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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Frank Quickie: Pecan Cheesecake Squares

Pecan Cheesecake Squares


Shortbread Layer:

1½  C all-purpose flour

¾ C firmly packed light brown sugar

½  C butter, softened

½ C finely chopped pecans

Cheesecake Layer:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

½ C sugar

½ C milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pecan Pie Layer:

¾ C firmly packed brown sugar

½ C light corn syrup

1/3 C butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla extract

1½ C pecans


1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.      For the shortbread layer: In a medium bowl, combine flour and ¾ cup brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in ½ cup pecans. Press mixture evenly into bottom of a greased 9”x13" baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven, and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

3.      For the cheesecake layer: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugar. Add milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat until combined. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled shortbread layer. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

      4.   For the pecan pie layer: In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ¾ cup brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Gently stir in the eggs, salt, and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in 1½ cups pecans. Pour pecan mixture over cooled cheesecake layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center is set and pecan pie layer is a rich brown color.

I prefer serving this dessert chilled, and cut into squares or triangles.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Webb City Farmers Market Demo: Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

I had the pleasure, today, of doing another cooking demonstration at the Webb City Farmers Market. With the fall produce in full swing, I chose the often misunderstood spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is quite unique in that the inner fibers can be scraped from the roasted halves and resemble thin spaghetti. I wanted to find a preparation that went beyond the typical spaghetti substitute. 

Recently, during a charity dinner demonstration for the Joplin Area Catholic Schools, I prepared a Mediterranean spaghetti squash course. The garlic and onion add a mild sweetness, while the feta and Kalamata olives layer a subtle tartness and brine character to the dish. The tomatoes and basil add freshness and round out the recipe. 

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 C tomatoes, diced or chopped
3 Tblsp Kalamata or black olives, sliced
3/4 C feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tblsp fresh basil, chiffonade

1.  Slice squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. NOTE: You can also roast    
     the seeds like pumpkin seeds, and eat as a snack or garnish the dish.

2.  Place the squash, sliced side down, on a baking sheet or baking dish and roast at 400*F     
     for 35-45 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.

3.  Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in about 2 Tblsp of the olive oil over medium-high    
     heat, until translucent. 

4.   Add the tomatoes and heat through. 

5.  When the squash comes out of the oven, set aside to cool slightly.

6.  Using a fork, scrape the strands of flesh from the squash halves. 

7.  Place the "spaghetti" in a serving dish and toss with the onion, garlic, tomato mixture, olives,      feta, and basil. If necessary, or desired, toss with a little drizzle of olive oil. 

8.  Serve as a side dish or pasta course.