Sunday, December 18

Sweet Potato and Celery Root Hash

In October Roy took me to a cooking class at the Chopping Block to celebrate my birthday.  It was a grilling class and we got lucky with a beautiful fall evening.  The kind of weather that practically begs you to hang out on a patio with a few beers and some good friends. 

At the Chopping Block for a grilling class in October

We had such a good time that we signed up for another class in November with friends.  The menu sounded amazing and I was pretty sure I'd regret it if I missed it.  We would be making Gruyere fondue with apples and bread, spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, soy glazed salmon, sweet potato and celery root hash and pumpkin donuts with chocolate dipping sauce.  The meal did not disappoint and we had a ton of fun with Hannah and Rick.  Surprisingly, the boys did most of the cooking! 

Roy showing off his new-found seasoning skills

The entire meal was delicious but one of my favorite items was the sweet potato and celery root hash.  The celery root gives the hash a nice lightness and the sweet potatoes caramelize beautifully.  The red onion and bell pepper add some color and texture and the herbs add another layer of unexpected flavor.  Rick and Hannah liked it so much they made it the next week for Thanksgiving and I've been anxiously awaiting a chance to make it at home too. 


I finally had the opportunity to break out this recipe right before the holidays.  By far, the hardest part of this dish is facing your fears and buying celery root.  Once you do that, it's really easy to own it with your chefs knife!

Celery root with the top sliced off

Once you get rid of the outer layer, you slice and dice this like you would a potato. 


A few tips... use the largest skillet you have.  There's a lot that goes into this and you want to give all the delicious ingredients enough room to be arranged in a single layer.  That will ensure everything caramelizes well.  And on the topic of carmalizing... make sure you give the veggies enough time to really caramelize before you stir or toss them.  That was one of the "lessons" we learned in the class.  You don't want to over stir or toss your veggies.  Another lesson was about seasoning.  You should season your food with salt each time you add ingredients, so that layers of flavor can build.  So basic but it was news to me!! 


Roy doesn't love sweet potatoes so I compromised and used one sweet and one russet potato when I made this at home.  In class we used two sweet potatoes, so keep that in mind and make the version that you prefer. 

I also had a hard time getting the celery root to cook when I made this at home, so next time I'll probably add it a few minutes before I had the potatoes. 

This is DELICIOUS and although it's a fall/winter dish, I think it would be great anytime of year. Enjoy!


Sweet Potato and Celery Root Hash
serves 4; 35 mins (active)

2 Tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into a half inch dice
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into a half inch dice
1 medium-sized celery root, peeled and cut into a half inch dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
1/2 red pepper, small dice
1 Tbsp chives, minced
2 Tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the olive or grapeseed oil.  Saute the potatoes and celery root, tossing occasionally, until caramelized and softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the onions and peppers and continue to cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Mix in the chives and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, December 11

Yukon Gold Potatoes: Jacques Pepin Style

Last weekend Roy and I celebrated our 7th anniversary.  Given how busy the last 6 weeks have been, we decided to lay low and spend time together at home.  We've done this the past few years actually, and just use it as an excuse to make a nice steak dinner and drink some wine. 


Roy and I met when Virginia Tech played the University of Miami @Miami in December of 2004.  By winning that game, VT won their first ACC Championship and went on to play Auburn in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.  The Hokies got beat by Auburn, but they're always #1 in our hearts (hence that creepy #1 hanging out over my should from the guy I cropped out of the photo).

Anyway, back to the cooking... this year I switched it up and broke out a recipe that I had tried two years ago to so-so reviews.  You basically cook potatoes in chicken broth to make them super flavorful, lightly crack them open, and then brown them on the top and bottom.  Sounds delicious, right? 

Although it was less so-so the first time, I was convinced the error was all mine.  I started by shrinking the size of the potatoes.  I think I used full size yukon gold potatoes originally.  This time I picked out baby gold potatoes that were much smaller in an effort to accelerate cooking time. 

Cooking the potatoes in chicken stock

I also spent a lot of time waiting for the chicken stock to evaporate when I made this two years ago.  As in... the rest of the meal was cold by the time I was done.  So this time I let 75% of the stock evaporate per the recipe, and then I poured the rest of it out.  The result?  All the flavor and a dinner served on time. 

Flipping the browned potatoes after popping them

These potatoes were the perfect accompaniment to dinner!  It turns out that baby potatoes were the secret.  They cook more quickly and hold the flavor really well.  My very unscientific, uneducated guess is that it was hard for the flavor to really penetrate the larger potatoes and so some bites were good, and some were bland.  All better now! 

Popping or cracking the potatoes is something of an art.  You don't want to smash them, you just want to press on them lightly until they crack open a bit.  It will create a flattish surface on the top and bottom that is begging to be browned and made crispy. You can use a glass, a ladle, a spoon or my preferred tool - a shot glass.  Just be gentle, you'll get the hang of it after the first few.

This was a big hit the second time around and is the perfect way to spice up a regular dinner at home. 



