Smothered Sweet Potatoes

I grew up in a very religious household and every year as apart of our faith the church we attended encouraged the members to do some form of fasting for the months of January and the first two weeks of February. It was meant to be an exercise in drawing the believer closer to God and encourage gratitude by practicing the self-denial and discipline that comes with fasting. In theory, anyway.

It was kind of like an early form of Lent. Some people would actually fast from food completely for the entire 40 days. Others would fast from things like television. But most people would just opt for a Daniel Fast.

It’s a reference to the prophet Daniel from the Bible who at one point consumed nothing but vegetables for 10 days.In a nutshell, it’s a diet where the participant doesn’t eat meat, alcohol, processed sugar and in some cases, most grains. It’s the fast that we most often participated in. Is it a blast? Not particularly. But there are ways of cooking so that you don’t have to be munching on crudites for 40 days.

My mom would cook a lot of potatoes in a lot of different ways for us. Our favorite way was to fry them up smothered style in a skillet. I shared one recipe a long time ago when I first started the blog. Today I decided to give out another one that’s made with one minor ingredient swap.

I’m actually partial to sweet spuds as opposed to Russets. I’m surprised it took me this long to getting around to sharing this recipe; it’s probably because so far as ‘recipes’ go, there’s not a whole lot of rigid structure or rules to smothered potatoes. I don’t specify how much of the spices to add because after so many years, it’s really become a kind of ‘instinctual’ preference. You season them until they taste right. If you’re really that nervous about it, go easy with the salt and it’ll be fine.

Smothered potatoes made the ritual of Daniel fasting infinitely easier for us to do growing up. Potatoes are still a comfort me for me, and I enjoy these so much that I still like to make them now as a favorite side dish. Try this dish out for yourself and I think you’ll understand why.

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Southern Sweet Potatoes

Recipe from Jess@CookingisMySport

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup liquid bacon grease
  • 4 lbs sweet potatoes, scrubbed, sliced into thin rounds (peeled or not is up to you)
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Onion Powder to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

 

Directions

Heat a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium high heat.

Drizzle about 2 tbsp of the bacon grease into the pan, swirl about to evenly cover the surface.

Add enough potatoes and onions to pan to fill up. (You will have to do this in multiple batches).Sprinkle a generous coating of the onion powder, garlic powder over the potatoes and onions. Stir to evenly coat, then add a little bit more if necessary.

Add the salt and pepper to the potatoes and onions (be a little less generous with these, I typically do about 1 tsp of each per batch).

Cover the pan and allow to cook until potatoes are brown, tender and slightly crisp at the edges, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking at the bottom of the skillet.

Repeat steps 2-6 in batches with the remaining potatoes and onions and serve.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #271, co-hosted this week by  Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

Corn Bubble Bread

I love going to discount/used bookstores. When I younger, my mom would take us downtown for weekly trips to the public library and there was a discount bookstore in the basement called The Book Burrow where you could buy books for literal pocket change. It was a dim place with exposed water/gas pipes, stained ceilings, and flickering lights. It had the unmistakable ‘old book smell’ that I will never forget.

And I loved going. LOVED it.

This was in a time when dial-up internet was still a thing, and the Google we know now really…wasn’t. (Shout out to the people who still remember what Netscape Navigator was) We didn’t have access to either. So if I had a school assignment that required some outside research, pictures or info my mom would just take us to the public library to either check out books or to the Book Burrow to buy cheap cooks or old National Geographic issues. The YA section was filled with towers of books, mostly different series like Sweet Valley High, which I loved. (Give me a break; I was a 90’s kid and an identical twin named Jessica at that.) I could, and sometimes did, stay in that corner reading and picking out books to buy for hours.

Those memories I have of hte Book Burrow have carried over into my adulthood to where I still love going to discount/used bookstores. Of course now I’m not looking for a book on Zambia for my 5th grade presentation project. I’ve also put my Sweet Valley High phase behind me–I’m actually trying to forget it ever happened. Nowadays when I stop and look in a discount bookstore, I will go straight to one section.

I bet y’all can guess which one it is.

The particularly great thing about the cookbook section of a discount section is that most of the books in it are going to be very old; some maybe even vintage. If you’re VERY lucky you can find the ‘Church cookbooks’ that are literally collated recipes from elderly church ladies (mostly Southern) that share the foods they make for their families and church potlucks. I’ve also seen huge, thick baking books with hundreds of recipes int hem that would normally be thirty or forty dollars, only cost as little as five in a discount bookstore.

