Monday, November 14, 2011

Pecan Sandies

I always thought Pecan Sandies were the exclusive creation of the Keebler elves. That turns out not to be true, and Pecan Sandies can be made at home. This was my first try at making cookie dough with the food processor, and I found it to be a very quick and easy process. These cookies would be excellent with tea or coffee.

from The New Best Recipe

1 1/2 c chopped pecans, plus more pecan halves for topping cookies
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
12 tbsp (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk

1. In a food processor, pulse together the pecans and sugars until pecans are ground. Add flour and salt and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until dough starts to look like wet sand and rides up the side of the bowl. Run the food processor and add in the yolk while it's running. Dough should come together into a ball.

2. Remove ball from food processor and knead a few turns on a clean surface. Roll dough into a 12 inch log, and cut in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

3. Remove dough logs from freezer. Unwrap and roll on a clean surface to fix the flattened side (your logs will be flat on the bottom). When log is fully round once more, rewrap and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove logs from refrigerator. Slice into 1/4" slices and place on parchment paper. Press a pecan half into the top of each slice.

5. Bake for 22-24 minutes, rotating baking sheets half way through baking. Cookies are done when edges start browning. Allow cookies to cool on wire rack.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Sundae has nothing to do with this post, but I'd feel bad posting without a photo.

My oven and I decided to take a short break from each other, so I checked out for the last week. That gave me more time to look up recipes on the internet (as if I needed an excuse). I'll be back to my regular posting tomorrow, but, for now, I thought I'd share some of my favorite on-line recipe resources:

Allrecipes- One of the first online recipe resource, and still one of the best. Recipes are submitted by site members, as well as companies like Kraft and magazines like Taste of Home. There's really nothing you can't find at this site. I use Allrecipes as a source for this blog all the time.

Epicurious- Very much like Allrecipes, but slightly higher-brow. Recipes are submitted both by members and its magazine partners: Bon Appetit and the now-defunct Gourmet.

Betty Crocker- For some reason, I was in the dark about this resource until a couple of days ago. I want to make nearly every recipe I've seen on this site. It full of simple, accessible recipes-- exactly what you'd expect from Betty Crocker-- put together in a nice format.

King Arthur Flour- Tons of bread and bread machine recipes, as well as other baking recipes. As a bread lover, I particularly appreciate this resource. Tested, well-reviewed bread recipes can be hard to track down.

Tasty Kitchen- Spearheaded by the Pioneer Woman, this is another great member-driven recipe resource. Also a very nice blog attached to the site. I have noticed that sometimes recipes disappear from the database, however.

I hope you'll check out some of these great resources and find them as useful as I have!

Monday, November 7, 2011


This is a beloved recipe in the Cats and Casseroles household. I make it every Thanksgiving and most Christmases, and it's something my family looks forward to every year. I call it my "holiday lasagna," because it's a dish I reserve for special occasions. It does take a bit more time to prepare than a lasagna made with a jarred sauce, and certainly more than a frozen one, but it's totally, totally worth it.

This lasagna is incredibly yummy. The sauce is what makes it truly special, in my opinion. I love the combination of the sausage with the ground beef and all those herbs. The sauce is thick and rich, and has just the perfect balance of flavors.

Part of what makes this lasagna a perfect holiday dish is that it can be made ahead. When I hosted Thanksgiving, I would make this two days ahead of the big event and store it in the refrigerator. When I have company over, it's nice to enjoy time with them instead of being squirreled away in the kitchen preparing dinner.


for the sauce:
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
3/4 lb lean ground beef (I often use a whole pound, since it's easier to find)
1/2 c minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

to build the lasagna:
12 no-bake lasagna noodles (I highly recommend Barilla)
1 16 oz  container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
pinch black pepper
1 8oz bag shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, or until translucent. Add in the sausage and ground beef. Cook until both sausage and beef are cooked through with no pink inside. Drain off excess grease. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Turn down the heat to medium-low.

2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Stir in the sugar, basil, fennel, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and parsley. Allow the sauce to simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as needed.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, egg, salt, parsley, and pepper.

5. To build the lasagna: Spoon some sauce to cover the bottom of a deep 9 x 13 metal pan with straight sides. Top this sauce with 6 no-bake lasagna noodles. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/4 Parmesan on top. Cover with meat sauce. Put down another 6 noodles and repeat the layers, but save the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses for last.

6. Cover the lasagna with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, and then remove foil and bake for another 25 minutes. Let lasagna cool down for about 15 minutes before serving.

