Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chocolate Fudge Pie with Pecans

I love chocolate. But I've never met a chocolate pie that I liked. Until now.

Every chocolate pie of my past was a crushing disappointment. It was either pure pudding or full of foam. I see pies piled with whipped cream and want to run the other way!

So I searched high and low for a chocolate pie recipe that delivered on texture and rich flavor. Oh, and that didn't include whipped cream.

I failed. Miserably. Seriously, Google chocolate pie and see if you find anything good. You'll be looking a good long time. But somewhere out there I found the basis of what became a dang good chocolate pie. A chocolate fudge pie, actually. Even better right?

It's no surprise that this recipe originates from a sweet southern lady, originally from the Miss Daisy Celebrates Tennessee Cookbook, and bless their hearts for introducing me to such a gem.

Yes, this pie tastes like fudge. But not like a brownie. Like a pie. It has plenty of pecans mixed in, but it's not a pecan pie. There's no jelly-like texture. It's hard to describe, but take my word for it, you're gonna love it!

Take note that it absolutely needs ice cream. Or whipped cream, if you insist.

Chocolate Fudge Pie with Pecans
& the Miss Daisy Celebrates Tennessee Cookbook

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 6 – 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter flavor extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 – 9 inch pie shell (I used Pillsbury)
Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat in a pot or a double boiler if you have it. or slowing in a pot over low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove from heat once the chocolate melts and let cool for a few minutes.

Mix together the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter extract, and vanilla. Whisk in the melted chocolate to the egg mixture. Stir in the pecans.

Rub 2 tablespoons of softened butter on the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of the butter. Pour in the chocolate mixture.

Bake 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or just until the filling is set. That may seem like a large window, but every oven is different. The original recipe said 30 minutes, but mine was not set even after 35. Luckily, I like my chocolate desserts a bit underdone, and we ate this warm with icecream so it was great! But if you want pretty slices, I suggest a longer baking time and giving it time to set up and cool a bit before serving.

Keep an eye on it and cover the crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil if it's getting too dark. The center of the pie will be soft to touch but not overly jiggly. Serve warm, but leftovers also taste amazing cold! Garnish with powdered sugar and additional pecans, if desired. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Restaurant-Style Loaded Smashed Potatoes

Loaded mashed potatoes are the favorite side dish at steakhouses. They're smooth, buttery, and full of all of your favorites. My favorite thing about them is that every spoonful is different! Sometimes you get a hint of sour cream, other times a bite of bacon.

These red potatoes are smashed, not mashed, with the skin intact. This not only saves you the step of peeling, but adds a rustic feel. And double bonus—you don't even need to boil these! Just nuke them in the microwave and you're good to go. Another shortcut is to use precooked and crumbled bacon.

Although this is my basic recipe, I like to fool around with it, sometimes adding cheese or omitting the french fried onions. Get creative with your add-ons—you really can't go wrong here! I like to reserve some of the toppings for garnish. Double the recipe if you need more than 4 servings because trust me, everyone's gonna want seconds!

Restaurant-Style Loaded Smashed Potatoes
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

  • 5 whole large red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 stick butter, softened And cut into pieces
  • 4-5 slices bacon, cooked And crumbled (or precooked crumbles)
  • 2 whole green Onions, sliced
  • 3/4 cups sour cream (light is fine)
  • salt/garlic salt/seasoned salte (to taste-add plenty!)
  • fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2-3/4 cups french fried onions
Nuke potatoes in a large bowl in the microwave for 10-20 minutes or bake in the oven until fork-tender. Smash with a potato masher leaving chunks intact. Immediately add softened butter, green onions, bacon, and sour cream and stir with a rubber spatula. 

Add salt and pepper to taste. Add french fried onions and fold in. Serve hot, sprinkling on a little extra french fried onions, bacon and green onions.

