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Cranberry Pecan Sandies

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You hear about (and see on reality television) people that are addicted to food.  People that cannot, no matter what they do, stop themselves from eating everything and anything.  And then there are people that have “food weaknesses.”  For them, certain food items are addictive.  They can’t help themselves from eating an entire jar of peanut butter, a bag of chocolate chips, or all the pot-stickers in stock at Trader Joe’s.  Luckily, I suffer from neither of these conditions, but I think we can all identify with struggling to resist eating certain things in excess.

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For me, there are a few things I have a hard time saying “no” to.  For one, gummy worms.  Also, white cheddar popcorn.  Tacos, chips and (good) salsa, chocolate covered raisins/cherries, and rolos.  I LOVE rolos.  Pecan sandies.  I’m not a huge fan of most cookies, I like them a specific way.  But these particular cookies I could eat hundreds of.  They have a great toasted pecan flavor, with hints of orange and almond.  Perfect anytime of the day… in moderation, of course.

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Cranberry Pecan Sandies

2 cups flour

1 stick butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp almond extract

Salt

1 tbsp orange zest

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup whole pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

Whisk together flour, salt, pecans, and cranberries.  Set aside.

Cream together butter, sugar, almond extract, and orange zest.  Slowly add in flour mixture until a dough forms.

Roll the dough into a block and refrigerate 1 hour.  Slice into 1/4 inch cookies and lay on an ungreased baking sheet.  Press a whole pecan into each of the cookies.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 oven.

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Pony Magical Mousse Pie

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I mentioned recently that my biggest failures always have an audience.  Dan’s sister Megan, her husband John, and their daughter Meredith have been on the receiving end of some of the worst desserts I’ve made.  The first time I ever visited their house, I made a frozen lemonade pie that melted in the car (I underestimated the Northern Virginia I-95 traffic).  Since then I’ve served them such lowlights as gummy hand pies and a pumpkin pie that tasted like nothing.  It’s a miracle they’re still willing to try what I serve them.

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This weekend they invited us over for dinner and I was given the option of bringing dessert or salad, and I chose the opportunity to redeem myself.  It took me a week to come up with the perfect choice.  When I saw them in West Virginia a few weeks ago I brought my bourbon white peach pie, so I knew peaches were out.  In May I served them banana cream pie, so that was off the table.  I’ve made so many mountain pies this summer that I didn’t really want to do that, and anybody can serve a cherry pie.  I wanted something fresh!  Something that was light and rich but could withstand an hour’s drive from one end of the D.C. area to the other.  Something that would suit the tastes of two foodies and a precocious three year old.

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My first step was to settle on a fruit.  I knew I wanted a berry, but wasn’t sure which one.  I’d been working with strawberries and blueberries all summer, so I narrowed it down to raspberries and blackberries.  Ultimately I chose to work with raspberries because I wanted their color.  That splash of red, not to mention the tart, fruity flavor it brings, is the perfect compliment to the rest of the pie.  After I decided on raspberries, I thought about what to pair raspberries with.  My mind flew at first to something akin to a chocolate pie, before I decided it was too heavy.  In mid-August you want a dessert that refreshes you, that compliments things like peach soup and corn on the cobb.  Something like chocolate mousse.

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After I had mentally constructed the pie and it’s layers- the ganache to give a rich chocolately essence,  the mousse with its light and creamy texture, and the raspberries to make it all pop, I needed a name.  After tossing around the names that Meredith and I liked, things like chocolate raspberry pie or chocolate mousse pie, John suggested a name that trumped them all- Brake for Mousse pie.  That is, until Meredith pulled out a (talking) card she had received for her birthday, which wished her a “pony magical day.”  And if there is one definitive way that I would describe this glorious pie, it would be pony magical.

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Chocolate Raspberry Pie

Chocolate mousse (recipe here)

2 pints fresh raspberries

2 sticks bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp cardamom

1 tsp cinnamon

1 pie crust (recipe here)*

* To your pie crust, add cardamom and cinnamon

Begin by making your pie crust.  Lay it into the dish and bake it at 350 for 25 minutes, or until cooked through.  Allow to cool.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate, spices, and heavy cream, stirring occasionally.  Pour into the bottom of the pie crust and allow to cool overnight.

Your next step is to make your mousse.  Then, use a pastry knife or a fork to crush 3/4 of your raspberries.  Spread the crushed berries on top of the layer of ganache.

Spread your mousse on top of the raspberries in an even coat.  Top decoratively with the remaining raspberries and allow to set at least one hour, or overnight.

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Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Quiche

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My mother will quite literally laugh out loud when she reads this, but I wouldn’t consider myself a messy person.  Okay, so not only my mother will make fun of that statement.  But, having known truly messy people over the years (and lived with them), I would say that I keep it clean…ish.  Dan isn’t particularly messy either, though he is a pack rat of the highest order.  I usually feel like our apartment is decent.  If we were to unexpectedly die with no time to clean, I wouldn’t be too embarrassed about my mother finding it in it’s typical state.  I mean, unless she checked the baseboards, which really only get dusted when she comes to visit (because she checks while I’m sleeping.  Remind me another time to tell you what she did to my college apartment the week after my tonsillectomy).

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This weekend Dan and I finally faced the reality that was our hall closet, a closet unusually big for a metro-area apartment.  When we moved in it was all organized by a system, but in the past year it has gotten… well, out of control.  It could be the camping gear or perhaps the old television that Dan isn’t quite ready to get rid of yet, but it’s packed floor to ceiling with crap all the way up to the door.  A problem, you could say.

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Since all of our day Saturday was going to be consumed with the frustrating chore of cleaning out the worlds most crowded closet, I thought ahead and made a quiche.  Ever since I saw the movie Waitress (we’re big Nathan Fillion fans) I’ve spent my free time making up pies in my head, as Keri Russell’s character was apt to do.  So, on my way home from work on Wednesday, while trying to figure out what to do with the heirloom tomatoes leftover from a pesto tart and the smoked mozzarella I had bought but wasn’t going to use before it went bad, I thought up the perfect quiche.

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And it was perfect.  I made it Wednesday night while the ingredients were already out, baked it, and froze it.  On Saturday, after hours of trying to make sense of how much crap we’ve accumulated in one short year, we sat down, watched an episode of Firefly, and enjoyed a quiche that was smoky and juicy, light and full of flavor.  With a gin and tonic, of course.

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Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Quiche

6 eggs

1/4 cup smoked mozzarella cheese, diced

2 cups diced red, orange, and white heirloom tomatoes

1 clove garlic, diced

1 cup milk

1 tbsp dried basil

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

Salt

Pepper

1 pie crust (recipe here)*

* Some adaptations to the pie dough recipe.  No sugar.  Add 1/4 tbsp salt.  Add 1/8 cup shredded parmesan.  Add 1 tbsp dried basil.  Add a pinch of pepper.

Put your dough into the pie dish.  Toss tomatoes with half of the salt, pepper, and basil.  Spread into the dough.

Top with diced mozzarella.

Whisk together egg, milk, parmesan, and the remaining seasoning.  Pour over other ingredients in the crust.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until cooked through.

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