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

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Skinny Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Chilly weather, falling leaves, a steaming bowl of comforting soup.

This is a soup you can feel good about. It is rich and full of flavor from homemade chicken stock, not from heavy cream or cheese that can weigh down so many other chicken and rice soups.

Pair with a hunk of country sourdough bread.

Heaven.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making your own chicken stock. It is easy, honestly. Just follow these simple instructions, and you will be so happy you did- the homemade stock is so much richer, darker and flavorful than store bought! Your soups will start tasting even more amazing. 🙂

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock (see below)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (or 2 tsp granules)
  • 1 cup turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  • 3 cups roasted chicken (see below)
  • optional: bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste

Combine the stock, turnips, carrots and celery in a large pot. Boil the water and dissolve the bullion cube in it, add to the pot. Simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rice- I used 1/2 cup dry wild rice and cooked it in water, salt and butter. During last 10 minutes, add in the chicken. Just before serving the soup, stir in the cooked wild rice.

Homemade Chicken Stock (yield 4 cups)

  • 1 large leek, washed
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large celery stalks
  • 8 cups water
  • Sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
  • One 5-6 lb roasting chicken (yield 3-4 cups)

To make stock, you need bones. I like to roast a chicken in the oven and use the roasted meat in the soup and the leftover bones to make stock. Prepare a 5 or 6 lb roaster chicken by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with rosemary and thyme. Roast at 400° for 25 minutes, then reduce temp to 350° for another 30 minutes, total time depends on weight of the chicken. When finished, let cool to the touch, then thoroughly pull all roasted meat off the bones. Set aside for the soup.

Strip any excess skin or large hunks of fat from the carcass and place into a large stockpot, along with the carrots, leek and celery. Pour in 8 cups of water. The chicken and veggies should be mostly covered, add in some more water if they are not.  Set a lid askew onto the stockpot and turn the heat to medium-low. When the water begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Cook for 5 hours at this temperature; the bubbling should be very slight, like 1 or 2 bubbles per minute. It will look like it isn’t cooking at the super-slow bubble, but it is.

DO NOT BOIL OR SIMMER.  Doing this will ruin the stock by incorporating the fat, resulting in cloudy greasy broth. When finished, pour the stock through a cheesecloth into airtight containers and refrigerate overnight. The fat will rise to the top; skim off with a spoon or by gently laying a paper towel over the top surface.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: Do you have any tips on how to make good meat or vegetable stock?

Ultra Creamy Mac ‘n’ Cheese

What is better than a piping hot bowl of uber creamy shells and cheese?

I don’t know, maybe this:

Oberon on a sunny day is hard to beat

 

Ok but really, 😉 I know you want more mac ‘n’ cheese goodness so here we go.

This past weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday. It was a bit early because he will be on a temporary assignment abroad for the actual day. 😦 So to make this ‘early’ birthday special I wanted to make one of his favorite dinners and I knew this dish would make him happy.  This recipe is really easy, customizable and done on the stove top, so you don’t have any excuses not to try it for your next special occasion!

 

Choose your favorite pasta

 

Season the cheesy sauce well (fresh ground pepper!)

 

Combine the pasta and cheese and you are ready to eat. Seriously. Straight from the stove top to your mouth bowl. 🙂

Get in ma' BELLAY

This is so smooth and creamy and rich, it is AMAZING.

 

If you want, I couldn’t resist, sprinkle some extra cheese on top and throw in the oven to make the top bubbly and browned.

Hot and bubbly!

Please, try this recipe.  There is cheese out there in this world waiting to be eaten!

 

Ultra Creamy Stove Top Mac ‘n’ Cheese

  • 4 cups dried pasta (I used shells)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used Lactaid and it worked well)
  • 26 ounces shredded cheese* (I used colby jack)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 heaping tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper at minimum
  • Optional: Use whatever spices you like, chili powder could be good


Cook pasta according to package instructions, but reduce cooking time by about 2 minutes. You want the pasta to have some bite to it. In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. This will thicken up as you go and form the base of the cheese mixture. Next, pour in your milk and add the spices, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens more.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Temper the eggs by slowly stirring in a 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Whisk the warmed eggs into the milk mixture until combined.

Now start adding in the cheese, whisking constantly until the cheese is incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Contain your excitement, you’re almost done :-).  Toss the pasta with the cheese sauce, serve and devour.  OR- you can sprinkle some extra cheese on top and bake for 20 min in a 350 oven to get a yummy, bubbly brown top.

*Note, buy a 1 pound block of cheese (32 oz.) and leave off about 1/3 of it. Or use all of it, I won’t judge. 😉

Enjoy!

-Erin

Semi- Homemade Ravioli Dinner

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  You walk in the front door and hear:

“Hey (insert name of choice, wife/mom/you) what’s for dinner?”

Gosh, let me at least set down my bag.

 

Enter, the semi-homemade dinner: Ravioli with Parmesan  Cauliflower

Roast some cauliflower dressed with olive oil, parmesan cheese and ground pepper. Mmmm, fresh veggies!

Then toss with fresh ravioli and a healthy spoonful of basil-liscious pesto for the sauce.

Done. In less than 15 minutes.

Maybe right now you’re wondering why that picutre is so small. Well, pesto doesn’t look awesome when photographed (by me) up close. Let’s leave it at that.

Ravioli with Parmesan  Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower, about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1  9 ounce package of fresh ravioli (I buy one that cooks in 4 minutes)
  • ground pepper
  • parmesan cheese (from the green can of course)
  • 2 tbl pesto
  • olive oil

Heat oven to 400. Cut up the cauliflower into manageable pieces and then spread onto a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil to decently coat the cauliflower and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and ground pepper. Toss it well so the cauliflower is coated, roast in oven for about 15 min. Stir halfway through.  The cauliflower will get some nice crispy spots if you do this, yum. 

Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to package directions and return to pot when finished.  Stir in the pesto. When the cauliflower is done, gently fold it in with the ravioli. Enjoy!

– Erin

P.S. I’d like to send some love out to Sandra Lee, the semi-homemade pioneer,  right now.  Check her out at http://www.semihomemade.com/