carmelized sweet-potato and apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese in a rosemary-buttermilk crust

I’ve been making pie for three days straight trying to get this recipe right, you guys.

First there was the crust. Measurements were off, I overworked the dough and it went flat, too salty, etc . . .

Then once I got the crust right, the filling was wrong. I tried grading the sweet potatoes with the chopped apples but the texture was way off. Plus sweet potatoes are more dense than apples so they cook unevenly. Nasty.

But today, TODAY I GOT IT RIGHT.

 I am so excited about this pie.
It’s just a pie, I know, but in my dream world, when I open a pie shop and farmer’s market, this pie will be on the short and selective menu. That’s how good it is.

Close your eyes for a minute and I’ll take you there. . .

The glass door swings wide and a small brass bell jingles over your head as you cross the threshold. Someone across the room greets you with a smile—a wave maybe—and you instantly feel at home. Your people come here.

The floors are rough planks, comfortable and unpretentious, but the handful of tables are flung with white table cloths. Fresh. Like white linen on laundry day. Rustic chandeliers hang from the pressed-tin ceiling and the generous front windows spill sunshine across the spacious room.

But the smell of the place is what sticks with you. Baked goods. Like Grandma’s kitchen—or maybe your aunt’s. Fresh berry and fruit pies wait under the long glass counter and a chalkboard menu against one of the raw-brick walls assures you the variety isn’t lacking. Three stand out: Rhubarb and current pie with cardamon. Custard pear and raspberry. Caramelized Sweet-Potato Apple with Sharp Cheddar in a Rosemary-Buttermilk crust. You’ll have to think on it. Decisions are hard . . .

Every pie here is made from scratch, the crust mixed up with butter and buttermilk from local dairy farmer’s bounty. The fruit, herbs, and produce that fill the crusts are local and seasonal, and you wonder for a moment if maybe you can just live here. Eat pie forever. The oversized leather chairs in the corner windows would be fine. Add a book, a cup of coffee, and you’ll be just fine, thank you very much . . .
You decide on the Caramelized Sweet-Potato Apple with Sharp Cheddar in a Rosemary-Buttermilk crust. Almost like lunch, right? Pie for lunch. Totally legit. 

Okay. Open your eyes.
I promise to serve your pie warm when you arrive. 🙂 In the mean time, here’s the recipe so you can make your own.

Enjoy!

CARMELIZED SWEET-POTATO AND APPLE PIE WITH SHARP CHEDDAR CHEESE IN A ROSEMARY-BUTTERMILK CRUST

Let’s start with the crust. I used the Buttermilk Pie Crust recipe from my last post with the addition of:
1 teaspoon dried and crushed rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon savory herb blend (basil/oregano/onion/thyme)

Mix up two crusts and refrigerate while you work on the filling.

FILLING:
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
6 pie apples (Grannysmith work great!) peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Over medium-high heat, melt butter in a flat-bottom pan and brown sweet potatoes until they begin to soften. Add apples and cook, covered, for a couple minutes. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, and salt to the pan and mix until the spices and sugar are well incorporated. Remove pan from heat and transfer the filling to a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix well until juices thicken. Set aside and allow to cool a bit.

Roll out the bottom crust and press it into your pie plate.
Add cheese to the slightly-cooled fruit, spice, and apple mixture and stir until ingredients are well-mixed. Fill the prepared bottom crust with the fruit and potatoes, roll out the top crust and fit it to the top of your pie. Press the top and bottom edges together and then crimp. Poke a hole in the top crust to vent, and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned over the top.
Allow to cool a bit before cutting—this will help the juices re-incorporate into the filling.

asparagus, arugula and feta quiche on a dill and sweet potato crust

“I’ll have dinner ready before I leave this evening,” I said, blithely. Forgetting for a moment that my kitchen is in full-on renovation mode and looks like this right now:

—That’s how excited I was about the prospect of heading out for a few hours. Never mind that the majority of that time would be spent at parent-teacher conferences.
Point: I promised to make dinner. And as I waved my people off to work and school, slung the baby on a hip, and poured more OJ for the toddler, I scanned my kitchen. This place is a mess. I’m using dressers as countertops because any furniture with a flat surface serves as counter space in a pinch.

So. On to dinner promises.
Ingredient list possibilities for my promise keeping endeavors included . . . Sweet potatoes, eggs, greens, asparagus. Feta. A dash of Parm? Why not. Parmesan makes everything better. Including kitchens. Throw it all together and presto: Asparagus, Arugula, and Feta Quiche on a Dill and Sweet Potato Crust. And as fancy as that sounds (or not, I don’t know, I live in kid land—it sounds fancy to me) it’s a cinch to make. Even if your kitchen is all torn up and you’re busy being someone’s parent.

