Sweet Potato Pie

Have you guys ever had sweet potato pie? It’s pumpkin pie’s “Black Sheep” cousin. It sounds kind of weird in theroy, but upon first bite you discover it’s absolute deliciousness. A little bit lighter and less filling than pumpkin pie, but still just as festive for Fall.

We grow lots of sweet potatoes here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore – most notable, a white-fleshed sweet potato variety called Haymans. You rarely find them off of the Eastern Shore because they’re in such high demand with the locals. I still haven’t been able to get my hands on any this year…I’m hoping to track some down before next week for Thanksgiving, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

If you’re worried it might take more time and effort than a pumpkin pie, don’t be – it’s just as easy, with an even shorter ingredient list. It’s one of those recipes that the little ones like to help make too! Plenty of stirring and whisking involved. It may seem strange that there’s no brown sugar or nutmeg – but just go with the lemon extract. It adds such a bright note to the sweet potato, and really makes it sing.

So, if you’re looking for a new dessert that’s still traditional – you’ve found it. The perfect addition to your holiday Thanksgiving table that everyone is sure to enjoy! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Sweet Potato Pie

2 cups sweet potato puree* (about 3 medium sweet potatoes)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon extract
1 unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine sweet potato puree, sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, flour, and lemon extract in a large bowl. Whisk until combined and smooth.

Pour into pie shell and bake for around 50 minutes, until crust is golden brown and the filling doesn’t jiggle.

Remove from oven to cool to room temperature before serving. Or refrigerate for a chilled pie.

* To make the sweet potato puree: Pierce sweet potateso in a few spots with a fork and microwave at high power for about 10 minutes or roast at 350° for about 1 hour, until tender. Let cool slightly, then peel and puree in a food processor.

Source: Mrs. JoSue

Chili con Carne

Chili is one of those dishes that everyone has their own special recipe for, which they swear by as being the best. Mine is no different! Meaty, spicy, and filling – it’s one of the things my boys most look forward to in the colder months. There’s nothing better than a pot of chili bubbling away on the stove on a lazy football Sunday!

I like to start with a mix of lean ground beef and a roll of hot pork sausage, plenty of beans, chunks of chopped tomatoes, and some tomato paste to thicken it up a bit. Then, some beer. It adds so much great flavor to the chili, and I’m always looking for an excuse to cook with the stuff. But, you could certainly use beef broth for your cooking liquid as well.

A couple hours simmering on the stove and you’ve got a delicious and hearty meal that’s always a family favorite. Leftovers are good for days, and great to re-invent into so many applications (Frito pie or chili dogs, anyone?). And, it’s great for a group too. A low maintenance meal for the cook, and guests can have tons of fun topping their bowls of chili with different ingredients – scallions, cilantro, sour cream, cheeses, jalapenos, guacamole, tomatoes or pico de gallo, poblano-corn salsa…the possibilities are endless!

Also, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the ingredients in the chili itself. I love to switch it up using a chuck roast instead of the ground beef and sausage. Or, using black and pinto beans in place of the kidneys. It’s so easy to make your own! So, if you’re still looking for that one perfect chili recipe, give this one a try! It’s our favorite, and it might just become yours too.

Chili con Carne

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin
1 lb bulk roll hot sausage (like Jimmy Deen)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
6 Tbsp chili powder
3 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (15 oz) can light kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can dark kidney beans
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can or bottle beer (your favorite is fine)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and sausage until browned well. Remove from pan into a bowl. Drain most of the rendered fat from the pan.

Throw onions into the pan and cook until onions are softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the tomato paste and spices, and cook for about 3 minutes – until the tomato paste darkens in color. Add in the beef and sausage, tomatoes, beans, and beer. If it looks like it needs a little more liquid, add a splash of water.

Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cook over low heat for about 2 hours. You could also cook up to this point, then place all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Serve with your favorite toppings.

 

 

Baklava

Happy National Baklava Day! If there ever was a dessert worthy of it’s own day, I’d say baklava was it. I’d never had the pleasure of trying it before moving here to the Eastern Shore. I’ve made mention before how our little island has quite a few Greek families that live and operate restaurants here. Jon worked in one of them growing up  (Famous Pizza for you locals), so baklava was a favorite for him at a young age. He introduced it to me, and it quickly became one of my favorite as well!

Tender, crunchy, golden brown layers of phyllo dough encasing layers of finely chopped spiced nuts and brown sugar, all enrobed in honey. It’s pretty much as close as one can get to perfection in a baking dish. I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to making it in my kitchen. I was afraid it would be super time consuming or tedious, neither of which it was. Took all of about 15 minutes to assemble, and the results were in-sane…

I used a mixture of the traditional walnuts and pistachios for a little depth of flavor. I also added a few slices of lemon to the honey syrup. Jon said he remembered Rula (the owner) putting lemon in her syrup when she made baklava at the pizza shop, and thought that sounded like a great touch.

I actually need to make another batch soon, the poor folks at Jon’s work didn’t even get to enjoy any! That’s how we know something is really good, when leftovers don’t make it into the office. If you’ve never made baklava, or worse – never even tried it, do yourself a favor and make this soon!

Source: adapted from TheKitchn and Famous Pizza on Chincoteague Island, VA.

Salted Duck Fat Carmels

Okay, I know what you must be thinking – say whaaaaaaat?  Duck up in your caramel? She crazy! But just trust me little ones, these little bites of Heaven are truly divine.

A couple of months ago the good people at D’Artagnan sent me a cooler full of duck fat to play around with in the kitchen. They’re a company that’s well known for their duck products, but also have a plethora of other wonderful gourmet products available online.

You can use duck fat as you would use butter, great for sauteeing some veggies or roasting some potatoes. Adding an incredible richness and depth of flavor that you just don’t attain with butter or olive oil. I’ve been using it to make a vinaigrette for my salad, which it lends itself perfectly for this chilly weather that’s finally come our way. It’s also great in biscuits or pie dough. And, as it turns out – salted caramels!

This recipe has always been a winner for me, so I just adapted it by adding rendered duck fat in place of the butter. They are rich and chewy, with a wonderful silkiness. If you’re afraid they will taste “ducky”, don’t be! While duck fat has a different flavor than butter, more savory – I think the biggest difference is the texture on the tongue. It’s super smooth and silky, with a heavier mouth-feel than butter or oil…and that definitely transcends into the caramels.

I topped off with a bit of my current favorite sea salt (if you haven’t tried Maldon yet, do it!) for a salty, crunchy bite that pairs perfectly with the rich sweetness of the caramels. Sliced and wrapped up in pieces of wax paper, they make a wonderful homemade gift that is as unique as it is delicious. 

Disclaimer: I received products from D’Artagnan for review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.