Sweet Potato Maple Bacon Pie

Deliciouness abounds in this pie. I absolutely love the combination of sweet and salty. The candied bacon and maple cream kind of stole the show – as in, I could eat a whole bowl of just those two combined. ūüôā Seriously though, this pie was good! I served it to my parents and husband and they all proclaimed it delicious and they were¬†all surprised at how much they LOVED the bacon.

Personally, I still like pumpkin pie better than sweet potato (it’s a texture thing) but I would totally make this again and serve it to guests and especially find more uses for that bacon. This is really an awesome twist on the traditional pumpkin pie. I’m already dreaming of the leftovers for breakfast. [Just a small note – the bacon looks dark in the picture but it was not burned I assure you!]

There are a few steps to this pie but it is not difficult and the steps do not need to be completed all at once.

SWEET POTATO MAPLE BACON PIE
Print This Recipe

1 pie crust in a pie pan (you can make your own or buy a prepared one)
2 c. pureed sweet potato
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 c. evaporated milk
2 Tb. maple syrup
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the sweet potato, milk, egg, and maple syrup in the blender. Add the spices. Pour into the crust. Bake at 425¬į for 15 minutes.¬† Then decrease oven to 350¬į and bake for 35-45 minutes until set.

CANDIED BACON
3 strips bacon, roughly chopped (mine was fairly thick)
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. brown sugar

Toss the bacon with brown sugar and maple syrup. Cook until crisp stirring and moving continually. It cooks fairly quickly and you need to keep an eye on it. Drain and cool completely.

MAPLE CREAM
1 c. whipped cream
2 Tb. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Just before serving, whip the cream for 1 minute. Add maple syrup and vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of pie. Top with candied bacon pieces.

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Simple Super: White Bean-Spinach-Quinoa-Bacon Salad

The other evening suppertime approached and the only ideas I had involved ingredients in my refrigerator. I took those ingredients–bacon, spinach, quinoa, cannelini beans–and went to find a recipe. The result was this delicious hot salad! I used leftover cooked quinoa (cajun spiced!) and the meal came together in a snap. The red wine vinegar added a tasty, unexpected zing. And come on, anything with bacon and asparagus is pretty darn tasty.

WHITE BEAN-SPINACH-QUINOA-BACON SALAD
(slightly adapted from Closet Cooking)
Print This Recipe

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 sweet onion, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound of asparagus, woody stems broken off, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 (6 ounce) package baby spinach
1 (19 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan, about 4-6 minutes, and set aside, reserving 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon grease. Caramelize the onions, mushrooms, and asparagus in the remaining bacon grease, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Add the vinegar to the pan and deglaze it. Mix in the reserved bacon grease, sugar, mustard, garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the spinach and the beans and cook until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in the bacon and veggies. Spoon over the quinoa, or mix it all together in the pan before serving.

Weekend Fare: Brunch & A Giveaway!

This Giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

I’m late getting this post put together. My husband was home working on some paperwork today and the boys were busily cleaning their rooms. As the hours passed and we still really hadn’t eaten breakfast, I decided it was the perfect morning to make brunch. And thus this morning became a lovely morning of cooking for the men I love!

We enjoyed breakfast egg sandwiches and a fruited spinach salad. It was wonderful to spend time preparing for the day and feasting on the delicious, seasonal food.

The sandwich began with an inspiring loaf of rosemary olive oil bread. I decided to use parmesan as the cheese because I felt it would compliment the bread and not detract from it. The combination of flavors and textures proved fabulous.

BREAKFAST SANDWICH
Print These Recipes

1 egg
fresh grated parmesan cheese (or whatever cheese you prefer)
pepper to taste
2 slices bread (I used rosemary olive oil bread)
butter
1 slice cooked bacon
a few leaves of baby spinach
2-3 slices of tomato

Fry the egg in a litte butter – breaking the yoke. When it is almost finished, sprinkle parmsan cheese and allow to melt. Sprinkle with a little pepper.

