Sweet potato casserole
November 15, 2014, 4:59 pm
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Recently I purchased a buttload (that’s a Southernism for “a whole lot”) of sweet potatoes with the intention of experimentational (that’s a word, really.) purposes. Not to make Frankentater or that sort of experiment, but to determine which method of preserving is preferred by the household. Half of them I sliced thin and dehydrated, upon the advice of some internet health-guru vegan who promised earnestly that they were just as good as a Lays potato chip and far healthier and our children would thank us gratefully for caring so much about their well being. They are not as good as a Lays, and my children gave me the hairy eyeball and drove to the store for Doritos. So, dehydrated sweet potato chips were vacuum packed and stored for later use by rehydrating and mashing into casseroles, which is why God made sweet potatoes in the first place.

The second half of them were canned. 4 quarts were prepared. The first was water packed, the second with light (10% sugar) syrup, the third with a 20% sugar pack, and the fourth with light syrup and whole spices (3 allspice berries, 2 slices of fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick).  They seemed ok after coming out of the canner, but after a day, the liquids were cloudy and that wasn’t what I was aiming for. Himself (who knows many things) opined that there were interstitial spaces involved and assorted chemistry and physics stuff involving heat and some other stuff. I replied with “cooperative extention service directions” and “but but”. I was not uncertain about the quality of the canning, as everything was bubbling even after it was cooled off, which means a good solid vacuum was in there, they just weren’t clear jewel toned jars like I envisioned.

So, instead of putting those ugly things on the shelf, I went ahead and made sweet potato casseroles, one for Thanksgiving and 2 for later on.  I started with a good basic Southern standard recipe, and tweaked it, because in this house, recipes are suggestions, not instructions. Oh, and when I tasted the spiced sweet potatoes….DELICIOUS. When I do succeed in making pretty canned ones, you can bet a few of the jars will be spiced.

Here’s the recipe, with the tweaking in parenthesises…parenthaseez…you know….

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups peeled, cooked, and mashed sweet potatoes or yams (1 quart home canned)

1 cup sugar (Nope. Since the sweet potatoes were syrup packed, no sugar necessary)

1/2 cup butter, melted (Browned. Melt it in a skillet, turn down low, and cook about 5 minutes until it starts to turn brown and smells toasty)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla (Here’s where Ina Garten is right with her snobby “Good Vanilla”. At the very least, make sure it’s real vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla flavoring. Alternately, you can use a tablespoon of bourbon)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Seems excessive to me, I used 1/2 a teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

(Also, 1 teaspoon ground ginger. I love ginger.)

1/4 cup heavy cream, half and half, or whole milk (unsweetened almond milk. It’s what I had)

Preheat the oven to 325. Mix everything except the milk. Beat with a mixer (or you could do it with a stand mixer, whatever) until smooth. Add the milk and mix well. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly all over.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Topping                                                                                                                                                                                      1 cup brown sugar

1 cup walnuts, chopped (I used pecans. They’re More Southern.)

1/3 cup all purpose flour (A little less than 1/4 cup)

3 tablespoons butter, melted ( 1/3 cup browned butter)

(1/2 cup rolled oats. I like oats in a crumbled topping)

Mix it all together really well, and sprinkle on top of the casserole.  This makes a good topping for an Apple Brown Betty, too.

Now, in the interest of Journalistic Integrity, I had 4 quarts of sweet potatoes and used all 4 to make a casserole for Thanksgiving, and 2 more to put back for later. So this recipe was 4 times as much. The kitchen smells like brown butter and spices, which is not a tragedy.

Also, a lesson I learned recently, because I am thick like that, keep your nuts in the freezer. (I will pause for adolescent guffaws to subside…………………….                                                                                                                                            ……………………………………………..

Ok. Nuts are like candy to insects. So unless you use them all up at one go, which I never do as nuts are bought in bulk around here, keep them in the freezer. Not only will that keep bugs out, it will preserve them longer so they won’t go rancid, what with all those lovely oils they have.  But then you probably already knew that.

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Fall Vegetables
November 8, 2014, 12:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

On Monday, our 15 year old got on a school bus and went to Washington DC and Williamsburg for a week. Shortly after (like maybe 5 minutes), Himself and I got in his truck and went to the north Georgia mountains for 3 days.

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After spending a couple of days and more than a couple of dollars on an assortment of antique and vintage items, we went through Atlanta, and spent a couple of hours at My Happy Place, where I threw many items of fresh produce and all sorts of spices and dried beans and this strange sugar that resembles cat litter, complete with suspicious chunks. It is delicious in oatmeal.

While there, we ate at their amazing cafeteria, which can always be depended on for ideas. This time, it was a casserole made of broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. The sauce was white and tangy and it had buttery crumbs on top. It was delicious and Himself says the gustatory spectrometer in my mouth was pinging (it makes noises like OOOOH and MMMMM and other sounds probably less ladylike), and I decided it would be delicious for Thanksgiving Dinner. Naturally, the cafe there never has a cookbook or anything like that.

So, for dinner tonight I tried to knock it off…and pretty much nailed it. Here it is (they called it Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole, but it had spinach in it as well, and something oniony without being onions. I decided they were leeks)

Ingredients for the casserole

2 broccoli crowns, cut into floeuetters…fleurettes…y’know…little pieces

1 small cauliflower, also little pieces

2 small leeks, white and light green parts, sliced thin

1 big bunch spinach, washed and stems removed….oh just whack them off, Don’t be prissy about it.

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Boil a big pot of water, and blanch all that except the spinach for 3 minutes. Scoop it out and drain.

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Drop the spinach in the hot water for about 30 seconds until it wilts. Scoop it out and put all the vegs in a big bowl. Set aside.

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Make the sauce:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1-1/2 cups milk

4 oz plain goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir until it’s foamy and starts to smell toasty.

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Add the milk and stir until it starts to thicken. Add the goat cheese, stir until it’s all creamy and wonderful. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Pour all this over the vegs and mix well.

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Pour this into a greased casserole dish, bake at 375F for 30 minutes.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour into 1 cup of bread crumbs (Panko, or whatever bread crumbs, Cracker crumbs I guess…) and mix well. Put on top of the casserole and bake for another 15 minutes until the top is toasty brown.

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Himself is a lover of Brussels sprouts. I was not a fan until we had these at a restaurant a couple of years ago. Now I am a fan. The DFM has fresh ones that are lovely and crisp.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

A bunch of brussels sprouts…maybe 2 pounds. i don’t know…however many you need to feed however many people are eating them. Cut them in half longways and put them in a bowl.

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Mix together 1 part balsamic vinegar and 2 parts olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and some ground pepper. I put this in a pint jar and shake the heck out of it.

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Pour this all over the sprouts and toss well so they’re all coated.

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Put in a pie pan, or on a cookie sheet and roast at 375F for about 30 minutes,

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until brown and crisp on the outside and cooked inside.

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Also…winter squash. Who doesn’t love them?

Acorn Squash

per squash:

Cut it in half longways. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. In the little cup left in the middle, put 1 tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of dark brown sugar (or honey, or sorghum syrup). Sprinkle on a pinch each of salt, ground cinnamon, and ground ginger.

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Bake at 375F for a out 45 minutes, until soft.

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Yum, y’all. No meat necessary, but this is probably what’s going to go with a smoked turkey (ginger, honey and orange glaze…recipe later) and cranberry chutney (ditto). And dressing.