Friday, April 18, 2014

Carolina Pecan Pie Bars



First, I'll admit...I'm a slave to my computer and when it acts up, well you know what I'm talking about.  I have a Mac and when the color-wheel kept showing up and making it impossible to post things, it was time to stop everything and get to the bottom of the cause.  The "Genius Bar" (which is appropriately named!) discovered I had a corrupted FireFox file and I bet you can imagine my panic with all the files I have for work and home that it could possibly be my hard drive.  My advice--buy an external drive and periodically download your files!

Now, back up and running...it's National Pecan Month in North Carolina and the recipe I came up with today focuses on the only major tree that grows in North America.  Pecan trees is a member of the Hickory genus and can grow between 66-131 feet tall.  Known by bakers for Pecan Pie and Praline Candy in New Orleans, but it is also found in furniture making, flooring, and uses in smoking meats.  These amazing trees can bear up to 300 years and makes that pretty impressive in my book.

These bars not only have their "roots" from the well-known pies we serve (for holidays), but with an added twist of chocolate, the Derby Pie that accompanies the Kentucky Derby celebration coming up in May.   A delicious way to honor this nut and the state we call home now~North Carolina.  

Carolina Pecan Pie Bars
Makes about 2 dozen bars.  Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with heavy aluminum foil and spray with a nonstick spray with flour.  I used my 13 x 9-inch springform pan, so I only sprayed it.
 

Crust:
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir together until well combined.  Press crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.
I use the bottom of the measuring cup to press the crumbs! 
Filling:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans (measure after chopping)
1-12oz bag mini semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar and corn syrups.  Add the eggs, melted butter and vanilla and whisk until combine.  Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips;  gently pour the mixture over the prepared crust.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until set in the center.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly.  I used a straight metal spatula to go around the edges to loosen the bars, then removed the sides.
If you use the heavy aluminum foil, extend over the sides so you can pull the bars out of the pan and make it easier to cut.

These bars are a wonderful addition to the dessert table for the holidays in a bite-size replacement.  We love Pecan Pie and I've certainly made a bunch, not only with my mom, but for my own family and this maybe a replacement. Enjoy!

  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dark Chocolate~Chocolate Mint Cookies & April's Give-Away Apron

I'm sure we've all heard and/or read about the benefits of dark chocolate; something I'm quite pleased with and lead to creating this cookies. 

1. Good for your heart~eating dark chocolate two or three times a day can lower blood pressure by improving blood flow and preventing the formation of blood clots.  It also helps prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries.)

2. Good for your brain~not only improves blood flow to your heart, but to your brain which can have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health.  I know you've heard the fact that it encourages your brain to release endorphins, which will make you feel happier.  Also, it contains phenylethylamine which is the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you're falling in love.

3. Helps control blood sugar~keeps blood vessels healthy and thus your circulation unimpaired; protects against Type 2 Diabetes.  However, it may be the flavonoids in dark chocolate that benefits your cells and helps reduce insulin resistance and function normally.  It's a fact that dark chocolate has a low glycemic index, which means it won't cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels.

4. Full of Antioxidants~which help free your body of free radicals that cause damage to your cells.  Free radicals have been linked to the aging process and may be a cause of cancer, so eating dark chocolate may protect you from many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging.

5. Dental decay prevention~contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel and lowers your risk of cavities if you practice proper dental hygiene.

6. High in Vitamins and Minerals~Potassium, Copper, Magnesium and Iron which supports our health.  Copper and potassium help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments; iron protects against iron deficiency anemia; and, the magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Of course, like anything this good, they is a drawback. Keep in mind that dark chocolate is high in fat, so keeping tract of your calories is beneficial  to a healthy goal of weight.

Dark Chocolate~Chocolate Mint Cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter) at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
11 oz. dark chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. espresso powder
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips

Weigh the bittersweet dark chocolate in a bowl and place over a double boiler to melt on low.  Remove the bowl and allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly before adding it to the sugar/egg mixture.
 
In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, or a large bowl and a hand-held mixer, cream the sugars and butter together until fluffy.  Add the lightly beaten eggs and vanilla and mix on low to combine; don't worry if the mixture looks curdled that will change with the addition of the melted chocolate.

Remove the bowl from the stand and add the melted chocolate, stir to incorporate.  Add the dry ingredients and chips and stir until all the flour is incorporated.  At this point the batter is the consistency of "frosting" so place it in the refrigerator for 25 to 30 minutes to chill.
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  When the dough is chilled and easily handled, use a 2-tablespoon size scoop to measure out the cookies.  Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.  Remove and allow them to cool slightly before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.
The cookies have a familiar taste of those GS cookies we know and love oh so well.  The best thing is how moist they are on the inside.  Well worth the calories from the dark chocolate that is good for your body. Enjoy!

Now, this month's apron symbolizes the showers that April brings and the umbrellas that protect us from them.  I'm sure we've all heard the joke..."April showers bring May flowers...what do May flowers bring...!"
 Just comment on any of the posts and you could be the lucky winner of this month's beauty!
  



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March's Apron Winner and thoughts of Spring

Congratulations to ZaZa!  Your name was chosen for the March's Give-Away Apron.  Please email me your address so I can get this beauty sent to you, XOXO

Now, I do believe that Spring has arrived; trees are blooming, daffodils are up and the birds are singing their beautiful song.  I had the honor of being featured in this month's Scrapbooking.com issue (to read the entire article, click on the link). http://scrapbooking.com/article/81548
I will have April's Apron up soon!

Spring Break

We are lucky enough to have our grands visiting this week; our grandson's Spring break and the granddaughters flew down to see ...