Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries with Cilantro & Lime

We love sweet potatoes in our house. And we particularly like them prepared in less traditional fashions. The sweet potato casserole that we all grew up on (you know the one with the toasted mini marshmellows on top), is good and all....but you haven't really appreciated sweet potatoes until you've tried them with some spicy flair.  

Whether sweets are a staple in your diet or you don't favor them at all, this recipe will open your eyes to a whole new potential for these little gems. Grab a lime and a bunch of cilantro and give it a shot!

Sweet Potato Fries with Cilantro & Lime

(adapted from The Messy Cook's "Tropical Sweet Potato Fries" on
serves 4

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
3-4 TBS olive oil
1 TBS Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or as much as you dare!)
a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper
Zest from 1 lime
additional salt and  pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Arrange sweet potatoes on two cookies sheet in a single layer, spreading them out so they touch as little as possible. They need space so they don't get soggy!

Drizzle olive oil over the fries. In a small bowl, combine Kosher salt, ancho chili powder, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the fries. Sprinkle the lime zest over the seasoned fries too.

Then, using your hands, mix the sweet potatoes around so they are all evenly covered with oil, the seasonings and zest. 

Roast on the middle rack of the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so ensure even browning. Cook until fries are tender on the inside and browned and starting to crisp on the outside.

Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if required.

Serving suggestions: These are an awesome accompaniment for burgers, sloppy joes, or grilled chicken.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mahogany Chicken Wings

I really wish I could take credit for this recipe...but I can't. I found it on (submitted by Christinet). I've only made minor changes because the recipe is pretty darn fabulous as it is!
The first time I made these, my husband declared it the best chicken wing he'd ever had.

These wings have are rich in flavor, savory and sweet. An asian twist with a subtle kick. It's complex taste  is like nothing you've ever had in a chicken wing. You're taste buds will thank you and beg for more. And the best part is...because they are baked, not fried, your waste line will thank you too!

Here's what you do:

Mahogany Chicken Wings:

3 pounds of chicken wings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 TBS chili sauce (I like to use thai sirracha)
1 tsp ground ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 TBS toasted sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, honey, molasses, chili sauce, ground ginger and garlic. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, turning occasionally. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F 

In a baking dish, arrange chicken in a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven approximately 50 minutes, brushing with remaining soy sauce mixture often and turning once, until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. 

Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 

*Helpful tip: I've baked these wings in several different sized baking dishes. I've found that if you use a dish that is too big, the sauce will burn. Use a glass baking dish that is just big enough to squeeze the wings into a single layer.

These are great served as an appetizer, along side your favorite pizza, or with an Asian salad.
Give it a try. You won't regret it!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yaki Gyoza (Japanese pan-fried dumplings)

Gyoza is originally a Chinese dish, called Jiaozi. But it later became very popular part of Japanese cuisine. These dumplings of ground meat, ginger, garlic and cabbage, are wrapped in a thin dough that can be cooked a number of different ways. This recipe is for Yaki (pan-fried) Gyoza. They are fantastic appetizers or side dish.
While there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to wrapping these little guys up, give it a shot. I think you'll be impressed with culinary skills once these babies hit the table!

Yaki Gyoza:
(recipe adapted from

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Makes about 30 dumplings

1 package round gyoza wrappers
vegetable oil or cooking spray
water for sealing and steaming

1/2 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey
1/2 cup minced cabbage
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp dashi granules, dissovled in 1 TBSP water, dry white wine, or sake
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined (using your hands is the best way to do this!).

Place about 1 tsp of the filling on a wrapper.  Lightly fold in half. Using your fingers, press the seam on one end together. Make 4-5 small pleats along the front of the dumpling by folding 1/2 inch sections back on itself as you go. After each pleat, press together with wet fingers to seal. Be sure the edge is sealed completely.

Repeat until all your dumplings are filled and sealed.

In a non-stick skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. (A generous coating of cooking spray works great.) Working in batches, add dumplings to the skillet. Do not over fill the skillet (you don't want the dumplings to touch while cooking). Cover and cook until lightly brown on the bottom. Add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet. Immediately cover the skillet to capture the steam. Continue to cook until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are cooked through.

If you like crispier dumplings, like I do, you can flip the dumplings and brown the other side before adding the water.

Serve hot with Ponzu dipping sauce (combine in a small bowl: 1/4 cup Ponzu sauce and 1/2 tsp sesame oil).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Poached Pears

I occasionally participate in a local produce co-op. Recently, the co-op participants  received a bag of anjou pears. After lots of snacks, cheese plates, and salads, I still have several pears needing to be eaten. These, unlike other pears I've had in the past, didn't start getting mushy as they got older. They remained firm. That gave me an idea. I should poach them!

I'd never poached pears before so decided to start out with a pretty straight forward recipe. And they turned out so yummy!  It's an elegant dessert that even the kids will like!

This recipe is very very basic. And while there are many ways to poach pears, this is a good place to start.

