Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole

I got this recipe several years ago from Dave's family. I was asked to bring it for Thanksgiving, and I have since fallen in love with it!! I altered the original recipe a little bit- I reduced the sugar (it used to taste more like a dessert than a side dish), and I learned to roast the potatoes instead of steaming them. That really brings their flavor out, as well as bringing out their natural sugars (and reducing the need for added sugar).

This size batch is enough for a big Thanksgiving dinner- last year I brought it to our 25 person gathering! There were so many dishes that everyone had just a little of everything. I have also cut the recipe in half just to make for a normal dinner here at home.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Printable version here

Filling ingredients
4 large sweet potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. butter, melted

Topping ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp. cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup pecan pieces, chopped

1. To cook the sweet potatoes, preheat oven to 400º. Rinse & dry sweet potatoes, place on a foil-lined baking sheet, and roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (flipping them halfway), until tender. Let them cool, then take off the peel and cut into chunks. Mash until desired consistency. (I use my food grinder with a fine grinding plate for this step, or a potato masher.) *If desired, you can peel, cube, and steam the potatoes instead.

2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes, beaten egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 tbsp. melted butter, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish.

3. In a food processor (or by hand), combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Next pulse in the cubed butter until it is well dispersed and in small pieces. Stir in the chopped pecans, then sprinkle over the top of the potatoes.

4. Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes or until heated through and topping is crisp and lightly browned.

Make-ahead: I have made this casserole ahead of time. I make the sweet potato mixture, put it in the baking dish, then cover & refrigerate. I make the topping mixture in a separate bowl, and put it on the potatoes just before baking (so it doesn't get soggy). Take the casserole out of the refrigerator an hour or so before baking to help take the chill off. Bake as directed, increasing the cooking time if necessary.

Why I love it? I think it's the yummiest thing you can do to sweet potatoes! I like this as much, if not more, than pumpkin pie. Besides being delicious, it's packed with vitamin A! :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mexican Rice

(This also goes with the post below, which is the chicken recipe) In the plate above is this Mexican rice. It is fantastic!! I've never found a great Mexican rice recipe, until the other day when I was searching online. I made this last night for the first time, and we loved it!! I will make it again for sure.

Mexican Rice

1- 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 12 ounces fresh tomatoes, very ripe & cored, if desired)
1 medium white onion
3 medium jalapenos, fresh or canned (or more, depending on your tastes)
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 minced garlic cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Drain diced tomatoes, reserving liquid. Process tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno in food processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. (Remove seeds from jalapenos first; wearing gloves if possible) Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. (Add some of the reserved tomato liquid if you don't have 2 cups.)

3. Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 1 1/2 minutes, or until water runs clear. Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water.

4. Heat oil in a large oven-safe pan or skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Drop a few rice grains in and if they sizzle, it is ready. Add rice and cook, stirring often, for 6-8 minutes or until rice is light golden brown and translucent.

5. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.

6. Stir in broth, tomato mixture, and salt. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

7. Cover pan and transfer pan to oven to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes. Stir well after 15 minutes of cooking. (If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, you can ladle the boiling mixture into a different baking pan, then cover it with a lid or with foil.)

8. Stir in cilantro, extra minced jalapeno if desired, and serve with lime wedges.

Why I love it? It tastes fantastic! It's such a yummy side dish for any Mexican meal. It tastes really authentic (much more than, say, a Rice-a-Roni dish). It also is a good recipe, in that it turned out perfectly the first time I made it. Enjoy!

Crunchy Taco Chicken

I tweaked another recipe and came up with this one. We had it for dinner last night. I don't measure out the ingredients; you don't need to for this recipe.

Crunchy Taco Chicken

Boneless chicken breasts
Taco sauce
Taco seasoning (or I use Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning)
Grated cheddar cheese
Handful of tortilla chips, crushed

Preheat oven to 400º. Slice chicken breasts length-wise so they're thin. Put in a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Spoon taco sauce over chicken; sprinkle with taco seasoning. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until almost done.

Sprinkle chicken with grated cheese, then top with crushed tortilla chips. Bake for 2-3 more minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken reaches 180º.

Why I love it? It has all the flavors of a taco, but on a piece of chicken. (Good if you're trying to eat low-carb) It tastes delicious, and is quick to make- about 1/2 an hour start to finish! That's why I cut the chicken in half- it cooks quicker, and it lets you get more topping to chicken ratio! :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes

This is a basic, but yummy pancake recipe. We all enjoy it. I found it here-

Mom's Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 1/8 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. butter, melted

1. Preheat and lightly grease a large skillet or electric griddle.

2. Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl. Add the egg, buttermilk, and butter; stir together lightly, but keep it lumpy. The batter should look thick, spongy, and puffy.

3. Drop 1/4 cup of the batter onto the cooking surface, spreading lightly with the bottom of the cup. Cook until lightly browned on each side. Serves 4.

(I double this recipe, so it serves us 5, plus leftovers)

Why I love it? It's easy, yummy, cheap, not too unhealthy, and it's something my whole family can agree on! :) The pancakes are a good thickness. My favorite topping for this is berry syrup. Last time I did that, I heated about 1 cup of frozen berries in a pan (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) with a little water & sugar. It was a perfect topping, and it gave us all a serving of fruit!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Muffins

In honor of fall, I HAVE to share this recipe. :) It is deeee-licious. The kids and I just devoured a few.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Muffins
Printable version here

2 cups white sugar (you can substitute a little brown sugar for the white, if you'd like)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
* I use 1 tbsp. Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus in place of the above three spices
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup Hershey's cinnamon chips (you could use chocolate chips instead, or omit these)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease muffin tins (with nonstick spray or Crisco), or grease & flour loaf pans. Mix sugar, oil and applesauce in large bowl to blend. Stir in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in another large bowl. Gradually mix flour mixture in with pumpkin mixture. Mix in cinnamon chips, and walnuts if desired.

Bake as directed; cool briefly before transferring to rack. Eat muffins warm, or cool bread completely before slicing. Cooled loaves can be wrapped in foil and frozen for up to 1 month. Enjoy!

**Baking options:
  • 2 loaves (9x5x3 loaf pans), baked for 1 hour 10 minutes (or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean), or
  • 48 mini muffins (PC small scoop, rounded, bake for 15 minutes) and 12 regular muffins (PC large scoop, rounded, bake for 22 minutes)
  • About 2 1/2 dozen regular muffins, cups about 3/4 full, bake for about 22 minutes
  • What I normally make is one loaf and 12 muffins
Why I love it?
They're easy to make, comforting on a fall day, and just YUMMY! You can freeze one of the loaves for later if you'd like, too.

(The last batch of mini muffins was still baking when I took this picture)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Creamy Fruit Salad

I got this recipe a few years ago from my brother in law's mom. It makes a lot, so you might want to cut it in half if you're just making it for your family. Or, it's a great thing to take to a potluck because it fills a huge bowl.

Creamy Fruit Salad
Printable version here

2 cups buttermilk
1 large package instant vanilla pudding
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
Several cups of chopped, mixed fruit

In a large bowl, beat together buttermilk and pudding until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip until combined. Stir in fruit until desired consistency; chill.

Pudding mixture

Combined with this:

Equals this! :)

Why I love it?The sauce part of it is really good. The buttermilk gives it a slightly tangy flavor. My whole family gobbles this up. It's as yummy as a dessert, but still has the healthiness of fruit!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chocolate Mint Cookies

I found this recipe on one time, and fell in love! The cookies are kind of small, so it makes a bunch. If you like chocolate and mint, you must try it!

Chocolate Mint Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
45 chocolate mint water candies (Andies)

1. In a large pan over low heat, cook butter, sugar and water until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes to cool off slightly.

2. At high speed, beat in eggs, one at a time into chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Chill dough about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350º.

4. Roll dough into balls (I used my small cookie scoop, which is 1 tbsp.) and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes (mine took 11).

5. While cookies are baking, unwrap mints and divide each in half. When cookies are brought out of the oven, immediately put 1/2 mint on top of each cookie. Let the mint sit for up to 5 minutes until melted, then spread mint on top of the cookie. Eat and enjoy!

(Made with 1 tablespoon of dough, this makes about 90 cookies- 7 1/2 dozen!)

Why I love it? The cookies are soft, rich, and chewy, and the mint makes such an easy, delicious frosting! I have always had good feedback when I've made these.