Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I have been eating a lot of sweet potatoes lately. They are inexpensive, healthy, delicious, and simple to cook! I usually bake them like a regular potato, or slice them up and roast them with some olive oil (not surprising, given my affinity for roasting). I have also been enjoying the recent trend of the sweet potato fry option in restaurants, but when I tried making them at home, I was not getting the same crispy-fry texture. I thought it must be the price you pay for baking versus deep frying.

However, this recipe is wonderful because it gets the sweet potato fries more crispy than my previous baking attempts (although I must admit, still not as crispy as frying). Also, there is a dipping sauce included. The sauce is a nice touch -- I mean, who doesn't LOVE dipping their fries in something tasty? This is also the first dip I've tried that complements the sweet potato flavor well (ketchup unfortunately tastes really bazaar with sweet potato IMO).

I've made these fries on the side of bison burgers a few times, and you should definitely give it a try; it is SUCH a good combo (I will have to post the burger recipe soon). Also, I definitely enjoy just eating them as a snack (while nomming on the couch, of course). Either way, you can't go wrong!

* Sweet potato, peeled and sliced
* Corn starch
* Olive oil
* Salt

-- The proportions depend on how much you want to make. It's very flexible. See instructions below.

Dipping Sauce
* Mayonnaise
* Sriracha sauce

-- I like 3 parts mayonnaise to 1 part Sriracha (nice and spicy), but alter proportions depending on your taste. Just mix the two ingredients, and serve with the fries!

* Preheat oven to 425 F.
* Put your prepared sweet potatoes in a bag.
* Sprinkle in a little corn starch, and give it a good shake. The corn starch should just lightly coat the potato on all sides. Start out with just a little, and add if you need more (it's hard to dust the corn starch off if you put too much on, but possible if need be).
* Then lay your potato slices on your baking sheet or in a bowl, and lightly coat with olive oil. You while want to use your hands to toss the slices to make sure all sides have a nice light coating. Then, lay slices on your baking sheet like so:
* Bake for about 15 minutes. I then like to flip all the fries onto the opposite side, and bake for another 5 minutes or so (this helps get both sides nice and crispy).
* Lay your fries on a napkin, and sprinkle with some salt. I let the fries sit there for a few minutes, they will start to crisp up more as they cool.
* Serve with your dipping sauce!
* Note: When cutting, the picture above is a good example of the desired size for a good & crispy fry.

Recipe adapted from this blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Omelette

Now, time to put those omelette skills to the test! This is a new favorite. Red pepper and goat cheese is such a classic combo, seen mostly in pastas and sandwiches. But trust me, it's time to give those flavors a try a la an herby, fluffy omelette stuffed with the creamy, tangy goat cheese, alongside the sweet & smokey roasted red peppers. Just stellar.

How To: Omelette

When I have a little free time, one of my MOST favorite things to do is to sleep in, and cook up a hearty breakfast or brunch. Eggs also happen to be one of my favorite foods, so I wanted to share the basic techniques for creating classic egg dishes (planning for more to come). Hopefully, when you have some free time, you can whip up some eggs for you and your loved ones!

Omelettes can be a little tricky. I've tried multiple methods, but I have found a fail-proof way that works for me, so I hope it can help you! And please, have NO fear if you haven't made them before! The first few times I tried, I ended up with last-minute scrambled eggs, but practice makes perfect.

Here's what you'll need for each omelette:
* 2 extra-large eggs
* 2 tbsp. milk (some people swear by water for fluffing omelettes, but I like milk)
* 8 or 9-inch omelette pan, buttered well
* Sturdy spatula (somewhat small works better for me)
* Whatever you want to fill your omelette with!

* Whisk the eggs and milk together until just combined (this is another point of contention, some people like to whisk the batter until frothy -- you can try both and see what you like)
* Season with salt and pepper (or add any other herbs or spices you like)
* While mixing the eggs, heat your buttered pan on medium heat.
* When the pan gets warm, pour in your egg mixture.
* The bottom will set, and immediately turn the heat down to low.
* Give the top a stir as you wait for it to cook through more (making sure not to break the bottom).
* Sometimes I will put a lid on the top just for about 30 seconds, to help the omelette cook through a little more quickly (so the bottom doesn't burn).
* When there is still a little liquid on top, and the bottom has set completely (without getting browned), flip your omelette over carefully with a sturdy plastic spatula.
* This is close to what you want (got a little more cooked than I would like)...
* As soon as you have flipped, immediately take the pan off the heat, and put your filling in!
* Then, just fold, and serve!

Favorite Fillers
* Ham and cheddar cheese
* Bacon, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese
* Sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and gruyere
* Green bell pepper, onion, and cheddar cheese
* Turkey, avocado, and Monterey jack
* Green chili and chorizo
* Roasted red pepper and goat cheese

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Menu Planning

There are many recipes I wanted to blog about post-Christmas feasting, but then I realized that might not be beneficial in anticipation of cooking/baking for Christmas and New Years. So, I have been scouring the internet, my favorite cookbooks, blogs, as well as searching for inspiration from family traditions, to provide a compilation of things that I plan on making or have made in the past (and others that I am cataloging for future years), so that y'all can see if these recipes interest you this Christmas!

