Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Soul Sweet 'Taters

Welcome to mom's table.  Make yourself a plate.
Okay, I know Thanksgiving is seven months away, but bear with me on this one.  ShopRite had sweet potatoes on sale for $2.99 for a 5 lb. box, so I had to do something with them.  I made two Sweet Potato Pies for Easter and then I decided to try The Pioneer Woman's Soul Sweet 'Taters.  (I'm spending way too much time on this woman's blog, I can't help it!)

The sweet potato mixture comes together in less than five minutes.
I made this as a side dish for Easter and I know that it's probably too heavy for your spring and summer menus, but please keep it in mind for when the weather turns cold again, because it will.  I think this side dish knocks any other sweet potatoes out of the park.  Yes, it's as sweet as dessert, but it's also nutty and crunchy and it's a great compliment to all those savory dishes on your plate at a family gathering.  The next time you go to a cool weather potluck, try this one.  You can assemble it in advance and bake it right before serving.

The topping is sweet, crunchy, brown and a little bit sticky.
Soul Sweet 'Taters
from The Pioneer Woman
serves (at least) 10

4 whole Medium Sweet Potatoes
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Milk
2 whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Pecans (walnuts or almonds work fine - I used almonds)
½ cups Flour
¾ stick Butter

Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. When they are finished cooking slice them open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.  You could also microwave your potatoes like I did in my Sweet Potato Pie recipe, or you could pressure cook them for 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup of (regular grandulated) sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of salt. With a potato masher, mash them up just enough—you don’t want it to be perfectly smooth.

Now, in a separate bowl, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup nuts, chopped (that means measure a cup of pecans, then chop them), ½ cup flour, and ¾ stick of butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined.

Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  If you desire a crunchier, browner topping, put the dish under the broiler for 1-3 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Bread

I've had the most relaxing Easter weekend.  I'm fortunate enough to have off work on Good Friday and I spent the day at the beach with my husband.  Then, I had dinner with my brothers and father on Saturday.  I got plenty of sleep and I tried several new recipes.  Although Saturday was cool and rainy, Easter Sunday was warm and sunny.  I even worked out twice and I'm so sore that I can't laugh without hurting.  Oh yes, it was a fantastic weekend!

I cruised the Interwebs for several recipes this weekend and I stumbled across this recipe on my "BFF" The Pioneer Woman's blog.  My mom was cooking our favorite turkey and we were discussing whether we should have rolls with dinner.  I had just made a batch of Hot Cross Buns and I did not feel like making a batch of rolls, so I opted for a loaf of bread.  I considered doing my usual No-Knead Bread, but then I decided to try something new.

The Pioneer Woman calls this simply, "The Bread".  It's very similar in technique to my No-Knead Bread, except that it doesn't need to rise overnight, which makes it perfect for a last minute decision.  If you wake up on a weekend morning feeling overly ambitious and decide you want fresh bread for lunch, make this loaf.  While the appearance is similar to No-Knead Bread, it has a chewier, finer texture with very few holes and tunnels.  It's also not as crusty as No-Knead, so I saved a few pieces to eat with leftover turkey as a sandwich for lunch at work.

I opted to use fresh rosemary in this loaf, but you could also use chives or thyme.  I kept it simple and resisted the urge to add fresh garlic, but I'm sure you could spice this one up.  This bread is made with tons of melted butter (yum!) and plenty of salt and fresh herbs, so I didn't feel the need to slather it with butter before enjoying.

My loaf didn't rise as high as Pioneer Woman's, but it still tasted great.  This isn't an everyday bread (due to the high amount of delicious white flour and butter), but it's a great occasional treat.  We opted to serve this with dinner on Easter Sunday.  It would also be fantastic at a wine and cheese, a picnic, or any other place you want to enjoy a moist, warm loaf of fragrant bread with good friends.

ready for the oven
The Pioneer Woman has great step-by-step instructions for this recipe, so please cruise over to her site to see the details.  If you've never made bread, I think you can handle this recipe.

Note:  This recipe calls for Instant Yeast which is different from Active Yeast, but you can still pick it up in the baking aisle of most stores.  If you have to use regular Active Yeast, just dissolve the yeast in the water before adding it to the dough and you should be fine.  This recipe is baked in a Dutch oven.  I have one and I haven't tried baking it without one, but you could try it in another large pot or dish that has a lid.

