Friday, October 24, 2014

Spicy Fried Toffee Sweet Potatoes

Can we talk sweet potatoes for a sec? They seem to have captured the hearts and minds of all people everywhere. They are slightly sweet potatoes, I mean what's not to like? They have a stunning color, fantastic texture, not to mention, very appropriately named.

I grew sweet potatoes in my garden this year. As is my custom, I had NO idea what I was doing so I can't tell you if my crop was good or bad but I can tell you those suckers like to burrow. As we were pulling dinner together the other night I casually mentioned to my family that I was going to go dig up a few sweet potatoes to roast for supper and thought it would be a job that would take approximately 3 minutes tops. I went out with my trusty little shovel and started digging around where I thought they would be, you know, right under the surface of the topsoil. Then dug some more......then some more.... next thing you know I'm about a foot down, covered in mud, and 30 minutes into the task before I saw even a glimpse of the orange-hued tuber. By that point Hiro had been sent out to see if I'd fallen into a crevasse or if I was even still in fact in the backyard. Ha! 3 minutes my ass, I done got schooled by some sweet potatoes.

But they we're goooooood. So worth the mining they took to extrapolate potato from ground. And we had a decent amount although I plan on planting twice as much next year—digging up your own homegrown sweet potatoes is as good as gold.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is fried....duh. But then you make a quick, spicy caramel and toss the freshly fried sweet potatoes in that, sprinkle with a few sesame seeds and it is as good as candy. So good! They make a delicious, if not unlikely dessert to finish off a fall meal, but they are no stranger to the cocktail party either. They may seem fussy with the oil and caramel and all that business, but they actually come together very quickly and can be made with basic pantry ingredients, which makes them a great last-minute entertaining recipe, too.

Spicy Fried Toffee Sweet Potatoes

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
Vegetable oil, for frying
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Scrub sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut in halves or quarters if very large.

Fill a frying pan with 1-inch of oil and heat over medium heat until it reaches 350°F or a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.

Fry sweet potatoes in the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, until slightly tender but still firm, about 2 minutes. Remove to a heat-proof bowl.

Combine sugar, salt, cayenne powder, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue to boil, undisturbed until dark brown and thick, about 5 minutes.

Pour caramel over sweet potatoes and stir to coat. Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds, serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seeded Pull-Apart Rolls + Warm Green Chile Queso Dip

We are in full Halloween/Dia de los Muertos mode around here. 

One minute we are masking taping our sweatpants to make Spiderman costumes and the next has us using loads of glitter glue on our Calaveras.

Have you seen this beautiful video made by Yvette from Muy Bueno? If you know some to nothing about Day of the Dead or even if you know everything about it, this video is a gorgeous representation of how special and important the holiday really is to Mexican culture. The make-up alone is reason enough to spend 5 minutes out of your day watching it.

I would love to have a Dia de los Muertos party with plenty of papel picado and paper flower decorations. I would serve these delicious seeded rolls that are perfect for little hands to tear off and dip into warm, cheesy green chile queso. They are shaped around a large biscuit cutter or whatever heat-proof thing you have that will work as a space holder for your queso bowl. When they come out of the oven they are golden and crisp and loaded with an array of seeds and big flakes of sea salt. You can use as many or as few seeds as you like. I went all out and used everything from chia to sunflower seeds. Louisa's favorite was the sea salt and Hiro's was the sesame (the pumpkin seeds he picked off and threw over his shoulder).

But who knows, I would love to do a lot of things that never seem to happen because by the time they roll around I basically have enough energy to just get the food to the table, let alone actually invite anyone over or sweep the Cheerios off the floor so as to not be too embarrassed by the mess we normally live in. 

If you do summon up enough gusto to have a fiesta, this is perfect party food whether its a party of one (plenty of queso dip for me!!!) or more.

Seeded Pull-Apart Rolls + Warm Green Chile Queso Dip

Makes 4

For the Rolls:
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 105-110°F)
1 (7 gram) packet dried yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 cups white bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt

For the Dip:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) cream cheese
8 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) shredded Chihuahua cheese (or Monterey Jack)
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

For the Rolls:
Place water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast over the top and let sit about 10 minutes or until yeast begins to dissolve and look foamy.

