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Salted Date and Pecan Pie

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It seems so obvious but these two are a natural match. During the holidays, dates are added to breads and other confections for sweetness but the pecan pie is really the best use of my date. The prospect of complementing a roasted salty pecan with this fruit got me excited from the start. In a pecan pie I want richness, balance of flavor, creamy crunchy texture, and a buttery crust. The trick is doing it all without hitting a oversugared level of super sweetness. The dates in this recipe get us there and in my opinion with a little more character than the traditional pecan pie recipe, of which I am an enthusiast. I add flake salt to the finished top layer after glazing with maple syrup to create the final note, the one that gives balance and complements the natural caramel sweetness of the date filling.

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie with Pecan Crust A feel good alternative Gluten Free and Sugar Free

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Its coming… It’s here… the most wonderful time of the year, you can drop the ball, and roll around with it or you can just keep it simple and delicious.

No guilt trips, no counting calories, just decide what makes you feel good before, during and after you eat it. I think that will be my mantra for the season and the year to come. I do not know if I will survive but I know that at least by asking this question it will make me chose better options with happy endings and no regrets like this Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie with Pecan Crust. To tell you the truth, when I was creating the recipe I was a little skeptical about if was going to be a recipe that will stand up side by side to all the goodness on a Thanksgiving table. Because after all it is “that time of the year” to be grateful and enjoy.
Trying a slice, this delicious creamy pumpkin pie that made me feel good while eating, before, during and after. I was hooked.

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Chocolate Coconut Pecan Susuwataris

Chocolate-Coconut-Pecan-Susuwataris_Homemade-candy_Halloween!-booh!

 

Susuwataris are my favorite creatures from the Japanese film creator, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and Magna artist Hayao Miyasaki. He is one of my favorite people in the world (area); his imagination, and ability to create amazing stories from common daily situations always amazes me.  If you have not seen his movies please do yourself a favor and watch them all. To name a few of my favorite movies from Hayao Miyasaki-Studio Ghilbli: Castle in the sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Poco Rosso, Spirited away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, to name a few.

Now, what are Black soots, Dust bunnies aka Susuwataris? In the first movie, Spirited Away, they appeared as lil workers in a boiler room. They have arms, legs and inquisitive eyes. They make a squeaky murmuring sounds when excited, and dissolve into powder (soot) if crushed. They are the cleansers of evil spirits.

They also appeared in the movie My Neighbor Totoro playing the role of dust balls in an abandoned house, where the main characters were moving. Susuwataris in this movie are mainly an optical illusion caused by moving quickly from light into darkness. Like the same effect at night when you turn the lights on your bedroom to go to sleep, if you quickly look into the corners, you might me able to see them. Despite their appearance, Susuwataris are good creatures in the movie, mainly they make sure that the family that is moving into the new house is composed of good people. And everybody knows that good people makes their own candy for Halloween… hehehe

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Apple Buckwheat Crepe Cake with Cider Caramel Sauce

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“With an apple I will astonish Paris.”
~ Paul Cezanne ~

This cake is for the person who loves to cook and who enjoys the process of creating, and building something from scratch; layering flavors, textures, and aromas. This cake taught me patience. From the conception, to the making I learned all the way. I learned that fast and easy are not always worth it. I was reminded of the “virtuous” character of patience. We can use it when we desire the outcome we imagine. To enjoy making this cake, reserve time, and relax. There is something about craftsmanship in this recipe that I love, especially the gratification of assembling the components. The results of such efforts are worth every step.

Time, and patience are the main ingredients. Apples, buckwheat flour ,butter and apple cider are the witnesses to the madness. The smells are insane once you start to cook; peeling the green apples, that crisp sweetness from breaking the skins, to the nutty and buttery aromas that fill the kitchen with a warm cloud when making the buckwheat crepes.