The Bread
from The Pioneer Woman
serves 6

20 ounces, weight Bread Flour (all Purpose Is Okay, Too) - About 4 Cups
1 cup warm (not hot) water
1 stick butter, melted with chopped herbs (I used rosemary)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon active or instant yeast (if active, sprinkle yeast over water before mixing it in)
olive oil, for drizzling
additional salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients together in a KitchenAid stand mixer with the dough hook (it can be done by hand…it just takes longer).

I mixed them together for about 10 minutes or so until I could successfully achieve a windowpane with the dough. (This is where you can pull off a small chunk of the dough you’re kneading and stretch it gently to see if it is somewhat translucent. If you can do this without it tearing, it’s ready.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

After the dough is risen, it should be kneaded for a minute or two so that the yeast can redistribute. Form it into a dome and place in a covered cast iron pan after coating it with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Cut a large ‘X’ into the surface of the bread dough so it can bloom!  (At this point you can bake the dough immediately and it will be fine.  Next time I'm going to let mine rise for another hour so I get a larger, fluffier loaf.)

Bake on the center rack of your over for 30 minutes with the lid on, them remove the lid to finish it off for another 15 to 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kahlua Chocolate Cake

If you like chocolate, please stop what you are doing and make this cake.  Seriously.

A few weeks ago my Aunt Catherine contacted me because she tasted a Kahlua Chocolate Cake and the woman who make the cake wouldn't give her the recipe.  She asked if I had any experience with this cake and I did what any creative home cook does - I did some Internet research.  I landed on this recipe on a blog called Baked Bree (I'm a new follower - she has some great stuff!).  Kahlua is a coffee-flavored liquor, but don't be turned off if you don't like coffee or liquor - this cake just tastes like deep, dark chocolate.  I no longer hate on boxed cake mixes ever since I made the Chocolate Pistachio Cake, so I went full speed ahead with this recipe.

I had it ready for the oven in the amount of time it took for my oven to preheat.  I savored my first slice while it was still semi-warm and the chips were oozing with chocolately goodness.  Yes, it was really good.  So good that I made sure I microwaved each slice as I enjoyed it as a leftover.  And yes, I ate more than a few slices over the course of the week.  I ended up having to give the rest of this cake away to save myself from myself.  Yeah, it's like that.

Kahlua Chocolate Cake
from Baked Bree

for the cake:
1 box chocolate cake mix (without pudding)
1 box (3.75 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups sour cream
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup Kahlua
1 cup chocolate chips

for the Kahlua glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons Kahlua

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a Bundt pan.

Combine all ingredients for the cake except chocolate chips and mix with an electric mixer until well blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour mix into Bundt pan and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

for the glaze:
Whisk together powdered sugar and Kahlua, adding enough Kaluha to allow the glaze to drizzle over the cake.  Pour glaze over cooled cake.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passionfruit Rum Punch

Good cocktails can cost an arm and a leg at the bar, not to mention the safety risk of consuming too much alcohol and then having to get home safely.  I've learned to make drinks like White Sangria to safely and affordably enjoy my own happy hour at home.

I saw this recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appetit and I bookmarked it immediately.  I was attracted to this recipe because it looked tropical and reminded me of cruising the blue waters of the Carribean, which beats sitting in Delaware on a cool, rainy Saturday.  This drink is perfectly balanced, so you won't taste the alcohol.  Beware, this is a strong, fruity punch and it will knock you down if you don't sip slowly.  As an added bonus, it only cost me about $8 to make four drinks compared to the $32 plus tip (for four drinks) that you would pay at a bar.  If you want to prepare a non-alcoholic version, try swapping out sparkling water (citrus-flavored or plain) for the rum.  Otherwise, drink up and enjoy!  I've made this twice over the past two weeks and it will be a standard party drink from now on.

Passionfruit Rum Punch
adapted (barely) from Bon Appetit
serves 4

1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 4-5 limes)
1 can frozen passionfruit concentrate (I found Goya in the frozen section at ShopRite)
2 cups white rum (about half of a 750ml bottle)
1 cup water
1 lime, sliced, for garnish
ice (preferably crushed)

In a two quart pitcher, mix lime juice, passionfruit concentrate, white rum, and water.  Pour over ice and garnish with lime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The 10th Anniversary of my 21st Birthday!

Flowers hand-delivered by my dad
On Saturday, April 2nd I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my 21st birthday, also known as my 31st birthday!  I'm really loving being in my 30s.  I enjoy and appreciate every birthday, but there's definitely a sense of confidence and self-assurance in my 30s that I didn't always feel in my 20s.  I may not have the "perfect" body or the biggest house or the largest paycheck, but I'm surrounded by a loving family.  We've been through a lot together, which is why I'm so happy that this birthday celebration was just family.

My mom and I went outlet shopping in Rehoboth Beach.  I picked up a few new items to add to my spring wardrobe, including my first pair of Cole Haan shoes...

This is the second year in a row that we've opted for a family lunch at a restaurant instead of a birthday dinner.  I'm loving the lunch idea because it leaves my birthday evening free to enjoy a special dinner with my husband.  This year we took advantage of Restaurant Week in Wilmington and headed to The Green Room at the Hotel DuPont.  It's a fancy, old-fashioned dining room at one of the swankiest hotels in Delaware (of course, this is Delaware, the second smallest state in the country, so it's swanky to us).  I felt like Michelle Obama!

My mom, brother, aunt, and husband joined me for a gourmet birthday lunch.  We enjoyed shrimp ceviche, a deconstructed salad with a citrus dressing, salmon and risotto, and my mom had a panini with broccoli rabe.

For dessert we shared raspberry creme brulee and chocolate cake...

And since it's the Green Room, I didn't need to worry about anyone disturbing the peace by singing Happy Birthday.  It was an relaxing and classy birthday lunch.

I spent the afternoon watching the Travel Channel on my mom's couch with a heated blanket and then I took a nap at home before heading to dinner with E.  Just the two of us... perfect.

We had dinner at The Blue Parrot Grille in Wilmington.  It's a New Orleans-themed bar and restaurant in the city.  It was our first visit ever and we enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.  I haven't traveled to New Orleans yet, but the ambiance in this restaurant seemed authentic.  There was live music, New Orleans-style drinks (I had a Hurricane), plenty of seafood, and lots of blackened and spicy menu choices.

E and I shared the Mississippi Delta Nachos (topped with shrimp, crabmeat, red beans, jalapenos and cheese) and I had the blackened tilapia for dinner.  I loved the nachos, but the tilapia was almost too spicy for my taste, especially after 8:00 p.m.  I'm gettin' old, you know. 

Overall I had a fantastic birthday weekend (followed by flowers and singing at work the following week).  I tried two new restaurants and had plenty of time to relax.  E bought me a pressure cooker and I've been experimenting with it, so stay tuned for some new recipes and a full review.

Anyone else out there celebrating a birthday soon?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Under Pressure

My birthday was last Saturday.  I had a fantastic weekend of family, shopping and great meals.  Believe it or not, my favorite gift was this pressure cooker, which is a gift from my awesome husband.  It may not seem romantic, but I'm so happy.

I've been considering adding a pressure cooker to my kitchen since Christmas, but I wasn't sure how to use one or if it was worth the investment.  After doing some research I decided to go ahead and experiment with pressure cooking.  I opted for a stand-alone model, which is safer than the stove top version.  I'm looking forward to making beans in minutes, not hours and to cooking a pork shoulder in under an hour, instead of all day in my slow cooker.

I'll do a full birthday review later this week and I'll also give you the lowdown on my pressure cooking experience as soon as I use it.  Am I the only person who gets excited about new kitchen toys?

P.S. Want your very own pressure cooker?  Here's a link to mine:

Friday, April 1, 2011

White Pizza with Bacon

I've officially declared pizza as my single favorite food.  If it made sense health-wise, I'd eat it at least three times a week.  Thick crust, thin crust, homemade, pizza parlor, NY-style, Chicago-style... I just love the endless variations of chewy dough topped with cheese, sauce, veggies and sometimes meat.

I've recently made some modifications to my BFF (in my head) Pioneer Woman's Pizza Dough recipe.  I think I'm becoming a homemade pizza expert.  I made a batch of dough at least once every ten days.

My latest creation is this White Pizza with Bacon that I wrote for ShopRite's Potluck blog.  If you don't like bacon, just leave it out.  I promise that the pizza will be just as delicious.  This recipe calls for a flavored oil sold exclusively at ShopRite, but you could absolutely flavor your own oil with parsley, thyme and garlic to make this pizza if you don't live near a ShopRite.

This pizza was so good that we ate it twice in one week.  Give me this pizza with a salad and a glass of wine and I'm one happy woman.  'Nuff said.

Pizza is also a great option for No Fast Food Fridays.  That's right... first there was the Meatless Monday movement and now we have No Fast Food Fridays.  I don't mind forgoing takeout when homemade pizza is this easy and tastes just as good.

Get the recipe HERE.
Related Posts with Thumbnails