Sweet Potato Casserole – required for Thanksgiving

This is such a family tradition that I am sure I have posted about this to the point that everyone might just be sick of it. That said, I just cannot help myself. It is not Thanksgiving without it. Or Christmas either, for that matter.

D&D_2344The recipe is from my brother’s wife. It was a tradition in her family and when she brought it to our family – well, let’s just say that was it. One of us, usually me, always made it for Thanksgiving and now I have been making it for our family, including the MotH’s family that I just cannot get out of it – not that I would want to. It is just dumbly good. It is just expected on Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Never hurts that this is when sweet potatoes are really cheap either.
How cool is it that one family’s recipe becomes another’s and then another’s. I guess that is the value of tradition – that, and excellent food.

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes – lately, I prefer roasting them ahead of time
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes or more
1 cup chopped pecans – or more if you prefer, which I do*
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Put sweet potato mixture into glass casserole dish**.

In another bowl, blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture – use your fingers, it is easier that way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until brown on top and slightly bubbly around the edges.

D&D_2306*I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup because that is what you should do.

**You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – thinner sweet potato layer and more crunchy bits on top).

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love a recipe where I pretty much have everything on hand and this is one of those kind of recipes. My chip stash (various forms of chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, white chocolate chips and probably some random crunch chips and toffee bits too) in the fridge and the freezer is, in my mind anyway, legendary. And then the chocolate bars too. I can not help myself, I buy when things are on sale and store them in the fridge or freezer. The same way I do when butter is on sale. It is just a thing.D&D_2386

I did chocolate inventory recently and if I had to divulge it in public, I think it might be slightly embarrassing.

This is a one bowl, easy-peasy no-brainer kind of dessert.

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, butter and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes, turning half way through and then check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Source: Taste of Home

1 December 2017 – made them after our work Christmas party. It was just that easy.

D&D_2390That said, I think this is a recipe that you could make many variations with the basic batter. So, next time no chocolate chips, but maybe some blueberries and lemon zest. Or just some lemon juice/zest and a lemon glaze. Or cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins with a cream cheese frosting. Just keep in mind that the batter, without the additions, is pretty simple and not too sweet. To my mind that makes it a pretty blank canvas to work with and I plan to work through my ideas as this holiday season fades into the icky part of winter. Baking always makes winter feel a little bit better. With the days so short, you need to have something to look forward to.

Savory Ham & Swiss Cheesecake

The MotH has a problem with me calling this a cheesecake because that just makes everyone thing dessert and I do, really, get that. But when you preface the name with savory, I hope people can somehow make the transition.D&D_2297

Definition of a cheesecake – having a firm custard-like texture, with cream cheese, cottage cheese, or both. Well, that fits.

But when get right down to it – this has an almost (almost) obscene amount of cream cheese and eggs which is what most cheesecakes do.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups oyster crackers
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
7 large eggs
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (about 8 ounces) + some
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes ham + some
3 minced scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 300°F. Brush 9 inch diameter springform pan with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Finely grind oyster crackers in the food processor. Mix cracker crumbs, Parmesan and 5 tablespoons melted butter in food processor to blend. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture for topping; press remainder onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

D&D_2336In a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup crumbs over. Place cheesecake on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling no longer moves in center when pan is gently shaken, about 2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving. We are going to stretch this for a day for Thanksgiving, but I am pretty confident in it (see hurricane story below).

I made this the first time in 2004. It was really good. Not sure what the occasion was and we went to the MotH’s parents’ house just around the corner*, but here is the key point: We all liked it and – just to bury the lede – it was a great leftover after Hurricane Ivan took us out mostly. No, really. Just keep the fridge closed and things can stay safely in there for a day or so. This really worked, and to be honest, you do not want any kind of warm food right after a hurricane – um, ever. That is why Mandarin oranges are my go to food after a hurricane. Even at room temperature, they just rock.

That said, I have not made this since 2004 – likely out of an odd sense of “perhaps this is not a good idea,” but I am totally feeling out of hurricane season at this point. Thankfully, we dodged a big bullet in Irma, and Nate was just annoying, but no really biggie.

Source: Bon Appetit ? – will find out.
Sept 2004 – Leftover for Ivan
November 2017 for Thanksgiving

2 day method – crust mixture one day, cream cheese mixture next, assemble third and bake, serve at room temperature the next day.

Very good, yes, if I do say so myself, but my unsuspecting family testers said so. But both the MotH and is brother approved of my suggestion of serving with hot sauce – brand: Crystal.
Why Crystal? – heat, but also flavor and it does not completely blow your palate like Tabasco – which I also like, in certain applications, but not this one. The Boy has other opinions on hot sauce that usually include habaneros.

