Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sinful Brownies

Let me just say, my experience as a junior Brand Ambassador for Sinful Food has been a very rewarding experience. Using these products to create delicious dishes has really been a great experience, working with and learning from Brand Ambassador Michaela Rosenthal has been such a huge boost to my confidence and holy cow, her cooking expertise and knowledge..... just wow! So is chatting with and getting to know the company founder, Chris. It was during one of those conversations that he mentioned expanding their line to include high end chocolate and coffees as well and he wanted to know if I'd be interested in checking them out, possibly creating some new dishes or desserts. Of course I would! As I explained to Chris, I am the Baker in this house and dessert is right up my alley.

Chris was so excited talking about the new line of chocolate, made from certified heirloom Arriba Nacional beans, the chocolate is 70% cocoa and is 100% dairy free. Of course, I then had to learn as much as I could about chocolate production and how it's grown and then made into what we know and love. Chocolate begins as a plant, and I often joke about cocoa beans being a vegetable and see? Chocolate is healthy! In all seriousness, it actually does come from a plant- the cacao tree to be specific, which grows in the warm moist equatorial region of South America. Each tree produces these really colorful pods that contain as many as 50 seeds which are actually the cacao beans. When the pods turn bright orange they are ripe,and they are cut off and the seeds are harvested. The beans are removed by hand and fermented covered with banana leaves. After a thorough drying in the sun you have the cocoa beans we are all familiar with.

Cocoa beans then go through several processes to make chocolate- roasting, removing the nibs from the shells, grinding- to eventually end up with cocoa powder and cocoa butter. You might have heard of cocoa nibs- a lot of pastry chefs use them in different recipes. Dark chocolate is simply cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar. Milk chocolate has milk powder added and white chocolate is cocoa butter, sugar and milk powder. The next step in the process is called "conching" and combines kneading, rolling, aeration and heat using a large mixer of sorts called a conche to manipulate the chocolate mixture. The longer a chocolate is mixed in the conche, the smoother the finished chocolate will be. After this point the chocolate is tempered and ready to package for shipment. It can be shaped into bars, cubes, pastilles, chips- whatever the chocolate maker prefers. This is the chocolate the you and I buy in the store. You know, the vegetable *wink wink*.

Testing out the new chocolate was fun for me too. The sinfully delicious chocolate is available in four varieties- pure 70% chocolate, Espresso, Mint and Pink Himalayan Salt. All four chocolates are excellent for eating, perfect for wine tasting and lovely for cooking and baking. The bars come in 50g sizes and are scored for easy portioning. Sampling the varieties was so heavenly. Deep dark chocolate flavor, kissed with a hint of espresso, a whisper of cool mint, the unexpected bite of Himalayan pink salt. This chocolate is amazing you need to get yours!!!

Since that conversation I have been busy thinking. What should I make? Pastry? Cake? Cookies? So many options........

I ended up deciding to go with a classic chocolate dessert- brownies. Melted chocolate makes a much richer and fuller flavored brownie than the cocoa powder recipes and what better way to use Sinful Food chocolate that a totally decadent chocolate brownie? Pick your flavor too- espresso? Mint? Original? Either one is perfect to amp up your brownie recipe.

Sinful Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teapsoon instant coffee, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 50g bar Sinful Food chocolate, coarsely broken/chopped 

Hat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray for baking and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium bowl- a microwave works great for this step. Microwave for two minutes to melt the butter. Stir the chocolate until completely melted and smooth. Stir in the sugar, then add the eggs, vanilla, coffee and salt, finally, mix in the flour. Stir in the chocolate.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Be careful not to overbake.

These brownies are soooo fudgy and delicious. Resist the temptation to add frosting- you do not need it. You can add whatever nuts you have on hand if you like.

