Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

maple-leaves-mixed-fall-colors-background-david-gn

For those of us hosting big family meals, at just over a month before Thanksgiving, we’ve officially reached the “almost the holidays” panic time.  That time when we revisit what we did last year to determine:

  • What dishes served had the most leftovers
  • What dishes got rave reviews
  • What dishes had no leftovers (for adjusting amount prepared)
  • What dishes were too much effort and underwhelmed

It’s also the time when we take a look at new recipes that we might want to add to this year’s menu, which means we get to make our families Guinea pigs for the next few weeks while we’re trying them out.

I already have one sweet potato recipe that my family loves, but this one (from the December 2005 issue of Food & Wine Magazine) looks pretty good, it’s easy, serves 10 – 12, and can be made the day before which frees up time on the big day, another bonus.

vbwhippedsweetpotatoes

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 pounds medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 TBLS unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Poke the sweet potatoes several times with a fork and bake for about 35 minutes, or until tender.  Let cool slightly, then peel and transfer them to a food processor (I actually use my stand mixer). Puree until fairly smooth.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream with the butter and the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla bean.

With the processor (or stand mixer) on, carefully pour the vanilla cream into the sweet potatoes and process until smooth. Season the sweet potato puree with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

I’d definitely consider doubling this recipe to make sure there were plenty of leftovers for piling on a turkey sandwich or frying up as sweet potato pancakes. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

10 No Fuss Healthy Soups


If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Cold Outside? Warm Up Your Insides!

its-freezing-pnts-brrr-9666002I’ll be honest, cold is relative to where you are in the world.  Today I’m thankful to not be in Central or Eastern Europe, which is seeing temperatures as low as -30°C (-22°F).  Brrr

Here, in Irvine, CA today it is 62°F and raining which means I am under a warm blanket with my two Labrador Retrievers snuggled up beside me and the fireplace on as I sip on some coffee laced liberally with some Bailey’s Irish Cream.  I use the words, “I’m freezing” in nearly every conversation I have today, but I am loving this weather.  At this time last year, we were heading into what was billed as the hottest February on record with day after day of temperatures in the upper 90’s that led to 2016 being called one of the hottest, if not THE hottest year on record, so excuse my exaggeration with the term “freezing” as, in order to be cold last year, I had to have my air conditioner running.

Today I saw a picture at one of my favorite websites, www.bonappetit.com, for Chili Colorado, that made my mouth water.

colorado-chili-1-of-1

I hadn’t yet decided what to make for dinner, but, after seeing this picture, no further searching was needed.  This will definitely be dinner, and a couple of workday lunches as well!  I am not a big pork fan, so I’ll be making the beef option.

***Note I always trim all of the visible fat away so that the meat is as lean as possible.

Rick Martinez’s Mom’s Chili Colorado

  • 5 Dried Ancho Chilis
  • 2 Dried Pasilla Chilis
  • 2 Dried Guajillo Chilis
  • 8 Cups Chicken Stock (3 Cups + 5 Cups Separated)
  • 2-3 Pounds Boneless Pork Shoulder (or 2-3 Pounds Boneless Beef Shoulder)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oilve Oil (My substitution for Vegetable Oil)
  • 6 Cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 TBLS Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Chopped Fresh Sage
  • 2 tsp Chopped Fresh Oregano

Now Let’s Cook!

  1. Remove the stems and seeds from all of your chilis.  Make sure you have chosen soft and pliable chilis.  If they are dry and brittle they are too old.  They will be tasteless and ruin your dish.
  2. Cover chiles with 3 cups of your chicken stock (it should already be boiling) and let them steam, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes until they are plump and tender. Put the chilis and all of the soaking liquid into a blender and purée until very smooth.
  3. Cut 2 to 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or boneless beef shoulder) into ½” pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brown the meat in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat with a couple of TBLS of olive oil so meat doesn’t stick. 
  5. Chop your 6 cloves of garlic and throw it in the pot along with 2 bay leaves, 1 TBLS ground cumin, 2 tsp each of chopped fresh sage and chopped fresh oregano.  Stir that around for about a minute, or until very fragrant.
  6. Add in your remaining 5 cups of chicken stock and simmer uncovered for about an hour.
  7. Stir in the chile purée and simmer for another 45 minutes until the meat is very tender and the sauce is a thick, mahogany-red color.
  8. Season with additional salt and pepper.
  9. Serve with flour tortillas – you can serve rice and beans for a full, authentic Mexican meal, if you desire, as well.

