Sweet Potato Casserole

I got the basics of this casserole from my friend Jacqui, during our first duty station.  She called her recipe “Sweet Potato Pie with Cornflakes” but I’ve evolved it into something a bit different over the years.  My guys really love the topping and I adore the sweet potato itself, so it’s a great side dish for our holiday turkey menu.  I hope you feel the same!

sweetpotatocasserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cans sweet potatoes (or yams), drained
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2-3T white wine (semi dry or dry wine)
  • cinnamon to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups cornflakes
  • 2-3 cups mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Mix drained sweet potatoes with pineapple and season with wine, cinnamon, and salt to taste.
  2. Spoon into 9×13 casserole pan and flatten with back of spoon.
  3. In a bowl, melt butter and mix with brown sugar.  Add cornflakes and mini marshmallows, mixing well to coat everything with the butter/sugar mixture.
  4. Spoon topping over sweet potato mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until marshmallows are toasty and bubbly.

This is a great side dish for those people who don’t really want a vegetable for holidays.  We have learned that the topping doesn’t reheat very well, so feel free to suggest that people eat the sweet topping before putting the leftover sweet potatoes in the fridge.

As for the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?  Here’s a link to figure out which tuber you might be using!

 

Mimi’s Peas

You’ve had the traditional “Green Bean Casserole“, right?  It’s the one on the back of the Campbell’s soup can…. the one that has been around forever… the one that everyone makes for holiday meals.  What would you think if I told you that we make this same casserole with PEAS instead of green beans?  THIS is a game-changer, people.  It’s absolutely amazing and is a staple on almost every holiday menu (or at least Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) in our family.

mimispeas

Ingredients:

  • Frozen Peas (1- 1 1/2 16oz bags)
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 can French’s Onion Rings (reserve 1/2-3/4 cup for topping)
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I like a dry or semi-dry wine)
  • 1 packet G. Washington Brown boullion *Trust me, this stuff is worth finding.  LOVE it and use it in so many ways!

Directions:

  1. Mix everything together, topping with the reserved Onion Rings.
  2. Bake in greased casserole dish at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until bubbly.

This is our family’s “must have” recipe on any holiday table.  It also works well when mixing with turkey, stuffing, and gravy (and topped with mashed potatoes) to make a leftover turkey shepherd’s pie.

Give it a try sometime… you may find that you like this even better than the standard recipe!

Easy Red Beef Stew

I was headed out to do some holiday shopping recently and decided that I wanted to make a simple crockpot dinner so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to rush home and make something that evening.  I had a nice piece of beef in the fridge and had picked up a package of baby potatoes at the store, so this was a really easy dinner to create.redbeefstew

Ingredients:

  • Beef – I don’t know much about cuts of beef, but I knew enough to get a “chuck roast”.  The one I chose was on sale, so I grabbed one that was on the smaller side so we wouldn’t have much waste.
  • Flour – I tossed some into a plastic bag to coat the beef before putting it into my crockpot.  Don’t honestly know how much… just enough to coat the meat.
  • 1+ onion – I cut this into thick chunks and used one whole vidalia onion and one half a red onion that I had in the fridge
  • 1 packet country gravy
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 package (or similar amount) of baby potatoes (see photo of what I found at the store… this one included a few cloves of garlic and two sprigs of rosemary)
  • Red wine – the original recipe simply called for water, but that won’t cut it in my house.  WHY USE WATER WHEN YOU CAN USE WINE??
  • Frozen peas – I didn’t measure, but you could use whatever vegetable you like best here.  NOTE: If you’re planning to use carrots, I would allow them to cook with the beef instead of popping them in at the end.

Directions:

  1. Slice onion into chunks and put in the bottom of a large crockpot.
  2. Toss the meat in a plastic bag with some flour and then shake to cover.  Place meat on top of onions to cook.
  3. Open package of potatoes (or chop up large potatoes to fit around roast) and lay them around the meat in the crockpot.
  4. In a separate bowl, open the packets of gravy and onion soup and mix together with red wine.  I did not measure the amount of red wine used – I simply poured the wine and mixed it with the dry ingredients until it looked like enough.  I have a habit of adding too much liquid to my crockpot recipes, so I went a little lighter than I might have otherwise, which ended up working out well.
  5. Pour liquid over the roast.
  6. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
  7. During the last half hour (or 15 minutes before serving), stir the roast a bit and add your frozen peas.  These won’t take long to cook and you don’t want them to disintegrate into the gravy.
  8. Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the gravy… it’s delicious!

This was one of the most simple of meals but such a crowd pleaser.  If your family is picky about onions, feel free to slice them a bit smaller, but I liked the chunks of onion with the bites of meat and potato.  Feel free to experiment with other vegetables or seasonings… it’s your meal for your family, so use what you like!

Enjoy!

White Apple Tart

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be making a few additions to my traditional menu.  We’ll be spending Thanksgiving Day with relatives (instead of just having our family of four) and I’ve been tasked with bringing the apple pies.  Since I get bored making multiples of the same recipe, I’ve decided to make a lovely apple tart as one of my offerings.  I had to try out the recipe before the big day, so here’s the recipe that I’ll be making for our Thanksgiving day meal with the cousins… my White Apple Tart.

I found a great recipe for “Sweet Pastry Dough” as well as one for a “Rustic Apple Tart” from Perfect Little Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim. This cookbook is absolutely mouthwatering and worth purchasing if you’re looking for a dessert cookbook.  Because I always use wine in my recipes, this is where I began when I made both the pastry dough and the tart itself.

I started with the Pastry Dough.  I put 1 cup of flour, 3T sugar, 1/2 t baking powder, and 1/4 t salt into my food processor and I blended the dry ingredients.  I pulsed in 3T butter until the dough looked like wet sand.  I then added 1 egg and 1T cold Sauvignon Blanc (white wine) and ran the processor until the dough came together into a ball.  The dough was a bit wet, so I rolled it up in plastic wrap and popped it into the fridge for a few hours.  NOTE:  I intentionally made this in the morning so I could make the tart later in the afternoon… you can make this dough a few days ahead of time but the tart itself is best if made the day you want to serve it.  

A few hours later, I was ready to make the tart.  I actually had never made a tart before, so I had to purchase a tart pan for this dish.  Thankfully, we had an amazing kitchen store nearby, so that task was easily handled.  I pulled the pastry dough out of the fridge and gave it time to get to room temperature, then preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  I rolled out the dough and then fit it into the pan, using a scraper to take off bits of the crust along the top of the tart pan.  The dough was soft enough that I really only had to push and move around the dough to fit it all into the pan.  It looked lovely. WhiteAppleTart

The next step was to prepare the apples for the tart.  I used 3 large Honeycrisp apples (feel free to use your own favorite type of apples). I cut them in half, removed the core and skin, then sliced each apple into thin slices, across the width from bottom to top. Since there were 3 apples, you’ll use five halves to go around the outside of the tart and then use one half to fill the space in the center.  I’ll try and do a cleaner job of this on my next attempt, but I thought it turned out nicely. I then sprinkled everything with a blend of 2T sugar and 1/2 t ground cinnamon.  Once everything was nicely coated with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, I put the tart on the bottom rack of the preheated oven and cook for 40-45 minutes.  Note:  I think the apples needed a little more cooking time, so I will probably increase cooking time to 55-60 minutes when I next make this tart.  Once the tart was nicely browned and the fruit was bubbly, I removed the tart to a wire rack to allow it to cool a bit before glazing the tart.

While the tart is baking, I needed to make the glaze.  I simmered 1/2 cup apricot preserves mixed with 2T white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc) until it boiled a bit and then strained the glaze into another pan so it was as liquid as possible.  Note: I used a small saute’ pan for the first step, then strained the mixture into a small sauce pan, since I only have one “small saucepan”.  Before glazing the tart, I warmed up the glaze until it was thickened.  I used a brush to dab the glaze all over the tart and make it all look glossy.

Extra Note:  When making this recipe in 2016, I used fig preserves instead of apricot (because that’s what I already had opened in the fridge) as well as a simple dry white wine and the tart was still just as fabulous and delicious.  

When I had to unmold the tart, the easiest way was to use a thick, flat object – like a large-wide can or a squat-sized canister – to allow the outside rim of the tart pan to drop away.  I then put the tart on a large platter… it made for a beautiful presentation.

I hope you’ll consider trying to make this tart sometime.  If you don’t want to use wine in this recipe, you can follow the original recipe and simply use water.  I thought the addition was fun and added a light edge to both the crust and the glaze. Whichever way you choose to make it, it’s worth the try.  I thought it was simple, yet spectacular.  Totally worth the price of an actual tart pan!

Sausage and Pepper Casserole

My neighbor had a health issue with her mom last night and I thought that the nicest thing I could do for her would be to make dinner and dessert for them tonight.  I know her mom loves sweets, so I had to make sure to have some sort of dessert included, so I made a platter of chocolate chip cookies, since I already had the dough in the fridge… the question was now “what do I make for dinner”?

I looked through my freezer and found a package of turkey kielbasa and a half package of bacon, so that became the base of my recipe.  Since I also had some green peppers and an onion in the crisper, I decided to make a turn on a “sausage and pepper sandwich” and add some linguine and a creamy cheese sauce to pull it all together.  Here’s how I went about making dinner. NOTE: Remember that I was making two dinners for two people each, so these could have easily been made into a single 9×11 casserole instead of two individual 9″ round casseroles.

I crisped up the half package of bacon and then removed the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon drippings in the saute pan.  I diced one package of turkey kielbasa and crisped that up in the saute pan as well before removing that to a plate. I sliced one green pepper and half a large onion and sauteed these in the bacon grease until softened.  While cooking all these individual pieces, I cooked 3/4 package of linguine (broken in half) until just al dente, then drained the pasta, saving some of the water in case I needed it for the sauce that would top the entire casserole.Sausage&PepperCasserole

I then assembled the casseroles, placing a little of the bacon and half the kielbasa and half the vegetables on top before adding half the pasta.  Once this was done, I was able to turn my attention to the sauce.  I wanted something that was creamy and slightly cheesy but didn’t just want to throw cheese on top of the pasta and hope it melted correctly.

I started the sauce by simmering 2T butter and 2T flour together to make a roux.  I then added some white wine (using chardonnay was my choice this time… crisp and clean) and chicken stock to start a great tasting sauce.  To make the taste unique to this particular dish, I added half a can of cream of mushroom soup (leftover from Christmas dinner), some parmesan cheese and some cheddar cheese for creaminess and a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce for flavor.  Once the sauce tasted “right” (you HAVE to be willing to taste your sauces during the cooking phase so they balance out once they’re added to a dish), I poured half over each casserole and topped each with a sprinkling of leftover bacon.

I have no idea if my neighbors will enjoy this casserole, but I hope they feel the love that comes from wanting to do something nice for others in times of stress.  Karma is a tricky thing… but I believe that if you always reach out to others in a positive way and from a place of kindness and love, that same thing will come back to you tenfold.  I’m not expecting them to do anything in return…. I just know that they shouldn’t have to worry about feeding their family when they’re facing a difficult time.

May we all approach life in this manner… give when you can and your life will be made better for the effort.

Happy New Year Blessings to you all, my friends.  Wishing you health and happiness as 2015 begins!

White Cream Puffs

This recipe is one that has been used in my family for as long as I can remember.  As a child, my mom would make these cream puffs for her bridge club nights.  She’d make the cream puffs, cut off the tops and fill them with vanilla ice cream, then frost them with some chocolate before serving them to her honored guests.  Occasionally, we’d be given one of these treats before the ladies arrived and they always looked so incredibly elegant.  What a gift to find out, years later, that this was a simple recipe that I could share with my own guests… and now I get to share that gift with you!WhiteCreamPuffs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups boiling water (I like to use 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup white wine)
  • 1/2 cup butter (don’t skimp… butter is the only way to go here)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water/wine with the butter and bring to a boil.  Once melted and fully boiling, add the flour/salt at once and stir, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Drop by teaspoons onto 2 greased cookie sheets (or baking sheets lined with parchment), shaping dough to peak in center and round out on the bottom.  Place dough 2″ apart.
  3. Bake in preheated 375* oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350*  and bake for an additional 25 minutes.  Cool and fill.  Freeze or use immediately.

These cream puffs make a lovely dessert – slice off the top of the puff, fill with softened ice cream and replace the top, then frost with a bit of chocolate.  My Red Fudge Sauce is fabulous with this dessert (as seen in the photo), but you can use whatever sauce you like best.

Another alternative would be to fill the puffs with a small amount of my Nutty Chicken Salad and serve for a fancy luncheon. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to using these cream puffs!  Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownie Muffins

If you ever have the need for a delicious and simple muffin recipe, this is one to keep on hand.  I have been making (and playing with) this recipe for years and it is one of my absolute favorites.  This version seems a little more sophisticated, but it’s truly one that I make to give to anyone, especially when I have people doing work on my house.

We’re getting a new HVAC system installed in our home today.  We’re not exactly thrilled with the timing, but the original system was installed in 1998, so we knew we were due. Since I knew the workers would be here for much of the day, I thought I would make some muffins to show my appreciation for all the work they’re doing.  I made this recipe in mini-muffin tins so they would be “pop-able”… nothing worse than having to worry about muffin wrappers or holding food between bites if you’re working hard.  I just love the ease of this treat!

fudgybrowniemuffinsNote:  If you saw my post about “chocolate jury gems”, this is a version of the same recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One box chocolate brownie mix (I like to use dark chocolate mix)
  • One can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dark chili powder
  • 1/4 cup (2 Tablespoons) red wine.  I used a pinot noir, but any dry red wine works well

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Empty brownie mix into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  • Blend everything together thoroughly until it resembles the photo in the lower left corner of the collage above.
  • Using a small cookie scoop, divide batter into mini muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Note:  this recipe will make about 40 mini-muffins, so you’ll go through two sets of mini muffin pans twice
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 18 minutes, remove promptly and allow to cool while you scoop the remaining batter into the muffin tins for the second round of cooking.
  • These muffins are delicious warm, room temp, or cool.  They are fabulous for kids (the pumpkin packs a great punch of fiber) and have been a favorite in my family for years.