Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Secret Kiss Cookie #Choctoberfest

Disclosure: I received and used sponsor products in the making of this recipe.  All opinions contained in this post are 100% accurate and 100% mine.  I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post.

Today is the third day of Choctoberfest hosted by the ladies over at The PinterTest Kitchen accompanied by our Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar, who every year supports this fun event.

If there is any better way of making memories than creating in the kitchen with your family, I don't know what it is. Imperial sugar has been helping families make memories since 1843.  That is a heck of a lot of memories!!

While Imperial Sugar is our Gold sponsor, sending each of the bloggers involved in this event a huge selection of granulated, powdered and brown sugar, they are not the sole sponsors.  I also received product from Barleans and Rodelle.  All of these sponsors are also offering some great prizes for you, our readers, to receive.  You can enter the raffle and, hopefully, be a lucky winner by going to my Welcome Post.

You can also enter another contest being sponsored by Imperial Sugar and win a year's worth of sugar by going to their Scary Recipe Scramble that is going on right now.

I am excited to share with you today a recipe in which I was able to use products from all three of our sponsors.  These chocolate pecan cookies make a crisp, melt in your mouth covering for the chocolate kiss hidden inside.

I adapted this recipe from one found in the Hershey's Classic Recipes Cookbook called  Cocoa Kiss Cookies.  I used the Rodelle dutch processed cocoa instead of that called for in the recipe and the butter flavored coconut oil provided by Barleans in place of the butter or margarine.

We each ate a couple (you have to taste test, you know) and then packaged the rest to be sold at the bake sale table at the Harvest Dinner held annually at our church.  I hope those who supported our parish by buying these cookies enjoyed the rich decadence provided as much as we did.  

Reminder: You will find links to more amazing chocolate recipes at the bottom of the post.  Don't forget to enter the raffle.  I would love one of my readers to be a lucky winner.

The Secret Kiss Cookie
adapted from Hershey's Classic Recipes

1 c. butter flavored coconut oil (I used Barleans)
2/3 c. granulated sugar (I used Imperial)
1 t. vanilla
1 2/3 c. flour 
1/4 c. baking cocoa (I used Rodelle)
1 c. pecans, finely chopped 
1 (9 oz) bag chocolate kiss candy
Powdered sugar (I used Imperial)

In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the coconut oil, granulated sugar and vanilla.  Combine flour and cocoa and gradually add to the creamed mixture beating until blended.  Add pecans, mixing well.  Refrigerate dough for about an hour.

Mold a scant tablespoon of dough around each candy kiss from which the wrapping has been removed, shaping into balls, and placing onto ungreased baking pans.  Place baking pans containing the balls into the refrigerator while preheating the oven to 375*.

When oven is preheated, place refrigerated cookies inside and bake for 10-12 minutes or until set.  Cool on pan for a minute or two before removing to a wire rack set over parchment paper. 

Sift powdered sugar liberally over the cookies once completely cooled.   Print Recipe

Day 3 Choctober Recipes

Sweet Pepper Relish #FantasticalFoodFight

Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes invites us each month to compete in a showdown called Fantastical Food Fight.  She posts a theme each month and then we all try to create the best recipe of the group so that we can be crowned winners!!

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This month the theme is Pickled Peppers, chosen because October is National Pickled Pepper month.  Who knew?  Probably Peter Piper knew and that is why he picked a peck of them.

It just so happens that this event is taking place in the heart of canning season here on the farm.  As luck would have it, one of the items that I had decided to can was a Sweet Pepper Relish that I found in Preserving Summer's Bounty by Rodale Press.

This wonderful book sits on my shelf all year long and then each fall I pull it out and start perusing to see how I can preserve all the bounty from the Farmer's Markets that are overflowing with goodness.

Each chapter in the first part of this book focuses on different means of preserving foods: Freezing, Canning, Preserving, Pickling, Drying, Juicing and Root Cellaring.  The second part of the book contains Recipes from the Garden. It is a wonderful tool for in the kitchen and I will be sharing it with Foodies Read this month.

The recipe I am sharing came from the Pickles, Condiments and Relishes section.  There are a slew from which to pick.  I chose the Pepper-Onion Relish because I had everything I needed on hand.

This relish contains only 4 ingredients.  Using a food processor, make quick work of the prep meaning that you can have 3 or 4 lovely pints of relish ready to be put into your pantry in less than an hour.

Finely chop your onions and peppers.  Place them into a stainless steel pot with some vinegar and honey and cook for about 45 minutes.

