Monday, January 31, 2011

Spiced Sweet Potato Fries


It's been well over a week since my last post, and that's because Jeremy and I went on a trip to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia for our five-year anniversary. We had a great time, and had originally only planned on being there for five days, but our flight back to LA was cancelled due to an abrupt snowstorm, (there was even thundersnow!), and we ended up spending a whole week there. I've been reading a lot of biographies and histories about the founding fathers and colonialism lately so it was really nice to be able to see some of the historic places that I'd been reading about, like Independence Hall, Monticello and Mount Vernon. While we were there, we also ate a LOT of good food. We made a spontaneous stop at the Moo-Thru drive-through ice cream shop in rural Virginia on the way back from Monticello. Looking back, it was definitely one of the best choices I've ever made. The ice cream there was made from cow's milk from a dairy farm about a mile from the stand, so the ice cream had a really thick and stretchy texture and a wonderfully rich taste that I'd never experienced before in an ice cream. Another great place we stopped at was Bus Boys and Poets, a coffee shop/restaurant/book store in DC. We had some great Mediterranean burgers and, of course, a side of sweet potato fries. Tadaaaahhh! I had forgotten how much I loved sweet potato fries, and so when I got back I of course immediately went to the grocery store and bought some to put this recipe together. After I peeled the potatoes I was kind of surprised that they were yellow-fleshed inside instead of orange, which is what all the sweet potato fries I had previously had looked like. But after doing some thorough online wiki-ing, I discovered that sweet potatoes come in a variety of colors. So if your sweet potatoes are white, orange, or yellow-fleshed, do not worry, it is still a sweet potato and not some other strange sort of tuber. Hope you all enjoy these as much as I do!


Ingredients:

Two Large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch by 4 inch sticks
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the sweet potato pieces in a large bowl, add the olive oil, and stir until the potato pieces are evenly coated in the oil. Add the spices and mix well until they are evenly distributed over the potato pieces.


Place the sweet potato pieces flat on a large baking sheet, drizzling any remaining oil over the top. Spread the pieces out over the top of the baking sheet and put it in the oven. Allow to bake for 15 minutes, then remove the tray, flip the pieces over, and place the tray back in the oven for another 10 minutes. You can then remove the tray from the oven and serve the sweet potato fries immediately, or, if you want the fries to be extra-crispy, you can then turn the oven up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit and leave them in for another 3-5 minutes, watching closely to make sure that they don't over-crisp and burn.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Banana Berry Muffins




These past few days I had the absolute strongest craving for banana muffins, maybe I had a potassium deficiency, or maybe I just wanted something sweet, but regardless, I went to the store and picked up a bunch of bananas to make myself a little treat. I wanted to put some berries in it, and vaguely remembered having some frozen blueberries or mixed berries in the freezer, so I moved some bags around and voila! A Trader Joe's bag of mixed berries appeared. Mission partially accomplished! I put the muffins together and then tried my hand at making a crumb topping. This was my second attempt at making a crumb topping, the first attempt ended...poorly. I think I let the butter get too melty and it just turned into another layer of dough on top of the cake, but this attempt came out quite well! It just goes to show that you learn something from every failure. I hope you all enjoy these lovely baked goods and that you're successful in your crumb topping attempts!

Ingredients:

Muffins

3 Large Bananas, ripe
2 Eggs
1 and 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Berries, fresh or frozen
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Butter, melted
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Crumb Topping

1/3 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Flour
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon




Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mash the bananas together until they are completely blended into a paste. Mix in the eggs and sugar, then beat in the butter until the mixture is well blended. In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition, until all of the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the batter. Stir in the berries.


To make the crumb topping, mix the sugar, flour and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces, roughly 1/2 inch in length and width, and put the pieces in the bowl as well. Then gently stir the mixture just enough to coat the butter pieces in the sugar mixture, about 3 spoon strokes.

Pour the batter into a thoroughly-greased muffin tray that holds 12 muffins. You also can use decorative liners if you'd like. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of crumb topping over each muffin. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and the crumb topping has turned into a crust.




Saturday, January 15, 2011

Peggy Hill's Frito Pie


I am slightly obsessed with the animated television series King of the Hill, where Peggy Hill makes frito pie on a frequent basis and brags regularly about the quality of her frito pie recipe. I had never had frito pie, nor did I even really know what it was, other than the fact that it had fritos in it, which I'd assumed based on the name. Over New Year's I went up to my friend Kate's family's house up in Lake Tahoe. I was chatting with Kate's mom, Katy, while we were all at the grocery store and I happened to mention frito pie. Katy, being a native Texan, decided that we would make frito pie for dinner. So we ran around the Walmart collecting the ingredients and when we got home Katy made frito pie for everybody and it was AMAZING. It's basically really good chili, poured into a bowl, topped with shredded cheese and fritos, and stirred together until it's a hot, cheesy, frito-y mess. It was freezing outside, which made the piping hot frito pie that much more of a pleasure to eat. I will never forget that bowl of frito pie, nor will I forget what a great time we all had that weekend, (I even learned to ski! And I only fell twice!), and so I decided to write a post about frito pie to commemorate it's awesomeness. I'd imagine that this is what Peggy Hill's version would taste like, lots of savory ground beef with some veggies snuck in for nutritional value. I hope you all like it as much as I did!


Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 lbs Ground Beef
6 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Carrot, peeled and sliced
1 Jalepeno, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1/2 of a Large Onion, or 1 Small Onion, diced
1 Bag Fritos
(1) 29 oz Can Tomato Puree
5 and 1/3 Cups Water
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper


In a large stockpot, brown the ground beef in the olive oil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Then add the onion, salt and pepper and continue to cook over medium heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep any from sticking to the bottom of the pot.


Add the carrot, garlic and the bell pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Then add the tomato puree, water, jalepeno, cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper and stir until well blended. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow the mixture to boil for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the broth and place it in a small bowl. Using a whisk or a fork, add the flour and blend quickly until a smooth paste is formed. Add the paste back into the chili and stir until well blended. Allow the mixture to cook for another 10 minutes.


Using a ladle, fill a bowl with about 1 cup of the chili. Sprinkle your desired amount of shredded cheese on top of the chili, then place about 1/3 cup of fritos on top of the cheese. Stir the mixture together, and enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blueberry & Cherry Browned Butter Tart


I recently made this tart for a Christmas party my friends and I had while I was back home in Oregon for the holidays. I'd never made anything with brown butter before, nor had I ever tried my hand at "browning" butter, but it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be and after I browned the butter the whole kitchen smelled amazing. Seriously, they should make a browned butter air freshener of some kind. The rest of the tart making was very straightforward and came together pretty easily. I used blueberries and cherries because they were the only berries available at the local supermarket, and they ended up working very well together. I will say though, I used dark sweet cherries for the tart, the kind that are such a dark purplish red hue that they seem almost black in coloring, so don't try to use maraschino cherries or something like that instead, because it won't turn out the same. I also used some cookie cutters that my mom had to cut out a few leaves to put on the corners of the tart as decoration. It tasted great and looked absolutely lovely, I hope you guys give it a try sometime!


Ingredients:

Crust

2 and 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 Cup Crushed Pecans
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
4 to 8 Tablespoons Ice Water

Filling

3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, diced
1/4 Cup Flour
3 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
6 Ounces Fresh Blueberries
6 Ounces Fresh Dark Sweet Cherries, pitted



For the crust, combine the flour, sugar, ground pecans and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse 8 times. Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until it just begins to clump together. If you pinch it and it holds together, it's ready, if not it needs more water. Knead the dough and shape it into a disc. Cover it with plastic and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Then roll it out until it is about 1 cm thick and place it in a well-greased tart pan, about 8 x 8 inches in size. If you want, you can cut out decorative shapes from the remaining dough and place it around the tart's edges.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt and two of the eggs until well blended. Add the flour and blend until the mixture is even in consistency. Set the bowl aside.


Meanwhile, cook the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it turns a soft, nutty brown. This should take about 6 minutes. Then immediately remove the pan from the heat and gradually blend it into the flour-egg mixture.


Pour the batter into the tart crust and then arrange the blueberries and cherries in the batter. Whisk the single remaining egg and lightly brush the exposed crust with the egg mixture. Place the tart in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the batter has baked into cake form and is golden brown.