Toast the bread – I put it under the broiler to crisp one side, leaving the other side soft. Butter one side of each piece.

To Build:
Top first slice of bread with baby spinach, then bacon, then the egg, then the tomato and top with remaining slice of bread. Serve immediately.

The salad was a delightful combination of fresh. The granola was perhaps the most interesting and most surprising addition. It took the salad right over the top and solidified it as a brunch salad. Simple and delicious.

BRUNCH SPINACH SALAD

Baby spinach or mixed greens
Creamy Balsamic Dressing (or dressing of your choice – a sweet poppy seed would also be lovely)
Fresh berries (I used raspberries and sliced strawberries)
Granola

Toss the greens with the dressing and place on plate. Top with berries and granola. Serve.

________________________________________

It’s been a very ¬†LONG¬†time since we’ve had a giveaway! Things have been busy and quite frankly, I just haven’t gotten around to it! However,¬†a very thoughtful and generous¬†reader and friend offered us this delightul book to giveaway. Thank you!

Do you like to entertain and set a beautiful table? Do you wonder how to pull together things you may already have to create ambience? Do you just enjoy creativity and love looking at beautiful inspiring photos? Then this is the book for you! The gorgeous photos of table ideas for all occasions will definitely inspire you. You can keep it simple or dress a table the would make Martha Stewart proud. Table Inspirations by Emily Chalmers is a lovely addition to any home. You won’t be disappointed!

Here’s the all important information on HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment on this post telling us 1 of your favorite summer dishes or a favorite summer recipe.
– Make sure we have a way to contact you!

For additional entries (just leave us a comment telling us which ones you have done!):
Subscribe via the link to the right or with google reader.
– Add us to your blog roll.
– Join our facebook group ‚Äď The Cooks Next Door.
Facebook about this giveaway.
Tweet about this giveaway.
Blog about this giveaway.

There you go! You could earn as many as 7 entries. And if you already are in our group, subscribe etc, let us know and we will add in the extra entries!

This giveaway will be closed on Tuesday, June 7 and the winner announced on Wednesday, June 8!

Off the Shelf: February Magazines

Fine Cooking (Stephanie)¬†–¬†I enjoy looking through the pages of Fine Cooking in part because each issue offers a particular dish with recipe alternatives. The February/March issue includes meatloaf variations with aromatics, meats, mix-ins and herbs and spices ideas so you can create your own recipe. This issue also features several recipes using the banana, including Thai-Style Halibut Banana Curry with Peanuts and Banana Split Brownies.

I chose to try the Lemon-Glazed Banana Scones with Crystallized Ginger. I have to admit the flavor combination sounded strange, but nevertheless, intriguing. Also for true confession, I used powdered ginger because I wasn’t willing to send $8 on a jar of crystallized ginger for this recipe (conversion: 1/8 tsp of powdered ginger added in with the dry ingredients), so the ginger flavor is most likely less aggressive than the original recipe. Regardless, these are fantastic! I was amazed by the way the banana and lemon complemented each other.

(For any of you gluten-free readers, I successfully made these gf, but substituting my gf all-purpose flour mix of choice and adding 1 tsp of xanthan gum.)

LEMON-GLAZED BANANA SCONES WITH CRYSTALLIZED GINGER
(from Fine Cooking, Feb./Mar. 2011)
Print This Recipe

FOR THE SCONES
9 oz (2 c.) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3/8 tsp salt
2 3/4 oz (5 1/2 Tbsp) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 small ripe (but not mushy) banana, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 c.)
1 Tbsp minced crystallized ginger
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp heavy cream; more for brushing
coarse white sanding sugar, optional

FOR THE GLAZE
3 oz (3/4 c.) confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt

Position the rack in the top third of the oven and heat the oven to 375¬įF. Stack two rimmed baking sheets and line the top one with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until a few pea-size lumps remain. Stir in the banana and the ginger. Add the cream; with a fork, gradually stir until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat gently into a 7-inch circle about 1-inch thick. Using a knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the wedges 1-2 inches apart. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle liberally with sanding sugar (optional).

