It was voted Thanksgiving’s #1 dish, and that’s saying something in this house where we are surrounded by viable Chopped contestants.
It’s also saying something as I have struggled to like sweet potato since I was a wee lass growing up on the plains of Nebraska. The sweet potato has so many virtues and has long been touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Why couldn’t I adore it? But this. Love at first bite. The butter, sugar, and pecans might have something to do with it, but you have to start somewhere, right?
This Sweet Potato Pie comes from Auntie Jill, passed down from her mama Nancy in Iowa. The first two Makechnie boys married girls from the midwest. Aren’t we quaint?
Mama Nancy’s recipe sure was delish, but Jill saw the need to healthify it by cutting the sugars in half, using dates instead of white sugar, and fresh sweet potato instead of canned in syrup. Still, we agree it’s more of a dessert to be eaten after a 5k Turkey Trot (or sleeping in, whatevs,) and goes ever so wonderfully with any meat and potatoes meal, like Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m posting this in January. Makes perfect sense, right? You’ll peel, cut, and boil 4-6 sweet potatoes. Mash them with butter. Add sugar, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Now for the topping! Chop 1 cup pecans. Add brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon to the pecans. Spread sweet potato in a pretty pie baking dish. Add the nut and sugar topping. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve and swoon.
Sweet Potato Pie Casserole
4 and 6 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (*or puree 1/2 cup pitted dates with 1/2 – 1 cup hot water until thick paste forms)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (2% or more is best)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped (or pecan/walnut combo)
Boil sweetpotatoes until soft and mashable. Mash with butter. Add sugar or pureed dates, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix well.
Pour into ungreased 9″ glass baking dish or a deep dish pie plate.
For topping: in a separate bowl mix brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon with fingers or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Stir in nuts.
Sprinkle the topping on the sweetpotato mixture and bake @ 350 for 40 minutes.
Can be made ahead.
Thanks Auntie Jill and Mama Nancy – we sure do ENJOY!
Because, my friends, this is a “clean” drink that is far better for your brain, heart, muscles, GI tract, and bloodstream. And I bet you have the ingredients in your pantry right now…and if not, they are easy to procure!
No more this…Instead, let’s start measuring some apple cider vinegar. Say what? Yes, it’s true. This original recipe comes from No Meat Athlete, with two tablespoons apple cider vinegar. But after a children’s taste testing, I trimmed it down to one. Next, some maple syrup. Ah…now I’ve got you, right? And some salt. When you lick your arm after a run, do you taste the sweat? (you do lick your arm, right? 🙂 ) Your body needs to replace that salt (electrolytes!) Next: water and juice and that’s it! A little posing for the camera… Now put in fridge and watch the kids fill up their water bottles and play like champs!
Homemade Grape Gatorade
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
2 cups 100% grape juice
Directions: stir it all together and gulp!
Do we really need Gatorade? No, not unless we’ve been exercising about two hours and sweating like fiends. Water is best before and during a sporting event, but after a hard workout, it’s nice to refuel quickly with something a little more flavorful. I’m not actually a huge grape juice fan, but with this recipe, I like it. I liked it better than the first time I made it with cranberry-pomegranate. Use whatever juice you like, but make sure it’s 100%; we don’t need to be adding any more sugary drinks to our diet.
Refrigerate overnight and the flavors will meld and mellow a bit.
Put in ice cube tray and pop them into water bottles the next day for some next-day fuel.
Looking for a rice substitute? As an ardent rice lover, I don’t look for substitutes. Until I tried this. It’s fantastic!
Cauliflower, you say? Yes, it’s true.
It’s so tasty I predict you’ll be seeing a lot more of it. Why not be a trendsetter and start serving it now? My sister-in-law, Kim, introduced us to this recipe this summer and we are now converts – THANK YOU! All of the darlings loved it – it even looks like white rice.
It’s fine to chop or food process a head of cauliflower yourself, but finding it bagged is even more convenient; you’ll have a side in 15 minutes. I’ve seen chopped cauliflower in the freezer section and at Trader Joe’s. Snatch it and hold on tight! Otherwise, start here: Cut it up into florets: Pause and admire the pure whiteness: Now start choppin’! I was a little lazy and just wanted to eat; chop as fine as you can – like rice! Now chop some onion and put it in a pan with olive oil until onion is soft. Add the cauliflower, some garlic powder, salt, and pepper (and anything else you fancy!) When cooked, added some chopped cilantro. I would have gotten a better photo but we ate it so fast it was almost gone!
