Pecan-Stuffed Mushrooms

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First things first, I love toasted pecans. I love their nutty sweet flavor. Un-toasted, I don’t give a fig about pecans, but toast those babies up and the flavor and crunch factor gets intensified and I love it.

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Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about this recipe; Pecan-Stuffed Mushrooms. This is from a cookbook from my Mom’s (sizable) cookbook collection. This is kind of a neat book because it was put together by a rotary club in the late 70’s in Upstate New York (where I grew up). It’s a collection of recipes that really capture the times (according to my Mom) and it includes recipes such as Hot Sherry Crab Dip, Chocolate Crepes, and cocktails such as Sunshine Slush. Apparently it’s all very “70’s” as my Mom says. I’m a product of the 80’s so I’ll have to take her word for it.

Anyway, these tasty little mushrooms are an awesome appetizer or side dish. They have a nice crunch to them thanks to those toasted pecans, and a pleasant tangyness to due to the Greek Yogurt.

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Pecan Stuffed Mushrooms

Adapted from Applehood and Motherpie

Ingredients:

  • 12 to 16 large button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions:

Clean mushrooms with a wet paper towel. Remove stems and set aside.

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Arrange mushroom caps on a baking sheet. Brush the mushroom caps with 1 Tbsp of the melted butter and set aside.

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Chop the mushroom stems. Using the remaining melted butter saute the mushroom stems, onion, and garlic cloves over medium heat until the onions are browned (about 5 minutes).

While sauteing preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the sauteed mushrooms and onions and all remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture.

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If you’re a self-proclaimed cheese addict like myself, sprinkle some additional cheese on top of the mushrooms.

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Cook in the oven for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. The mushrooms should be tender and the tops brown.

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The cook time might vary slightly depending on the size of the mushrooms, so keep an eye on ’em.  Serve warm.

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Pecan Stuffed Mushrooms

Adapted from Applehood and Motherpie

Ingredients:

  • 12 to 16 large button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions:

Clean mushrooms with a wet paper towel. Remove stems and set aside.

Arrange mushroom caps on a baking sheet. Brush the mushroom caps with 1 Tbsp of the melted butter and set aside.

Chop the mushroom stems. Using the remaining melted butter saute the mushroom stems, onion, and garlic cloves over medium heat until the onions are browned (about 5 minutes).

While sauteing preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the sauteed mushrooms and onions and all remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture.

If you’re a self-proclaimed cheese addict like myself, sprinkle some additional cheese on top of the mushrooms.

Cook in the oven for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. The mushrooms should be tender and the tops brown. Serve warm.

 

 

DIY Christmas Gift Ideas: Part I

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I know this is crazy seeing as it’s not even the end of November, but I’m already thinking about Christmas gifts. I am a last-minute person and I always have been. This applies to all areas of my life including studying for exams, writing articles, planning Halloween costumes, and most certainly extends to shopping for Christmas gifts. So let’s just say that this year, I’m trying to do things differently.

This year I want to try to make as many as my gifts as I can. (Spoiler alert to those of you on my Christmas list!) However, some of the ideas I have, I’ve never made before and therefore the recipes must be tested, so why not write about their success (or failure) and share the recipes with you!

Here is Part I of my series on DIY Christmas gifts.

Cheddar crackers

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

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Ingredients:

  • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 c grated cheddar cheese*
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c all-purpose flour**
  • 1 c Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1/4 c chopped bacon, optional
  • 1/4 c chopped jalapeno, optional

Directions:

*Note: what really makes these crackers is the cheese (duh!), so choose your cheddar carefully. I’m a Cabbot girl myself, so I went with Cabbot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar and grated it myself before starting the dough. Personally, I think it’s worth the extra effort to grate the cheese yourself than to buy a pre-grated package.

**Note: some easy flour substitutions can be made; using whole wheat flour, or a combination of whole wheat and AP flour. Almond flour could also be used for a gluten-free version.

To get started beat the butter, grated cheese, and spices using a hand or stand mixer. Once combined add the flour and cereal. If opting to add bacon and/or jalapeno to the crackers toss them in too. Mix for 1-2 minutes on a medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Now for the easy part! Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a log and roll up in the wax paper. (Square or round? Whatever floats your boat!). Next, put the log of dough into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until firm. (Quick Tip: don’t have the time? Chill the dough in the freezer for 30-40 minutes instead.)

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350. Unroll the dough from the wax paper and cut into slices that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. The crackers should be a light golden brown color.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Warning: This recipe makes a lotta crackers. My test groups yielded about: 50 per a batch (although this will vary depending on the size of the log).

