Congratulations Lel Dinner: Part Two

Dessert!  Earlier in the day I was looking around my kitchen and trying to figure out what to make for a celebratory dessert.  On the counter was a large bowl of recently harvested sweet potatoes from my garden.  A handful of fresh eggs from the hen house and hhmm… custard?… pie?… and then I remembered flan!

When I was little, my mom made a pumpkin flan once for Thanksgiving.  I think I might have begged her to make it again every year for the next few years.  That wonderfully light creamy texture dripping with caramel sauce.  Hands down it is a simple yet elegant treat.  I figured if you can make flan with pumpkin then you can make it with sweet potato.

I spent a few minutes scouring the internet for recipes.  I found a few good sweet potato flan recipes, but none that were sugar free.  So I decided to make my own based roughly on the recipes I had found online.  Another difference I made was to make Dulce De Leche for the caramel sauce.  Most recipes do not ask you to do this, but I have found that Dulce De Leche is about the easiest caramel sauce to make.  I find it way easier than water based caramel sauces.  It also has a very smooth creamy taste.  Normally Dulce De Leche is made with sugar, but I wanted to make it without sugar.  So the recipe below is a sugar free version.  If you want a great recipe and instructions on a sugar based Dulce De Leche.  Check out Alton Brown’s recipe.  You should also be able to find the video clips from the episode of Good Eats if you want to watch the process in action.

Dulce De Leche Recipe:

2 Cups Milk (I used reduced fat because that is what I had in the fridge, but you can use full fat too)

3/4 Cup of Honey (I had more honey than agave so I opted for honey, but you could substitute agave)

1/4 Tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

In a small sauce pan place 2 Cups of Milk, 3/4 Cup of Honey, and Vanilla.

On medium high heat bring the milk up to a simmer.  Add the 1/4 Tsp of Baking Soda and reduce the heat to low.  You will want to keep an eye on this and stir occasionally, however when you see foam appear on the surface do not stir the foam into the sauce.  Use a spoon to skim the foam off the top and discard.

It will take roughly an hour to reduce.  I watch the sauce for color, it should turn a golden amber color like those little caramel square your grandmother always had a jar of,  also occasionally dip a spoon in letting the sauce drip off the back to get a sense of thickness.  You are aiming for something along the lines of warm maple syrup.  Keep in mind that it will thicken up a bit when it cools.  Also the photos I took of my Dulce De Leche are a bit dark.  So don’t base the color of yours by the color below.

Pour the finished Dulce De Leche into a jar and store in the fridge.

And now onto the flan!

Sweet Potato Flan Recipe:

1 1/2 Cups of Sweet Potato ( Roughly 1 large sweet potato or a few small ones)

2/3 Cup of Agave Nectar

1 Cup Half and Half

4 Eggs

1/2 Cups Heavy/Whipping Cream

1/4 Tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 350F.  Wash a few small sweet potatoes or one large one, pierce the skin a couple times with a fork, and place on a baking sheet.  Bake the sweet potatoes for roughly 45 min to an hour.

I made extra because baked sweet potatoes are tasty!  After the sweet potatoes are done roasting, you can let them cool if you want to,  peel and place them in a mixing bowl.  It is time to mash!

After the sweet potatoes are mashed set them aside.  In a separate bowl or the same bowl minus the sweet potatoes add four eggs.

Whisk the eggs thoroughly.  Whisk in the cream, salt, and sweet potato.

This is a good point to prep your baking dish or dishes.  I decided to go with two small baking dishes.  Pour a  1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of the Dulce De Leche on the bottom on your baking dish.  Make sure to reserve 2 TBLS.  Place your baking dish in a larger roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with hot water to at least the half way make on the baking dish you will be putting the flan in.

Okay now back to the flan.  In a small sauce pan heat the half and half with 2 TBLS of the Dulce De Leche.  Gradually whisk the heated half and half into the sweet potato mixture.  Strain the whole mixture through a fine mesh strainer back into the small sauce pan.

