Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Life is so funny, or maybe irritating is a better word. Do you feel this way? I just wrote about how I never leave dirty dishes in my sink in this post, but I lied...I had to leave dirty dishes in my sink last week. I made these marshmallows for my Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole and since it was 10pm I let the dishes soak with the intention of cleaning them in the morning. Well, I got up and no more had I let Greta out and was starting on those dishes when I heard my cell phone ring. I got called into work early and needed to be there in 20 minutes, so the dishes had to wait.
On my drive to work, my skin was crawling and all I could think about were those dang dishes and how much I was going to hate walking in the door from work and having them waiting there.  Much to my surprise, when I came home from work the dishes were done! SAY WHAT!!!???? At first I thought Steve had done them, since it was a rainy day he didn't go into work until later in the morning. Nope, wrong! It was my Mommy! She had to pick up my Thanksgiving turkey for me and when she dropped it off she let Greta out AND washed my sink full of dirty dishes! Have I told you how much I love my mom? She's truly the best.  Made my long crappy day at work fade away...
Instead of doing dishes I made this pie! Steve doesn't like pumpkin so I made chocolate pecan pie and blackberry cobbler for Thanksgiving dessert. I loved this pie and will definitely be making it again, probably for Christmas. 
 
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Source: The Kitchen Sink
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a heatproof bowl set over a medium saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate.  Make sure you stir chocolate occasionally, until smooth.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together (do not whisk) eggs, agave nectar (or honey), sugar, vanilla, and salt.

Stirring constantly, gradually add melted chocolate then pour filling into prepared crust.

Place pie plate on a baking sheet and cover the top of the pie with pecans.

Bake just until set (filling should jiggle slightly when pie plate is tapped), 50-60 minutes.  Let pie cool completely on wire rack (4 hours or overnight) before serving.

 Make sure to keep a few pecans aside so you can munch on them while the pie's baking :)

What was your favorite Thanksgiving dessert this year?



Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving

My first Thanksgiving cooking an entire meal went well. There is always room for improvement of course, but I was proud of myself.  My turkey turned out pretty darn good if I do say so myself and I didn't have any MAJOR failures or tantrums. I did have a small freak-out when Steve and I almost dropped the turkey on the floor. YIKES, that would have ruined my day.  Luckily, everything turned out okay.
We had such a nice time eating with Steve's brother, Dave and his wife, Britney, and their two beautiful children: Kennedy and Wyatt.  Kennedy melted my heart and made me laugh while we were eating dessert, by saying, "This is the best time I've ever seen." What a cutie! Spending the day with family was well worth the 4 days of cooking prep and getting up at 7:00 AM yesterday to make sure everything was read.
Britney, Dave, Kennedy, & Wyatt
I'll be sharing my thanksgiving recipes throughout this coming week, but here's a sneak peek at our meal:
photo taken by my sister-in-law
Thanksgiving Menu:

Turkey
Dressing
Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Potatos
Sweet Potato Casserole
Corn Pudding
Crescent Rolls
Blackberry Cobbler
Chocolate Pecan Pie


I didn't make everything, I had some help from the store with the gravy, crescent rolls, and pie crusts for the desserts.  I didn't want to overwhelm myself since it was my first time cooking Thanksgiving so I thought it was okay to get some help :)

Here are some photos of our day:
Kennedy dancing
Wyatt ate and slept all day, what a good baby
Greta is wearing out, she loved chasing Kennedy
 We took a much needed walk, trying to work off those turkey pounds....
Kennedy fell asleep, poor thing was all tuckered out
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to spend time with your loved ones!

Monday, November 21, 2011

BBQ Pulled Pork

I hate washing dirty dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. In fact, on some of those cookless nights it's because of the dirty dishes that I choose not to cook. :) That's just how I roll. I'm not one of those people who can leave dirty dishes in the sink over night, leave for work in the morning, come home, cook and dirty more dishes then clean them. No, that's just not my style. If you know my mamma then you know where I get this from.
I won't say I have NEVER left dirty dishes. You might find my morning coffee cup (my favorite one that can't go in the dishwasher) in the sink if you came over to my house while I'm at work. And sometimes I let a dish soak over night and usually finish up the clean in the morning.  If you find more than 1 dirty item in my sink then you know I'm either sick or I've been committed.