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The Verdict: Yum. Yum. Yum! Just call me Clara Ciminelli: the killer of diets. These were awesome. Make ’em, share ’em, love ’em!

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Cheddar crackers

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 c grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1/4 c chopped bacon, optional
  • 1/4 c chopped jalapeno, optional

Directions:

Start by beating the butter, grated cheese, and spices together using a hand or stand mixer. Once combined add the flour and cereal. If opting to add bacon and/or jalapeno to the crackers toss them in too. Mix for 1-2 minutes on a medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a log and roll up in the wax paper. (Square or round? Whatever floats your boat!). Next, put the log of dough into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until firm (or chill the dough in the freezer for 30-40 minutes instead).

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unroll the dough from the wax paper and cut into slices that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. The crackers should be a light golden brown color.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Homemade Caramel Corn

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Oh, caramel corn! Cue dramatic sigh. I love caramel corn! This is a childhood favorite of mine. My Nana used to make huge batches of this during the fall/winter and it brings back memories of watching football games at my Nana and Papa’s house where my Dad and Papa are yelling at the Buffalo Bills.

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My Nana was a huge influence on me growing up. Like myself, she loved cooking and baking. She especially loved candy making, and I remember the homemade peanut butter cups and turtles she used to make at Easter time. But that’s another story. My Nana had a huge collection of recipes, and over the next few months I hope to share a few more of my favorites from her collection. Here is her recipe for caramel corn.

Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1 1/3 c unpopped corn kernels
  • 2 c nuts (optional)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*I used a combination of peanuts and walnuts but you can use any nuts you would like (or none at all).

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Directions:

First let’s get this popcorn popped. I find it’s easier to do this in two batches. Start with a large-sized pot and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Heat until the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan. When I say medium-low heat I mean somewhere between a 3-4 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) Every stove is different, but I can tell you that if you have the temperature too high the kernels will pop very quickly and it will burn easily; if you have the temperature too low you will be waiting for the kernels to pop for a while. You know your stove top best, so adjust as needed.

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Add 2/3 c of corn kernels to the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon so that the kernels are evenly coated and spread out over the base of the pot. Cover and let the kernels pop (aprox 10-12 minutes).

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Stay close to the pot, if you don’t hear any popping within a 4-5 second interval it’s time to take the pot off the heat. Once the kernels are all popped remove from heat. VERY CAREFULLY, using hot-pot-holders, firmly hold the lid down on the pot while you flip it over 2-3 times. This releases the steam from the popcorn. Next pour the popcorn into a large bowl.

Pick out any burned kernels and throw away.

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This will make 3 quarts of popped corn, so if you’re going for the whole 6 quarts repeat this process, if you are looking to only make a half batch stop here. If you make a half batch be sure to cut the measurements in half for the caramel sauce. I note this because, this is my Nana’s recipe. And it makes a lot. A whole lotta caramel corn.

Before we get the caramel sauce started, preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and spray 2 shallow pans with cooking spray. If you do not have large shallow pans I recommend foil roasting pans. Also, before starting the caramel sauce measure out the baking soda, set aside, and add the nuts to the bowl of popped corn.

Next, in a saucepan (large enough to hold 2 quarts), combine the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and salt.

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Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Tip: if your hand gets too hot while stirring put a pot holder over your hand for while you stir.

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After boiling for 5 minutes the caramel should look something like this:

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Now comes the fun part! After the caramel sauce has boiled for 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble slightly, lighten in color, and the texture will become slightly fluffy. Pour the sauce over the popped corn. Working quickly using a slotted spoon, mix the caramel sauce over the kernels, it will start to cool and harden quickly.  Warning: this caramel sauce is hot, and it will make the bowl hot, so watch those fingers! Also note it’s helpful to have a lovely assistant present to hold the pan while you scrape the caramel sauce over the kernels. Distribute the sauce as evenly as possible over the popped corn and nuts. Then pour the mixture into the prepared shallow pans.

Bake for 25 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the caramel corn. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.

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After baking allow the caramel corn to cool slightly and then break into small pieces.

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Store in zip lock bags. Or large Fall-themed mugs.

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Don’t fret over the caramel sauce pot; some hot soapy water will dissolve the caramel in a jiff.

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Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1 1/3 c unpopped corn kernels
  • 2 c nuts (optional)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*I used a combination of peanuts and walnuts but you can use any nuts you would like (or none at all).

Directions:

To pop the popcorn; I find it’s easier to do this in two batches. Start with a large-sized pot and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Heat until the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan. Add 2/3 c of corn kernels to the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon so that the kernels are evenly coated and spread out over the base of the pot. Cover and let the kernels pop (aprox 10-12 minutes).