It’s ridiculous how excited I get when I come across a find like that.

I was downtown a while ago and lo and behold: there was a discount bookstore adjoining the parking garage I was parked in. The cookbook section was right smack dab in the front window, guys.

Do you REALLY think I could just walk by without even going in to look? Tuh. Remember I said you could find those thick baking collection books for practically pennies? I found one at that discount bookstore in the parking garage. It was one of the first ones I picked up and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was mine. I flipped through the pages on the way home, already excited to test one of the recipes out.

This recipe in its original form needed some adjustments. But once I made them, it resulted in a super tasty loaf. We’ve already established that I will legit look for a way to throw some cornmeal into ANYTHING and this was a very good something to throw it in. I thought the construction was not only simple, but pretty to look at it. The shape is made by layering balls of the dough on top of one another in a tube pan so that when it bakes, it forms ‘bubbles’ across the top. You can use the bubbles to tear off chunks of the bread, or cut it into thick slices like I did.

The loaf itself is soft, though the cornmeal gives it a gritty texture and sweetness that I personally love. It’s delicious smeared with jelly and butter, but I think it’d be excellent as the base for French toast as well. If you don’t have a tube pan, this would work just fine in loaf pans and cake pans too.

So, what have we learned? #1, don’t sleep on discount bookstores. They’re lit. #2 You should make this bread. That’s all… for today anyway.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #199, co-hosted this week by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau.

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Corn Bubble Bread

Recipe Adapted from “Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads”

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Ingredients

  • 3-5 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 packages/envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, the salt, pepper and cornmeal. Stir together to combine, then set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the warm water, milk and shortening. Allow to heat over the stove until warm to the touch. (Around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit)  Sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of white sugar on top of that. Allow yeast to proof, about 10 minutes until frothy on top.

Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and use the dough hook to beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add an additional cup of flour to the dough to thicken it and continue to beat at medium high speed. Turn mixer off, then add additional flour as needed to where it is a rough mass that can be worked with your hands.

Sprinkle a clean surface with flour, then turn dough out onto it. Knead with a strong push-pull action, about 8 minutes. Place back in the mixer and knead for an additional 8 minutes. It should feel smooth and elastic, and spring back under the touch.

Grease the mixing bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Grease one 10” tube pan. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and turn dough out onto it. Punch dough down a few times to deflate air bubbles. Use a bench scraper or a sharp knife to divide into 32 equal pieces; first 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, then 32. Roll each of the 32 pieces into balls, then arrange the balls into 2 layers in the bottom of the tube pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 1/2- 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork. Brush over the top of the dough balls. Place the tub pan on a half sheet pan, then bake in the oven until golden brown and hollow on the bottom, about 40-45 minutes. (It browns/bakes fast, so check it early and cover if browning too quickly. Bread is done at 190° inner temp.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Corn and Scallion Tart

In our house, brinner is something we’ve made a part of our weekly routine. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it, but for those that aren’t, “brinner” is a meal where food that is normally eaten at breakfast time is eaten instead at dinner time. I don’t know why or how, but breakfast food just tastes better to me later in the day. Not only that, regardless of what you want, just about everything is extremely easy and quick to put together. If you haven’t ever tried it before, I really do think you should.

Sausage, bacon and eggs are always on our brinner menu, with some kind of carb to eat with them. The carb varies. Sometimes we just have toast from store bought bread. Sometimes I’ll make a batch of biscuits. Sometimes I make a loaf of bread. We might grab some bagels from Panera. My favorite will always be my one true love (pancakes).

And other times, I like to try something a little bit…different.

Today’s recipe was something different not just for our brinner menu but for my baking repertoire in general, so I thought it would be nice to share with you guys.

I don’t make a lot of tarts. Not really sure why. I love tarts of just about any kind. I bought two tart pans–one circle and one rectangle. I have no excuse to not make them. And still, I just…don’t.

Except for now. I made one. It turned out pretty good.

One of the plus sides of the summer winding down (outside of cooler temperatures) is that fresh corn becomes in season in grocery stores and farmer’s markets. And yes. You can taste the different between corn from a cob and corn from a can. If there isn’t any fresh in your area, I’d try to shoot for frozen corn instead. Now to get into the tart itself.

