Cinnamon

We love sweet potatoes. Fitting, as NC is a major producer in the US, and we get them in our farmer’s delivery twice a month.

This recipe for roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and almonds hits the spot when you want something sweet, but still respectable for a dinner plate. Plus, it’s super simple.

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I’m having a big bowl for an afternoon snack while the baby naps. I’m hoping it will offset the fried chicken AJ is making for dinner ;)

Curing Cast Iron

Cast iron is awesome. Plain and simple. You can fry, saute and bake all in the same pan. Want to make a top notch steak? Cast iron. Want to fry chicken? Cast iron. Want to bake a cookie cake? Cast iron. 

Cast iron, while awesome, does require some special care. Minimize soap usage when washing your skillet. The best way to clean it is to rub salt in the pan while it’s still warm. It’s a natural and safe abrasive that cleans without removing the seasoning of the pan. Eventually, all cast iron must be reseasoned, and it’s not a terribly hard process to go through.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Put a spoonful of shortening (Crisco) in the skillet and put it into the oven.
  3. When the shortening has melted, pull the skillet out of the oven and use a paper towel to rub the shortening on the entire skillet (inside, outside, and handle). This is a bit tricky and may require assistance (one person holding the skillet, the other rubbing in the shortening)
  4. Put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of your oven and return the skillet to the oven on the top rack, upside down. This way any excess shortening will drip out onto the cookie sheet below.
  5. Bake the pan at 350 degrees for an hour, and then turn the oven off and let it cool.

Ta-da, brand new skillet.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I should be more embarrassed that I keep posting unoriginal recipes, but I’m nine months pregnant and basically don’t care how the delicious food makes it to my plate.

In the spirit of self-awareness, I will admit that this recipe in particular is not the sort that we normally would make – ketchup is the main ingredient in the sauce, for goodness sakes – but I saw it on Pinterest and it struck my fancy.

So, here it is. Make your own baked sweet and sour chicken, eat it over some leftover rice from the Chinese food you ate yesterday (no judgment!) and enjoy.

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I made this exactly as written and plan to do so again and again. It was definitely on the sweet side with all that sugar, but it absolutely satisfied my craving.

Breakfast

Just popping in to share this recipe and to remind myself to make it again since it was so tasty.

We made these quinoa carrot breakfast bars basically as written, with a few changes:
- omitted nuts
- used lemon Greek yogurt
- didn’t use a full cup of honey
- forgot to add allspice
- swapped regular raisins for the golden raisins (gross) that the recipe calls for

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Nonetheless, a highly recommended snack, breakfast, whatever. I love the spices and the fact that the bars are not too sweet. They have a dense cake-like texture, which is perfect for on the go or to sit down and enjoy with a cup of coffee. Plus, freezable … make a big batch for later!

French Fries

We had some family in town a few weeks ago and decided to make steak salads for everyone. Simple, easy meal that everyone enjoys. Being from Pittsburgh, there’s one thing that MUST go on a steak salad: french fries. Most people would go to the grocery store, buy a bag of frozen french fries, bake them and serve. They end up being crunchy for 30 seconds and then turn into limp, mushy fries.

I decided to make my own french fries. It’s way easier than you’d think. Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Gallon of peanut oil
  • 4 baking/large potatoes
  • Salt

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Cut the potatoes into fries. It’s easier with a mandolin or fry cutter, but you can do it by hand (like I did). I cut the potatoes in half length wise and then cut them into two layers. I then cut them lengthwise into fries. Put the fries into the cold water. This will bring starches in the potatoes to the surface.

After all the potatoes are cut and soaked, drain the water and use a paper towel to dry off any excess water on the outside of the potatoes.

Remember: water + hot oil = BAD.

Fill a dutch oven or electric fryer with the oil and heat the oil to 320 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on top for the cooked fries. Place some of the fries into the oil. You’ll need to do this in batches, being sure to not overcrowd the fries. They need room to move around.

They’ll turn generally stiff and not change in color much. Use a slotted spoon or a mesh spider to pull them out of the fryer and place them onto the cooling rack. Salt the fries. Repeat until all of the fries have been fried once.

They’ll end up looking like this:

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As they cool, they’ll soften a bit and if you hold one straight out, it’ll look like this:

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Turn the temperature on the oil up to 375. Line a bowl with paper towels. Put the fries back in (in batches) until they turn a nice golden brown. Pull them out and put them in the bowl. Salt the fries. Repeat until all of the fries are done.

