Success Secret: How to Make Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans…Sweet, Salty, Savory!

 

Caramelized Pecans  or candied pecans are fantastic sprinkled in salads!  They really take the salad to a new level.  Candied pecans are also good tossed into yogurt, or in your cereal.  They are great for snacking too!    You can make candied pecans ahead of time and store in a tightly covered jar…then just sprinkle them on a salad for a real treat!  

Caramelizing nuts may sound like it would be hard to do…but it’s actually surprisingly easy.  Once you get the technique down, you can caramelize other nuts too.  Walnuts and almonds are great candied and can be used the same way as candied pecans.  Candied pecans are made with pecans, light brown sugar, corn syrup and butter.  Some recipes are baked in the oven but this easy version is cooked on top of the stove in just 7 minutes. 

Here is the easy way to make them:

Success Secret: How to Caramelize Nuts
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups pecans or walnuts
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon salt OR ½ teaspoon cinnamon sprinkled on finished nuts
Instructions
  1. Place brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in a small skillet ( preferably non stick as this gets sticky). Heat ingredients over medium to medium-high heat. Stir until bubbly.
  2. Add nuts to mixture and stir to coat. Continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. They are done when golden brown in color and smell very toasty.
  4. These will burn if left unattended.

Candied pecans are also great for gift giving during the holidays.  They make excellent hostess gifts so make a big batch and keep some on hand for last minute gift giving.  

Thank you, Nicole,  for this great recipe!    

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special” by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

 

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant recipes were on my list of foods I dislike until I took my first bite of Eggplant Parmesan.  Let me just say, it was heavenly!  I think the eggplant has been misunderstood for a long time.  I had never even tried eggplant and for some reason I just knew that I would not like it.  Eggplant Parmesan changed my mind!  It is phenomenal!  The breaded slices of eggplant are baked and then layered with lots of cheese and a  delicious marinara sauce and it is really awesome!  I savored every last bite of this wonderful meal!

Velvet Palate requested I prepare my Eggplant Parmesan for a wine pairing and I’ll share that food and wine pairing with you next week.  That being said, I have to say that this recipe is not my typical “Make Life Special” recipe.  It definitely takes some time to prepare this dish, so it’s better to plan on this for a week-end meal.  However, every step of the recipe is very easy and it’s also fun to make.

Eggplant Parmesan can be served as an elegant first course or as the main entree.  If you serve it as an entree, I would suggest adding a pasta ( topped with the sauce that you put on the Eggplant Parmesan ), a green tossed salad, hot toasty garlic bread and a great glass of wine.

Eggplant Parmesan
 
Serves: 3 to 4
Ingredients
  • FOR THE EGGPLANT:
  • 1 lb globe eggplant, cut into ¼ inch rounds
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
  • 6 slices of high-quality white bread ( I used Oatmeal Bread) processed in a food processor to equal 3 cups of breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • FOR THE MARINARA SAUCE
  • 1½ cans ( 14.5 oz size ) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
  • salt and pepper
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • 1 to 1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, thinly sliced ( for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Toss the eggplant slices with the kosher salt in a colander and set it over a small bowl to drain for 45 minutes. It should release about 1 tablespoon of liquid. Don't skip this step -- it helps the Eggplant Parmesan stay crispy and not soggy.
  2. Spread the eggplant slices between several strips of paper towels and press firmly to remove as much water as possible.
  3. Place a rimmed baking sheet in a 425 degree oven to heat until ready to bake the breaded eggplant slices.
  4. Place the 3 cups of homemade breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the 1 cup of Parmesan cheese. Stir to blend.
  5. Beat the eggs in a separate pie plate.
  6. Add the flour and ¼ teaspoon pepper to a large ziplock bag.
  7. Place several of the eggplant slices into the ziplock bag and shake. Remove and dip into the beaten egg. Coat evenly in the breadcrumb mixture and place the breaded eggplant slices on a wire rack. Repeat until you have coated all of the eggplant slices.
  8. Remove the preheated baking sheet from the oven an add the oil to the pan. Tilt to coat evenly. Place the breaded eggplant slices on the baking sheet in a single layer and bake about 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake another 10 to 15 minutes - but don't over brown.
  9. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the tomato sauce. Process half of the diced tomatoes ( with the liquid) in a food processor until smooth. Heat the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the processed tomatoes and the rest of the unprocessed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. To assemble the dish, spray a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray and spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the dish.
  11. Layer in half of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit.
  12. Spread with ½ cup of the sauce.
  13. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese.
  14. Layer in the remaining eggplant and top with the sauce. Try to put the sauce around the eggplant and leave the top uncovered as much as possible so the eggplant will remain nice and crispy.
  15. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and grate some more Parmesan cheese on top.
  16. Bake for about 13 minutes or until bubbly.
  17. Cool 10 minutes. Scatter the fresh basil slices on top to garnish.
  18. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

 

Salting and sweating the eggplant slices…..

Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels…..

Making the breadcrumbs…

Adding the cheese to the breadcrumbs….

 


Shaking the eggplant slices in the flour….

 

Dip in the beaten egg….

 

Coat with the breadcrumb and cheese mixture…

 

Lay breaded eggplant slices on wire rack until ready to bake…..

 

Bake the eggplant slices as directed.  While they are baking, prepare the marinara sauce…..

 

Remove the baked eggplant slices from the oven….

 

Assemble the dish…….

Bake until bubbly… about 13 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes and serve.

Here is the Eggplant Parmesan hot out of the oven…..Yummy!

Remember….”Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

 

 

Robust Risotto

Risotto originated in Italy and is a rice dish that is cooked in broth to a creamy (dreamy!!)  consistency.  Risotto can be served as a first course – with some crusty bread – as we are doing  here.  As a first course, it is great paired with a Brut Champagne.  Check out this great pairing at Velvet Palate.

Risotto is typically cooked in a meat, fish or vegetable based broth.  This recipe uses chicken broth ( low sodium) .  Many types of Risotto contain Parmesan cheese, butter and onion.  This recipe uses Parmesan cheese, butter and shallots.  Then we ramp it up to robust by adding 1/4 pound diced asparagus, 1/4 pound sliced shiitake mushrooms and Prosciutto (which is a type of Italian bacon).

You have to use a high starch rice to make risotto and this recipe uses Arborio Rice.  This type of rice has the ability to absorb liquids and to release starch and so it is stickier than the long grain rice varieties.  

While there are many variations on Risotto, the basic preparation remains the same.  

  • The rice is first cooked in onion ( or shallots ) and butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat.  
  • Then, red or white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains.  This recipe uses white wine.
  • When the wine is absorbed, the heat is raised to medium and very hot stock ( I used chicken stock in this recipe) is added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly ( this process is what creates the smooth creamy-textured liquid).  
  • At this point, it is removed from the heat and the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible.  
  • This recipe adds the cooked asparagus and mushrooms at this point and is then topped with the scrumptious cooked prosciutto for a robust and over the top risotto!             

Robust Risotto
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth, heated
  • 4 ounces diced prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ pound asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1½ cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine, heated
  • 1 cup to 1½ cups shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Simmer the broht in a saucepan. Keep warm.
  2. Heat the wine in a separate saucepan and keep warm.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to large pan and heat. Saute the prosciutto for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Add the asparagus and saute 2 minutes. As they begin to get tender, add the sliced mushroom and cook an additional 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is removed. ( do not include any of this liquid or the risotto will not be creamy!). Remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Add the additional 1 tablesppon of olive oil to the skillet and sweat the shallots and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the DRY rice and saute until each grain is coated in oil.
  6. Deglaze the pan with the warm white wine and stir until completely absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Now, start adding the hot broth to the pan in ½ cup increments; simmer and stir frequently until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next, about 45 minutes total.
  8. Lastly, stir in the cooked asparagus, mushrooms and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper, top with cooked prosciutto.
  9. Enjoy!!

Be sure to check out Nicole’s Mushroom Risotto which is a more delicate risotto recipe with a creamy cheesy texture.

This Robust Risotto is a little more time consuming than my other Make Life Special recipes but I was requested to feature this recipe.  I think it is really worth the effort because the layers of flavors in this dish are outstanding.  This really is very easy to make.  Here are the how-to photos:

Ingredients….

 

Crisply cooked Prosciutto ….

 

Heating the liquids….

 

Saute the asparagus and then add the mushrooms….

 

Ladle the broth into the rice…

 

Grate the cheese…

 

Ingredients ready to add to the Risotto mixture….

 

Risotto after it has absorbed all of the liquid…

 

Stir in the cheese, asparagus and mushrooms….

Risotto is great to serve as a first course with crusty bread or as a side dish with pork.

Remember,” Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!”  

