Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie Bites

On the day after Thanksgiving, my little sister helped herself to the remaining pecan bites for breakfast, the sneak! Turns out she got to the tray left out in the dining room before I could put them away. They are divinely decadent, with the addition of that fabulous new product "Chocolatier" the deep dark chocolate from Nestle. This simple recipe comes from Eagle Brand, it's just taken to greater heights with drizzles of melted dark Chocolatier. I was originally going to make these into little tarts, but the lack of time was the determining factor and this one fit the Thanksgiving schedule perfectly. Make them up the day ahead, somehow they taste even richer. Ask my sister!

DARK CHOCOLATE PECAN BITES - adapted from Eagle Brand
makes 32 - 36 small bars

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, try the new "Harvest King" from Gold Medal
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 can 14 oz. size Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, no bottled stuff
tiny pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 cup "Chocolatier" morsels, or your favorite chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine the flour & sugar. Cut in the butter till crumbly. Press down mixture into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan with a measuring cup or flat-bottomed drinking glass. Bake crust for only 10 to 15 minutes to set. In a small bowl combine the pecans, Eagle Brand, eggs, lemon juice, salt. Pour directly onto hot crust and then bake 25 minutes or until filling is set. Cool in pan. Melt chocolate in microwave oven at 10 second intervals, stirring until smooth. Drizzle on melted chocolate, let cool slightly to set, then cut into bite size bars. A pizza cutter works nicely. Serve in little paper cups or decorate a tray. Store covered with plastic wrap at room temperature. And that is assuming you have any leftover.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mystery of the Missing Pecan Bites Solved!

We had a whole pan of chocolate pecan pie bites for a Thanksgiving treat and they mysteriously disappeared overnight. I was sad because I only got to eat a couple, including one on Thanksgiving night. There was about half a tray leftover that evening, after plating up some for our guests to take home. Next morning, they were all gone! DOH! Nothing left but an empty tray...DUN-DUN-DUN!! Where did they go? My younger sister was visiting with us for a few days. Although she has multiple disabilities and illnesses, she can get around on her own just fine. That morning I went to take my shower and when I came into the dining room after getting dressed, the tray was empty, only crumbs. Darn it, and I was looking forward to having one with coffee that morning. Oh well, I assumed that Michael and Lauren divvy-ed them up and that was that. Later I asked Michael how he liked the pecan bites. Come to find out he never touched them and neither did Lauren. AHA! Turns out my sister got up early, sneaked into the dining room and helped herself to them for breakfast! I should have known, she had such a playful look in her eyes and she was giggling and smiling all morning. Clever girl, she waited until the coast was clear and made her move! And they call her disabled? No way!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chocolatier by Nestle

When I was a kid, just after the end of the covered wagon days, there was a Nestle's commercial with a guy and his dog named Farfel, singing "N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle's makes the very best choco-late" and the dog would snap his chops together at the last syllable. If I could sing like Farfel, you would hear me go "C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-I-E-R, Chocolatier makes a dark rich bar!" No kidding, this is really good stuff. Check for coupons in the paper, it is a bit pricey, but well worth it. I used the Chocolatier dark chocolate morsels on top the little pecan pie bites, and oooh was that a rich treat! I made a whole pan, ate two pieces myself, shared some with guests, and now we have none left! ARRRGH! If you go to the Nestle site at, sign up for the monthly coupons and recipes. Chocolatier morsels are larger in size than regular chips, but the total weight is less, only 10 oz. per package, the bar is 8 oz. It is available in both 53% and 62% cacao. Use them wisely, in something meant to be decadent and flavorful, and share with those who really appreciate good dark chocolate. Save the milk chocolate for the unwashed. They whine, "Eewww, I don't like dark chocolate." Forgive them, for they know not what they miss. Enjoy this new product this season in your holiday baking.
NOTE: La Vida Dulce does not receive any compensation for product endorsement. But I am open to persuasion.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Slightly Southern Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! May we always be grateful for what we have and may we always have room to share with others.
Menu for Friday, November 26, 2006
Charleston Shrimp Bisque

Cabbage and Carrot Slaw
Green Salad with Bleu Cheese and Pecans

Assorted Cheeses and Crackers
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Main Courses
Roasted Herb Salted Turkey
Green Corn Pork Tamales with Tomatillo Sauce

