Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Easy Candied Yams/Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes. I love them baked, mashed, fried-- and especially "candied". I also love yams. What's the difference between yams and sweet potatoes. Ever wonder?  After doing some internet sleuthing, the consensus seems to be:

Yams in the U.S. are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label "yam" always be accompanied by "sweet potato." (Source)
So, for simplicity's sake, I'll refer to these as Candied Sweet Potatoes.  I should also add that these are rich, and incredibly good!
Peeled sweet potatoes are cooked until fork tender, then sliced.  One stick of butter is melted, and one cup of confectioner's sugar is whisked in.  I added a pinch of pumpkin pie spice and a small splash of vanilla-- which is optional, but I was glad that I did.  This is poured over the sweet potatoes, and then baked for about 30 minutes. As the whole thing bakes, the sugar melts and caramelizes, becoming a brittle and crunchy shell covering the soft orange potatoes within.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast and Gravy (that almost makes itself!)

There are only eight days until the aroma of roasting turkeys are wafting from our ovens.  My family could happily eat turkey year-round. Give me two pieces of whole wheat breads, a small schmear of mayo and some cranberry sauce... it's my favorite brown bag lunch to bring to work.

It always seems that leftover turkey breast (my favorite) is the first to disappear. I find myself longing for more turkey.  Then, there are some fine folks whose families are all grown, and maybe moved far away. Or, sometimes, people choose to go out for dinner, or are dinner guests? There are not leftovers!

Well, American's Test Kitchen has a recipe in a cookbook I've been using a lot, as of late. It's called "America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution".   I love the idea of slow cooker turkey!

I picked up a fresh Turkey Half Breast at Trader Joe's, and decided to test their recipe for a slow cooker turkey breast, that makes it's own gravy.  ATK's recipe is written for a 6-7 pound turkey breast.

However, I decided that a 2 1/2 pound turkey breast would be a great way to test drive this recipe.  Season with salt & pepper.

The prep work didn't take long. I coarsely chopped one carrot, one medium onion and a stalk of celery, garlic cloves, and added it to a skillet with melted butter.  They were cooked until lightly browned, then flour is added and cooked until golden brown.

Next, add chicken broth, water and some white wine (which is totally optional, but I love the flavor white wine imparts to turkey gravy).  For aromatics, I added Bay leaves,  and a couple springs of thyme.  Add the liquid to the slow cooker, and nestle the turkey (skin side up) into the slow cooker.  For a 2-1/2 pound turkey breast, I cooked this on low for just under 3 hours...until an instant read thermometer registered 165F.  Remove the turkey breast and tent with foil.

I strained the braising liquid, and let it settle for five minutes-- that way, I could skim off any excess fat. Then, I let the liquid simmer for about 15 minutes. The gravy was a bit thin, and I tasted it for seasoning...since I used low-sodium chicken broth, I added a bit more salt and pepper.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Peach & Whiskey Barbecue Chicken (adapted for a pressure cooker)

My five weeks of medical leave comes to an official end, as of today. (For those of you who didn't know, I had knee surgery on October 15th.) Thankfully, all went well, and I'm ready to get back to work. My ability to stand, for longer stretches of time, is starting to improve.

I don't know what I would do without my pressure cooker.  Since standing, initially, was an issue I used my pressure cooker just about every day to make quick dinner recipes-- like this delicious chicken recipe.  This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman's Food Network show.  I thought the dish looked easy to make, and I had all the ingredients.  Sold!  "Ree" made this recipe in the oven, which took 1-1/2 hours.  The beauty of a pressure cooker, is that the cooking time was 10 minutes!

NOTE: If you don't own a pressure cooker, or are afraid of them (which is totally unnecessary), I'll explain how to make this the conventional way. 

The first thing I did, was to cut the recipe to be for two people, instead of six.  In my electric pressure cooker, I browned boneless, skinless, chicken thighs in a little butter and oil.  (Yes, electric pressure cookers have a browning cycle.)  Naturally, you can do this in a Dutch oven.

Flip 'em over. Them remove onto a plate and set aside.

Let's talk about cooking with hard liquor.  I don't drink whiskey. I've never liked the taste of it, no matter how hard I tried. However, cooking with whiskey (or bourbon) is a whole different topic.  I especially like whiskey in sauces, and I don't buy the higher end pricey brand names.  I also use whiskey when making my "Candied Sweet Potatoes-- kicked up".  Love.


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Monday, November 3, 2014

Meatballs and Marinara - Pressure Cooker Style (or slow cooker)

We are just a tad over three weeks away from Thanksgiving, canyoubelieveit?  The odds are, I won't be cooking this year.  That is, unless I can figure out how to make a turkey in my beloved pressure cooker, because my knee can't stand for that many hours at a time. In the meantime, I've been making a lot of meals in my slow cooker or pressure cooker, because I can handle about thirty minutes of standing...tops! 

My pressure cooker has been a blessing for me, while I'm slowing regaining the ability to stand and walk around in my kitchen.  I made this Spaghetti & Meatballs recipe before my most recent surgery. I wanted to wait until cooler weather, before posting it here, and because I want to make it again.

This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen "Pressure Cooker Perfection".  I've posted several recipes from this book, and there are a few more to come.  I don't make meatballs very often, but if I do, I like the idea of using a panade.

A what, you ask?  Prounced, Pa-Nod. With this recipe, panko crumbs and milk are combined to make a paste.  This will not only bind the meat together, but will prevent dry meatballs. Win.

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