Sweet Potato Cheesecake

I know I'm inundating you with sweets and desserts of all kind.  But it's just that time of year for cookies, pies and cakes. I guess you could find a reason to satisfy your sweet tooth at anytime.  Yet the Holidays seem to be the most suitable time.

Let me just apologize in advance.  And to start making it up to you, we're just going to back into this one and take it slow.   

Well, I don't really know how much that helped you because it would have done nothing for me but peek my interest even more. I tried though. Really I did. But congrats to you if you can contain yourself and look no further. For the rest of you who are more like me, I'm just going to stop teasing you and give you the full monty. 

There it is! It's done. That is a ridiculously delicious Sweet Potato Cheesecake.  A cheesecake that could easily rival any cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. It's creamy and smooth center is perfectly sandwiched between a gingersnap pecan crust and sour cream pecan topping.  Seriously.  I don't know what else a girl could ask for.  Except maybe a fork and some alone time to properly indulge in such a satisfying dessert.

Don't worry, the loved ones in your life will permit you to do so.  They're not going to be up to sharing this one. Trust me. I made this right before Thanksgiving and had intentions of taking half of this cheesecake to work to share (two people do not need to eat an entire cheesecake). Low and behold, Mr. Foodie would not allow it. So guess how many people ended up eating an entire cheesecake. Two.  Absolutely sinful. But hey, it's the holidays remember.  That's my mantra and I'm sticking to it.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

For the crust:
35 gingersnaps, crushed
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 stick butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
3 8oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed/pureed
1 teaspoon each of the following - cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

For the topping:
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon each of the following - cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Making the crust - Using a food processor or blender, pulse together the gingersnaps, pecans and melted butter. Press the crust into a 9-inch spring-form pan.  Cover the bottom of the pan evenly, going up the sides approximately 1/4 of an inch. Place in the refrigerator until ready to fill

Making the filling - Using a mixer or a strong blender, mix together the softened cream cheese and eggs until smooth and well combined.
Add the sugar, maple syrup, sweet potato, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, vanilla, lemon juice and flour. Blend until smooth but not too long or too many cracks will appear on top when it bakes.
Pour the mixture into the spring-form pan and bake for 45 minutes. You will know the cheesecake will be doe when the sides are set and the center is still a little jiggly.
Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes

Making the topping - In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sugar and maple syrup together. Add the pecans

Take the cheesecake out of the oven, spread on the topping and let the cheesecake sit for another 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours and then serve.

adapted from homesicktexan


Molasses Cookies

I think Santa, his reindeer and his elves will all be equally as happy if you left these Molasses Cookies by the tree.  You might want to add the the sugar cookies for safe measure.  I mean it is Santa Clause after all.  He does leave the gifts.

With a little ginger, cloves, cinnamon and molasses, you can't find a better cookie offering warm, sweet and spicy undertones.  To top it all off, the cookies are rolled in sugar before you bake them. Crunchy edges and a moist middle, these cookies are perfect. Especially when it's cold outside.  I found this recipe on this cute blog.  This is one of her grandmother's recipes and I am delighted that she shared this recipe with readers.  It was such a cinch to make, you really can't go wrong.

Oh and please tell me you noticed how gorgeous they are.  I was initially only going to bake half the cookie dough and freeze the rest for later (I think I got 4 dozen cookies from the portions in the recipe).  But after the first batch was done, they were so visually appealing, I decided to go ahead and make all of them.  I am so glad I did too.  Cause when my mouth caught up to my eyes, my taste buds were very thankful. I even got a text declaring "these cookies are good as (insert expletive word here)" after Mr. Foodie found a couple in his lunch.  Another incredibly simple keeper.

Molasses Cookies
Printable Recipe

3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground ginger and salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
extra sugar for coating

Combine butter, sugar, molasses and egg in a large mixing bowl
Combine flour, baking soda, cloves, ginger, salt and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well until combined.  I used an electric mixer
Dough will be sticky. Place in the refrigerator until the dough has hardened
Heat oven to 375 degrees
Remove from refrigerator and scoop out dough. I used my hands but you can use an ice cream scooper
Roll into 1-inch sized balls
Roll the balls of dough into the sugar and place on a cookie sheet, well spaced apart
Press down on the cookie dough, slightly, using the bottom of a glass

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Serve once cooled or store in an airtight container.
 adapted from framed


Christmas Sugar Cookies

Tis the Season!!!It's that time of year again and I'm so excited.  I absolutely adore Christmas. In addition to the music, the lights and decorations, the festive spirit in the air and...aheem...the food, I mostly look forward to spending time with family and friends. 

Since my Mommy moved to Florida, the holidays have been different.  The time is usually split between Florida (where my Mommy is), California (my Daddy and friends) and Chicago (Mr. Foodie's family). Yet juggling all of that, I still enjoy the traditions that have continued with my family. And those definitely include food and decorating.

Every year since I moved into my condo, five years ago, my Mommy comes in town to help me get my Christmas tree and decorate.  This year she drove up from Florida for a quick 24 hours, but it was well worth it.  Of course we did so much running around, shopping, getting mani's and pedi's, we almost forgot about having to decorate the tree.  After we got home, we both got our second wind to decorate the tree (we did pretty good, right) and....make Christmas Sugar Cookies.

I love being in the kitchen with my Mommy, although our "know it all" personalities can sometimes get in the way.  Luckily, we know ourselves and one another pretty well, it always makes for a fun time and memories I will always cherish.
Okay, enough gushing about my Mommy. Let's move on to the goodies at hand.

During our day long excursion, I undoubtedly got festive and picked up a few cookie cutters (a Christmas tree, a candy cane and a snowflake). So I knew we weren't going to bed before at least a few cookies were made.

