Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

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We don’t get a huge selection of autumn fruits here in NC. Once grape season is over, we have apples and that’s mostly it until strawberries make their appearance in April. Not that I don’t like apples, but it’s nice to have something different. So I was very happy when Asian pears showed up on our Produce Box menu for this week! I had never eaten Asian pears, which are a bit crisper than Bosc pears and not as cloyingly sweet. These pears though, they have a visual marketing problem. Asian pears look like brown apples, so even if I had seen them at the market, I probably wouldn’t have purchased them. And that is too bad because they are delicious, refreshing and healthy.

We used one of our awesome pears to make this fresh, fall salad of organic, local lettuce, kale, dried organic cranberries, and goat cheese. It was delicious, and a nice break from all the squash we’ve been eating!

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad (makes two servings)

  • 1/2 head of organic, bibb lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of organic, red kale, washed, trimmed of stems and chopped
  • 1 organic pear, washed, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 2 organic radishes, trimmed and sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup dried, organic cranberries
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup candied pecan halves (you could also use toasted pecans)
  • Dressing of your choice
  1. Toss together the lettuce and kale and divide among two serving plates.
  2. Top each plate of greens with equal amounts of pear, cucumber, radish and cranberries.
  3. Divide the goat cheese and sprinkle over the plates.
  4. Top each plate with pecans and serve immediately with dressing on the side.

 

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Maple Pecan Muffins

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I enjoy making muffins each week for family breakfasts and snacks, and this is my first batch of fall-flavored muffins for the year. These muffins are nutty, tender and just a bit sweet. The flavors are more subtle than mixes with maple flavoring–I like that, but you can also add 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring if you want to oomph up the maple. One of the things I like most about making my own muffins is that I know exactly what is in them (and what isn’t). Yes to whole wheat flour, organic sugar, locally harvested nuts and real butter. No to transfats, oils, food coloring and synthetic flavoring chemicals.

As with any baking involving nuts, I definitely recommend toasting the pecans before adding them to the mix–toasting definitely adds a depth to the pecan flavor that you won’t have otherwise. We are trying to watch our sugar intake, so these don’t have a fancy streusel topping or icing, but you could certainly add that if you like! We just topped them with pecan halves and a little sprinkle of organic, brown sugar. Simple, cozy and yummy!

Maple Pecan Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted, organic butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or maple)
  • 2 farm eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 12 pecan halves
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the pecan halves in a shallow baking pan and toast them for 4-5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Chop the pecans into fairly small chunks. Set aside.
  2. Line a muffin tin with bleach-free liners or oil with a small amount of coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, syrup, extract, eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
    Fold in the chopped pecans.

  6. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and top each muffin with a pecan half and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes.
  8. Cool individual muffins on a cooling rack.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or wrap and freeze for up to three months.

Chocolate Cookie Bowl Part 2–Ghiradelli Whopper

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The State of North Carolina says these cookies are tops. We think they are pretty awesome, too. I won my first blue ribbon at the State Fair with these cookies and they are a long-time favorite. I made these cookies to thank the maternity nurses who helped me welcome Ellie into the world. They are cookies for special people. Made of dark chocolate, coffee and just enough flour to hold them together, these are definitely grown up cookies. They are also huge, so one cookie wrapped in a nice package makes a terrific “thank you” gift for a teacher, a friend or someone special (like your Valentine!). The original recipe comes from a terrific cookie book, Maida Heatter’s Cookies.

We had these cookies pitted against our Baltimore Berger cookies in our Super Bowl chocolate smack down. While Baltimore won the game, these cookies, made with San Francisco chocolate, won dessert. For the Super Bowl, we left them unadorned, but we have served them with peppermint ice cream (amazing) and with salted caramel ice cream (amazing through the roof). Hope you enjoy! And don’t forget that chocolate is an antioxidant 🙂

Here are some tips for these cookies.

  • Use your best chocolate here. For some cookies, it won’t matter, but it will here.
  • Same goes for your coffee. I use powdered Greek or Turkish coffee when I have it. Definitely use powdered coffee–NOT instant.
  • Toast your nuts. You heard me. Don’t skimp on this step. The flavor is worth it.
  • These cookies are huge. The recipe makes 10 cookies, but you can feed quite a few people with one batch.
  • These cookies are expensive, but they rock out a bake sale, especially if parents are buying. I package them individually and can usually get $2.00 per cookie. Once people buy one, they will be back for more.

Ghiradelli Whoppers (makes 10 very large cookies)

  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces Ghiradelli unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 ounces Ghiradelli dark chocolate
  • 4 ounces Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 2 farm eggs
  • 3/4 cup organic, unbleached sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla
  • 2 tsp. powdered Turkish coffee (Starbucks also makes a powdered coffee)
  • 2 cups chopped, toasted North Carolina pecans
  • 1 cup Ghiradelli chocolate chips
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a glass, microwave safe bowl, melt the butter, unsweet chocolate, dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate in 1 minute increments. Stir after each just until the chocolate is smooth. Do NOT overheat or your chocolate will seize. I typically only need 2 minutes and I stir the chocolate mixture until it is all melted. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a standing mixer, blend the eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla at high speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the chocolate to the egg mixture.
  6. Gradually add the flour to the mixer bowl. Remove bowl from the mixer.
  7. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.
  8. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to measure out the cookies. Drop the large dollops of dough onto the baking sheets, fitting 5 cookies per sheet. Leave approximately 2-3 inches between cookies.
  9. Arrange baking racks in your oven so they divide the oven into thirds. Place both racks in the oven. Bake for 8 minutes, then switch the racks. Bake for 8 minutes more.
  10. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool 5 minutes on the sheets. Use a large spatula to move the cookies from the sheets to cooling racks. If cookies are not firm enough to move them, let them cool a bit longer.
  11. Let them cool completely on the cooling racks (like THAT is possible). Serve slightly warm.

These cookies will keep in an air tight container for 3-4 days, but they are best within 48 hours of baking.

Whole Wheat Blondies

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We had our first snow of the season today. Just a bit of snow–enough to put schools on a delay, but not enough to cause mayhem. I was hoping for snowmageddon, but no such luck. Still, it was a great day for homemade breakfast, baking these awesome whole wheat blondies and organizing the kitchen. I love days like that.

These blondies are rich and delicious and with whole wheat flour, they are also filling. We made them with local new crop pecans and chocolate chips. If you don’t like chocolate, just leave that out. Either way, they are amazing with Blue Bell butter pecan ice cream. The original recipe for these blondies comes from Lauren Chattman’s “Mom’s Big Book of Baking”. Here is our version!

Whole Wheat Blondies

  • 1 cup whole wheat, all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick organic, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed, organic light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped new crop pecans
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ square baking pan with foil.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove pan from heat.
  4. Stir in the brown sugar and combine well. Quickly add the egg and vanilla and stir well.
  5. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.
  6. Stir in nuts and chocolate. Batter will be thick.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack.
  9. When cool, grab foil and pull the entire pan of Blondies out and place on a cutting board. Cut into 9 generous squares.
  10. Serve warm.
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