I’ve told you guys several times before that I love to find ways to sneak cornmeal into anything. There’s 1/4 cup of it in the crust, which gives it a grainy, but pleasant contrast of texture. I added a half teaspoon of black pepper as well to give it an extra bite. The filling is very much like a quiche. Corn and scallions make up most of the solids, while eggs and milk make up the custard that bakes up very fluffy and light on the inside. The fresh taste of of the vegetables and the seasoning inside make this a side dish that I was very satisfied with. It’s filling and still somehow manages to taste light.

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This made an excellent addition to our brinner, but I think it would be a great dish to make for breakfast or lunch as well. On its own I think it’s a side dish but if you wanted to mix in a bit of protein like sausage or bacon to make it a main dish I think it would be great as well.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #189. Everyone have a great weekend.

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Corn and Scallion Tart

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

For Crust

  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (Like Lawry’s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, preferably frozen or very cold

For Filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 cups fresh corn (cut from cob or frozen and thawed)
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups diced scallions
  • 1 heaping teaspoon onion powder
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

For Crust: combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl with a fork. Either use a box grate to grate frozen butter directly into dry ingredients, or cut butter into very small cubes and toss/press into the dry ingredients with a fork until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Drizzle in enough ice water and stir together until dough just holds together. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour or up to overnight.

Using a rolling pin, flour a surface like a pastry mat cutting board, or wax paper, then roll the dough out to an 11 inch round. Transfer the round to the springform pan and press the dough into the bottom and sides. Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Melt the butter in a skillet, then add the corn and shallot. Saute until the corn has just started to brown and the shallot is translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more before removing from the heat. Stir in the scallions, then set aside. In a small bowl combine the eggs, milk, seasoned salt and pepper and onion powder.

Spread the veggies into the tart shell and use a spatula to press down evenly. Pour the milk mixture over the veggies. Fold the edges of the dough down over the filling, letting some overlap. Place springform pan on a sheet pan, then bake tart in the oven until filling is set and crust is golden brown 60-70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10-15 minutes before unmolding and serving.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

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Whelp. As the song goes, this is The End.

The end of 2016, that is.

Wait, what; did you guys think I meant…THE end?

I mean, I dunno. Maybe it is. Check back with me after January 20th.

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For today however, let’s just keep the main focus on the fact that we’ve reached the end of the year. There is but one more day left in 2016. Crazy.

I won’t say this year’s went by particularly quick; it hasn’t really felt like that for me personally. I will say that it brought LOTS of change. Lots of new. Lots of different. There’s room for pessimism but the thing about starting a new year is that there’s also room for some new optimism. If things can get worse, there’s no reason not to hope that they can and won’t just might get better too, right?

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Some of us may choose the simple practice of optimism going into the new year. Others like to engage in certain practices that across cultures are supposed to bring especial luck to individuals if done on New Years Eve. I’m sure you guys are familiar with plenty of them.

Healthy amount of libations consumed.

Kissing a significant other or a… whatever you want to call them, at the stroke of midnight.

Opening doors and windows wide at night to let the ‘bad luck’ out of a house.

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There are plenty of places worldwide where people will consume particular foods, whether through tradition or believing that the foods themselves will provide good luck because of what they symbolize. Noodles consumed in Asian countries symbolize and are supposed to bring life longevity. In Spain, eating 12 grapes for each month of the year is supposed to predict the kind of year you will have (sweet for good times, sour for bad). There’s a certain Greek bread called Vasilopitta that I swear I’m gonna get around to trying myself one of these days. In the American south, black eyed peas, corn bread and leafy greens eaten at years end/new years are supposed to bring good luck.

If I’m being completely honest, I really don’t know or care whether or not eating greens of any kind will bring good luck. I’m gonna eat ’em regardless. But if the taste of today’s recipe was any indication, I’d say I was feeling pretty lucky this afternoon.

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Prior to this, the only ways I’d had kale previously was eating it raw, then eating it in the crispy chips you bake in the oven. Both are fine, but they’ve never really ‘wowed’ me into thinking kale was all that special. This recipe changed my mind. The kale is quick roasted in the oven, just to the point where it’s soft without being completed deflated. Sweet potato is roasted until it’s soft, but not quite mushy; it’s still got body to it. Both are then gently tossed together with some dried cranberries in a sweet and tangy dressing for a salad that is just REALLY delicious. The best part is, it tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had enough time to meld properly. The firm texture of the sweet potato is preserved and the texture of the kale in my opinion is improved: whereas raw kale is tough and fibrous, the quick roasted kale that’s been tossed in the dressing has this robust chewiness that’s a really great bite.