The cookies were very tasty.  I've read the addition of the almond extract is what sets the good sugar cookies apart from the rest and I think I'll have to agree. It adds a subtle but powerful taste.  This is a pretty simple recipe but I warn you, it makes A LOT of cookies. Be prepared to share with family, co-workers and of course Santa Clause.  My cookie cutters were kind of small, I guess, because I was able to make about 6 dozen cookies over the course of  the week.  But they're little, so they go fast.  And it's hard to eat just one.  Mr. Foodie got caught several times with a green tongue.

Christmas Sugar Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
4 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix until golden yellow.  Add the cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add the vanilla extract, almond extract and lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add 1/2 cup at a time to the butter/sugar mixture and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, up until overnight.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally flour your counter top or work area. Divide the dough into smaller balls and roll out into desired thickness, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies using preferred cookie cutters. Sprinkle cookies with colored sugar crystals.

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookie. Remove from oven and let cook.  Enjoy
adapted from thekitchn.com


PW in Atlanta

In a perfect world, I would have made this post earlier this week.  On Tuesday as a matter of fact, immediately after it happened. I was so excited that I actually met HER. But my world is not perfect. Go figure.  I do have to go to work. And this week, it kicked my behind.  But you, I guess it's really me, will have to wait no further.  Here is the recap about me meeting...The Pioneer Woman, P-Wub for short (she gets credit for that, not me. But I think it's adorable)

That's me and P-Wub at her cookbook signing in Atlanta. In person, she looked just as flawless as her pictures.  And sooo friendly.

That's her chatting it up with me.  And then that's her taking my business card after I asked her to check out this little blog.  She said she would and I sure hopes she does.  That would be beyond awesome.

If you like food blogs, I'm sure you've already heard of her and probably been a frequent visitor to her site. If you haven't, I am her to guide you in the right direction. The Pioneer Woman was one of the first food blogs I checked out about a year and a half ago (smittenkitchen was the other) and I've been a fan ever since.  She recently had her cookbook published and has been on a book signing tour for the past couple of months.  When I saw she was coming to Atlanta, I immediately marked the date on my calender.  Her cookbook, just like her blog, features step by step pictures that are amazing and really give you the confidence to make one of her dishes.  But her personable and clever writing style is probably what has led to her humongous following.  And I say humongous because there were several hundred people, many of whom had multiple copies of the cookbook to be signed, at Borders bookstore of Monday. In fact, I waited for 4 1/2 hours.  But it was well worth it.  The Pioneer Woman Rocks!!

Her sister, Betsy (right), and friend, Hyacinth, (both featured in the cookbook) were also there.  I was equally excited to meet Betsy because her pasta was the first thing I tried from P-Wub's website and have made it many times since.  Penne a la Betsy, which I've featured below. Let me just share with you that Betsy is so sweet and engaging, it clearly must run in the family.  She even snapped a picture of Mr. Foodie and I (with her camera so I can't share it with you...tear).  She thought it was so sweet that he was there, waiting with me and taking pictures for me.  I explained how he was my motivation for this blog.  I told her he was a keeper. Thanks baby!
So I urge you to check out her blog or even add the cookbook to your Christmas list.  Both are great reads with simple and delicious recipes, like this and the one below.  But I warn you.  You will walk away with hunger pains, so prepare yourself.

Penne a la Betsy
Printable Recipe
serves 6
1 pound Penne Pasta
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (can substitute with chicken broth)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the penne pasta until al dente, following the instructions on the box.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes, until the shrimp are pink. Be careful not too overcook them.  Remove from heat and transfer to small bowl.  Allow to cool for a few minutes. On a cutting board, chop the shrimp into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Add  the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent.  Add the white wine to the mixture and cook, letting the wine evaporate for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce.  Stir well until combined and then add the heavy cream. Continue stirring.  Turn the heat to low and let simmer, 5-6 minutes.

Add the chopped shrimp to the tomato cream sauce.  Stir to combine, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add the parsley and basil and stir.  Finally, add the pasta to the sauce and stir so the pasta is coated with the sauce.

adapted from pioneerwoman.com


Dirty Risotto

So I have finally regrouped from the Thanksgiving holiday and all those wonderful leftovers we had. It was definitely nice to get back in the kitchen to make something totally unrelated to holiday food. Especially since I'll be having a very similar meal in the very near future with Christmas only 2 1/2 weeks away.  At least this time I'll leave all the majority of the cooking to my mother.

This weekend, I finally tried my hand at this "Dirty" Risotto I first spotted a couple of months ago over on the brown eyed baker's blog. She adapted it from a recipe on the food network by Giada De Laurentiis and made it look so good.

I quickly feel into a deep like for the dish.  The kind of like that distracts you with fleeting thoughts every so often.  The kind of like where your feelings deepen every time you look at the picture (I bookmarked it to further torture myself). I was hoping the feelings would finally give me the courage to make it.

You see, I have always been a little hesitant on making risotto because the dish just seemed too intimidating.  There is a certain technique of having to constantly stir the ingredients while adding the liquid (stock) and paying specific attention to achieve the right texture of the rice...not too chewy, not too firm.  I made a tomato risotto once before, a few years back, and was not impressed.  That just solidified my need to leave this dish to the restaurant chefs.

But that deep like continued to gnaw at me. And the last time I looked at the bookmarked picture that was it.  I pumped myself up and knew it was now or never.  If the picture had me hooked, I could only imagine what tasting this dish could do for me.

And I'm here to tell you, I did indeed cross the threshold and am officially in love.  This risotto was simply fantastic and Mr. Foodie will definitely cosign this statement.   The dish was savory and layered with full flavors from the combination of white wine and chicken stock.  And to my delight, it was not complicated to make at all.  I did have to exercise a little patience (not one of my strong points) but all for a good cause. So please don't let the idea of the dish being complicated deter you from trying this.  It was superb.  