The chocolate is so rich and densely flavored. The instant coffee crystals add a special something to the flavor you can't quite place- you don't taste it, but believe me it adds a backnote of flavor you will appreciate. The broken chunks of chocolate are so rich and add a BIG punch of chocolate flavor and creamy texture. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Littles Come to Visit and Braised Saucy Pork Chops

It's Gramma Day at my house! Actually, it's Slumber Party at Gramma's House today and I'm pretty excited about it. When The Littles, Lucas and Hayla, my adorable youngest grandchildren, who are 6 and 8 respectively, come to visit we know we will be watching lots of kid friendly movies, coloring, and snacking. The kids brought a big stack of movies and I had planned some fun projects for coloring to keep the kids busy.

We made music videos, with the kids playing guitar and singing a song of their choice. Hayla performed a pretty fantastic rendition of Zombie by The Cranberries. I never knew she knew this song! Lucas, who announced "I'm horrible at making sounds" gave his heart and soul in a song that was written by him apparently, a hybrid mix of thrash metal and scratch DJ. Hayla also took a turn as a percussionist, utilizing a single cymbal and a variety of dishes and table surfaces as drums. We watched a movie about Barbie becoming a musketeer and Hocus Pocus, which seemed oddly out of place in February, but fun nonetheless, and munched on popcorn snacks.

While the kids were busy watching movies, I got dinner started. Pork is on the menu tonight and I just happened to get a great deal on boneless pork chops. Iowa is a top notch pork producing state and we always have great availability, awesome options for pork cuts and terrific prices. Unlike the pork of my childhood, which was usually cooked to death and dry, modern pork is tender and juicy and cooks like a dream. Standing at the meat counter yesterday the toughest decision I had to make was bone in or boneless. Now, every good cook will swear that bone in is the way to go. The bones contribute tons of flavor to whatever dish you're cooking. Bones look good on the plate too. Of course, on the other hand, boneless chops tend to cook a little quicker and are just are attractive looking in your finished dish.  It's really a preference- if I am cooking something that requires long slow cooking I always go with bone in, and something that cooks in less than an hour, boneless.

Since I was working with pork I opted to use another Sinful Food olive oil- this time, the Wild Sage. Sage is a natural partner for pork and this infused oil is so flavorful and aromatic. I used the oil to saute the vegetables and sear the chops, and added a teaspoon of crushed dried sage leaves as well for a full and warm sage flavor.

To get your Sinful Food oils and Signature Seasoning, click HERE.

Braised Saucy Pork Chops

6 pork chops
Sinful Food Signature Seasoning
Sinful Food Garlic olive oil
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried sage leaves
8 oz package mushrooms
1 can golden mushroom condensed soup
1 packet pork gravy mix
1/2 cup dry white wine
fresh parsley

Finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, trim stems and slice mushrooms; set aside.

Season the pork chops with the Signature Seasoning. Heat a couple tablespoons garlic olive oil over medium high heat in braiser or Dutch oven. Brown the chops on each side, in batches if necessary. Remove to plate. Add additional oil to pot if needed. Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion; cook and stir until softened, sprinkling with Signature Seasoning. 

Add the mushrooms; cook and stir until browned. Add garlic and crumbled sage leaves and cook for one minute.

Deglaze the pot with the wine. Stir in the soup and about 1/2 cup water and return the pork chops to the pot. Cover tightly and braise until the chops are tender, about 30-45 minutes, or pop the Dutch oven into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

When the chops are done, remove from pot with vegetables.  In a small bowl, mix the gravy packet with a couple tablespoons of water. Stir into the sauce in the pot. Cook and stir until thickened. Return the chops and vegetables; heat through.

Serve over buttered noodles, mashed potatoes or polenta, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

Normally The Chef moans and groans when I force him to eat polenta. He has not yet embraced it the same way I have. This time, however, he really liked the polenta with the rich and mushroomy pork gravy. He even had seconds. I'll get him on board sooner or later!

