Rustic Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Here is the second of my Valentine’s Day breakfast-in-bed recipes. These are a delicious and unexpected addition to a brunch or a wonderful side dish for any meal! We like these more than traditional breakfast potatoes. They are rustic because we scrubbed them and left the skin on but you can feel free to peel them if you prefer. The recipe can be adapted for however many people you are serving. You could also very easily add fresh herbs if you have them.

RUSTIC ROASTED SWEET POTATOES
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1 sweet potato per person (unless they are really big)
olive oil
butter, melted
seasoned salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thoroughly scrub the sweet potatoes and then dice them and put the in a bowl. Combine olive oil and butter and pour on the cut potatoes and toss to thoroughly coat (I used about 4 Tb. total for 4 large potatoes). Season generously with seasoned salt and lightly with fresh ground pepper.

Pour potatoes in a jelly roll pan or stone (jelly roll pans have about a 1 inch side). Bake for 15-25 minutes until tender and starting to carmelize/brown (I actually put mine back in the oven after the picture because I realized I wanted them done a little more). Stir every 5-10 minutes.

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Cherry Vanilla Scones

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and one taste of these and I knew they would make a perfect addition to a romantic breakfast in bed. We loved them! I made them with a couple of other dishes for Sunday brunch and the meal was proclaimed a big success by all four of my critics. I’m planning to post two additional recipes to add to your Valentine’s breakfast. Hope you enjoy!

These are best the first day but you can definitely enjoy them the next morning.

CHERRY VANILLA SCONES
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3 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. cold butter
1 c. vanilla yogurt or plain yogurt with 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 Tb. of agave nectar
1/4 c. milk
1 c. tart dried cherries, roughly chopped
2/3 c. vanilla chips or white chocolate chips

milk for brushing the top
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and soda in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine yogurt and milk. Stir into the flour mixture until moistened. Gently knead in the cherries and vanilla chips.

Pat the dough about 1/2-3/4 inches thick. Cut into desired shaped and place on a baking sheet. Brush tops with additional milk and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Best served warm!

 

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Doughnuts

For Christmas, I received Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker by Mark & Michael Klebeck with Jess Thomson – I think it might have been a not-so-subtle hint from my brother-in-law that doughnuts would be a good next step in the culinary world. I took the hint and excitedly obliged!

This book is awesome! It contains history, tips, recipes, and more for the famous doughnuts made by Seattle bakery Top Pot.  My kids were more than a little excited to see a doughnut book in the mix of my Christmas books and my three-year-old immediately started picking recipes for me to make.

The pictures are beautiful and inspiring and the recipes are detailed and specific. It is thorough and even includes gluten-free doughnut recipes. The book also provides many glazes and icings so you can mix and match your doughnut and topping. Really I just can’t get enough of this book and it’s not helping my healthier eating January. So…I’m going to also give you a yummy reason to break those resolutions for just one day…or two…at a time (ha!).

If you like to cook and bake and enjoy trying new techniques, this book is definitely for you – go pick up a copy! It’s SO fun! I made the Pumpkin Old-Fashioned Doughnuts and the Sour Cream Old-Fashioned Doughnuts – they were both excellent and I can’t wait to try another flavor. Today, I will share one recipe from this great book and you go buy the book and get the rest – you won’t regret it and you will definitely want to make all of the different kinds! Oh and don’t foget to drop off one of your delicious doughnuts for me to try!

Seriously, these are SO GOOD! My family (parents, sister & bil, husband, kids, etc) LOVED them! I’m totally a sucker for pumpkin so these were the first ones I made and honestly, they exceeded my already high expectations. I followed the instructions exactly since I’ve never made doughnuts and they turned out picture-perfect.


PUMPKIN OLD-FASHIONED DOUGHNUTS

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker
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3 c. cake/soft-wheat flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. iodized salt
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tb. shortening/vegetable lard, trans-fat-free preferred
2 large egg yolks
2/3 c. sour cream
1/2 c. canned pumpkin Canola oil, for frying

Pumpkin Glaze:

4 1/2 c./1 lb confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp. light corn/golden syrup
1/2 tsp. iodized salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. hot water

Serves 3 to 4

To make the doughnut dough: Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice together into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar and shortening/vegetable lard for 1 minute on low speed, until sandy. Add the egg yolks, then mix for 1 more minute on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary, until the mixture is light colored and thick.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with the sour cream and pumpkin, mixing until just combined on low speed and scraping the sides of the bowl each time. The dough will be sticky, like wet cookie/biscuit dough.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap/cling film, for 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

Meanwhile, make the pumpkin glaze: Place the confectioners’/icing sugar, corn/golden syrup, salt, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin, and vanilla in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the machine on medium speed, add the water in a slow, steady stream, and blend until all of the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the bowl a few times if necessary. Set aside.

Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 in deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan to 325°F. Roll out the chilled dough on a generously floured counter or cutting board to 1/2 in thick, or about 8 inches in diameter, flouring the top of the dough and the rolling pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into as many doughnuts and holes as possible, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut. Fold and gently reroll the dough to make extra holes (working with floured hands makes the dough less sticky), and cut again.