My least favorite item to wash...my beloved crock pot.  While I adore cooking with it, you simply place your food in the crock and turn the knob to low and let it do it's thing all day and like magic you have dinner! But cleaning the darn thing STINKS! My crock is black and if you put it in the dishwasher you get a white residue left over from the detergent...UGH! This drives me NUTS!!!! I can't tell you how many times I clean my crock pot with each use, at least an average of 3 times per use!

All that complaining aside, I'll continue using my crock pot and loving the food it produces, this BBQ pulled pork included!



BBQ Pulled Pork
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
2 bottles BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray's)
4 tbsp. Weber's Steak 'N Chop seasoning
2 cups water

Directions:

Place pork shoulder in crock pot along with Weber's seasoning or seasoning of your choice.

Add 2 cups water and cook on low 10-12 hours.

Remove pork from crock pot and pull apart with forks.

Pour out the cooking liquid that's left in the crock pot and return pulled pork to crock.

Add 1-1 1/2 bottles of your favorite BBQ sauce.

Serve on bread as a sandwich and add some mozzarella cheese if desired.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Apple Cheese & Pear Cheese Danishes

Apple Cheese Danish
I've never eaten a pear.  Well, let me say that again...I've never eaten a pear since I can remember eating.  I'm sure when I was a baby my mom fed me that pureed garbage stuff.  I don't really know why I haven't had one, I love pear scented lotion and hand soap.
Pear Cheese Danish
I love almost all fruits but I NEVER eat those fruit cups with the juice. YUCK!!!!  The only fruit I will eat from a can with juice is pineapple.  I guess it's a texture thing; I feel like canned fruits that are in the juice seem limp, soft, and mushy.  I like my fruit firm, like when you bite into a fresh peach, apple, maybe even a pear.?
This fall I have seen multiple pear recipes that look yummy so when I went to the grocery I picked myself up some pears. I couldn't decide which recipe to make until I saw this post and decided to make an apple danish and a pear danish.  They were both great!

Apple Cheese & Pear Cheese Danishes  
Adapted from: A Cozy Kitchen
Printable Recipe 

Yield: 2 danishes

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3 tbsp. ricotta
juice of 1 lemon
1/8 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. sugar, divided
2 Gala Apples (or 2 Pears)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 box frozen puff pastry, defrosted

Directions:

1. Preheat oven 400 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add cream cheese, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and 4 tbsp. sugar. Mix until      smooth with paddle attachment. 

3. Peel and slice your apples or pears into 1/4 inch slices and toss with 1 tbsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and juice of 1 lemon in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

4. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry and roll into 11 inch by 8 inch rectangle with a floured rolling pin.

5. Place puff pastry on parchment paper and place on cookie sheet.  At an angle, slice off the top corners of pastry and cut two notches in the bottom.  Cut 1 inch strips diagonally down both sides of puff pastry, making sure to leave center intact.  You should have about 8 strips per side. (Check out A Cozy Kitchen for step-by-step photos.)

6. Add half the cream cheese/ricotta mixture to center of puff pastry and spread out evenly.  Top with slices of apple or pear.

7. Fold in the bottom and top flaps of pastry then braid the side strips.  Brush danish with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

8. Refrigerate pastry 15 minutes until baking.  Bake 20-23 minutes or until danish is golden brown. 

9. Repeat steps 4-8 with second piece of puff pastry.

Grab some fruit at your grocery and makes some yummy fruit and cheese danishes :) These were great right out of the oven and even the next morning for breakfast, just pop 'em in the microwave about 15 seconds.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Spinach & Sage


I'm an odd-ball- this I already know, you need not remind me.  I do weird things, especially when it comes to cooking.  For instances, I either measure all ingredients exactly as the recipe suggests (using a kitchen scale for things such as flour, sugar, etc.) Or, I disregard measurements completely. Do you do silly things like this?  Usually, if I'm baking a dessert (for the first time) I tend to measure things exactly, well the "important things". You'll rarely find me measuring spices and I NEVER EVER EVER measure salt and pepper...OOPS! When it comes to savory/non-dessert baking dishes, I usually don't measure things at all.  So far, this has worked out for me and this recipe is a prime example. Unfortunately, the picture does not do this lasagna justice, it was great.