Stir over medium heat for one minute.  Remove from heat and pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake at 350F for roughly an hour or until the center is set.  Remove from the oven and place the flan in the fridge for 4 or 5 hours.  This can be done a day ahead.  Once the flan is completely chilled and you are ready to serve.  run a knife along the very edge of the dish.  Place a plate on top of the baking dish and turn it over.  The flan will slide out on to the plate with the caramel sauce dripping down the sides.

Congratulation Lel Dinner: Part One

In celebration of  Lel’s new job we had an impromptu dinner at Adrianne’s house.  One of Lel’s favorite dishes is Baked Scallops and Shrimp.  With only a few hours notice I decided that this was a great dish.  One because it is simple and delicious and two because it really feels like celebrating when you bring out the Scallops!  I also wanted to make something special for desert so after a quick look around the kitchen.  A whole bunch of sweet potatoes, some eggs…hhhmm what could I make.  well tune in to the next install of this blog post to find out 😉

  • Baked Scallops and Shrimp Recipe:

  • 12 – 16  Scallops
  • 1 Pound Shrimp
  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 5-8 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 Tbls Olive Oil
  • 6 Tbls Butter
  • 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Lemon Wedges for garnish
  • Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley for garnish

I make my own bread crumbs out of homemade bread.  You don’t have to do this, but if you want to make your own with bread
you have laying around it is beyond simple.  First toast the bread in your oven on a relatively low heat between 300F and 350F.  Slow and low drys the bread out as well as toasts it.

I use a blender, but if you have a food processor that would work better.  I throw a few broken up pieces of the toast into the blender and blend until bread crumbs.  That’s it…Simple huh?  I like to do this step early in the day.  One less thing to do around dinner time!

If you are ready to get the dish together preheat your oven to 425F.  Finely Chop the garlic and shallots.  In a small pot or skillet melt the butter.  Add the garlic and shallots to the butter.  You don’t want to brown the garlic so don’t let this cook too long.  I usually put the temp low and let them just sort of cook slowly together.  While the butter is melting with the garlic I usually work on prepping the rest of the dish.

Wash and peel the pound of shrimp and put them in mixing bowl.  Give the scallops a quick rinse, dry them off and add them to the same mixing bowl.  Toss them together.  I forgot to take any pictures of this part, but I am sure you have a good imagination.

In a separate bowl mix together the bread crumbs, parm, and a little salt and pepper.  If you can smell the aroma of garlic in the air the butter is probably done so turn the heat off.  Add 2 Tbs Olive oil and 2 Tbs of the garlic butter to the bread crumbs.  Mix the bread crumbs up so that the olive oil and butter coat everything.

Add the rest of the butter to the shrimp and scallops.  Toss to coat them in the butter and season with a little salt and pepper.  I like to use my hands for this next step.  Scoop out the shrimp and scallops and lay them out in one layer in a casserole type baking dish.  At this point you want to top the whole thing with the bread crumb mixture.  Pop this in a 425F oven for roughly 15 mins.

I also forgot to take pictures after it is done baking.  At this point people are usually trailing my heels and asking me when dinner is going to be ready 🙂  So I tend to get a little distracted.  So you will just have to try this one yourself or use your imagination, but eating real food is so much more fulfilling.

I usually serve this with a simple side salad of soft red leaf lettuce with balsamic dressing.  Lemon wedges and chopped parsley in their respective small bowls for people to garnish their dishes as they wish.  Don’t expect left overs from this one!

The Joy of Eating Grubs and Other Stories of Sunday Morning

I woke this Sunday morning with a few projects in mind.  First of which was to create a smaller pen inside the main chicken run for the chickiechicks and mama.  I had tried a few times letting them out in the main run, however those little chicks would always find some small hole under the fence( missed during my multiple patch jobs) and escape. Plus they managed to annoy all of the other chickens except their mother.   I decided the best plan would be to make a smaller pen just for mama and chicks for their safety and my headache-free Sunday.

They are getting quite big now and love digging for grubs.  Here they are taking a dust bath with Mama.

