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When Jenny posted on our Facebook page that it was Pecan Week here on Kitchen Psycho, someone mentioned in their response that homemade chocolate turtles would be good, and that was the inspiration for my recipe.  I decided to take turtles one step further and make turtle dessert bars.  Now, there are lots of recipes online for turtle dessert bars, but I didn’t look at any of them, I simply used three of my favorite recipes: shortbread, homemade salted caramel, and chocolate ganache.  They turned out great!  Make some this weekend.

 ---Karly

 TURTLE DESSERT BARS

For the shortbread:
2 sticks (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
½ cup brown sugar
2-3 cups flour
 
For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (if you use salted, omit the salt in the recipe)
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt (if using regular salt, you might want to add a little less)
1 ½ -2 cups pecans, chopped
 
For the ganache:
4 ounces dark chocolate (I used 60% cacao), chopped
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
First, make your shortbread.  Put the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and beat until creamed together well.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a regular hand mixer. Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add the flour; start with 2 cups and add more if needed.  Mix until the mixture looks like fine crumbs, then, with your hands, mix together until a dough forms.  Push the dough into a square baking dish (I used a 9 x 9) and bake the shortbread on 350 degrees until it’s light golden brown on top, about 25-30 minutes.  Once the shortbread is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool completely in the pan.
 
While the shortbread is in the oven, make the caramel.  Put the sugar in a dry, medium-sized saucepan.  Turn on the heat to medium-high and let the sugar melt.  Once the sugar is melted and has turned a nice dark golden brown, turn off the heat and add the butter and heavy cream and stir until the butter is melted and all ingredients are well combined.  Be careful because the mixture will bubble up quite a bit!  Stir in the salt and chopped pecans.  Let it sit and room temperature and cool while the shortbread finishes baking and cools.

Once the shortbread is completely cool, pour the caramel mixture all over the top of the shortbread and spread evenly.  Now, you will make your ganache.  Put the chopped chocolate in a bowl, and heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just starts to simmer.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined.  Stir in the vanilla.  Let the ganache cool for about 15 minutes, then pour over the caramel layer.  Cover the bars and put In the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so that they can set.  Once they have set, cut and enjoy!!

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   Whoa, hold your horses, everyone! This one was pretty tasty, if I must say so myself! 
   My husband came up with the idea of stuffing a pork chop, (or was it stuffing AND pork chops? Sometimes, I don't listen very well...!), and since we all must have something green on our plates, I decided on a pesto. Spinach and Pecans, along with garlic and olive oil, so it's a dairy-free version for those of you are concerned...
   Then, I figured that it looked kind of boring... that poor lonely pork chop filled with pesto... So to make it truly a PECAN WEEK dish, I thought of a Balsamic Vinegar and Pecan Reduction to drizzle on top. And you can't do THAT without yummy goat cheese! 
Turned out really nice, alongside some wild rice with sauteed leeks. This was a super easy meal, so even though it might look like a lot, it's NOT! It took me about 30 minutes! Make it for dinner!
---Jenny

PESTO-STUFFED PORK CHOPS WITH BALSAMIC PECAN REDUCTION

2 thick-cut pork chops
4 tbsp pesto (recipe follows)
1-2 oz goat cheese
Balsamic Pecan Reduction (recipe follows)

Slice into pork chop with a meat-cutting knife to make as large a pocket as you can without completely cutting though the pork chop. Stuff with pesto. Over medium heat, pan-sear pork chops in a little olive oil about 8-10 minutes on each side.  Top with cheese and reduction.

Spinach and Pecan Pesto
1/4 cup pecans
2-3 cups spinach
1 large clove garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil

Blend pecans in a food processor until crumby. Add spinach and process again. Add garlic, and, while processing, stream in the olive oil until desired consistency. (It should be fairly thick, not runny, or else all it taste like is olive oil...)

Balsamic Pecan Reduction
about a 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup pecans

In a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, reduce ingredients to a syrup. (about 10-15 mins) Drizzle over main dish.

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For a long, long, time, my opinion of Brussels sprouts was not a very nice one.  I didn’t like them when I was a kid, and that stuck with me as I got older.  Several years ago, I started seeing various recipes for caramelized Brussels sprouts and roasted Brussels sprouts, and they actually looked good…not like the mushy, bland things that I remembered.  I decided to be a grown up and try them, and it turns out, I don’t just like Brussels sprouts, I love them!  When you buy them fresh and cook them until they’re crisp tender, they are absolutely divine.   Originally, I was going to do a green bean recipe for my side this week, but the other day, I saw some beautiful Brussels sprouts at the store, and thought that it was time to do my part to give them a better reputation.  I have several different ways of preparing them, but for me, it is essential that they are crisp-tender, and I find that the best way to get that result is to pan sear them.  Recently, I had seen a Balsamic glaze recipe that I decided to tweak a bit, and I knew that it would be fantastic with the Brussels sprouts.  And for the finishing touch, I decided to add some prosciutto to them and top them with toasted pecans.  I promise that these are seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, slightly sweet, slightly sour, slightly salty…it’s a fantastic combination.  Even if you don’t like Brussels sprouts, you should try these; my seven year old son even loved them, so I consider this recipe a huge success.  Make them tonight!

---Karly

PAN SEARED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BALSAMIC GLAZE, PROSCIUTTO, AND PECANS
1-1½ pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, dark leaves removed, and cut into quarters
4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter (4 Tablespoons)
¼ cup red wine
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Pecans, toasted and chopped

     Heat about 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the Brussels sprouts and spread out to be in a single layer.  Salt and pepper them, and let them sit without stirring for 4 minutes or so, you want them to brown nicely on the side that’s down in the oil.  After 4 minutes, add the shallots and stir everything around a bit and cook for 2-3 more minutes.  Take them out of the pan and set aside.

