Our friend, Jenn, brought these to our annual New Year's Eve party and they were a huge hit: the perfect combination of crunchy, salty, sweet, nutty, and chocolate. They're a quick and easy addition to any dessert table that will disappear faster than any other treat.
While the entire rest of the food blogosphere posts nice diet recipes for at least the first week of the new year, I'm going to go radical and tempt your tummy with step-by-step photos of how to make the sublime, baklava, my favorite densely rich, sweet, and decadent treat that's a pastry I can only describe to the unititiated as a cross between a bar cookie and candy. Or as simply "the most yum in a bite I know of!" It's created from layers of paper thin pastry dough brushed with butter and filled with pistachios, walnuts, and almonds, along with warm spices and soaked in honeyed syrup.
Baklava can be traced back to the "cradle of civilization", Mesopotamia (the modern Iraq area), in the thousands B.C. but its most commonly associated with the Ottoman Turkish Empire of the 15th and 16th centuries whose capitol was Constantinople (modern day Instanbul, Turkey). I'm pretty confident you can consider that a dessert must be good if it's been around for 5,000 years, don't you?
I'll admit that I assumed baklava would be difficult, or at least complicated. to make but the truth is delightfully that it really isn't. There a lot of steps, but most of them are all about the layering of pastry and filling. For anyone experienced in working with phyllo dough I would consider this easy to make, and even for those who've never worked with phyllo before, I would still say it's only a low medium in difficulty. The key to the recipe is in the steps and preparing the work space. Some baklava makers create the pastry first and then make the syrup while baking so that it remains hot. I make the syrup first and set it aside while I make the pastry so that even though the syrup is close to room temp when poured as the final step, the baklava is so hot it quickly soaks in. Having a little counter space is the only clincher to working with phyllo dough because it's easier to lay it out, then move it in towards you to butter and stack. You'll see what I mean as you read through the recipe and see the photos.
I've made turkey and dressing in the crockpot before but this time I hit the jackpot for texture, taste, and convenience to feed a crowd. This recipe got rave reviews at work and easily fed twenty people with enough leftover for a couple of servings for Gene and I later. I served it with turkey gravy on the side and the my work-mates brought all the fixings: mashed potates, corn casserole, pumpkin pies, and appetizers.
I'll also make it again, not onThanksgiving, using rotisserie chicken or pork loin as the meat, maybe other dressing/stuffing flavors, but definitely keeping the sauteed veggies, fruit, and nuts. The recipe can easily be halved or maybe even thirded if you use the "about a" method: For example: "about" 1 1/2 cups of diced meat, "about" 1 Tbsp butter and "about" 1 Tbsp olive oil...etc.)
One of my favorite Thanksgiving tricks is to throw the dressing/stuffing into the crockpot. It saves room in the stove, you can fix it and not worry about it, and it cooks up deliciously. Is it "dressing" or is it "stuffing" at your house? I live in and was raised in southwest Missouri and while we use both terms, my family tends to stick with the southern version: "dressing" while most of the rest of the country, it's my understanding, usually calls it "stuffing." Either way, it's yummy carb-licious.
Speaking of delicious, my favorite dressing has a couple of extras: chopped sweet apples and Missouri black walnuts in a southern cornbread base. English walnuts are a great option too but black walnuts are native to our American Midwest and more than 65% of those are grown in Missouri, with the largest black walnut processor, Hammons Nut, residing in Stockton, Missouri, just a rock skip from Springfield, Black walnuts are a treat we've grown up having plenty of and loving. For the uninitiated, like the differnece between cream cheese and goat cheese, black walnuts have all the creaminess of an English walnut but with a little more zip. One of my dearest memories of my mother was how she would hand-shell bushels of black walnuts through the fall that we kids had scavenged from the woods around our house, and then use them in Christmas cookies and candies. As a child I took it for granted, as an adult I admire her tenacity. Hand-shelling nuts is not the most fun job in the world but we loved the final result, for sure!
Mrs. Cubbison's Stuffing mix is spiced in a way that goes particularly well with the apple/black walnut combination, I've found. It's slightly sweet and very savory which highlights both the sweetness and savoriness of the fruit and nuts, which seems to me to be the quintessential tastes of fall.
Mrs. Cubbison's, a true American success story, was started by Mrs. Cubbison in 1890's as a bread bakery, then moved to crackers, and eventually to stuffing (dressing).
For tons of Thanksgiving recipes, decorating ideas, and table setting ideas, please go to www.thanksgivingtips.com for photos, recipes, and videos.
These Spider Eggs were a huge Halloween hit. They're easy to make but they do take a little time so if you're making a couple dozen, be sure to allow yourself and hour to place the spiders. A tiny bit tedious but very cute and a great appetizer table showstopper! Worth it!
To make: Make Devilled Eggs, adding any food paste coloring you want.
Using a small can of small whole olives, cut olive in half to make spider bodies. Then for the legs, cut olives in half and the cut the halfs into thin slivers. Place by hand or using tweezers. Chill 1-2 hours before serving.
Other fun stuff from the evening:
Mini jack-o-lanters "puking" Spinach Dip. Gross, but fun for Halloween!
Monster Cookies from Aunti Miranda. So cute. So...sugary! Niece Sydney and I split one towards the end of the night and, boy howdy, were our tongues bright red and green for an hour!
Fruit Rice Krispy Squares--follow the regular recipe using Fruity rice krispy. So yummy!
The spread...well...part of it. The part you don't see is the huge crockpot of chili with all the fixin's on the stove and the jack-o-lanter pepperoni pizzas from Papa Murphy's coming out of the oven every 20 minutes. I don't think anyone left hungry or without a smile.
Started in 2009, these candy and pretzel rod witch's fingers have become a Halloween tradition at our house. They look gruesomely cute and, even for adults, their pretty tasty: sweet, creamy, salty, and crunchy. What else could you ask for?
They aren't hard to make at all but they do take time so in assembling the ingredients don't forget the most important: patience and a couple of free hours. I've included step by step photos to show how it's done. Happy Halloween!
Even though there are luscious pies to be baked at Christmas and crackling crisp browned turkey to roast Thanksgiving and savory eggs to be devilled at Easter...my very favorite cooking holiday of the year is Halloween! There are so many fun foods that can be made that I ALWAYS make a list of food much to long to be consumed by the family, let alone, cooked by me even with help.
I've made my list and checked it twice...oops...wrong holiday. Ack, what the heck, it will be good practice for Christmas.
After painting bread for the 7th World Bread Day was so much fun I decided to play some more. Probably will even more--it's just too much fun! Poor Gene will have painted bread for dinner for the next...whenever i get tired of painting bread, I guess. Poor, Gene. Poor, poor Gene, getting home-made painted bread for dinner every night. It's a hard knock life, eh?
The recipe I used this time is my own basic large loaf (1 1/2 to 2 lbs) recipe that easily fills my Pullman Pan or my large Pampered Chef bread loaf crock, although in this instance and often, I simply formed it into a boule (big round loaf), painted it, and baked it without a form of any kind.
Scallopped Potatoes has always been one of our favorite dishes but as a cook it can be frustrating to make sure that the slices of potato are thin enough and get cooked long enough to make sure they're cooked through to nice and soft. This recipe addresses so many problems with mediocre scallopped potato recipes. The potatoes are cubed and pre-boiled on the stove top so the texture is that comforting soft, cheesy, richness that everyone loves. Plus, by adding herbs to the mix instead of just cream and cheese, the flavor pops in a very 3-D way. I've never served these potatoes that guests didn't ask for the recipe and tell me how much they love this dish. It is the best scallopped potato recipe I've ever made.