Shake any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to the hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to crowd them. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, then gently flip them. Fry for 75 to 90 seconds, until golden brown and cracked, then flip and fry the first side again for 60 to 75 seconds, until golden. Transfer to a rack set over paper towels/absorbent paper.

While the doughnuts are still quite hot, dip the side with the deepest cracks on each into the warm Pumpkin Glaze. Let dry on cooling racks, glazed side up, for about 15 minutes.

My notes:

* This dough was not as sticky as I expected and was easy to work with – I did use regular all-purpose flour (sifted) but that isn’t as light as cake flour so that may have contributed to the less stickiness.
* Keeping the oil at a consistent heat (between 325-350) was sometimes challenging and I accidentally added a couple of donuts too early which made them take longer or cook too fast and made the end product not quite as good but nobody complained and there were none left!
* I kept the glaze warm (which makes glazing easier) on my warming burner on the stove (low-medium).
* These were best the first day but still quite excellent the next day.
* I was not compensated in any way for this review except for getting to share and enjoy delicious, homemade doughnuts.

Overnight Coffee Cake

In case you still haven’t set your Christmas breakfast menu, let me offer this delicious coffee cake! My favorite part is that you make it the night before and refrigerate it overnight before baking. In the morning you can stick it in the oven and hit snooze a couple more times or send your significant other down to stick it in while you stay asleep – I would, of course, never  do that (hehehe). This recipe is delicious and you are a total rockstar for effortlessly serving a warm cake.

I like to pair this with egg casserole which can also be made the night before AND they can be baked at the same time. WIN! Now you will actually need to accept an award for your fabulous, organized, awesome breakfast – I promise I’ll keep the easiness a secret from your admirers… 🙂 The awesome thing about this egg casserole is that you can customize it for your taste – you can add veggies, herbs, different meats, or various kinds of cheese – it is an all-time family favorite!

You will thank your self for getting it done the night before and you will love the results! I serve with coffee and tea and with fruit juice and/or fruit salad. Since it’s the holidays, sometimes we will sneak in some of our favorite(!) eggnog from the local creamery or a wonderful champagne cocktail or sparkling wine. Delish!

OVERNIGHT COFFEE CAKE
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3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. yogurt (or sour cream)
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with yogurt. Pour into a greased 9×13 in. baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; sprinkle over coffee cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes. Combine confectioners’ sugar and milk; drizzle over warm coffee cake.

Champagne Cranberry Cocktail

These lovely cocktails will be making an appearance at our Christmas Brunch. They are beautiful and festive. If you like them sweeter (as my husband prefers), I think you could add a sugar cube in the bottom. These are quick and easy and lovely!

Oh and you can easily serve them to all of your guests by substituting sparkling white grape juice!

CRANBERRY CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL
adapted slightly from Food Network
Print This Recipe

1-ounce cranberry juice (sweetened)
1 wedge lime
Chilled Champagne or sparkling white grape juice
Cranberries (frozen)

In a Champagne flute add cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime. Top off the glass with Champagne or sparkling white grape juice. Garnish with 3 or 4 cranberries or sparkling white grape juice. Makes 1 cocktail.

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
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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 – 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!

Baker’s Delight: Banana Cupcakes

I first made this recipe a few years ago and really enjoyed it! Recently, I was asked to provide banana cupcakes for an open house and I remembered these. And so, I returned to the recipe and adapted it – these were the result. The honey cream cheese frosting is fabulous – not too sweet but oh so wonderful. These also make wonderful mini cupcakes – a batch makes 24 regular cupcakes and a lot of minis.  

BANANA CUPCAKES
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network)
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3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to a rack and cool slightly. Cool completely before frosting.

To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in   the honey. Spread the frosting over the muffins. Sprinkle with the walnuts if desired.

Weekend Fare: Sweet Potato Egg Cups

I found these egg cups on a blog I read occasionally, Everyday Paleo. I decided to give them a try for Jeremy and I’s Easter brunch. As per my usual, I changed the recipe by adding a few more ingredients and making it more my own. The taste was amazing. I did have trouble removing these from the muffin tin so they weren’t as pretty as I’d hoped. However, if you want a fun presentation for a brunch or fancy breakfast, this is definitely a recipe to consider.

SWEET POTATO EGG CUPS
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3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1/4 cup butter, melted
sea salt to taste
12 eggs
4 slices of bacon, diced
4 mushrooms, diced
3 green onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease thoroughly a muffin tin.

Mix the grated sweet potatoes with the melted butter. Using your hands, press the grated sweet potatoes into each muffin cup making sure the bottom and sides are completely covered. Press down firmly creating a potato “basket.” Bake the sweet potatoes for 25-30 minutes.

While potato baskets are baking, cook the diced bacon, drain and set aside. Lightly saute the diced mushroom and green onions in olive oil.