My mom and I took a trip to Ellicott City a few weeks back. It's an adorable town in Maryland filled with antique shops. These days we can't seem to resist dining at Tersiguels while we're there! It's the loveliest french restaurant you've ever set eyes on, and the food is to die for! We filled our bellies with the fluffiest sourdough bread with butter, fish soup, chicken salad, sparkling cider, and coconut sorbet topped with an elephant ear! The grand finale was when our waiter presented us our frozen dessert sitting atop an ice sculpture! What a presentation!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

Pumpkin pie is my dad's dessert of choice on Thanksgiving. Plain Jane pumpkin pie.

Not chocolate pumpkin pie—not caramel pecan pumpkin pie—and certainly not salted caramel apple cheesecake pie. And I respect that, I really do. Thanksgiving comes but once a year and the man wants his pie.

But if your family doesn't include a pumpkin purist, I suggest you switch it up with this delectable treat this holiday season! It combines some of the best flavors that fall has to offer and pairs perfectly with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. This fabulous layered concoction includes a tall, tasty graham cracker crust, caramel, pecans, apples, cheesecake and whipped cream. So yeah, it goes without saying that it's fantastically delicious.

Plus, it's make ahead, which comes in handy for the holidays. Make it a day or several days ahead of time and just leave it in the fridge to chill while you roast your turkey and such.

Yes, it's a bit labor intensive, but you can take a few short cuts and save yourself some time and effort. Use jarred caramel (they have salted caramel at Trader Joe's) and Cool Whip if you'd like.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker


For the Crust:
  • 1½ cup graham cracker crumbs (or about 12 full graham crackers, finely crushed)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted

For the Caramel-Pecan Layer:
  • ¾ cup caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe's salted caramel)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

For the Apples:
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

For the Cheesecake:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Whipped Cream: (Optional- or use Cool Whip)
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the Garnish:
  • caramel sauce 
  • chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Make the Crust: Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add the melted butter and use a fork to combine. Dump the crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan (or a 10-inch pie plate if you don't have one) and press them into an even layer over the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes and cool for at least 10 minutes.
Pour the caramel sauce over the bottom of the crust, gently spreading it into an even layer. Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the caramel layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Make the Apples: Melt the butter in a large skillet over low-medium heat and add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, stirring to combine. Cook the mixture until it is gently bubbling, about 1 minute. Add the apples to the pan and toss to coat with the butter mixture. Cook until the apples are very tender and almost all of the liquid evaporates, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then add the apples on top of the caramel-pecan layer. Return the pan to the refrigerator.
For the Cheesecake: Using a stand or electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until completely smooth. Add the egg and beat. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract, and beat until completely smooth, another 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the cheesecake batter over the apples in the pan, smoothing into an even layer. Bake until the cheesecake is set and doesn't jiggle in the middle, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Make the Whipped Cream: (Optional: Use Cool Whip, if wanted) Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip together the heavy cream and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
Garnish & Serve: Drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Refrigerate!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Baked Apple Pancake with Cider Syrup

I like to make a fuss over birthdays. It's sad to eat a mediocre meal on a special day, so I do a little something extra for breakfast as well as dinner. But I also want to avoid spending the entire day slaving at the stove and making mounds of dishes.

This baked apple pancake was a simple way to kick start a special day. It tastes much like a dutch baby and is loaded with cinnamon apples! And get this, you don't even need to peel them! Unless you have one of those nifty apple peeler/slicer thingies, peeling is a total drag.

So get this—the baked pancake itself is actually light! Cut into six slices, it's a mere 166 calories. Now, the cider syrup—not as light, I admit. But a little goes a long way with this stuff! And what it may lack in lightness it makes up for in dreaminess! You guys, this a fabulous fall breakfast.

Baked Apple Pancake with Cider Syrup
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Servings: 6 (or 4 for bigger slices)
Calories: 166
Fat: 6.6 g
Carbs: 23 g
Protein: 6.4 g
Sugar: 11 g


Apple Pancake
  • 1-2 large apples (unpeeled)
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 2/3 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, bread flour, or combo)
  • 2 tbsp applesauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
Cider Syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Start by making the syrup. Bring the apple cider, 1 cup brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes, until reduced by about ⅓. Don't expect it to get thick—it's meant to be pretty thin, kinda like maple syrup. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Arrange in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate sprayed with baker's spray (the stuff with flour in it) or grease it with butter. Be generous here! (I wasn't and it gave me a little trouble coming out)

Whisk the rest of the ingredients until just combined and pour the mixture over the apples. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until top is browned and set. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes.

Using a knife, loosen the edges of the pancake from the pie plate. Invert onto a serving platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Drizzle with the cider syrup and serve more on the side!

Virginia is gorgeous in the fall. The leaves are changing but the weather is still so pleasant! Gradon and I rode our bikes around town today and sat on a bench admiring UVA campus. Work and school has been busy, so we've really taken the weekends to relax. Last weekend, we visited a pumpkin patch and took a hayride around a local farm. We ate chili dogs, fed the goats and enjoyed the wide open spaces. It's so nice to get outside this time of year!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Turkey, & Squash Sauce

Kids really do say the darndest things. My coworker told me a cute story about her five-year-old last week. Something cool happened and her little girl exclaimed, “That's awesome sauce Mom!” 

And so I share with you today some truly awesome sauce. It's awesome squash sauce. Making sauce out of squash may sound strange, but it's quite popular these days. It's an inspired way to achieve a blissfully creamy and comforting sauce without a ton of cheese and cream. Oh, and it tastes like autumn!

The only downside to this dish is you may need to peel a butternut squash. I've seen it sliced and prepackaged but no such luck in my neck of the woods. Anyways, I tackled that sucker and am all the better for it now that I have squash sauce in my life. 

Let me tell you more about this heavy but healthy pasta dish! It's chock full of whole wheat pasta, smothered in smooth spicy/sweet squash sauce, dotted with lean turkey and wilted spinach, and topped with a thin blanket of cheese. You're going to want to stick your face right in this squash sauce. 

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Turkey, & Squash Sauce
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Servings: 10
Calories: 293
Fat: 7 g
Carbs: 42 g
Protein: 20 g
Fiber: 5 g 

  • 2 small yellow onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed, about 4-5 cups
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or 4 cups water with 4 tsp chicken bouillon dissolved)
  • salt + pepper + italian seasoning (or mix of basil & oregano)
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp half and half
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1-1.3  lb. ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 3 cups packed fresh spinach
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (provolone, cheddar jack, mozzarella—whatever you like!) 
  • 1 lb. whole wheat rigatoni or penne

There are a few steps here, but it all comes together fairly quickly if you multitask a bit! Get a head start by boiling your water for the pasta while you take care of the other suff. 

Start by Mincing the onions and garlic. Set aside. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add half of the onion/garlic mixture and the prepared squash. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until squash/onion/garlic are fork-tender. Drain most of the liquid, reserving ½ cup. Transfer the cooked squash combined with ½ cup of the vegetable broth from the pot to a blender and puree until smooth, adding salt, pepper, and dried oregano to taste. Stir in cream and milk and set aside. Taste that squash sauce heaven!

Meanwhile, brown the turkey over medium high heat with the remaining onion/garlic mixture. Season generously with salt, pepper, and oregano. Drain out any excess liquid so that the meat will get a browned, charred look.

Cook the pasta in a large pot, undercooking to prevent mushiness since you'll be baking it. (about 6 minutes) Drain, then add the sauce, sausage, and spinach to the pot with the noodles. Stir until combined and tansfer to a large baking dish stopping half way to add a layer of cheese (about ½ cup) Pour remaining pasta mixture in and sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese on top. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown and everything is heated through.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

This recipe is the most popular post on one of my new favorite blogs, Emily Bites! I've tried several of her lightened up main dishes and they have all been major winners!

This casserole is awesome for so many reasons. Although I love my classic Skillet Chicken Parmesan, this recipe skips the steps of dredging and dipping which can get bit messy. Just throw the raw chicken in the oven with a few other simple ingredients and you'll have a comforting, flavorful supper waiting in less than an hour. I especially love the buttery and crunchy topping! Pair this with a green salad and this famous bread from Pioneer Woman!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Adapted from Emily Bites
Servings: 8
Calories: 303
Fat: 11 g
Protein: 37 g
Carbs: 15 g
Fiber: 1 g


  • 2 lbs raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ t crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 cups marinara/pasta sauce (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 ½ cups 2% part skim shredded mozzarella cheese, (shred yourself please!) divided
  • 2 oz (or ½ cup) Parmesan cheese, grated (I used the stuff in the green can), divided
  • 3.5 oz garlic croutons, roughly crushed
  • Fresh basil or parsley, roughly chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick spray and spread cubed pieces of chicken across the bottom in a single layer. Sprinkle the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and basil evenly over the top. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with ¾ cup mozzarella and 1/3 cup of the parmesan. Scatter the crushed croutons on top and cover with remaining cheese. Bake for 40 minutes and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

A lot has happened since I last checked in! Gradon and I took a trip to New England and hit Providence, New Haven, Newport and Boston. Each was cool in its own way, but Rhode Island felt the most homey. It was exactly the way I had always pictured it in my mind! Some of our sweetest memories were riding our bikes to the Newport mansions, walking the jagged cliff walk, snacking at the fabulous food court that is Quincy Market, eating questionable melon pastries in China Town and admiring the boston skyline over the shimmering bay. 

We scoped out a few med schools while we were there and were pretty impressed with them.While seeing Eastern Virginia Medical School, we stopped in randomly at a diner called Doumars (the cute ice cream sign drew us in) and it turned out to be a city icon! Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive Ins and Dives was framed on the wall because he had featured the place on his show. The best part was the uncommonly friendly people—an elderly gentlemen who was a regular at Doumars even picked up our tab!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

Do you ever find yourself turning down invitations to potlucks because you're just too busy (or in my case lazy) to whip something up? I do! When I'm called upon to bring dessert last second, I get a little panicked because I don't want to disappoint with some questionable store bought cake from Kroger. I know, I know, silly right? But regardless, it's nice to have a simple, semi-homemade treats in your arsenal for times like this!

These Strawberry Shortcake Skewers totally saved the day a few weeks back when we were invited to a med school barbecue! I had to smile when everyone oohed and ahhed at something that requires exactly three ingredients and took me 15 minutes flat. This is hands down the easiest and most beautiful potluck treat I've made. I hope it becomes your new potluck go-to!

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers
Makes 12-15 large skewers

  • Store-bought angel food cake bundt (in bakery section)
  • Milk or White chocolate (melting discs, almond bark or chocolate chips)
  • Strawberries (one package)
  • Skewers

Slice angel food cake into cubes and set aside. Hull strawberries and slice in half. Skewer the cake and push it to the bottom of the skewer. Follow with a strawberry half and continue until you fill the skewer. (I had three of each on each skewer) Place skewers on a sheet of waxed paper.

Fill pastry bag or Ziploc bag half way or so with chocolate. Melt in the microwave in short intervals (30 seconds), smooshing the chocolate around with your fingers in between nukings until you reach the desired consistency. Return it to the microwave as needed. Snip a small hole in corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate over each skewer. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

We've had some great summer fun with friends and family lately! While it certainly has its ups and downs, Gradon's schedule has been surprisingly manageable throughout these surgery rotations. We keep waiting for medical school to get really bad and scary, but so far we haven't seen it! Either Gradon is just a natural or we're just very blessed or both! The last few months have been filled with nature hikes, baseball games, county fairs, gardening, fireworks, date nights, homemade dinners and cookie baking. Here are some recent highlights!