Imagine 26 soft silky layers of light, thin, buttery and nutty buckwheat crepes carefully layered with thinly sliced tart green apples sautéed with cinnamon and honey, mascarpone cinnamon cheese spread between layers. Add toasted pecans and a tipsy cider caramel sauce that sinuously hangs from the crispy feathery crêpe edges…This is the ultimate tribute to the apple and buckwheat love affair.

When you cut the first slice of this cake, your work shows, it makes you feel like a better person and all that patience and love invested in the creation it is absolutely worth it for a slice of this cake.

Fifty percent apples plus cheese and a bit of flour make it almost guiltless and mildly sweet, do not get the appearance trick you.

If you want to enjoy an apple cake this season, something memorable, and not so overly sweet, Apple Buckwheat Crepe Cake with Cider Caramel Sauce is the dessert you been waiting for.
Make time for this love affair and prepare to astonish.

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Apple-Buckwheat-Crepe-Cake_ingredients

Apple Buckwheat Crepe Cake with Cider Caramel Sauce

Serves 8-10

For the Crepes:

11/2 cups buckwheat flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons turbinado sugar or agave nectar.
¾ teaspoon fine salt
1 pinch of cinnamon

3 cups of milk
4 Large eggs
3 tablespoons of melted butter
2 tablespoons mild extra virgin olive oil

Plus about 3 more tablespoons of butter to cook the crepes.
1 – 8” non-stick pan
1 Ice cream scooper
1 baking sheet or cookie sheet tray

For the Apples:

7 medium size green tart Granny smith apples*
3 medium size Braeburn apples*
½ cup honey
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup apple cider

Note:  I’m combining two different types of apples, green tart wich are super crisp and hold their texture when sautéed, and the Braeburn wich are sweet and fragrant and wich also hold their texture when they are cooked. Once balance the others, I did not wanted to use a lot of sugar, since the cake will be drizzled with a cider caramel sauce. My advice is please, taste your apples: If they are to sweet or two tart you might need to add more sugar or honey is up to your preference and your sweet tooth.

For the Mascarpone filling:

2 cups mascarpone cheese
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon

For the Apple Cider Caramel Sauce:

2 cups apple cider
½ cup turbinado sugar
¼ cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup calvados.

1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans.

Directions:

1. Start by preparing your Crepe batter. Combine all dry ingredients, Combine all wet ingredients and add them little by little to the dy ingredients whisking throughly until well combined and no lumps. Cover your batter with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is touching the mixture, to avoid a skin to form. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can make it the night before or in the morning and make the crepes at night. The batter will keep for about 48 hours.

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2. Mean time your crêpe batter is resting, prepare your apples. Peel them, core them as you peel and core them place the apples on a bowl with water and lemon juice to prevent the apples turning brown. Slice the apples about an 1/8 inch thin using a mandolin or the food processor. When using a mandolin, I always use a metal mesh glove, it is safe and comfortable when slicing, than the plastic apparatus that come with the mandolin set.

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3. Place them on a bowl and toss them with the honey, sugar, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice lemon zest. On a large pot over medium high heat melt the butter and add the tossed apples. Mix the cold apple cider with the cornstarch to avoid lumps, and add to the apples. Saute the apples tossing gently for about 6-7 minutes until they are tender, but not mushy, they have a glistening light brown color the juices are reduced. Taste for sweetness, add more sugar if needed. Set aside, to allow to cool. Reserve some of the best looking round slices to decorate the top layer.

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3. Once your batter has rested, pull it out f the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature, whisk a little and start preparing to make the crepes. Pre-heat your 8” nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a little dab of butter until melted and remove excess with a folded paper towel. Poor about 1.5 to 2 ounces of batter into the center of the pan immediately swirl the pan all around to spread the batter on an evenly coat that covers all the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds until the edges start releasing when you pull them with the help of a spatula. At this point flip. And cook for another 10 to 15 seconds, transfer to the baking sheet, lay them out flat and allow them to cool. Continue with the same procedure, using the buttered paper towel in between crepes works great, you do not have to add butter every time to the pan, a small coat from the napkin will do it. Continue until your batter is gone.