Sunday we had a very exciting day! We got up early and had breakfast then made some very colorful Easter Eggs to hang in the windows at their house. When it got closer to lunch time we got a call from my daughter Laurie who invited us to brunch at Malo, our favorite Latin restaurant. Brunch with the kids was fun. They made good choices from the buffet and ate all their food. They also enjoyed some fruit and cookies dipped in the chocolate fountain. The Littles had chocolate beards and mustaches! We had a great weekend at Gramma's house. I can't wait to do it again.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Iowa Corn Pudding

September and October is an odd time in Iowa. Take a drive out to the countryside and you will see weird sights. Alien looking vehicles with lights all over, stirring up the dust in the fields. It's harvest time in Iowa. 

I might be a city girl, but I definitely live in an agriculture state. For over 150 years, farmers in Iowa have chosen corn as one of their main crops. In a typical year Iowa farmers produce over 100 billion pounds of corn. Used for food, animal feed, exports, fuel production, and so much more, field corn is THE major crop in this state. For comparison, the sweet corn we all love so much is less than one percent of that total. That was a little hard for me to comprehend considering all the corn stands and corn festivals we have every summer. 

I absolutely love the corn festivals and corn stands. Pulling up to the stand on a warm summer day, loading a few dozen ears of sweet corn into the car and heading home for a day of shucking, blanching, cutting and freezing is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. It's like filling the freezer with summertime. I like to pack one quart bags full of cut corn. It freezes quickly and is easy to measure out of the bag if I need a smaller amount for a recipe. I have tried canning corn at home but the lengthy processing time and high temp int he pressure canner causes the sugars in our very sweet Iowa corn to caramelize. The corn browns slightly and gets a slight burnt sugar taste. With freezing the corn retains its fresh taste and texture.

Bags of summertime, ready for the freezer.
Harvest time is also holiday time, with Thanksgiving right at the end of the season. My family always asks for scalloped corn for Thanksgiving, and I've always made my mom's recipe. Simple and easy, made with store bought canned creamed corn, eggs and saltines it's quite tasty with a browned crunchy cracker crust on top and creamy corn filling. This year I decided to step it up a few notches and pass on the commercial canned corn and use frozen sweet corn, creamy half and half, a hint of cheese and scallions. That crunchy cracker crust will still be there just like Mom's.

Iowa Corn Pudding

6 cups fresh corn kernels
6 scallions, minced
3/4 cup finely shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 cup crumbled saltines, divided
4 tbs melted butter, divided, plus more for dish

Generously butter a 2 quart baking dish. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the corn, scallions and cheese. Mix in the eggs, half and half, sour cream and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the butter.

Pour into baking dish. Toss remaining cracker crumbs with remaining butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 50 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Sprinkle with sliced scallion tops to garnish, if desired.

The pudding puffs up during baking and has a delicious custardy texture that's so much better than the old style creamed corn in a can. The cheese adds just a bit of depth and the scallions bring in just enough savory to keep that Iowa sweet corn from being too desserty. This delightful dish is going to be a regular on my family's holiday table from now on!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Apple Pie on a Stick? Yes!!

This is a post from City Girl Country Life, centering around the Iowa State Fair, and food on a stick. The blog City Girl Country Life is heading into retirement so many of the recipes originally shared there will make an appearance here over the next several months. This story was originally published in August, 2015.


It's that time of year again. The Iowa State Fair kicks off in two days with the annual parade through downtown, and ten days of  rides, shows, food, competitions, concerts, food, tractor pulls, lemonade, food, baby animals, arts and crafts, food, free stuff, contests and of course- food! The Iowa State Fair is the once a year event for many of us to throw good eating habits out the window and have that fried-something-naughty-on-a-stick. You can't eat that everyday but once a year, you just have to!

The first ever Iowa State Fair was held in 1854, a mere eight years after being granted statehood.  It was quite an event for the time, admission was 25 cents. Women on horseback was the entertainment highlight of that first fair. Ten women participated, all competing for a gold watch as the prize. The fair moved around Iowa several times before finally landing at it permanent home in Des Moines in 1879. In 1886 the current location of the fairgrounds was purchased, and the rest is history.

