Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maple-Walnut Pie

If you love pecan pie then you will love this variation. It's the same as your regular pecan pie recipe except you replace the corn syrup with real maple syrup and you replace the pecans with toasted walnuts. The maple syrup gives it almost more of a vanilla flavor. This was actually my first attempt at making my pie crust from scratch, and it turned out pretty well. It's actually pretty easy when using a food processor to do it. I took this pie to our office Thanksgiving party and there was none left over for me to take home to let the other half try. (Poor thing just had to smell the heaven coming out of the oven and didn't get to try it) As far as the pie crust goes though, this is how I feel, unless you think your recipe for pie crust is way better than store bought, or you just really prefer making your desserts from scratch, feel free to use store bought. It's easier and consistent. Then again perfecting your recipe is part of the fun of baking, right? :) 

Maple-Walnut Pie

  • 1 disk dough of basic crust (recipe below) or one 9-inch store bought crust 
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 3/4 cup real maple syrup 
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 tsp lemon zest 
  • 1 tbsp flour 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 tsp maple extract 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped walnuts, toasted 
  1. Place a baking sheet on the lowest oven rack and preheat to 425 for 30 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, make the filling; Whisk all of the remaining ingredients except the walnuts in a bowl. 
  3. Spread the walnuts in the crust and pour in the filling. 
  4. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet and lower the temperature to 325.
  5. Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is set, 45 to 55 minutes. (Cover the edges with foil if they brown too quickly.) Cool on rack. 

Basic Crust (Makes 2 disks dough)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting) 
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp sugar 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 4 tbsp cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces 
  • 10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
  1. Pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor. 
  2. Add the shortening and 1/3 of the butter; pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. 
  3. Add the remaining butter and pulse until it is the size of peas. 
  4. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse a few more times. If the dough doesn't hold together when squeezed, add more ice water, 1 tbsp at a time, pulsing. 
  5. Divide between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pat into disks; wrap and chill at least 1 hour. 
  6. Roll out the dough into a 12 in round on a lightly floured surface. 
  7. Ease into a 9-inch pie plate; fold the overhang under itself and crimp. 
  8. Chill for 30 minutes
I was given a little insert from a food network magazine that had 50 pies in it. Different variations of the classics. This is where I found the recipe with many delicious sounding others. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Weekend Getaway

Last weekend the other half and I decided to take a little trip to Denver.  Neither of us had gone before and thought it would be a great city to explore. It was absolutely beautiful, and after the extremely hot Texas summer it was great to be in the cold all bundled up. For those of you that don't know, we dabble in home brew. We definitely enjoy our beer and love creating our own. Denver and other areas in Colorado are chalk full of micro-breweries, it's like the Napa valley for beer, "beer country." =) So we flew in Friday night and checked into our hotel downtown and walked a couple of blocks to a unique little gastopub for dinner, where they served things like lamb burgers, truffle fries, and duck posole. 

Saturday was the day the other half termed "beer day," we walked around downtown all day, visiting 16th street full of shopping and restaurants, LODO (lower downtown,) and lots of pubs and breweries. My favorite was The Great Divide, where they had a nice little tour and lots of different beers to try in the tasting room. This was such a fun relaxing day. 

This is where the magic happens

Fermenting tanks in the back and some oak aging going on in those barrels :)

Sunday was our site-seeing day, so we drove on to Golden, Red Rock Amphitheater, and Boulder. Golden was a small little town where there wasn't much to see, we ended up not stopping. They're known for their big brewery, which is Coors Brewing Company. Then we moved on to Red Rock, talk about beautiful! It's an old amphitheater that is built in between these gorgeous red rocks that are situated just right for great acoustics. 

The amphitheater

We then moved on to Boulder, where stumbled upon another micro-brewery, there our server gave us directions to a little waterfall up in the mountains. After finishing our pint we excitedly got our things together to go explore the mountains. We found more snow and amazing views. The waterfall was just a little hike off the road, definitely worth it. 

What a beautiful site

We kept going further into the mountains where we stumbled upon a lake and a little ski town. We ended up driving back to Denver the scenic route down the mountain. Our flight wasn't due out until 8:50 so we still had time to check some things out in the city. We had a great trip, and it was actually our first one by ourselves without any friends or family traveling with us.  It was wonderful and I can't wait to do it again.  It was like meeting up with an old friend.  We all get caught up in the daily grind and sometimes forget to connect and really spend quality time with our loved ones.  It's great to slow down and really enjoy life and those around you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yumminess, stuffed inside of yumminess, how can you go wrong?  This chocolate chip cookie recipe is probably one of the best I've come across.  You stick an Oreo inside that and you've got a winner.  I took a few of these to work the next day (the rest I hoarded at home for myself), and they were a huge hit.  I plan on baking a lot more cookies after Thanksgiving, so this is just something to wet the appetite.  The next two weeks I'm going to dedicate to pies!  To be honest I have never tried making my own pie crust and I've decided it's time to change that.  If you guys have any tips for me, they would be much appreciated.

Another thing I would like your input on is something I've been struggling with.  That is the struggle between baking and eating these beautiful yummy things, and staying healthy and watching the waistline.  I can't seem to find a good balance.  When I'm counting calories and trying to shed a few pounds it's really hard to spare 200 to 500 calories on a little dessert.  Everything I've found to bake that is low calorie is usually whole wheat, with splenda, and no butter.  This makes the baked goods healthier but not so yummy.  What's a girl to do?  Any ideas?  I absolutely love baking, so a few extra pounds is not going to stop me, but finding a nice balance would be great.

Now on to that yummy recipe. Reprinted from another great blog that I love to read, Picky Palate.
Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies 

  • 2 sticks softened butter 
  • 3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla 
  • 3 1/2 Cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 10 oz bag chocolate chips 
  • 1 bag Oreo Cookies, I used the double stuff 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand or electric mixer cream butter and sugars until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined.

2. In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined. Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie. Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo Cookie. Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo Cookie is enclosed with dough. Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until cookies are baked to your liking. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Serve with a tall glass of milk, enjoy!

Makes about 2 dozen VERY LARGE Cookies


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