Enjoy!

ASPARAGUS, ARUGULA AND FETA QUICHE ON A DILL AND SWEET POTATO CRUST 

CRUST
1 sweet potato, peeled and grated
dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon onion flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup flour

In a skillet, heat olive oil and toss in grated sweet potato. Sprinkle on salt, dill, and onion flakes and still until combined. Heat and cook through until potato is soft and begins to crisp and brown along the edges.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and add flour, stirring to combine until a sort of dough forms. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then press the crust into a greased pie plate. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.

QUICHE
5 eggs
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon diced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 oz Feta cheese
3 handfuls of greens (I used baby spinach and arugula
1/2 a bunch of asparagus—about 12 stalks—trimmed
A dash of parmesan

In the same mixing bowl you used before (save yourself some dishwashing, right?!) crack eggs and whisk together with cream, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add cheese and greens and stir until everything is well coated with egg mixture. Pour into the prepared sweet-potato crust, and then arrange the trimmed asparagus stalks to your liking. Sprinkle a generous dash of parmesan cheese over the asparagus.

Bake at 350 degrees until the top of the quiche is firm, puffed, and lightly browned. About 35-40 minutes.

pork-n-beans over spaghetti squash

The title of this recipe feels misleading.
When I think of pork and beans I think of opening a can of something brown and gooey over a campfire with my dad. Great memories, but this isn’t that.
But it is pork and black beans. So, yah.

This is one of those recipes that came about because of leftovers. And as is common knowledge in my house, no one will eat leftovers if they look anything like what they originally were. So if I want leftovers to be consumed, I have to make a new meal out of them. Which defeats the point. *sigh*

Also common knowledge in my house: I can’t cook pork. I just can’t. I try and try. Tenderloin? Nope. Either overdone or under. Chops? Nope. Always too dry. Bacon I can do, I guess. But who screws up bacon? And pulled bbq pork. But everything else: no dice.
So this recipe was also born of a failed attempt at pork ribs. (Again).

However. It provided the perfect opportunity to resurrect a failed meal.
And low and behold, I made something tasty. Beautiful even.
Leftovers and failed pork  rejoice!

Enjoy

 PORK AND BEANS OVER SPAGHETTI SQUASH

1 small spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste
1 can black beans, rinsed.

2 cups pork meat (any variety, cooked or uncooked)
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon minced onion
a dash of pepper
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
Paprika to taste

Dice pork into small bite-size pieces. Toss the meat in a medium saucepan with stock, (I used vegetable but you can use chicken, pork, beef, whatever your preference) minced onion, pepper, and maple syrup. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until the liquid reduces by about half. Allow to cool slightly and then stir in greek yogurt.

Bake spaghetti squash until tender. This is my favorite method. Halve, remove seeds, splash some olive oil, salt and pepper over the squash, and then spoon on about 1/2 cup of black beans. Top generously with the creamy pork mixture, and dollop of greek yogurt, and dash with paprika.

Makes 2 generous servings

pizza crust

I have ambitious plans this summer for making an outdoor pizza oven in our backyard. I’ll be blogging the DIY plans and process when I get that far. But until then, I have to content myself with perfecting my pizza crust recipe. Which, happily, feels close enough to perfect to share with you!

This recipe has a dash of sugar, but if you’re trying to stay clear of the sweet stuff, leaving it out will be of no great consequence.

Enjoy!

PIZZA CRUST

2 cups water (quite warm, but not hot)
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups flour

*makes enough dough for two small/medium size pizzas (average-crust thickness) or one large thick-crust pizza.

In a large bowl, vigorously whisk warm water and yeast together until yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Add salt, sugar, and oil and whisk again until sugar and salt have dissolved. one cup at a time, add in flour until the final cup, which will need to be kneaded into the dough on a floured countertop.

If you have a stand mixer, use a dough hook for the last two cups of flour and let it do the hard work for you.

Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes, covered, before trying to form your crust. Otherwise it’s just a little too stretchy for rolling out, or if you’re more skilled than I, tossing.

carrot and parsnip mash

Sometimes mashed potatoes are the best thing in the history of ever. And sometimes they aren’t. —Like when you’re doing Whole30. Mashed sweet potatoes are a nice substitute, but they are so . . . sweet.
So.
Here’s a savory substitute to gorgeous, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes that is not only better for you, but also fluffy and gorgeous, pretty to look at, and entirely vegetable-based. I threw in a little coconut cream to make things extra decadent.
Want to make it more of a meal? Throw on a soft egg or a steak. BOOM.
Enjoy!