Add flour, salt, and sugar, and mix on low until combined. If the dough seems dry, add a couple tablespoons of water. The dough should be sticky. Turn the mixer to medium and knead for 8 minutes. The dough should be very soft and supple.

Coat a large bowl with the oil. Flour your hands and remove dough from mixer. Place dough in the bowl; turn to coat in oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425°F and arrange rack in the bottom of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, place that on the bottom rack to heat as the oven heats up. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Flour a clean work surface then remove dough with floured hands onto the surface. Flatten the dough and cut into 32 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, pinching the dough together at the bottom to make firm.

Place the balls in a row on the parchment lined sheet or if you want to make a ring, place a large biscuit cutter in the middle of the baking sheet (this is where the dip will go) and place the rolls in a circle around the cutter, leaving about 1/2-inch space between them.

Beat the egg with a tablespoon of water and brush the top of each roll with the egg wash. Sprinkle the different seeds and salt among the rolls, you can use as many or as few seeds as you wish. Bake on the heated stone, or oven rack, for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden and rolls are firm. Remove the biscuit cutter and serve with warm queso dip.

For the Queso Dip:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.

Slowly add milk, whisking continuously, until smooth. Bring to a simmer, then add the cream cheese and half of the Chihuahua cheese; stir to melt. Add remaining cheese and remaining ingredients and stir until cheese is melted and combined. Remove from heat, pour into a serving dish and serve with bread.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Easy Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

Helllooooo!!! Who's excited that it's Monday?!!

Not me. We just returned from an amazingly long road trip yesterday and I still can't get the theme song from The Backyardagians out of my head. We're backyard friends The Backyardigans.......holy Jesus I need new friends.

It is truly incredible how many times children can view the same video over and over and over again. I think my kids went for a world record yesterday. Is it bad that I let them watch non-stop videos whilst on road trips? Wait, don't answer that.

Who's excited about making dinner tonight?!!!!

Nope, not me either. But if it's going to be anything I want it warm, comforting and most of all, easy! So for you (and let's not kid ourselves, for me too) I made easy. The enchiladas are made with store-bought sauce, a can of black beans, and if you want it even easier, you can use the squash that is already, peeled and cut—simple right?

And because not a night goes by that I don't crave enchiladas, they fulfill the warm and comforting part too. I made a half a batch with cheese and half without for the Professor and both were good, so if you are doing the dairy-free and/or vegan thing these are for you! (Pretend I'm pointing).

You can use any winter squash here. I made them with my favorite buttercup squash but you could use butternut, kabocha, or like I said the peeled-and-cut-up kind, because peeling is kind of a pain in the rear. If you are going to peel yo' self (peel the squash I mean, don't peel your body that would hurt) use a Y peeler as seen in this video, trust me it will make your life soooo much easier.

Here's to a great dinner and an even better week!

Easy Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

Makes 4 servings

6 cups peeled, cubed winter squash, such as butternut, buttercup, turban, or pumpkin
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces (about 2 cups) queso blanco
12 corn tortillas
1 (15 ounce) can red enchilada sauce

Heat oven to 425°F.

Combine squash, onion, garlic, olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss until well coated with oil and spice. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast vegetables until golden and tender, about 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through. While vegetables are roasting, wrap tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven, about 10 minutes.

Pour vegetables back into a large bowl, add black beans and coarsely mash with a potato masher. They don't need to be smooth, just broken up a little bit. Stir in half the cheese.

Pour enough enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish to cover. Lay one tortilla on a work surface and place about 3 tablespoons of filling in the middle. Roll the bottom up over the filling and continue rolling to close. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Cover enchiladas with remaining sauce and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Return dish to oven and bake until sauce is bubbly and cheese has melted, about 20 minutes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mango Cashew Coconut Granola

We are leaving this morning to visit my family in Des Moines.... I come bearing granola. 

My cousin just had her second baby and I'm dying to wrap my arms around that little bundle so we are making what should be an 8 hour drive (but takes 10 with the kids) to see that little guy and also share some granola with his adorable sister.

Whenever I visit family everyone makes their requests and I try to come through. This time around the car will be bearing a cooler packed with an apple pie for my dad, caramel apple butter for my aunt, and my cousin didn't request it but she has mentioned on several occasions that they plow through boxes of granola like nobody's business, so how could I not make her some homemade?

As far as I'm concerned granola is about the best thing for a nursing mom. It is a little sweet, crunchy, chewy, and easy to eat straight out of the bag with one arm. I added chia seeds because the internet tells us that they are really good for you and are high in Omega 3s, protein, and calcium which are all helpful for tired mothers of newborns and really anyone.

I also used my new, favorite dried fruit—this ultra-chewy dried young coconut that is lightly sweetened and comes snacktastic in long strips. If you are existing on a granola diet (which most new moms are) some really good dried coconut can add healthy fats and nutty flavor. If you can't find the larger strips, regular sweetened coconut will work just fine.

Check out my Instagram for updates on all our family fun. There will be lots of baby shots if your into that kind of thing. Happy Friday Party People! XO 

Mango, Cashew, Coconut Granola

Makes 8 Cups

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups roughy chopped lightly salted and roasted cashews
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened coconut, chopped if large
1 cup chopped dried mango

Heat oven to 325°F.

Combine oats, cashews, chia seeds, salt, and ginger in a large bowl.

Combine honey, coconut oil, and vanilla in a separate medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and toss until evenly moistened.

Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until toasted and golden, about 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool, undisturbed, then mix in dried fruit.

Granola keeps in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mini Mexican Meatloaves

This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Hunt's Tomato Sauce and Latina Bloggers Connect. Thank you for supporting the companies that make this blog possible. 

Let's talk meatloaf guys. I know probably not the most exciting thing to discuss on a Wednesday, but I need to divulge my love of meatloaf once and for all. I mean, c'mon, I was raised in the Midwest people—ketchup runs through my veins.

I've been wanting to post a Mexican-style meatloaf for a long time, all spicy and such with a little bit of cheese thrown in, but The Professor (who was not raised in the Midwest) kept telling me not to. "No one eats meatloaf anymore," he says. I think what he meant was he doesn't eat meatloaf, because he's cray-cray.

When Hunt's contacted me about developing a recipe for National Tomato Month (which is right now, October, this is it) I knew exactly what I would make—Mini Mexican Meatloaves baby, all spicy and cheesy and such.

I'm all about fresh tomatoes for burgers and pico de gallo but when I'm making Chili or Mexican Rice or Meatloaf, I always, always, always use canned tomatoes. All Hunt's canned tomatoes are grown in  California and are canned within hours of being picked so you know the flavor is going to be outstanding and Hunt's makes several different flavored diced tomatoes to make dinner extra easy. I used the spicy red pepper diced tomatoes for this meatloaf but they also have tomatoes with rosemary and oregano, roasted garlic, or fennel and red pepper.

I adore these miniature meatloaves mainly because they're so stinkin' cute but also have the perfect ratio of crusty edges and soft interior, I need a little textural contrast in my meatloaf and this is it. Not to mention they take about half the time to bake as traditional meatloaf, which is awesome, because I don't know anyone who wishes dinner took longer to make. The kids love them too because their child-sized and perfect for little hands. So everyone's happy (except for the Professor......who still doesn't like meatloaf).

Looking for more tomato recipes to celebrate National Tomato Month? Check out Hunt's Signature Recipe Collection for more great dinner ideas.

Mini Mexican Meatloaves

Makes 12 Mini Meatloaves

Adapted from Hunt's Recipes

1 (14.5 ounce) can Hunt's Tomato Sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
1 (14.5 ounce) can Hunt's Diced Tomatoes with Spicy Red Pepper , drained
1/2 large red onion, minced
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup queso fresco
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 400°F

Combine tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and chile powder in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce and combine gently with your hands until well incorporated.

Divide mixture evenly between 12 muffin cups (about 1/2 cup each) and place muffin tin on a baking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes then remove meatloaves from the oven and top each with 1 tablespoon of the tomato sauce mixture. Return to the oven and bake 15 minutes more.

Serve immediately with remaining tomato sauce on the side.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkin-Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

With all the apple recipes I've been posting lately you wouldn't be remiss in thinking I done did forgot about fall's dessert sweetheart—the pumpkin.

I adore everything pumpkin so it comes as much of a surprise to me as it does to you that I have yet to post some delicious squashy treat. And speaking of missteps, why oh why has it taken me so long to embrace Dulce de Leche? It is a sin I wish to be forgiven for so I'm combining both in these incredible cheesecake bars.

I have a love/hate relationship with bars. It's pretty simple: I love them. But then there's the other part: cutting them. Me and straight lines don't really get along (see photo above for evidence).