Tips and Notes to the crêpe maker:
– I use an Ice cream scooper to portion the batter, this allow me to have equal thickness every time. a small ladle will work too.
-The first crêpe is not always the prettiest, usually is the test drive; it allows you to adjust the temperature in your pan and rectify the heat.
– If this is your first time making crepes please do not get discouraged, it gets better as you go. Once you get the groove on it is fun and the smell on your kitchen is heavenly!

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4. Once you finish making all the crepes, allow them to cool, and make your mascarpone filling. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whip them for 2-3 minutes with a hand blender until smooth and well combined.
5. Now that you have all the components start assembling, on a flat platter or a cake stand, place a dollop of the cheese and place your first crêpe, arrange a single even layer of the sautéed apples unfolding the slices if tangled, then add a crêpe, then a thin layer of mascarpone cheese, apples. Between, crêpe and crêpe, gently press to ensure you have even layers. Continue until you are done with the crepes and filling, ending with a crêpe. Cover the cake with some plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so the layers can set.  Mean time make the caramel sauce.

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6. On a small heavy bottom pot, add the apple cider, sugar, honey and butter. Bring to a rapid simmer, you want o evaporate as much water on the sauce. This will take around 15-20 minutes until reduced by half. You will see the formation of big bubbles, and the consistency of the sauce is thicker it resembles more like a syrup.
At this point add the heavy cream whisking at all times, until all is incorporated. Add the Calvados and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the consistency of a caramel sauce. Remove sauce from heat. And transfer into a small poring jar. Allow to cool before drizzling on the cake.

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7. Pull the cake out of the refrigerator, place the reserved pretty slices of sautéed apples and decorate the top, once the caramel has cool down a little, pour some of the caramel sauce all over the cake drizzle all edges and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.
8. Make sure you reserve at least half of the sauce to drizzle some extra when the cake is served. Enjoy.

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Apple Buckwheat Crepe Cake

with Cider Caramel Sauce

Music Pairing: Erik Satie – The Essential Collection

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Warm Acorn Squash Salad

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Full winter here in Austin! Yeah!!! I love cold weather and with it the delicious and comforting warm salads.
This scrumptious Warm Acorn Squash Salad is a great dish to keep up with the winter calories. If you know what I mean… I’m saving calories to spend them at Christmas… hehehe

Imagine a roasted wedge of acorn squash, topped with baby spinach watercress, green apples, toasted nuts, creamy goat cheese drizzled with a slightly warm lime-ginger-ancho chilli vinaigrette… super easy, and comforting. This recipe will make you crave salad in the winter.

So, keep warm and I hope you fall in love with this easy and healthy dinner. Enjoy

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Warm Acorn Squash Salad

Serves 4

1 acorn squash cut in 4 pieces
4 cups spinach
2 cups watercress
1 granny smith apple cut in long match sticks or similar.
¼ cup toasted chopped pecans
¼ cup salted toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
4-6 oz goat cheese

For the warm vinaigrette:

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Agave nectar
1 teaspoon ancho chilli powder
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
The zest and juice of one lime
½ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

1. Place the 4 acorn squash segments in a baking sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil, salt and pepper, Roast at 450F for about 25-30 minutes, checking half way thru, rotate the pan. And bake until fork tender.

Acorn-squash-warm-salad_roasted-acorn 2. In a salad bowl combine, the spinach, watercress, cut apples, toasted pecans, toasted pumpkin seeds.

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3.To make the vinaigrette:
Slightly warm the Extra Virgin Olive Oil (warm to the touch). Add agave nectar, ancho chili, ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, whisk until well combined. Or place all this ingredients into a small clean glass jar and shake. The warm oil will marry the flavors and develop the aromas, as well to cozy up your greens.

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4. Once the Acorn squash is roasted, toss the salad with some of the dressing, and top each acorn squash wedge with the salad.
5. Crumble some goat cheese and drizzle a little more of the vinaigrette.Enjoy!

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Warm Acorn Squash Salad…warm up!~

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