Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have more vitamin A, beta carotene and fiber than regular white potatoes.  Also, my Grandma used to serve them for her and Grandpa, who had diabetes, because it doesn’t spike blood sugar as intensely as a starchy white potato.

This was tonight’s dinner. Yum. My favorite veg, mixed with my favorite starch mixed with my favorite pork product, topped with cheese. What is not to like?

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

I was feeling pretty happy, thinking how this looks so pretty with all the colors, and I’m so excited to eat it– and then I realized, I wanted to take a picture.

I haven’t been interested in taking pics lately, or even blogging. Not sure why. Food has been thrown together. I haven’t been feeling inspired to bake.

The one time two weeks ago I made peanut butter brownies with a pretzel crust, the light was so bad and nothing looked pretty on camera I just got pissed off and gave up.

So I grabbed my camera and got ready for taking pics of my sweet dinner. But then, the negative voice. It creeped in. It said nobody cares about a dumb pseudo recipe for loaded sweet potatoes. Stop!

Well, I hesitated but decided to capitalize on my moment of inspiration and take the pictures anyways.  Screw you negative voice.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

I’m glad I did. They look fine. It was easy. I was inspired to write this post. And now, after a month away from blogging, I’m back and it doesn’t feel weird. For those of you reading, thanks. I did miss you.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 pieces bacon
  • 1 small broccoli crown
  • handful of shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and prick the sweet potatoes all over and then bake for 1 hour. During last 20 minutes of baking, cut the broccoli into small florets and steam for 12 minutes. Cook the bacon until crispy, drain, and chop into pieces. Set aside. When the potatoes are done, remove from oven and slice down the middle, squeeze both ends to pop it open. Stuff the cooked broccoli inside, top with cheese and bacon. Return to the oven for 3 minutes or so, until cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Twice Baked Potatoes

Urgh. I know it is too hot to turn the oven on to make these (in the DC area anyway), but I’ve been needing to post this since Easter, so this is happening people!

Twice Baked Potatoes

These are tasty, the sour cream makes the inner pocket of mashed potato creamy and tangy. The cheese on top is gooey and makes these look homey and inviting.

Twice Baked Potatoes

These are a perfect side dish for a special occasion, or, make a main course out of them by piling steamed veggies on top. Plus, you can make these ahead and keep in the fridge so you can socialize with guests or have a ready-to-go weeknight meal.

Baffled by how to make these without ruining the skins? Don’t get overexcited trying to scoop out all the inner potato flesh. Leaving some potato inside helps maintain the structural integrity of the potato skin. I know, it almost feels like a challenge to see just how much you can get out to turn into the delightful filling– but all it takes is one aggressive scoop with a spoon and you’ve taken a chunk out of the skin.

Structurally Sound!

Structurally Sound!

Not being too aggressive is also important during the stuffing phase. Forcing to much filling in can split the skin, just pile some extra on top like I did!

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 8 medium baking potatoes
  • 2 cups shredded colby jack cheese plus more for topping
  • 1  tbl Old Bay seasoning, plus more for topping (taste as you go, add more if you like)*
  • 1 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt if you want to ‘healthy’ it up, but taste will be altered)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2/3 c milk (give or take depending on thickness of mixture)

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash the potatoes and prick with a fork. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake until easily poked with a knife, about 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool so potatoes are easier to handle.  If you get impatient, fold a couple paper towels together and use that to hold the potatoes.

Meanwhile, dice the onion and cook just until tender and slightly translucent in the 1 stick butter. Save and set aside. Once cooled enough, cut a medium-sized diamond shape out of the top of the potato skin, peel off, revealing a hole large enough to fit a small spoon into. Start scooping out the potato flesh into a large bowl, reserving the whole skins for later.

Once you’ve cleaned out the potatoes, pour the onions and butter, milk, sour cream, and cheese into the bowl and mix well with electric beaters to get the chunks out and render the mixture smooth. Add in the Old Bay and some salt and pepper to taste. Stir to incorporate.

