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

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.

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).

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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

My Favorite Mushroom Asparagus Pasta … so far.

This is a recipe that I got from Giada Delaurentiis. No, I realize that I am so spelling that wrong. I am sure, maybe. I have eliminated walnuts from the original recipe and added garlic and some onions but the basic recipe is still the most important part: 1/2 pound of ridged pasta – penne. Lots of mushrooms – about a pound and then a pound of asparagus cut into pieces. And the most part is the mascarpone. Heavenly. Of course & Parmesan as always, and with me some fresh lemon zest and lemon juice to brighten up any creamy kind of pasta. You really do not need salt for this, in my mind. If you do the lemon thing. Which pretty much do every time. I do need a lemon zester at the office – who does that – no. one. except, maybe, me. Is that a bad thing or does that just make me the food snob that everyone thinks I am? Not sure. Sigh.D&D_2242

8 ozs penne pasta
olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*
1 bundle of asparagus, a pound or s,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates. Add garlic and sauté for another minute more.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables . Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir again.

Serve with extra Parmesan for serving. A lemon wedge would not go amiss here.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination. Purchase cremini if you have the option. Just saying.

Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

So one of my friends had birthday a few weeks ago and we got her a small (6″, 3 layer) cake. Yellow cake with fudge frosting. It reminded me of my mom’s best cake. The one we all loved. But I haven’t tried to make it – yet. But I saw this and thought — okay, single layer – yes; frosting seems pretty simple – yes. I was going to try it and so a few days latter, I did. I am beyond pleased with it. MotH and the Boy both liked it though they are not big sweets fans. The office seemed to really like it too and that makes me happy. I will make this again. Really simple for a great tasting cake and frosting. Next time cupcakes??!!
D&D_2203
CAKE:
1 cup granulated sugar
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream (8 ozs)

FROSTING:
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (2 ozs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with a parchment round and spray again.

Beat together the sugar and butter until thoroughly combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes; the batter will lighten in color and become fluffy. Yes, very fluffy. Set your iPhone timer for this.

Add the vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, stirring to combine.

Starting and ending with the flour, alternately add the flour and sour cream to the mixture. Beat gently to combine after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Do not overwork.

Pour batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula (a Get it Right ultimate spatula). Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes turning the pan half way through, until it’s golden brown on top, the edges are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or mostly clean

After 10 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.*

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the cocoa and vanilla yogurt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. It may look like it is seperating, but just hang in there. Add the butter mixture to the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl, beating until smooth. Quickly pour over the cooled cake, while the frosting is still warm. Smooth with an off-set spatula.**

* You can make the cake up to this point and wrap in plastic (as long as you are sure it is cool) and refrigerate for a day or two before frosting. I did it – and it worked really well.

** This is a very simple frosting, but it works really well. I am stunned at how simple this whole cake is to make. Really. This could surely be a weeknight cake.

D&D_2196I will say, I would eat this cake any day without frosting. It is that good. Like a snack cake – wonder what it would take to put it in a loaf pan and decorate with a little powdered sugar when it is finished and cool?

Guess I will be chatting with the bakers from King Arthur Flour again. I love that you can just chat and ask the questions you need answers to – a great service to the KAF customers.

Sometimes (Often Times) I have this in my bag …

Actually (and I hate to use that word – really hate it*), this is not terribly exciting, but it makes my day at the office (how sad is that?). It is a lemon – I know, So. Very. Exciting. sigh.

I have this habit of bringing together odd bits of food from home for my breakfast / lunch to cobble together and occasionally make a great lunch hack. I just prefer it to buying lunch out. Snob that I am, I like my cooking better than most others. Probably because I make the things I like – like right now, I am on a pan-roasted mushroom trip. Not sure why, but it works for me.

I tend to eat crackers for breakfast just to choke down the stupid mess of meds for the equally stupid lupus that has become a very crappie part of my life recently – hello, medical field – not impressed so far. Okay – enough of that.

Back to it – It is amazing what a fresh lemon can do – just the juice, since I do not have a zester at the office. Although I probably should think about getting one. Fresh lemon (or lime) zest is just lovely. What about grapefruit zest – now there is an idea. Also need a pepper grinder too, if I really want to make the lunch hack thing special (and we all want it to be special, don’t we?)

We have the “Real Lemon” juice in a bottle in the office fridge, but it is just so lame compared to fresh lemon – even if the lemon is kind of a lame, old-ish lemon from the back of my fridge at the house – that juice makes all the difference. The difference is really very telling – not a joke. cropped-dd_1784

So I have some left over rice, maybe with some artichoke hearts in it, and then I add my favorite garlicy pan-roasted mushrooms on top and heat it up. What makes it perfect? Fresh lemon juice. You see where this is going, right?

Just put a lemon in your bag. It will be fine. And it is kind of cool. Kind of like a fez.~

* Inspector Morse always hated that word too and I love my Morse (John Thaw). That’s a post for a whole other time. Or as Dr River Song would say, “That’s a whole other birthday.” Yes, a cool Dr. Who reference~. My total geek is showing.

When you get right down to it  – it is the author of the Morse stories, Colin Dexter that, I think,  hated “actually.” Understandable. But I do have to quibble with his use of “sludgy” green eyes – seems to be a recurring theme that I resent because my green eyes are said to be lovely. I was going to say hot, but only blue eyes and brown eyes are hot and to be honest, no one knows what to do with hazel eyes. Genetic randomness right there.

The Boy has lovely blue eyes that can turn grey depending on what he is wearing or even what kind of mood he is in. I did not know that could happen. But how does a child with two green-eyed parents end up with a blue-eyed child. Apparently blue eyes can stay hidden from previous generations, so I expect that is it. Way to much science for me. Hello, Gregor Mendel and principals of inheritance. See, I did learn some science in Jr. High School. Who knew?

““

Well, we just went for a wander, didn’t we? Or, I guess it was me that let this tiny brain of mine wander a bit.

Back to lemons, in your bag, to make you desk meal (lunch hack) a real treat vs. a total bore. Your call.