Our great state fair is well known for many things, from crashing locomotives for entertainment, to the famous Butter Cow, and most notably, for being the inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein's Tony Award-nominated musical State Fair, the story of the Frake family and their Iowa State Fair experiences in 1946.

Now, without a doubt, when we talk about the state fair, we usually don't talk about the historical stuff (other than the musical, because most Iowans think that is pretty cool actually), we talk about the FOOD. Starting in the early days with humble lemonade and popcorn, to today's fair with more vendors than I can count, selling everything from corn dogs, to hot beef sundaes (yes, it's a thing) to deep fried butter on a stick (yes....that is also a thing). Deep fried, on a stick and hugely oversized- think smoked turkey legs- is the Special of The Day at the fair. Every year several new signature items are added to the food lineup. This year they include the Bacon Brisket Bomb, Corn in a Cup, and fried Apple Pie on a Stick. 

I used regular bamboo skewers you can find in any kitchen
store, but I cut them in half.
Of course, our office loves to have food days. We have one for loads of occasions and certainly State Fair Food sounds like an amazing chance to whip up something utterly naughty, maybe fried, maybe on a stick even..... and share it. So the committee that plans events sent out an email last week announcing a State Fair Food Day with prizes in several categories. My brain immediately started planning......and after much internal debate settled on Apple Pie on a Stick. I have heard that the fair's apple pie on a stick is simply apple wedges, threaded on a skewer, then dipped in funnel cake batter and fried. Well......I can do better than that!! Let's make MY version!

Apple Pie on a Stick With Bourbon Cinnamon Glaze
(makes about 36)

2-3 Granny Smith apples
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 batches double crust pastry (3 packages store-bought)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
bamboo skewers

Prepare your pastry. If using the store bought rolled up kind (and hey I did!!) let it rest at room temp while getting the apples ready.

Peel, core and chop the apples into small cubes. The "pies" are small so you need tiny pieces of apple. Place apples in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, allspice and ginger over. Toss well to evenly coat the apples with the mixture. Set aside.

I love the flavor of cinnamon and allspice with apples, so I
went pretty heavy handed with spices. You can adjust to suit
your taste, same with the sugar.
Roll out (or unroll) the pastry and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter or, as I did, the ring from a canning jar- that is the perfect size. Working with one pie at a time, use your fingers to moisten one side of a pastry circle. Press a skewer lightly into the pastry.

A canning jar ring made the perfect cutter. I moistened the
pastry circle with water and lightly pressed the skewer into
the dough so it would be pretty secure.
Spoon on about a tablespoon of the apple filling into the middle. 

Top with a second pastry circle and press the edges to seal. Crimp however you like, as fancy as you like, and cut a couple slits in the top to allow stem to escape.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

If you like, you can brush them with milk and sprinkle with
sugar before baking. I did not, since I was adding a glaze.
I made a batch at a time, working on the next dozen while one was in the oven.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

Aren't they pretty?
In a small bowl combine the powdered sugar, bourbon, vanilla, spices and enough milk to make the glaze a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the pies (on a rack over the cookie sheet is good) and allow the glaze to dry before storing loosely covered.

I was a little disappointed that the food day ended up being cancelled because not many people were able to participate. That's not unusual this time of year- it's back to school, fair time, families are busy with kids, sports, school supplies, vacations and so on. Sadly that meant no prizes and no voting, but I did get a quality coupon that's redeemable for paid time off as a thank you for participating, so I was happy. All my team members said I would have won Best Food on a Stick so I went home with very few leftovers and feeling pretty good!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Radish Slaw with Apple and Mint

Spring is just around the corner, and here in the city I have amazing access to all kinds of beautiful fresh produce. That's a good thing, because I absolutely love vegetables, especially when I can eat them raw in salads. We're talking way beyond lettuce, folks, all kinds of delicious and crunchy things find their way into my salad bowl. Today we're going to focus on radishes. Poor radishes. They are the orphans of the relish tray, always left behind after the olives, broccoli and baby carrots are all nibbled up. They just sit there, looking forlorn. People don't give radishes the love they should. There is so much more to the world of radishes than the everyday red globe roots we are used to seeing. Indeed, radishes come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of "pepperyness." You know what I mean, radishes can have quite a peppery bite to them, like white radishes- they are often quite hot. Not hot like peppers but.......hot like radishes!