Now, stuff the mixture back into the potato skins. You may have some leftover, just pile it on top of the potatoes or eat it!! Top each potato with a sprinkle of Old Bay and more cheese.

If baking immediately: Preheat oven to 350° and bake the potatoes on a lined baking sheet for 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and potatoes are hot.

If baking the next day: Place the potatoes onto a lined baking sheet and wrap tightly all over with cling wrap. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking to allow potatoes to come to room temperature. Bake in 350° oven for 25-30 minutes until cheese melts and potatoes are hot.

*Note: if you are refrigerating these overnight, the taste of the Old Bay will intensify over time and you don’t need as much.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Muchi Curry-Spiced Chickpeas

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Hi dear readers. I moved! Yes, three weeks ago I moved to a new apartment ( I should specify the husband came too), and we really like the new place. The space is smaller overall, but more useful, if that makes sense? It currently smells like curry… nom nom.

I’ve been thinking about healthy DIY snack foods lately. We really like Trader Joe’s crunchy wasabi peas for a snack, but it is so easy to blow through a whole bag and they are really salty. Making my own crunchy snackypoos allows the sodium usage to be much reduced, happily.

Curry Spiced Chickpeas

Curry Spiced Chickpeas

These little chickpeas are toasty from being oven roasted, spiced with muchi curry and have the addictive crunch many of us look for in a snack food. These are really easy too, it is three ingredients: 1 can chickpeas, oil and spices.

Curry Spiced Chickpea Snack

Ta-Da! A snack you can feel good about. 🙂 In order to get these nice and crunchy, please be sure to wash and dry the chickpeas well. Rub them with a folded paper towel to help release the skins (pick these out) and remove extra moisture. See below.

IMG_3678

Once the surface moisture is removed, you’ve won half the battle. The oven needs to be really hot for the first part of the roasting, then you’ll turn it down and continue to roast for over an hour to get out the remaining moisture so these stay crunchy after they’ve cooled.

It does take some time, but it isn’t active time, you can watch TV, clean the house or unpack moving boxes while the oven works its magic!

Curry-Spiced Chickpeas (serves two)

  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil*
  • 1/2 heaping tsp muchi curry (this is a savory based powder, heavy on cumin and fenugreek)
  • 1/4 heaping tsp cajun seasoning (I used McCormick)
  • Sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°.  Drain and wash the chickpeas. Lay out onto a paper towel to drain, and rub with another paper towel. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to dry off. Remove the transparent skins that come loose from some of the chickpeas.

In a small bowl, combine the chickpeas, oil, spices and salt. Toss gently to coat.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminium foil and spread the chickpeas out in a single layer. This is important, these must be in a single layer in order to toast properly. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. The  chickpeas should become very fragrant, but not smell like burning!  Next, turn the heat down to 350° and continue to roast for 20 more minutes, stirring often. Turn off the oven, but leave the chickpeas in for another hour while the oven cools down.

Remove and serve warm, or let cool before storing in an airtight container to nosh on later.

*Note: Don’t use olive oil, it doesn’t have a high smoke point and will start burning to soon, these chickpeas need to cook for a long time to get all the moisture out. Vegetable oil has a much higher smoke point and it will not impact taste.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Smoky Chili Popovers

Smoky Chili Popovers

My dear friend’s fiance suggested I make some popovers and enter them into his restaurant’s — BLT Steak— popover competition. Since I’ve had some good luck with food competition, see here and here, I jumped at the chance.

Smoky Chili Popovers

Nom nom nom, this was the first time I’ve made popovers and I wonder where these have been all my life. Why you ask? As my mother-in-law would day, she’s “never met a carb she didn’t like”, and I subscribe to that philosophy. So I love these chewy, crunchy, eggy little puffins, natch.

