Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole

My friend Cindy gave me this recipe a few years ago and every Thanksgiving my family asks that I make it for them.  It's so damn good you can't stop eating it. The rich butter flavor in the sweet potatoes combined with the brown sugar topping is to die for.  The only catch is that it's a bit fattening but hey, you have to splurge once in awhile right?

If you need to take a dish to a potluck or family gathering and want something easy to make this is the recipe for you.  I guarantee it'll be a hit.

Cindy's Sweet Potato Casserole:

3-5 cups mashed sweet potatoes (this is about 6 medium to large sweet potatoes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup softened cubed butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Okay, first you've got to bake the sweet potatoes.  Cindy suggests boiling them but I prefer to bake them instead.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.  The reason for this is because the sweet potatoes will drip and you don't want to spend the afternoon scrubbing the hardened liquid off of the pan.

Clean each potato under running water to remove any dirt.  Poke each potato with a fork approximately 6 times (some cooks instruct you to stab the potato but that sounds too violent. I'm a kinder, gentler cook/baker! lol) This allows steam to escape.

Put the potatoes on the lined baking pan.  Bake for approximately an hour.  Baking time will vary depending on size of each potato.  The smaller ones will bake faster so be sure to check them by poking them with a fork.  If the fork goes in and out easily, that means it's done.

Allow potatoes to cool until you can handle them.  Peel skin off, put them in a large bowl, and mash them.  Beat together the mashed potatoes and first 6 ingredients.  Pour into a lightly greased 9" x 12" pan (or glass casserole dish or foil tin if you're going to leave it at a potluck).

For the topping:
Cut the butter into the other ingredients (except the pecans) with 2 knives (I used my's faster)  until it's crumbly.  If it's not crumbly, add a little more flour.  Add the pecans and sprinkle over the sweet potatoes.  (You can refrigerate it overnight to bake later if you want, just make sure it's covered)

Bake uncovered in an oven for 45-50 minutes until browned and bubbly.

That's it!  It's a simple and delicious dish.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Cherry-Filled Pastry Pillows

Wow, check this out.  Two blog posts in ONE weekend! I took a break from my classes to cook and bake my heart out.  Actually, I also was practicing taking photographs too.  Right now in my photography class we're working on taking pictures of products.  I think the next few classes we will focus on food.  I'm kind of gearing myself up for that.

Anyways on to baking; I found this recipe at the check out lane where all the impulse items are located.  I briefly glanced at the chocolate candy and other sweets but my attention was immediately drawn to the magazine rack.  I love browsing through food magazines.  And yes, I have even been known to pick up a National Enquirer on occasion but invariably, the beautiful food covers catch my eye.  As I flipped through the magazine (can't remember the title), I saw the recipe for these beautiful fruit filled pastries and had to try it.  It only called for a few ingredients so it was love at first sight.  I looked it up on the internet and found this one from Better Homes and Garden.

Recipe from Better Homes and Garden Magazine 2009:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (not melted)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened and cut up
1 can cherry pie filling (you can also use 1/4 cup raspberry, apricot, peach, or strawberry preserves)
1/4 cup Almond paste (I didn't use this and they came out fine)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
Coarse sugar or pearl sugar (I sprinkled regular sugar over the pastries)

In a small bowl, combine flour and salt; set aside.  In a medium bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined.  Add flour mixture.  As cream cheese and butter mixture gets combined with the flour you'll find it is going to be pretty unruly.  The dough kept creeping up and I had to keep pushing it down.  When completely mixed, divide dough in half.  Cover and chill about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into 2 inch squares.  I used a square cookie cutter and it worked like a charm.  The recipe says to put the squares onto ungreased cookie sheets but I put mine on parchment paper and then onto the cookie sheets.  I'm not a big fan of scrubbing pots and pans after I've baked and have found that parchment paper works wonders when it comes to shortening the cleanup time.

Since I used cherry filling, I put 3 cherries & some filling on each square.  The recipe says to put a scant 1/4 tsp of preserves onto each square AND 1/4 tsp of almond paste.  I suppose I could have done that too but I'm a rebel in the kitchen.  I'm just so wild. lol (and a complete dork).  Maybe that's why my pastry puffs came out so messy? Eh, who cares? They still look good right?