Dirty Risotto
Printable Recipe
serves 6

5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
8 oz ground Italian sausage
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 oz white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley (I forgot to use this)

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer.  Cover and keep warm on low heat until ready to use later

In a large and heavy saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sausage and crumble while sauteing until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.  Remember to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. There is great flavor in that stuff. Season with salt and pepper (eyeball it)

Add the rice and stir in the pan to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, approximately 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup simmering broth and stir until almost fully absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking the rice over medium-low heat, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next.  Continue this until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite.  The mixture should be creamy.  This process will take approximately 25-30 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and incorporate well. Sprinkle with parsley and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

adapted from browneyedbaker.com originally from foodnetwork.com


Thanksgiving Leftovers & Skillet Asparagus

Happy Monday!!!

The biggest dinner of the year has come and gone.  Well, not completely gone.  We had a ton of leftovers that we are still working on. Thanksgiving dinner ended up being a small affair at our house (just me and Mr. Foodie to be exact) although I made enough food to feed about 20 folks.  A couple of friends did come over for dessert to help put a dent in some of the sweets (red velvet cake, sweet potato pie and sweet potato cheesecake *recipe coming soon).

Mr. Foodie joked with me that I was cooking like I had a catering event.  I couldn't quite help myself though.  I just got all excited and kept thinking about all the food I was supposed to eat on Thanksgiving and being very determined to have it despite my mother not being there.

On the menu:
Honeybaked Ham and Turkey (I have been addicted to honeybaked ham since I was a kid and certainly was not ready to cook a whole bird.  I never eat the turkey anyway)
Cornbread Dressing
Collard Greens (my mom sent them via fed-ex because there is nothing like her greens...I mean nothing)
Cream Style Corn
Two kinds of Mac and Cheese, traditional and three cheese with mushrooms and truffle oil
Mashed Potatoes
Skillet Asparagus

That's what my first plate looked like. And I'm not ashamed to say there were a few variations like this for the rest of the day. In fact the entire weekend.  There were a couple of things that were missing, like the sweet potato casserole and string beans.  But I just ran out of time.  Mr. Foodie and I were HUNGRY.  So I'm sure they will appear on the meal plan this coming week. All in all, I was pretty delighted with how the day turned out.  I have to pat myself on the back and say the food was spectacular, which I guess is one reason I'm not tired of leftovers yet.

One unlikely addition to our Thanksgiving dinner that I wanted to share with you quickly was asparagus. 

In planning the menu, I realized I needed more veggies to offset all the starches. Since we are fans of asparagus, I decided to try this recipe from famed chefs and cookbook authors Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.  This was a quick and delicious recipe that left the asparagus crisp and bright green in color.  I usually steam asparagus and then add flavor (butter and salt) after they're cooked. But this method allows the asparagus to become infused with flavor during the cooking process. Sooo good. If you're looking for a simple side dish, please give this a try.  This is now going to be my default method for cooking asparagus.  

Skillet Asparagus (serves 2-3)
Printable Recipe

1 lb asparagus
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the asapargus in cold water and trim off the tough ends (1 1/2-2 inch). Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet with a tight fitting lid.  As the butter becomes hot and starts to foam, place the asapargus in the skillet.  Shake the skillet from side to side to coat the asparagus in the butter.  Cover tightly and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Check the asparagus and turn them as needed to make sure the asparagus is cooked evenly and doesn't burn.  Cook approximately 3 minutes longer, until the asparagus are tender and bright green.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Serve hot.

adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking


Pasta with Butternut Squash and Parmesan Cheese Sauce

I'm going to sneak one more meal in here before the Thanksgiving holiday.  This meal is perfect for vegetarians and since it involves butternut squash, you could easily serve it on Thanksgiving for those relatives who are.

I went to the farmers market a couple of weeks ago with a strict shopping list.  Butternut squash was not on that list but when I saw it I just couldn't resist.  I'm such a sucker for food.  So when I saw this over at simplyrecipes.com, I read through the recipe and was convinced it sounded like a keeper. Plus I could kill two birds with one stone, get over my guilt of buying the squash with no real plan to use it and I could add it to my ever growing collection of meals using butternut squash.

I was way excited.  But when I explained to Mr. Foodie what we were having for dinner, his vision was not as great mine. Lucky for me, the kitchen is my domain and he is forced to trust my lead (insert evil laugh, muwahahaha!!!). And just as our fate tends to happen, he and I were both pleasantly surprised, although I of course already knew we would be. If you are a fan of butternut squash, this dish is for you.

In case you aren't though, let me reel you in. This dish was extremely simple.  I loved that I just had to roast the squash and not peel it, which can sometimes be a chore in of itself. Envision the sauce as a replacement for the common tomato sauce with your pasta.  You can leave the squash somewhat chunky if you like (I had few chunks opting to smooth my squash out by almost pureeing it) or thin in out by adding more cream.  It is a rich sauce that has such a depth of flavor that it makes you feel all fuzzy inside.  As I was eating it I felt like fall, with the warm notes of nutmeg added and the pop of freshness from the parsley. And did I mention the Parmesan cheese added.  I mean, it's slightly cheesey. No not me...the dish. How could you not love that? YUMMY!!

Pasta w/ Butternut Squash and Parmesan Cheese Sauce
Printable Recipe
serve 4

1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
8 oz. pasta (I used penne but you can use bowtie, rotini, etc.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (I used regular cream because that's what I had and it worked fine)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 handful of chopped parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and guts and discard them.  Fill a baking dish with 1/4 cup water and lay the squash in the baking dish, cut side down.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the squash could be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out the meat of the squash from the skins and place in a separate medium bowl.  Using a hand mixer, or a blender, puree the squash to your desired consistency.  Discard the skins.

Fill a pot with salted water and place over high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, approximately 8-10 minutes, uncovered.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots until translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Add the butternut squash puree and cook for 1 minute, mixing it in with the shallots. Slowly add the cream into the mixture to avoid lumps.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat and add the parsley and lemon juice and stir to combine.  Cover the pan to keep warm until the pasta is done.

