Hot Pepper Jelly or Cranberry Brie Bites

Last night I went to a holiday party for my tennis friends. Everyone was asked to bring an appetizer. I knew my day was going to be packed, but I didn’t fret about what to make because as long as I have fillo shells in the freezer and brie in the fridge, I know I can make something that is going to be as pretty as it is tasty.

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The versatile pre-cooked phyllo dough mini shells are the key to these quick appetizers. In the winter I add a slice of brie, cook until the cheese melts, and add a topping, such as Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney or homemade cranberry sauce. In the summer, I assemble a quick treat by putting a spoonful of chicken salad into each shell and topping it with half a grape.

Last night, at the tennis party, my friend and fabulous cook, Mindy showed up with a very similar appetizer to mine only her brie bites were topped with Oakley’s Spreadalicious Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly and a yummy, lightly salted, toasted pecan. The mix of spicy-sweet pepper jelly, toasted pecans, savory brie, and the crunchy fillo shell kept me coming back for more. I intend to adopt her version.

About Oakley’s Spreadalicious Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly
Before I moved to the South, I had not a clue what hot pepper jelly was. By my first Christmas here, I knew it well; hot pepper jelly poured over a brick of cream cheese and served with a bowl of Wheat Thins was the appetizer du jour back then.

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Today, that spicy-sweet jelly, made from an assortment of sweet and hot peppers, is more likely to be spread over a log of goat cheese and sprinkled with toasted chopped nuts and a few leaves of thyme for color.

The recipe that follows is for the foundation of the brie bite: the fillo shell and melted brie. What you top it with is up to you. The beauty of this recipe is you can experiment with toppings based on what you have on hand.

Ingredients for 30 Brie Bites:
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2 boxes pre-cooked Athens Mini Fillo Shells (15 shells per box)
8 ounces brie cheese

Toppings:
Sweet and hot pepper jelly or cranberry chutney
Toasted pecans, whole or chopped (recipe follows)
Thyme leaves (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º. Line a small roasting pan with parchment paper.

Remove the snowy white rind that covers the wheel of brie. Or, not. The rind is completely edible and whether to leave it or remove it is a personal choice. It adds a mushroomy taste that I’m not crazy about in these tarts, but am fine with when I eat brie unadorned on a cracker. Slice the brie into small square slices that will fit into the fillo shells.

Arrange fillo shells on the lined roasting pan. Place a cheese slice in each shell.
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Bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven. dsc_0080
Top brie with a small blob of topping. Place pan back in the oven for a minute to warm the topping. Serve warm.

Mindy likes to toast pecans ahead of time with a bit of melted butter and a touch of seasoned salt mixed with sea salt. Her pecans, prepared this way, are addictive.

Lightly Salted Toasted Pecans

Preheat oven to 300º

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Turn heat off. Add one pound of pecans. Toss. Add one shake of seasoned salt and a sprinkle of sea salt. Toss. Taste and adjust seasoning.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread nuts in a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes or just until you can smell them in the oven. Addictive, I tell you.

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In Nashville, you can buy Oakley’s Sweet and Hot Pepper Jelly in the Tennessee Products section of Kroger or in many gift shops around town. Out of towners can order it online.

Other crowd-pleasing appetizers:
Roasted Tamari Almonds
“Croatian Cheese” a Flavorful and Exotic Appetizer Made with Feta and Goat Cheese
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
A Quick and Easy Baked Hummus and Feta Appetizer

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies

My son is leaving town after a nice visit home and I have a need to send him off with his favorite cookies. Will this ever change? He said they are so hearty he eats them for breakfast. I like the way he is thinking; hearty sounds like a meal instead of a dessert. I would have seconds in that scenario.

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One of the key ingredients in this recipe is ginger, a spice that imparts heat and sweet at the same time. Usually, I use ground ginger, but since I had fresh ginger root in the fridge, I decided to grate it and see how it affected the taste.  The change was mind-blowing. Between the ginger and the sorghum, this is one very flavorful cookie.

Yield: 3 dozen large cookies

Ingredients:   
sorghum oat cookies     
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons ground ginger or 1½ tablespoons freshly grated ginger
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sorghum (could substitute honey or molasses)
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups raisins, Craisins, or dried cherries
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (use sunflower seeds if allergic to nuts)

Topping mixture: you’ll need a small bowl of water, and a little sugar and salt

Prepare oven and baking pans:
Preheat oven to 350º.
Line three baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease pans with canola oil.

Mise en Place:
sorghum oat cookies

To melt butter: Place butter in a tempered-glass liquid measuring cup. Melt butter in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. If little flecks of butter remain after melting, that is okay; better to let them melt on their own than risk overheating and causing the butter to separate into fat, water, and milk solids.
Sorghum oatmeal cookies

To prepare chopped nuts:  I won’t dirty the food processor for just one cup of nuts. Instead, place the measured amount of nuts in a baggie and use a meat mallet to crush them into small pieces.

Sorghum oatmeal cookies

To grate fresh ginger: As a general rule, when substituting fresh spice for a dried amount, use triple the amount of fresh. This recipe calls for 1½ teaspoons of ground ginger; I grated 1½ tablespoons instead. Know that 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon. Also, you can store unpeeled ginger root in the freezer.

First, peel the ginger root and then grate. I used a fine-holed Microplane grater. The ground ginger will be very moist.
DSC_1016.jpg ginger cookies sorghum ginger cookies sorghum

To prepare eggs: Always break eggs in a separate bowl before adding to batter and then inspect for tiny broken shells or a foul-smelling yolk.

Measuring the flour: For a refresher course on how to properly measure dry ingredients, check out my post, Home Ec 101. As an FYI, I spooned the flour into the measuring cup and then leveled it off with a knife (or my finger!). If you scoop the measuring cup directly into the flour sack, it packs the flour into the cup. If you do that four times, for the required four cups of flour, you could add as much as one full cup of flour to this recipe.

Finally, make the cookies!
Into a large mixing bowl, add the dry ingredients: the flours, baking soda, salt, sugar, ginger, and oats. Mix on slow speed for about 30 seconds.
Sorghum oatmeal cookies

Add the liquids: sorghum, melted butter, water, and eggs, and mix on low-medium speed for about one minute.
Sorghum oatmeal cookies

Turn the machine off and use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the Craisins and nuts and mix on slow speed for another 15 seconds. Over-mixing the flour could result in tough cookies.

Use a tablespoon or a cookie scoop to make golf ball-sized portions of dough.
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Place 12 balls of dough on each cookie sheet. Lightly press the balls with a fork placed on the dough in two different directions to create a criss-cross pattern.
sorghum cookies sorghum cookies

Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of each cookie lightly with water followed by a sprinkle of sugar and a touch of salt.
Sorghum oatmeal cookies

Bake cookies for 8 minutes and then rotate cookie sheets on oven racks. Set a timer. Cook for about 7 more minutes, or until just lightly browned. Best to err on the side of “I think they’re ready,” than “Ugh, too hard” when determining doneness. Place cookies on wire racks to cool. Cookies will harden as they cool.
sorghum cookies – Version 2

Other cookie recipes:
3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies!!!
Mary’s Award-Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies

Here are a few other recipes that use sorghum:
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
The Biscuit King
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Raising Sorghum Cane

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.