They should look like this when done:

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There’s no extra spice or coloring on those. That’s purely cooked and salted.

Enjoy!

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Stew

Every so often, you just want to make a dinner that works. Improv in the kitchen is a fine thing, but tonight I needed the mental break.

Enter, Pioneer Woman. I happen to think she is delightful, but will admit that only some of her recipes tempt me. This one for beef stew with beer and paprika was definitely one. I followed it as written, using AMAZING beef from Wilkerson Farms. Our cooking beer of choice was DogFishHead 60 Minute.

AJ came downstairs because he thought he smelled biscuits (not sure how?) and his sad face when he didn’t see any in the oven was enough to get me back in the kitchen. He went to run some errands for me, and I whipped up some biscuits to go with the stew.

BEST IDEA.

He is usually the dough/bread/biscuit maker in the house, but I think I did just fine on my own. This being my first biscuit experience, I did a quick google for some guidance. Again, I followed this recipe exactly. Super easy, super quick, and super delicious.

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The perfect biscuit for sopping up the stew liquid, which, by god, I think I could drink in a glass. Really great flavors in this bowl, you guys.

All around, a highly recommended meal.

Pierogi

Cheddar Potato Pierogi

Dough (makes roughly 8 dozen):
6 cups of flour
1.5 cups boiling water
.5 cup cold water
1 teaspoon oil

1. Sift the flour into a bowl.
2. Pour in the boiling water and stir with a fork. Cover with a towel for 5 minutes.
3. Pour in the cold water and stir with a fork. Cover with a towel for 15 minutes.
4. Add in the oil and knead for 5-10 minutes.
5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and run through the pasta roller as follows. (Or roll by hand to desired thickness)
Twice on setting 1
Once on setting 2
Once on setting 3

Filling:
3.5 pounds of potatoes
1/2 large onion
8 ounces shredded cheddar

1. Boil the potatoes until fork tender.
2. Dice the onion and sweat them in a bit of butter.
3. Mash the potatoes with the onions and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Assembly:
1. Cut the rolls of dough with a 3″ biscuit cutter. Save the leftovers and roll them out for more pierogi pieces.
2. Fill the dough, fold over, wet the bottom edge of the dough slightly and pinch with your fingers. Finish the seal with a fork.

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To cook:
1. Boil in salted water until they float, plus a few extra minutes until soft.
2. Finish in skillet to lightly brown/crisp both sides, sauted with butter and onion.

To freeze:
1. Boil in salted water until just floating.
2. Pull immediately and set into cold/ice water.
3. Leave to cool on lined tray.
4. Freeze on tray for an hour or two, then bag and store.
5. Frozen pierogi should be boiled until soft and then finished in a skillet. Dough is quite sturdy.

Protein

Earlier today I tried telling AJ that we should really try to cut down on our meat eating habits in 2012. He was understandably devastated, as culinary delights of the pork persuasion are some of our favorite things. But, the turning of a new year is nothing but an excuse/chance to rev up your engines and recharge your batteries. Horrible metaphors notwithstanding, it’s time to get real about being healthy. (Bonus points for being environmentally friendlier, too. Modern meat production is no bueno for our fair planet. Somethingsomething corn
somethingsomething.)

Tonight’s dinner was my one chance to convince him that we could be just fine without meat every few days or so. As every good story goes, we had some challenges: no time to stop at the grocery store and only an hour to cook, eat and digest before headed back out.

Pantry to the rescue!

We happened to have some fresh veggies on hand from last weekend’s cookathon, and a can of crabmeat that was in my Christmas stocking. (P.S. donate to your local food bank, please and thank you.) Looked like this was going to be a battle of Abby vs. crab cakes. I had never made them before, but I am happy to report they were easy and super tasty.

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I’m choosing to define “crab” as “not meat,” so hush. Even though it had eyes, as AJ points out. Just go with it.

The lazy man’s version of my recipe for posterity:

- Mix one can of crab with less than 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, same-ish of mayonnaise, small pieces of zucchini and pepper (mine happened to be orange)
- Add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and a bit of pepper to your taste
- Heat skillet on medium to medium-high, with your choice of nonstick stuff (butter or oil)
- Roll the crab mixture into two balls and flatten to about, uh … 3/4 inch maybe? and plop into hot pan
- DON’T TOUCH THEM
- Cook for about 4 minutes on each side to make sure they are golden brown on the outside and cooked through

Serve with quinoa for an exceptionally bland looking plate.

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