguettes. When placing the two twists in the 13x9 pan, place each one in a piece of parchment paper. This way, they can cook side-by-side, without the risk of melding together. Once settled, saran wrap the pan and place in a warm, dry area, letting the dough rise to about 1 inch above the pan (I didn't have time for this the last time around and my bread turned out fine, just a bit denser).


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the 13x9 in the oven to bake for 45-55 minutes. *Because the loaves are baking next to each other, you'll need to take them out of the pan and let them finish baking on a baking sheet or the inside half of each loaf won't crisp up - bake this way for another 10-15 minutes (if the loaves threaten to burn, cover with aluminum foil so the baking can continue without any additional browning).

Notice how the dough is not full cooked on this side...
...Versus the outside edge
Once done, remove from heat, let cool, and serve!

This is a great side dish or appetizer, with the jalapeño's heat peeking out from the cheese mixture just enough to keep you on your toes.


- 6 1/2 c All Purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp white or brown sugar (I use white)
- 1 c lukewarm water
- 1 c and 2 tbsp lukewarm buttermilk or milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp instant yeast
- 1/4 c melted, unsalted butter or vegetable oil
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 5-6 large jalapeno peppers
- 1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese

Friday, 21 November 2014

Vanilla Bean Pumpkin Pie

I needed to bake and freeze one of my Thanksgiving intended pies last night, so I'd have to time bake the other pie, freeze it, and move on to the more involved courses that would have to be made close to or the day of. However, I also had a marathon training run and some important news coming that I needed to be present (via phone) for, so I had a lot to fit in to the after-work hours, hence, my decision to make a pumpkin pie using canned pumpkin purée.

Sacrilege! I know but in my defense, I've done the 'from scratch' version for the past eight years and while I think it tastes great, I didn't have the extra hour required. I DID add half a vanilla bean to even the score though.

For those who feel cheated and still want to tackle a whole pumpkin, stay with me. Everyone else, skip ahead to the next section.

Ok, so cooking a pumpkin is super easy. Buy a medium sized, bright orange pumpkin, otherwise known as a 'sugar pumpkin,' which is the type you cook with. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cut the pumpkin in half, bi-secting the two hemispheres (don't cut towards the stem or bottom). Scoop out the seeds and place both halves, cut side down, on an aliminum foil lined pan, basting the skin in olive oil. Place in the oven and cook for an hour. Once done, the skin should appear blistered and come off easily when pulled with a fork. Let cool and use a fork to peel off the skin. Then purée the pumpkin and move to the next step.

Everybody Else!

Crust first: mix AP flour, salt, and sugar in a small to medium mixing bowl. Cut in cold butter (I explain how to do this in the scone recipe) until reduced to pea-sized crumbles. Add 2-3 tbsp water and, using your hand, knead the water into the loose mix, adding water as necessary until the dough sticks to itself in one, big lump. Place on a lightly floured baking mat or non-stick surface and roll out into a circle, about 1/3rd of an inch in thickness.

Now you need to get the dough into the pie pan without tearing it. The easiest way to do this is to place your rolling pin at one end of the dough and slowly roll it up, around the rolling pin. Place the the rolling pin at one edge of the pie tin and slowly unroll the dough over the tin. Adjust as needed and cut off the excess with a knife, working your way around the pan. 

From here you can create whatever pattern you prefer on the crust's edge. My go-to is a traditional pinched edge, jazzed up with leaves cut from the extra dough. 

If you want to add some 'flare' to your pie, roll the cut off dough out a bit thinner and cut designs out with the knife. Place these on a plate to be egg-washed when you egg-wash the crust.

Egg-washed cut outs, pre-baking
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and let's move on to the filling!

Pie filling: Place the puréed pumpkin in a medium size mixing bowl, adding your beaten eggs, evaporated milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and the seeds from half a vanilla bean (see tutorial on how to do that here). Mix until combined thoroughly and place aside.

Use a beaten egg to wash your crust's rim and any decorative dough pieces. Pour the batter into the prepared pie crust and gently place desired dough cutouts on top of the batter. Place in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes. When the filling is set, the pie is done - a knife inserted into the filling should come out semi-clean and don't worry if a crack or two appear in the surface - that's normal.