I grew up with a veggie crisper full of radishes. My dad always grew them in the garden. They were always the first harvest and one of the last things in the cool fall garden. My mom always made relish trays for get-togethers and always sliced up a small pile for salad. We ate radishes all the time. We even ate them like the French- halved and smeared with a teeny bit of butter and dipped in salt. Fresh radishes are crunchy and juicy and it's true, different varieties taste totally different. Watermelon radishes, have a white to green outer skin and interior flesh that's bright pink- hence the name. They have a sweet flavor with just a slight hint of the peppery note of the common radish.

Icicle radishes are white fleshed and look a lot like little carrots. Most white radishes have quite a bit more bite than red radishes. Black radishes are black on the outside and creamy white inside with an intense peppery flavor. Radishes come in just about every color. They look absolutely beautiful together, roasted briefly to bring out the sweetness, or sliced and made into quick pickles, or even just added to a salad. Today we're going to hit the store and see what kinds of radishes we can find, and we're going to make them into a crunchy and fresh slaw with apple and cucumber and lots of fresh mint for an Asian twist. Sinful Food basil olive oil is going to bring our dressing into the spotlight with its fresh basil flavor and aroma and Signature Seasoning bumps the flavor up several notches over plain salt and pepper. Let's go shopping!

One of my favorite places to shop, especially for produce, is Gateway Market. We shop here all the time, and have shared a shopping trip or two with you before, so I won't repeat all the many incredible things you can pick up here, most notably the mile long (not really but practically) olive bar that gets me in more trouble with The Chef.... We'll concentrate on produce. I found during my quest for watermelon radishes that they are not easy to find in February in Des Moines, even though they are in season. I had to contact a produce distributor for help, and when that failed, I contacted Gateway Market for help. Their produce guy, Brian, was super helpful and walked me through requesting special produce. Super easy and one email later he let me know when the radishes would be in- so here I am, at Gateway, browsing the rest of the fresh goodies, and that super naughty olive bar that gets me into trouble every time.

I got up bright and early on Radish Day, even long before my alarm. You could say I was a little excited. Gateway Market is just west of downtown Des Moines in a historic area of the city called Sherman Hill. Surrounded by lovely Victorian homes and ultra-modern lofts Gateway is such an amazing store. Since we've visited Gateway before let's just skip ahead to the good stuff- the produce. At first I had trouble finding the watermelon radishes. I expected them to be either sold in bunches with greens attached or packaged in bags. I did not expect the produce guy to bring me a giant case of loose radishes and allow me to pick the exact ones I wanted. I was very surprised to see how big they were. The radishes in the case ranged from golf ball size to baseball size. I really didn't have a preference as to size, since we will be cutting them into matchsticks anyway so I just grabbed a bag and made my selection. 

I always spend most of my time in the store in the produce section and today was no different. I was looking for a few other items for the rest of our meals for the weekend so I picked up some really nice organic baby potatoes, organic baby rainbow carrots and a nice box of big cherry tomatoes. These veggies I planned on roasting and serving with my beef roast for dinner tonight. I also snapped up an organic cucumber, some crisp and fresh scallions for the radish slaw, as well as a couple Granny Smith apples, and as I was making a last scan over the vegetables something bright and green and beautiful caught my eye. I think my eyes might have bugged out too and I think I actually squealed out loud when I reached out and picked up the one thing I have been searching and searching for and certainly did not expect to find on this trip- a Romanesco cauliflower! Laugh all you want, you ought to know by now, I am a total vegetable nerd. Anyway, my list of foodie resolutions for 2016 included tracking this beauty of a veg down and cooking it and I never did find one. Suddenly, here it was, in my hand, and I was soooooo thrilled to have it, I didn't even remember to go the olive bar...........

