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    Entries in childhood (12)


    Sweet Potato Crisp

    One last Thanksgiving side before the big day next week.  By now you probably have everything all planned out.  You might have even done your grocery shopping already.  If your Thanksgiving spread is going to include something that looks like this…

    You might want to call an audible.  You know, I grew up eating ‘yams’ just like that, and quite honestly, loved them.  Of course, I loved happy meals too, and I wouldn’t touch one of those with a ten foot pole these days.  Some traditions really are just for children.  And while we’re on the subject of traditions and ‘yams’, let me set the record straight, once and for all.  This is a yam. 

    The things you buy in the can or in the produce department are not yams.  Not the orange ones, and not the white ones.  They are all sweet potatoes.  Yam is a misnomer that just happened to catch on in America.  See if you can convince at least one person this holiday season to stop calling them yams.  It will make me feel just a little bit better.  Ok, so enough about my sweet potato pet peeve, let’s get this show on the road. 

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    For the sweet potatoes:

    4 medium sized sweet potatoes
    1 cup half and half
    2 eggs
    ¼ cup sugar
    Pinch of salt

    For the topping:

    ½ cup butter, softened
    ⅔ cups oats
    ⅔ cups whole wheat flour
    ⅓ cup brown sugar
    ⅓ cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon baking powder

    Preheat your oven to 375°.  Wash your sweet potatoes very well and dry them.  I’ll be honest, the white sweet potatoes are better than the orange ones, but my store didn’t have any.  I know ‘better’ is in the taste buds of the feaster, as it were, but that is not the case this time.  White sweet potatoes are better.  Trust me.  Regardless of that, the orange ones are still very tasty and will work if your store has as limited selection as mine did.  Ok, back to cooking.  Place the sweet potatoes onto a foil lined sheet pan.  (This is a small sheet pan, not giant sweet potatoes.)

    Pop them into the oven and set the timer for 60 minutes.  With sweet potatoes, you can really smell when they’re done, because they begin to ooze and the liquid caramelizes.  This is why I line the pan with foil.

    To be sure, you can check for doneness by inserting a fork. 

    If, once through the skin, it goes in and out easily, it’s done.  Mine took 90 minutes, so don’t be surprised if they’re not ready yet.  Another method for checking is just to squeeze them.  They should give easily under your fingers.

    Make sure you use a hot pad, though.  They’re really hot.  Once they’ve finished cooking give them a while to cool.  They can happily sit on top of the stove for a few hours, but you can start peeling them whenever they’re cool enough to handle.  The skin will come off fairly easily with a knife. 

    When the peel is removed, just cut them into large chunks.  You can do it straight into the mixing bowl you’re going to use, but I decided this was a good stopping point, so I just covered this bowl and put them in the fridge overnight. 

    Then, I shared a few bites with Otto because he’d been smelling them for hours, and sweet potatoes are his most favoritest snack.

    When you’re ready, throw the sweet potato chunks into your mixing bowl along with 2 eggs, 1 cup of half and half, ¼ cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt. 

    Now, I really enjoy the flavor of sweet potatoes (especially the white ones) just the way they are, so I don’t want to do much to them.  If you want them sweeter, add more sugar.  Now just turn on the mixer.  You could also do this with just a potato masher, but I prefer my mixer to do the labor work in my kitchen.  The mixture won’t be completely smooth, but that’s fine.

    Pour the mixture into a buttered 8x8 pan and wash your bowl and beater so you can make the topping.  It really couldn’t be simpler.  Throw that whole list of ingredients into your mixing bowl. 

    Yes, I know I didn’t sift anything, I didn’t incorporate the baking soda with the flour, all the ingredients are in their own little piles, and I just threw the stick of butter in whole.  Trust me, the mixer will take care of everything.  Just turn it on, starting on low and slowly increase the speed to medium.  Allow it to run for a minute or so, until the mixture is looks moist and crumbly. 

    You can also accomplish this with a pastry blender, or even a fork, but well… see above.  Now pour the topping over the sweet potatoes. 

    I know, you’re thinking right about now that this is way too much topping.  Personally, I don’t think too much topping is possible when it comes to crisp.  Just pile it on and spread it around.  I promise no one will complain. 

    Just in case, you’ll probably want to put the pan on a sheet pan, then slide it into a preheated (oops, forgot to mention that part) 375° oven (Well, 1 for 2 isn't bad, right?).  Bake it for 45 minutes.  It should be nice and brown on top when it’s ready. 

    Now, this is difficult, but it is important to allow any kind of crisp to set for at least 20 minutes before digging in.  I know it’s like torture, but you’ll be glad you did.  Your Thanksgiving guests will love your new sweet potato dish.  Or, if you’re just having a craving for sweet potatoes, like I was, you can just scoop some into a bowl and call it lunch. 

    What?  I don’t see a problem with having sweet potatoes for lunch.  It’s a serving of vegetables, right? 

    What is your favorite thing to do with sweet potatoes?   



    Quick Chicken Trick

    You might think I grew up eating gourmet food, but the truth is, my childhood food experience was just like the vast majority of my generation.  We had casseroles made with condensed soups, and lasagna came from the freezer.  That being said, Mom cooked dinner just about every evening, and I don’t remember having a lot of complaints.  So where did I learn to cook without mixes and canned stuff?  Well, a lot of it has come from trial and error… and there have been plenty of errors.  There have been many flat cookies or broken cream sauces.  For a while, the phrase, “I don’t know what happened”, was a running joke in our house.  So don’t be afraid to try new things.  Worst case scenario, you have a mess in your oven and you’re eating pizza for dinner.  But next time, maybe you’ll have perfection!  The other part of learning has been picking up tricks wherever I can find them.  I’m not ashamed to say I totally stole this trick from my friend Elise Logan.  I was telling her about how much I love Trader Joe’s Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix. 

    Seriously guys, if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, (I say nearby, but mine is 63 miles away.  Fortunately there is also a Whole Foods and an amazing barbecue place down there, so we go every Sunday.) you have to try this stuff.  Toss it with a bit of your favorite salad dressing, and it makes a fabulous side, snack, or even lunch.  It’s a mixture of broccoli, carrots, green cabbage, red cabbage, jicama, green bell pepper, radish, and celery.   

    Well, Elise said she uses it for chicken salad.  Holy crap!  I’m pretty sure the woman is a genius.  Chicken salad is one of my favorite things, so I wasn’t going to pass up on that trick.  Now I pass the trick onto all of you.  Pile some of the veggie mix on a cutting board.

    Chop it down to whatever size you like.  I prefer mine to be fairly small. 

    Now, in my world, chicken salad isn’t chicken salad without green onions, so those go into the bowl along with the veg and chicken.  I like about a 1 to 1 ratio of chicken and veggies.  Btw, trick #2, rotisseries chickens are fabulous for this, but if you can get your hands on a smoked chicken, they’re even better.  I don’t know if they do in other places, but in my area, Whole Foods has amazing smoked chickens.   

    Add whatever dressing you like.  For me, it’s homemade, low fat ranch.  What, you want that recipe as well?  Alright, I’ll post it soon, but if you need it in the meantime, comment below or use the request form on the right and I’ll be happy to share it with you. 

    Mix that all together and you’re almost to chicken salad perfection.  Look at all those fabulous colors!

    I say almost because in my world, pistachios are a requirement for chicken salad.  They go soft rather quickly, though, so remove whatever you’re not going to eat now to a storage container and then add them to your portion. 

    You have now reached chicken salad heaven, and it took like 10 minutes or less. 

    What are you favorite kitchen tricks?  Post them in the comments below so we can all add them to our repertoire.