Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sweet Potato Praline

Gawd I wish I had taken an pic of this one so you could see it in all its glory...but feasting was more important on Thanksgiving rather than documenting what we were eating.

The basic recipe came from my cousin Andrea and I updated it with a few twists. Subtle spicing was added with just a little heat coming from the fresh ginger as well. A home run with even the "I hate sweet potato" crowd. I love the crunchy nutty topping contrasting against the soft custardy sweet potato in each bite.

And, I do know there is a difference between "Yams" and "Sweet Potato". The two really aren't interchangeable and you need to make certain you are getting Sweet Potatoes for this one as a yam just won't cut it. The only added sweetness to this is the praline topping which totally rocks.

Sweet Potato Praline

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed (about 4 cups).
  • 1/4 c cream
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 t salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 2 t fresh grated ginger
  • Praline topping:
  • 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 c dark corn syrup
  • Heaping 1/2 c chopped pecans

Beat together sweet potatoes, cream, egg, salt, pepper and spices. Spoon into well buttered shallow baking dish (2-3 quart size). Spread out mixture until even with back of spoon.

In small sauce pan over low heat add corn syrup, brown sugar and butter. Stir constantly until butter has melted and brown sugar has dissolved. Do not boil. Pour evenly over sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle nuts over the praline topping.

Bake in 350F oven until set, about 40-50 minutes. Topping will be soft when taken out of oven but will harden as it cools.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Harvest Bread

Jack-o-cide: the annihilation of ones jack-o-lantern for the sake of baking and cooking. Every year I commit that heinous crime and love the end results for months afterwards by pureeing then canning the resulting glorious orange pulp. No fava bean jokes...please.

This recipe came about as I love pumpkin bread, but have tired over the basic stuff. The addition of cranberry's add a tart tang. The dried blueberry add a nice sweet chew and added texture contrast to the walnuts. Its all the best of fall in one pumpkin bread, how can anyone go wrong with that I ask.

This recipe makes 3 healthy sized loaves. You can either give one as a gift to a deserving neighbor, pass along as holiday gifts or even freeze ahead for the days you crave a little pumpkin bread. No matter what you do with the extra its all good.

Pumpkin Harvest Bread
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 c pumpkin puree
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t allspice
  • 2 c fresh or frozen cranberry
  • 1 c dried blueberry
  • 1 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F

Sift together flour, soda and powder. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl add pumpkin, oil, milk, eggs, sugar and spices and mix well. Slowly incorporate flour until just mixed. (Over mixing causes the bread to night rise as well and have a tough texture). Fold in cranberry, dried blueberry and walnuts.

Spray bread pans with cooking spray. Divide mixture evenly between the bread pans. Bake 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

The one thing I can't stress enough is from trial and error and it involves filling the pans. Over filling you run the risk of the batter rising out of the pan and into the oven. If it doesn't run over by the time you get the center cooked your edges are starting to burn. No more than 2/3 full on a pan if you want good consistent results.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A chill in the air means its Chili Season

This is more of a Midwestern style chili in that it is rich with tomatoes and a tomato sauce. Definitely not Texas style or even Southwestern style. Tasty none the less and perfect for those chili fall evenings when jackets are needed after sunset.

I use both beef broth and bullion paste to really amp up the flavor in this. As such hold of adding salt and pepper into the final product until you've tasted your chili. Nothing worse than over salting so pay heed, commercial broths and bullion could be very salty and any extra could ruin the dish. I used low sodium beef broth from Wolfgang Puck, but any low sodium brand can be used if you can find it.

Coarse ground beef is hard to find. I often resort to grinding my own from the stew meat if I can con the butcher into making some from me.

Black Bean and Chile Chili

  • 2 lbs coarse ground beef

  • 1 large yellow onion

  • 2 T minced garlic

  • 3T Chili powder

  • 2 cans diced tomatoes

  • 1 can tomato sauce1 29 oz can black beans-drained

  • 1 7 oz can ortega fire roasted chile

  • 2 t bullion paste (or two bullion cubes)

  • 2-3 cups water or beef broth
Brown ground beef in batches over high heat to ensure good browning. Add onion to hot pan and saute over medium heat until transparent. Add garlic and stir 1 minute.

Return browned beef to the pan. Add next 6 ingredients and stir well. Add 2 cups of the beef broth (water), add additional water if needed to get a good consistency.

Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I found this recipe for "Cranberry Upside-Down Cake" in Nov 09 Cooking light magazine. It looked good but needed some tweaking as its recipe ingredients were light on flavor too. I added in Cinnamon for that proper Holiday taste and smell. I also added some coarse chopped walnuts to finish off the cake, I mean those two play so well together why not add a little to the cake and make it more festive.

To make up for the added fat calories from the nuts I swapped out nonfat milk for the 1%. Not much of a savings, but every little bit helps. I also noted that this was a cake made with whipped egg whites for part of the fluff so I subbed in cake flour for a softer crumb than the all purpose.

I didn't reinvent the wheel, I just rounded it out. My version....