Just imagine the love and attention you’ll get from your family when they come into the house and are surrounded by the smell of chili Colorado simmering on the stove 😉 !

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Upside Down Banana Bread

udbb1Since this New Year’s Day is “Upside Down,” you know, all of the official festivities happening on Monday, January 2, what better way to kick-off (no pun intended) our entire day of parade and football watching than with this upside down take on my favorite overripe fruit concoction?

Our whole holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has been spent at home, except for an escape on Wednesday for my birthday dinner WITH a 102°F temperature, so I did no baking, we did no entertaining, and I’ve really done nothing but sleep and drink hot tea.  I’m trying to rally, despite being sick, and make some kind of effort for tomorrow, yet another day of being sick at home, but at least there will be something I might want to eat.

My husband (he who is Twitter challenged) managed to send this Buzzfeed video to me in a message a couple of months ago as a hint, then I saw it again last night.  It looks easy enough so why not?  I’ll give it a try.

Upside Down Banana Bread

4-5 ripe bananas
3 eggs
½ cup oil
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups flour
½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2-3 bananas, sliced
Vanilla ice cream

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • In a large bowl, mash the ripe bananas.
  • Add the eggs, oil, sugar, and cinnamon, mixing until evenly incorporated.
  • Add the flour and mix until the batter has no large pockets of flour. Set aside.
  • In a pot over low heat, melt the butter, then mix in the brown sugar until dissolved.
  • Bring up the heat to medium, cooking until the mixture starts bubbling.
  • Remove the caramel from heat and pour into a greased 9×9 baking pan.
  • Lay the banana slices evenly on top of the caramel.
  • Spread the banana bread batter on top.
  • Bake 40-50 minutes.
  • Cool until the bottom is barely warm.
  • Use a knife to loosen the edges from the pan.
  • Place a plate upside-down on top of the pan, then invert the pan, flipping the banana bread onto the plate.
  • Slice, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

TIP**  It’s important to make sure you are using a 9 x 9 pan.  If you use an 8 x 8 pan, like I did my first try, you need to increase the baking time by about 10 minutes and be prepared, you’ll be cleaning up the brown sugar that will bubble up and spill over the sides and burn onto the bottom of your oven.  Trust me, the smoke alarms blaring, dogs running around barking and the cleanup weren’t worth not following the exact directions.  UG!

It’s very sweet, so you might want to start with a small square and go back for seconds. Who am I kidding?  Put it in a bowl and pile the ice cream on!  And, before you ask, “Yes, I do intend to start my day with glorified cake and ice cream!”  #TheDietStartsTuesday 

If you’re on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: my favorite recipes, drinks, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Did You Know…?

freezer_openThere are many foods I didn’t know could be frozen, saving me from the inevitable time when I need something like buttermilk, which I never have on hand when I come across a recipe that calls for it.  Learning this led me on an internet search to see what other seldomly stocked foods can be frozen for use later.

You Can Safely Freeze:

  • Buttermilk:  Fill an empty ice cube tray.  Freeze overnight and transfer frozen cubes to a freezer bag.  Keeps up to 3 months and each cube slot measures 1 ounce (1/8th of a Cup)
  • Bananas:  Freeze them overnight when they are at their ripest point (when skin is browning but not going bad) in their skins. Using a sharp knife slice the frozen bananas in half lengthwise and peel off the skins.  Store in freezer bags for use in smoothies.  Homemade Frozen Bananas: Put two frozen halves together with a popsicle stick between them and coat with melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle with/roll in nuts, coconut, or rainbow/other sprinkles and place on a pan lined with waxed paper.  Freeze an hour or two and enjoy for dessert.
  • Butter: This is particularly good to know since I rarely need unsalted butter and buy it 1 pound at a time (4 – 1/2 Cup cubes) when it’s on sale.  Now I can cut cubes in half  (1/4 C portions) and freeze them in freezer bags for later use!
  • Cheese: Don’t freeze whole chunks – it crumbles when you defrost and try to slice it.  Instead grate or shred it and freeze in 1 Cup portions in zip bags for recipes at a later date.
  • Eggs:  Remove the shells and freeze individually in snack sized zip bags.  You can also freeze egg whites separately from their yolks.  I’d recommend marking the bags with the number of egg whites or whole eggs you freeze per bag to make using later easier.  Frozen “pre-made” omelettes:  In a large measuring cup crack the desired number of eggs and whisk .  Stir in 2 TBLS milk, 1/4 Cup each chopped bell pepper (or any pepper you desire) and chopped ham (bacon, turkey, chicken breast, ground beef, sausage, etc.) and 2 TBLS chopped onion (if desired).  Pour into sandwich sized zip bags and freeze until needed. Great weekday breakfast option.  You can remove a bag to the refrigerator the night before to thaw, pour into a preheated pan to cook, sprinkle with a bit of frozen grated cheese & eat right before running out the door the next morning.
  • Garlic: Separate cloves but leave skin on and freeze in a doubled zip bag to keep freezer odor free.
  • Wine:  Unlike hard alcohol, wine does freeze solid.  Freeze in 1 ounce portions in an ice cube tray and transfer to a freezer bag to use in sauces or other recipes.
  • Yogurt: Measure it into 2 to 4 TBLS (aka 2 to 4 oz or 1/4 to 1/2 Cup) portions and freeze in zip bags.  Don’t forget to mark the bags for later recipe use.
  • Lunch meat: Can be safely frozen in zip bags for up to 2 months.
  • Bread:  You can freeze a loaf of sliced bread for up to 3 months and you don’t even need to thaw it before eating it. The freezer is a better storage option than the fridge, which can dry bread out.
  •  Milk / Half & Half:  Milk can be frozen for 3 months.  Half & half stays good for 4 months in the freezer, but never freeze heavy cream.  Cream doesn’t freeze well at all.  I never understood why my mother-in-law always shook the milk before pouring out of the carton, now I do!  She kept it frozen in the chest freezer in the garage and was breaking up the ice.
  • Grains:  Quinoa, farro and bulgur last 3 months in the cupboard but up to 6 months in the freezer!
  • Tofu:  Chop it in chunks and freeze for up to 5 months to add to smoothies, soups, stews, etc.
  • Tortillas:  That at room temperature, not in the microwave.

Important things to remember about freezing any food are:

  • Make sure you are using a bag or container meant for freezer use to ward off freezer burn, keep smells from escaping into the freezer, and keep your food fresher longer
  • Remember to mark the date frozen as well as the last date you should use the food directly on the bag or on a piece of tape with a permanent marker.
  • Don’t over stuff your freezer.  A well organized freezer gives you the ability to easily see what you have on hand and helps food freeze faster/stay frozen because cooled air can flow between and around the packages.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Spicy Shrimp Risotto

grillrenderWhat’s the best part about the day after a barbecue?  Leftovers of course!

Chicken went home with my girlfriend, the spicy Italian sausage and bacon wrapped jalapenos were devoured by everyone, but there were still some grilled vegetables and a dozen of the large freshwater shrimp left for me to toss into tonight’s dinner!

Spicy Shrimp Risotto

  • 8 – 12 Grilled Large Freshwater Shrimp (Tails and Shells removed)
  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper Chopped
  • 1 Large Portobello Mushroom Chopped
  • 1 -2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Cup (dry) White Arborio Rice
  • 1 TBLS Butter
  • 2 1/2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth

In a 2 qt saucepan combine the rice with the butter and 2 1/2 cups of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steam another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another 2 qt saucepan, over medium heat saute the olive oil, mushrooms and bell pepper for about 8 minutes.  Chop the shrimp into chunks then add it and the red pepper flakes to the vegetables.  Simmer on low for about 5 to 7 minutes then cover and remove from the heat.

When the rice has finished steaming add it to the pan with the shrimp and vegetables. Season with salt, pepper and more crushed red pepper flakes if desired.  Serve with chopped avocado and your favorite hot sauce.

Are you on Facebook?  You might be interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water. I may not write a blog post every day, but there are daily updates to my This Girl Loves To Eat community at: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood