Banana Maple Cookies with Toasted Pecans and Brown Butter Maple Icing

Banana Maple Cookies with Toasted Pecans and Brown Butter Maple Icing

These oat-filled fall cookies taste like banana bread with a touch of maple. Iced with a delicious frosting made from nutty-flavored brown butter and more maple, the cookies are then topped with a whole toasted pecan. Perfect on a chilly afternoon with a warm cup of cider or tea.

INGREDENTS
24-28 whole pecan halves
12 tablespoons butter, softened
cup maple sugar
cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½  teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large banana, very ripe, about ¾ cup
¾  cup oats
1 ¾  cups flour
½  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Brown butter maple icing (below)

 

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Place the whole pecans on a parchment lined sheet tray. Place in the oven and toast for 8-9 minutes until browned. Set aside to cool.

 

Using a stand mixer, Beat the butter, maple sugar and brown sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Add in the egg, vanilla extract, and banana and stir it into the sugar mixture. In a separate bowl combine together the oats, flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add to the wet ingredients, just mixing until combined. Cover tightly and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

 

Using a small 1 ½” scoop, place the dough scoops about 1½” apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Press gently to flatten. You should get about 24-28 cookies. Place in the oven and bake until light brown, about 15-18 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

 

Brown Butter Maple Icing
INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, and salt until smooth. The icing should be thick. If it’s too thin, add a bit more confectioners’ sugar. If it’s too thick, add a few drops of water. Spread on cookies and top with a toasted whole pecan half.

Mushroom & Sausage Skull Calzones

Mushroom & Sausage Skull Calzones

Perfect for a Halloween dinner – not-so-scary meat, veggies, and cheese stuffed inside skull calzones floating in a pool of delicious marinara tomato sauce. These sausage, mushrooms, onion, red pepper, mozzarella, and ricotta Halloween twisted calzones will make a delicious and fun start to your evening festivities.

Calzones
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
One pound pizza dough, home-made or high-quality store purchased
4 spicy Italian sausages, pork or chicken, casings removed
½  large red bell pepper
1 cup of onion, sliced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
8 ounces ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons parmesan
Special Equipment – Nordic Ware Halloween Mini Skull Cakelet Pan

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Lightly brush the skull pan with olive oil. Cut the pizza dough into 6 equal pieces. Stretch or roll into 4”x 8” pieces. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the sausage. Cook until slightly brown then add the bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms and cook 10 minutes longer or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the mozzarella, ricotta cheese, and parmesan. Working one at a time, lay dough into a skull cavity. Add one sixth of the mixture. Gently stretch and fold the dough over the fillings and pinch together to seal. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Place in the oven and bake 30- 35 minutes. Rest for 5-10 minutes, remove from molds and place in a shallow bowl of the marinara sauce.

Quick Marinara
16 ounce can chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a blender and process to a slightly chunky consistency. Transfer the sauce to a saucepan and heat on the stovetop or in a bowl and microwave until warm. Pour a small amount to just cover the bottom of warmed serving bowls and serve with a skull placed in the center of each bowl.

Black Chocolate Brownies with Marshmallow Spider Webs

Black Chocolate Brownies with Marshmallow Spider Webs

Black cocoa powder, a super-dark Dutch-process cocoa, will make these the darkest chocolate brownies you’ve ever seen. Perfect for Halloween and covering with stretchy melted marshmallows to make tasty, but scary, spider-filled webs.

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for the pan
6 ounces semi-sweet Guittard chocolate baking bars, broken into small pieces
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup black cocoa powder
1 ½  teaspoons kosher salt
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×9” baking pan with parchment, letting excess extend over sides of pan and lightly grease with butter. In the top of a double boiler, place the chocolate pieces and the butter. Cook over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Turn off heat, and whisk in sugars. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly. 

 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, black cocoa, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, lightly whisk eggs. Add half of beaten eggs to chocolate mixture, whisking until combined. Add remaining beaten eggs, and whisk until combined. Whisk in vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until a pick inserted in center comes out with only a few crumbs, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using excess parchment as handles, remove from pan and remove the parchment.