This has a stronger hint of cinnamon than a standard pumpkin pie, countered by the light, floral notes of the vanilla bean. For those looking for a slight twist on the classic, try this!


- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp butter, cold
- 3-5 tbsp cold water
- 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

- 3 eggs
- 2 c pumpkin puree 
- 1/2 c evaporated milk (heavy cream will work too)
- 1/2 c light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 vanilla bean

- 1 standard pie tin

Makes 1 pie
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit 
45-55 minutes 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Vanilla Bean Cranberry Scones

With the weather suddenly deciding to be winter, I've been dreaming in bright reds and whites, obviously with a baked goods angle. Scones struck me as a good cold weather go-to and I loved the idea of a bright white pastry, with sparkly sugar, and pops of red, so I decided to make a vanilla, cranberry version, based loosely on this recipe from Mountain Mama Cooks.

Wash & coat fresh cranberries in a thin layer of flour so they won't sink in the batter.
First off, I realized that any vanilla pastry worth its salt includes an actual vanilla bean (a first for me, if you can believe it), so there was that to conquer. I also realized as the scones were cooling, that I'm actually not that fond of cranberries - I am the butt of a family joke about the time I baked a pineapple-upside down cake, just to see what it would look like. I had no intention of eating it. Similarly, I thought this would be pretty and didn't look back. 

My roommate, who had the presence of mind to ask if the issue was my dislike of cranberries, loved the freshly baked scones. I wasn't satisfied, so I pulled up this handy recipe for its vanilla bean glaze, coated the scones and voila, the heavens opened.

Use the bean pod as a flavor enhancer in fresh sugar
Bits and pieces of 2 recipes and a vanilla bean tutorial later, I am happy to say that these are a hit with my roommates and colleagues at work. They're surprisingly light and fluffy, with a warm, floral note from the vanilla bean perfectly setting off the tartness of the cranberries, all balanced by the yummy glaze.

To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the cold butter and cut in until it becomes course, with pea-sized bits of butter (you can do this with a food processor, two knives - drawn across each other in a scissoring fashion, or a pastry mixer, which is my go-to). Once done, turn your attention to the wet ingredients, mixing together the egg, heavy whipping cream, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the larger bowl, combining the wet and dry until it starts to stick to itself (like the image above). Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until you have a thoroughly combined dough. This is where you want to gently fold in the cranberries (if a few pop, it's ok). *First, rinse the berries and coat with a thin layer of flour; this helps them not sink to the bottom of the batter and is a general rule for whenever you bake with them.

Separate the dough into two rounds and roll out to between 1/2 and 1/4 of an inch. Using a pastry scraper, cut the rounds into pie slices, with eight slices per round. From here, you can either stop and have full-size scones or cut the eight triangles in half, creating sixteen mini-scones. I opted for mini-scones, which requires a bit of reshaping after you cut the dough but they turned out beautifully just so. Add cranberries to any triangles that seem a bit bare, place on a parchment paper lined baking tray (they won't spread out much so you can place them within 1/2 inch of each other), brush with a beaten egg, and top with course sugar. Bake for 17 minutes or until the tops are golden.

While the scones are baking, whip up the vanilla bean glaze by combining half a vanilla bean pod of seeds, confectioners sugar, and either milk or the rest of your heavy whipping cream. The glaze should be thicker but easily drip off a spoon to cover the scones.

Once baked, remove scones from the oven and place on a cooling rack. When they are completely cooled, drizzle with the glaze and let sit for a few hours until the glaze is set.


- 2 c all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 7 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 c cold, unsalted butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 c + 1 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 1/2 c cranberries, washed
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons coarse sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 1 1/2 c confectioners sugar
- 2-3 tbsp milk or heavy whipping cream


Monday, 17 November 2014

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

This weekend has been nothing but moving; moving rooms, moving good friends to Brooklyn, moving in a new flatmate, and saying goodbye to an old one/best friend in the process (though I hear she now lives next to a stellar cheese shop, so I'll be over a lot). There has been so much change that even the dog is confused, wandering from room to room and sitting in front of each one's door, trying to figure out why someone new lives there.