Truth to be told, it’s gone now and I’m already missing this stuff.  Oh yeah: and did I mention it’s pretty darn HEALTHY? And I actually want it. That’s always nice.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #152, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Ginger @ Ginger & Bread.

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Roasted Sweet Potato & Kale Salad

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, seeded, quartered, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch (about 8 ounces) kale
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces) dried cranberries or cherries

Directions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 400°F. Toss sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are tender throughout and well browned around the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to remove from foil. Carefully remove potatoes from foil using a thin metal spatula and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pick leaves off of kale stems into a large bowl and roughly tear with hands; discard stems. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and massage until well-coated in oil. Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until wilted and crisp in some spots, about 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to bowl with sweet potatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together shallot, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar . Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add cranberries to bowl with sweet potatoes and kale,. Toss with half of dressing, taste, and add more dressing as desired. The dressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let it come to room temperature or briefly microwave until warm before serving.

Maple Curry Plantains

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‘Sup guys. If you celebrated any kind of festivities yesterday, then I hope that it was filled with good food and good times with your family and loved ones. It’s a little weird to still have it be relatively warm and snow-less here on the west side for this time of year, but it was still a pretty good day. I’m in a pretty decent mood from the stuff that came out of my own kitchen. I’m in an even better one when I think of all the leftovers that we’re gonna have for the next few days from it.

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So, moving on to the item of the day: plantains.

I’ve known what they were for a good long while, but back in the Mitten, we didn’t have very many of them in our grocery stores. Even when we did, it was only at certain times of year and they didn’t come very inexpensive by the pound.

On this side of the tracks, not only have I yet to go to a grocery store and NOT seen plantains, they’re generally pretty inexpensive here. I think it’s probably because I live in an area with a very high Latino/Hispanic population and plantains are pretty common in Latin cuisine.

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Like Latin, Caribbean cuisine (and Latin Caribbean as well when I think about it) is one that I don’t have nearly enough experience cooking, or eating for that matter. I do know that plantains are used a lot in them all. Plantains are similar to bananas, they’re just slightly larger, less sweet and more firm/starchy. Up until now, they kinda baffled me. I wasn’t sure of how they were supposed to be cooked or taste: were they supposed to be cooked to be sweet like bananas, or in a more savory application like squash?

Since I  wasn’t sure, I just decided to leave them alone for a while. But as it tends to happen with ingredients/recipes I avoid out of intimidation, it popped back up on my radar.
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Before I even came out, my sister told me about a Caribbean restaurant in the area that when I got here I just HAD to try. She raved about their jerk chicken, greens and in particular, their preparation of plantains. When my birthday came around in September, she bought me dinner at the joint and I finally got to see what all the fuss was about with plantains.

Yeah, I get it now. They’re delicious.

You are reminded of bananas when you eat them, just a much more starchy and less mushy/sweet one. I could tell that the plantains at the restaurant she took me too were probably fried in butter, but not seasoned with any particular spices so as to let their own flavor stand out. They were also tender on the inside and browned on the outside. After that dinner I was set upon figuring out how to make them myself.

Didn’t take me too long.

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Because I was going in knowing nothing about cooking plantains, I decided to gather inspiration from far greater minds than mine who I knew would know what was what when handling them. One of my Marcus Samelsson cookbooks featured a recipe with plantains where they are actually fried twice in oil. After the first fry, they get pressed down flat with a wooden spoon then dunked into a garlic water bath; this, I assume is to draw out excess starch that would prevent them from getting a good crust in the second fry.

And it IS in that second fry where the real magic happens. Here’s the best part you guys: I actually had two ripe plantains and one plantain that even after sitting on the counter in a paper bag for 2 days with the other ones, was still green on the outside and not-too-ripe. They ALL came out fantastic. Granted, the ripe plantains had more ‘meat’ to their insides, but the green plantain actually developed a golden brown crusty layer on the outside that contrasted with the starchy inside perfectly.

The plantains could stand on their own just like that, but when you add the quick maple syrup-curry powder glaze to them…OMGAWD. We agreed immediately that these would be going into the rotation, stat. I think you and yours will agree if you try this recipe, which I’ll be linking up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #147, co-hosted this week by  Julianna @ Foodie On Board and Hilda @ Along The Grapevine.

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Maple Curry Plantains

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport, Recipe Technique Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Peanut oil for frying

Directions

Heat about 1 inch of the peanut oil in a skillet to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the water, garlic cloves and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a separate smaller bowl mix together the curry powder and maple syrup and set aside.