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 scant cups fresh cranberry
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/3 c coarse chopped walnuts

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c cake flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 cup bakers sugar (also labeled super fine or ultra fine)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 large egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c nonfat milk
  • 1 t vanilla.
  • 1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F

Put butter and brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 1 minute and stir until sugar dissolved. Microwave additional 30-45 seconds until mixture starts to boil. Spray sides of 9 inch cake pan with baking spray. Pour in hot brown sugar mixture, roll pan to coat bottom well. Toss cranberries with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the hot sugar, pat softly until in one even layer. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

For the cake cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add egg yolks one at a time beating well with each addition. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add a third of the flour mixture to the batter and fold in slowly, adding 1/2 of the milk. Add another third of the flour and fold in slowly, adding remaining milk. Add remaining flour and stir until well mixed.

Mix egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar (in copper bowl if you have one for maximum volume). Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Add half of the egg whites to the batter and fold in briskly to incorporate all of the egg white and lighten the batter. Take remaining egg whites and gently fold in by hand until just incorporated.

Spoon batter over the cranberry mixture. Bake on middle rack about 55 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Cranberry Raspberry Conserve

This recipe is inspired by Ina Garten from one she does called Cranberry Fruit conserve. I liked it but saw room to add my own touches. First I like my cranberry to be tart when served with rich foods such as Thanksgiving which is about a week away. That tartness cuts right through the rich sauces and stuff keeping the palette alive. That's a good thing while stuffing your face.

There are a couple of changes among them is the dried fruit used in the conserve. She uses raisins for cripes sakes. Raisins. Those things kindergartners stuff in their noses and who knows what else they do with the creepy little buggers. The only thing worse than a raisin in my book is a cooked one. Everyone knows that grapes are meant to be juiced and turned into wine, right!? Hence the change to dried raspberry.

A secret to jelly making, (jams and conserves too) is a good heavy pan to to avoid hot spots that might scorch your sugary goodness. Using a heavy copper pan pretty much guarantees you will have even and rapid heating. When buying copper get a stainless steel lined one so you don't have to worry about getting it "re-tinned" when a tin lining wears off.
Cranberry Raspberry Conserve
1 (12 ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 orange, juice and grated zest
1 large lemon, juice and grated zest
3/4 cup dried Raspberry
3/4 cup walnuts coarse chopped

Cook the cranberries, sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open. Add the apple, zests and juices and let cook for 15 more minutes. Remove from heat and add the raspberries and nuts. Pour off into jars and seal. Let cool, and serve chilled. It will store safely in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Microwave Apple Crisp

First off, sorry for the craptastic photo, the oven mitt is really deep red and the crisp had a rich dark brown topping. When all is said and done with two colors of light in the room it through off the trusty old cell cam and gave me this image. Bummer, as the cobbler was sooooo freakin' good it was devoured before I could do a reshoot with a better camera.

This dessert goes back to the days as an early apt dweller in The Valley when our apt had marginal air conditioning, with none in the kitchen. There is a always a sweet tooth to be satiated and there are times where good old comfort foods like a fruit crisp are the only thing that will do the trick. When its 100+ one does not turn on an oven in an already uncomfortable kitchen. What to do...turn old oven based recipes into one that works in a microwave. This recipe did just the trick. Very simple and it is based on a 1200 watt microwave so you will need adjust times to suit your machine.

With apple crisps (pies and cobbles too) I like to use a couple of different apples. Its all about the textural differences and the juice for the sauce. Some apples hold their shape well with a nice crunch but yield little juice. Others release a lot of juice but wither down to mush. A mix of apples gets you the best of both worlds. For this reason I used a mix of Red Delicious and Gala apples.

Microwave Apple Crisp

  • 6 cups (approximately 6 medium apples) sliced
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 2 t cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 c butter - room temp
  • 1/2 t salt

Place apples in an 8" X 8" microwave safe baking dish. Add lemon juice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss. Microwave 4 minutes until tender crisp.

Combine remaining ingredients. Mix well. Sprinkle evenly over warm fruit mixture. Microwave on high 9-12 minutes until apples and topping are bubbly. Let set for 10 minutes, serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream topping.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ham and Cheese Roll Ups

Last night an hour before a Halloween Party the better half gave me a "by the way I told Shane you'd bring a hot appetizer". An HOUR before the party and they were counting on me to whip up something out of thin air.

Clock ticking I figured out quick what I'd need for these Ham and Cheese Roll Ups. Stupid easy to do and tasty too. What I didn't have on hand was the pastry dough and resorted to my favorite old stand by....crescent rolls in a can to get things done fast.

Ham and Cheese Roll Ups

  • Good Dijon Mustard
  • 2 cans Crescent Rolls
  • 4 slices smoked ham, Black Forest if you have it
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese.

Open the cans and unroll the crescent rolls. Cut each in half. Brush with Dijon mustard. Quarter each slice of ham and Swiss cheese. Place a piece of ham on top of the pastry dough, add a slice of cheese. Starting with the fat end of the pastry roll up croissant style and place on a a parchment paper lined baking sheet. (Will make a total of 32 appetizers).

Bake in 375 oven 11-13 minutes until golden brown and the cheese is all melted. Serve warm.
All prepped up and ready for the rolling.