Smokey Chili Popovers

These popovers are super flavorful with roasted green chilies, sweet corn and Monterrey Jack cheese… think the ‘Southwest’ flavor category.  Serve these steaming hot from the oven with some butter sweetened with honey. Melt. 🙂

Smoky Chili Popovers

Smoky Chili Popovers

Thanks to Putney Farm for providing the base for this recipe!  Those folks are baking (and cocktail) experts, please check them out!

Smoky Chili and Sweet Corn Popovers (makes 8)

  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Nearly 2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 4-5 small green chilies, roasted, peeled, de-seeded and chopped (I used jalapeno and a mystery green pepper)
  • 1 small can sweet corn

Preheat oven to 350°. Put your popover pan in the oven at this time to also preheat. Warm the milk over low heat. Don’t boil!!! Beat eggs with a whisk until frothy in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combined the flour and salt.  Remove the milk from low heat and whisk vigorously, slowly adding in the eggs. Be mindful here, if it is too hot the eggs will scramble.  Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the egg/milk mixture. Don’t over mix, just do it until combined, it can be slightly lumpy.

Remove the popover pan from the oven and grease the cups with Crisco. Pour batter into each cup, about 3/4th’s full. Put 1 tsp sweet corn and 1 tsp chopped chilies into each cup. Top with a large pinch of shredded cheese. Bake 50-55 minutes. Don’t open the oven door, just use the oven light to monitor progress.  When the popovers are totally puffed on top and turning golden brown, you know you’ve done it right!

Remove from the oven and quickly take each popover out of the cup. It will start to fall, don’t worry.  Serve warm, with butter. Yum.

How to roast peppers: see this post. Here are some pictures to help guide you. Try to really blister and blacken the skin to get maximum smoky flavor.

IMG_3656

After

Roasted chilies

Before (mystery peppers are the larger, lighter ones)

Winter Squash with Sugar-Toasted Almonds

It has been sooo freezing across the Midwest and East Coast recently. I was suddenly in the mood for something cozy and comforting in a way I haven’t been since pre-holidays so I grabbed a petite acorn squash from the grocery store last week.

Acorn squash is a favorite of mine since childhood; my mom would roast it and serve with brown sugar on top, which melted and flowed like a caramel river off the sides of a heaping helping of mashed squash.

This time, I scooped the flesh out of the roasted squash halves and mixed in some honey, clove, cinnamon and egg to make a souffle-casserole mash-up.

Winter Squash with Sugar Toasted Almonds

Bake it for 30 minutes and top with sugar toasted almonds and dried cranberries.

Crunchy, nutty, sweet and addictive! Awesome on salads too.

Crunchy, nutty, sweet and addictive! Awesome on salads too.

Yum, perfect as a side dish.

Winter Squash with Sugar Toasted Almonds

Or a very large bowl as a main dish if you are me :-).

Winter Squash with Sugar Toasted Almonds

  • one medium-small acorn squash
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon plus extra for dusting
  • 2-3 tbl honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 heaping tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 heaping tbl white sugar
  • handle of dried unsweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cut acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and lightly dust with cloves and cinnamon. Place cut side up in a large baking dish with a little water in the bottom, cover with a lid or tinfoil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes until squash is fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly until you can handle the halves.  Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Scoop out the roasted flesh into a medium bowl. Mash and mix well with a fork. Mix in the 1/4 tsp cloves and cinnamon, 2 to 3 tbl honey, and Greek yogurt (this makes it a wee-bit more creamy). If needed, temper the egg with some squash before fully mixing in. Mix well and then scoop into a 1 quart baking dish. Cover and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The casserole will crack a bit on top and not be jiggly in the center when finished.

For the almonds: Place the almonds and white sugar in a small pan over medium heat. The sugar will begin to melt and coat the almonds. Stir frequently and watch out, it can scorch easily.  Once sugar is melted and the almonds coated, spread out onto a sheet of parchment paper to cool.

Sprinkle the almonds and cranberries over top of the casserole and serve.

Enjoy!

– Erin

The Wonder of Natural Honeycomb

In November I went to visit my family in Michigan and we went to one of my most favorite destinations: the Dexter Cider Mill.