Source: allrecipes

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cranberry Clafoutis

Up to this point, my relationship with cranberries has been limited to the jellied kind in the can. This dessert has changed that for me. This recipe is a great way to serve up the traditional Thanksgiving berry in a new and tasty way. My family has already requested I bring this to our holiday celebration.

A clafoutis is a French dessert that is traditionally made with cherries. The cherries are topped with a flan-like batter and then baked. This version uses cranberries instead. And let me assure you, it is delicious. Normally, I find cranberries too tart. However, suspended in the sweet batter, they provide the perfect compliment. Of course, a little powdered sugar and a dab of whipped cream never hurts, either!


1 c cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 c plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs
3/4 c heavy cream
3/4 c whole milk
2 tsp orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 8 inch square glass baking dish. Sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar over the bottom of the dish.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1/2 c sugar, flour, salt, eggs, heavy cream, whole milk and orange zest. Make sure to smooth out any lumps.

3. Spread the chopped cranberries over the bottom of the baking dish. Pour the batter on top of the cranberries. Bake in oven for 32 to 34 minutes, or until edges brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack or trivet for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve with powdered sugar and whipped cream, if desired.

Source: Martha Stewart Living Magazine, November 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Old Fashioned Dinner Rolls

My husband, despite being north of 35 years old, still eats like a teenager. It wouldn't be uncommon for him to eat 3 or 4 pieces of lasagna at dinner and then wander around the kitchen a few hours later looking for a snack. I'd be concerned, but the man is on the thin side and has a clean bill of heath. So instead I'm just jealous I don't share his metabolism.

I began making dinner rolls as a way to stretch the grocery budget while keeping my husband full. Dinner rolls are inexpensive and filling. The only problem was, I couldn't find them in the stores. I'm not exactly sure when or why the dinner roll became an extinct species. But it encouraged me to make my own.

I've tried at least a dozen different roll recipes. This is my husband's favorite. It's made in the bread machine, but is easily adapted to a stand mixer.


1 c water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
3 1/4 c bread flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp bread machine yeast
2 tbsp melted butter

1. Place ingredients (except melted butter) in your bread machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

2. Run dough cycle. When complete, remove dough from machine and rest on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let sit for 10 minutes.

3. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Divide dough into 15 equal pieces and roll into balls. Place balls in glass baking dish. Cover and place in a warm place to rise for about 40 minutes, or until doubled.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops with melted butter.

Source: Betty Crocker's Best Bread Machine Cookbook

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Butternut Squash Pie

It's getting to be that time of year again. The time for pie.

Move over pumpkin, because butternut squash has arrived. When I first heard about butternut squash pie, I immediately put it on my must bake list. I was intrigued with the concept of turning an ingredient I find generally underwhelming into a delicious pie. The person who recommended this recipe to me assured me it would be similar to pumpkin pie, but better. Boy was she right. This pie has a sweeter, lighter, fresher taste than any pumpkin pie I've ever eaten. It's made completely from scratch, which is a bit time consuming but not really that much more difficult than opening up a can. For those pumpkin diehards out there who would like to try this recipe, swap out the squash for one pie pumpkin.

This pie was only the second pie I'd ever made. And if I can do it, so can you. Jump right in and impress your Thanksgiving guests this year with a from-scratch butternut squash pie!


for the crust:
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
4-8 tbsp ice water

for the pie filling:
1 large butternut squash
1 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs
3/4 c evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

1. Start by making the crust. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until you've achieved pea sized chunks. Add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork. Add enough water so that the dough starts to come together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Refrigerate for an hour.

2. While crust is in the refrigerator, roast the butternut squash. To do this, slice the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Line a baking pan (a jelly roll pan is ideal) with aluminum foil. Grease foil with a light coat of cooking spray. Place squash, cut side down, on foil. Pour 1/2 c water into the baking pan and loosely cover squash with another piece of foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Let cool.

3. Scoop out innards of roasted butternut squash and place in food processor or blender. Pulse until pureed. Reserve 1 1/2 c of the puree, saving the rest for another recipe.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together the butternut squash puree and the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, evaporated milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, flour, melted butter, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.

5. Lightly coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Remove pie crust dough from refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface. Gently lift up dough and press it into the pie plate. Crimp the edges and cut off any excess. Pour filling into crust.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until set. Let pie cool on rack before serving.

Source: Southern Food at