     Wipe your skillet out, put the sugar in the pan in an even layer and heat over medium heat.  Let it sit over the heat, shaking occasionally, until it starts to melt and then brown slightly.  Once the liquid sugar has browned, add the butter and let it melt while stirring.  After the butter melts, add the wine and vinegar and turn up the heat slightly.  Let it come to a simmer, then reduce the heat a bit, and let the mixture cook for 3-4 minutes; it will reduce down a bit and get syrupy.  Stir it a little while cooking so that it doesn’t burn.  Take the mixture off the heat, add the Brussels sprouts and prosciutto to the pan and stir well to combine.  Top with toasted pecans.

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Last week, when we were doing cornmeal and I made the corn muffins, I was craving Southern comfort food. I decided to do a different spin on a traditional country fried chicken with cream gravy.  I used chicken cutlets and breaded them with ground pecans and panko breadcrumbs mixed together.  Then, I made a cream gravy, but added chopped pecans to it at the end.  The result was a nice twist on a Southern classic.  Try it tonight!

 ---Karly

PECAN CHICKEN CUTLETS WITH PECAN CREAM GRAVY
4 chicken cutlets
All-purpose flour
1 egg whisked with a splash of milk
2 handfuls of pecans, ground (grind in blender or food processor)
2 handfuls of panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
Canola oil

For the gravy:

2 Tablespoons of drippings and oil from the cooked chicken
2 Tablespoons flour
¾ cup chicken stock
¾ cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 handfuls of pecans, coarsely chopped
 
Put about ½ inch of oil in a skillet and heat over medium high heat.  Get out three bowls and set up an assembly line: in one bowl, put some all-purpose flour, in the next put the egg whisked with a splash of milk, and in the third put the pecans and panko mixed together.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.  When the oil spits after a drop of water is put in it, it’s hot enough.  Dredge the chicken cutlets in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture, then dredge in the pecan mixture.  Fry them in the hot oil for about 5-7 minutes per side (depends on the thickness of the chicken), until they are golden and cooked through.  Remember, when in doubt, use a meat thermometer!!
 
To make the gravy, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings.  Whisk in the flour, and cook over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.  Whisk in the stock and milk and let come to a bubble, then turn down the heat.  Simmer until thickened to the consistency you prefer.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped pecans.  Serve the chicken cutlets covered with gravy.

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   Flan (Pronounced "flahn") is a Latin dessert made in Spain , as well as Mexico and South American countries. Well, I have never made flan, but I've tasted the homemade version before, and it is velvety and smooth and gorgeous! So I decided to give it a shot. One thing: the recipe calls for a 9"-round baking pan... Well, I used smaller ramekins, so the baking time was less. So keep that mind if that's what you decide.
   End result? Such a nice idea to incorporate the orange. Very subtle. And it pairs well with the cinnamon in the pecans. A nice crunch with the smooth texture of the flan... oohhmmm, nom, nom, nom!
--- Jenny

ORANGE-INFUSED FLAN WITH CANDIED PECANS
Flan:
1 cup sugar
2 tsp fresh orange peel
3 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
juice of 1/2 orange
1 tbsp vanilla extract

   Preheat oven to 350. Keep your baking dish(es) in the oven so they are warm when you are ready to bake. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt sugar until dissolved. As you wait for the sugar to melt, mix eggs, milks, orange juice and vanilla together. Add orange peel to dissolved sugar and stir well for about 20 seconds to let flavor release. 
   Pour dissolved sugar in baking dish, coating sides, too. Now pour egg mixture in and cover with foil. Bake at 350 for an hour. (For smaller dishes, it may only take 20 minutes. You must watch them to gauge doneness)To serve: cool completely, then invert onto plate and garnish with candied pecans (recipe follows).

Candied Pecans
1 cup pecan halves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
glass of ice water

   Spread pecans on a baking sheet with oil, mixing to coat. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes. Combine the cinnamon, salt, water and vanilla in a saucepan and cook at medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir constantly. Test the doneness of this "candy", drop a small amount in a glass of ice water. If it drops as a little ball (not a string), it's ready. Add pecans and stir to coat completely. Turn out onto wax paper and separate with a fork.

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   I have sworn off patronizing my local grocery store. Yup. Not goin anymore. I would rather drive 20 miles to the other nearest grocery store than walk into this one in my small town. I refuse to pay 67 cents for ONE lime, $2.50 for ONE avocado, and $3.99 for a pint of raspberry berries when the, dare I admit it, WAL-MART 20 miles away sells them for 22 cents, 88 cents, and $2.48, respectively. I plan to write a very strongly worded email. Until then, it's Wally World, which I also hate because their cuts of meat are a red-dye mess... But I digress.
   Before I swore off Brookshire's (Yes, that's the name of this wallet-stealer of a grocery chain), I found some Cippolini onions (also expensive, but I've never worked with them before, so I made an exception). When I thought of pairing the onions with this week's  Secret Ingredient, Pecans, I came up with a salad and a vinaigrette. Feel free to add bacon! A tasty afterthought I had...
--- Jenny


DINNER SALAD WITH SWEET ONION PECAN VINAIGRETTE

8-10 cippolini onions (or pearl onions)
1 large clove garlic, unpeeled!
1 tbsp thyme
olive oil
 salt and pepper
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pecan pieces

Place the onions and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. 
In your food processor or blender, blend onions (peeled) and garlic, peeled. Process until blended. Add thyme and olive oil from the baking sheet, along with the vinegar. Process again. Now, in a slow steady stream, add olive oil. Then the pecans. Make sure everything in well blended.

Note: This tasted great on a bed of romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and goat cheese! 

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