Here is a picture of Boof our rooster and father of the chicks.

Here is a picture of Rozilla/Rosanne/formally know as Rosie on the left a Boof on the right.  He is really tiny and she is quite large, hence her nickname of Rozilla( pronounced Row-Zirrah).

And a picture of the last of my original flock Betty the Barred Rock and Rosie the Rhode Island Red aka the Cranky Old Ladies/ Oh No You Don’t, Boof!

That is the whole flock.  Although we are still in need of names for the four chicks.  I also have a feeling more chickens are on the way.  I dreamt last night that I got a mating pair of very fancy looking chickens, a single hen who also looked quite fancy/odd, and an ostrich- speaking of odd.  In the dream, I had to call Lel and ask her permission to get the Ostrich because I wasn’t sure if we had enough space. She is laughing now ” As if I get to tell you no about anything with those chickens”.

On to the next project.  Harvest the garden, dig potatoes and prep the beds for winter.  This was the first year that I have had these garden beds.  So I was unsure exactly what to expect for our overall harvest.  I think I did pretty well considering a few set backs in the way of squash. Curse those vine boring grubs!  This was also the first year that I have attempted sweet potatoes.  I figured if nothing else they would make a great screen from the neighbors and the driveway.  I planted them along the bamboo fence I made at the edge of the garden.

And wow did they work well as a cover!  It was really wonderfully beautiful!  Especially when the vines flowered.  I highly recommend growing them even just for foliage.  Easy to maintain, fast growing, and beautiful.  The one thing that made me skeptical about getting any kind of crop was the fact that this was the first year that these beds had been tilled.  In Georgia, this means that the bed was mostly clay and despite all my amendments and tilling( blood, sweat, and, tears), it was still very hard packed.  I really thought it would just be too compact for the sweet potatoes, but I was very, very happily surprised when I started digging this morning.

Not only did they grow, but they were HUGE!

That is the largest mixing bowl I own.  It is an industrial size metal bowl and it is currently full of sweet potatoes!  What a harvest!  I am so impressed by those sweet potato plants!

I also picked the rest of the peppers and tomatoes.  Which in turn led to Breakfast/Brunch!

  • Fried Green Tomatoes, Poached Eggs, and Bacon:

  • Green Tomato
  • Flour or Corn Meal
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cayenne
  • 3 Eggs
  • 4-6 Pieces of Bacon

This is breakfast for two so if you are making it for one or more than two just adjust.  Okay now the first thing that you want to do is to take the eggs out of the fridge.  This is one of the secrets to poaching eggs, you need them to be room temperaturish.  Next step, pre-heat your oven to 425.  I bake bacon.  I find that it is the easiest and least messy ways to cook it.  If you are a stove top kind of bacon person feel free to do it your way.  On a baking sheet lay the bacon strips out one by one.  When the oven is heated stick the sheet pan with the bacon in the oven.  It doesn’t take that long for the bacon to cook.  Maybe 10 min.  Check it often to make sure you get it to the crispiness that you desire.  While the bacon is cooking slice your green tomato.  Try and get the pieces as thin as possible.

Next you want to take one of the eggs and whisk it with roughly 1 TBLS of milk in a small bowl.

Next in a separate small bowl mix roughly 1 Cup of flour or cornmeal with 1 tsp Salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp cayenne.


In a large skillet preferably cast iron melt 1 TBLS of butter on medium high heat.

Once the pan is hot, start by dipping the tomato slices one by one into the flour mixture first, Coat both sides, then dip into the egg mixture.  Next drop them into the skillet.  add only about four at a time or as many as your pan will hold comfortably.

Flip them over and brown them on both sides.

When you remove them from the pan lay them out on a couple paper towels.

While you are cooking the tomatoes you can put on the stove a small skillet with about an inch of water in the bottom.  Add 1 tsp salt and 1 TBLS of white vinegar.  This is the all time secret to poaching eggs. Don’t tell anyone, make them read my blog 🙂  Room temp eggs and a little bit of vinegar in the water.  You want the water in the pan to be at at a slow  boil, but not a  rolling boil.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Use a spoon to spoon some of the hot water over the tops of the eggs while they cook.  When the white around the yolk is solid remove the eggs and plate them.