I especially love this “faux” rice paired with this Mexican dish: I’ll post that recipe next if you like!
Ready to eat? YES.
Tasty Cauliflower Rice:
Cauliflower florets, chopped fine (pre chopped if possible for time saver!)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper (to your preferred taste)
Heat olive oil on medium heat, add chopped onions, and cook until soft. Add chopped cauliflower, onion, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Cook about 15-20 minutes until soft. Finish for one minute with chopped cilantro.
Variations include cauliflower fried rice – add an egg, soy sauce, and green onion. Add to soups instead of rice or potato. Add a little bacon and you’re golden 🙂
The idea of eating our way across New Hampshire was all Glenn’s fault, who knows the way to The Professors heart: food. More specifically, after reading an article about the best doughnuts in every single state, he decided we needed to do our duty and find out.
You know, some people visit every state to run marathons. Apparently, doughnut tasting is more up our ally. I’ll have you know, I’m still running! In fact, doughnut-tasting family reunions is why I HAVE to run!
While Glenn, Kim, and darling children were visiting from Saudi Arabia (yes, it’s true. they really live there) we decided to make a day of it: find the best doughnuts in New Hampshire AND taste test across state lines.
Of course we didn’t hit all the hot spots, but we did taste test at EIGHT establishments. For heavens sakes, is this what your family vacations look like?
Are you ready to visit New England yet? Here goes: the great New Hampshire, Vermont Food Tour of Summer 2016. Courtesy of us. The piggies.
Muriel’s Donuts in Lebanon, NH. This was the establishment that started it all. Rated as “#1 donut of New Hampshire,” the donuts were only 40 minutes up the road. Muriel is a cute, elderly woman working out of a tiny, but tidy, hovel, serving up warm, buttery, fluffy, melt-in-your mouth donuts (how the heck do you really spell “donut”?) Recommendation: Cinnamon sugar donut. Were they good? They were pretty darn good.
Before the cinnamon sugar…
2. King Arthur Flour Company. After the donuts we were ready for lunch! Oh man, for the love of all things baking – this store and cafe is a DREAM. Due to the large amount of flour I already had, I limited myself to one purchase: Amy’s Recommendation: a bag of Crystalized Ginger Bits ($15) for scones. Can’t wait!
The Professor’s Lunch: Brie and Apple Sandwich on Homemade King Arthur Flour Bread for $7-8.
3. Ben and Jerry’s! This is a serious operation that includes a tour of the facility, complete with holstein cows in the pasture and an earth conscious message. It’s like a tiny amusement park that hosts hundreds and hundreds of people a day. This is because, well, the ice-cream is fantastic and the tour is fun! And the gift center is full of earthy tie-die hats and shirts. Amy’s Recommendation: Chocolate Therapy! ahhhhh, prepare to get wrecked.
4. Chocolate made us want more chocolate. It was off to Lake Champlain Chocolates in Waterbury, VT. Featuring a “full selection of chocolates, a hot chocolate café, award-winning house made ice cream, hand-whipped fudge, Vermont souvenirs, and plenty of factory seconds.” Amy’s Recommendation:Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate, 54% Cacao, topped with Whipped Cream.
5. Next door? The Cabot Cheese Company in Waterbury, VT. Here we sampled no less than thirty cheeses. Amy’s Cheese Recommendation: Lamberton. I have no idea what that is exactly, but it was gooooood. Satisfyingly stuffed, we drove up the road to…
6. Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury-Stowe, VT. Oh my goodness, what a charming country store and mill, complete with free cider samples, gallon jugs to purchase, 50 cent apple cider donuts, and more Vermont cheese. Here is where my heart truly melted. I have to say, these were the best donuts of the day! Amy’s Recommendation: Fresh Pressed Cider and Apple Cider Donuts.
Cope: “This is like, low-key, the best cheese I’ve ever had”
Arthur-approved cider so you know it’s good!
7. Simon Pearce Glassblowing and Restaurant, in Queechee VT. Needing a reprieve from food, we stopped to see the glassblowing and drool over the handmade pieces we’ll never be able to afford 🙂 Also cool, is the water mill that provides the power for the entire Simon Pearce operation. The restaurant is upscale and pricey, but well worth a visit for special occasions.
