For the first few weeks after the holidays I avoided sugar, a rarity indeed for me. It’s no secret that I have a sweet tooth and seldom is it satiated, however this month I found myself saying more than once:
“I don’t feel like anything sweet”
followed promptly by:
“It’s OK, sit down. No, I am not ill, I feel just fine”
as Danny would inevitably leap up, concerned that I must be very sick indeed!
But that didn’t last for long, and soon I was back battling my usual sugar cravings and whipped up this sugary treat. Not just one, but three different sweeteners - sugar, corn syrup and molasses - make this decadent tart a plunge back into the wonderful world of desserts!
A touch of rum adds an extra punch of flavor to this ever-popular classic. The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.
Pate Brisée or pie pastry for one pie shell
5 large eggs
1 ¼ cups packed light-brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon bourbon or dark rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped, plus 1/3 cup whole pecan halves
Set a 9-inch cake ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; set aside. If you don’t have a cake ring, you can use a 9-inch springform pan.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough into a 13 inch round. Fit dough into cake ring or springform pan, gently pressing into the edges and up 1 ½ inches of the sides. Freeze until firm, then trim dough flush with the top edge of ring. Chill until firm.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Line chilled pie shell with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fill with pie weights (I use dried beans). Bake until the edges begin to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Remove parchment and beans and leave to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, rum, vanilla and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans. Pour filling into the cooled pie shell and arrange pecan halves on the top.
Reduce oven to 350F. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Tart can be kept at room temperature, loosely covered with foil, for up to four days.
I think I’m nesting.
No, not in a pull-fur-from-my-underbelly-and-make-a-nest kind of way, but more a hormonal-pregnant-woman’s-natural-nesting-instinct kind of way. I am usually a pretty organized girl, but when my sock drawer is tidy, my family photo albums up to date, my son’s toys categorically assigned to labeled bins and I’ve moved on to the ironing pile (my least favorite household task), warning lights start going off in my head. So far I haven’t done anything too outrageous and everything still seems justifiable, such as starting to stockpile frozen meals for when the baby comes. Totally practical, right?
This chili was one if the first dishes to be made in mass quantities and tucked away in liter containers. Now chili is not something I grew up with; beans, yes, in vast amounts, but chili would have required using ground beef and my mother usually kept us pretty far away from the stuff.
“Chock full of hormones” she would say.
It took a while before I could bring myself to buy ground beef, let along make a manly pot of chili for my man, but over the years it has slowly become something we enjoy once in a while during the cold winter months.
Funnily enough, Noah loves chili and that is reason enough to stockpile. Another reason is the massive bag of dried kidney beans that I have been working my way through for the past two years. I always get waaaaay to carried away in those bulk food stores. Oh, how I love them, with their eight different kinds of dried oats, pretty displays of colorful lentils, and vast assortments of dried fruit, but I inevitably end up leaving with far more than I need or could possibly use for a household of three. Hence the kidney beans.
You will find this chili convenient for making in large amounts and conducive to freezing, but there’s nothing pretty about it. It was rather hard to get inspired to photograph it--I mean, it’s chili. It just ain’t pretty!
This is a spicier version of what I usually make. Not so suitable for young children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. If you want a milder version, just omit the can of chillies, the cayenne and reduce the chili powder by half, as I do.
1 ½ lbs ground beef
1 lb Italian sausages, crumbled
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3 large onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 10oz can of green chillies, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
8 oz tomato paste
16 oz canned diced tomatoes
4-6 cups cooked kidney beans (depending on personal preference)
(1 cup frozen corn)
In a large saucepan, brown the beef and sausage in 2 tablespoons oil, drain off fat and reserve meat. In the same pot, add beef stock and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and crumble saffron into stock. Set aside to steep.
In another skillet, heat remaining oil and sweat onions and garlic. Add chillies and seasonings and stir.
In a large pot combine tomatoes, beef stock, onion/ spice mixture and meat. Stir well and simmer slowly, partially covered, for about 1½ hours. Check seasoning and adjust.
Add kidney beans and slowly cook another 10 minutes or so. Serve with crusty bread or cornbread. Garnish with any or all of the following: sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, sliced green onions or cubed avocado.
January should be dubbed the Month of Soups. I mean is there anything you are craving more after the blitz of holiday feasting? What else could be more ideal to beat the January blahs when the weather is snowy and blowy and the daylight sparse? Dig deep into a piping hot bowl of onion soup and it will be like your very own sunbeam, defying those gray wintery skies out the window.
We’re enjoying the post-holiday peacefulness and the dismal weather outdoors makes it even easier to cozy up inside and read the baby names book. Since we don't know if we are having a boy or a girl, there is even more discussion of names than usual. It's so hard to pick!
French onion soup should not be rushed. Well, the onion chopping part, yes. Blitz through that as fast as you can while still maintaining five digits on each hand, then once they are in the pot, pour yourself a little white wine and read a cookbook or food blog while they slowly caramelize and take on that dark brown color.
In this version, the sweetness of the onions is enhanced slightly by a tad of maple syrup and the soup is given an extra Canadian touch with the addition of our own aged cheddar cheese.
2 tbsp canola oil
2 lbs sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ cup white wine
Salt and pepper
6 slices baguette, toasted
2 cups aged Canadian cheddar such as Perron, or Gruyere, shredded
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes or until caramelized. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in maple syrup. Add the broth, wine and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide soup between 6 ovenproof bowls. Top with toast slices and equal amounts of cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts and lightly browns. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and serve.
A New Year's Eve celebration at home was always my preferred party mode and now that we have a little one, it's an even more attractive way to ring in the new year. No babysitter, no cover charge, no late-night winter driving, just a good time in the comforts of our own home. Of course, it's also a great excuse to cook mountains of party food, chill bottles of champagne in deep tubs of snow, and invite a few close friends over.