Take the plantains and fry them in batches in the peanut oil until golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Using a spider or a metal spatula transfer the plantains to the baking sheet. Wait 1 to 2 minutes for them to cool, then stand the plantains up on edge; using the flat end of the spatula or a wooden spoon, smash the plantains to half their diameter.

Place the smashed plantains into the garlic water and let them soak for 1 minute.  Remove and gently blot dry with paper towels.

Make sure the oil has returned to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the plantains again until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 4 minutes per side depending on how crisp you prefer them to be. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Take the maple syrup-curry mixture and either drizzle or dab it onto the plantains with a pastry brush. Serve immediately.

Honey Spice Roasted Potatoes

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Wasting food.

I hate doing it. I can and will eat leftovers for days until the food is gone before I’ll toss it in the trash or garbage disposal out of ‘boredom’. And even when/if it does spoil and I HAVE to throw it out, I still cringe from irritation and guilt.

It could be because I love food. It could also be because I’m cheap/low in $ funds 98% of the time, and don’t want to see what my money paid for being wasted.

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The “inspiration” for this dish was really nothing more than the fact that we had a big bag of russet potatoes in the kitchen that we’d bought as apart of a discount, telling ourselves we’d make baked potatoes.

Naturally, that didn’t happen. They just sat there for a good long while and it finally got to the point where I was concerned that they were going to spoil and go to waste. You guys know how anal retentive I am when it comes to wasting food. I wasn’t throwing out a whole bag of still-usable potatoes. Nuh-uh. So, I decided to just go ahead and use them for something that would cook them all in one go–my taste buds had a craving for wedges, so that’s what I went with.

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My process for coming up with this went as follows: I washed and cut the potatoes, opened my spice cabinet and literally just started taking bottles out and shaking the contents together into a bowl if I thought it sounded like they’d taste good when combined. The ‘wild card’ in the bunch was the turmeric. Turmeric’s got a pungent, gingery, almost spicy orange aftertaste to it. It’s used a lot in curry dishes in Asian and Indian dishes and is actually a pretty healthy spice for your as well.

Its bright yellow and can also stain your counter tops and hands yellow for a few days if you’re not careful, but moving on.

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After cutting them up, I combined the turmeric with some oil and other spices into a paste, then tossed that together with the potatoes. After cranking up the oven I spread them out on a pair of sheet pans and roasted them until they were tender on the inside and the oil on the pans made them crispy on the outside edges.

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The cumin gives the potatoes a smoky earthy flavor while the turmeric and honey provides a spicy sweetness that marries the flavors together very nicely. If Russet potatoes aren’t really your thing, then that’s fine: I can see this working VERY well with Yukon Gold or sweet potatoes too. If wedges aren’t your thing then you can also just cut them into large or smaller chunks and adjust your roasting time to be longer or shorter as needed.

There’s a certain occasion coming up on Thursday where a lot of Americans get together and do a lot of eating. If you still need an easy and delicious side dish for that occasion that will still feed a lot of people, then I’d offer up this one for consideration.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #146 co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Honey Spice Roasted Potatoes

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. russet/baking potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
  • About 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil, plus extra if necessary
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thirds/wedges, making sure they are more or less the same size and width to make sure they cook evenly.

Place the potatoes in a  plastic re-sealable gallon size bag.

In a small bowl, combine all of the remaining ingredients together and mix together with a fork or whisk. It should resemble a loose kind of paste but still be fluid enough to coat the potatoes. If it’s still to thick, drizzle in additional oil into the dressing by tablespoons until it’s liquid-y enough.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes, seal the bag and toss around for two to three turns until the dressing has evenly coated the potatoes.

Spray two half sheet pans well with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the potatoes between the pans and spread out in one even layer.

Roast for 35-40 minutes, mixing the potatoes and switching the pans around half-way through until they are fork-tender in the middle and crisp at the edges.

Fool-Proof, Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

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I can eat caramelized onions on and in just about anything. Sandwiches. Salad. Stew. Pizza. On toasted bread. A spoon (Yes. All by themselves and you will not judge me). They’re just that good. They’re such a simple ingredient that can really bump up a dish in a way that other condiments just can’t.

The thing about making caramelized onions is that the process can be both long and tricky. You have to have the time and patience to let the onions cook VERRRRRY low and slow over the stove top in the skillet. You also have to know when and how not to let them cook TOO much so that they scorch and burn.

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I won’t lie, they can be a labor of love that fortunately turns out to be well worth it. But to be sure…it can be a labor and for those that are uncomfortable in the kitchen, making caramelized onions just may not seem worth all the effort.