Radish Slaw with Apple and Mint

1/2 lb radishes, multi colored if available
1 medium cucumber
2 Granny Smith apples
1 bunch fresh mint
2-3 scallions
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Sinful Food basil oil
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Sinful Food Signature Seasoning
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Cut the radishes into matchsticks, along with the cucumber. Place in large bowl. Slice the scallions including the green tops and add to bowl. Cut the apple into matchsticks but leave the peel on, add to the bowl.

Pull the mint leaves off the stems and give them a rough chop. Add to the vegetables in the bowl.

I was unable to get fresh mint, so I subbed fresh parsley. You
can substitute parsley or basil if you don't like mint.
In a jar with a lid combine the vinegar, lemon juice, both oils, mustard and seasoning. Screw the lid on and shake vigorously to combine. Pour dressing over the vegetables, starting with about half the dressing. Toss to coat. Add the almonds, toss again, and add more dressing to taste.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Family Cookbook- Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

Ohhhhh how I love cake. Everyone who knows me knows about my passionate love affair with cake. I guess that's a hazard when you're a baker. In school I was a bit of science geek and well, science goes hand in hand with baking. In most other forms of cooking you can wing it, and eyeball ingredients as you go. Not so true in baking. There is absolutely science involved- getting the right combination of fats to flour to liquid to leavening. Sugar to make it palatable. Salt to make the flavors stand out. Fat to keep the texture soft and moist and melt in your mouth. We haven't even got to the frosting yet!

Cake as a food has been around since ancient times. Back in those days, cakes were more like bread and likely to be sweetened with honey. Fruits and nuts often were the only flavoring available to make cakes a little more interesting. Cake a little closer to what we are used to made its appearance in Europe in the 1600s, when the technology of the day included ovens in homes and metal food "molds" and pans. Early icing recipes started to show up in kitchens too, but most were boiled and created something like a candy coating. These cakes often used yeast to rise. The mid 1800s brought us...... cake as we know it today. All the heavenly happiness of leavening ingredients like baking powder and baking soda, cocoa and chocolate, and.........Lord help me.......buttercream icing. 

The Fannie Farmer Cooking School Cookbook was published in 1918 and cakes made regular appearances in the home of people all over the country. Decades later we would see a wide variety of cake mixes on store shelves, packages of flavored frosting mix, and eventually, those plastic tubs you just need to open and spread on your cake.

It's no surprise that my kids inherited my love of cooking and baking. My oldest daughter Debbee baked this fantastic Bundt cake for our family's Christmas dinner and everyone raved. Not too sweet and not overloaded with frosting, if there is such a thing, it was a great way to finish off that big turkey feast. The cake is buttery and soft like a pound cake with so much fresh orange flavor, lots of juicy fresh cranberries and a drizzle of creamy glaze. We enjoyed the cake for our dessert but it would also make a lovely coffee cake for breakfast or brunch.

Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly coat a Bundt pan with cooking spray for baking. Sprinkle the two tablespoons of sugar in the pan. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until light and lemon colored. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add the zest and orange juice. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla.

Add the flour and baking powder. Mix for several minutes until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the cranberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes until cake tests done. Cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes, then invert and remove the pan. Allow cake to cool, the drizzle with glaze.


1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons half and half

Stir together until smooth. Drizzle over cake. You can also use orange juice instead of the half and half and sprinkle some additional orange zest over for even more flavor.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Purple? Yes, purple. Purple sweet potatoes.

Sometimes the internet can be a bad thing. A bad influence. An enabler. Like Instagram for example. Of course I follow a number of food bloggers, restaurants, stores, and food companies. You have to, if you want to stay on trend. Frieda's Specialty Produce is one of the companies that I follow and love seeing all the interesting and unique kinds of produce they offer. Many of these fruits and vegetables are tropical and cannot be grown here in Iowa, and many more are rare or a fun hybrid of traditional vegetables. I was minding my business one evening, posting silly memes about rock stars and food, tossing some recipe ideas around in my head when Frieda's posted something that immediately caught my eye. Sweet potatoes. Ok, sure, I like sweet potatoes. Love them baked like a baked potato and they are a must have with holiday turkey. These ones though......these ones were........PURPLE!