Bake until the tops are golden, 19-25 minutes, rotating halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool slightly, 3-4 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, butter, and salt until smooth. Drizzle the warm scones with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saveur (Stephanie) –¬†I perused the 135th issue of Saveur magazine online, the Jan./Feb. issue is the chef’s edition. I have to admit that many of the recipes didn’t appeal to me as they were ingredients I don’t typically use in my kitchen. But there were several different deviled egg recipes I found interesting. I tried the Bacon-and-Cheddar Deviled Eggs; how could they not be delicious?! ūüôā

BACON-AND-CHEDDAR DEVILED EGGS
(from Saveur Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2011)
Print This Recipe

MAKES 12

6 eggs
1/4 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped, plus 2 tsp. rendered bacon fat reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, such as Sriracha, to garnish

Put eggs into a 4-qt. pot of water and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 15 minutes. Drain eggs and crack each shell slightly. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let cool. Peel eggs. Halve each egg; using a small spoon, transfer yolks to a medium bowl. Using a fork, mash yolks. Add cheddar, mayonnaise, 3/4 of the chopped bacon, and bacon fat; season with salt and pepper. Stir vigorously with spatula until smooth.

Transfer mixture to a plastic bag or a piping bag fitted with a smooth tip and pipe into egg whites. Garnish eggs with the remaining bacon, more cheddar, and hot sauce and serve cold or at room temperature.

Bon Appetit (Alaina) – This issue had some great looking recipes. They have a section an interesting section on honey as well as a variety of chili recipes. The¬†Honey-Roasted Onion Tart, Roasted Beets & Citrus w/Feta, Sesame Cilantro Soup, Black Bean Chili¬†w/Butternut Squash, and¬†Fresh Pinapple Trifles w/Orange-Coconut Cream are just a few of the tempting recipes. However…

…Just look at the cover of this magazine. Yum. And with a boast of them being the best brownies ever and that you would want to eat the entire pan, well, I simply had to try them. Not that I needed them, mind you – it was all in the interest of kitchen research, of course. ūüôā¬†The verdict: I DID want to eat the whole pan but I restrained myself. Despite my adding way too much flour, they turned out simply delicious. I think the combination of the browned butter, walnuts, and rich chocolatey goodness¬†made them irresistable.¬†[On a side note, I used dark chocolate cocoa powder.] These would be an excellent Valentine’s Dessert if you are cooking dinner for two. You could use a cookie cutter to cut them into hearts¬†and serve them with ice cream or fresh whipped cream or all by themselves. Seriously good, folks. Make them.¬†

COCOA BROWNIES w/BROWNED BUTTER & WALNUTS 
(aka delicious and worth every calorie)
Bon Appetit, February 2011
Print This Recipe

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325¬įF. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Off the Shelf: October Magazines

The weather is cooling and filling the house with good smells is one of the best activities! Our October magazines arrived and fall is officially ushered in – at least in our kitchens. We talked about magazines we would review and we have chosen four but the reality is – you can’t go wrong with any of the fall magazines. I have Bon Apetit and Cooking Light in my menu plan ideas with several recipes marked. All of the magazines have wonderful, seasonal recipes and there is¬†a good chance you will see a few more recipes featured here during October and November.

Everyday with Rachael Ray (Alaina) – This magazine has a great variety of recipes. It was such a tough choice of what to make. The Pear & Goat Cheese Crostini, Spiced Squash with Browned Butter Glaze, Maple-Walnut Chicken Thighs¬†& Cheddar-Apple Rice,¬†and Apple Tart¬†Tatin were all tempting. I think I’m just ready for the fall fruits and vegetables!

Mini Meatloaves Smothered with Onions finally made the cut and they were delicious. The combination of beef, dates, bacon, and onions with worcestshire sauce and balsamic vinegar made for flavorful and moist meatloaves.

