Monday, December 15, 2008

In Search of Sweet Potato Pie

I have fond memories of sweet potato pie from my college days. The ladies at the campus cafeteria downtown made an excellent sweet potato pie that I would treat myself to on dismal winter days. It was thick, rich and substantial. Not too sweet, but definitely not bland. Very satisfying. And way better than pumpkin pie.

Its been awhile since I've made sweet potato pie at home, so I decided to start with what seemed to be a tried and true recipe from All Recipes. Although I followed the basics of the recipe, I made the following modifications:
  • I used four small sweet potatoes instead of one large one. Using one sweet potato to me is like using a single clove of garlic--why bother?
  • I used 3/4 a stick of butter instead of a whole stick.
  • I subbed 1/2 of the white sugar with brown sugar.
  • I used soy milk instead of regular milk.
  • I used a store bought graham cracker crust. I love these and almost always prefer them to a "real" crust.
The resulting pie was tasty, but a bit too airy and mushy for my tastes. Even though I had enough filling for each slice of pie to seem substantial, it lacked the heft and weight I was after. I think next time I might try subbing sweetened condensed milk for regular milk. Any other suggestions for baking a killer sweet potato pie?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Herbed Cheese Biscuits

What's soup without homemade bread? So, after making the split pea soup, I decided to try Herbed Cheese Biscuits as described on Pinch My Salt. I followed the basic recipe, using a combination of parsley and basil for the dry herbs, and I added a chopped green onion. I used cheddar for the cheese and low-fat sour cream for the sour cream. As you can see, I cut the biscuits into triangles using a knife.

The recipe didn't take very long to make, and the dough was very easy to work with. The mustard powder and parsley gave the biscuits a pleasing color, and the texture was what you would want from a biscuit. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with them--I thought they were too bland and would have benefited from some garlic. My partner liked them better than I did, although also commented that the texture was good but the taste was missing something.

Next time, I think I'll stick with Rasa Malaysia's Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Split Pea Soup

Inspired by Happy Herbivore's recipe as well as the cold weather, last week I made up a big pot of split pea soup. The recipe I followed is this:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1/3 white onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 cups water
  • 7 cubes veggie bouillion
  • 1 lb bag split green peas
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 3 handfuls of baby carrots, cubed
I rinsed and sorted the peas and sauteed the onions, shallots and garlic before adding to the soup pot. Otherwise I just threw everything in the pot and simmered on low for about 1.5 hours. Once it was cooked I blended with a stick blender until the large chunks of potato and carrot had turned more into flecks (but the soup was not completely pureed.). It was very hearty and tasty and the leftovers have been delicious as well. This was also very inexpensive to make (the entire pot cost about $3.00 in new ingredients since I had the bouillion and most of the veggies on hand). Especially nice when served with fresh ground pepper and paprika sprinkled on top.

A Sign You Need to Organize Your Kitchen

I *just* realized we have a whisk attachment for our stick blender.

We've had said blender since I think *last* Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fried Eggs--Its Easier Than You Think!

Fried eggs were always a bit of a mystery to me. I'd start out with good intentions, but invariably break the yolk and end up with scrambled eggs. Or worse, I'd burn the whites.

Until I was clued in to this really simple method by Cook's Illustrated. The main things I was doing wrong? 1.) Not using a cover! and 2.) Feeling like I had to flip the egg.

Since we're on the topic of fried eggs, I highly recommend the also easy, fun and very delicious egg in a hole. The Pioneer Woman has a mouth-watering pictorial recipe here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chicago Craft Fair--DEPART-ment

DEPART-ment's December show opens tonight at the AV-aerie, 2000 w. fulton. Over 125 artists and craftspeople are participating this month, so its a terrific opportunity to see what's going on and to buy local, hand-made holiday gifts. Visit the DEPART-ment site for a full list of participating craftspeople.

The show is cash only and runs through Sunday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vegetarian Peanut Noodles--Sauce Photos

Here's a pictorial that shows how the peanut sauce in the vegetarian peanut noodles comes together.

Step one: Throw the ingredients in the pan.

Here's the sauce on top of the pasta once everything in the sauce was heated through and combined (although it looks unappetizing at this stage this is what the sauce looks like when its ready):
And lastly, the finished noodles.


Home Remedies--Eucalyptus Oil for Colds

After a week and a half battle with a cough, my partner was diagnosed today with pneumonia. Fortunately he's feeling better than he has been, and I haven't caught it from him (knock on wood). Yesterday I diffused a combination of eucalyptus and lemon essential oils into the air to help fight the infection.

Eucalyptus oil is believed to act as an expectorant and a decongestant, so it is particularly beneficial in treating coughs. It is reputed to help generate lung tissue and has been used as a traditional remedy for asthma, bronchitis, colds and other ailments. It is at once antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Lemon oil is both refreshing and antiseptic.

Like other essential oils, eucalyptus oil and lemon oil can be applied in a variety of ways, including topical application to the skin if diluted in a carrier oil such as jojoba or sweet almond oil. I chose to diffuse the oil into the air so that it would benefit both of us as well as clean the air in our apartment. However, all three of our cats were staying at my mother's. Had the cats been home I most likely would have chosen a more direct form of application as essential oils which are safe to humans can be toxic to pets. Cats, especially, are sensitive to many components of essential oils. One book I highly recommend to learn more about essential oil safety and pets is Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals.

If you'd rather not subject your entire home to the aroma of eucalyptus, another way to benefit is to put a few drops of the oil in a bowl of steaming water. Cover your head with a towel, and lean over the bowl so that you are effectively in a tent with the water and inhale the steam for 5-10 minutes.