Transfer to clean, hot jars leaving 1/4" headspace.  Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  These jars were popping as soon as I pulled them out of the water.

This relish is a wonderful condiment for sandwiches, burgers or sausages.  It is nice to put out on a charcuterie board with some good bread.  I have even used it for making tartar sauce. 

However, my favorite way to serve it is to combine it with mayo, ketchup and mustard creating a delicious "secret" sauce when you're serving burgers.  YUMMO!!

Sweet Pepper Relish
adapted from Preserving Summer's Bounty by Rodale Press

1 large sweet onion
4 large bell peppers, colors of choice
4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. honey

Place the onion and peppers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer to a stainless steel pot along with the vinegar and honey.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Pack into clean, hot, pint size jars leaving 1/4" headspace.  Seal and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.  Alternatively you can seal, cool and store in the refrigerator.  Print Recipe

More Pickled Pepper Recipes

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Chocolate Chili #Choctoberfest

Welcome to Day 2 of Choctoberfest, where we are sharing all things chocolate all week long.  This fun event is hosted by the gals over at PinterTest Kitchen and sponsored by Imperial sugar among others.

You can read all about our sponsors and enter to win some great prize packages by going to my Welcome Post.  As an added bonus, you will also find a recipe for some Bootiful Halloween Bark.

Today I am sharing with you a savory recipe.  Yes, chocolate can be savory too.  This chili gets it's deep, gorgeous color and great depth of flavor from the addition of  cocoa.

We were sent some Gourmet Baking Cocoa from one of our sponsors, Rodelle.  I was happy to use this product in my chili today and in baking that I will be sharing with you during the week.  The cocoa is of high quality and dutch processed.  I did not receive any monetary compensation from Rodelle or any of the other sponsors and, as always, all opinions voiced in this blog are 100% my own.

Topped with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream and served with a side of jalapeno cheese cornbread or tortillas, this chili makes a hearty lunch on a brisk fall day.

Chocolate Chili
inspired by a recipe from Paula Deen

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Rodelle)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 dash hot sauce (I used Tobasco)
1/2 t. dried basil, crushed
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 c. beef broth
Shredded cheese and sour cream for garnish, if desired

Place the ground beef in a large pot or dutch oven placed over med high heat. Cook and stir, breaking up the beef for a couple of minutes.  Add the onions, chili powder and cumin.  Cook and stir until combined and onions are starting to soften.  Add the cocoa,  garlic and jalapeno and cook for a few more minutes.  Stir in the the beans, hot sauce and basil.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce and beef broth.  Cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Garnish with cheese and sour cream if desired.  Print Recipe

More Day 2 Choctoberfest Recipes

Monday, October 16, 2017

Halloween Bark to Welcome You to #Choctoberfest

Welcome to  #Choctoberfest! This is the third annual food blogger celebration of all things chocolate, made possible thanks to our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar and the other sponsors listed below.

Over 70 bloggers are participating in #Choctoberfest 2017 and will be posting 200+ chocolate recipes over the next week. Keep your eyes peeled, visit any of the blogs listed below, or use the #Choctoberfest hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to follow along.

You can also check out our #Choctoberfest Pinterest board, where we post chocolate recipes all year long.

You are absolutely going to want to enter to win our #Choctoberfest prize pack. Look at the great prize packages being awarded by our generous sponsors!
  • $100 gift card to Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar
  • 1 case of granulated white sugar (40 pounds), 1 case of light brown sugar (24 pounds), 1 case of dark brown sugar (24 pounds), and 1 case of powdered sugar (24 pounds) from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar
  • 16 oz Barlean’s Butter-Flavored Coconut Oil, 9.52 oz canister of Chocolate Silk Greens, and 8oz bottle of Essential Women Omega-Swirl Chocolate Mint from our silver sponsor Barlean's
  • 300-piece Lindt LINDOR Truffles gift bag (you choose the flavors!) from blog sponsors The PinterTest Kitchen
This prize pack is valued at over $450! To enter, simply follow participating sponsors and bloggers using the below giveaway widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned all week to see the delicious recipes bloggers have cooked up using Imperial Sugar and Barlean's products.

I want to say thank you also to Davis Chocolate and Rodelle for being #Choctoberfest shoutout sponsors! Watch Instagram and Facebook to find out more about about their chocolate products.

Here is a complete list of all the bloggers participating in #Choctoberfest 2017, so you can see the recipes they are posting throughout the week.  I am sharing my first recipe with you today and will be linking to all the others who are sharing a recipe today, as well.

