What to Do with Left-over Sweet Potato Casserole…

20161128_083407Thanksgiving week’s Try It Tuesday post got away from me, I’ll admit it. However, my Thanksgiving meal did not. In fact, it turned out to be rather tasty with juicy turkey, savory green-beans with bacon, a satisfying gingerbread cake (my husband and his mom are not pie people), and yeast rolls that didn’t fall flat! So, please forgive my lack of post last week.

In fact, to make up for it, I’m reviewing two recipes for today’s Try It Tuesday. I hunted up both of these recipes online to find ways to use up my left-over sweet potato casserole. Although that’s my favorite side dish (as well as that of my son and my mother-in-law), it’s the one I’m never sure what to do with after the actual Thanksgiving meal. Stuffing becomes stuffing waffles that I eat with fried eggs for lunch. Turkey becomes soup and gets frozen for later. Desserts, well, they just get eaten! But sweet potato casserole doesn’t go with just anything like mashed potatoes can.

As I browsed online, I happened upon a recipe for Healthy Sweet Potato Muffins that allowed me to use three different left-overs: sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and oranges (from a fruit tray).  You can check out this recipe at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/230869/healthy-sweet-potato-muffins/

I didn’t have any whole wheat flour in my pantry, so I used white flour. I also juiced the clementines that I zested and used it in place of the water. Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the result. The muffins taste tangy thanks to the citrus and cranberry sauce. On the other hand, if you were looking for something that kept more of the taste of the sweet potatoes, you will be disappointed; it’s lost beneath the vanilla. The next time I make these, I plan to cut the amount of vanilla extract I use to only ½ tablespoon. Also, in case you weren’t sure what kind of cranberry sauce to use, I used jellied. Although the recipe doesn’t specify, I suspect whole berry would work well too.20161128_090754

Sadly, I was still left with a surprising amount of casserole in my fridge, even after making muffins. I knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it before it went bad, so I started looking online again. This time, I found an easy recipe for sweet potato pancakes. These are not made with shredded potato, but puree. You can find the recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sweet-potato-pancakes-recipe0.html It also includes a recipe for pecan butter, which I didn’t have time to make. I wish I could have though. It sounds great!

In any case, I once again had to use all white flour and since I already had some spices in my casserole, I cut the spice amounts in half. Moreover, I kept the marshmallow-pecan topping on the sweet potatoes when I pureed it in the food processor, so I also halved the amount of brown sugar called for by the recipe.

I found that the pancakes cooked best with my griddle set to about 275, but you’ll have to adjust according to your particular cook-top. Also, I had to add a little bit more milk to thin out the batter. I found it difficult to allow the pancakes to cook through without burning in my first batch. Again, this may vary depending on whether you use plain sweet potato like the recipe calls for or left-over casserole like I did.

This recipe turned out well and was truly simple to throw together. There is a nice taste of sweet potato and spice, but the sweetness is not overwhelming – so yes, syrup would go great with these. That said, my son and I each enjoyed a warm, thick pancake without any spreads or syrups for our mid-morning snack. Other toppings to try include peanut butter, cream cheese, or plain yogurt and honey.

A final positive aspect of these two recipes (and a deciding factor as I debated how to use my leftovers) is that they freeze well. The muffins can be put in Tupperware containers and frozen as is. To serve, just leave them out to thaw. Pancakes, as my mother taught me long ago, should be frozen on their cooling racks before being placed in Ziplock bags. I like to put a layer of parchment paper between each pancake to prevent them from sticking together when you take them out of the freezer. You can toss them in the toaster directly when you’re ready to eat them, or defrost them in the microwave for a few seconds first. This freezing method works great for waffles, too.

Do you have any favorite ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers? Share in the comments! You never know when you’ll find you’re next favorite recipe!

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

This past weekend was a busy one. Between going to doughnut socials at church and hanging out with friends, my little family seemed to be munching on sweet treats throughout the entire weekend. I’d like to present one of those treats a bonus recipe because the apple dump cake I made for a potluck tasted as good as it looked. The only modification that I made was to this delicious and easy dessert was to sprinkle a few pecans on top. Check it out here: http://www.ourtableforseven.com/2011/09/moms-apple-cake.html

20161112_121608

Needless to say, by Sunday evening I was in the mood to try an easy, hearty dish that was in no way sweet. Since both my husband and my son enjoy boxed macaroni and cheese, I decided to test a recipe that would allow me to make it homemade and in approximately the same amount of time. In the end, I chose a recipe that didn’t use Velveeta (my husband won’t touch the stuff), that purported to appeal to kids, and that would take only about 5-10 minutes longer than the boxed variety to prepare. You can find the recipe I used here: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/bistro-mac—cheese

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the prep time listed on the website was accurate. The preparation is also easy, but because of the amount of attention required at your stovetop throughout the entire process, I have two recommendations. First, pre-measure anything you can so that you can just reach and dump when the time is right. Second, if you have kids, get them occupied before you begin. Burning the cheese to the bottom of your pan would ruin the dish.