 

Marshmallow Spider Webs
INGREDIENTS:
8-10 full size marshmallows
White sanding sugar
Plastic Spiders, cleaned & washed

 

INSTRUCTIONS:
Melt the marshmallows in the microwave for 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth. Using your fingertips, grab small pieces of the marshmallows and stretch it over the brownies, attaching on the edges of the brownies. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and top with the plastic spiders.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Brown Butter Maple Icing and Caramelized Walnuts and Pepitos

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Brown Butter Maple Icing and Caramelized Walnuts and Pepitos

It’s Pumpkin Spice time and we have it all wrapped up in a tasty Bundt Cake. Filled with a tunnel of vanilla cream cheese and topped with brown butter icing and caramelized nuts, the cake is spiced with a blend of allspice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. It’s the American quintessential flavor of fall.

Cream cheese filling
8 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Bundt cake
12 Tbsp. softened butter, plus more for the pan
2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
1 can pumpkin purée, 15 ounces
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs

Using a hand held or stand mixer, in a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla bean paste until smooth. Add to a large plastic disposal piping bag, being careful to keep the cream cheese 2-1/2 inches away from the pointed end, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a Bundt pan with butter, then lightly flour and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt; set aside.

In another mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about

5 minutes scraping down the sides as needed so all is beaten well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition. Add in about ⅓ of the dry flour mixture, followed by ½ of the wet pumpkin mixture, and repeat ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix until just combined, being careful to not overbeat.

Pour ¾ of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Tap the pan on the counter several time to release any air bubbles. Snip off 2-1/2” off pointed end of the piping bag. Insert the ending down into the center of the batter and pipe the cream cheese into the batter to make a tunnel in the center. Spoon the remaining batter over the top and smooth to even it out.

Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto cooling rack. Cool completely.

Caramelized Walnuts and Pepitos
1 cups raw walnut halves
½ cup pepitos
½ cup sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay the walnuts and pepitos out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until just slightly darker in color and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper.

Add the sugar into a medium saucepan and place over medium high heat. When the sugar begins to melt, stir with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium

amber. Add the nuts and stir quickly to coat all. Pour the nuts out on to the lined sheet tray and, working quickly, spread them out by using two forks to separate the nuts into small cluster. Sprinkle with the salt and cool completely.

Brown Butter Maple Icing
4 Tablespoons butter
⅔ cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoons milk

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, watching the butter carefully, and swirling the pan until the butter begins to turn amber in color.

Remove butter from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Add the milk, a few drops at a time, and only if the icing needs to be thinned. Spoon the icing over top of the cake and immediately top with the candied walnuts

Country Ham with Jalapeño Raspberry Sauce, Mini Sweet Potato Biscuits & Pickled Grape Tomatoes

Country Ham with Jalapeño Raspberry Sauce, Mini Sweet Potato Biscuits & Pickled Grape Tomatoes

An ideal Kentucky appetizer for Derby Day, or any spring party, this tasty combination will disappear quickly  from your dinner table or buffet. Sweet potato and buttermilk biscuits are filled with country ham, fontina cheese, and spicy sweet raspberry and jalapeño sauce.

The biscuits are best on the day they are baked but you can make the dough ahead of time, cut and freeze, then thaw right before baking.

 

Pickled Grape Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS:
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½  teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½  teaspoon coriander seeds
6-7 whole allspice berries
2 large bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic sliced thin

INSTRUCTIONS:
One week prior to serving: Wash, dry, and remove any stems from the tomatoes. Using a toothpick, poke a small hole through each tomato, end to end. In a one quart saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt with 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring until all sugar and salt is dissolved. Fill a clean glass container with the tomatoes. Add the peppercorns, coriander, allspice, bay leaves, and garlic to the container. Pour the hot brine over to cover completely, discard any leftover brine. Let cool completely, then refrigerate for 1 week prior to serving. Can be stored refrigerated for up to 1 month.

