Buttermilk Pecan Pie

016

Our Thanksgiving dinner this year included both old and new recipes.  Pecan Pie has long been a family favorite, and we have made it in many ways and in different places. My mother’s and grandmother’s pecan pie usually involved the labor of love  called cracking and picking out pecans by hand, making the pies an even more special treat.  Many years ago, my mother-in-law had a large pecan tree in her back yard and would once in a while mail us a shoebox full of shelled pieces that she had picked up and picked out for us.  In recent years, I have bought them for use for holiday baking.  But this year, in keeping with our efforts to buy local produce, we bought our pecans through a school fund raiser that obtained them from a Fort Bend county producer.  They are fresh, delicious, and the Buttermilk Pecan Pies featured them well.

Our family’s old-time recipes usually involved using dark corn syrup and lots of pecans, resulting in a very sticky and sweet pie slice, but I have always liked the fillings made with eggs and milk that give a more custard filling.  The use of buttermilk in this recipe makes this pie delicious, and quintessentially Southern.  I adapted this recipe from one found in Texas the Beautiful  Cookbook,  edited by Elizabeth Germaine, with contributions by Ann Criswell, Food editor of the Houston Chronicle.  It is reprinted from the Corpus Christi Junior League cookbook, Fiesta.  Buttermilk pecan pie was a family recipe often prepared ba a career U.S. Navy chef for many dignitaries. during his military career, the chef refused to share the recipe, but when he retired he allowed it to be printed in a Navy newspaper.

1/2 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup chopped pecans

pecan halves for decoration

1 (9 inch) pie crust

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, adding sugar gradually. Blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.  Combine flour and salt and add to this mixture gradually. Add buttermilk and mix.

Sprinkle chopped pecans in the bottom of unbaked pie crust and pour filling over them. Bake pie in preheated oven at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.  When pie has baked for about 30 minutes, lay pecan halves in simple design on top, pressing slightly, then resume baking. Serve at room temperature.

010I am thankful for all the good help I had baking Buttermilk Pecan Pie!

Sausage and Cheese Squares

001There are so many ways to use this rustic tart – serve it as a hearty breakfast, along with a salad for lunch, or paired with a cup of hot soup for supper on a cold night. Cut in smaller portions and turn it into party fare!  Using refrigerated Crescent Roll dough keeps it simple.  Use the ground sausage of your choice:  chorizo or Italian sausage are our favorites.

Sausage and Cheese Squares
2 cans refrigerated crescent dinner rolls 
1 lb  bulk pork sausage
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
Heat oven to 375°F.
 Unroll 1 can of dough into 2 long rectangles. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
Cook sausage over medium heat, stirring frequently, until no longer pink.  To same skillet, add cream cheese. Cook over low heat until cheese is melted. Spoon evenly over crust.
 Unroll second can of dough on work surface. Press to form 13×9-inch rectangle; firmly press perforations to seal. Carefully place over sausage and cheese mixture.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into squares.

Calzones with Arugula Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce

004

For all my almost 50 years of marriage, I have planned meals and menus, usually a week ahead.  That doesn’t mean we don’t change the menus around or decide to do something different, but I like this method because it allows me to consider what I have in the pantry or freezer, what is currently growing in the garden or available from the CSA vegetable shares we have picked up. I can more efficiently budget and shop, so I think it saves time and money as well.  But this delicious meal happened because I realized that I had far more arugula than we were going to use in salads before it went bad. Arugula is one of those greens that have become so popular but it wasn’t even listed in any receipe in cookbooks from the early years of my menu planning.  It is a peppery green and is delicious raw in a variety of salads, cooked as an accompaniment to fish or pasta, and as it is used here, in pesto.  I liked using walnuts rather than pine nuts  This pesto can be used to drizzle over grilled meats or pasta.

Calzones with Arugula Pesto and Marinara Dipping Sauce

16 ounces pizza dough – make your own, or use frozen dough that has been thawed and brought to room temperature

1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, heated in small sauce pan – I used a spicy jarred sauce.

Arugula pesto, recipe below

1 heaping cup shredded mozzarella or Italian 4-cheese blend cheese.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out pizza dough to about 1/4 inch thickness on floured tea towel.  Separate into 4 parts.  Roll each part into a circle and place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spread a thick layer of pesto on one half of each circle and top with  3 Tablespoons finely grated mozarella or Italian 4-cheese blend.  Fold  each circle over to make calzone.  Pinch edges together, roll and crimp to seal. Bake about 18 minutes, or until crust is done and nicely browned.

Ladle marinara into small sauce bowls and serve alongside calzones for dipping. If you have extra arugula pesto, freeze and use for pasta or your next pizza!

Serves 4

Arugula Pesto

2 cups packed arugula
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup shaved parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic,peeled and rough chopped
Sear salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
002
Process arugula, oil, parmesan, nuts, and
garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season
with salt and pepper.

003

Kale with Raisins and Orange Peel

002I used Ruffled Kale for the dish shown in the above photo, but this recipe works equally well with Swiss Chard or collard greens.  These are all nutrient rich foods which we need to include and adding tang and sweetness with oranges and raisins offers a smorgasbord of rich flavor.  Topping with toasted pine nuts adds texture and more temptation for the taste buds!  Other variations include using dried cranberries (think Christmas!)  instead of raisins, and topping with toasted pecans or walnuts.  This dish goes well with roasted chicken or pork tenderloin.

I adapted this recipe from one of the most beautiful cookbooks in my kitchen:  The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances and Edward Mayes.  It features photographs by Steven Rothfeld that make you want to cook every recipe in the book!

Kale with Raisins and Orange Peel

1/2 cup raisins

2 Tablespoons orange liqueur (may substitute orange juice)

1 large bunch of kale

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried orange peel.  I use Penzey’s.  You may use instead the peel of  a fresh orange, cut into small strips.

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts.

Soak raisins for 15 minutes in orange liqueur or orange juice.  Wash kale leaves, then cut or strip the tough stem ends.  Slice leaves coarsely.  Heat olive oil and stir in chopped onions.  Cook until onions begin to turn translucent, then add kale and cook, tossing together until leaves are tender and wilted.  Add orange peel, raisins, including liquid, and cook covered for 2 or 3 minutes.  Top with pine nuts and serve.

Serves 4