The PinterTest KitchenFix Me a Little LunchSavory MomentsCrumbs in my MustachioHouse of Nash EatsBake It With LoveThat RecipeHardly A GoddessCooking With CarleeA Kitchen Hoor's AdventuresBody RebootedCindy's Recipes and WritingsThe Redhead BakerFaith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered AccompliceSweet CoraliceSeduction in The KitchenCooks&Books&RecipesEveryday EileenUnder My Apple TreeFamily Around The TableBottom Left of the MittenThe Spiffy CookieFairyburgerJoin Us, Pull up a ChairJonesin' For TasteJane's Adventures in DinnerTake Two TapasJennifer BakesThe Unlikely BakerHostess At HeartKaren's Kitchen StoriesKate's Recipe BoxKelly Lynns Sweets and TreatsWildflour's Cottage KitchenChocolate SlopesLittle House Big AlaskaMakes, Bakes and Decor2 Cookin MamasThat Skinny Chick Can BakeBooks n' CooksMildly MeanderingLiving IdeasRestless ChipotleGet the Good Stuff!The Weekday GourmetAn Affair from the HeartWest Via MidwestCookie Dough and Oven MittThe Bitter Side of SweetCookaholic WifeDaily Dish RecipesFor the Love of FoodThe Saucy SouthernerCook's HideoutBy the PoundsTramplingrose: Cooking, Baking & Ranting in Small-Town South DakotaSarah Cooks the BooksChef Sarah ElizabethFantastical Sharing of RecipesSarah's Bake StudioThe Pajama ChefFrankly EntertainingLong Distance BakingPalatable PastimeThe Freshman CookThe Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine ♥ A Day in the Life on the FarmWendy PolisiTampa Cake GirlMy Southern Sweet ToothCanning and Cooking at HomeFull Belly SistersSuperSizeGuy.comOur Good Life

As you can see it is going to be one huge, chocolate filled extravaganza this week so.......


Because you are being inundated with so much information in this post, I decided to keep my recipe very simple.

Simple enough that a toddler could do it.  Well, a toddler could at least help do it.  An older child or adult might need to be in charge of melting the chocolate.

But once the chocolate is melted and spread onto an aluminum foil lined baking sheet, a toddler can go to town sprinkling on any candies you happen to like and have on hand.  I melted my chocolate in a makeshift double boiler but if you have older kids helping you can have them do it in the microwave.  I had some candy corn and fall colored M&M's in candy dishes in the house so I grabbed a couple of handfuls of each.  I had the eyes and Halloween sprinkles in my baking cupboard from other projects so I pulled them out.

When the sprinkles are all scattered about, simply place the baking pan in the refrigerator and go about your day. After puzzles, walks, singing, coloring, viewing Frozen (for the 1,123rd time), lunch and a nap, pull out the bark, peel it from the foil and break it into pieces.  Then it is time for the most important toddler task of all...the taste test.

Now is the most important part for the Executive Chef.....convincing the toddler sous chef that if she eats to much of this her belly will be hurting so we should put the rest into a bowl for later.

Make sure you stop by and see what Chocolatey Treats the others are serving up today following this simple and fun recipe.

Halloween Bark

2 c. good quality semi sweet chocolate chips
Assorted Halloween Candies, sprinkles and edible novelties

Place the chocolate chips in a heat safe bowl over simmering water and melt, stirring often, until smooth.  While chocolate is melting, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  When chocolate is melted and smooth, pour it onto the lined baking pan, and spreading it with a spatula.  While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the Halloween additions over the chocolate.  Place the baking pan in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set.  Break the bark into pieces and serve.  Print Recipe

More Day 1 Choctoberfest Recipes

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Birthday Celebration and the Weekly Menu #MerlotMe

We celebrated our eldest daughter's, Amy, birthday today with a family dinner at home.  It was a wonderful gathering of family and friends and I hope it left our girl with a small glimpse of how important she is to our family.  I was thrilled that most of the kids were able to attend.  We missed Chuck who is out to sea at this writing and we missed most of our TC family but were happy that our Lili was able to attend.

I served up all of Amy's favorite foods, Roast Beef Tenderloin, Caesar Salad, Mashed Potatoes and Birthday Apple Pie ala Mode.

Amy is a beer drinker who occasionally appreciates a glass of Chardonnay or a Margarita.  Frank and I, however, are red wine drinkers and I recently received 6 wonderful bottles of wine from Duckhorn Winery who are sponsoring #MerlotMe which takes place each October.

I posted more about it yesterday, when my Wine Pairing Weekend group shared recipes that paired well with Merlot and chatted about our experience on Twitter.