Crust is really crumbly on sides – and totally messy the entire time I was dealing with. Maybe just do bottom crust and topping – needs work, but the flavor is really good – just reduce the amount by probably half (?).

Next time with minced fresh jalapeño (The Boy) – another thought or a little pepper jelly would not go amiss at this point. Oh, pepper jelly on the top as a thin layer?? Maybe going too far afield. Nope, I don’t think so.

Or with pan-roasted mushrooms and spinach (or cress) as long as all the liquid is cooked out of both in a ruthless sort of manner. Little Dijon swirled in?
This could be a great Easter appetizer too.

Okay – and the work hack version with the cranberry horseradish relish was a revelation. Not a bad thing at all. Another really good option for some spice with this cheesecake.

D&D_1418_iPhoneAnd what to do with the rest of the oyster crackers – must be something, right?

*Might sound like a nightmare to some, but my in-laws are just the best. I love them dearly – always will. The Boy and I are very fortunate.

Pecan Pie – necessary for Thanksgiving

In my family, you always got what you wanted for your birthday meal. That included dessert. In my case it was tacos with corn tortillas and all the fixing and then … guess it, and it makes to no sense at all – pecan pie. I think I might have been a very strange person when you get right down to it. Yeah, I was, and still am, strange. But at this point in life I really do not care anymore.

D&D_2326I have made the recipe for at least five years and possibly more, but I like the idea of making the custard on the stovetop before filling the crust. It is a little bit of extra security in making a pie. The custard is half way there and then you bake – lovely when it is all said and done. And there is the other requirement – the Boy always wants this for Thanksgiving and to be honest, I cannot blame him, because I do too.

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs molasses
4 Tbs unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted – Renfroes
1 – 9 inch unbaked pie shell, chilled in the pie plate for 30 minutes*

Adjust oven rack to second-lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a sauce pan, heat syrup, brown sugar, cream, and molasses oven medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter and salt and then whisk in egg yolks until incorporated.

Take pie pan out of the fridge and put the pecans in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and place in oven, but immediately reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake until filling is set and center is slightly jiggly, somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes. Cool pie on a cooling rack for at least and hour and then set in the fridge for at least 3 hours more, but a day would be better. Bring to room temperature before slicing and serving.

D&D_2342This is lovely gooey in a non cloying way – I think it is the lack of corn syrup. Maple and molasses bring so much depth to the pie. Really do not think I will ever do anything else but this.

*Used a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust and it worked really well (need to figure out what to do with the other one, hm?). Just make sure you put it in a glass pie pan (Anchor) and put it in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Makes a difference. Oh, and do chill it for 30 minutes. Again, makes a difference.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country or whatever – why do they need two names after all. It is just confusing. At least to my little blonde self.

22 November 2017

Cranberry Relish

I really feel like I have been making this for 20-something years, and when I get right down to – that’s not too far off the mark. Yikes. How old am I? Well the other option is not being older (ie: dead), so I will take what I can get. More Cranberry Relish for me and my friends. And not being dead …D&D_2286

I grew up with the cranberry sauce in a can – with the funny little ridges. And do not get me wrong, I loved that stuff. No, really loved it, but this recipe was just such a lucky, fortunate fluke – sometimes you just have to take the wins where you can get them.

So many people think, ugh – horseradish, but honestly. Give it a go – even if you only do a half recipe while the fresh cranberries are on sale (at the Publix). You might just find a new favorite.

Other advantages – keeps well in the fridge for months; is excellent with other roasted meats, esp. chicken and pork; and amazingly good on the obligatory leftover turkey sandwich on white bread with bleu cheese dressing (miss you, Walt). Oh, and good on a cheese plate as well – sweet and sour with a little heat from the horseradish. I have a friend that I make this for that uses it on a peanut butter and “jelly” sandwich. O…kay. I will never do that but I am glad he does and enjoys it. To each his own.

How do I explain the cloves? This recipe is the only reason I buy ground cloves.
Definition – “the dried flower bud of a tropical tree, Syzygium aromaticum, of the myrtle family.” Means nothing, thank you dictionary.com. Oh, and “Food Lover’s Companion,” my go to food bible – again – thanks for nothing. Just spend the money and get the tiny jar of ground cloves. It is kind of like allspice in way – hard to explain, complex, but in this case, very necessary.

2 packages (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup prepared horseradish, just drain it a bit
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Rinse cranberries, removing any that seem suspect. Combine sugar and orange juice in a large saucepan. Heat on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and mix until the cranberries start to burst. Simmer for a bit. Let cool completely. Mix in the horseradish and the cloves. Refrigerate.  This will keep for months. And that is an excellent thing. Because you never know when you are going to need it. Yes, need it.

Always check the horseradish and cloves before making. Usually, this is when I buy horseradish and cloves for the year. Cloves keep a little better, but you might need to add more than usual, but I have learned my lesson with the horseradish. Unless you have access to a horseradish root (lucky devil), get the freshest prepared horseradish you can – if it somewhere close to local – all the better. This is the time of year, I use horseradish a lot.

11 November 2017 – appetizer potluck at work for sweet potato ham biscuits

D&D_136318 November 2017 – gifts – Sandy, Traci, Joyce, Doug, Tony. Elaine, Josh … etc.

20 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Cranberries on sale – at the Publix right now – 2 packages for $3. Excellent. I will just keep making this for the next month for sure. There is never enough cranberry relish and never enough friends to share it with.

D&D_1389_iPhone

Me taking pictures again. Not horrible, but not great either. Rhino in the bkgd.

Source: Since 1998 or so – Southern Living, I think, or maybe not. Who knows at this point, and does it really matter if you’ve been doing it for almost twenty years?

Sweet Potato Pecan Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 

So what do you do when you have extra roasted sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? Make anything that sounds good then feed the rest of the sweet potatoes to the dog. At least that is what we do at our house. Who knew dogs liked sweet potatoes? The things you learn. This is half the original recipe and makes 12 cupcakes.

D&D_23201 cup roughly chopped pecans – oops, forgot
1 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a large lemon

2 tsp lemon juice powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans/walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until fragrant.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, Grate nutmeg over the top of the mixture and whisk together.

Beat together sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

Whisk together sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just blended; fold in pecans (again – oops).

Line cups of muffin pans with foil liners and spray with vegetable spray. Spoon batter into cups filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 – 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans and cool for 1 hour until completely cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon juice powder  – taste and adjust. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth). Frost cupcakes and top with chopped pecans if desired.

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

D&D_2316

Need cupcake carrier – this is just sad. 

New recipe

Okay without nuts, but would be better with – pecans or walnuts

Good without frosting too, we’ll just call it breakfast, yep. Not sure, but I think it is the orange juice that makes it. Will certainly be making these again. Think they will go over well at the office.

Sweet Potato Biscuits – a cautionary tale

Yes. It’s that time of year, again. Sweet potatoes biscuits with ham, horseradish cream, and cranberry relish. Another Thanksgiving and a new version of a sweet potato biscuit. I am still searching for some illusive thing in the sweet potato biscuit department. Will I ever find it? Not sure, but I will not stop looking until I am very satisfied with what I am baking.

Tried a new recipe – did not work, um, at all.
Source: Chowhound. Don’t make this recipe. Just saying. 8 November 2017

I am sorry. I am not satisfied. These were blah. I did like the idea of the grated frozen butter though but I am thinking I am going back to my recipe from Foster’s Market. Lord I loved that place. Maybe Sara Foster would let me open one here it the best part of Florida which is, by the way, just Lower Alabama. This is LA.

D&D_1363So here is my go-to so far. And what I will make this weekend for our Friends-giving pot luck appetizer lunch on Monday. Thank goodness is we have a three day weekend, because otherwise this would never happen especially since I have to plan for way more food than I may never make.

Sweet Potato Biscuits (easy recipe to half)

5 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato – usually 1 sweet potato (roasted)
2 Tbsp. salted European butter, melted – spend the little bit extra.

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato in a large measuring cup. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t over work this – I think it effects the rise.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once (Do not twist cutter – this is way more important than you may think, but biscuits are a bit fussy about things like this – just don’t do it. The won’t rise well if you twist.).* Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted (salted) butter – do this, yes. Serve immediately.

Makes 3 dozen.

Source: Foster’s Market – Foster’s is on the 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. It is a fanciful place that does so many things well. I miss it greatly, but I loved going there. Sara Foster is gifted in a way not many people are and it was a great joy to be able to frequent the shop/restaurant/coffee shop/whatever. The Foster’s Market Cookbook is the ONLY signed cookbook I have. Ms. Foster is charming, engaging, and lovely.

Made a half recipe this time, excellent as always.

Had been using Emeril’s recipe for sweet potato biscuits for years – a dozen or so, but I think the Foster’s Market version rose a bit better. I do like the use of ground pecans in Emeril’s recipe. Need to figure out how to combine the two. Both recipes are now in my Thanksgiving binder, so that means something

*This year, did not bother with biscuit cutters at all and just used my # 30 disher and it worked out really well as a drop biscuit. Yeah, so much easier than rolling and cutting and whatnot. Not quite as uniform, but tasty all the same.