YuMMMM!

Friday September 28th Dinner: Sofia’s Birthday!

Last Friday was Sofia’s Birthday.  Sofia is one of those people with amazing self-discipline.  She exercises daily, almost never drinks, eats only organic, and has not eaten refined sugar in years- sometimes I worry that she is an alien 🙂 She is also a regular to our Friday night dinners, for her, this often means watching the rest of us enjoy red wine and homemade deserts.  I usually try to have something that is sugar-free for her, but that is not always practical. I hate it when she is left out, but for both my birthday and Adrianne’s, I made cake-  angel food cake- which requires sugar.  I didn’t want to risk/experiment with a sugar-free version and end up with a flat chewy angel food for birthday Fridays.

So now we are celebrating Sofia’s birthday and I wanted her to have a sugar-free cake.  I had never attempted a sugar-free cake before, so I was a little worried it would come out dense, but this recipe seemed to do the trick.  I spent sometime scouring the internet for cake recipes using Agave Nectar instead of refined sugar.  I came up with a couple, but wasn’t completely satisfied with the presentation. Then, I remembered making a Plum Tatin  a while back and thinking how beautiful it was.  So I decided to go with a sugar free peach tatin-peaches because right now in GA the organic peaches are unbelievably sweet and tasty. Game on!

  • Sugar Free Peach Tatin Recipe:

  • 3-4 Organic Peaches
  • Agave Nectar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups Organic King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup organic milk
  • a Pint of Organic Heavy Whipping Cream

Ok, pre-heat your oven to 375F and get a medium sauce pan filled with water boiling.  I sort of made this whole part up based on what I thought I peach Tatin should/could look like.  I decided to peel the peaches.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the peaches in half, pit them, and then plop them into the pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.  You only want to add about three halves to the pot at a time.  Otherwise the temperature of the water will drop below a boil. After 30 seconds,  immediately move them from the boiling water to an ice water bath (a big bowl full of water and ice).  Oops, I forgot to take pictures of this part.

After you have done this to all the peach halves, pull them one by one out of the ice water bath and peel them.  It is fairly easy, but you can use the back of a paring knife or a butter knife to help when the skin sticks.

  After you have peeled all the peaches, you can begin to slice them.  I found it was easiest to just add them to the cake pan as I sliced.  I don’t actually have a regular cake pan, so I decided to use the spring form bundt type pan that I do have.  You could actually just use a pie pan or what ever kind of cake pan that you do have.  Lightly butter the cake pan and lightly flour it.  Now you can start adding the layers of peaches to the bottom.

    First full layer

Second Layer

Since this was sort of an experiment, I just eyeballed the agave I added.  I would say it was roughly 3 TBLS, but I basically took the bottle of agave nectar with the squeeze top and drizzled a nice layer on top of the peaches.  The peaches are very sweet on their own and don’t really need very much help- if you want to you could slice all the peaches first and toss them in agave and taste to get the sweetness that you want.

Ok, so now that the pan is prepped, we can start working on the cake batter.  I found this cake batter recipe on another blog.  Simply Food Online the title of the post was yummy yummy yellow cake.  The first step is to mix together 2 ½ cups flour, 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for roughly 30 seconds.

Once the butter is beaten slowly add 3/4 Cup of Agave nectar.

After the butter and agave have mixed, add 3 eggs and 1 1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla.  At this point, start adding the flour mixture and the milk alternately.  Slowly add a little flour mixture and then a little milk until all the flour and milk are incorporated (that means  batter-like). IMPORTANT! Do Not Over Mix or you will have a Brick instead of a cake- only funny when it happens to other cooks.  Then stop the mixer.  Spoon the cake batter over the peaches in the cake pan.  Leave a little room at the top for rising.