 

White Wine Cheese Plate

Wine and cheese lovers, meet your match.  Do you love wine, but do not know what cheese would best complement its flavors?  Look no further.  Here is the perfectly selected cheeses to pair with your favorite white wines.  This is perfect for holiday entertaining or for the white wine lover on your holiday gift list!
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Praline Topped Brie

Praline Topped Brie is a decadent appetizer that can be whipped up in 5 minutes and is sure to impress your guests!  What could be better than the gooey savory flavor of warm brie hot out of the oven – topped with the sweet delight of orange praline topping!

To view the YouTube step by step cooking tutorial for this recipe, click here:  Praline Topped Brie


Praline Topped Brie
 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 8 oz OR 13 oz round of brie cheese
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup pecans, chopped and toasted
  • Crackers or toasted baguette-style French bread for serving
Instructions
  1. Place pecans in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes to toast.
  2. Trim top rind from brie round .
  3. Place brie in baking dish.
  4. Mix the orange marmalade and brown sugar together in a small bowl, Spread on top of the cheese.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.
  6. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly softened and topping is bubbly.
  7. Serve with crackers or bread slices.

 

Place the pecans in a baking dish and lightly toast in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Trim the top off of the brie round.

Place the round in an ovenproof baking dish.

Mix the orange marmalade and brown sugar together in a small bowl.

Spread the topping on the brie.

Sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Bake in a 350 degree oven about 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly softened and topping is bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve.

Praline Topped Brie hot out of the oven:

Serve with crackers or hot bread.  Enjoy!

Remember, let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  

 

Mushroom Bacon Toasties

Mushroom Bacon Toasties are a delicious appetizer made with mushrooms, bacon, a herb cream cheese mixture on cocktail rye toast and topped with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy these with a great bottle of wine at your next party!!!  The Velvet Palate has paired this appetizer with the 2004 Legon Reserva.  You can click here for their wine tasting notes and information on this wine.

These are definitely worth the effort!  They can be made ahead and flash frozen to use later – or bake now and enjoy!  

Click the link to view the YouTube How-to Tutorial for this recipe:   Mushroom Bacon Toasties 

 

Mushroom Bacon Toasties
 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Ingredients
  • 20 cocktail size rye bread slices
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ teaspoon Herb de Provence
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Heinz 57 sauce
  • 4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Brush both sides of the cocktail size rye bread with the 4 tablespoons of meted butter. Bake ate 350 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Blend the cream cheese, Herbs de Provence, garlic salt and chopped fresh parsley together and spread evenly on the cooled toasties.
  3. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Add the mushrooms, bacon and onions and saute until mushrooms release liquid and the bacon is cooked. Add the steak sauce. Divide mixture among the toasties.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese.
  5. At this point you can flash freeze to bake later or bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until bubbly.
  6. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

20 cocktail rye bread slices

4 tablespoons melted butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons butter

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped

3 slices bacon, diced

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoon Heinz 57 sauce

4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Brush both sides of the miniature rye bread with melted butter.  Bake 5 to 6 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Blend the softened cream cheese, Herbs de Provence, garlic salt and chopped fresh parsley together and spread evenly on the toasties.

Spread evenly on the cooled rye toasties.

Melt butter in skillet.  Add mushrooms, bacon ( I use kitchen scissors to easily dice the bacon ), and onions and saute until the mushrooms release their liquid and the bacon is cooked.  

Add the steak sauce.

Divide mixture among the toasties.

Sprinkle with the Shredded Parmesan cheese.

At this point you can flash freeze to bake later or bake now at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Remember, “Let’s make life special  by sharing great food with our family and friends. Enjoy!”

 

 

Best Ever Bruschetta Recipe

This Bruschetta recipe is a fresh and simple appetizer that can be made ahead of time …perfect for easy entertaining year ’round!

Bruschetta is my all time favorite appetizer….and this bruschetta recipe is THE BEST!   Bruschetta is typically made with tomatoes ( either canned or fresh), basil, garlic, olive oil and onion.  I add balsamic vinegar to ramp up the flavor as you will see when you make this Bruschetta recipe.   The flavors improve after it sits in the refrigerator for a day or two so it is a great make ahead recipe.   I serve it with my easy homemade crostini and everyone just makes their own appetizer.   Add some crumbled Gorgonzola cheese on the side for a perfect accompaniment. 

