Monday, May 25, 2015

Sweet Potato Salad

 I recently went to my brother's to do some grilling. Well, actually, he does all the grilling. I just do the side dishes. I marinated some veggies and mushrooms in the favorite Shish Kabob Marinade, made a HUGE crock pot of my famous Baked Beans, and of course I brought something sweet too. But the newest addition to the party was this fabulous potato salad. We had discussed the possibility of doing something with sweet potatoes instead of just regular potatoes, and I immediately remembered this Trisha Yearwood recipe that I had been wanting to try. When I first saw it, I thought it seemed fresh and light, and frankly I have yet to meet a sweet potato that I don't like, so I went with it.
 Well, let me just tell you it's EVERYTHING you want it to be and more. It's fresh, it's light, it's flavorful, it's sweet, it's tangy, and it has just the slightest little hit at the end. It's REALLY nice. Even Claire (who isn't a fan of sweet potatoes) loved it. (I know, I know, it makes no sense to me either, but whatever. LOL)
 Anyway, try this for your next BBQ. No, it won't ever replace your favorite potato salad recipe, but every so often, it's nice to mix things up a bit, dontcha think?

4 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup diced scallions (about 6)
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 tbs minced fresh chives
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp hot sauce, such as Tabasco
salt and pepper

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and put them in a large pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. While the potatoes are cooling, in a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, yogurt, scallions, red pepper, chives, orange zest, apple cider vinegar and hot sauce. Add the cooled potatoes to the mixture, and toss until the potatoes are fully coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Best served chilled.
Even though it says to boil the potatoes, I decided to roast them instead. I didn't want them to become too soft, which would make them fall apart when you mix up the salad. I just peeled and diced them, tossed them with a little vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, then placed them on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven until they were tender but not mushy. Then I was sure to cool them completely before tossing with the dressing. They didn't get mushy at all! 
If you're not a fan of Greek yogurt, just use sour cream instead!
One of the key flavors is the orange zest. It really perks up the whole dish! Just be careful not to put too much of it. A little goes a long way, in this case. Oh, also, I added a tsp of regular sugar to the dressing, and I added a few extra dashes of hot sauce. Add it to your own taste!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Granola Bars

This is a quick and easy snack that is as satisfying as it is delicious. I was looking for a healthy something for my friend, Matt, and I happened upon this granola recipe from Alton Brown. To be quite honest, I'm not a health expert, but these bars certainly seem like they're packed with all kinds of "good for you". Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, grains, and just enough sweet to bring it all together. Works for me!! They're perfect for a quick breakfast on the go or and easy mid-afternoon snack to hold you over until dinner. So go ahead and give 'em a try.
They're so chewy and tasty, you'll forget that they're good for you!
I'm glad you liked them, Matt!

8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats, approximately 2 cups
1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds, approximately 1/2 cup
3 ounces sliced almonds, approximately 1 cup
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ, approximately 1/2 cup
6 ounces honey, approximately 1/2 cup
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup packed
1 ounce unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries or blueberries

 Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

To make them in a 9x13 pan, simply increase all the amounts by half, and bake as directed.
To perfectly flatten them in your pan, butter the bottom of a smaller pan, and then press it down on top of the granola before baking. You'll have a perfectly smooth top.
This recipe lends itself to any number of variations. I used pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, and I use dried berries and mangoes. I also added a little bit of cinnamon. YUM!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pineapple Paradise Cookies

The first time I ever tried these cookies was many years ago when someone gave me the Mrs. Field's Cookie Book. I was searching for new and different holiday cookies and these sounded delicious, so I went with it. Of course they lived up to their name and have remained one of my favorites ever since! It actually sort of surprised me to realize I never posted them! Well, better late than never, I suppose.
 Now, the recipe only calls for a little coconut to be sprinkled on the top of each cookie, but I like to add a whole bag of coconut right into the batter. More is more! But if coconut is not your thing, feel free to leave it out. They'll still be fabulous! They're chewy and rich and they go perfectly with a tall glass of ice cold milk. You absolutely must try them!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
one 8-ounce can crushed pineapple OR 1 cup fresh finely chopped pineapple, well-drained
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Heat oven to 300°F.
In a medium bowl combine flour and baking soda. Mix well with a wire whisk. Set aside.
In large bowl with an electric mixer beat sugars. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add egg, crushed pineapple and pineapple juice and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle lightly with shredded coconut, if desired. Bake 22-24 minutes or until cookies begin to turn lightly brown at edges. Transfer immediately to cool flat surface with spatula.

Be sure to really drain the pineapple. Too much moisture can make your cookies spread out too much, and they won't crisp up as well. Chilling the batter for a bit will also help to keep the cookies from spreading too much on the baking sheet.
To make perfectly round and perfectly sized cookies, use a tablespoon to measure the chilled cookie batter, and then roll each into a ball. Then when they bake, the will all be the same size and perfectly shaped. Easy!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Kris' Amazing Mexican Shredded Beef

Ok, first, let me just start off by saying I have no idea who Kris is. I was looking for a recipe for Mexican Shredded Beef, and I happened upon this one on a site called It was pretty close to what I had in mind, so I decided to go with it.
 Beef, onions, spices, easy to throw together, cooks in a crock pot. Done. Oh, and it smells SO good while it's cooking all day. I ran some errands while it was cooking, and when I came home.. OMG the whole apartment smelled amazing! It's flavorful, versatile, and goes with about a million different Mexican dishes. Use it as a filling for burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, serve with eggs, or nachos, and on and on and on. It's the perfect component for any Mexican menu!
 So, thank you, Kris, wherever you are. I'll be making this again and again!

1 (4 pound) beef bottom round roast or other lean roast
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 large onion, diced
1 (7 ounce) can chopped green chilies
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (7 ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, or to taste
1 cube beef bouillon
 Trim the roast of any excess fat, and cut into four pieces. Rub with black pepper, and place into a slow cooker. Add the onions, green chiles, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chipotle peppers, and beef bouillon. Pour in enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast.
 Cover, and cook on High until the meat begins to fall apart, about 8 hours. Add water if needed to keep the roast from drying out.
 Turn the slow cooker to Low, and remove meat to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces using two forks. Return the meat to the slow cooker; cook about 20 minutes to reheat before serving.
The best bit of advice I can give is to cook everything to your own personal taste. There are a lot of big bold flavors going on here, specifically the chipotle peppers and the cayenne pepper. If you like the heat, go for it. Add everything just as listed. For me, I like just barely a little poke of heat. I added only half the can of chipotle peppers, and it was still too spicy for me. You know how spicy you like things to be, so just go with it. If you're not sure how spicy you'd like it, I would err on the side of mild. You can always add more spice if it's not enough.