It's all a bit much and when even my pet seems to be having an existential crisis, I need a solid dose of comfort food. Ergo, chocolate chip pancakes for lunch.

The moving started this past Friday and by Saturday, noon, I was TIRED. A quick search through the kitchen revealed half a jug of milk leftover from one recipe and half a bag of mini-semisweet chocolate chips from another. A few eggs, some vanilla, salt, baking powder, and flour later, I had a gloriously chocolate-y heap of hotcakes and my faith in the universe was restored.

My recipe is inspired by this old standby for buttermilk pancakes. I used regular milk and the cakes were just as light and fluffy as always.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl (or if your lazy, the same bowl), combine milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and whisk together until just combined, adding in your chocolate chips last (don't over mix or it will loose the fluffiness).

Next, place a skillet over medium-high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter - spreading to coat the surface evenly, and pour the batter on the hot skillet, using a 1/4th cup measure (don't crowd the pancakes). When the outer edged start to firm up and tiny holes (burst air bubbles) appear on the surface on the cakes, flip over and let sit for no more than 1 minute. Serve with butter and maple syrup and enjoy!



- 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 c milk
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 c semisweet chocolate chips (mini Guittard chips are my favorite for this)

- Butter and maple syrup for serving

Makes 12-15 pancakes


Friday, 14 November 2014

Cornbread Muffins

Today was absolutely freezing. It's supposed to get even colder over the next few days and with my entire flat switching rooms and adding a new flatmate, I figured we could use some hearty snack food to see us through the weekend. Enter my Texan-based obsession with cornbread.

This unnatural love of cornmeal, mixed with my latest obsession - a new, non-stick muffin tin - and a few veggies that needed to be used up gave me the perfect excuse to experiment.

I made two batches of muffins, the first was vegetarian, with caramelized onions, chopped up chives, and shredded cheese, while I added lardons into the second batch.

First, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, chop up one onion (see instructions for this here), place a sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, and add the onions. Let them cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure they don't burn. Once the onions have a nice, translucent, caramel tint, remove from heat and place in a prep bowl.

Add the packet of lardons (these are chopped slab bacon bits - you can also use thick cut bacon if you have that on hand) to the now-vacant pan, lowering the flame to a medium heat. Give the lardons 2-3 minutes, stirring once or twice and be careful not to overcook them (they will start to smell burnt and be chewy). Remove from heat and place in a prep bowl when done. Chop a fresh bunch of chives and set aside.

Layer #1
The process for making the actual cornbread batter is fairly simple and takes about five minutes. First, place equal parts cornmeal and flour in a medium to large mixing bowl. Add baking powder, salt, and sugar. Mix thoroughly and add the milk, oil, honey, and beaten eggs. Mix until combined and add a tbsp more of milk if you want a thinner consistency.

Layer #2
Lightly grease the muffin tin and place about 1/4 c batter in each cup. Add roughly a tsp of caramelized onions, cheese, and a sprinkling of chives, layering this with another 1/4 c batter. Top with more cheese. Each cup should be about 3/4th full. *If you want to skip straight to the bacon-filled muffins, you can either add lardons to each layer or mix everything into the batter, filling each cup with 1/2 c of batter.

Vegetarian muffins, fresh from the oven
Bake for 15-20 min. Muffins will be done when the top is just turning golden brown and a knife inserted into the top comes out clean.

Muffins with lardons (notice that the consistency is slightly more dense)
I made one vegetarian batch, layering the batter and ingredients as directed above and one non-veggie batch, mixing all of the remaining ingredients into the batter and topping with cheese. I loved both outcomes and all of my taste-testers were happy.


- 2 c cornmeal
- 2 c flour
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1 1/2 c milk
- 1/2 c oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp honey
- 2 eggs 

- 1 c lardons
- 1 bunch chives
- 3 c shredded cheese
- 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia)
- 1 tbsp butter

- bake at 425 for 15-20 min
- makes 24 muffins