Remove potato baskets from the oven, place a few bacon pieces and some of the mushroom mixture in the bottom of each (make sure not to overfill, just a little bit of goodies!). Top with an egg. Return to oven and bake until the egg whats are set, but yolk is still slightly runny, about 10 minutes. Garnish with additional green onions, if desired.

My Kitchen View

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted generally about the food things going on in my kitchen and beyond. I hosted Easter Dinner (well, it was more brunch-like) for 13 yesterday and it gave me a great excuse to develop a couple of cupcake recipes – carrot with a cream cheese filling baked in them and cream cheese frosting and lemon with a lemon curd filling and raspberry cream frosting. I was pleased overall with both and will share the recipes soon!

Otherswise, here was the menu:
-Ham (a traditional food for every holiday on my dad’s side of the family)
-Bacon, Spinach, Mushroom, & Swiss frittatas
-Sausage, Pepper, Onion, & Cheddar frittatas
Kazakh Cheese Pastries
-Strawberry Spinach salad w/Candied Pecans & Creamy Balsamic Dressing
-Asparagus & Tomato Salad
-Fruit Salad
-Challah Bread (my mom made this!)

My boys helped to make these cute Rice Krispie Treat nests as favors. I packaged them with tags and ribbon so they also doubled as place cards. They were so easy and the kids were so proud to tell our guests about making them.

 

In March, Heather and I visited a lovely tea room in Irvington. We enjoyed their special monthly tea event. Is was quaint, the staff was friendly, and the food was delicious. We hardly knew where to start on our two tiers of tea delicacies with several different types of sandwiches, gorgeous scones, and delightful sweets.

My family visited Cinncinnati a few weeks ago and found a place featured on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives (Food Network). Terry’s Turf was a hole-in-the-wall burger place with tons of character! We went at 5 on a Saturday and had to wait for about 30-45 minutes for a seat – by the time we left, I’m certain the wait was much longer. If your party doesn’t fill the table, you will likely be seated with strangers – with five of us, we filled our spot. 🙂 Peanuts shells littered the floor and added to the ambience – my boys loved it! The burgers are huge but absolutely delicious and the Black Currant elixir (house made) added to fresh lemonade was fabulous! Terry, himself, came out and brought our boys mini candy burgers and chatted with my husband and me. He was jovial, humble, and kind. We all agreed, we would definitely go back!

It’s been a busy couple of months with some great eating experiences. We continue to expand the palates of our sons and discovered quite recently that they all LOVE sushi. A fun (though pricey :)) discovery. We enjoy foodie adventures as a family – both in our kitchen and out! What’s been happening in your foodie world – any great new recipes, dining experiences, new obsessions etc.? I’d love to hear them!

Market Fresh: Eggs

Eggs are always in season and a wonderfully versatile ingredient. I am blessed to have access to local, organic eggs at $2.25/dz. I could eat eggs for breakfast and supper in the same day; I don’t, of course, but I could.

Today I want to share with you two great egg recipes that just might be out of your normal scope of egg cooking and eating.

Sometime ago, while flipping through an issue of Everyday Food, I came across several recipes that involved baking in parchment paper packets. The salmon recipe is amazing (will have to share another time). The egg recipe, equally superb. Combining eggs with seasonal veggies, you’ll have a balanced, semi-fancy meal within 20 minutes. It’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, or supper.

Parchment paper is a little pricey, but I find having a roll on hand is indispensable.

EGGS WITH ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS
(adapted slightly from Everyday Food, issue unknown)
Print This Recipe

2 teaspoons, extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 pound of fresh asparagus spears, woody ends broken off
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare two 24-inch long pieces of parchment by folding each in half and then cutting into a half-heart shape. Place both pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush half of each heart with olive oil. Place mushrooms and asparagus spears on oiled half. Carefully crack two eggs over each. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pleat tightly around the edge to seal. (I’m not very adept at the pleating, so just do your best!)

Bake until the egg whites are set and asparagus is tender crisp, 8-10 minutes. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

(Note: If you make more than two servings, you will need to place baking racks in the upper and lower thirds and then rotate two baking sheets halfway through baking.)

Egg Drop Soup is a super easy and yummy first course for a home-cooked Asian meal. If you’re making this gluten-free be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce.

BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT EGG DROP SOUP
(from The Cleaner Plate Club)
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1 Tbsp canola oil
2 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp sherry (I used a splash of white wine)
1/2 tsp soy sauce (La Choy or San-J for gf)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
3 drops sesame oil
2 eggs

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the white parts of the scallions and sweat for five minutes.

Pour 3 1/2 cups of broth into the pan, reserving 1/2 cup. Add the sherry, soy sauce, salt, ginger, and white pepper. Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with the reserved broth in a small bowl, and add to the pan. Add the sesame oil. Turn the heat to low. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add to the broth while stirring rapidly in a clockwise motion. Stir for 1 minute, until the eggs have cooked and look like shreds.

Sprinkle the soup with the scallion greens. Serve hot. Serves 4.