One of the things that we talked about is that while we appreciate our sponsors and love getting free samples we never post anything other than our true and honest opinion on our blogs.  Our relationship to our readers is much more important to us than our relationships with sponsors and none of us belonging to #WinePW received any monetary compensation for being involved in #MerlotMe.

I was beyond thrilled to receive this package from Duckhorn Vineyards.  Their wines are such a wonderful treat and I always enjoy them.

As we were enjoying the wines provided by sponsors for this event we watched fearfully as fires ravaged the Napa and Sonoma area of California.  We pray for the safety and well being of all affected by this terrible tragedy.

The bottle we chose to open to go with this birthday feast was from their Three Palms Vineyard, established in 1978 and one of California's first single vineyard Merlots, meaning that only grapes grown on this vineyard are used.  It received a 95 point rating with Wine Spectator.

This is an amazing wine.  It stood up perfectly to the tender, juicy, herb encrusted beef.  We enjoyed both bottles that had been provided with this meal and we all thought it was an amazing pairing.

Herb Encrusted Beef Tenderloin

1 (4 lb) beef tenderloin roast (trimmed, tied and cut in half crosswise)
3 cloves garlic
handful parsley 
leaves of 5-6 stems of thyme
leaves of 3-4 stems of rosemary
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 T. olive oil
1 c. red wine
3 T. butter

Place the garlic, parsley, thyme and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until minced.  Add the salt and pepper, pulse twice and then run while adding the olive oil to make a paste like consistency. Rub all over the roasts and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat an oven safe skillet over high heat. Add the roasts and sear on all sides until nicely browned.  Place into a preheated 325* oven and roast, turning every 10 minutes or so, until an internal temp of 120* is reached in the thickest portion. Remove from oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

While meat is resting, place skillet over med high heat and deglaze with 1 cup of red wine, bringing to a boil and scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook until reduced by half, whisk in the butter until slightly thickened and pour over tenderloin slices before serving.  Print Recipe

I'm closing this post with my Weekly Menu.  Yesterday we had dinner after a Mass of Thanksgiving for our friend, Sister Maryann, who celebrated her 60th Jubilee this year.

Tuesday I will be gone for much of the day taking Aunt Irene to the doctor.  Frank is making Spaghetti for dinner as that is Melody's favorite.

Wednesday, Frank is on his own.  I have food pantry and am going right from there to a DoTerra Oil class at Amy's.

I am looking forward to a fun week and hope that you are too.

Weekly Menu

Reception at Sister's after Mass

Sunday-Amy's Birthday Dinner
Corn Chowder
Caesar Salad
Pasta with Crab Sauce
Roast Beef Tenderloin
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Birthday Pie ala Mode

Hot and Sour Soup
Sweet and Spicy Chicken
Steamed Rice

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce


Slow Cooker Cassoulet

Fish Friday
Seafood Pizza

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Celebrating the Harvest with Eggplant Lasagna and J Lohr #MerlotMe #WinePW

Each October we celebrate #Merlotme with our Wine Pairing Weekend group.  This event was started by California wineries after the movie, Sideways, disparaged Merlot wines causing  a decline in sales of this wonderful varietal that deserves much more respect than it gets.

The past two years, when celebrating this event, I have served three wine and food pairings in one post.  You can find my Triple Wine and Food pairing from 2015 here and my #Merlotme Trifecta from last year here.

This year I am changing things up a bit.  Today I am showcasing a bottle of J. Lohr Merlot.  I will be showcasing the other wines in upcoming posts so stay tuned.

I want to mention right here and right now that I was buying J. Lohr long before they ever sponsored any event in which I participated.  While I love having sponsors and getting free samples, I love my readers more.  I did not get any monetary compensation in this event by J. Lohr or any other sponsor.  My opinions, in this post, and in my entire blog are purely mine.

I am always, always, always excited to have J. Lohr sponsor our events.  Mainly because I love their wines and purchase them quite often.  I know that if I have J. Lohr available in my wine fridge, I can open it for guests or take it with me as a host gift, knowing that it is going to be wonderful.

Their vineyards and winery are located on Paso Robles, California, close to where my brother resides.  A visit to my family in California is not complete without a visit to at least one winery and Paso Robles, more often than not, is where we head.

J. Lohr sent a fact sheet along with their bottle of wine. This wine was harvested over a 2 week period beginning September 10, 2015.  It is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then matured over a 12 month period in barrels made of 22% new oak.  This wine is recommended to be opened upon release but has potential to improve over the next 5 years.