When the pasta is done, drain in a colander and plate.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and garnish with additional parsley or cheese.  Serve immediately and Enjoy.

adapted from simplyrecipes. com


Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie

So....I jumped on the bandwagon and have decided to bring you along.

The Lee Bros., known for their southern recipes, have come out with a new cookbook, just in time for Christmas, hint hint Mr. Foodie, and they have been everywhere.  They were featured on the Today show a few weeks ago and made a pimento cheese potato gratin.  Although I've never been a huge fan of pimento cheese, I proceeded to watch them prepare the dish anyway.  The finished product looked appetizing and Matt (my secret journalist crush) loved it.  So I promptly went to the website to print the recipe but was immediately side tracked by their recipe for a Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie.  I told you before, I am a sucker for anything sweet potato.  And it's that time of year when sweet potato pies start popping up all over my house.  I love how I say that like I don't know where they are coming from...they just magically appear. 

Well, that same day, before I could even print out the recipe, Rebecca from ezrapoundcake, wrote a post about that same exact pie.  Her picture of the pie was heavenly.  The pie looked light and airy but rich and creamy at the same time.  I literally wanted to eat it right off my computer screen.  Then Deb from smittenkitchen wrote about the same pie this week.  I was determined to test it for Thanksgiving myself.

Now I'm going to be very honest with you right now.  We're friends, remember, so no minimal judgment. I was in a lazy frame of mind when I made this pie and didn't puree the sweet potatoes.  Instead, I just mashed them with a potato masher.  And they were cold when I did that *hanging my head in shame*  It really was the harder route of the two but once I started with the masher, I was too lazy to switch to my electric mixer. And in case you're wondering why the full disclosure, you'll see in the pic below.

My pie did not turn out so smooth looking. See! There were small bits of sweet potato chunks throughout.

But...it wasn't all bad. It was still very edible and darn good.  Now I'm warning you, this is not your typical sweet potato pie.  It is not overly sweet (only 1/2 cup of sugar) and much tangier than typical versions, thanks to the addition of buttermilk and lemon juice.  The taste definitely grew on me and it was perfect with a little cool whip on top with a sprinkling of nutmeg.

I envision two versions of sweet potato pie on our dessert table this year. The standard one and this one. I just vow not to be lazy next time. For presentation sake of course.

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Printable Recipe

1 9 inch pie crust, prebaked
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (approximately 2 potatoes)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, seperated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
Garnish : whipped cream, nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes for 30-40 minutes, until fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle, approximately 15 min.  When potatoes are cooled, cut them open and remove the filling to a bowl.  Using an electric mixer, puree the sweet potatoes until you get a smooth consistency.

Reduce oven to 375 degrees

Place 1 1/4 cup of sweet potato puree into another medium bowl. Save excess for another recipe. Add the butter, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt to the bowl, mixing after each addition

In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs yolks.  Add the sugar and mix until lemon yellow color, 1-2 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir until incorporated and the mixture is a bright orange color. Add the flour gradually, mixing after each addition. Add  the buttermilk and stir until it has been incorporated

In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites, using your electric mixer, until soft peeks form, 1-2 minutes. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the sweet potato-buttermilk mixture. Stir until fully combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and bake in the middle rack until the filling has set, 35-40 minutes.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.  Serve at room temperature or cold with a whipped cream and nutmeg.

adapted from ezrapoundcake, originally from lee bros southern cookbook


A One Pot Meal (Red Chile Chicken, Black Beans & Rice)

I know Thanksgiving is fast approaching and many of you are preparing your menu (or your belly) for one of the most anticipated dinners of the year.

But it's not Thanksgiving just yet.  You still have a week of "regular" dinners to make.

 And this one pot meal might just tide you over for a couple of days. Mr. Foodie informed me that one pot meals are "man meals". *blank stare*...If you say so dear (smh).  I, on the other hand, love the ease of one pot meals, not only because I get a sample of everything on my plate in one bite, but because I only have one pot to wash when it's all said and done.  No pots and pans piled up in my sink.  It's the little things.  Really!

This dish is simple, quick and delicious.  It's one of those weeknight meals that don't require much prep work and the portions in the recipe will leave you with plenty leftover for lunch, or another dinner, the next day.  Cooking the rice in the pan with the onions before adding the broth gives the rice a toasty, deeper flavor in the end.  And don't worry about the amount of chile powder the recipe calls for.  This dish is not too spicy.  I added a chipotle salsa on top but you can finish the dish with any one of your favorite salsas.  This will add another dimension of flavor and this is where you can definitely crank up the level of heat.

This time, you don't have to just take mine and Mr. Foodie's word on this dish.  It has been made a few times in the food blog-sphere. I first found this recipe at ellysaysopa (who got the recipe from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless) and then over at annieseats and it's gotten rave reviews. So go ahead and sneak this into the meal plan before turkey day.  Or make sure to bookmark it to try in a couple of weeks. You will enjoy it.

Red Chile Chicken, Black Beans and Rice
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (approximately 3 breasts prepackaged)
3 tablespoons ancho chile powder, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup rice
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
your favorite salsa, for serving

In a large pot, preferably with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. As the oil is heating, season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chile powder. Place the chicken in the oil and brown on both sides for approximately 2-3 minutes each side. Removed the chicken to another plate, leaving oil in the pan. (the chicken may not be cooked through all the way but will finish cooking when it is returned to the pan)

Add the onion and rice to the pan.  Stir for a few minutes until the rice becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons chile powder.  Cook all together for one minute and then add the chicken broth and a little salt to taste. Stir well.  When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer form 10 minutes.

