Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Crackers

Until now, each recipe I've posted to this blog was taken directly from the cookbook I've been writing for over 10 years. I wrote, tested and perfected each recipe, even those I inherited from my mother.  This recipe, however, was given to me by my friend, Loy, only last year.  When I started this blog, I promised to post "My Most Requested Recipes," so I would be remiss not to post this recipe for Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Crackers which is requested almost as much as my Candy Bacon.

I did try to perfect the recipe by changing some of the ingredients.  I tried raisins and walnuts with success but always returned to the original.  With the exception of changing a few measurements, this is the recipe given to me by Loy.
I serve these delicious crackers in so many ways.  When I prepare a cheese platter for a cocktail party, I always include a heaping pile on the platter.  A few crackers alongside a salad serve as a substitute for croutons.  These jeweled discs compliment any soup, but I especially like them with cream soups, tomato soup and my recently posted blog, pumpkin soup.  In the 'ber' months, (months ending in 'ber') I keep a cookie jar filled with these bejeweled crackers on the kitchen counter to provide an afternoon snack. 
For such a simple snack, they appeal to all of my senses.  The extra sharp Cheddar cheese provides the delicious taste.  The slight hint of heat from the cayenne lingers for several moments after you swallow the cracker.  The pecans offer a nutty crunch while the cranberries, which look like jewels, are sweet and chewy.


§     1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
§     1 1/2 cups chopped sweetened dried cranberries
§     2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
§     1 1/2 teaspoon salt
§     1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
§     4 cups extra sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
§     4 cups all-purpose flour


Toast pecans on a dry frying pan or single layer in a shallow pan in the oven until fragrant.  Be careful not to burn the pecans as they will become bitter.  Set aside until completely cooled.  Soak the cranberries in boiling water for about 15 minutes.  Drain, pat dry and cooI before adding them to the mixture.

In a bowl, beat softened butter, salt and cayenne pepper.  Add cheese and blend until creamy.  Gradually add flour mixing just until combined.

Stir in cranberries and pecans.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece to form a log approximately 2” in diameter.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill overnight. 

To bake the cheese crackers, preheat oven to 350°.

Remove the cheese logs from the refrigerator and cut into 1/4” discs.  Place the discs onto a baking pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Bake 13 – 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire rack.  Stored in an airtight container, these cheese wafers last for months.

For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Cranberry-Pecan Cheese Crackers. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

Before moving to Nashville, I lived in Los Angeles for 9 years where the temperature rarely got below 70 or above 90 degrees.  There were no turning leaves nor brisk morning air.  The only way I knew it was fall was with the arrival of the first ‘ber’ month, (month ending in ‘ber').  September announced the beginning of the new season and gave me permission to prepare pumpkin, both sweet and savory. 
I must admit, to guarantee consistency I always use canned pumpkin, so I eat this savory soup all year long, but my friends seem to ask for it as soon as September, the first 'ber' month, arrives. 
§     4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
§     1 cup onion, finely chopped
§     2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
§     1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
§     2 quarts chicken broth
§     1 cup orzo
§     3 cups half and half or whole milk
§     2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
§     2 (15 ounce) cans pumpkin
§     Fresh thyme (optional)
§     Salt and freshly ground pepper

In large saucepan melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.  Add broth and bring to boil.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir in orzo.  Reduce heat and simmer covered, about 15 minutes or until orzo is tender. 
In a small bowl, combine half and half (or whole milk) and flour and mix well.  Add to simmering soup.  Cook while stirring until slightly thickened and bubbly.  Stir in pumpkin.  Heat thoroughly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, sprinkle each serving with fresh thyme.
This soup takes less than 30 minutes to make and freezes well.  Eat it before your meal or as an accompaniment to a sandwich or salad.  For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Pumpkin Soup. Enjoy!