* Red Velvet Pancakes
* Eggnog French Toast
* Lemon Cranberry Muffins
* Caramel Apple Sticky Buns
* Baked French Toast Casserole
I've made this before. SO good. I hope to make it some lazy day over the break, and if so, will post pics then!
* Cranberry Nutmeg Pancakes w/ Meyer Lemon Curd

Cheese Plate

* Camembert & Pears
* Baked Brie w/ Cranberry Sauce & Walnuts
* Baked Brie w/ Rosemary Honey & Toasted Almonds

* Whisky & Coke Ham
You are looking at a tried and true Fiedler family tradition here. My Dad makes this ham every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it is seriously the BEST.HAM.EVER. And yes, there is a bit of a theme here. The Fiedlers absolutely love cooking with (and drinking) whisky. The recipe above is where my Dad got the idea (thank you, Emeril). I know he has put a couple twists on it, but if you follow this recipe, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. After Christmas, I will try to remember to post some pics of my Dad's, and talk with him about any other suggestions he has for the recipe. But until then, please try it out for your own Christmas!! It will be one of the best presents you can give your family!
* Roasted Turkey
There are lots of great turkey recipes, but I included this one because it includes a good brine. In my humble opinion, brining is THE MOST important step to having a good turkey! Please don't overlook it! You should definitely read up on the process if you haven't done so in the past.
* Beef Bourguignon
I made this for a dinner party, and it's one of the best things I've ever cooked. I really wish I would've taken pictures and posted about it, because it is a complex recipe. However, if you want to impress, this is without a doubt the dish to make!!
* Roast Prime Rib
* Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

* Cranberry Sauce
* Green Bean Casserole
* Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts
* Roasted Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes
* Mashed Cauliflower & Cheese
Also made this at the dinner party, and everyone raved about it! Sorry I didn't take any pics of this either.

* Rum Cake
* Guiness Gingerbread
* Chocolate Cherry Trifle
I'm in charge of dessert for Christmas day, and this is what I am making. Will get a post up as soon as I can afterward. Doesn't it look fantastic?!
* Peppermint Ice Cream
I reallyyy want an ice cream maker from Santa.
* White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Gift Box Ideas
* Decorated Sugar Cookies (cookie recipe and glaze; TB: 12/22)
* Peppermint Bark (very easy to make; TB: 12/22)
* Dark Chocolate Whoopie Pies w/ Toasted Almond Cream (first time making these; TB: 12/23)
* Red Velvet Cake Balls
* Sinner Bark (this, and next three are on my blog)
* Seven Layer Bars
* Gingerbread Cookies
* Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
* Hot Chocolate Mix

* Crock Pot Hot Cocoa
* Peppermint Mocha
* Cranberry-Pomegranate Margarita
* Cranberry-Ginger Fizz
* Pomegranate-Vanilla Sangria

Hope this helps. Wishing you, and your family, a very Merry Christmas feast!

P.S. If anyone has great holiday recipes, please please share!

Baked Oatmeal w/ Cranberries

There's so much I love about baking with oats... oatmeal cookies, crumble topping on pies, granola, etc. However, I've never been a big fan of oatmeal (although I sometimes forced myself to eat it). It's something about the weird, goopy texture. Fortunately, this recipe has definitely changed that less-than-pleasant oatmeal experience into an absolute treat. It has all the properties of the oat things I love (especially the texture), while still being a healthy breakfast (granted it has some butter and sugar, but not too much considering this recipe makes 4-5 servings). Try it -- you will definitely be surprised at how much better oatmeal just got!

Roasted Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes

Here's another roasted dish! I thought it would be great for the holidays, because it looks very festive. It would also work well in the summer, at the peak of tomato season. This is a perfect side to a nice steak, served with some crusty bread. It is packed with layers of flavor and texture -- crunchy/crisp, bright burst of acidity, hint of heat, and I could seriously go on... I promise, you won't feel like you're eating two healthy veggies at once (but you will be). So, Merry Christmas!

How To: Roasting

One of my favorite ways to prepare side dishes in the winter is roasting (grilling is for summer, of course). It's so easy, and so underrated!

For vegetables, all you need to do is put a little olive oil and s&p on them, and bake somewhere between 400-450 F depending on the dish. Then, just watch them until they get all browned and crispy on the edges (they may even look a little burned, but they're probably not, trust me). The length of cooking time will depend on what exactly you're cooking, but veggies usually take around 15-20 mins, and potatoes will be closer to 45 mins-1 hour.

For fruit, it's pretty much the same, except just flavor with some form of sugar sprinkled over the top.