While the mixture is simmering, cut the chicken pieces into 1 inch pieces. As you cut them, add the chicken pieces to the pot, along with the beans.  Cover again and cook for an additional 12-15 minutes, until all the chicken is cooked through and the rice is done.

Sprinkle in the green onions and test the rice to your desired doneness. If rice is done, remove from heat and let stand for 5-10 minutes. If the rice is not done, continue cooking for 5 minutes.  Fluff the mixture with a fork and serve with salsa for each serving.

adapted from ellysaysopa.com


Spaghetti with Tomato Braised Kale

I'll be the first to admit it.  When I saw this recipe on seriouseats.com, it sounded...well....different. Different in a weird but intriguing sort of way. The recipe sounded simple enough. It was a good picture...which quickly sparked my interest.

See! Not so bad looking.  Plus it was full of kale. After reading its many health benefits (full of vitamins A, C and K, great source of iron, fiber and low on cholesterol) I was searching for ways to incorporate this uber nutritious veggie into our diet.  And it's that time of year when hearty meals are just what one craves on these chilly nights.  So to combine the comfort feeling you get with a bowl of pasta while it still being nutritious and not overly carb inducing, I thought this dish would work perfectly.

This dish has a very light sauce unlike most spaghetti's.  The recipe calls for tomato puree, which I did not have.  I thought I did until I got home from the store and actual looked in my very full pantry...to no avail.  But I did have a can of tomato sauce and tomato paste.  So I improvised and combined the two, trying to achieve the flavor balance you get with tomato puree. It worked out perfectly.  I was hesitant about using the stems from the kale but they soften quite a bit and added a nice bite to the finished meal.  The kale leaves thinly sliced in ribbons blends well with the spaghetti noodles.  And...I was a rebel and used pancetta as the recipe calls for.  Mr. Foodie was aware and survived.  Sometimes I just want to flavor you get from pork.

All in all, I give this dish a two thumbs up and will definitely make it again. Of course Mr. Foodie thought it was "different" at first but liked it the more he ate it. It was flavorful, healthy and made multiple servings (great leftovers for lunch).  So go ahead. Be adventurous. And if you decide to try it, I'd love to know what you think.

Spaghetti with Tomato Braised Kale
Printable Recipe
serves 6

2 oz think sliced pancetta, diced (can use 2 tablespoons of olive oil if you don't want to use meat)
1 onion, diced
6 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 bunch kale, stems removes and sliced thin, leaves sliced into thin ribbons (lay the leaves on top of one another, roll them and then slice them crosswise)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
10 oz. tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste (or you can use 2 cups tomato puree instead of the sauce and paste)
10 oz. dried spaghetti (I used whole wheat pasta because that is what I had in the pantry)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a large saute pan, cook the pancetta over medium heat.  Cook until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is crisp, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the onions, kale stems, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt to the saute pan.  Cook together, stirring often until the onions and kale stems begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes more. Add the garlic and kale leaves and stir constantly until the leaves begin to wilt and the garlic is fragrant, 2 minutes.

Add the white wine and stir, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of  the pan.  Add the tomato sauce and paste (or puree) and bring to a boil.  Then turn the heat down to simmer and let cook partially covered for about 20 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti and boil for a little more than half the recommended cooking time as suggested on the package. Using tongs, transfer the pasta into the kale and tomato sauce, along with 1 cup of pasta water.  Add the cheese and stir to combine. Cover and simmer until the pasta is finished cooking, about 10 minutes. 

Top with additional cheese and serve.

adapted from seriouseats.com


Healthy Black Bean Burger

There are times when I just crave a good, juicy, beef cheeseburger, a la Fatburger (the L.A original though, the franchises here in Atlanta don't seem to have the same pizazz).

But this was not one of those times.

Although I would have to say that burger up there looks hearty and cheesey like those cheeseburgers I crave, it is hardly a beef burger.  Your eyes haven't fooled you (although the title of the post is a dead give away).  That patty is full of black beans, mushrooms and cheese.  A healthy...yet very satisfying alternative.  And a great vegetarian (or vegan if you use soy cheese) option for those who don't eat meat...i.e Mr. Foodie. I typically make turkey burgers at home but when I saw this burger on the brown eyed baker's blog, I immediately bookmarked the page and knew I had to make these sooner than later. And boy was I happy that I didn't wait.

Now I am not new to the concept of black bean burgers.  Black beans are one of my favorites.  Thinking back, the first black bean burger I had was several years back at Chili's.  I immediately fell into adoration with the thing.  Unlike several of my friends who are fans of the vegetarian burger at Houston's, for me the grainy, chewy texture doesn't ignite my tastebuds.  But here, it's the smooth texture of beans I love and this recipe is so chock full of flavor it's hard not to embrace.  Topped with a little chipotle salsa and another slice of cheese (I can never have too much of that) and I have myself an awesome alternative to that beef or even turkey burger.

Black Bean Burger
Printable Recipe

4 slices of whole wheat sandwich bread, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 15-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Hamburger buns of choice (I used kaiser rolls and then English muffins for the leftovers. Both worked well)
Sliced cheese (I used provolone) and sour cream for toppings (optional)

Tear the toasted bread into pieces and put in food processor.  Process into crumbs.  Remove to another bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, cumin and paprika to the skillet.  Cook until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, approximately 4-6 minutes more.  Remove from heat to let cool slightly.

When cool, add  the mixture to the food processor or blender, along with the black beans. Pulse until combined, but not smooth. You still want to have some chunks of beans.  Scoop mixture into bowl with bread crumbs.

Add shredded cheese to the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Fold ingredients together and divide into four equal portions (this will make four rather large burger, so you can divide the mixture into smaller portions if you choose). With damp hands, shape each portion into patties.

Heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place the patties in the skillet and cook until heated through and crisp on the outside, approximately 5 minutes on each side.

Serve burgers on bread of choice. Top with salsa to serve, if desired.

adapted from browneyedbaker.com originally from culinary in the country


Sweet Potato Pound Cake

I know I said last time that Fall was upon us.  But after last weekend's weather, I honestly think Fall decided not to visit us this year.  Brrrr...was it cold.  I had to turn on the heat in the house and it is only the middle of October. It has improved throughout the week but I'm really skeptical of how long this "more like Fall weather" will last...since it is supposed to rain tonight.

Last weekend I wanted to make something sweet but also very warm and comforting.  So I opted for this sweet potato pound cake with a buttermilk sauce.

Can you see the orange specks of fresh sweet potato...so yum!  I made this pound cake last year without the buttermilk glaze (and now I don't know what I was thinking skipping the glaze although still a must have without it) and immediately feel in love with it. I basically love anything sweet potato, so when I found this recipe on organette, I knew I had to try it. Since sweet potatoes have all kinds of health benefits, it is easy for me to rationalize making desserts (pound cake, cookies, pies, muffins/bread, souffle') or anything with them for that matter.  These are my next experiment with sweet potatoes.

This is a nice dense cake, with added moisture from the buttermilk glaze.  It's great in the morning with a cup of coffee or tea (it's not overly sweet) or even late at night with hot chocolate or just by itself.  The nutmeg adds a subtle flavor of spice and everything nice in each bite.  And the cake keeps well in an airtight container. Therefore Mr. Foodie and I enjoyed a lil (or more) cake each day this week.  In short, this cake is a must have and a keeper.  The Foodie family will definitely add this to the holiday dessert table and so should you.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Printable Recipe

the cake:
3 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs, large
2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (I used fresh sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled and mashed. You could also use canned sweet potatoes)

the glaze (optional):
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch or flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.  Mix well.
 In a small bowl, combine the milk with the vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Make sure you scrape the down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until combined.  The mixture will look curdled and not good but that is okay. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low. Then add half of the milk mixture on low until well blended.   Add the rest of the flour and then the rest of the milk.  Beat on low until the mixture is combined.  The batter will be thick and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 60-75 minutes (it took 75 minutes in my oven but check it after one hour) or until the cake is done. Insert a toothpick in the center of cake and it is done if the toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cake on a wire rack for 20 minutes and then carefully invert the cake on the wire rack to continue cooling.

Make the glaze while the cake is cooling. In a medium saucepan, combine the buttermilk, sugar, butter, cornstarch and baking soda over medium heat, bringing it to a gentle boil.  Remove from heat, stir well and allow the glaze to cool to room temperature.  Add the vanilla extract, stirring well.

Set the wire rack, with the cake on top, over a baking sheet or a piece of foil.  Spoon drizzle the glaze on top of  the cake. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

adapted from organette originally from southern cakes


Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Fall is officially upon us.  It's time to break out the boots, scarves and sweaters and put away my beloved flip flops, t-shirts and summer dresses.  Can you tell I'm not really a cold weather person. It's kind of sad. I really miss that California sunshine, although they are getting a little rain today, while we have been getting rain on and off (more on than off) for the past three weeks. 

On a more positive note, I have come to appreciate seasonal foods. The weather just seems to demand hearty comfort foods and soothing soup to warm up those bones.  So bye bye strawberries and peaches and good ole' watermelon...just to name a few.  Let's give a warm hello to pumpkin, kale and my new favorite butternut squash. 

After discovering butternut squash last fall/winter (see how delicious, I even made Mr. Foodie a believer) I am especially looking forward to incorporating more of it into my diet this year.  I found this recipe in the Back to Basics cookbook by Ina Garten (given to me by my dear friend JPA who had it autographed by the Contessa herself!!!).  I thought a salad was a great choice to ease my way into the richness of fall flavors.  The warm roasted flavor from the butternut squash is a lovely compliment to the dried cranberries. The salad is then tossed with an apple cider vinegar dressing and topped with toasted chopped walnuts that pairs well with the bitter arugula. This salad could be a great side or just as filing if served as a main course.

So tell me, what are some of your fall food favorites?

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
serves 4

1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and pepper
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and dried
1/4 cup dried cranberries (I used sweetened)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.  Spread the squash on a sheet pan and roast for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until squash is tender.

Prepare the vinaigrette while the squash is roasting.  In a small saucepan, combine apple cider, vinegar and shallots. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat cooking for 6-8 minutes.  Cook until the cider is reduced to 1/4 cup.  Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl.  Add  the roasted squash, dried cranberries and walnuts.  Toss well with just enough vinaigrette to moisten the salad.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

adapted from Ina Garten, Back to Basics


Salmon w/ Black Sauce

1/4 cup of this (with a few other simple ingredients)

turned this....

into this....

my new favorite salmon dish.  There were a few other recipes I was going to share with you first but this salmon was so spectacular that I had to share it with you immediately.  I literally dreamt about this salmon last night because it satisfied my appetite perfectly.

I need to thank Katie over at chaos in the kitchen for this one.  Just like Katie, I also think salmon has too much of a fishy taste to fit my liking.  This is why I rarely cook salmon at home or order it at restaurants. I really want to like salmon a lot more, especially since it has health benefits and all, but the taste has yet to grow on me.  There is one salmon recipe from the food network I found a few years ago which I enjoy and will share at a later date. But this one! This one right here is the icing on the cake.  Mr. Foodie gave it two thumbs up as well, declaring how great it tasted and how fancy it looked.  Let's look at it again.

It is such a beautiful, vibrant and visually appealing dish.  That is what got me hooked on it after seeing it on Katie's blog and I usually gloss over salmon recipes. I definitely say serve this dish if you want to make an impression or give the illusion that you worked really hard on this meal.  And I say the illusion because it is a quick meal to prepare.  I served it along side brown rice and sauteed spinach and of course the brown rice was what took to most time to cook. 

Whatever your occasion, I do hope you try this and let me know what you think.  It will surely be added to the rotation in my kitchen. 