8. Dinner? The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, NH. The Skinny Pancake specializes in a plethora of savory and sweet crepes priced between $9-$12. Atmosphere is intimate and family friendly. Amy’s Recommendation: for sweet, The Lovemaker, featuring strawberries, nutella, and whipped cream (do you like the name? :). Can’t go wrong. For savory, The Pizza Crepe. Huge kid hit. And guess what? Any crepe can be made with their gluten-free batter!
9. It was a good thing Morano’s Gelato in Hanover, NH was closed, but I’ve got to include it here because it’s hands-down the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, including my samples in Europe – it’s THAT GOOD. Amy’s Recommendation: Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk or Hazelnut. The combination is unbelievably swoon-worthy.
Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk Gelato for $3.89
We rolled ourselves home and collapsed into bed after a full day of gluttony. If you need Boston recommendations, I could do that too 🙂 But this is a bit more off the beaten path and a way to experience authentic New England in New Hampshire and Vermont.
We’ve been swimming and running ever since – I swear! But I’m considering a change of profession to food critic.
Enjoy! Questions? I’ll attempt to answer. Hope your summer is as tasty as ours!
Drink this (not the beguiling Shamrock Shake from the McD drive-thru that will wreck your gut…)
This one’s for you: The Green Shamrock Smoothie. Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a gut healer, not a gut destroyer. It will make you feel good instead of…not. It provides energy instead of migraines.
Do you suffer from bloating, constipation, gut aches and pains? The following ingredients are well-known for their gut healing magic.
Green Shamrock Smoothie (the gut healer)
1-2 Cups Water
1/2 Squeezed Lemon
1/2 inch Ginger (skin on, scrubbed)
1 Cup Spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 Cup Kale (fresh or frozen)
1/2 Avocado (peeled)
1 Green Apple (cut, skin on)
1 Frozen Banana
Directions: Put ingredients in the Vitamix (or other powerful blender and give it a whirl.)
If you’ve never had a really green smoothie before, this may take some acclimating. You may feel the need to grimace. But after awhile an interesting thing happens: taste buds change. After a day or two without my precious green smoothie, I start to crave greens. I need it. I want it. I must have it. my precious.
We’ve got a little brussel obsession going on in our house. What? You don’t like brussels? Do you have traumatizing soggy-vegetable memories from childhood? Well friends, your life is about to change with this dish.
My children actually like this green vegetable. Actually they LOVE it.
It all began one evening in San Diego when brother Seth said, “let’s go out and eat the brussels.” Say what? Who goes out to dinner for brussel sprouts? Now we know why. We were served the most amazing appetizer that The Professor and I RAN HOME to recreate right here in cow-land.
So good. So easy. Bonus: brussels are GOOD for you! (and so is bacon…right?)
It’s easy-peasy and easily made right on the stove top. Balsamic glaze is different than balsamic vinegar, which would make this dish a bit too watery. Find the glaze next to the vinegar and you’ll be a happy brussel eater.
Hold ’em high, Nellie Mak! Hold ’em proud. We went outside for the good light. “Mom, you’re so weird. Can I go inside now?” (And yes, it’s too much to ask to look at the camera)
Let’s get a closer iPhone look.
With a little help from the local piggy (recently procured and man is homegrown pork incredible!), parmesan cheese, and balsamic glaze, brussel sprouts have risen to the top of my list. I crave them. I want them. must have them.So here you go. And may the love of brussels be ever in your favor…
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan Shavings
1-2 pounds brussel sprouts, washed and halved
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan cheese shavings (good quality!)
Balsamic glaze to taste
On the stovetop, heat iron-cast or dutch oven pan/pot over medium heat. Add chopped bacon. Cook until halfway done.
Add washed and halved brussel sprouts, stirring frequently until brussels are dark green and you see some nice dark searing marks (about 10-15 minutes). Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from heat and slide brussels and bacon onto serving dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese shavings on top of brussels.
Add balsamic glaze lightly, atop brussels and around dish for decoration.
The ingredient numbers are estimated. If you want to go with a full pound of bacon be my guest! If you like more parmesan, generously sprinkle.
This cake is brought to you just in time for Valentine’s. It’s special for three reasons:
It’s my Aunt Margie’s recipe, who is now gone, but I have her cake and think of her whenever I make it.
It has a very special ingredient that makes me laugh.
It represents so many things I love about my husband.
