Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole

sweetpotato

Thanksgiving is only a week away so naturally I am beginning to daydream about all of the delicious food I’ll be gobbling up in just a few short days. One dish that is a staple at our Thanksgiving dinner is my Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole. It’s hands down the BEST I’ve ever had! I don’t even like sweet potatoes but I could eat this yumminess all day long. The sweet pecan topping is really what makes this dish, it adds just the right amount of crunchy sweetness to the potatoes without being too overpowering. It’s perfect! Consider adding this side dish to your menu, I promise you’ll be the star of Thanksgiving if you serve this casserole at your next holiday feast!

Ingredients

For the sweet potatoes

  • 3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (from 2 lbs raw OR two 16oz cans)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the pecan topping

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and milk. Mix well. Spoon into a 2 qt. casserole dish.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, butter, and pecans until well mixed. Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Makes 8 servings.

**Tip – You can assemble the casserole in advance and bake later. The casserole can be refrigerated uncooked for up to 2 days. Increase the cooking time if baking the casserole directly from the refrigerator**

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Mac and Cheese

My husband is a macaroni and cheese fanatic, even more than our kids, so I am always on the hunt for great mac n’ cheese recipes for him. Honestly, if left to his own devices, he’d eat it every day, all day. When I came across this recipe for baked mac n’ cheese I knew I had to give it a whirl. I do have a tried and true recipe for both baked and stovetop macaroni and cheese but this one looked too good to pass up. Plus, it was SO quick and easy to pull together. This recipe absolutely did NOT disappoint. It was very rich and flavorful and the pasta was cooked to perfection in the sauce.

The original recipe is from The New York Times and it can be found right here . The only changes that I made to the original recipe was to use ricotta in place of cottage cheese and I substituted mini penne regate pasta for elbows. The great thing about this recipe is that you do NOT need to precook the pasta. You simply toss the dry, uncooked pasta with the milk sauce and cheese then bake. It doesn’t get much easier than that! During baking, I recommend placing a piece of aluminum foil underneath your pan, the macaroni and cheese bubbles up a lot during baking and it did drip a little in the oven. The aluminum foil will help to catch the mess and avoid any cheese from burning to the inside of your oven.

Because this is a baked macaroni and cheese it will not be as creamy or “soupy” as a stovetop version. If you prefer it a little more on the “wet” side, cut down on the cooking time by a few minutes so that the pasta doesn’t have time to absorb all of the cheese sauce. Also, feel free to play around with what cheese you use in this recipe. Cheddar cheese is a classic choice but other cheeses such as Asiago or American will also work nicely in most macaroni and cheese recipes. Be creative and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  •  Pinch cayenne
  •  Pinch grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Instructions

Heat oven to 375ºF and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tbs butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

In a blender, purée ricotta cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

garlic pasta

This is a fantastic pasta to serve as a side dish or even as a main meal. The nice part is that it’s made in one pot and basically cooks itself. It doesn’t get much easier than that! To serve this as a main meal, simply add in some grilled chicken and steamed broccoli and you have a nice, quick dinner. To save even more time, use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling your own.

I came across this recipe online at Damn Delicious blog, you can find the original recipe right here . I followed the recipe pretty much “as is” with only a few minor substitutions. Instead of chicken broth I used chicken stock which is more flavorful and rich and I used Pecorino Romano cheese in place of the Parmesan. Since it was the only side dish that I was serving alongside my Chicken Caprese , I doubled the recipe.

This pasta is best when it is served right away so that the sauce is silky and smooth. Once it stands, it tends to clump. If that happens, just return the pasta to the pot over medium low heat and stir in a little extra milk until the sauce loosens back up. Serve hot and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 cup milk, more as needed
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or thin linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, milk, butter and fettuccine. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately, garnish with fresh parsley.

Potato Croquettes

Potato Croq1

There are three things that I love most in the world. My husband. My kids. And mashed potatoes. I mean honestly, what is better than creamy, buttery, homemade mashed potatoes smothered in steaming hot gravy? Almost nothing UNLESS of course you turn those scrumptious mashed potatoes in a crispy potato croquette.

Because I adore mashed potatoes so much I usually end up making way too much when I cook them so I inevitably will have leftovers. Most times I have too many leftovers to eat before it’s time to toss them so I like to put those potatoes to good use before that happens, That is where potato croquettes come in. They are really simple to make as most of the work is already done for you. The first time that I made them I used straight mashed potatoes and nothing else. They were absolutely divine but I wanted to up the ante so the next time I made them I added diced ham (or prosciutto) in the croquettes along with small chunks of mozzarella cheese. Absolute heaven! I usually double this recipe because I would rather have “too many” potato croquettes than not enough. You can always freeze what is left and then bake them off the next time a craving hits. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of cooled mashed potatoes
  • 2 tbs finely minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

Combine the cooled mashed potatoes, onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix until well combined.

Set up 3 bowls, one for the egg, one for the breadcrumbs, and one for the flour.

Form the potato mixture into 2-3″ logs. Dip them first in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs.

Attach a deep fry thermometer to the side of a large pot. Add the oil and heat until it reaches 350ºF. Maintain the temperature between 350-375ºF while frying.

Add the potato croquettes to the hot oil, 3-4 at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack or paper towel lined plate. Cool slightly and serve.

Potato Croq2

Fresh Summer Corn Salad

Fresh Corn Salad 2

A few summers ago a friend of mine brought this amazing fresh corn salad to a BBQ and it was love at first bite! This dish is everything a summer salad should be, it’s light, fresh, and so flavorful. It’s a great side dish for burgers, sausages, steak, and other grilled meat. I really enjoy it because it’s a nice change of pace from the standard grilled corn on the cob and it’s also very easy to pull together.

This recipe for Fresh Corn Salad comes from Ina Garten and in all the times that I have made this dish I have followed it exactly except to also add in a small, finely diced, red pepper. I like the extra little crunch and flavor that the pepper brings to the salad. You can also try substituting in other flavored vinegar however, I think the sweetness that is added from the apple cider vinegar is perfect so I’ve stuck with that.

When making this salad, be sure to not overcook the corn, you’re just looking to cook out the starchiness but you want it to stay nice and crisp, not mushy and chewy. Three minutes in boiling water is all you need and then immediately place the cobs of corn in ice-cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. This dish can be served at room temperature but I think it’s better when it’s nice and cold so that the veggies keep their firm crisp texture.

Ingredients

  • 5 ears of corn
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1 small onion)
  • 1 finely diced small red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

Instructions

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until all of the starchiness is gone. Drain and place the corn in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Once the corn is completely cooled, cut all of the kernels off of the cob cutting as close to the cob as possible.

In a large bowl, toss the kernels with the red onion, red pepper, apple cider vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil and combine. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

cutlets and macncheese

My kids are obsessed with macaroni and cheese and would pretty much eat it every day if they could. I feel A LOT less guilty about letting them have it when I make it from scratch over serving them the little blue box mix. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s super easy to make and it doesn’t really take any more time than making a prepackaged version. This mac n cheese is very creamy and flavorful and it even reheats well too. Just add a splash of milk to thin it out a little, microwave, and stir!

I like to use extra sharp cheddar cheese since it has a more distinct flavor however, feel free to change out the cheese to others such as American, Swiss, Asiago, etc. You can even use different cheese combinations, American and cheddar is a nice one to try. Make sure when you heat the milk you let it bubble and thicken. You will know the milk is thick enough when it can coat the back of a spoon easily. Rushing this step will result in a very wet, “soupy” mac n cheese which isn’t very appetizing.

Traditional mac n cheese recipes call for an elbow macaroni which is what I used but other pasta shapes also work well. I like gemelli and mezze penne in this recipe as well. If you use elbow macaroni, try the 3 minute versions they make, I use them all of the time and it really speeds up the process of making this dish. As is, this makes plenty of macaroni and cheese for a side dish but the recipe can be easily doubled to serve a crowd of hungry kiddies too!

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 c salted butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups of milk 
  • 8 oz grated cheese (cheddar, American or a blend)

Instructions

Cook the macaroni while preparing the cheese sauce.

Melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the milk and cook until bubbly and thick, stir frequently as it warms up.

Add in the grated cheese and stir until melted. Add the macaroni to the cheese sauce, stir to coat.  Serve hot.

**TIP** – If the sauce seems to thin, stir in a little sprinkle of Wondra to thicken it up. Also, letting the mac n cheese sit for a few minutes before serving will also help to thicken the sauce.

 

 

Homemade Mashed Potatoes

 

garlicmashedpot

I could eat homemade mashed potatoes allllllll day long. Seriously. They are awesome! Not to mention super easy to make and WAY better than any store bought or boxed version of mashed potatoes. To make mashed potatoes you can use any basic, high starch potato such as a Russet however, I think that Yukon Gold potatoes make the absolute best potatoes because they are so buttery and creamy. Trust me, use Yukon Golds and you’ll never go back to your old potato again!