Salmon w/ Black Sauce
Printable Recipe
serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 1/2 lb salmon, 4 fillets, lightly sprinkled with salt
1 jalapeno, sliced, ribs and seeds removed
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup kecap manis sedang *
2 green onions, sliced

In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and ginger to pan and cook until onion is soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium low. Add the salmon fillets to the pan. Cover and cook approximately 3 minutes, depending on thickness.

Turn the fillets over, cover and cook the other side, approximately 2 minutes.

When the salmon is almost done add the jalapeno pepper, soy sauce and kecap manis sedang and let cook together for a few minutes more. 

Remove the salmon to another plate.  Let the sauce boil slightly and cook for approximately 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.

Pour the sauce over the salmon. Top salmon with green onions.

* A note about kecap manis sedang. It is basically an Indonesian semi-sweet soy sauce which can be used as a marinade for steaks, poultry and seafood or as a bbq sauce since it is very thick.  This was my first time using it but will try it in other recipes. I bought mine at an ethnic grocery store for approximately $3.  I did not look at the regular grocery store although you may be able to find it there.

adapted from chaosinthekitchen.com


Avocado Salad

I promised I'd tell you about the avocado salad next and I am being true to my word. This recipe is too easy and too good to keep it to myself.

A nice, simple salad with minimal fuss but enormous taste.  The salad itself is just two simple ingredients.  It's the homemade salad dressing that kicks this salad up a notch (just a little sound bite from Emeril...heehee). I've made a few types of salad dressings but the cumin in this dressing adds such a lovely smokey flavor that it really makes this salad.

I typically like my salad with a few more ingredients and a little crunch (tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon bits...just to name a few).  This salad is more up my mom's alley.  She tends to have a salad with every dinner, so if she doesn't always have "salad toppings" on hand, she will make a "Poor Man's Salad".  Her moniker, not mine.  It usually consists of lettuce and dressing, so I guess this salad is actually one step above hers. Although I don't think she would mind if I added just one topping.

Avocado Salad w/ Cumin-Lime Dressing
Printable Recipe
serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded (or you can use the pre shredded bagged lettuce)
2 ripe avocados, diced

In a bowl, mix together olive oil, mayonnaise, lime juice, sugar and cumin.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing.  Top the lettuce with the avocado and add a pinch of salt and pepper to the avocado.

adapted from rachaelraymag.com


Sesame Seared Tuna

Since Mr. Foodie doesn't eat red meat or pork, it is sometimes easy to get stuck in the comfortable mode of  always eating chicken. There are so many possibilities when it comes to chicken, I have to admit I don't always realize it is the only "meat" we've had in a while.  Especially since I've become so interested in finding new recipes and ideas.

I try to incorporate seafood into the rotation as often as possible. I'm really good with buying and using shrimp as you can see (roasted broccoli and shrimp, white cheese pizza with shrimp and spinach, baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta).  But I am really picky about the fish I buy, which some might say is interesting because my fav is fried catfish, a scavenger fish.  Hey, blame my mother because that was my Friday night dinner throughout my entire childhood.  The fish at the local supermarket just doesn't always look the "freshest" so I prefer to venture to Whole Foods or the Dekalb Farmer's Market (a great local gem and a must visit if you're ever in the area) when I want to prepare fish.

During one of my recent blog search for a new and exciting fish recipe, I ran across one using tuna at steamykitchen.com. It intrigued me and seemed simple enough.  

I had never prepared fresh tuna and was a little gun shy (even though I am the queen of spicing up a regular can of albacore tuna).  This recipe was just as simple to prepare as I'd hoped, although next time I will try not to cook the tuna as long.  It wasn't perfect but I'm still sharing it with you because that is what this cooking thing is all about.  I was aiming to leave the middle a little pink, only searing the sides, but clearly overestimated the necessary cooking time to do just that. I probably prepared it medium well when I was hoping for medium rare but it still turned out delicious.  The wasabi paste added a nice, subtle flavor and was not as electrifying as it normally is when I eat sushi.  I served it with the lime ginger sauce which accompanied the recipe, although I made a few variations, and an avocado salad that I really, really enjoyed.  I'll share that recipe with you next.

Sesame Seared Tuna
Printable Recipe
serves 2

3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 pound tuna, sushi grade, approximately 2 pieces (I cut my two pieces in half to make 4)
2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the black and white sesame seeds in a bowl.  Cut the tuna pieces in half and pat dry. Spread wasabi paste on each side of the tuna pieces. Place each piece of tuna in the bowl of sesame seeds and coat completely. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, place the tuna pieces in the pan making sure they do not touch.  Cook tuna for 2 minutes (for medium rare) depending on the thickness, flip tuna and cook for 2 additional minutes. Remove the tuna to plate

Lime Ginger Sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together.  Drizzle on prepared tuna.

adapted from steamykitchen.com


Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

When I first saw these brownies over at Carmen Cooks, I couldn't wait to try them.

And after I made them I really couldn't wait to share them with you.

And I'm not even the least bit discouraged to post these although I have to be almost the umpteenth blog to showcase these gorgeous brownies over the past few weeks.  Some of you might have heard about this food blogging group, Tuesdays with Dorie, who sample recipes by Dorie Greenspan, acclaimed food writer and cookbook author.  Each week, "the choosen" blogger picks a recipe for each person in the blogging community to make.  Then the members of the community post their thoughts, opinions, successes and failures of the dish on their blog...on Tuesday.  But only "the choosen" blogger posts the actual recipe.

The idea is great and I have thought about joining. But it is a commitment that I wouldn't want to mess up. I don't want to be that blog.  Plus, it is a rather large community which means a looong list of people before it will even be my turn to choose a recipe (they are up to 260 bloggers and they are currently on 81).  So I'll continue to think about it and just make the desserts that look irresistible. Even though I am not a part of Tuesdays with Dorie, I am going to respect their tradition and just give you the link to the recipe instead of reprinting the recipe below. Warning: she makes the brownies look sinful!!!

Not to toot my own horn or anything but just look at how gorgeous mine turned out. I opted not to use the suggested sour cream topping because I thought they were just too pretty.  But I strongly encourage you to try these brownies as soon as you can.  They are simply gratifying with the brownie bottom and the cheesecake topping as to not overpower the chocolate-y espresso flavor. YUM-MY!!

By the way, Mr. Foodie wanted me to let you all know that being a "chocolate connoisseur", he highly recommends these.  In other words, he really liked them and ate more than his fair share.


Homemade "McMuffin"

During the weekdays, I try to keep breakfast very simple. Usually oatmeal, not instant, cereal or an open faced egg sandwich.

I want to make sure we do eat something since breakfast is such an important meal of the day, but I also want to make sure I get lunch prepared (I prefer to make it in the morning than the night before...maybe not the most time conducive but it works for me). It's much healthier and more economical these days to take our lunch instead of eating out. Those days when I don't pack a lunch, my indecisiveness rears it's ugly head, I don't end up eating until 2 or 3pm and it's usually not something that ends up sitting in my stomach for a few hours (thanks Mickey D's).

Now don't get me wrong, I love McDonald's. In fact, it is one of the few fast food chains I do eat. They just have fast food down to a science. No matter where you are, you can count on Mickey D's. One of my best friends always tries to remind me of that movie about McDonald's food....Super Size Me. But I tell her I think moderation is the key to just about every food we consume.

As a child, I definitely preferred McDonald's over BK (just like I preferred Michael Jackson, R.I.P, over Prince...and I was a child true to my convictions). McDonald's was always me and my Daddy's special treat on the weekends. So basically, it's in my blood. I won't stop eating McDonald's, but it definitely is no longer a weekly ritual as it was when I was a child.

Since I am a McDonald's fan, including their breakfast menu (love the sausage McMuffin with egg), I decided to jazz up our weekday breakfast menu with homemade sausage and egg "McMuffin"

I used fresh ground chicken sausage, that I seasoned with ground fennel, salt and pepper, so this treat added maybe an additional 5 minutes to the usual open faced egg sandwich. And I tell you it was worth every bit of 5 minutes.

The beauty of making your own "McMuffin" is that you can choose whatever kind of cheese (American, cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack) or meat (fresh, frozen, patties, links, bacon) you want. Since Mr. Foodie doesn't eat pork, whenever we do eat McDonald's for breakfast he has to get an Egg McMuffin without the bacon, which I think is truly a tragedy in itself. Needless to say, this truly appeals to his appetite.

I won't even go into the nutritional and economical benefits of making the homemade version. I did find an article that goes into a little more detail and will most likely convince you more than I could. I can just tell you it tastes great and can be custom fitted to your liking. Can't get much better than that.

Homemade "McMuffin"
Printable Recipe
serves 1

*There really is no exact recipe for this sandwich. You can really play around with it to suit your preferences. I'll just tell you how I made mine.

ground chicken sausage, approximately 1/4 cup, seasoned with ground fennel, salt and pepper
1 English Muffin (I prefer Thomas' brand)
handful shredded jack and colby cheese
butter, for frying egg
1 egg
salt and pepper for seasoning

Spray a small fry pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Form the chicken sausage into a flattened patty. Cook the sausage until done and browned, approximately 3 minutes per side. Set aside

Break the English muffin apart, using a fork. You want to keep the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle the cheese on both the bottom and top halves of the muffin. Put in toaster oven and toast until cheese has melted.

While the muffin is toasting, cook the egg. Add butter to the small fry pan and melt, allowing the butter to coat the bottom. Break the egg into the pan. Gently pierce egg yolk with spatula and season egg with salt and pepper. When the egg white begins to set, flip the egg.

Assemble the sandwich by placing the sausage on the bottom half of the muffin, place the egg on top of the sausage and top with the other half of the muffin. Serve and enjoy


Indian Spiced Chicken Thighs

When it comes to chicken, fried chicken that is, I've always been a wing and a leg woman. And then of course I'll do a chicken breast for various dishes, sauteed or pan fried and for salads. Yet chicken thighs have always eluded me. Until this summer that is.

While visiting my mother this summer, she bar-b-qued and one of the meats she cooked was boneless, skinless chicken thighs. My mom kept telling me how good they were and how much I needed to try it. So in addition to the usual chicken wings on my plate, I decided to sample the chicken thighs. After a few bites, I was once again reminded of why I listen to my mother. Besides always giving me the best advice and being there when I need someone to talk to, my mother knows what she is talking about when it comes to food. The chicken thighs were tender and juicy, not at all dry as chicken breast can be sometimes.

I was convinced I needed to try more recipes using chicken thighs. Well that immediately led to Take Out Chicken, which was undoubtedly a hit. Chicken thighs were on a roll in our house...two for two. So I decided to try a recipe I found in Rachael Ray's Everyday Magazine for Indian Spiced Meat. The recipe called for boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs or beef sirloin or lamb chops. Of course I picked...you guessed it....boneless, skinless, chicken thighs.

This recipe is basically a great meat rub with a whole bunch of flavor. I made this on a weeknight since there was not much involved in the process and served it alongside sauteed spinach and smashed potatoes. A delicious but simple recipe which gives the use of chicken thighs a two thumbs up for the third time in a row.

Indian Spiced Meat
Printable Recipe
serves 4

2 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 teaspoon tumeric
2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (or whichever meat you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, grill seasoning, tumeric, allspice and paprika. Rub the spice mixture all over the meat and let stand for at least 15 minutes.

In a skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-heat. Add the meat and cook for 6 minutes per side

Transfer to a plate and serve.

adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray