Sliced Sweet Potato Pie

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It’s been a few months since I updated the blog, and I apologize to my followers. Back in August, I transferred from corporate dining to campus dining and I’ve been working around the clock ever since. Things are starting to calm down at work, just in time for the holidays, so I’ve been dusting off some family recipes. This is the one time of the year when  I will actually do some baking. Baking is a science and requires one to follow a recipe more closely. Those of you that know me well, know that I rarely follow a recipe as written, so baking has never been something I was enthused to do. Still, I hold the family recipes and the family expects cookies, cakes and pies when the holidays roll around.

Everyone knows how to make sweet potato pie but most people have only had the whipped up version. This version is different. It’s more elegant that something dumped out of a can. As you can see by the photo, it makes a beautiful dessert plate for the holidays and it’s not much more complicated that the baby food version.

  • 1/2 package of refrigerated pie crusts
  • 2 1/2# small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 orange peel strips (use a vegetable peeler to create)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp loosely packed orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Streusel topping (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Fit the piecrust into a 9″ deep-dish pie plate, folding the edges under and crimping. In a Dutch oven, bring the potatoes, granulated sugar, orange peel and 1 cup of water to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 6-8 minutes until potatoes are just tender.

Transfer the potatoes to a large colander, reserving the cooking liquid. Rinse the potatoes with cold water. Transfer the cooking liquid and orange peel strips to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup. Reserve 2 tbsp of the potato-orange liquid and discard the rest.

Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and toss with brown sugar, flour, spice and orange zest and the reserved 2 tbsp of the potato-orange liquid. Spoon into the crust. Sprinkle with streusel and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, shielding with foil after 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool completely and serve at room temperature.

Streusel Topping: Stir together 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 3 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice and 1/8 tsp salt. Let stand for 30 minutes, then crumble into small pieces atop the prepared pie

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Roasted Acorn Squash

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I grew up eating delicious roasted fall squash, especially acorn and butternut. Because I love them, I often cook them at work for my customers. I also cook them to educate my customers, because there are a ton of people that grew up in the South that have never tasted a hard cooked squash. I’ve given out a lot of samples to get people to try them, people that now want to know how to cook them.

Cooking fall squash is really quite simple. You simply cut them, scoop out the seeds (fall squash have seeds like pumpkin which is in this same family), butter them and roast them. A good hour in a 400F oven will do the trick, but I’ve got a shortcut that I’ll share in this recipe. This recipe works for butternut or acorn squash. Either can be cooked by simply splitting in half, or you can cut them lengthwise as I do at work. Not only does this decrease the amount of time needed to cook them, it allows you more servings out of the squash, so it’s entirely up to you how you break down the squash depending on what you’re shooting for. You can simply half it and fill it up with butter and give everyone a half, or slice it up and give everyone a few slices. By slicing it, you simply cut down the cooking time.

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For two servings you will need:

  • 1 acorn or butternut squash, halved and scooped of seeds
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

In a glass baking dish, arrange the squash halves and add 2 tbsp per half of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HI for 6 minutes. This will soften up the squash and speed up your cooking time. If you’re slicing the squash instead of halving them, microwave for 4 minutes.

Drain the water from the dish and flip the squash over, cut side up. Drizzle the butter over the squash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, until the squash are caramelized and golden brown.

Cranberry Glazed Chicken Thighs

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Here’s an easy way to dress up chicken for your next dinner party or everyday meal. This glaze can be used on any type of poultry (chicken, duck, turkey) and it makes more glaze than you will need, so just keep the extra in a sealed container in your fridge for a later use. I have been buying skinless, boneless chicken thighs which cook relatively quick in the oven and have a lot of flavor without all the fat, but you can use any cut of chicken. Just adjust your cooking time accordingly.

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can cranberry sauce, the jellied kind
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (from box or can)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

In a sealable container, put the chicken thighs seasoned with the Cajun seasoning and garlic powder. Add the olive oil. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour but overnight for best flavors.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the thighs on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes and check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. They are done at 165F.

While the thighs are baking, in a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens into a nice glaze.

Once the thighs are done, brush the glaze over the thighs and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to caramelize the glaze and brown the tops of the thighs.

German Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

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Even after making numerous pecan pies for Thanksgiving, I’ve still got plenty of pecans left from this year’s crop produced by the big tree out back. With that in mind, I ran across a recipe in a recent Southern Living magazine for pecan pie bars and decided to give it a try. Like most every recipe I find, my end result varies a little because I’ll add a little of this or a dash of that; anything I think will improve the end result.

These are delicious! If you’re looking for something different to take to a party or give as a gift this year, give these tasty bars a try!

  • 3 cups pecan halves and pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted sweet cream butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup good quality bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

First, preheat your oven to 350F. Arrange the pecans in a single layer on a sheet pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ pyrex dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving 2-3 inches on each side to extend over the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the foil (I just spray with Pam).

In a food processor, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, cold cubed butter and cocoa 5-6 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry blender tool or even your hands. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your glass dish.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crust with the chocolate morsels. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

While the crust is cooling, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon and the eggs until smooth. Stir in the coconut and toasted pecans and spoon mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour), then chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Lift the baked bars from the pan using the aluminum foil sides as a handle. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars. Peel off the foil and enjoy!

No Fail Creole Style Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Today I was asked for the basic bread pudding recipe I make, so I figured it best if I simply shared the recipe with everyone. As I’ve said before, I make a lot of bread pudding in the cafe and I have several variations to keep the customers excited, but this recipe is for simple, straightforward New Orleans bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce. Feel free to experiment with ingredients. Sometimes I leave out the raisins and instead use dried cranberries and sliced almonds. Sometimes I use blueberries and some orange marmalade. I’ve been known to make banana pecan and at times, coffee-chocolate, but the basic recipe remains the same.

 

 

 

  • 1 loaf French bread or 12 large croissants, cubed
  • 1 quart half & half
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 3 tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs with the half & half. Add the bread and fold to combine ingredients, then add the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and raisins. Mix well. Coat a 9″x13″ glass baking dish with PAM. Pour the bread pudding mixture into the dish and drizzle the top with the melted butter. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the center is set but still moist. If bread starts to get too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Whiskey Cream Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 cup quality bourbon (or rum)

Mix the butter and sugar in a double-boiler until very hot and sugar is well dissolved. In your left hand (or right if you’re left handed), slowly pour the egg and cream into the butter/sugar mixture while whisking very fast with your opposite hand. This is essentially a quicker way to “temper” the eggs so they don’t curdle. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Mixture will slightly thicken as it cools. Just before serving, whisk in the bourbon (or rum).

To serve, plate up the bread pudding and drizzle with the whiskey sauce.

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

If you can’t tell from my posts, I’ve been on a sweet kick lately. I guess that happens after you pass 40. This is a really simple recipe for making “almost homemade” cinnamon rolls. I love orange cinnamon rolls so I added orange zest to the rolls and orange juice to the icing, but if you prefer a more traditional cinnamon roll, leave the zest out of the roll and replace the orange juice in the icing with milk. The hardest part of making these is finding the frozen bread dough. You’ll have to check a real grocery store; I don’t think Walmart has frozen bread dough but I could be wrong.

 

Roll dough:

  • 1 1# loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14-in. square. Spread butter over dough. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, brown sugar, orange peel and cinnamon. Sprinkle over dough.

Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Cut into 1/2-in. slices. Place cut side down in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and enough orange juice to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over warm rolls. Yield: about 2 dozen.

Caramel Apple Crisp

A couple of weeks back, my sweet tooth kicked in late one night, so I went in search of something to make. I found some really fresh Granny Smith apples, so I decided to whip up a “crisp”. A crisp is like a cobbler; the difference is the top. You could easily make this a cobbler by topping with a dough crust.

  • 5 ripe Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl, toss all above ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly into an 8″x8″ glass baking dish.

CRUMBLE:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup butter, softened

Mix together ingredients in a small bowl and top the apple mixture with the crumble.

CARAMEL SAUCE:

  • 1 14oz packaged of individually wrapped caramel candies, unwrapped
  • 1 5oz can evaporated milk

Combine caramel candies and milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture has a smooth consistency. Spoon the mixture over the crumble top of the crisp and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, until the apple mixture is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Serve with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream!

The Perfect Meatloaf

Whenever I have meatloaf on the menu during lunch, I never seem to make enough. Everyone lines up and we sell out long before lunch service is over. Doesn’t matter which meatloaf I make (beef or turkey) or which glaze/gravy I use (traditional, caramelized onion, creamy mushroom, etc). In the south, meatloaf is as common as fried chicken. Everybody has their own meatloaf recipe.. Some are really good.. some aren’t so good. Most everyone knows how to make a meatloaf but not everyone can make a really good meatloaf. In my opinion, meatloaf should be tasty and moist. I like mine to “almost” fall apart on their own. No knife should be involved in eating a slice of meatloaf!

These days, meatloaf is a generic term for a dish that can be made with a variety of meats (beef, turkey, pork) or even vegetarian style. One thing I’ve learned, the leaner the meat, the less flavor and the “firmer” the meatloaf with be, so if you want a really tasty meatloaf, you’ve got to deal with some fat. Buying 93/7 lean ground beef won’t produce a really good meatloaf, although it will be a lot healthier. If you want to “lean up” a meatloaf but still retain the flavor and moisture, try using 1/2 ground turkey and 1/2 ground beef. You won’t taste the turkey.. in fact, because of seasonings, when I make a true 100% turkey meatloaf at work, most of my customers have no idea they aren’t eating ground beef.

This recipe is written for a standard, delicious meatloaf but has variations as noted. They all work and they are all wonderful, so if you’ve had problems making a perfect meatloaf in the past, give this recipe a try!

  • 1 pound ground chuck mixed with 1 pound ground round (or mix beef with ground turkey, or do all ground turkey if you prefer)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup PANKO (Japanese Breadcrumbs) or 1 cup crushed saltine crackers (do not use finely ground bread crumbs from a can)
  • 2 tbsp Montreal Steak seasoning (a blend found in the spice isle)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Grease a bread loaf pan with cooking spray and add meat to the pan. If you prefer one of the glazes below (traditional or creamy mushroom) add it before baking the meatloaf, or you can bake the meatloaf and then top with caramelized onions and brown gravy if you prefer.

Bake at 400F for approximately 45 minutes. Meatloaf is done when internal temperature (read with a kitchen thermometer) reads 165F, so check it periodically. One it reaches that temp, remove from the oven. If you cook it longer, it will dry out.

Glazes:

For a traditional glaze, mix 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup ketchup and pour over the top before baking meatloaf.

For creamy mushroom meatloaf, simply open a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and pour over the top before baking meatloaf.

 

Asian Citrus Vinaigrette

Let me apologize to my customers at work for the delay in getting this recipe loaded to the site. In all honesty, the vinaigrette on the salad we had this week was something I threw together just before we opened, so I had to go back and re-create it for a recipe.

  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (regular is too salty)
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp honey or brown sugar (I used brown sugar but honey would be more palatable)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

In a glass bowl, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, orange juice, honey/brown sugar and garlic. Mix well with a whisk. While continuously whisking the vinaigrette, add the olive oil in a continuous stream until well incorporated. Add sesame oil just before tossing with salad greens.

* sorry there is no picture for this recipe, I will take one and load it the next time I make the vinaigrette