Poached Pears with Orange and Cinnamon:   
(recipe adapted from Edna Lee's recipe for "Poached Orange Pears" from

4 firm, ripe pears
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches
whipped cream and ground cinnamon, as garnish

Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove the skin from the pears. Cut the pears in half and remove the core. *tip - you can use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds.*

In a medium saucepan, combine orange juice, brown sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium low. 

Carefully add the pears to the liquid. Cover and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the pears are tender but still hold their shape well. (Turn the pears occasionally during the cooking time if the poaching liquid does not complete cover the pears.)

Remove the cinnamon stick  and discard. Remove the pears, with a slotted spoon and transfer to desire serving dishes. Top with whipped cream, a drizzle of the poaching liquid (which should now have a syrup consistency), and a dash of ground cinnamon.

That's it! So simple.

Next on my 'Recipes to Try' list: Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone cheese...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Candied Pecans

Watch out! These things are addictive. With the perfect balance of sweet and salty crunch, you'll find it hard to eat just one. Even my two year old loves them! In fact, even people who claim that they don't like nuts have been found munching on these delectable treats!

I like to use these candied pecans on top of sweet potatoes, salads, or ice cream. But, my favorite way to eat them is straight out of the bowl.  They are a fabulous snack, and with no oil or butter, you benefit from the protein without the added fat.

So, every fall when baking goods go on sale, be sure to pick up an extra bag of pecans.

Candied Pecans

1 lb pecan halves
1 egg white
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp table salt
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 TBSP water

Preheat oven to 250 F. Grease a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg white until it is foamy. Stir in the water and vanilla extract. Add the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir well.
Gently stir the pecans into the egg white mixture until they are thoroughly coated. Spread the nuts into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes (this is important to keep the pecans from sticking).
Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Waffle-Iron Hash Browns

Hash Browns....cooked to perfection. In the waffle iron?!

Oh yes. And it'll change your life. Give it a try.

Waffle Iron Hash Browns

4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large waffle iron. (Mine is a deep belgian waffle iron)
Use a basting brush to generously brush the bottom of the iron. There should be about 1/8 of an inch of oil standing at the bottom. Brush the top of the iron, just until lightly coated.

Fill each compartment in the iron (mine has 4, so it's about 1 cup per section). Close the lid and allow to cook about 10 minutes, or until as crispy as desired.

Sprinkle with salt and serve hot!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

We used to live in a small farming town in England.  The local farmers grew rapeseed, barley, parsnips, and cauliflower. Every harvest they would sing a song of thanksgiving with the children at our church that described different foods that were being harvested. Of course, one of the foods they sung about was cauliflower. And... the song describes it as 'fluffy'. 

Does that not seems odd to you?! Well, I did to me. It was tough keeping a straight face every time we sang out about fluffy cauliflower from the pews.

I was never a big fan of the stuff. Pungent, yet bland? And the texture was less than desirous. In fact, cauliflower was my least favorite vegetable...until this recipe. Roasting cauliflower brings out a fantastic sweetness and does wonders for the texture.

Its an easy recipe that you simply must give a try.
Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower
2-3 TBS olive oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
Kosher salt, to taste (about 1 tsp)

Preheat oven to 450F.

Break the head of cauliflower into bite-sized florets, keeping as uniform as possible. This will ensure they all cook evenly.

In a large bowl or resealable bag, toss together cauliflower, olive oil, salt, and minced garlic until evenly coated. Transfer to a medium baking dish. Roast, covered, for 45 minutes, or until soft and slightly caramelized.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cinnamon Dolce Iced Latte

One of my favorite afternoon indulgences is a creamy latte and a sweet pastry. While I'm not going to pretend to be a proficient pastry chef, I do make an outstanding latte!  

This recipe uses homemade coffee syrup and a cold-brewed coffee concentrate in place of the traditional espresso. Once you prepare the syrup and coffee concentrate, both will stay fresh in your refrigerator for weeks. This refreshing drink is a breeze to whip up when the craving hits. If you aren't already convinced, I should mention how much money you'll be saving by making your coffee at home rather than frequenting the local coffee shops! Trust me. Give it a try.
Here's what you do....

Cinnamon Dolce Iced Latte
For the cinnamon dolce syrup:
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup water
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon sticks and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar is melted. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 15 minutes (never allowing the mixture to boil). Remove cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

For the coffee concentrate:
8 oz of your favorite coffee, ground (coarsely ground is preferred)
1/2 gallon of water

In a large pitcher or bowl, combine water and ground coffee. Stir and allow it to steep at room temperature for 6-8 hours. Stir again. Then, using cheese cloth or coffee filters, strain the coffee concentrate in to a pitcher for storing. Your cold-brewed coffee concentrate should have the same strength as espresso.You can store in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

To make the latte:
Combine 1/4 cup coffee concentrate with 2 TBS syrup. Stir in 1 cup of cold milk. Adjust the proportions to suit your tastes. Add ice and some whipped cream. Maybe a dash of cinnamon on top too and ENJOY!