When I first saw this recipe I was intrigued but skeptical.  Luckily, my curiosity got the best of me and I made it almost immediately.  It was really tasty and the Parmesan-Sage Bechamel sauce will be used in many other recipes.  I love finding recipes that you can use parts of in other dishes.  I think the sauce would be yummy with penne pasta and grilled chicken :)  If I can make a suggestion when it comes to cooking, it would be this:  Step out of your comfort zone, take some chances, and explore things you normally wouldn't.  You might be pleasantly surprised.


Butternut Squash Lasagna with Spinach & Sage
Printable Recipe
Source: Bake Your Day
Ingredients:

Roasted Squash
1 (2-3 lb) butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1 tbsp. dried sage)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Parmesan-Sage Bechamel Sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
14 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried sage
3 cups milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Lasagna:
1 large onion (I used purple), diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
12 lasagna noodles
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a roasting pan with non-stick spray and add butternut squash, then toss with olive oil, sage, salt and pepper.  Roast 25-30 minutes, until squash is tender.

Remove from oven and transfer squash to a bowl, then gently mash with potato masher.

While squash is roasting, melt butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan then gently stir in flour and whisk.

Add salt and pepper, nutmeg and dried sage and continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Slowly whisk in milk and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Cook until sauce boils and thickens slightly.

Whisk in Parmesan cheese then remove from heat.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven then add onion.  Cover and cook onions 20 minutes or until they are brown and fragrant, stirring frequently. 

Add spinach to onions and cook 6-8 minutes then add the butternut squash and stir until combined.  Remove from heat.

Spray a 9x13 or 9x9 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Ladle a small amount of the Parmesan Bechamel sauce on the bottom of pan then layer 4 (3 if using square dish) lasagna noodles on top of sauce. It is okay i the noodles overlap.  Next add the squash/spinach mixture then top with about 1 cup sauce, repeat layers 2 (4 if using square dish) times.

Add 2-3 cups mozzarella cheese on top of lasagna and sprinkle some Parmesan on top if desired.

If you want to make ahead, cover with foil and keep in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and cook lasagna, covered for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and cook another 15 minutes, uncovered.  Remove lasagna from oven and allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

*I did not measure any spices, I just added them to taste, the above measurements are from the original recipe but I think mine were fairly close.  My grocery didn't have fresh sage so I used dried while roasting squash and in the sauce.*

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

GIVEAWAY WINNER

The winner of the Le Creuset pie dish is.............




UKJulie1024 



Please email me (meagansfirstkitchen@gmail.com) your mailing address so I can get your prize to you!

I would like to thank everyone who entered this giveaway. I really enjoyed reading your favorite birthday gifts and a few responses truly brought tears to my eyes! 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cheoreg

This weekend I made Armenian bread, cheoreg.  I don't think I've shared this before but my husband's great grandparents emigrated from Armenia in the early 1900's.  I'm sure if any of you have heard of Armenia it's probably because of the Kardashians (sigh).  I honestly don't know much about the Armenian genocide or Steve's family before they moved to America; below is a short video one of Steve's cousins made for a school project in case you're interested

Since history is truly my first love, I really enjoyed learning how my husband's family came to America and hope to learn more of his family history.  I also plan on learning more about their food, since that's my second love :)

I personally haven't had much Armenian food but I have had his grandmother's cheoreg and it's delicious.  Last year she sent me an Armenian cookbook and I was so super excited to cook out of it. But guess what, I haven't made one thing from it yet....why...FEAR! How can I know if it tastes right if I haven't had it before?  That ended Friday as I attempted my first recipe: cheoreg.  Like far too many of my baking adventures, this one began at 8:30 PM and the dough had to rise 3 hours.  After staying up entirely too late, waiting on the dough, I stuck it in the fridge and made the rolls the next morning.  They were delicious!

Cheoreg
Printable Recipe 

Yield: 5 1/2 dozen rolls

Ingredients:

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 sticks butter
4 tbsp Crisco
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup & 1 tbsp sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. salt
3 tsp baking powder
10 cups flour, sifted, plus 2-4 cups extra flour
Sesame seeds

Directions:

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, with 1 tbsp sugar.

While yeast is dissolving, melt butter and Crisco together in a large pot, add salt.

Warm the milk in a small saucepan and add to the above mixture.

Beat eggs in a small bowl and add sugar.  Then add to above mixture.

Add yeast-water to mixture.

Sift 10 cups flour with baking powder. Gradually (1/2 cup at a time) add the flour to the mixture with a wooden spoon. 

Mix with your hands once dough begins to form and knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hands, adding the extra 2-4 cups flour as needed.

Place dough in a large bowl (the biggest one you have) and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

Allow dough to rise 3 hours or until doubled in size.
Roll small pieces (about 1 inch round balls) into 8 inch strips, the width of your finger.  Shape into figure eights, twists, or knots.
 
Place on a cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper or silpat) and cover with a clean towel.

Allow rolls to rise 1 hour. Then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake rolls 15-20 minutes in a 350 degrees F, preheated oven or until tops begin to brown.
Store rolls in an air-tight container at room temperature. You can warm them in the microwave for about 10 seconds.

These rolls are great by themselves, but I love to cut them in half and spread butter and honey on them :)  They are also great with jelly or pumpkin butter!

Since I'm on the topic of family I wanted to share some pictures of my niece and nephews.  Steve's brother and his wife welcomed their second child, Wyatt into the world on Oct 24th and he's just the sweetest baby! Their daughter, Kennedy is the cutest little girl and is loving her "blue baby" as she calls her new brother:
Wyatt
This picture is from back in March when we went on vacation. Steve was teaching Kennedy to jump on the bed :)
And last but certainly not least, Steve's sister has a little boy, Eli. Here he is on Halloween, what a cute elephant he was.
Ya'll didn't think I would post without pictures of my baby, did you? NO WAY!
Greta in earmuffs, this did not go over well
Sweet girl
Hope everyone had a great weekend and don't forget to enter my giveaway.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

26 & Le Creuset Giveaway

Today is my birthday, the big 26!  I'm neither happy nor sad about it really, it's just another day.  Do you remember being little, well really any age before 20 and getting so excited about your birthday? I do!  My mom would wake me up with a kiss and tell me Happy Birthday. My dad would leave me a note on the kitchen table and all me later in the day-he left for work well before I woke each morning.  If it was a school day, we usually had cupcakes and my class would sing Happy Birthday.  I would go home to a house full of family and a few friends and have more cake and open gifts.  When you're young your birthday is the second most exciting day of the year, second only to Christmas morning.

Then you turn 20, and birthdays aren't so fun.  You're getting older and the gifts you receive are usually better or at least cost more but you don't get the same excitement as you did when you were younger and opened a box with a new teddy bear or cassette tape you'd been wanting for months.  Instead, you get things like socks because yours have holes or new bed pillows because you haven't gotten a new one since middle school and you don't want to spend your money are such things.  Or better, you get a coat, a watch, or pair of expensive shoes you've been wanting but didn't have the money for.  I often went out to dinner with friends had a great meal and the waiters sing and embarrass you.

I guess birthdays are still fun but the last six years have only been a reminder that time keeps marching on and I swear it's speeding up! I remember my first day of school like it was just last month, my first day of high school, driving a car for the first time (with a license), college orientation, college graduation, buying my first home, my wedding, etc....it all feels like it was just a few moments ago.  How can I be 26 already? I know I'm still young but sometimes I feel old, know what I mean? I guess what I'm trying to say, in a long, drawn out way, is that I wish I could get the same excitement for my birthday that I got when I was "young"-maybe you can get excited because today I'm giving away one of these:


A Le Creuset pie dish in cobalt blue :) Here's how to enter:

RULES

Leave a comment below telling me your favorite birthday gift.

For additional entries:

1. Like Meagan's First Kitchen on facebook, come back and leave a separate comment. If you already like my page, just leave that in the comments

2. Share this giveaway on your facebook page or blog, come back and leave a separate comment.

3. Become a follower of Meagan's First Kitchen, leave a separate comment to let me know you're a follower.

****Make sure you leave separate comments for each entry****

Giveaway is only open to those living in the United States

Giveaway will end 10:00 PM (eastern time) on Tuesday, November 8th.

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by me and me alone :)

****Also, it may look like your comments are not showing up but they are coming through to me, so if they don't show up, no worries-I am getting them and keeping track for the giveaway****

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