Stay close to the pot, if you don’t hear any popping within a 4-5 second interval it’s time to take the pot off the heat. Once the kernels are all popped remove from heat. VERY CAREFULLY, using hot-pot-holders, firmly hold the lid down on the pot while you flip it over 2-3 times. This releases the steam from the popcorn. Next pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Pick out any burned kernels and throw away.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and spray 2 shallow pans with cooking spray. If you do not have large shallow pans I recommend foil roasting pans. Also, before starting the caramel sauce measure out the baking soda, set aside, and add the nuts to the bowl of popped corn.

Next, in a saucepan (large enough to hold 2 quarts), combine the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly.

After the caramel sauce has boiled for 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble slightly, lighten in color, and the texture will become slightly fluffy. Pour the sauce over the popped corn.

Working quickly, using a slotted spoon, mix the caramel sauce over the kernels, it will start to cool and harden quickly. Distribute the sauce as evenly as possible over the popped corn and nuts. Then pour the mixture into the prepared shallow pans. Bake for 25 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the caramel corn. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. After baking allow the caramel corn to cool slightly and then break into small pieces. Store in airtight containers or plastic bags.

Satisfying the Crunch Factor

The crunch factor; a craving that can only be satisfied by consuming crunchy food items. Food items can be of either the sweet or salty persuasion. The crunch factor often occurs; while working on the computer for a prolonged amount of time, watching the tv or movies, playing video games, or around 4 pm (aka snack time).

Ah, yes, the crunch factor. I’m always looking for ways to keep it healthy and still satisfy the CF. While I’ve tried out a variety of crunchy snacks, roasted chickpeas is my new favorite way to satisfy my crunchy cravings.

Roasted chickpeas are an ideal CF snack because they are (1) easy to make, (2) store well in air tight containers, and (3) are a healthy and flavorful alternative to potato chips.*

*Ok, fine I’m not a nutritionist, but I swear these crunchy beans are better than Doritos and Cheese-its.

So here it is, roasted chickpeas two ways; spicy and sweet.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
Ingredients:
2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
Optional Add-in: a dash of “Perfect Pinch” for chicken (or any other pre-mixed spice combination of your choice)

First drain the chickpeas in a strainer.

Wash with cool water to rinse the starch off.

Next pour the beans onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to air dry. The key to these becoming a crunchy snack inside-out is allowing them enough time to thoroughly dry. I recommend allowing them to air dry for at least 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.

After allowing the peas to dry, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and all spices.

Give it a good toss to evenly distribute.

Next, pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and pop into the oven.

These will take 40 minutes in the oven before reaching optimal crunchiness. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and toss with a spatula. Do not shake the pan to rotate the peas when they are hot, as this might cause them to pop/explode in one’s face. You’ve been warned.

Sweet Roasted Chickpeas
Ingredients
2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Optional Add-in: a dash of apple pie or pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp honey

To make the sweet version of these crunchy peas follow the directions above EXCEPT only toss the dried chickpeas in olive oil, cinnamon, sugar, and any additional spices you have selected. Immediately after taking them out of the oven, pour the chickpeas into a small mixing bowl and toss them with the honey while still piping hot. Pour them back onto the baking sheet and allow them to cool and the honey to harden.

Also, since these have sugar on them they need to be monitored more closely in the oven to prevent burning. Bake for only 30-35 minutes.

 

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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Directions:

First drain the chickpeas in a strainer. Wash with cool water to rinse the starch off.

Next pour the beans onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to air dry. The key to these becoming a crunchy snack inside-out is allowing them enough time to thoroughly dry. I recommend allowing them to air dry for at least 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.

After allowing the peas to dry, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and all spices.

Give it a good toss to evenly distribute.

Next, pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and pop into the oven.

These will take 40 minutes in the oven before reaching optimal crunchiness. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and toss with a spatula.

 

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Sweet Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (15 oz cans)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • a dash of apple pie or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp honey

Directions:

First drain the chickpeas in a strainer. Wash with cool water to rinse the starch off.

Next pour the beans onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to air dry. The key to these becoming a crunchy snack inside-out is allowing them enough time to thoroughly dry. I recommend allowing them to air dry for at least 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.

After allowing the peas to dry, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Next, in a small mixing bowl combine the chickpeas with the olive oil and all spices.

Give it a good toss to evenly distribute.

Next, pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet so that they are in a single layer and pop into the oven.

These will take 30-35 minutes in the oven before reaching optimal crunchiness. Every 10 minutes take the tray out and toss with a spatula.