Color Competition

Ever since the purple sweet potatoes showed up things have gotten colorful around the house!

Not only was I intrigued with the colorful sweet potato, but the whole family got into the act. What better time to have a “potato bake-off” then over the holidays, among the many meals shared with loved ones.

Our potato bake-off was all about the sweet varieties – but we did bake some regular old white potatoes too.

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(…and no we did not have like 25 people over for dinner, we mash and freeze the leftovers!)

It was fun to see them all lined up and ready to go into the oven!

Stokes Purple – purple skin and flesh

Garnet- reddish skin and very orange interior

Idaho – we all know this staple of baking white potatoes.

Japanese (Kotobuki) – rosy skin with light yellow inside

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They looked so pretty cut up and on the platter. By cutting them in half everybody got a chance to choose and taste the different varieties. And if you mash some of the varieties together – what a pretty bowl that makes – kinda looked like tie-dyed potatoes!

Everyone had their favorite – I just liked them all!

 

 

Avocado Lottery

Picking out an avocado at the store is a little like buying a dollar scratch ticket. You never know what you are going to get. Big winner or just a waste of a dollar.

It’s a low investment so you are not too worried if it doesn’t work out. But the dream of choosing just the right one and scoring big is strong! Oh the things you could do with the winnings.

When I pick out a winning avocado I know immediately that it needs to be enjoyed simply. The buttery flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado only needs a little salt, some ground cumin, a splash of lime juice. That’s it unless you want just a hint of hot sauce.

The secret to my nachos is simplicity. Oh and put the cheese down first. I use the broiler to melt the cheese onto the tops of the chips first. That way you get no soggy chips under there, the cheese acts like a barrier between the wet stuff and the chips. Next some fresh diced tomatoes if you can get your hands on some this time of year. A pinch of salt and pepper. The final topping is the perfect lottery-winning avocado. Mashed up with the above mentioned and simply spread on top. The avocado all fresh and velvety on top of cheesy, crisp chips. Truth be told you could leave off the tomatoes but why would you ever want to do that!

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

 

 

 

Purple

My coworker was eating the most beautiful potato I had ever seen the other day.

It was purple!

It was a Stokes® Purple Sweet Potato to be exact. It’s really the color of purple, not just hinting at being purple, but so deep and rich in it’s ‘purple-ness’ it is hard to believe that it is a natural product…but it is!

These are not Photoshopped -they are real… and delicious!

And as my co-worker pointed out they have that same earthy flavor and consistency of roasted chestnuts.  Definitely different and more complex than your average sweet potato.

I just ate them with butter and sea salt but if you need them to be sweeter – sprinkle a little brown sugar on them.

 

 

Unusual “Pear-ings’

My mother has a pear tree in her yard and in the last few years it has really started producing. Each year we get bushels of pears off of it. This year I tried a classic savory tart involving blue cheese and pears.

I compared two kinds of blue cheese I had in my refrigerator. The one on the left was a “St. Clemens” which is traditional version imported from Denmark. The one on the right was a domestic raw-milk version from Wisconsin. I choose the domestic version because it was smoother, sweeter and had less of the that “blue cheese bite.”

I used a refrigerated puff pastry dough from the store and the whole thing took very little time and came out kinda fancy!

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Slit the dough (try not to cut all the way through) to form a border and dock the middle before pre-baking about 10 mins in a 400 degree oven.

Pull it out and lay thinly sliced ripe pear slices in the middle. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to give it that savory seasoning. Dice a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and nestle them among the pear slices. Bake in the oven about 10-12 mins more until the pears just start to brown a bit and the crust is fully puffed and brown. Be careful that the crust doesn’t  burn.

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

 

 

 

When it comes out of the oven, crumble the room temperature blue cheese over the hot pears and drizzle honey generously over the all and serve.

Pretty to look at...

Pretty to look at…

...yummy to eat.

…yummy to eat.

 

Brunch On The Porch

If you have been reading along perhaps you already know about the most beautiful dining room in New Hampshire.  If not… well that’s okay too, but you can see it here and here.

This particular weekend we had stopped for bagels on the way up and I spotted some “French toast” bagels and grabbed a couple of those along with a honey wheat and a couple of cinnamon raisin to bring up to my mothers. I was already forming inspiration with those French toast bagels in mind but I hadn’t quite nailed it down yet.

While reviewing my “potluck” cookbook for an upcoming event I stumbled across the perfect use for those leftover bagels. A “French toast casserole!”

But of course I had to improvise partly because that is what I do and partly because I was in my mother’s kitchen with some limitations on ingredients. I also cut back on the sugar – preferring instead to bump up the sweetness with addition of maple syrup served at the table on the side.

The recipe

Start with either a regular loaf of bread (16oz) or as I did – 3 large bagels. Break up your bread of choice into large chunks and toast by baking it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven until dry, light and slightly browned.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick baking spray and pack the bread in. Next: make the custard.

Whisk together: 6 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups half and half, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Pour this mix over the bread (bagels) pushing down any bread that doesn’t get totally coated with liquid. At this point cover it with plastic wrap tightly and store overnight in the refrigerator.

bread and custard ready

The “golden” colored bagel pieces are the “French toast” ones.

In the morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator to get the chill off while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make your topping.

The topping consists of: 1 stick of salted butter, softened. 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. 1 cup of chopped nuts (measure pre-chopped) – I used walnuts but pecans would be divine! Mix it all and spread as evenly as you can in clumps on top of bread/custard. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top to give it a bit of a sweet crunch on top.

ready for the oven

The next morning, with the topping (light-colored clumps) spread on top. Ready for the oven!

Bake on middle rack, uncovered for 1 hour. It should be puffy and golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle. Pull it out- let cool for 10 mins and serve with warm maple syrup to taste. And bacon.

 

 

Summer: 23 Days Away (And My Favorite Comfort Food Comes In-Season)

But who’s counting anyway. Ok maybe I am.

After this last winter here in the Boston area, summer can’t come fast enough! However we have had some pretty decent spring weather (maybe a little too hot for me, but then again a true ‘New Englander’ is really never satisfied with the current weather!)

As spring/summer comes so does my favorite comfort food…. Watermelon!

Yep Watermelon. I mean I love carb-loading on stews, mac-n-cheese, and warm bread from the oven as much as the next person. But truly watermelon is a comfort food for me. Growing up my mother would always serve this to us if we were feeling bad. “Easy to digest” she would say.  Admittedly it was the perfect first food after a bout with a stomach flu, a tooth pulling or even a fight with my brother. Somehow its refreshing sweet flesh always made everything better.

My father and I would sneakily compete to see who could get to the much-desired ‘heart’ of the watermelon first. The ‘heart’ is the best part – sweet and seed free. He would wander out to the fridge at night looking for the perfect TV snack only to discover that I had already carved out the best part!

To this day, my late night snack of choice is some watermelon!

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Spring: Day 58 (Brunch On The Porch)

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

When I considered the restaurant brunch options for Mother’s Day in my mom’s hometown I couldn’t think of any place nicer then her porch. Besides I know her likes and dislikes better than any chef and I love to cook!

We had a full day ahead of us, opening up the porch to ready it for summer, changing out storm windows for screens and getting the hoses out in the extensive yard.

So breakfast on Mother’s Day was not going to be an elaborate, leisurely affair but rather a quick, nourishing start to our busy day.

And lucky for everyone her garden chives are already up so I paired that with the “corn and tomatoes on the porch” leftovers from the night before to make tasty omelets!

So fresh and yummy – even if I do say so myself! and of course it’s never really too early for a decadent dessert made with early strawberries, warmed slightly and sweetened with just a touch of honey, served over the best vanilla ice cream! (crumbled chocolate brownies optional!)

dessert

Author’s note:

I actually graduate tomorrow (yippee!) and I am looking forward to new and more frequent blog entries now that I can have my life back! Stay tuned….