Sometimes we don’t want to share our favorite recipes because then they won’t be special, but boy am I glad Aunt Margie didn’t keep this one all to herself – life is so much better with this cake in it.
If you want only the recipe, skip to the end. If you’d like the love story, keep reading…
Aunt Margie and Uncle Warren raised my father after both his parents passed away when he was young. He grew up on a dairy farm in my most favorite place ever: Bear Lake, Idaho. When we visited in the summer Aunt Margie cooked, and boy was she a good cook!
Aunt Margie was a farmer’s wife and made everything from scratch which is why this cake’s very special ingredient makes me laugh. Are you ready for it…the very special ingredient is…a…cake mix! When I showed surprise she whispered, “you can make the cake by scratch if you want, but it’s just as good with the mix.” I had a new admiration for a busy woman who knew a good thing when she saw it. I have the original cake recipe, but Aunt Margie was right – the cake mix is just as good and so much easier!
As for my husband? Well, way back when I was going through a sad time in my romantic life. I wanted to make a very special cake for a boy who had kind of broken up with me. But he kept coming around. To show him what a catch I was, I figured all he needed was a bite of this very special cake that I had made from scratch (hey, I was young.)
I biked to the grocery store on my green Trek bike and discovered that I hadn’t brought the recipe with me. Did the frosting call for evaporated milk or condensed? Oh well! What’s the difference (said the clueless bakerella)? I bought the condensed milk.
I baked the cake mix (even I could do that) and began the frosting. Stirring it on the stove, I could not get it to thicken. Doubt began to fester. I stirred and stirred until I figured it was good enough – and dumped the frosting onto the cake. It vaguely occurred to me that maybe there was a difference between condensed and evaporated milk.
It was a soupy mess. But I optimistically hoped it would miraculously thicken and be as delicious as Aunt Margie’s cake.
Then I went and did my hair.
The boy was late, not showing up until 10 o’clock. I had grumpily gone to bed (party animal way back then, too). My roommates followed me as I ever-so-glamourously carried out my very special cake and presented it to the boy. (um, this is beginning to sound like an embarrassing 50’s story but I assure you I was a feminist in other ways 🙂
The boy took a look at my cake, put his hand on his stomach and said, “Oh, I’m so stuffed. I really couldn’t.”
Before I threw my cake AT the boy my roommates ushered me into the kitchen where they assured me it wasn’t me or my semi-disturbing-looking cake, it was him.
This moment, I sadly realized, was THE END of that boy.
The next day I was quite ill. I had a cold and a broken heart was miserably missing Anatomy class to go lay down thinking I was going to fail out of school for missing class, a baking failure and no one would ever marry me (not dramatic at all, not me.)
As I passed a condo out popped The Professor who I had just met. Rather than walk toward campus he surprised me by walking me home. There are many funny details to this story, but I’ll cut to the most important part: he walked into my apartment and saw my cake on the table.
The Professor you see, has always been a man who appreciates good food. “Mmmm,” he said, eyeing my cake.
“You can have some,” I said, feeling very sorry for myself. “No one else wants any” (boo hoo…)
“Thanks.” And then he did an audacious thing: he didn’t politely wait for me to open the utensil drawer and hand him a fork. He opened every drawer in the kitchen until he found a fork and then rather than wait for a plate, he stuck his fork in the middle of the cake and took a huge bite. Oh my. This professorial boy who used very big words, was excessively polite, and infuriatingly sparse with his compliments was eating my cake.
It was rather horrifying.
And then he said the only words I needed to hear: “Mmmm, tasty!” And proceeded to take another large bite.
Oh, I could have cried. Which I did. After he left.
And maybe it was then that I knew I had finally found the right boy.
It’s the small things, isn’t it?
And so, on the eve of this Valentine’s, I’d like to give you my very special, most favorite cake recipe. Passed down from my dear Aunt Margie who knew when to substitute, and has been made with love every since, all these years later.
I had to take the picture with my iPhone due to computer problems. My photography, as with my baking skills, is always a work in progress.
German Chocolate Cake by Aunt Margie
For the cake:
1 German Chocolate Cake Mix (devils food works fine, too).
Bake and cool
1 stick butter
3 egg yolk, whisked
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup white sugar
1-2 cups unsweetened coconut
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Mix and cook butter, eggs yolks, evaporated milk, and sugar on low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and coconut and walnuts. Spread on warm cake between layers or on top.
May you bake it with love, eat it with love, and enjoy it through the years, just as we have.
Want more energy? Want to feel good? Want to make your skin glow with goodness? Inspired by Laura at abeautifulplate.com, I jumped at the chance to blend me some orange ginger-splashed magic just in time for love day. Start with juicy oranges A beautiful yellow beet (much sweeter and more mild than red)
1 carrot plucked fresh from the garden…or the grocery store will do
1 Braeburn apple – yum!
A hunk of ginger, 2 inches thick
Orange Ginger Splashed Smoothie:
2 navel oranges
1 medium golden beet, peeled
1 carrot, scrubbed
1 Braeburn apple, cut
2-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 to 1 cup water + handful of ice
Blend it all together and have a gulp of goodness (you know I fancy the vitamin for its superior blending capacity.) Who needs caffeine when you could have a smoothie to get going?
This recipe was inspired by pressed juice, meaning all the juice was squeezed out of the fruit and vegetables. But I prefer smoothies for several reasons: smoothies keep you full longer, they contain more nutrients especially fiber, there’s less waste, and they are much less time consuming to make than juicing. In addition, because of the fiber (the bulk), smoothies don’t hit your bloodstream so hard and fast like juices do, which means you have longer-lasting and more steady energy.
Convinced? Give it a try!
On Facebook, a friend asked, “isn’t that a lot of ginger?” Yes, it is! There is definitely a “zing” to this, which I like, but I’ve also acquired it. Ginger is terrific for gut health which is why I eat/drink so much of it. If you’re not a ginger fan, try less of it.
Looking for more valentine treats? You might like:
Hakuna Frittata – what a wonderful phrase. It’s quiche without a crust and a new family favorite…(which is anything tasty that mama can whip up super-fast). We discovered the frittata this summer. We’ve eaten it for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. We’ve tried many variations of cheeses, always coming back to swiss. The frittata is so tasty, it was gobbled up in mere seconds by the ravenous darlings.
And it’s so easy, I’m happy to keep making it – though even the ravenous darlings could handle making it themselves. As the weather turns colder, we start craving warmer breakfasts. With little time, you’ll want something quick, tasty, and comforting: que the frittata! It’s also incredibly healthy. Yes, my friends, we are WINNING at life! You’ll begin with some butter in a cast-iron pan (or oven-safe fry pan), chopped onions, and spinach (fresh or frozen both work well). Add whisked eggs, milk, cut tomatoes, shredded Swiss, salt and pepper – and you’re in frittata business. Let it cook on the stovetop until almost set – about 5 minutes. Finish off in the oven, set on broil. In about five minutes you’ll have a gorgeous egg dish with beautiful color. Don’t you love pretty food? Let’s admire the frittata for a moment. Very nice, very nice (and it happens to taste amazing!)
Spinach and Tomato Frittata:
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Small Onion, finely chopped
2 Cups Baby Spinach
5 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Shredded Swiss Cheese
1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes
Preheat oven to broil. In a medium bow, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Fold in cheese and tomatoes. Set aside.
In a medium cast iron skillet (or oven-safe frying pan) over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach and cook until almost set, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and broil until golden brown on top, about 5-7 minutes.
Eat your hakuna frittata – and make sure you sing!
It’s the end of August, with so many tomatoes, so little time. How about some fresh salsa?
I’m not joking around with you here. This salsa is so good and so easy, we have developed a serious addiction. My 11-year-old can’t stop making it and the rest of us can’t stop eating it.
6 ingredients and – BAM!
This tasty little number is reminiscent of when I met The Professor. In college he was working as a waiter at a Peruvian restaurant and they served a fresh salsa that was very similar. The Professor spoke Spanish to all the customers. Swoon.
Why have we waited so long to feel the salsa love once more?
Try it. You’ll like it. But I warn you…it’s so good it kindof ruins the store bought variety. So maybe you don’t want to live outside the jar. Never mind, YES YOU DO!
The OM-Goodness I Can’t Stop Eating This Salsa
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Onion (yellow or red)
1/2 Bunch Cilantro
1 Jalepeno (or more if you like spicy!)
Salt to taste (I like salty)
Put all ingredients in the blender and give it a whirl for about 30 seconds. We like this particular salsa just blended. It’s not chunky, but it’s not one uniform paste. You can add or take away water depending on thickness preference. You can add more jalepeno for more spice. Too spicy? Add another roma. Don’t like cilantro? What???