Now it is time for the oven.  I placed this cake pan on top of a baking sheet in a 375F oven.  Roughly 20-25 minutes, but keep an eye on this.  Poke the cake with a toothpick or a skewer.  If it comes out clean the cake is done.  It should look something like this:

Let the cake cool.  It will pull away from the sides a bit, which actually makes it easier to invert later.

I know this is not the best picture but I was kept busy keeping my guests/helpers away from the cake 🙂  The last step to this cake is to take a plate and place it over the top of the cake pan and then flip the whole thing over.  It will slide out of the cake pan beautifully onto the plate like so.  I also decided to add fresh whipped cream in the center and around the sides for a little added presentation/ moister.  Not that the cake is dry, but I figured whip cream is tasty and would add to the over all experience.  To make the whipped cream, I just whipped a pint of heavy whip cream with a little bit of agave nectar.  Just taste it to see how sweet you want the cream to be.

Sofia was so happy about this cake.  It was really an excellent birthday!  She even got a couple of slices ( Lel cried, but it was Sofia’s birthday, after all) to take home at the end of the night. 🙂

Gluten Free Peach Cobbler

Observing from atop the refridgerator.  Pookha and Ballou. Cheering/critiquing my technique.

Yesterday, Lel bought some beautiful organic peaches, that were on sale, at the local market.  Returning home she requested/begged for peach cobbler.  Last winter, I made this cobbler for the first time with apples and it has been one of Lel’s favorites ever since.  This cobbler can be made with just about any type of fruit you would consider baking in a pie.  In the past, I have made this with apples, cherries, and berries. I suggest playing around with what ever you have on hand or whatever fruit is your favorite.  This cobbler makes a wonderful breakfast with a few spoon fulls of plain yogurt and it is so easy to make you can even whip it up that morning.

  • Gluten Free Cobbler Recipe:

  • -4-6 Peaches (apples, cherries, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, etc.)
  • -Sugar, Honey, or Agave
  • -Lemon
  • -Orange
  • -Oatmeal
  • -Butter

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Wash and Slice the Peaches and place them in a large mixing bowl.

Squeeze a lemon and half an orange.

Add roughly the juice from one lemon and the juice from half an orange to the peaches.

Now it’s time to sweeten the peaches.  For this cobbler, I used a little bit of sugar (1 Tbls) and a little bit of honey ( 3 Tbls )  depending on the fruit, you may need to change the amount of sweeter you use.  I have made this completely sugar-free before by using a blend of agave nectar and honey.  The best way to tell how much sweetener to add is to just test it.  Add a little and then taste a piece of the fruit.  Peaches are naturally very sweet (organic) and don’t need much extra help.  However, berries or tart apples will need a little extra.  You will also want to add whatever kind of spices you might want to use at this point.  Peaches are great with a tsp. of vanilla and a touch of orange or lemon zest.  Apples are wonderful with 3/4 tsp. of ground Cinnamon and 1/2 tsp. of ground Ginger.  You can really play around with this recipe to suit your tastes.

After the peaches are all mixed up and look something like this, spread them out in a baking dish.

Now it is time to make the topping.  In a mixing bowl, put roughly 2 Cups of Rolled Oats.  Grind up a 3-4 Tbls of rolled oats in a blender or cut them up by hand using a large kitchen knife.  You are looking for the general consistency of flour.  If you have some gluten free flour on hand you can use that instead of grinding up the oats.  I am allergic to the store brands of gluten free flours (I  know we would fit right in at the allergy parade) so I make my own by grinding oats or rice up in the blender
(I suppose that is for another post).  For the cobbler, you only need a couple of Tbls of flour to hold the whole thing together.  Now add the 2-3 Tbls of oat flour to the bowl and also add 2 Tbls of your preferred sweetener to the bowl.  Cut a half a stick of butter into chunks and add that to the bowl.  Now with your hands, squish the whole thing together (mmmm.squishy).  If you need to add more butter, cut the other half of the stick into chunks and add them as you need.

You want the end product to look something like this-little bunches of oats stuck together and crumbly.

Spread the topping evenly on the peaches.  Bake in a 350F oven for 30-45 min. or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.