In a small bowl beat together egg and water.  Brush edges of squares with egg mixture. Top each with a second dough square. Using a fork, gently press edges to seal.  Brush tops of pillows with egg mixture.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown.  I highly recommend baking them until they are golden brown.  If you do that they'll hold their shape better and not shrink and get wrinkly.

Transfer to wire racks to cool.  If you follow the directions exactly how the magazine says you should, you'll end up with about 52 cookies.  I ended up with about 24 because I made them a little larger.

To store: Layer pillows between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.  Store in the refrigerator.

The pastry puffs tasted really good but I think the next time I make them I'm going to use an icing to top them instead of sugar.  Since the dough has no sugar in it and I just think that icing would be a nice complement to pastries.  If you want to try my suggestion, here is a recipe for pop tart icing.  Let me know how it goes!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Chili con Turkey

Wow, it's been four months since I've blogged and miss you guys.  I've missed baking, cooking, and just goofing off on Twitter too.  First I had knee surgery and that kept me from pretty much being able to do much.  Then later, it wasn't that I couldn't be on my feet, I just had no time because I was working 40 hours a week and going to physical therapy 3 times a week.   Then I got a wild hair and decided to sign up for two college courses; Photoshop CS5 and Commercial Photography.  What the heck was I thinking???  I always seem to bite off more than I can chew.  This is the drawback to having the type of personality that I have have (Orange). I jump into the fire with both feet and then pay the price later.  But it's not like it's all bad.  I mean I'm learning A LOT.  It's just not easy because both of my teachers give TONS of homework and it leaves very little time to do much of anything else.  But hey, that's ok.  It'll help improve my photography skills and when I screw up, I've got Photoshop to clean up my mistakes right?  Don't let tell my photography teacher that though, he'll just give me more homework for being a smart ass.

Well, it's finally getting chilly here in Arizona.  Cold for us is 60 degrees.  I know those of you on the East coast are snickering about right now but hey, we're used to it being over 100 degrees most of the year here.

This weekend was a cloudy, windy and rainy one so of course what better way to warm up than to make some delicious chili.  I scoured the internet for recipes that wouldn't require a whole lot of work and ingredients.  As I've said before, I'm all about easy.  Some recipes called for the use of beer and even vodka.  I like beer but I don't like it in my food and vodka? Umm...yuck.  Also, my family doesn't like cumin or coriander.  I, on the other hand, LOVE cumin.  I also love fresh cilantro so that makes me the lone ranger in our household because nobody likes it.  I read in the New York Times that to most, cilantro tastes like soap.  So, in this chili recipe, you'll find no beer, vodka, cumin, or coriander or cilantro as a garnish.  I adapted it to suit my family's tastes and also decided to use ground turkey instead of the meat suggested in the recipe to cut down on the calories.  But you know what?  It tastes pretty darn good anyway! And even better yet, it's simple!

Chili con Turkey recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated recipe:

1 ea 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
1 ea 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 ea 29 oz. can of pureed tomatoes
2 ea 16. oz can of kidney beans, drained
1 ea 7 oz. can of diced green chilies
1 ea 7-3/4 oz can of El Pato brand sauce (Salsa de chile fresco)(if this isn't available in your area, you can substitute some salsa instead)
1/2 of 4 oz can of diced jalapeƱos (use the whole can if you like your chili HOT)
1 large onion, chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop up onions and garlic.  Cut up bell pepper into 1/2 inch pieces and remove seeds.

In a large skillet pan, add oil, ground turkey, bell pepper, garlic, onion, El Pato sauce, and chili powder.  I also used garlic salt and black pepper (Use however much to suit your taste).  Cook it all together until the turkey is browned.  For those of you who don't know what El Pato Sauce is, click here for a picture of the can.  You'll find it either in the tomato sauce area or the ethnic foods (mexican) area of the grocery store.

Pour the turkey and vegetable mixture into a large pot.  Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, green chilies, chicken broth, and jalapeƱos.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for an hour.  Remove cover and continue to simmer for an hour longer, stirring occasionally until chili is a dark, rich, and slightly thickened.  Add more salt if needed.  Serve in a bowl with lime, cilantro (yay!) and/or a dollop of sour cream.  I baked sweet corn bread to accompany this meal.

You can find the recipe for the cornbread here on my blog.  So there you have it.  Easy turkey chili in less than 3 hours.  You'll have plenty of leftovers for later too. Yum, I'm going to have mine for lunch tomorrow!