Until now, that is.

All of us caramelized onion lovers–both those who love to cook and those who don’t–listen up. I’m sharing a recipe today that is about to make all of our lives more easier.

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I decided to see if I could bypass all that extra-ness with hovering over a skillet of onions waiting on them to caramelize,and see if the slow cooker could do the job just as well. I was totally right. It totally could. And now I’m just left kinda wondering how and why I haven’t done this a loooong time ago.

Alright so, look. You can’t mess this recipe up, guys. Seriously. I don’t care how much of a bad/challenged/struggling cook you think you are, look me in my eyes: (ok, so you can’t do that actually , but pay attention closely.)

YOU.CAN’T.MESS.THIS.RECIPE.UP.

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This is the like The Elves and the Shoemaker fairy tale that we’ve all been waiting for. Literally, all you have to do is leave your ingredients out overnight in the slow cooker (the elves in this case), let it do its magic, then wake up in the morning and behold the wonder that it’s left for you to partake in. You sprinkle in some sugar, wait a little bit more and BAM. You’re done.

That’s….it. I’m not kidding. I almost couldn’t believe it myself. But the onions were there, finished. And soooo delicious.

A few notes: my #1 onion onion of choice will always be the sweet Vidalia. However, I do enjoy red onions too and when caramelized they take on their own sharp sweetness that goes great with pizza and sandwiches. White onions…meh. I’m not a fan of their peppery bite, but if that’s what floats your boat, have at it Charlie. I’ve also included an option in the recipe for those that prefer a more vinegary acidic flavor to their onions rather than sweetness. Either way, you’re going to be happy with these results. I guarantee it.

Happy Fiesta Friday #144, co-hosted this week by Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen.

Foolproof Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 large sweet yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • About 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons of light brown sugar OR white wine, or balsamic vinegar (This really just depends on whether you want your onions sweet or acidic. It’s up to you.)

 

Directions

Spray the bottom of a 4-5 quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

Spread the onions into the slow cooker. Drizzle in the vegetable oil in between them as you layer them.

Sprinkle with an even layer of salt and pepper.

Stir together to make sure they’re all evenly coated.

Cover and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours. Towards the 8 or 10th hour, remove the lid and stir the onions. Sprinkle the brown sugar (or wine, or vinegar) evenly over them and re-cover, leaving the lid slightly cracked. Let cook for 1-2 more hours, until they’ve reached the dark color/caramelization you prefer.

Serve on sandwiches, salads, soups, etc.

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

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Remember my post last year for when I made Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, where I mentioned that I bought myself a Ninja Blender?

Well, my Ninja went to Ninja Blender Heaven guys. At least, the pitcher and the lid did. Fortunately the actual base/machine part is fine.

Yeah, there’s a story to this one too.

We had ourselves a regular homicide here. Murder in the first degree…. by a dish washer.

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Before you guys call me an idiot, in my defense let me just say that I’d always been able to wash the pitcher and lid of my Ninja in our previous dish washer without any issues whatsoever. I wouldn’t say that they’re made of plastic, it felt much thicker than that and not the kind of thing that would easily melt or be destroyed in a dish washer.

But  the dish washer in our new place is much newer than the old one and I guess that means that they get a LOT more hotter.

You can tell where this story is going. I washed the pitcher and the lid in the dish washer and when I opened the door to take them out and put them away, I saw the ridge of the pitcher and the grooves of the lid had been melted so that they were…wavy.  Also, unusable.

I wasn’t a very happy camper.

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The good thing about these kinds of appliances is that it’s actually possible to purchase separate pieces of the whole thing. I went on the Ninja website and it turns out another pitcher won’t put be back anymore than about 40-50 bucks (plus shipping). This was significantly less than what I paid for the machine as a whole, so that was a huge relief to me.

Still, it didn’t solve a new problem that I had. I wanted to make scratch sweet potatoes and for the particular recipe I wanted to use, I had planned on using my blender. Yet another setback. But as with my Chicken and Biscuits snafu, I just diverted to plan B and decided to use my hand mixer. The potatoes probably wouldn’t be quite as smooth as they could be if they’d been pureed in a Ninja, but whatevs. Personally, I’m fine with a few lumps in my spuds.

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Okay, so I know this one may sound….weird.

Vanilla bean with sweet potato; at the least it sounds like something you’d eat with dessert, right?