Yukon Gold Potatoes: Jacques Pepin Style
30 mins, serves 6-8

3 lbs baby yukon gold potatoes
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a deep skillet and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover potatoes half way with chicken stock, about 3 cups, add the butter and cover skillet with lid.  Cook the potatoes over medium high heat in the stock until almost tender, about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.

Remove the lid and allow the stock to evaporate, about another 5-10 minutes.  Once the stock has evaporated pop each potato using a ladle or large spoon, creating a small crack in each, but do not smash.

Allow the potatoes to brown on each side and reseason with salt and pepper if desired.  Remove potatoes to serving platter and garnish with parsley.

Sugar Cookies + How to Soften Butter

This weekend Roy made a request for sugar cookies. And not only did he want to eat them, he wanted to bake them from scratch and then decorate them. Decoded this meant Roy wanted to eat some cookie dough.


My immediate reaction was to freak out.  I don't typically bake from scratch and I thought for sure I wouldn't have all the ingredients necessary.  One Internet search later, I was looking at Alton Brown's recipe with 684 positive reviews.  And shockingly, I HAD all the ingredients.  I felt immediately more grown up and mature. Then again the "ingredients" constituted flour, butter, sugar, an egg and baking powder.  Knock that maturity marker down a notch or two.

I helped Roy locate all the ingredients because we would have been there for hours if he had to find the baking powder on his own.  But after setting everything out, I tried to sit quietly and watch while he enjoyed the creative process.  For the record, after he enjoyed the creative process, he got to enjoy the clean up process.  We're equal opportunity in this household.  :)

Unfortunately, we had places to go that evening and couldn't wait for the butter to soften naturally.  I know enough not to microwave butter if you're using it for baking, unless the recipe specifically calls for it.  Another Internet search later and I was testing out this little tip...

To soften butter for baking, place a stick or half a stick between two sheets of wax paper and roll out with a rolling pin.  A recipe that calls for "softened butter" isn't calling for butter at a specific temperature necessarily, it's just calling for butter that is pliable and moldable.  Something that will work well when creamed with sugar.   That being said, you're going to have a hard time rolling out a stick of just-out-of-the-fridge cold butter.  You should let it warm up for a few minutes before breaking out your rolling pin.


Softened butter in hand, Roy finished the dough which we refrigerated overnight (technically the recipe only requires 2 hours of chill time but like I said, we had places to go and all).

One thing that I found unusual about this recipe was that it called for you to sprinkle powdered sugar on your baking surface.  Has this always been the way you make sugar cookies?!?  I just assumed it would be flour since that's what you usually use in baking.  Once I tried the cookies I completely understood the powdered sugar.  It gives the cookies just a smidgen of extra sweetness, it's perfect.



The 684 people who reviewed this recipe weren't wrong.  These cookies are good!  I'll be hanging on to the recipe and trying them with a bit of lemon extract and lemon icing come spring.  You could always try a bit of almond extract too if you prefer that flavor.

These turned out just like sugar cookies should, a little bit crispy around the edges and softer in the middle.  They're melt in your mouth good without icing (thanks to that little bit of powdered sugar) but they're not so sweet that the addition of icing makes them overwhelming. 




Alton Brown's Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies, 15 mins prep, 2 hours inactive

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg, vanilla extract and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time.

Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Penne with Parmesan Cream and Prosciutto

Ohhhh fellow eaters, I've been waiting a long time to share this one.  It's another cold-weather beauty that is a go-to for whenever I have company.  It's easy, quick and will stop conversation cold as the guests at your dinner table dig into the magic that happens when you combine pasta, Parmesan, cream and prosciutto.


This recipe originally appeared in Gourmet magazine and it definitely has some gourmet flavors!  For starters, cream makes everything better.  It's a fact of life.  Like the sun rising in the east.  Combining it with Parmesan gives it a creamy but subtle richness.  And the prosciutto pushes it over the edge with a bit of salty smokiness. 

Penne with Parm. cream and prosciutto is a great way to feed a crowd.  With only 4 ingredients, you can easily get out of the grocery store for under $10 (depending on the kind of Parmesan you choose) with enough to serve 6-8 people.  Add on salad and some bread and you're looking at $16-20.


This is as good on the first night as it is on the second, third and fourth night, if the leftovers last that long.  It's the kind of meal that warms your belly and will let your guests know that they are loved. 



Penne with Parmesan Cream and Prosciutto
From Gourmet Magazine
15 mins active, 40 mins total, serves 6

2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
1 lb penne
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook pasta in a 6-to-8-quart pot of boiling salted water, until al dente, then drain in a colander.  While pasta cooks, bring cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 3/4 teaspoon salt just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Return pasta to pot, then stir in Parmesan cream and prosciutto, tossing to coat.  Transfer mixture to a 2-quart shallow flameproof gratin or baking dish (about 11 by 8 by 2 inches; not glass) and bake 15 minutes.

