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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ginger Sweet Potato Pie

We're on the dessert task force for tomorrow's Thanksgiving celebration, and we need something sweet for Friday's Vegetarian Thanksgiving, AND I needed something for today's ESL potluck. What to make? Sweet Potato Pie! We realized that we'd been hoarding CSA sweet potatoes for weeks and had just enough to make three pies.

This being our first attempt at a sweet potato pie, we needed to reference an expert. We found an Alton Brown recipe and used it as a skeleton, adding our own flavors and unique techniques to make it our own.

Darcy served the first of the three today at school, and her awesomely fantastic (and sweet) students ate it up! Each of them reacted well, which was a true compliment, given their diverse backgrounds and palettes. They even took extras home for their moms, so that they too could experience this Southern iconic dessert for the first time.

Here's what we did to make three pies:
roughly 3.5-4 lbs. of sweet potatoes
One 12 oz can of evaporated milk
3 cups of homemade yogurt (or store bought))
15 egg yolks
2.25 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger (or more or less to your can eliminate this if you don't like ginger)
3-5 Tbs. maple syrup (depending on your preferences)
3 cups of crushed pecans
3-5 Tbs. brown sugar


3 pre-made 9-inch pie crusts (Willy  Street Co-op sells excellent local crusts)...or try our recipe 

1. Drizzle olive oil on cookie sheet or roasting pan. Cut sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise. Sprinkle each sweet potato with a pinch of sugar. Place sugar side down onto the cookie sheet.
  • The key to a perfectly roasted sweet potato is NOT to pre-heat the oven. 
  • Start roasting sweet potatoes in a cold oven. This will caramelize and accentuate the sugars, making for sweeter sweet potatoes.  
  • We added the sugar on the bottom of the sweet potatoes. The tubers gladly accepted this addition and tasted ... How do you say?... Delicious! 
2. Roast at 375ish until potatoes are fork tender (depending on the size, anywhere from 30-50 minutes).
3. Remove from oven. Once potatoes are cool, remove skins. We found this was easily done by pinching the potatoes with our fingers. The flesh oozed out, leaving the skins behind.
4. Mash the sweet potatoes well.
5. Blend in the yogurt and evaporated milk, the dark sugar, the spices, the ginger, and the egg yolks.
6. Pour into crusts.
7. Sprinkle pecans on pies. Then, sprinkle brown sugar on the pecans. And finally drizzle with the maple syrup...yum! You can use as much or as little as you want for each of these. Personally, we go ALL OUT here. It is already fattening, why not?
8. Bake in a pre-heated oven - 350 degrees - for 50-55 minutes. Ours baked significantly longer (nearly 90 minutes) due to baking three at a time. Good indicators that your pies are ready are that the pies are solid, don't jiggle, and when a knife is inserted into the center, it comes out 90%-100% clean.
9. Cool and then refrigerate.
10. Whip up some organic, locally-produced, humanely-received (be kind to the four-legged creatures, especially on the holidays!) heavy cream to top off each slice of goodness.

ENJOY! Feed back is encouraged and appreciated!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winterizing the Coop

As the description of our blog implies, in many ways, we are learners in the whole homesteading thing. Chickens have always been in our plans; we've definitely experienced trials and joys since getting them, and we continue to need more assistance in keeping them healthy and happy by more experienced chicken owners.

We've done our research concerning winterizing our coop. Because we only have 3 chickens (2 of which are Bantams) living in a coop built for 12-15 chickens, we have to be extra vigilant in our efforts to keep our feathery friends warm and cozy this winter. We're hoping for additional words of advice, comfort, or just plain old suggestions from you, our readers.

So, far...we have:

1. Put in an electric heater which will turn on automatically if the weather drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Initially, we didn't want to have to utilize electricity for our little poultry operation, but seeing as how we have 3 lone chickens left (all of whom have been exposed to Marek's), we feel it's probably better safe than sorry. After all, there are not enough of them to keep each other warm.

2. We've surrounded the base of our coop with hay bales for extra insulation.

3. We've attached a tarp to 1/4 of the run netting. We're hoping that this may keep some snow out of the run in case our chickens wanted to run around a bit.

4. We've placed a flock block inside the coop in an effort to give the chickens extra nutrients. We've also been feeding them yogurt with Pedialite a few times a week.

What else can we do to have healthy chickens this winter? Their happiness, comfort and well-being are our primary concerns and reasons for having our own backyard chickens.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cranberry Relish, Spiked, and with a Kick!

      Saturday evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of mushroom cobbler and cranberry-jalapeno relish. The relish tasted traditional enough to warrant a place at the Thanksgiving table and unique/fun enough for me to share the recipe online and with friends who have a similar palette.
      We didn't need to buy any ingredients except for the cranberries (which are in season in Wisconsin!) because we had oranges  leftover from last week's CSA fruit share, and we have jalapenos  remaining from earlier this season.  ...and there's always tequila in the house!

 Cranberry-Jalapeno Relish
1 pint of cranberries
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
the zest of one orange (or less to your liking)
2 Tbs. of good tequila
1/2 cup sugar
juice of one orange

1. Combine the berries, the orange zest, the orange juice (should be 1/2 cup; if not, add water to juice to equal 1/2 cup), tequila, and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. 
2. When the berries start popping, add the chopped jalapeno. Boil for five more minutes, stirring. Add water if  your sauce seems too thick.

3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Be sure to stir occasionally as it cools.
4. Chill if desired.

This recipe is adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure. Anna Thomas (author) recommends serving this alongside tamales, crepes, or any other richly-flavored dish. Of course, as I mentioned above, you could also let the family try it at Thanksgiving!
Our cats enjoyed our evening of food, wine, and music too. Benson loves cooking night:

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Cheesy Week: Cheese and Broccoli Soup

We're really into cheese this week, I guess. Our last post was about homemade Mac 'n' Cheese, and now the very next day, I'm writing about Cheese and Broccoli Soup. Not good for the waistline, I suppose, but super comforting as Daylight Savings Time has ended and the cold temperatures are lurking.

Our Harmony Valley cheese share is biweekly for much of the year, but as vegetable peak season closes, our CSA schedule fluctuates, so we received cheese two weeks in a row.  Another reason for the increase in creamy, gooey, cheesy recipes.

This soup is another from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. I have to say that the finished product was the best Cheese and Broccoli soup I've ever had.

1 1/2 pounds broccoli
sea salt and ground pepper
3 Tbs. butter
1 onion
1 celery stalk
1/2 pound of diced potatoes, peeled unless organic 
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. marjoram, 1 bay leaf, 1 pinch of dried thyme
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup cup cream
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
rye or whole wheat bread, toasted

1. Chop the broccoli trees. Cook the florets in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and reserve the liquid. Rinse broccoli  florets under cool water and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add onion, potato, celery, broccoli stems, garlic, herbs, and cayenne pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 tsp. salt, flour, and 3 cups of reserved water from the broccoli (saving any extra). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until the potato is tender (about 10-12 minutes). Add cream and/or additional broccoli water to thin the soup. During the last few minutes, add the florets.
3. Remove the bay leaf, puree the soup, and return it to the pot. Stir in the mustard, and add pepper and salt to taste. Just before serving, add the cheese. Do not allow the cheese to boil.  Serve with toast.

We melted a slice of mild sheep cheese on our toast...because we didn't think we had enough cheese yet this week! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creamy, Cheesy Goodness: Homemade Mac 'n' Cheese

Mac 'n' cheese with Sriracha Sauce
Mac 'n' cheese is one of those foods ~ everyone loves it, we all know it's not going to make us skinnier or provide us with any super-food vitamins, but we crave and devour it anyway. Making it from scratch can make it a bit healthier, maybe not less laden with calories, but with less chemicals and more nutrients than the box brands at the store.

Andy created his own special version yesterday. It's creamy, cheesy, and there are even some greens included to make us feel good about ourselves. His claims for this recipe are that most of the ingredients are flexible and that this could be created in an endless amount of ways.

I personally liked how this specific combination tasted, which is why I'm excited to be encapsulating the recipe onto this blog for future reference.

Mac 'n' Cheese:
1 lb. of shell pasta
1/2 cup of flour
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of butter
3 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you so desire)
1.5 cups of 2% milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 bunch of chopped yukina savoy (or other green)
1 cup bread crumbs
cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta al dente.
2. Drain the pasta, run under cool water, and save until later.
3. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add chopped onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent (3-5  minutes).
4. Add flour, a few spoons at a time, to make a roux.
5. Add broth until mixture becomes smooth and creamy.
6. Simmer for a few minutes.
7.Slowly add milk and cheese. Stir and cook until cheese is melted, but not boiling.
8. Stir in pasta and greens. Add cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper, if desired.
9. Put mixture into 13x9 baking dish. Cover with breadcrumbs.
10. Cook at 350 for 5-10 minutes, until breadcrumbs appear toasted.

Serve! This also would freeze well for later use.