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

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.

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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?

Carrot & Raisin Salad

I have never made this for Thanksgiving, ever. I made it this because I love it even though I know neither the Boy nor the MotH likes it at all – their loss, more for me. So I made it because there would be other family members at Thanksgiving in case someone other than me might like it too. I do think that worked.

D&D_2329These are random thoughts:

I eat carrot/raisin salad for breakfast – just a couple of days in the fridge and this really is excellent. It keeps so much better than cole slaw. Cole slaw need to be made the day you are eating it and then just toss it out. That is not to say you cannot use the cole slaw mix for days and days, you just have to dress it the day you are going to eat it. This works really well, especially when serving bbq pork or sloppy joes.

Oh, and yes, breakfast because apparently I have to eat meals now. Ugh.

I have no recipe for carrot & raisin salad* – same as with cole slaw.  Let me try to explain. I peel and grate a 1 pound bag of carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Put that in a bowl. Add golden raisins – sultanas, and decided if I need more raisins. Then get out the Duke’s mayonnaise. This is where you must be careful. Too much mayo will make just a hot mess. So add the Duke’s judiciously. A little at a time – a little kosher salt now would be a good thing. Then let the whole damn mess sit refrigerated overnight and decide if you need to add something more. In my case, a couple of days later the salad needed a little more (very little) mayonnaise. Made the difference in my breakfast this week. Indeed.

Carrot Raisin Salad is always for my brother’s birthday. That’s saying a lot. I’ve said this before, probably lots, but for our birthdays growing up you got your favorite meal for your birthday. My brother’s favorite was roast beef with rice and gravy and carrot & raisin salad. Maybe it was the roast beef I made the week before Thanksgiving that made this happen, but no matter what this was a really good treat for me and the others that recognized this** on the Thanksgiving buffet.

Who writes about carrot & raisin salad? No body but me.

*Why is it called a salad – it’s like a carrot slaw with sultanas. Oh, and pineapple-ly things will never, ever, be involved in carrot/raisin salad. Ugh – just so wrong. Yes, I have very strong opinions about food. I think we all do. Well, even if we all don’t, I still do.

**Yes, it was all of us old-ish people, but they enjoyed it. Me, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law’s mother, and I think my brother-in-law too. Yes, I was looking at plates. Based on what I saw, I think they liked it.

Either way, a great breakfast for a few days at the office.

Roast Beef with red wine pan sauce

I love roast beef, but I just do not make it often – and here is the why of the story. My mom’s roast beef was, in a word, heavenly. So much so that it was my brother’s birthday request meal – roast beef, rice & gravy and carrot & raisin salad. But I do not a have a recipe from her for it – a recurring theme here, as is very apparent. The one thing I do remember was that you put the roast into a very hot oven, guessing 450 degrees, and let the exterior crust sear to the point where, as my mom so delicately put it – the smoke alarm in the kitchen goes off. Not kidding – part of the instructions. Love it. Right? D&D_2271

All this, and I am never quite sure what kind of roast to purchase. But I happened upon this recipe and the Publix had a roast for sale that fit the bill. It was a 2 pound little guy and was just a bit over $8 at the sale price – sold! The recipe was not quite a gravy liked I am used to, but I never turn down a pan sauce with wine in it either (big surprise, I know), so there we are.

2 pound sirloin tip roast
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs cold water
1 Tbs unsalted butter, or more.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Salt and pepper, and let beef sit at room temperature for one hour. Pat beef dry with paper towels and place in a oven-safe skillet. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes then reduce temperature to 275 degrees and roast until desired done-ness. For a two pound roast = 1 and 3/4 hours for medium-rare, or up to two hours for medium-well, but who wants that? Blech. Nobody.

Remove roast from oven and set aside, tent with foil to rest. Leave pan drippings in the skillet and taste – this is key if you are like me and always salt a roast before it hits the heat. Heat skillet over medium heat and add wine to deglaze. Add broth and simmer to reduce by half. Whisk together corn starch and water, add to sauce and simmer to thicken. Remove from heat, add butter, taste again and adjust seasonings.

19 November 2017 – Tramotina 12″ skillet – Burnt my damn hand – idiot.

Modified from Closet Cooking (Thanks again Kevin!) – The Perfect Roast Beef  Kevin’s post includes different roasts that will work for the recipe and cooking times based on weight. Glad Kevin did the work so I do not have to. Ugh Math, or something like it.

Had some issues with the cornstarch and water mixture – it just lumped up. Had to sieve it out of the pan sauce. Need to sort this out because I know my mom used the same technique to make gravy for roast beast – figure out the chemistry of cornstarch. Lord, now we have science too. Yikes, this might just be beyond me.

Thermapen – to determine interior temperature –  a very very good investment. Love this thing!

Love twisty top wine – Australia Shiraz and the Boy finished what was left. Kind of the same way he finishes milk when I am done with it for whatever recipe I purchased it for. It was a lovely Shiraz if I do say so myself.  I know everyone says this, but do not cook with a wine that you will not drink. It is a maxim that holds true.

Next time, I think crimini mushrooms will be involved – lots of them and maybe a few onions as well. Nothing ever goes wrong when you pan roast mushrooms and onions.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

D&D_2268

Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps