Candied Pecans

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Okay, so I admit that candied nuts are something I’ve long associated with the winter holidays– they’re so great for eating by the handful along with all of those rich, cheesy, sugary holiday foods– but there’s no reason to restrict one’s intake of these deliciously crunchy, sweet-savory snacks to the winter months! They go just as well with bright, crispy salads as they do with melty brie (mmm, brie…). Brown sugar gives them depth, while cinnamon gives them a hint of spice. I’ve been known to add 1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper for an extra kick, but you don’t have to if you want something a bit milder.

I will note that I’ve tried different methods of getting a nice, crunchy coating on the pecans, and the egg white method is the only way to go. Works every time, and no hassle with trying to caramelize sugar!

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Honey-Cardamom Pear Tartlets

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Recently, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring to a Lunar New Year party. More specifically, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring that was not red bean cream puffs, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making the craquelin topping and I still needed something bite-sized and tasty. I was going through my old recipes when I came across my post about honey-cornflake crunchies and it occurred to me that they might make a neat base for a different kind of dessert combining honey with some other flavor components.

I decided to flavor my filling with cardamom, since it’s often paired with honey. I’d originally planned to make a simple stabilized whipped cream filling, but concluded that it would be too light in comparison to the crunchy base and opted instead to give it a richer mouthfeel by combining two concepts– stabilized whipped cream and cooked-flour frosting. Both involve beating a thickened pudding-like mixture into the dairy– it’s just that the frosting uses butter instead of liquid cream. My experimental recipe worked beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.

Of course, once I’d settled on cream-filled tartlets, I felt that they needed something more, for texture, and flavor. After a false start (persimmons apparently just went out of season, boo!) I settled on pears and pistachios, both classic pairings with cardamom.

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Pumpkin Pecan Fudge

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So remember how I made Frosting Fudge with chocolate frosting and semisweet chocolate chips? It’s still my favorite, but now that it’s fall and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice flavoring is invading every food item in sight, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try another fudge variation– Pumpkin Pecan Fudge. (Okay, it’s not really fudge since there’s no chocolate in it, but it’s a better descriptor for the texture than just calling it Pumpkin Pecan Squares)

I was really just winging it when it came to ingredients, but the finished product is smooth, creamy, and tastes just like fall! I admit there’s very little pumpkin in there, but that’s probably the case with most “pumpkin spice” flavored things– it’s really the spice mixture that defines the flavor profile. Anyway, give it a try!

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Teddy Bear Mugs n’ Hugs Cookies

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I was inspired to make these by a video one of my friends posted on my Facebook page, showing adorable teddy bear cookies that you can hang off the side of a mug.

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Knowing my daughter’s love for both hot cocoa and animal-shaped food, I knew that these would be appearing in my kitchen at some point. I also couldn’t help but notice that the teddy bears would be perfect for making these bear-shaped cookies hugging almonds, which I’ve also seen around and coveted, so it would be like killing two birds with one stone, right?

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I went on Amazon and bought the Rilakkuma cutter set (which would also come in handy for cute bento lunches), and I was off!

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Pineapple-Nut Tea Bread

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I usually try to avoid making “intermediate” desserts like loaf cakes, because they’re not sweet or gooey enough to count as a dessert or invoke my “don’t eat too much sugar!” defense mechanism– instead they sit on the counter and gradually get eroded by tiny slices every time I walk by, and before I know it I’ve eaten half a loaf without even noticing. This is not a good thing.
But in going through my pantry I discovered a mostly-full container of candied pineapple bits that I had no future plans for, and after thinking about possible uses I kept coming back to the idea of a dense, not-too-sweet loaf cake, studded with pineapple and nuts, that could be served with tea or possibly toasted. So I compared a few recipes for “tea bread” online and came up with this amalgamation, which I freely adapted to include all of the components I wanted.

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Baklava

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After using two cups of walnuts in my hedgehog cookies, I still had a lot left. I could’ve made more cookies, I suppose, but I was out of chocolate sprinkles and plain cookies didn’t seem nearly as interesting. I was trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my walnuts when I saw the half-package of phyllo in my freezer (left over from a strudel adventure) and knew immediately that I had to make baklava.

Baklava is apparently a dessert that you either love (because of the delicious honey-soaked crispy layers and toothsome nuts and general awesomeness) or hate (because you’re a heathen). Can you tell which side I’m on?

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Hedgehog Cookies

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So remember that office ice cream party I mentioned, where I took home a ton of rainbow sprinkles? Well, there were also chocolate sprinkles. And chopped walnuts. And rather than let perfectly good toppings go to waste, I decided to make something else out of them. I was trying to figure out what I could possibly do with brown, only vaguely chocolate-tasting sprinkles, when it struck me that brown sprinkles looked kind of like hedgehog fur. And an idea was born… Continue reading