When I took my trial bite, I had a mixed reaction: Mmmmm! I love this! And Ohhhh, I don’t think my hubby will go for this! From the minute I saw the gorgonzola cheese and sour cream in the ingredients list, I should have known: too “weird” and too rich. For those of you unfamiliar with cheeses, gorgonzola is like a mild bleu cheese – so if your family likes bleu cheese dressing and dips, this might work for you.

Despite my skepticism, I asked my husband to try a bite before he made himself an alternative meal. I also gave a small bite to my son. Both of my boys reacted with an “ummmm, no.” My son even fished the single macaroni noodle out of his mouth to throw away. French toast and single-serving boxed mac ‘n’ cheese saved dinner for my husband and son.

Even though I enjoyed every bite of this dish, I won’t yet add it to my recipe box. By replacing the gorgonzola and sour cream with an additional ½ cup each of shredded mozzarella and cheddar, I might be able to use the recipe as a basis for a future attempt at homemade macaroni and cheese. However, that will have to wait because I’m not sure my family will taste anything other than boxed mac ‘n’ cheese for quite a while.20161114_112626

Chicken Lo Mein

I have a confession: I like cheap, cheesy mystery novels. My passion for these books probably began with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. More recently, I discovered those fun mysteries that incorporate food or drink into the mysteries and include recipes at the conclusion of the story. That combination is perfect for recipe and mystery aficionados like myself.

Despite the way I drool while reading through the recipes, this week is the first time I’ve actually tried making one of those recipes. My goal in making “Dominic Chin’s ‘Chitalian’ Chicken Lo Mein” was to have a good recipe for Chinese food that doesn’t involve a high-sodium, high-preservative boxed mix. For anyone interested in making the recipe, you can find it in A Brew to Kill by Cleo Coyle (and any of the Coffeehouse Mysteries by the same author are great fun to read).

To survive as a dinner recipe in my house, a meal has to be easy to prepare and tasty. Skillet meals like this lo mein do require a bit more babysitting than I usually do, but since the chicken is marinated and the noodles can be cooked in advance (like during naptime), the method remains uncomplicated. The ingredients were also foods, spices, and sauces I generally have in my pantry. For my preferences, chicken lo mein was already a success.

However, since I chose to change from my family’s usual and much-loved chicken and broccoli fried rice, I knew my husband would be tougher to convince. He knows what he likes and he likes what he knows; but I got a “this is good,” when I asked what he thought. I also got another “I like it,” about mid-meal and a “Thanks! That was great, Babe,” as he took his plate to the sink. Normally, only lasagna and pot roast get that many compliments in one meal. As an added bonus, while our son didn’t clear his plate (a feat reserved for pizza and spaghetti), he ate without complaint or prompting… until he remembered his bucket of Halloween candy sitting in the kitchen. This recipe is getting added to the box of favorites!20161105_180405

Soul Cakes

20161031_162240As a Catholic mom, I sometimes struggle to find a balance between the purely fun, secular aspects of holidays and the religious reasons for the seasons (to borrow a popular Christmas phrase). I don’t want my son to miss out on the things I enjoyed growing up, but I do want him to be able to find God in his daily life, and that includes holiday festivities. This may seem like an odd starting place for a cooking blog, but I’m about to arrive at the intersection of faith and food: Today’s recipe, soul cakes, is a reminder of the Catholic roots of trick-or-treat.

A link to the blog “Catholic Cuisine” appeared in my Facebook feed last week, and the title bragging about “the original Halloween treat” sucked me in. It turns out that children used to go door to door on Halloween and offer to pray for the souls of their neighbors’ deceased family members in exchange for soul cakes – the treat in trick-or-treat. You’ll find the original post and a recipe for soul cakes here. I decided this could be a great way to begin making the connection between our faith and Halloween for my son.

I made a few changes to the mix of spices the author used. I went with ¼ tsp nutmeg, 1 ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ginger, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves. I also tossed a few of the cooled cookies at a time in powdered sugar instead of sprinkling them with powdered sugar; tossing added much needed sweetness and looked nicer for transport to and sharing with people who work at our church.

I also tried a few variations that were mentioned in the blog post. I made crosses on the top of a few cookies with either raisins or chocolate chips, but both toppings kept falling off the cookies. I quickly gave up on that idea. Using an egg wash might have helped, though I doubt the powdered sugar coating would have stuck.

Speaking of egg wash, my son was assisting with this recipe and decided our dish towel needed an egg wash. Before I could stop him, he started dipping it in the liquid ingredients… oh the adventures of having a pre-schooler in the kitchen. However, there was lots of measuring and dumping he could help with, as well as plenty of dough to roll and cut, so if you’d like to get your kids in the kitchen (and you have a little patience), this is a good recipe to try.

20161031_091248

This is Vincent helping mix the dough before he’d dipped our dishtowel or gotten both of us covered in flour.

When it came time to taste the cookies, my reaction was mixed. The soul cakes ended up being a little dry, and lacking in sweetness despite the powdered sugar coating. They do pair well with hot tea or coffee, however. Next year, I think I’ll try combining a tried and true recipe for shortbread with this recipe for soul cakes. Hopefully the result will be a sweeter treat with a more pleasing texture.