 

Mini Sweet Potato Biscuits

INGREDIENTS:
12-ounces sweet potato
¾ cup buttermilk, chilled
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, and cut into small cubes

INSTRUCTIONS:
The day prior, preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake until tender, or a fork passes easily through the potatoes, about 45 minutes. Let the potatoes cool slightly, then peel and puree in a food processor. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, measure out one cup for the biscuits.

 

Preheat oven to 450˚ F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the chilled sweet potato and the buttermilk. Place back in the refrigerator to keep cold. In a large wide bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

 

Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas. Add the sweet potato/buttermilk mixture and mix until just combined and a soft dough forms; try to avoid over mixing. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Flour your hands and pat the dough carefully into a round shape then flatten the dough to 1-inch thickness. Cut as many biscuits as possible with a floured 1½” metal biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a parchment lined sheet tray. Pat the remaining dough together and cut out the remaining biscuits. Bake 13-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 30 mini biscuits.

 

Fresh Jalapeño and Raspberry Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
1 whole jalapeño pepper
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
¼ cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoons molasses
⅛ teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS:
Cut 6 slits down the length of the jalapeño almost to the bottom; cutting through just the skin and membrane but not completely cutting open the pepper. Be careful when preparing the pepper, the idea is to just cook out the flavor so you don’t want to cut it completely open. In a small saucepan, add the jam, sugar, vinegar, molasses, salt and jalapeño. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the jalapeño. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer; set aside.

 

To assemble:
INGREDIENTS:
15 slices of country ham, sliced paper-thin, at room temperature
30 Sweet potato biscuits
15 slices Italian Fontina cheese, sliced very thin
30 novelty sandwich picks

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat the oven broiler. Cut the biscuits in half and spread on the halves ¼ teaspoon per side with fresh jalapeno & raspberry sauce. Top with ½ piece of country ham, folded or torn to fit, and ½ piece of cheese. Place under the broiler to just melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and top with the other biscuit half and a sandwich pick fitted with a pickled cherry tomato. Makes 30 mini biscuit sandwiches.

Birds’ Nest Lemon Cheesecake

Birds’ Nest Lemon Cheesecake

Greet spring in a cheerful manner at any holiday celebration with these cute birds’ nest lemon cheesecake trifles. Using a no-bake recipe, the lemon cheesecake is a yummy whipped mixture of lemon curd and mascarpone.  The “nest” is made with thinly slice phyllo dough, topped with cinnamon/sugar and the base is shortbread crumbles. If you need to cut some time, you can always use high-quality store-purchased shortbread cookies.

 

Phyllo Dough Nest

INGREDIENTS:
6 sheets of phyllo dough
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet tray. Cut 6 sheets of phyllo dough in half to make 12 shorter sheets. Roll together tightly and very thinly slice into long thin pieces then transfer to a baking sheet carefully separating the layers. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle with butter, then with cinnamon sugar. Bake until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

 

Shortbread Crumbs

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pan
½ cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 glass serving cups

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8×8” pan. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes. Fold in flour and vanilla and blend until a soft dough forms. Press into the 8” x 8” pan and bake until light brown, about 40 minutes; remove and cool completely. Crumble then divide equally among the cups and press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the cups.

 

Lemon Cream Cheese Layers

INGREDIENTS:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2½ cups cold heavy cream
1 cup homemade or store-bought lemon curd
Candy bird eggs

INSTRUCTIONS:

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat mascarpone, powdered sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the cream. When combined, increase the speed to medium and beat until medium peaks form. Transfer half of mascarpone mixture to another bowl. Add the lemon curd to the remaining half and beat in until combined.

Dividing the mixtures evenly, layer the lemon curd mixture over the shortbread crumbs in each cup followed by the plain mascarpone /cream mixture. Smooth the top, cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours and up until 24.

When ready to serve, form a nest in the top of each cup using the shorter pieces of cinnamon phyllo in the center and longer on the outside. Add the candy eggs into the center of the nest and serve immediately.