Side Dishes
Mashed Potatoes and Country Gravy
Four Cheese Macaroni
Sautéed Mustard & Collard Greens
Sausage and Sage Cornbread Dressing
Ruby Port Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Mandarin Chiffon Ring
Pecan Tartlets
Cranberry Pear Cobbler
Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Spiced Hot Cocoa
French Roast Coffee
Sweet Tea

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

100 Posts on La Vida Dulce MeansTequila Time

In celebration of the 100th post on this blog, let's have cocktails from an old recipe booklet published by Tequila Sauza, another little gem from Granny's collection. Granny and Gramps visited Mexico, often during the holidays. While Gramps played in golf tournaments for charity, Granny would shop and relax by the pool. During one trip they were given a personal tour of the Tequila Sauza plant. Must have been fun, since they brought back some very fine tequila. Salud!

BERTHA - adapted from Tequila Sauza Cocktails
makes one cocktail
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime
Dash of red wine, like a cabernet or zinfandel
Pour into a shaker, gently swish around once or twice, then pour into a tall highball glass filled with commercially made cracked ice. Garnish with a twist of lemon and a stemmed cherry.

makes one cocktail
1/2 oz. simple syrup or light honey
1 oz. lemon juice
Mix well and serve in cocktail glass with shaved ice.

makes one cocktail
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Shake well with ice and strain into a wine glass.

makes one cocktail
2 oz. half & half
1 oz. White Creme de Cacao
1 oz. Grenadine syrup
Place all ingredients into a blender with 1/2 cup cracked ice and mix for about 1 minute. Pour into cocktail glass and garnish with a stemmed cherry and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

If I Did It, This Is How I Baked It---Kitty Litter Cake!

What a load! While the media is busy patting each other on the back for NOT going forward with an extremely distasteful subject, book, and interview, allow me to add my humble yet more appropriate contribution. Grandpa on "The Simpsons" says it best when commenting on the state of the world---"In a handbasket!"

KITTY LITTER CAKE – adapted from Roseanne World
1 pkg. German chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. white cake mix
2 large pkg. Jello French vanilla instant pudding mix, prepared
1 large pkg. vanilla sandwich cookies, crumbled and divided
a few drops of green food coloring
12 small Tootsie Roll candies

1 new plastic kitty litter pan
1 new plastic kitty litter pan liner
Large sheet of aluminum foil
1 new plastic kitty litter scooper

Prepare cake mixes and bake according to directions, using any size cake pans. Allow to cool on racks.

Prepare pudding according to directions and chill until ready to assemble.

Crumble sandwich cookies in small batches in food processor, scraping often. Or place in ziplock bags and pound the heck out of them. Set aside all but about 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup cookie crumbs, add a few drops of green food coloring and mix until completely colored, resembling the little green flecks found in Johnny Cat or other similar cat litter.

When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble cakes into a large bowl. Toss with half the remaining white cookie crumbs and the chilled pudding. Very important step: mix in just enough of the pudding to moisten the cake. You don't want it too soggy. Combine ingredients gently.

Line a new, clean kitty litter box, letting the liner hang over the sides. Cover the bottom with a long sheet of foil. Place the cake/pudding/cookie mixture into the litter box. You may want to enlist the help of the kids for this step.

Put three unwrapped tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until soft and pliable, a few seconds at a time. Shape ends so they are no longer blunt, curving slightly. Repeat with 3 more Tootsie rolls bury them in the mixture. Sprinkle the other half of cookie crumbs over top. Scatter the green cookie crumbs lightly on top of everything.

Heat three more tootsie rolls in the microwave until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake, and toss around in the cookie crumbs. Spread remaining Tootsie Rolls over the top. Take one and heat until pliable, hang it over the side of the kitty litter box, sprinkling it lightly with cookie crumbs. My three cats seem to miss the box once in a while. To serve, place the box on top a sheet newspaper, set the scooper in the box, and sprinkle a few of the cookie crumbs around for a truly disgusting effect. The kids will love it!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Retro Recipe Challenge #4 - Fall Favorites

Laura Rebecca's Kitchen is hosting her 4th Retro Recipe Challenge. La Vida Dulce's contribution is this recipe from one of Granny's cooking booklets. It's a charming little 16-page collection called "Happy Holiday," published by the Southern California Gas Company back in the late 1960's or early 70's, but the exact date cannot be verified.