Another wonderful thing about roasting is that it enhances the natural flavor of whatever you're roasting. If you roast a fruit, it brings out the sugars of the fruit, and makes the fruit taste much more decadent. When you roast vegetables, the particular essence of that vegetable comes out, and believe me, you never knew vegetables tasted that good. Also, it keeps a lot more of the nutrients in the vegetable, as opposed to steaming (and tastes wayyy better).

Great Things to Roast
* Potatoes, whole garlic cloves
* Green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
* Pineapple, peaches (any stone fruit), and many more!
* Lots of meats (obviously)

2 Things You've Probably Never Thought of Roasting
* Avocado
* Grapefruit

And here's how they're both done...

Roasted Grapefruit
* Cut a grapefruit in half, and separate each section with a paring knife.
* Set up the grapefruit on a baking dish (you may need to cut a little off the bottom to get it to sit up without falling over), and drizzled with your choice of sugar. I spread about a tablespoon of honey over the top. But you can use white sugar, brown sugar, etc. Or just go au naturel. I like a little bit of sugar to balance out the bitterness of the grapefruit.
* Broil the grapefruit for about 5 minutes.
* See how juicy and delicious it looks now! Every flavor of the grapefruit is enhanced (including the bitterness - so definitely only for grapefruit lovers). With this preparation, it tastes more like dessert than breakfast.

Roasted Avocado
I can't believe I just started doing this. I didn't think avocado could get any better -- until now! When roasted, the outside gets a little bit of a crust, and then the inside is sooo creamy. Absolutely delicious! Serve it with a salad, eggs, on toast or a sandwich, or just enjoy on its own!

* Remove the pit and skin, and slice.
* Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and s&p.

* Bake on 400 F for about 15 minutes. Yum!

One of my favorite snacks: cracker, good piece of turkey (would be great with leftover Christmas turkey!), and the roasted avocado.

** Another roasted dish recipe coming soon: Roasted Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes

Question: What else do people like to roast?? I would love to hear!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Sinner" Bark (Chocolate, Whiskey-Marshmallow Cream, Caramel, & Candied Bacon)

What says holiday cheer like bacon and whiskey? Well, I can't think of much else. That's why I'm spreading the love to all my friends and family this Christmas, with this decadent, and sinful, bark -- and you should too!

For those of you who haven't had bacon with chocolate, or bacon with caramel, or bacon with *see ingredients below*, you are missing out. Believe it or not, bacon is a fantastic complement to dessert. The salty/savoriness helps something sweet from becoming the dreaded sickly-sweet, and instead creates a rich, well-balanced bite.

What is really special about this bark is the addition of the whiskey in the marshmallow layer. And yes, you can actually taste the whiskey. When you are done chewing, the whiskey is the last flavor to come through at the end -- it sneaks up on you, and then lingers on your palate -- truly the warmest, and most welcome, surprise.

Seven Layer Bars

This is my most coveted holiday treat. I have been making these bars every year since I was about 16. And every year, my family gorges on them. At this point, they would probably riot if I didn't bake them. I think these may be somewhat of an acquired, or maybe just for just particular, tastes. Some people aren't a huge fan of them, but the people who are, are seriously obsessed (they are very sweet, and very addictive).

And my favorite thing is that these bars are the SIMPLEST thing I bake, and are a nice break from some of my more complicated baking ambitions. Literally all you do is layer, and bake the ingredients, and voila -- holiday magic. Hope you, and your family, enjoy!

Gingerbread Cookies w/ White Chocolate

"These taste like Christmas."

This is the first year I've made these cookies, and they are definitely going into the yearly "To Bake For the Holidays" bank. I have made gingerbread men, and just regular gingerbread, but I have never made gingerbread cookies quite like this before. I have to say I prefer this recipe, because they have all the gingerbread taste in a soft cookie form. The texture is so great -- you could eat about 10 at once if you're not careful!

I really wanted to add white chocolate Hershey kisses (to mimic my usual peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses), but I couldn't find them in the store. I could have sworn they made them around the holidays -- does anyone know? Anyways, instead I just got some white chocolate chips, and melted them in the center. It did the trick. I made some cookies with, and some without, the white chocolate, and both were fabulous! The white chocolate ones were definitely the favorite -- it pairs beautifully with the gingerbread by adding a nice creaminess to the spiced cookie. ENJOY!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

I made these at the beginning of the semester for my college/forever roomie, Kelly, to celebrate her birthday! I also took some leftovers to friends at school, which is always appreciated by over-caffeinated law students. I thought these would be great to post around the holidays, because they would be a lovely addition to a gift basket.

Salted caramel is such a traditional and delicious treat. I love how the salt picks up interesting notes of the caramel, and then, in this recipe, the addition of the shortbread and chocolate layers brings even more flavor to the party. You could also just make the caramel recipe (double the caramel layer below in a 8X8 pan), and then just top with fleur de sel for just a traditional salted caramel.