Stir pasta well to coat evenly with sauce, then sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese.  Turn on broiler and broil pasta 4 to 5 inches from heat until top is lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Thursday, December 8

Maple Glazed Chicken with Apples, Shallots and Sage

Mmm... yummy cold-weather comfort food!  Last Sunday was a Domesticated Diva Day in these parts.  Roy, Foster and I made the 4 block pilgrimage to a nearby church to pick out a Christmas tree and I found time to cook, setting my sites on some pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips and cranberries and a new recipe for Maple Glazed Chicken. 

Despite the fact that this domesticated diva lost all control of time management Sunday, the maple glazed chicken, which has apples, shallots and sage in it, was the perfect way to end the day!  (Unfortunately my issues with time management meant I wasn't getting dinner finished until after 8pm so this post is low on photographs, sorry).


I was nervous about this recipe.  It called for chicken thighs and while I eat a lot of chicken, I've never cooked with chicken thighs.  And dark meat isn't the Royfriend's favorite so I was planning a last minute reveal on what dinner was.  Last minute as in... not pointing out that what we were eating until he was sitting at the table with the food on his plate.  I was also worried the maple syrup would be overpowering and the apples would get mushy, especially when I had to double the cooking time to get the chicken fully cooked. 

I was so worried I was giving Roy the "you can have a PB&J or scrambled eggs if you don't like it" speech right up until I put the first bite in my mouth.

Turned out I was worried for nothing.  This recipe is delicious!  The maple syrup meets it's match in the apple cider vinegar and creates a sauce that is well balanced and very flavorful.  If you could give fall a flavor, it would be this sauce.

Despite my concerns, the apples stayed crunchy!  Paired with the shallots, they offered some nice texture to go with the chicken.  I did pull the apples out of the pan when it became obvious that I was going to have to extend my cooking time.  That probably helped them keep their form.  I threw them back in at the very end to make sure they were heated through. 

This got 3 out of 3 stars, I will definitely be making it again!  If not with chicken thighs, than as a marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the apples and shallots on the side.  I'd hesitate to make the dish as directed below with boneless, skinless chicken breasts in place of the chicken thighs since one of the reviews implied that it alters the final dish pretty substantially. 


Maple Glazed Chicken with Apples, Shallots and Sage
From Food Network Magazine
15 mins prep + 15 mins hands on time

2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, cut into large chunks OR chicken thighs
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 apples (1 red, 1 green), cored and cut into wedges
8 medium shallots, quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup fresh sage, torn
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Pat the chicken dry and season all over with salt. Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook, undisturbed, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Turn the chicken and add the apples, shallots and sage to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook until the chicken is browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and continue to cook the apples and shallots, stirring, until golden, about 2 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Mix the chicken broth, maple syrup, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the skillet with the apples and shallots and boil until reduced by about three-quarters, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet, turning to coat, until cooked through, about 2 more minutes.

Per serving: Calories 553; Fat 24 g (Saturated 6 g); Cholesterol 119 mg; Sodium 373 mg; Carbohydrate 44 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 42 g

Monday, December 5

Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Cranberries

Well that was quite a break!  Sorry foodie peeps.  I went away for Thanksgiving with every intent to come back renergized and ready to start cranking through some new recipes for the blog.  And then I threw all that energy into work to tackle a few projects that despite my best efforts continue to dance around my periphery and taunt me.  And the blog was neglected yet one more week.

I finally had time to make something besides spaghetti and turkey tacos on Sunday and I caved in to some holiday cookie cravings.  This is potentially the easiest cookie recipe ever.  The only thing that may be easier is break-and-bake cookies and I guarantee you won't find any break-and-bake flavors as unique as these!  (Or as gorgeous, look at the tops of these, it's like a work of art!)


Recipe credit for this one goes to the sister (Caitlin) of one of my BFF's (Clara).  This trio of sisters is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to anything Irish, shopping, reading, and now food.  I met Clara right before she came to Virginia Tech and since then we've bonded over Hokie football games, a shared love of reading, and a mutual group of friends that are the first to blame for the slightly inapprorpiate sense of humor we now have.

Clara, Ali and Caitlin at Martha's Vineyard

The base for this cookie is spice cake mix and pumpkin puree.  No butter, no eggs, no oil, no messy electric mixer.  The result is that these end up with a texture very similar to cake.  They're moist and light and delicious.  And they're even better with the addition of chocolate chips and dried cranberries which give the cookies texture and a bit of sweetness without pushing it over the top.


Seriously, have you ever heard of pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips and cranberries?!?   In a world full of snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, those amazing peanut butter cookies with Hershey's kisses, and oatmeal rasin cookies.... these are a refreshing change.  Give them a shot if you want to switch things up at your office potluck or neighborhood cookie swap!



Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Cranberries
Makes 24+

1 box spice cake mix
15 oz can of pumkin puree
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
Handful of dried cranberries

Combine cake mix, pumpkin puree, chocolate chips and dried cranberries in a large bowl until cake mix is completely integrated with wet pumpkin puree.  Do not add oil, water or eggs.

Drop onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 14 minutes at 375 degrees.  Cool on a baking rack.

I suspect these are good with chopped walnuts if that's your thing!