There are a few key tips you should follow in order to get a good quality bowl of mashed potatoes:

  • Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces – Irregular cut potato chunks will result in uneven cooking, some pieces will be mushy while others will remain too firm
  • Start them in COLD water If you start the potatoes in hot water they will cook unevenly
  • Generously salt the water – The salt will be absorbed into the potatoes as the starch granules swell
  • Drain them well – Soaked, wet potatoes won’t make for a good final product
  • Add room temp or warmed ingredients – Cold ingredients won’t be absorbed as well and they will also cool down the potatoes 
  • Season them wellPotatoes that aren’t properly seasoned will taste bland and boring
  • Don’t overwork them – If you mix them too much or over beat them you will release all of the starch in the potatoes and the result will be gummy, gluey potatoes

Personally, I don’t scrimp when I make mashed potatoes. I go all out with a lot of butter, heavy cream, and loads of salt and pepper. If you’re looking for a lighter version you can always reduce the amount of butter as well as replace the heavy cream with half and half or milk. The potatoes won’t be as rich but they will still be good.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 stick salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and add a small handful of salt to the pot.

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat down to medium high. Cook the potatoes until a knife can easily poke through them, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the potatoes well.

Using a ricer, squeeze the potatoes through into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the salt and pepper, all of the butter, and about half of the warmed heavy cream. On the lowest setting, mix the potatoes using the paddle attachment. Slowly drizzle in more heavy cream until your mashed potatoes reach the desired consistency. Be sure you don’t overwork the potatoes. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

**Tip** – If you prefer a more chunky mashed potato, skip the ricer and just use a potato masher to break up the potatoes. Also, if you don’t have a stand mixer, an electric mixer set to low will also work fine.

Variation – For garlic mashed potatoes add 1-2 heads of roasted garlic to the potatoes during mixing. Use 2 heads of garlic if you like a stronger garlic flavor.

To make the roasted garlic simply cut the top off of a head of garlic and remove as much of the papery skin as you can. Place the garlic heads in a tin foil “pouch” and drizzle them generously with a good olive oil. (I happen to LOVE the flavored oils from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY) Sprinkle the garlic with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, seal the tin foil pouch, and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes. 

When you remove the garlic from the oven, it should look nicely browned and roasted through. Let the garlic cool off for a few minutes and then very carefully lift one bulb at a time and squeeze from the bottom until all of the delicious roasted garlic is released. It should slide out VERY easily from its skin at this point. Give the roasted garlic a little stir to break everything up and then it’s ready to go! 

garlic2

     garlic3

 

Nothing Better Than Roasted Garlic

garlic3

I love garlic! Not only does it taste delicious but it’s REALLY good for you too! Garlic is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and it’s even been proven to lower cholesterol and combat heart disease! Let’s face it, everything tastes better with a little garlic and roasted garlic really ups the deliciousness quotient in spades!

Roasting garlic mellows out the bitterness that raw garlic usually has and after roasting it in the oven it develops a really nice deep, sweet flavor that is just amazing. You can use roasted garlic in almost anything such as: tomato based sauces, soups, vegetables, cooked pasta, salad dressings, meat dishes, and even spread on Italian bread. Pretty much any recipe that calls for garlic, roasted garlic can be used in its place.

This evening I am making braised short ribs for dinner and I thought homemade garlic mashed potatoes would be the perfect side dish. The roasted garlic was super simple to make and will definitely make my mashed potatoes sing!

To make the roasted garlic simply cut the top off of a head of garlic and remove as much of the papery skin as you can. Place the garlic heads in a tin foil “pouch” and drizzle them generously with a good olive oil. (I happen to LOVE the flavored oils from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY) Sprinkle the garlic with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, seal the tin foil pouch, and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes.

garlic1

When you remove the garlic from the oven, it should look nicely browned and roasted through.

garlic2

Let the garlic cool off for a few minutes and then very carefully lift one bulb at a time and squeeze from the bottom until all of the delicious roasted garlic is released. It should slide out VERY easily from its skin at this point.

garlic4

Give the roasted garlic a little stir to break everything up and then it’s ready to go! You can store the roasted garlic in the fridge for up to 2 weeks……………….if it lasts that long!

**Quick Suggestion** – Make your own compound butter for garlic bread! It’s so much better than the store bought version that is loaded with odd ingredients to preserve its flavor.

To make the compound butter – Soften a stick of unsalted butter and mix in a whole roasted head of garlic. Stir to combine and then scoop onto a piece of wax paper. Roll the compound butter mixture into a log shape, seal, and place in fridge until slightly firm. If you prefer a stronger garlic flavor, use 2 heads of roasted garlic.

To make the garlic bread – Slice a loaf of fresh Italian bread lengthwise through the middle. Spread each side generously with compound butter, sprinkle with a little grated cheese, salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees until the bread is nicely browned and the cheese is slightly bubbly. Slice and serve hot.