To watch the YouTube how-to cooking tutorial for this bruschetta recipe, click here:  Vickie’s Best Ever Bruschetta

 

5.0 from 2 reviews
Vickie's Best Ever Bruschetta Recipe
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 50 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup minced fresh garlic
  • ⅛ cup fresh oregano leaves
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Baguette loaf of bread ( for crostini)
Instructions
  1. Mix the drained tomatoes, basil, garlic, oregano, red onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a glass or plastic bowl.
  2. Cover and set in refrigerator overnight.
  3. Serve chilled or at room temperature on crostini. Serve with feta cheese or Gorgonzola cheese on the side.

Bruschetta Recipe Ingredients:

50 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced

1/4 cup minced fresh garlic

1/8 cup fresh oregano leaves

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

Combine the drained diced tomatoes, basil, garlic, oregano,chopped red onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper in a glass or plastic bowl.  Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve  this tasty bruschetta recipe chilled or at room temperature on Crostini    Fill a martini glass or small bowl with Gorgonzola or blue cheese to serve on the side.  Delicious! 

Remember….”Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

 

Vickie’s Mississippi Caviar

Mississippi Caviar is one of my tried and true appetizer recipes.  This recipe makes a lot and it keeps well in the refrigerator.  It’s good anytime of the year.  I like to serve this with tortilla chips.


Vickie's Mississippi Caviar
 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Ingredients
  • 2 15 oz cans Black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped and drained
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup bottled Sweet Italian Dressing ( I use Lonzerottis brand)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the dressing.
  2. Pour dressing over the top and toss to coat well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

Combine all ingredients except the dressing:

Pour dressing over top and toss to coat well.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

Enjoy!

To download the printable recipe with how-to photos, click here:  Vickie’s Mississippi Caviar

Baked Goat Cheese Appetizer with Marinara

We had this  Baked Goat Cheese appetizer at one of our favorite restaurants and I had to recreate it for us at home! 

This Baked Goat Cheese Appetizer with Marinara is  just like the restaurant recipe – and it is really quick and easy to make.  I like to serve this with my French Bread Crostini.  The crostini can be made a day ahead and then wrapped in aluminum foil and reheated in the oven when you are ready to serve this.  The Goat Cheese Marinara can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated until you pop it under the broiler.

 

Baked Goat Cheese Marinara
 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1⅓ cups prepared marinara sauce
  • 6 oz log of goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 12 slices French bread
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Brush each side of the French bread slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Toast each side under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  2. Pour marinara sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish. Slice the goat cheese log in half and place in the center of the marinara sauce.
  3. Bake under the broiler for 4 to 6 minutes or until the goat cheese is soft and slightly golden.
  4. Sprinkle mixture with fresh basil before serving.

 

Brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a sheet pan.  Toast each side under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

Pour marinara sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish.  Slice the goat cheese log in half and place in the center of the marinara sauce.

 

Bake under the broiler for 4 to 6 minutes or until the goat cheese is soft and slightly golden.

 

 

Sprinkle mixture with fresh sliced basil before serving.

 

Serves 4 people as an appetizer.

 

“Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!”

To download the printable recipe with how-to photos, click here:  Baked Goat Cheese Marinara

French Bread Crostini

Looking for easy appetizers?  French Bread Crostini is easy and versatile.  These are good with any dip – especially my Baked Goat Cheese Marinara.  They are best served warm, but you can easily make them a day ahead and store in a zip-lock bag, then just wrap them in aluminum foil and reheat in the oven for a few minutes before serving.  The Crostini are also delicious served with a salad!

Feel free to add seasonings to these if you like.  Suggestions would be garlic salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, or parsley.  You can even top these with shredded Parmesan cheese or shredded Italian cheese as soon as they come out of the oven for additional zing!

 

French Bread Crostini
 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Ingredients
  • 12 slices French bread
  • ¼ cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Use a serrated knife to slice the French bread and place on a shiny cookie sheet.
  2. Brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil.
  3. Toast each side under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden. Watch carefully so they don't burn.

 

Use a serrated knife to slice the French bread and place on a shiny cookie sheet.

Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil.

Toast each side under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden.  Watch carefully so they don’t burn.

Here you see the baked French Bread Crostini served with my Baked Goat Cheese Marinara.

“Let’s make life special by sharing great food with our family and friends!”

To download the printable recipe with how-to photos, click here:  French Bread Crostini

Make Life Special
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Phone: 217-556-8297 Website: http://www.makelifespecial.com