Except, no. It isn’t really. I was even somewhat surprised myself at how well the vanilla works with the sparse other seasonings here to make this really work well for a savory side dish. There IS an obvious sweetness, but there’s still a pretty good balance with the salt, pepper and onion powder. This dish was RIDICULOUSLY easy to do, it just required a little bit more time for me to get the sweet potatoes to the consistency I wanted them at using my hand mixer. If you guys have a heavy duty blender like a Ninja or a food processor, I’d definitely recommend using it in lieu of the hand mixer if for nothing else, to be able to spar the strain on your wrists.

But regardless of whatever way you prepare them, I think you’ll like how these turn out.

Happy Fiesta Friday #105 where I’ll be linking this post up to. The party this week is co-hosted by Lily @ Little Sweet Baker andJulianna @ Foodie On Board.

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Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes


Recipe Adapted from Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 4 pounds medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • Onion powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. Poke the sweet potatoes several times with a fork and bake for about 35 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly, then peel and transfer them to a standing mixer or to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream with the butter and the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla bean.

With the stand mixer (or hand held mixer) running, carefully pour the vanilla cream into the sweet potatoes and beat with the paddle attachment (or the beaters on the handheld mixer) until smooth. Season the sweet potatoes with onion powder, salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

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There’s an outlet store just down the street from where I live that is really, really dangerous for me to go to.

Number one, it’s an outlet store, so that means that everything there is super marked down in price. The danger for me lies in the fact that they have a pretty large cook book section- and the cook books are actually REALLY nice, quality ones. I’ve walked out of there with cook books two or three inches thick FILLED with delicious recipes that I’ve gotten for under $10.00. It really is a good deal. It IS.

As much as I try to come up with new and original recipes for the blog, often I find myself suffering from ‘foodie guilt’ because of all the pre-written recipes I have sitting around in my embarrassingly large cookbook collection, as well as all the numerous binders I have of recipes I’ve cut out of food magazines and printed from offline.

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Here’s the thing: when I’m BUYING the cookbook or printing off the recipe, I will SWEAR to myself that I’m going to use it all the time, that I’m actually going to work through the entire book or cook the particular recipe every week. And when I catch myself not exactly following through with that I’ll go through a period where I’ll be gung-ho about trying to test out all of the recipes I’ve saved from the internet or bookmarked in my cookbooks.

Y’know, just to convince myself that I wasn’t wasting my money or printer ink- both of which I really can’t afford to waste like that.

The process usually boils down to me either first seeing what I have ahead of time in the house, or what’s on sale this week at the grocery store, then matching it against what I’ve bookmarked in the cookbooks or online.

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A week or so ago, I knew that I needed to put together a new recipe for the blog, but I was also having a bout of ‘foodie guilt’ and didn’t feel like trying to become inspired enough to write a new recipe. As it happens, I was also thumbing through one of my recipe binders when I came across a cut out from Better Home and Gardens magazine that caught my attention.

For some reason, I always seem to have one or two sweet potatoes on hand in the house. (‘Some reason’ really just meaning that I love them and would be really pissed off if I had a craving for one and suddenly couldn’t have any because we were out). But it worked out pretty well for that day because the recipe that I came across was for something called Sweet Potato Spoon Bread.

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Spoon bread is a dish that is pretty popular in Southern-style cooking, but interestingly enough, I’d never tried it before. I wasn’t even completely sure what it was or what it would taste like until I looked through the ingredients list and directions for this recipe. I had a day off work, and all the ingredients in the house and it did look pretty yummy in the magazine so I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot for myself.

I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only person who’s not all that familiar with spoon bread, so just in case the pictures aren’t doing enough for you guys, I can go ahead and give you a rundown of what it tastes like.

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It’s probably pretty obvious, but this isn’t really bread in the sense that we would think of dough-like carbs, per se. I would actually describe spoon bread as a kind of savory style casserole-pudding. The eggs and egg whites give it a very fluffy, smooth texture and while it’s heavier than a souffle, it’s lighter than any kind of bread. Having said that, this recipe came out very well. The sweet potato flavor really comes through and is complimented nicely with the thyme. I especially liked the inclusion of cornmeal in this recipe, just to give it enough texture so the dish wasn’t too one-note. I topped this with homemade cranberry sauce and ate it as a side dish for dinner, but I could also see melted cheese working VERY well also.

See? My Foodie Guilt does yield good results after all.

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Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

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Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter (1/4 stick, melted)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely ground white or yellow cornmeal
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease 2-quart soufflé or casserole with 1 tbsp. butter.

2. Wrap potatoes with foil. Bake 45-55 minutes, until soft to the touch. Remove from oven. Discard foil; cool. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard peels. In large bowl, smash potatoes.

3. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F. In a large saucepan bring milk, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper to a boil over medium heat. In slow steady stream, whisk cornmeal into milk mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes until mixture is thick and pulls away from bottom of pan. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Add potatoes, egg yolks, remaining 3 tbsp. butter and baking powder to milk mixture; stir to thoroughly mix.

4. In large mixing bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold whites into the potato mixture.

5. Spoon batter in a prepared dish. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Edges will be firm and the center a little soft. Remove from oven.

6. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Yangzhou Fried Rice

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So, I have this soft spot.

It’s pretty frequent that whenever I’m in a shopping center or a private small business or restaurant and I see that the workers/owners aren’t getting much business, I feel really bad and sympathetic towards them. Yes, even if they’re those people that set up the stands in the mall and try to accost you while you’re walking just to test/buy their product. I know that the retail/food industry business is cutthroat and very competitive. I know that it’s not my fault if they have slow business. I know that I’m not obligated to buy anything- and to be honest, I usually don’t. But it doesn’t keep me from empathizing with them either. They have to make a living like everyone else, and their ability to do so or not depends on whether or not they can convince complete strangers to open their wallets. It’s a real sticky, precarious situation when you think about it.

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Why am I even talking about this? Well, when I was putting together this dish and this post, it made me think of this Asian restaurant that used to be in the food court of the local mall when I was still in grade school, years ago. I won’t say the name of the place, but it was independently owned by this couple that looked like they were in their mid-to upper 50’s. Every time I went to the mall, it just never seemed like anyone was buying anything from this place. The man and his wife would come in and out of the kitchen in the back, filling and emptying the dishes they had available, all the while looking at the passing shoppers as if wishing just a few of them to stop and buy something- anything- from their restaurant. If I can be completely honest, I’ll just go ahead and admit that there was a good reason that this place didn’t get much business. All of the ‘standard fare’ that you’d see in an American Chinese restaurant was on their menu, but the sad reality was that it wasn’t really well seasoned. Like, at all. Their recipes needed serious work.

I can still remember how sorry I felt for them, even as a little girl. And I wished I could’ve been able to tell that I really felt like they would’ve gotten more business if they changed up how they made their fried rice.

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It’s just my personal opinion, but I do think that a good Chinese restaurant starts with how they make their fried rice. In my experience, if they make excellent fried rice, then chances are the rest of the menu is pretty spot on too. Because let me just say up front one thing that I’ve learned: all fried rice is NOT created equal. I’ve had some really good fried rice over the years, and then I’ve had some that was frankly, pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I decided to make some for myself that I realized how easy it is for fried rice to go wrong. And to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants I’ve been to that make fried rice that taste even better than this recipe. But nobody’s perfect, and I do have to say that I’m pleased with how it came out for my first time….er, maybe my second. Technically.

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See, technically my first attempt didn’t turn out so well. I maaaaaaay have ruined the first batch of Jasmine rice that I made. The rice is supposed to be one day old, so I made the Jasmine rice the night before I wanted to make the fried rice. It was really late at night and I was in a hurry to get to bed, so long story short, I don’t think I let it cook long enough. There was too much moisture still in the rice by the next day so the grains stuck together. Have you ever tried to ‘stir-fry’ gummy rice? It doesn’t work very well. And turns out, it tastes pretty bad too.

As rotten luck would have it, that was all the fresh Jasmine rice I had. All that was left in my pantry was Minute rice that you steam in water in the microwave. So I was forced to call in the cavalry on this one, folks. It’s still rice, it just didn’t need that long to cook. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, it turned out into a pretty yummy dish. And now, you guys know that this dish can me made with Minute Rice and still turn out pretty awesome. It’s all apart of Cooking is My Sport Quality Control, I swear.

I’ll be bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #39, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @Birgerbird, See you there!

 

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Yangzhou Fried Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Ching-He Hunag

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 ounces cooked Chinese pork (char siu) or ham, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, a day old
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal, for garnish

Directions

1. For the fried rice: Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Add the eggs and scramble, then set aside on a plate.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for less than 1 minute. Then add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

3. Add the pork, and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and cooked rice and toss together. Add the cooked egg back into the wok.

4. Season the mixture with the light soy sauce, salt and pepper. At the very end add the sesame oil, if using. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.