MINI MEATLOAVES SMOTHERED with ONIONS
(Everyday with Rachael Ray, October 2010)
Print This Recipe

1/2 cup pitted dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/3 pounds ground beef
3 onions, 2 thinly sliced and 1 finely chopped
3 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 375¬į. In a bowl, combine the dates and breadcrumbs, working the mixture through your fingers to separate. Mix in the beef. Mix in the chopped onion, bacon, egg, worcestershire and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 mounds and, on a baking sheet, shape into loaves. Place on the upper rack and bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, on another baking sheet, toss the sliced onions with the butter and season with salt; spread out evenly. Bake on the lower rack, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve the meatloaves with the onions.

Food Network Magazine (Alaina) – I love this edition of Food Network. The recipes all look wonderful and again it was such a hard decision. How can you go wrong with a pull-out full of 50 delicious Panini ideas?! And the use of fall ingredients is impressive.

I’m still planning to make the Pumpkin Waffles with Trail Mix Topping and the¬†Slow-Cooker Squash Stew and perhaps a few more!¬† The Caramel Apple Cake, Pumpkin Pie Parfaits, Honey-Mustard Chicken & Apples, and Portabella Fries all sound so good.

After many requests for more side dish recipes, I decided to try a couple of the recipes included in this magazine. So, we enjoyed Sweet Potato Mash and Sesame Broccoli. We really liked both dishes.

SWEET POTATO MASH
(Food Network, October 2010)
Print This Recipe

Pierce 4 sweet potatoes with a fork; microwave 8 minutes. Scoop the flesh into a bowl, then mash. Brown 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet, then add 8 sage leaves and fry until crisp; transfer to a plate. Cook 4 chopped scallions with salt and pepper in the browned butter. Drizzle over the sweet potatoes; top with the sage.


SESAME BROCCOLI
(Food Network Magazine, October 2010)
Print This Recipe

Cook 1 bunch broccoli spears in a steamer set over simmering water, 10 minutes. Pulse a 1-inch piece peeled ginger, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons each water and sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and a pinch each of sugar and salt in a mini food processor. Drizzle over the broccoli and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Midwest Living (Heather) — Although¬†Midwest Living is not technically a food magazine, the Sept/Oct issue included a huge spread focused on cranberries. The article was so beautiful and inspiring that I felt it was worth mentioning here.

The cranberry article included things such as cranberry scones, cranberry layer cake, and cranberry apple sweet potatoes. I chose to try the Crimson Slaw and it was delicious. The color, taste, and texture were right on and paired perfectly with my baked ham, roasted sweet potatoes, and steamed green beans.

CRIMSON SLAW
(Sept/Oct Midwest Living 2010)
Print this recipe

1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. dry red wine (optional — but added a great depth)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
4 cups shredded red cabbage (1/2 of a medium head)
1  6-ounce package dried cranberries (I used half this amount)
1/4 to 1/2 of a medium red onion, thinly sliced

For vinaigrette: in screw-top jar, combine oil, sugar, vinegar, wine (if you like), salt, pepper, and mustard. Cover and shake well.

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, cranberries and onion. Pour the vinaigrette over cabbage mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. (I had to serve it immediately and it was great.)

Serves 6.

Victoria (Heather) —¬†Victoria has always been my favorite magazine. The beauty and romance of its pages capture my heart. I enjoyed flipping through this magazine while on our recent “staycation”. Since I am a devoted Anglophile (more precisely a UK-phile), I particularly enjoyed this issue.

Page 38 contains a beautiful photo of an amazing cake: who knew it was gluten-free?! I had to make it. The result was beautiful, but strangely¬†tinny. After some reflection I realized the recipe had been altered in translation and the “tablespoons” should be read as “teaspoons”, especially where baking powder is concerned!!! So, if you’re going to make this cake, be sure to follow the recipe below, or remember the proper translation when you read the magazine!