CARROT AND PARSNIP MASH

6 carrots, peeled, and chopped
6 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 teaspoon onion flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot boil chopped carrots and parsnips until fork-tender, just as you would potatoes. Drain and return veggies to pot. Add coconut cream, onion flakes, salt and pepper, and using either a hand-held beater or immersion blender, whirl until the veggies begin to soften and blend together. I like my mash a little chunky. A few pieces of vegetables mixed in with mash give this dish texture and color. But if you prefer them light and cloud-fluffy, continue whipping/blending until smooth.
Serve as a side with a pat of butter or a dollop of Greek yogurt.

making steak

I love a good steak. I don’t eat a ton of red meat, but sometimes I crave a steak like whoa.


I have been around the block searching for the perfect cut/brand. I’ve made and have eaten a lot of organic grass-fed steaks prepared in many MANY different ways. I’ve worked with local butcher shops and grocery store meat departments, and I’ve worked with farmers and hunters, all in an effort to find a consistently good, reasonably priced steak—beef, bison, venison, or elk.

My goal has been to find a cut/brand of meat I can return to and always end up with a fork-tender, juicy steak on my plate at the end of the night. You’d be surprised how difficult this is! *feigns fatigue* It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

I am happy to report that I’ve finally stumbled upon a consistently good steak. Please note, this is not an affiliate post. I’m gaining absolutely nothing in mentioning brand names here. This is for sharing purposes only: When you find a good thing, don’t keep it to yourself, right? So here goes.

No Name Steaks. Petite cut.

I know. I know. Your eyebrows are furrowed. Frozen steaks that come in a box? Really?
Really.
Guys, I’m picky. I like my steaks rare/med-rare and it can’t taste old or gamey. I don’t want stringy or mealy meat. I need to be able to cut it with a fork or slice it super thin without having it fall apart. I’ve taken time to arrive at this decision, I’ve cooked and served exclusively No Name steaks for over a year now as I have come to this decision, and I don’t share it lightly. So there you go! They are found in almost every grocery store across the country.

On to the recipe!

The methods for preparing a steak are endless and if you google “steak” you’ll come up with enough reading material to last you the rest of your life. So forgive the addition to the glut, but if you’re looking for a totally basic, perfect-every-time, weekday-steak cooking method, this is it.

Start with a hot skillet.
When cooking meat, cast iron wins every time. Melt one tablespoon clarified butter in the bottom of the pan and coat evenly. You’re going to sear your steak, but you don’t want it sticking to the pan. If you like garlic or onions on your meat, now’s the time to throw some in the pan. They can cook right along with your meat.

Once the pan is hot (medium-high) lay your cuts in the bottom of the pan and let them sear (bubbling and hissing against the pan) for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Then with a tongs, turn and sear the other side. Again, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I like my steak rare/med-rare, which means the inside of the steak is still red and juicy, but hot. This takes about 4 minutes per side. My husband likes his a little more done. about 5 minutes per side. However you like your steak, it’s going to be a personal preference thing and you’ll have to figure out exactly the time it takes, per side, to cook your steak to your liking. You can cut into your cooking steak to examine the color/doneness of the meat while it cooks and determine what works best for you.
And here is a rough guide (from howtocookasteak.com) that will also help.

steakchart

When your meat is cooked to the desired amount of doneness, remove it from the pan, set it on a cutting board and allow it it sit for 5-8 minutes, resting and redistributing the juices. This is the perfect time to sear a few vegetables (in the same pan you just cooked your steak—yay cooking juices!) or cook a soft egg to throw on top of or beside your steak.

Steak is mostly about preference. So experiment, have fun, and enjoy!

vegetarian chili

Everyone has that one recipe that tastes like it took hours of prep work and days over the stove to bring to fruition. This is one of those . . . bonus: it makes a TON of food, so it’s perfect for that church potluck, family dinner, neighborhood get-together, or football party. FYI: Even though it tastes homemade, absolutely everything in this recipe (if you so choose) comes out of a can. (You can totally soak and cook all of your own beans, use frozen corn or corn from your garden, and stewed/roasted fresh tomatoes, if you’d rather. And admittedly, that would be a healthier route). It’s completely up to you!
If you like a little protein in your chili, brown up some spicy Italian sausage, burger, diced steak, chicken, or tofu, and toss it in the mix.
Enjoy!

VEGETARIAN CHILI

2 cans black beans
2 cans chili beans
2 cans whole-kernel corn
1 can baked beans
3 cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
1 jar of salsa
3 cups vegetable broth

Over medium heat, empty all the cans and broth into a large soup pot, stir and heat through. Allow to cook on low for an hour or so to incorporate all the flavors. Adjust spice to your liking with pepper/chili pepper/salt/fresh garlic.
Serve hot with grated cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream or plain greek yogurt, and diced scallions.