We’ve been going here forever and hands down it is the best cider you will ever have because it is not pasteurized and the apples are pressed in a traditional fashion between layers of wooden boards to squeeze out the juices.

While I was wrapped in the warm blanket of nostalgia, sipping my cider and feeling completely contented to be reliving a childhood memory, several stacks of natural honeycomb caught my eye.

Natural Honeycomb

Be still my heart! If this was Spinal Tap, the nostalgia just got kicked up to an 11.

My mom would pick this up at the farmers market and cut off dripping hunks of golden goodness my brothers and I would chew with delight. You spit out the wax when you are done, sort of like those wax soda bottles with the sweet liquid inside, remember?

Natural honey tastes so much better than what you buy at the store, it is sweeter and thicker and just…better.  Some even believe it has natural antibiotic properties.

Now that I’m an adult, I chose to serve this honeycomb in a more mature fashion you could say.

Served with a drizzle of honey from the comb

Served with a drizzle of honey from the comb

A plate of sharp cheeses, like creamy parmesan and goat, alongside fresh figs and assorted charcuterie are an absolutely elegant way to use honeycomb.

Of course, I just chewed a piece for old times sake, and it was as good as I remember. 🙂

Enjoy!

– Erin

Rosemary and Pink Salt Sweet Potato Fries

My husband came up with the idea of doing brown sugar sweet potato fries. This sounded awesome, and it was even awesomer that he was thinking about dinner.

I wanted a savory variety to pair with the sweet fries, so I sprinkled dried rosemary and Trader Joe’s Pink Himalayan Salt onto some of the potato wedges. Yummy, when the fries bake in the oven the rosemary becomes so fragrant and delightful!

Brown sugar fries on the plate, rosemary and pink salt fries in the paper

This was a fun way to eat one of the season’s most plentiful root vegetable. Since these were cooked in the oven and not fried, I feel like they are a healthier way to eat fries so you don’t have to feel guilty about them.

So which flavor was the best? Honestly, the few fries that got a mix of both the  brown sugar and rosemary were by far the best! Hum, so what does that tell you; two heads are better than one? 🙂

Brown Sugar or Rosemary and Pink Salt Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 very large sweet potatoes or yams
  • 3 tbl brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbl dried rosemary, to taste
  • coarse salt, such as Pink Himalayan
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°. Line two baking sheets with tinfoil. Peel the potatoes and slice into wedges, about 1/2 inch wide (not to thick or they won’t cook evenly).  Spread the fries in a single layer on both baking sheets. Do no pile them onto each other or they won’t crisp up properly.

Drizzle the potatoes generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Then sprinkle salt over the potatoes, toss to coat. Sprinkle the rosemary over one tray of potatoes and sprinkle the brown sugar over the other tray (or combine!). Toss to coat. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and flip all fries. This ensures the fries can get crispy on both sides. Bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Homemade Applesauce

Even though the summer garden bounty is gone, and mostly (hopefully)  put up, there are plenty of apples to preserve. I highly recommend using a combo of Stayman, Winesap and Granny Smith apples for sauce because they are sweet and tart at the same time with firm flesh that breaks down beautifully while cooking.

On left, chunky-cinnamon applesauce; on right, smooth applesauce

If you want to preserve this in jars, you can. However, you can also just freeze the applesauce in quart containers. Pull it out when you want to use it and let it thaw in the fridge.

I love heating the chunky-cinnamon applesauce up and eating it warm, it’s so comforting. 🙂 Or, you can use it in place of oil in baking to add more healthful flavor to cakes and muffins, like I did here.

This recipe is forgiving; if you are planning on freezing versus canning it, you can adjust the amounts of apples, sugar and spices to suit your taste. If you can the sauce, I suggest sticking more closely to the recipe- for safety purposes. I made two types of applesauce, both of which I canned.