Here is the introduction from the title page:
A Recipe for a Happy Holiday
High Spirits Genuine Kindness Large Amount of Love
Generous Portions of Cheer Complete Contentment
Tender Sentiments Pleasant Company Milk of Human Kindness
Mix all ingredients well and heat in the warmth of true friendship.
Partake of freely during the holidays.
Any leftovers may be used throughout the coming year.
Result: A very HAPPY HOLIDAY from the Gas Company Home Economists

Granny loved making jello mold salads, her favorite was one that included lime jello, pimentos, and cottage cheese. Yuck! Apparently, these salads were very popular back then, and recipes for them can be found in many fund-raiser cookbooks. This one reminds me of her Thanksgiving cranberry mold, which included canned mandarin orange slices. I wonder where her mint green Tupperware jello mold went?

CRANBERRY WINE MOLD - adapted from the Southern California Gas Company
1 can size 1lb, 2 oz. crushed pineapple in juice, drained
and 3/4 cup liquid reserved
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 package size 3 oz. raspberry jello
3/4 cup rose or white zinfandel wine
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 can size 1 lb. whole cranberry sauce (not jelled), drained
1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Combine reserved pineapple juice and orange juice in a small saucepan. Heat over medium flame until liquid comes to a boil. Dissolve jello in hot juice. Stir in wine and lemon juice. Refrigerate until mixture becomes the consistency of of unbeaten egg white. Fold in crushed pineapple, cranberries and orange rind. Pour into oiled 1-quart mold. Refergerate until firm. To serve, unmold onto greens. Makes 6-8 servings.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mudslide Brownies

A bunch of my single friends swear they love to drink Mudslides, but that big bottle of pre-made stuff is not my cup of tea. Or mug of booze. It's made by the same folks who put out a pre-made margarita. Ayyy! Come on now, how hard is it to make a decent cocktail with real ingredients? Well, these Mudslide Brownies come pretty close to the flavor of a true Mudslide. Don't buy pre-made cocktails, what's the matter with you. Drink like an adult, not a frat boy! Oops, I'm starting to sound like Grandpa again! Be a gracious host, your guests are surely worth a little time and effort. I forget where I stole this brownie recipe, but I am eternally grateful, so wherever you are, muchas gracias! Please keep these brownies out of the reach of children.

makes 24

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces Bakers unsweetened chocolate or 4 squares, chopped
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur, or your own homemade stuff
2 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Creme liqueur
1 tablespoon vodka, any brand, Stoli vanilla would be nice
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Glaze: 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar mixed with 3 tablespoons Kahlua
Optional: chocolate covered coffee beans, roughly chopped
and ice cream

Grease a 9x13 inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour, baking powder & salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Do not burninate. Set aside to cool slightly. In mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both sugars and the eggs added in one at a time. Add in the sifted dry ingredients, then chocolate mixture, and all the booze. Mix just to combine, do not overix. Fold in the nuts by hand. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes. While baking, prepare glaze. Cool brownies in pan. Drizzle on the Kahlua glaze and sprinkle with the coffee beans, if desired. Cut into bars and serve with coffee ice cream, and drizzle additional Kahlua glaze on top. Do not serve to underage diners.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

La Vida Dulce is "vieja" enough to remember when you could walk up to the counter at the 7-11 store, show your voters' tag and get a free cup of coffee on election day. I also can remember that long ago booze and brewskies were not allowed to be sold while the polling places were open. Ha! Times have certainly changed. But not the importance of voting. I don't give a hoot how you vote, just do it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Persimmon Bars

Our new next-door neighbors have graciously given us a basket of persimmons from the back yard trees. When Candace lived there, we had no problem and could freely enjoy the kumquats, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons and the most delicious persimmons, both the crunchy Fuyu, the ready-to-eat variety, and the other ones you have let fully ripen, called Hachiya. You will end up with a horrible taste in your mouth if you eat them before they are ready. The most horrible taste ever, ugh, yuck. A lesson in patience that must be obeyed. The reward is enjoying these little persimmon bars, one good way to savor a marvelously flavorful and juicy fruit. I sent over a batch of persimmon bars to our new neighbors, paid my culinary insurance!

PERSIMMON BARS - adapted from MasterCook 9.0
makes 16 to 20 bars

3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup fully ripe mashed persimmon pulp, Hachiya variety
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil

Grease a 9"x13" glass baking pan, or use smaller rectangular pan for more dense bars. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine salt, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, ginger, set aside. In mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat eggs, then gradually add sugar, till frothy. Add in persimmon pulp. With mixer set at low speed, add in flour mixture and combine. Add oil, vanilla, chopped nuts and blend. Do not overmix. Spread into greased pan and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, turning pan halfway through baking time. Cool in pan slightly, then cut into bars. Dust tops with powdered sugar if desired.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Donut Day!

I just read an article from the New York Daily News that declared this very day to be Donut Day. This is a day I gladly celebrate. Being well acquainted with donuts and all their species, let me raise my Los Angeles Dodgers mug of steaming hot coffee in honor of this day. To those many sprinkled, frosted, glazed and plain wonders, who so sweetly and gallantly gave their all, I hereby pledge my loyalty, and swear to uphold my coffee mug and cheer. Well done, my precious little buttermilk bars made fresh at the Shell gas station, well done. And to you, my little Krispy Kremes, whose stores are closing left and right, we'll meet again soon. And to the many Winchell's who are also fading from the scene, hold on, old man, I'll find you. To the Helms Bakery Man and his truck, who visited our block twice a week, thank you for those fond childhood memories of glazed donuts, you are gone but not forgotten. And finally, to Van De Kamp's and their plain cake donuts that I can still find at Ralphs supermarket, though their grand old baking facility is closed, thanks for sticking around all these years. To all of you who delight in that freshly made warm donut and a cup of coffee---Happy Donut Day!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie

Can you stand it---one more cookie? This will be the last cookie post till Christmas time. It comes from the Spirit of Christmas series, (it's in the volume Monica has---HINT!). Before I gave her the book, I copied down the recipe for this little gem. It's kind of a "Reeses-Turned-Into-A-Cookie" that's fun to make with the kids. You have the two dough combinations to mix, a rich chocolate cookie dough, and the creamy peanut butter filling. Then with the procedures of the counting, the covering and the squishing, there's plenty for the kids to do. So is it the peanut butter in the chocolate cookie, or the cookie in the peanut butter that makes it so yummy? Let the kids decide! As with all activities, please supervise the children in the kitchen, do not leave them unattended. Enjoy!

"REESES COOKIES" - adapted from Spirit of Christmas
makes about 30 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided---NO CHUNKY!
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tiny pinch of salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar on a plate for dipping

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1/4 cup peanut butter until creamy smooth. Gradually add in the two half-cups each of the brown and granulated sugars. Add the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, soda, salt and cocoa, stir to aerate. Add to the peanut butter mixture and blend well.

In another bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup of peanut butter and the powdered sugar. With clean, floured hands, scoop out and shape into 1-inch balls.

Scoop out a tablespoon of the chocolate dough, flatten it out just a bit and then carefully it shape around a peanut butter ball, covering as best you can.

Place the covered cookie balls about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Dip a flat bottomed drinking glass into the plate with the granulated sugar. Gently flatten each ball to about a 1-1/2 inch diameter circle with the glass bottom. Dip the glass bottom into the sugar each time. Do not go squisha-squisha on them, you are not Trogdor! Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets and then transfer to racks and cool completely before tasting.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Black Russian Brownies

Here's a great little treat to make with that homemade coffee liqueur. I am not sure where this one comes from, but it sure is a delicious batch of rich deep dark brownies, especially served warm from the oven, and topped with a scoop of coffee or mocha ice cream.

makes 16 large or 24 small brownies

4 squares Bakers unsweetened chocolate, 1 ounce each
1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
2 tablespoons vodka, any brand
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour, King Arthur
1/2 teaspoon plain salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans or toasted sliced almonds
Optional garnishes: powdered sugar, cocoa, ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line the bottom of 13x9 inch baking pan with waxed paper. Melt chocolate and butter with pepper in small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and cool. Combine eggs, sugars and vanilla in large bowl, beat well. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture, Kahlua and vodka.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder and add to chocolate mixture. Stir until blended. Add chopped nuts. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven just until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. To serve, dust with powdered sugar, cocoa, or if desired, serve with a scoop of quality ice cream.