Breakfast is served!

Well I hope that you will enjoy this cobbler as much as we do! Cheers!  I am off to the Tractor Supply to pick up a few things for the furry and feathered.

Apple Pie

Our neighbors across the road are having their annual BBQ.  Unfortunately, Lel and I had already made plans prior to being invited.  However, since this is the first year that we have been invited (and as a gesture of good neighborliness)  we thought we should at least contribute a dish of some kind.  My fruit bowl just happened to be full of beautiful organic apples, so I figured Apple Pie would be an easy and tasty treat to contribute.

I made this pie with what happened to be in our pantry at the time so it differs a bit from how I would traditionally make apple pie filling, but it was just as tasty and actually contains less sugar.

  • Apple Pie Recipe:

  • 6 to 8 Apples (I just happened to have some organic gala apples I think, but usually I will mix in some granny smith as well)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • Roughly 1/2 Cup of White Sugar
  • 3 Tbls Honey
  • 2 Tbls Maple Syrup
  • Ginger
  • Cinamon
  • Pie Crust

Wash, peel, and slice the apples into wedges.

Squeeze some lemons. I used the juice from two lemons, but they were very small lemons-so the juice from one large one would do (roughly 1 to 2 Tbls).  Add the juice from half an orange.

Add the lemon and orange juice to the bowl of apples.  Toss the apples to evenly coat them with the juice.  Now  add the sugar and spice.

My spice rack!

I tend to eye ball things, but I would say that I add roughly a 1/2 tsp of ground Cinnamon and a 1/4 tsp of ground Ginger.  Sprinkle the spices around on top of the apples.  Now you will also want to add the sugar, honey, and maple syrup to the bowl of apples.  Mix the whole thing up and let the apples sit as you prep the pie pan.

  • Pie Crust Recipe:

  • 2 1/2 Cups Organic All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 Sticks of Butter (cold)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tbls White Vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbls Ice Cold Water

In a large mixing bowl, measure out the flour and salt.  Mix the flour and the salt together.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1 Tbls of white vinegar.  In another small bowl, add some ice and about a cup of water.  Now remove the sticks of butter from the fridge, cut them (the sticks of butter} into chunks and add it to the flour.

With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour.

It will look something like this when you are finished.  Now add the egg and vinegar mixture.  Mix this together a little, then start adding a 1 Tbls of water at a time until the dough comes together.  When the dough is starting to stick together, knead it into a ball or disk.

Wrap the dough disks in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30-45 min.
When the dough is chilled roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

Pinch the edges up.

Now add the apples to fill the pie crust.  I have become very fond of using cookie cutters to cut shapes to make the tops of fruit pies.  It is quick and easy and looks great. Everyone loves it and doesn’t have to know that I find that it is easier than actually rolling out a flat pie top:)  I have stars on hand.

The stars are shiny, because after I finished it off, I brushed a little egg wash on.  Pop this baby in the oven for about 35-40 minutes or until toasty light brown on the crust and bubbly on the inside.

We dropped the pie off.  I guess it was a hit, because the neighbors even felt the need to drop by personally and thank us 🙂

Roasted Fig Preserve

  • Roasted Fig Preserve Recipe:

  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 LBS Ripe Figs
  • 3/4 Cup of Sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Thinly slice the lemon into rounds.  Line the bottom of a baking dish with the lemon slices.

Wash and halve the figs.  Then lay them in the baking dish on top of the lemon slices.


Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the figs.  Now pour 1 Cup of water over the top of the figs.  Cover the pan with tin foil and roast in the 300F oven for 2 hours.  After 2 hours remove the tin foil and increase the temperature of the oven to 400F.  Continue roasting the figs for another 1 and 1/2 hours.

Then spoon the mixture into 1/2 pint or jelly jars.  You can keep this in the fridge for up to a month or you can drop the jars in a hot water bath.  Roughly 5 minutes for 1/2 pints.  Although it is still recommended to keep this preserve in the refrigerator because it is not completely saturated with sugar.