Homemade Applesauce*

  • 8 lbs of peeled, cored and quartered apples

For Chunky-Cinnamon Applesauce:

  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbl fresh squeezed lemon juice

For Smooth Applesauce

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tbl fresh squeezed lemon juice

In an extra large saucepan, combine apples with just enough water to prevent sticking, Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until the apples are tender and have broken down a bit. This time will vary greatly depending on the firmness of your apple.

Remove from heat. Split the apple mixture in half into two separate pots, one pot will be for chunky and one pot will be for smooth. For the smooth batch, puree the apple mixture in a food processor and return to the pan. Stir in the white sugar and the lemon juice. Stirring frequently, bring to a low boil. If canning, fill your jars now.

For the chunky batch, use a potato masher to break down the apple mixture a but, leaving some large apple pieces behind. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Stirring frequently, bring to a low boil. If canning, fill your jars now.

Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool and store.

*Note: This is for a split recipe, half chunky and half smooth. If canning, this will yield about 7 pint jars of applesauce.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Harvest Roasted Potatoes

I’m so excited it is finally fall! This is my favorite season, it has the best sports (football and basketball), the best weather (pull out the sweaters!), the best holidays (Halloween and Christmas, hello?) and the best food (candy corn pumpkins, apple cider donuts, stuffing, sweet potatoes, acorn squash and anything pumpkin ).

Fall also employs some excellent cooking techniques. Cranking up the oven and roasting is ok now that the temperature hovers in the 50’s and 60’s. Or simmering a pot of soup on the stove all afternoon while you watch some Michigan State football :-). These are the things I look forward too.

This recipe officially kicks-off fall cooking for me!

These potatoes are warm, toasty and crispy with flavors of rosemary and sweet apple. My husband and I ate them up for dinner as a side dish to pork. Next time, I want to try tossing them with some roast chicken and greens for a comforting warm salad. Yum!

Harvest Roasted Potatoes

  • 1/2 lb golden fingerling potatoes (about 12-15 small)
  • 2 small apples, roughly quartered
  • 2 thick slices of shallot
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400°. Wash and dry the potatoes and apples. Don’t peel them; roasting brings out a deliciously unique flavor from them, I guarantee you’ll like it! Roughly quarter the apples, the pieces shouldn’t be too small or else they will get mushy while roasting. Break any really large potatoes in two.

On a foil lined baking sheet, spread out the apples, potatoes and the rings of shallot, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Shake the pan back and forth to evenly coat. Sprinkle the rosemary, salt and fresh cracked pepper over the potatoes. Shake the pan again to coat.

Roast at 400° for about 40 minutes. Halfway through cooking, turn the potatoes over with a spatula. This helps then brown evenly all over.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: What is your favorite fall flavor?

A Healthy Answer to A Fat Problem

Lately I’ve been feeling a lot like Tommy Boy singing ‘fat guy in a little coat’- but my tune has been more along the line of ”fat girl in tiny pants’.

My pant’s feel that coat’s pain

Why does this always happen to me, I whine wonder? Everything is fine and then bam, one day my pants don’t fit.

It’s no secret I love food so this should be self explanatory. I go to the gym whenever I’m in the office, but unfortunately I haven’t been in the office regularly since July.

Does that mean I can’t eat like I usually do?! (I have shockingly great analytical skills, don’t I?)

This red wine and balsamic vinegar reduction is a healthy answer to my fat problem. It goes well on anything, I drizzled it over figs and a pan-seared chicken breast.

Red Wine, Honey and Balsamic Reduction

  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • generous 1/4 cup honey (probably almost 1/3)

In a small saucepan combine the three ingredients. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring frequently (it can boil over on you if you don’t watch it!). Cook for about 20 minutes or until mixture has been reduced by over half. It will start to thicken as well.

To test it: dip a wooden spoon into the mixture, pull it out and run a finger along the back of the spoon- the sauce will not run into the area where you ran your finger if it has thickend up.

Set aside in a container for easy pouring (I used a gravy boat) and let cool.  Drizzle away and enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: What do you do when ‘the bulge’ sneaks up on you?