APPLE AND CINNAMON CAKE
(Victoria Magazine, Sept/Oct 2010)
Print this recipe

1 1/2 cups butter, softened (margarine can be used if you can’t use butter)
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill with great results)
4 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 large eggs
4 apples, peeled and coarsely grated

garnish: 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped; 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and line two 9-inch cake pans.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment at medium-high speed, beat together butter and sugar until smooth.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture, and mix at low speed until combined and smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs and grated apple; fold into butter mixture.

Divide batter between prepared pan, and bake for 40 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble cake, place one cake layer on plate and spread half of the icing over top; top with second cake layer, and spread remaining icing over top. Garnish with walnuts and dried cranberries, if desired.

ICING
(Heather’s Recipe)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and whip (slowly at first) until cheese is thoroughly mixed in and mixture has thickened.

Off The Shelf: March Magazines

(Heather) – Now that we are well into 2010, the food magazines have begun to arrive en masse. First up this month is Food Network. The March issue encompasses 140 pages. Along with all the normal features (such as Food News, Star Kitchen, Fun Cooking, He Made-She Made, and Copy That), there are a number of great feature articles which include: cooking with orange juice concentrate, 11,375 stir-fry possibilities¬†complete with some¬†amazing photos, easy green snacks for St. Patrick’s Day, Weeknight Cooking and Weekend Cooking — all of which have very appealing recipes, a Ravioli how-to, and a pull-out booklet on 50 Pizzas. The magazine ends with a lengthy spread devoted to the upcoming Oscars, including Hollywood-specific recipes.

I chose a recipe from the On The Road feature — Green Apple-SourDough Pancakes. I love the smell and taste of sourdough and these pancakes were lovely. And my kids ate them right up too!

GREEN APPLE-SOURDOUGH PANCAKES
(Food Network Magazine March 2010)
Print this recipe

For the sourdough starter:
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp. active dry yeast (1/2 packet)
1/2 cup apple cider (I had to substitute apple juice with 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar)
3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the pancakes:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 small tart green apple (such as Granny Smith), unpeeled and diced
1-2 Tbsp. butter
maple syrup or honey, for serving
chopped pecans, for garnish (optional)

Make the sourdough starter: Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat to about 110F. Transfer to a medium bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cider, brown sugar, butter and 1 cup flour until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.

The next morning, make the pancakes: whisk 1/2 cup flour, the egg, baking soda and apple into the sourdough starter. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. (Alternatively, cook on an electric pancake griddle.) Cook until the tops are bubbly and the edges set, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook until golden and cooked through, 1 to 2 more minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter as needed. Drizzle with syrup and garnish with pecans, if desired.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

(Heather) – Next up is Everyday with Rachael Ray which boasts 462 easy recipes, tips & deals. The magazine opens with a number of regular features and this month includes a section on beating the winter blahs. There are focus pages on cauliflower, coffee, slow cookers, supermarket traps. My favorite section of this magazine is the five-page Meet the Grains feature, introducing us to brown rice, millet, barley, farro, buckwheat, and quinoa. I hope to obtain most, if not all, of these grains and begin to incorporate them into our diet. (Perhaps you’ll read about the results on this blog!)

As always the magazine includes some great suggestions for 30-minute meals, as well as a section on classic dishes (think chicken noodle soup, chocolate cake, apple pie, lasagna). Recipes for Oscar night fill several pages and, wouldn’t you know, there’s a lengthy article on the nation’s best pizza and how to make it (do magazine editors consult each other?).

I will mention that my biggest pick with this issue was from their Supermarket Traps article. The article actually encourages you to “save produce shopping for last; this will prevent overbuying.” Their argument being that produce has the highest profit margin and supermarket owners want you to buy a lot. In my opinion, fresh produce is what you should be filling the bulk of your cart with. The more fresh food we eat the more likely we are to have good health.

The Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Greens from the $10 Dinners caught my attention. The recipe worked well and tasted great and one could even substitute regular pasta for the spaghetti squash.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH SAUSAGE AND GREENS
(Everyday with Rachael Ray March 2010)
Print this recipe

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
12 oz. sweet Italian sausage
1 bunch spinach, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (I used a 10 oz. bag of fresh spinach)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

The magazine has you cook the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Because I try to avoid microwave cooking I placed my halved squash in a baking pan, added about 1-inch of water and baked it at 350F for 45-60 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the spinach and crushed red pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Using a fork, comb the cooked squash into strands into a bowl. Toss with the parmesan and season with black pepper. Serve the spinach and sausage over the squash.

Serves 4.

(Alaina) РEveryday Food is focused on spring! It has some wonderful looking salad recipes, a whole section on poaching eggs and recipes for them, five different uses for homemade pizza dough (which all look amazing!), as well as their usual meal plan with grocery a list. I continue to be impressed with this magazine. They make gourmet food easy! The Beer-Braised Sausages with Warm Potato Salad, Almond Torte with Pears and Whipped Cream, and the Swiss Chard Pie are just a few of the recipes I would love to try!

I decided to try the Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce – Orcchiette is a small shell-like pasta which I didn’t happen to have on hand so mine was actually Orzo with Bacon and Tomato Sauce. Orzo is¬†a small pasta that looks a little like rice. It worked well. This was a little spicy for my kids, so I would reduce the red-pepper flakes¬†to 1/4 tsp. The smoky bacon is so good in this simple dish!

ORECCHIETTE WITH BACON & TOMATO SAUCE
(Everyday Food, March 2010)
Print this recipe

1 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 lb. orecchiette or other short pasta
Grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley, for serving

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add bacon and cook until browned and almost crisp, about 4 min. Add onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 min. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, 1 min. Add tomatoes, breaking them up as you go, and season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, 15 min.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted water, cook pasta 1 minute less than package instructions. Reserve cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

Add sauce and pasta water to pasta and toss to combine; cook over medium-high until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 2 min. Serve pasta topped with Parmesan and parsley.

(Alaina) – Cooking Light has a wide variety of recipes including many different proteins and vegetarian dishes.¬†The photos are inspiring and the articles interesting. I especially enjoyed the article on 25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes – and yes, I’m definitely guilty of some of them! The Lentil-Barley Burgers with Fiery Fruit Salad, Apricot-Ginger Bellinis, Pear & Prosciutto Pizza, and Braised Short Ribs with Egg Noodles all look amazing.

I decided to try the lightened up¬†Sour Cream Coffee Cake which was actually one of the Cooking Light staff favorites! And I agree – it was surprisingly¬†delicious! I used yogurt which is the perfect substitute for sour cream if you don’t have any and since mine was fat-free plain, it reduced the fat in this recipe even more!

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE
(Cooking Light, March 2010)
Print this recipe

3/4 c. old-fashioned oats, divided
1 c. flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar, divided
1/3 c. butter, softened
2 lg. eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8-oz) carton light sour cream (I used fat free plain yogurt)
2 Tb. finely chopped walnuts (I used pecans because we love them!)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until oats are barely fragrant and light brown. Coat a 9-inch springform pan (I used a regular 9-in. round glass baking pan) with cooking spray; set aside. Reserve 1/4 c. oats; set aside. Place remaining oats in a food processor; process 4 seconds or until finely ground. Combine flours, processed oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with whisk.

Place a granulated sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/3 c. butter in a lg. bowl. Beat with a mixter at medium speed for 3 min. or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Batter will be slightly lumpy because of oats.) Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.

Combine remaining 1/4 c. oats and 1/4 c. brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in 1 Tb. butter with a pastry blender until well blended. Sprinkle top of batter evenly with nut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, top is golden, and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool cake in pan for 10 min. Serves 10.

Simple Suppers: Pasta

In the interest of dairy this week, I’m offering two recipes for pasta that use various dairy products. I hope you enjoy!

My kids LOVE macaroni and cheese. They request it for birthdays and would probably eat it every day if¬†I would let them. This easy¬†macaroni and cheese is done entirely on the stove. It’s makes a great side dish, a¬†simple supper, or a quick lunch. I will say that while it’s not my¬†very favorite macaroni and cheese (I’ll post that recipe one of these days, I promise!), it was very creamy, decadent, and good. The boys gave it a thumbs up!¬†¬†¬†

MACARONI & CHEESE
(adapted from Alton Brown)
Print This Recipe

1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
4 Tb. butter
2 eggs
6 oz. evaporated milk
3 dashes hot sauce
1 tsp. kosher salt
Fresh black pepper 
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
10 oz. cheese, shredded (I used co-jack and monterey jack b/c that’s what¬†I had)¬†

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat, continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy (I did it the full 3 minutes since it had the eggs in it).

The first time I ever tried pasta carbonara was actually in Kazakhstan. It was very tasty but I have never tried making it. I was pleased at how easy and delicious this recipe is!

PASTA CARBONARA
(adapted from  Tyler Florence)
Print This Recipe

1 lb. dry spaghetti
2 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. bacon, sliced into small strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lg. eggs
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (I clearly had less – my plant isn’t doing too well these days)

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta well, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.

Holiday Feast: Christmas Breakfast

Who doesn’t love breakfast food?! Especially on Christmas! Here’s what our families do for breakfast on Christmas morning:

HeatherChristmas breakfast is eaten around the tree as the children open their presents. The first year we were married I discovered the recipe for Swedish Tea Rings and have made one for Christmas breakfast ever since. The rest of the menu may vary some, but it always includes fruit. In recent years we’ve enjoyed bacon-wrapped sausages sprinkled with brown sugar and then baked and I often buy some thick, Greek yogurt to serve alongside the fruit. Drinks consist of juice and plenty of hot tea.

CITRUS FRUIT SALAD WITH LIME
(Heather)

1 pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small cans mandarin oranges or 3 large navel oranges peeled and sectioned
1 can apricots
zest and juice of 2 limes

Cut pineapple into pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add the mandarin or navel oranges and the can of apricots. Sprinkle over the zest of lime and stir in the lime juice. Best made the same day as eaten.

For variety I sometimes add dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds. For those who like ginger, one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger adds a wonderful zing or try a few tablespoons of finely sliced candied ginger.

Serves 8.

SWEDISH TEA RING
(originally from Fleishmann’s New Treasury of Yeast Baking)

3 ¬Ĺ — 4 ¬Ĺ c. flour
¬Ĺ c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 c. milk
¬ľ c. water
¬Ĺ c. butter
1 egg (at room temp.)
¬Ĺ c. flour
¬Ĺ c. nuts
¬Ĺ c. brown sugar
1-2 c. fruit (canned cherries, apricot, etc. well-drained)

Mix 1 ¬ľ c. flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl.

Combine milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat to warm liquids and melt butter. Cool until warm. Add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and ¬ĺ c. flour, to make a thick batter. Beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff batter (but not as thick as bread dough). Cover and refrigerate dough at least 2 hours. (Can be kept in fridge 3 days.)

Combine nuts, ¬Ĺ c. flour, and brown sugar. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and divide in half. Roll ¬Ĺ of the dough into a 14×7-inch rectangle.

Spread with ¬Ĺ of the fruit. Sprinkle with ¬Ĺ the brown sugar mixture. Roll up from long side as for jelly roll. Seal edges. Place sealed edge down in a circle on a greased cookie sheet. Seal ends firmly.

Cut slits 2/3 through ring at 1-inch intervals; turn each section outward, on its side.

(Note: This picture shows only one-half of the ring slices turned out — be sure to turn out every ring)

Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled ‚Äď about 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. Frost while warm with confectioners‚Äô sugar glaze.

Often I don’t have the canned filling I want so I make an apple filling by chopping about 3 large, peeled apples and mixing them with 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 c. brown sugar, juice of one lemon and a few dried cranberries. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Glaze: mix 3 tablespoons soft butter into about 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Add enough milk to make a drizzling consistency. Add more sugar if needed to thicken.

Makes 2 rings.

Alaina – We traditionally enjoy an egg casserole, fruit, some kind of bread or coffee cake, and a few special drinks. The coffee pot is kept going for those of us who were awakened early by eager children. We have breakfast after stockings and gifts are opened or in between the stockings and gifts depending on the time. It’s a leisurely affair and one that I find makes me incredibly content and reflective.

I use the same base recipe for my egg casserole and just switch out the meats and cheese and sometimes add vegetables to make it different. We love it and I’ve been making it year-round for years.¬†One of my favorite combinations is bacon, spinach, and swiss and we also love the traditional classic of sausage and sharp cheddar¬†(onions & peppers add great color and flavor).¬†You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the meat. This egg casserole¬†also re-heats very well if you have leftovers. I’m sharing one of my favorite versions.

SPINACH-MUSHROOM-BACON-SWISS EGG CASSEROLE

6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb. bacon, cooked and finely cut up (I often use less than a pound)
3 c. milk
8 oz. swiss cheese
1 1/3 c. crushed crackers (I use a butter cracker like ritz)

1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 lb. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed w/liquid thoroughly squeezed out
pepper & salt*

Combine all ingredients. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour until golden brown.

*May not need much salt.
**May be made the night before and refrigerated.

These muffins are delicious! You could make them even more special by drizzling a little glaze over them.

LEMON-CRANBERRY ALMOND MUFFINS
(adapted from Taste of Home)

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. slivered almonds, toasted

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in zest and cranberries.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full; sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Makes 1 1/2 Р3 dozen muffins.

This icy drink always reminds me of my childhood. My mom used to surprise us with it and now I love to share it with my children.


ORANGE JULIUS

6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate
6 oz. water
1 c. milk
1/8-1/4 c. sugar (opt.)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 ice cubes

Chill glasses in freezer.

Combine all ingredients in blender or smoothie machine and blend until ingredients are mixed and ice is pulverized. Makes 4 servings.

Market Fresh: Leeks

Leeks are intricately connected to Christmas-time for me. Growing up we ate them only once a year, but always on Christmas Eve when my mother made them into Potato Leek Soup. I realized there were many more delicious ways to use leeks when we lived in Scotland. There leeks are plentiful and commonly used for such things as soup, gratins, and side dishes. Similar in taste to an onion, but milder, leeks lend a lovely, savory taste to whatever dish they are added to.

Leeks come in a long, cylinder shape and need to be washed well before use. The easiest way to prepare leeks is to cut the very bottom off and begin slicing in thin rounds up through the white part and just into the green part. Separate the slices into little rings and gently wash. I use a salad spinner to wash and then spin dry the leek circles. If I don’t need a whole bunch of leeks at once, I freeze the extra on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, removing them to a heavy plastic bag once frozen.

This week I have a great-tasting, easy recipe for using leeks: Creamy Chicken and Leeks served over a baked potato. It cooks up quickly and can be served with a salad alongside. For those of you interested in trying other leek recipes, let me suggest Alaina’s Potato Leek Soup, or this Creamy Baked Leeks with Citrus Crumbs, or perhaps just Buttered Leeks.

CREAMY CHICKEN AND LEEKS
(adapted from www.bbcgoodfood.com)

olive oil
6 strips bacon, chopped
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 leeks, sliced into thin rounds
1 Tbsp. plain flour
1 1/4 c. chicken stock
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
2 Tbsp. sour-cream

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and fry the bacon for 2 minutes. Add the chicken, then cook with the bacon for a further 2-3 minutes, until the pieces begin to turn golden. Tip in the leeks and cook gently for 10 minutes until leeks are wilted and tender.

Stir through the flour and gradually add the stock, stirring constantly. Add the grainy mustard and sour-cream, stir again, then simmer gently for 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened and creamy.

Serve on top of baked potatoes.

Serves 4-6.