Frank and I enjoyed the wine on a Meatless Monday when I served up this cheesy, ooey, gooey eggplant lasagna.

I had been over Kim's and she gifted me several eggplants from her garden.  I knew, from past experience, that the eggplant/tomato combination has paired well with J. Lohr and I am smart enough not to tamper with success.

This pairing was no exception and did not disappoint.  I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that the eggplant, tomatoes and grapes are all harvested during the same time period.  

The wine was deep, dark and vibrant both in the glass and on the palate.  It complemented the earthy sweetness of the eggplant and tomatoes.  I think this wine would be great with pizza too.  

We enjoyed it well enough that we are hoping to pick up a case and open a bottle every 6 months to see if, in fact, it does improve with age. Stay tuned for that little experiment.

Eggplant Lasagna

2-3 small eggplants, ends cut off and thinly sliced
1 qt. Marinara, homemade or your favorite brand
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 t. Italian herb seasoning
3 oz. parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

Whisk together the ricotta, egg and Italian herbs. Place a small amount of marinara in the bottom of an 8" square baking pan to cover.  Layer 1/3 of the eggplant slices onto the sauce, followed by 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the Mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan.  Repeat 3 times.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350* oven for 45-55 minutes, until eggplant is very tender.  Remove foil and place under the broiler for a few minutes until top is browned and bubbly.  Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing into quarters to serve.  Print Recipe

Let's join the rest of the #WinePW group as we celebrate #Merlotme

Friday, October 13, 2017

Apple Raspberry Cookie Bars and A Book Review

I just finished listening to The Dry by Jane Harper.  This novel takes place in the Outbacks of Australia during a terrible drought that is affecting everyone in the small hometown of Aaron Falk.

Front Cover

This is a debut novel for Jane Harper and it left me happily anticipating her next.  Aaron Falk is a police investigator in Melbourne when he is called back home to the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler.  

Luke was found dead presumed by suicide after killing his wife and his son.  Luke's year old daughter was left unharmed.  Aaron and his father had fled their home twenty years earlier after Aaron's girlfriend was found drowned under suspicious circumstances.  Aaron was the prime suspect and would have been charged had it not been for Luke providing him with an alibi that they had been hunting together the afternoon of the girlfriend's disappearance.

Aaron had no plans of ever returning to that town until he got the letter from Luke's father.  "Luke lied, you lied.  Be at the Funeral."  What follows is the story of a twenty year old mystery interwoven with the disturbing facts of this recent murder/suicide.  

The facts don't add up for Luke's mother, who was the closest thing that Aaron had to a mom when he was growing up.  Nor do they add up for Aaron and the newly assigned police chief in town.  How do you find answers in a town buried so deeply in secrets??

This novel, being set during a terrible drought did not have a lot of food on the pages but there was some.  Sheep farmers serving lamb, sandwiches bought at the market, rabbits being hunted and Aaron's memories of Mrs. Hadler's dinners and home baked goodies.  Aaron having no memories of his own mother has fond memories of the cakes and cookies provided by Mrs. Hadler.

I decided to bake up some cookies myself after reading this novel.  I give both the novel and the cookie bars a solid 4 stars. Since I did make a recipe inspired by this novel I will be sharing it with Foodies Read 2017.

With a shortbread cookie crust, a layer of fresh apples and raspberries, topped by a shortbread cookie crumble these bars perfect for serving up to family and friends when they come home from a tough day of school or work.

We had been invited to our daughter's new boyfriend's family's house for dinner one evening and I brought these for dessert.  They were a big hit.  

Apple Raspberry Cookie Bars
slightly adapted from My Magazine by Kroger

1 c. flour
1 c. almond flour
pinch of salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. sugar, divided + 1 T. for sprinkling
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 t. lemon zest
1/4 t. almond extract
3 asst. apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced (I used Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and McIntosh)
6 oz. fresh raspberries
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

Combine both flours, salt, baking powder and 1/2 c. of sugar in a large bowl.  Combine the butter, egg, zest and almond extract in a small bowl.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and, using clean hands, combine to make a soft dough.  

Press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of a 9" square baking pan that has been treated with baking spray.  Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake in a preheated 375* oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Toss the apples and raspberries with the remaining 1/2 c. of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  When bottom crust is removed from oven, sprinkle the fruit evenly over the crust.  Crumble the remaining 1/3 of the dough over the fruit and sprinkle with 1 T. of sugar.  Return to the oven and bake for half an hour, until golden brown.  Print Recipe