Monday, November 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Tonight we had breakfast for dinner—pancakes, bacon, and fruit. I had some sweet potatoes leftover from Thanksgiving and decided to add them to my basic buttermilk pancake batter along with some chopped pecans. (If you don’t have mashed sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree could be substituted.) The pancakes, served with warm maple syrup, were delicious. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add to flour mixture, stirring just until blended.
2. Scoop batter by 1/4-cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle. When bubbles form on the surface, turn pancakes, and cook until done.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Breakfast From Leftovers

There are few things Andy and I love more than toasted and buttered slices of his mom’s Irish soda bread. This morning we improved on perfection by topping the bread with leftover cranberry-apple relish. Delicious!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Dessert

Dessert was a family affair. I made the now-traditional pumpkin cheesecake. Andy’s sister, Laurie, and her daughter Grace tried their hand at pie. They made lemon meringue and vanilla cream—both were delicious! They are to be further commended because they beat the fillings by hand and the consistency was perfect, as was Laurie’s mile-high meringue. After eating such delicious food, a nap was in order!

Thanksgiving Dinner: Side Dishes

Our side dishes were pretty simple. We had swirled mashed Yukon Gold and mashed sweet potatoes (kudos to my s-i-l Laurie for the fancy food styling), brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberry-apple relish, and white cheddar-chive biscuits. The relish is a new recipe that I made up; it was a nice accompaniment for the pork. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Apple Relish
1 bag cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
Orange juice

1. Combine cranberries and next 3 ingredients in a saucepan. Pour in orange juice to cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces and mixture thickens slightly.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Main Dish

Instead of the traditional turkey, which Andy’s family doesn’t really like, I made a fruit-stuffed pork loin inspired by an Anne Burrell recipe. Sam’s Club has a good price for this cut of meat; the trick it that you have to trim it yourself. The untrimmed pork loin weighed 9 pounds and cost $18. The thinner end of the pork loin is the tenderloin. I cut off that portion into four pieces and froze them for later meals. Once the excess fat was trimmed off, I butterflied it and then pounded it with a meat mallet. (You can skip this step and have a butcher do it for you.) The fruit stuffing contains a combination of apples, dried plums (prunes sound unappealing), and bacon. The trick I learned from the TV chef was to freeze the stuffing in a log shape; this allows even distribution throughout the meat. Yes, this is technique is a little complex, but it’s not hard to pull off. When you get ready to tie the meat, definitely enlist help. Enjoy!

Fruit-Stuffed Pork Loin
3 bacon slices, chopped
1 shallot, minced
3 Granny Smith apples, cut into chunks
3/4 cup dried plums, cut in half
1/2 cup dry sherry
Salt and pepper
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
1 (6-lb.) pork loin, butterflied
Kitchen string
Major Grey chutney
1 (32-oz.) box chicken broth

1. Cook bacon in a skillet until browned; remove from pan. Cook shallot in hot bacon drippings for 1 minute. Stir in apples and dried plums, and cook 10 minutes or until apples are softened. Season with salt and pepper; add in rosemary. Remove pan from heat, and pour in sherry. Return pan to heat, and cook 5 more minutes. Allow apple mixture to cool. Shape mixture into a log, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze overnight.
2. Sprinkle pork loin with salt and pepper on one side. Place apple mixture log in center of pork, and use kitchen string to tie up meat around apple mixture. Place pork, seam side down, in a baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; spoon chutney over pork. Pour 2 cups chicken broth into pan.
3. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until pork is done. Add additional chicken broth to pan as needed. Allow to rest 15 minutes before removing string and slicing.

Thanksgiving Breakfast

Andy’s family came down last night to celebrate Thanksgiving at our new house. Because Andy, his sister, our nieces, and I were at Grace’s Kitchen this morning, his mom kindly made a lovely breakfast buffet for us to enjoy when we came home. She made homemade biscuits, sausage-cheese muffins, Irish soda bread, and pecan pie muffins. In addition we had bacon, fruit, and country ham Andy’s dad cooked in Coke, a really nice salty-sweet combination. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beef-and-Barley Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 (8-oz.) package baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 lb. flank steak, cut into bite-size pieces (It’s easier to do this if the meat is slightly frozen.)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup barley
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Sauté onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in a Dutch oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rosemary. Season steak with salt and pepper, and add to veggie mixture. Sauté steak for 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and next 3 ingredients. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir in barley, and cover and cook 20 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Take on Grannie’s Cornbread Dressing

Dressing is a family-specific food—you love the kind your grandmother made. That is certainly true in my case! Every year we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas at Grannie’s because of the family time and her dressing. She doesn’t have a recipe, of course; it’s made the way her mom made it.

A few years ago, it was time for me to learn to make this oral-tradition recipe. Grannie willingly shared her technique with me, and the dressing tasted like it was supposed to. Once I had the basics down, I decided to make some tweaks (nothing to change the flavor and texture, just make it more mine). The first change: Sauté the onions and celery to soften them a bit before mixing them with the cornbread (Grannie likes the crunch of the raw veggies). The second change: Make a classic véloute sauce as a substitute for the cream of celery and cream of chicken condensed soups. Don’t let the fancy name scare you—it’s simple! All you do is make a flour-and-butter paste and stir in chicken broth until the mixture thickens.

Now, my family probably wouldn’t like my version (if I was brave enough to serve it to them), but whenever I’ve made it for nonrelatives, as I did for church today, it is pretty well received. Andy likes my version and thinks it tastes like Grannie’s, which is high praise. However he’s anticipating enjoying the real thing on Saturday when we get together with my family. Enjoy!

Cornbread Dressing
2 onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
10 cups chicken broth, divided
Salt and pepper
1 pan cornbread
1 1/2 cups toasted fresh breadcrumbs
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
5 eggs

1. Sauté onions and celery in butter for 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Whisk in 1 cup flour, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add in 6 cups chicken broth, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
2. Crumble cornbread, and combine with breadcrumbs and next 2 ingredients. Stir a small amount of onion mixture into lightly beaten eggs to temper them. Stir remaining onion mixture and egg mixture into cornbread mixture until combined. Pour into buttered 13- x 9-inch and 8-inch square baking dishes.
3. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.
Grannie and Mad, the oldest of the great-grandchildren

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Blondies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bag semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla and almond extracts. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture. Add in the chocolate chunks.
2. Line a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper, and pread the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, and cut into bars.

White Cheddar-Chive Biscuits

I’m calling these “biscuits” because that’s what the texture most closely resembles. They look like muffins because that was the easiest way to bake them. The recipe is simple and tasty. Enjoy!

White Cheddar-Chive Biscuits
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 (8-oz.) block white cheddar cheese, shredded
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. chives

1. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in butter, eggs, buttermilk (add more, if needed), and chives until combined. Scoop batter into lightly greased muffin cups.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Our niece Lizzie was looking through my copy of Hello, Cupcake! a few weeks ago and decided the next time she and her sister spent the night that we had to make these cute pupcakes. I was a little anxious because I’m more of a big-picture person—details that require patience aren’t my thing. However, I am “the best aunt in the world,” so before AC and Lizzie came over yesterday, I had collected all the ingredients we needed.

The book recommends using cake mix and canned frosting—neither of which taste very good to me. I did go with the book’s recommendations and am glad I did. The consistency of canned frosting is just right for this application, and because the girls continually licked their knives and fingers as we worked, eating the cupcakes wasn’t appealing!

The usage of candy is so creative! For floppy brown ears, melt Tootsie Rolls and caramels in the microwave. For the pink tongues, melt strawberry Starburst. For noses, cut chocolate JellyBellys in half. For eyes, use brown mini M&Ms. To build up part of the cupcakes for the noses, place mini marshmallows in a cluster and cover in icing.

Our menagerie of puppies includes: two Chihuahuas, two Dalmatians, two chocolate Labs, two beagles (one black and one brown), one Fran (our dog), one Caroline (the girls’ dog), one Yorkie, and one Schnauzer. We had so much fun and think our pupcakes are precious! Now that I understand the techniques, we’ll definitely try some more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup

Butternut squash soup is creamy, rich, and pretty healthy. As I was thinking about making it for dinner tonight, I remembered that there was a head of cauliflower in the crisper that needed to be used. It seemed like the sweetness of the squash might be a great partner for the bitterness of the cauliflower. Roasting both would caramelize the flavors and give the cauliflower a nutty taste. Deciding it was worth a try, I came up with this recipe. Andy reserved judgment (with plan B dinner lined up) until after he tasted it. His opinion: “surprisingly good!” That’s high praise, for sure. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup
1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup half-and-half

1. Place squash and cauliflower on aluminum foil-lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until squash is softened. Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly.
3. Sauté onion and next 2 ingredients in hot oil 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in herbs de Provence and chicken broth. Remove skin from squash, and cut into chunks. Add squash and cauliflower to broth mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree mixture. Stir in half-and-half, and cook 5 more minutes.