Yes, purple! Bright Minnesota Vikings purple, and unlike many other purple hybrid vegetables, these beauties do not lose their color when cooked. Think about this for a minute, we have such colorful vegetables already, with all shades of greens, yellow, orange, red, tomatoes in a rainbow of colors, now we're adding a deep gorgeous purple to the mix? Yes!!!!

We eat with our eyes, as they say, so I didn't want to hide these guys under an ocean of marshmallow. I wanted to showcase not only the color but the nutrition and healthy fiber sweet potatoes provide. I wanted these potatoes to be front and center in whatever I made. First things first though, I have to actually find them and get my hands on a bag. This is not always an easy task. Des Moines is a big city, and we have big big grocery stores with all kinds of amazing produce but sometimes I miss out on something really wonderful, like the pink sweet corn some friends were able to snag last summer. By the time I got to the store- all sold out. The amazing folks at Frieda's made sure I didn't miss out. They reached out to me via Instagram and helped me track down a couple different locations in Des Moines where I'd be able to find the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato, and after work, I headed over to Trader Joe's and incredibly enough, got the LAST bag in the display. I went home with my 3 pounds of playthings and began to narrow down my recipe options.

Like I said, I did not want to treat these guys like an everyday sweet potato. I can do that, well, every day really, so I wanted to use them in a creative way. I love roasting vegetables, it brings out such a different flavor and texture, especially with sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are loaded with good things too, B vitamins, and loads of beta carotene which is so so good for us! I decided to cut up one or two, give them a little roast in the oven, and toss them with other bright fresh vegetables in a salad, lightly dressed with a honey vinaigrette to bring out the sweetness. Here is my unique take on salad.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad Bowl

1 or 2 purple sweet potatoes
2-3 cups baby kale
2-3 cups baby spinach
6 scallions
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted slightly
Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes. Toss in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out onto foil lined baking sheet that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Roast the sweet potatoes at 400 15-25 minutes until tender. Allow to cool slightly.

Toss the baby kale and spinach together in a large bowl. Add the scallions and almonds. Toss with some of the vinaigrette. Add potato cubes and toss again.

Easy Honey Vinaigrette

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tb Dijon mustard
2 tb balsamic vinegar
2 tb honey
salt and pepper

Shake together in a jar until thoroughly emulsified.

But the REAL fun came when dreaming up ways to use the sweet potatoes in a very delicious way. I knew I just had to figure out a way to use this tasty tuber in a sweet recipe, a dessert of some kind. There were so many good options too- pudding, mousse, ice cream and sweet potato pie. If you have never had sweet potato pie, you simply must try it. It's a lot like pumpkin pie but the potatoes are so rich and smooth and the spices make the pie so warm and inviting. All you need a simple crown of whipped cream and you have pie perfection. Now, let's make it purple!

Crazy Purple Sweet Potato Pie

1 1/2 lb purple sweet potatoes
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup half and half
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
small pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
one pastry shell

Bake the potatoes in a 400 degree oven until tender, 45-60 minutes. Allow to cool until cool enough to handle. Slip off the skins.

While potatoes are cooking, line a pie plate with pastry. Trim and crimp a tall edge. Cover and set aside in a cool place. I popped mine in the fridge.

Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl. Use a form to break up and mash the potatoes, and beat in the softened butter until completely mixed in. Mix in all remaining ingredients.

Pour into pastry lined pie plate. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. You may need to cover the edge of the pastry halfway through baking time to prevent burning. Use foil or a pie protector if you have one. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream.

I used a small pie plate for mine, because we are a small household, and I had a little filling leftover so I baked that in a custard cup alongside. Baking in cups is a great gluten free option, too, if you omit the crust and spray well with cooking spray. Just look at the color of that filling! It tastes like autumn but looks like a pop of summer color.

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