I was infamous at CHOW for not being able to cut anything straight and was banned from food styling where bars were concerned. It would start out real good; one cut clean down the middle, but by the end I was always left with a piece half the size of the other pieces I just cut. Thank God I worked among friends because my guess is Martha wouldn't have stood for that nonsense.

I guess I'm mentally incapable (read: do not have the patience) for cutting same-sized squares. It requires calculations and eye-balling, two skills I do not possess. Point being I will happily make you a pan of brownies, lemon squares, whatever your heart desires, but don't be upset if the first square is roughly the size of a playing card and the last two a pair of dice.

But let's talk about the most important aspect of these bars for a second, the flavor. The base for these beauties are Marías cookies. I love using these cookies as a base because their flavor is milky and not overly sweet. If you can't find them you can substitute vanilla wafers or graham crackers.

The filling is as good as you would imagine, rich with pumpkin, creamy and smooth and loaded with big, fat dollops of caramel Dulce de Leche. This is the beginning of a very good autumn.

Pumpkin-Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 16

For the Crust:
1 (4.9 ounce) package Gamesa Marías Cookies
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (13.4 ounce) can Dulce de Leche

Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Spray a 8-inch square baking pan with baking spray then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving a overhang on all sides.

Combine cookies and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until cookies are in fine crumbs (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). Add melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moist.

Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish and press gently to make an even layer of crust. Bake until lightly toasted and firm, about 12-15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Place cream cheese in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add sugar, pumpkin, eggs, flour, spice, and salt and blend until combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

Pour Dulce de Leche into a medium bowl and add 1 cup of the pumping mixture. Whisk until smooth. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture over the crust. Drop spoonfuls of the Dulce de Leche onto the pumpkin mixture then use a skewer or butter knife to make decorative swirls in the filling.

Bake until cheesecake slightly wobbles in the middle and the edges are set, about 40-50 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan until firm. Using overhang, transfer bars to a cutting board and cut into 16 squares.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mole Verde Meatball Sandwiches

The air around here has been crisp. Whoa, I'd say....crisp with a little snow flurry mixed in. To which I respond by throwing myself to the ground crying in a toddler-like hissy fit. I am not ready. I have yet to stuff enough cotton in my ears so I may ignore my children's whining when I tell them they can't watch another show nor can they go outside to play or have a piece of candy. Winter makes me slightly more homicidal.

I've been watching this little bird out my window all morning getting battered by the wind. She keeps looking at me like, WTF lady! Let me in there! And I feel bad, I do. Maybe I should let her in. What's worse, a crazed bird flying around the house or two children screaming at the tops of their lungs "THAT'S MINE!" then "OW" then inevitably "MAMA....HIRO HIT ME!!!!"

Right about then is when I wish I could tuck myself inside of a hoagie bun, pull up a little mole blanket and fall asleep. Wouldn't it be so nice and soft in there? Snuggly and warm is how I imagine it. But instead let's make it edible, shall we? Or as Hiro likes to say..."Should I?" As in Mama let me climb to the top step then jump into your arms while you're carrying a fully-loaded laundry basket....."Should I?"

The sauce for this meaty, melty, fluffy/crispy sub combo seems complicated at the outset but is really my secret guerita ingredient—Doña Maria Mole Verde Paste. I've used it to make pozole as well as a super easy, super good marinade for grilled pork chops and is basically a lifesaver if you want that rich mole flavor without the day-and-a-half prep time.

The meatballs are just the right balance between chewy and tender, with enough breadcrumb to give them right resistance without being leaden. I used ground pork because pork and mole are meant for each other but I've also tried these with ground turkey and chicken and they were yummy too.

This sandwich might be good enough to make you pleased that there is a chill to the air. It is warm, and toasty, and saucy, and all the things you crave when you come in from the cold.

Mole Verde Meatball Sandwiches

Makes 4-6 Servings

1 pound ground pork
1/2 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, minced, plus one more sliced, for garnish
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup mole verde paste (green mole paste)
6 Hoagie rolls
1/2 cup queso fresco

Heat oven to 400°F. Combine ground pork, onion, garlic, minced jalapeño, egg, salt, panko, paprika, and cloves in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands until everything is incorporated.

Form into golf-ball-sized meatballs and place on a baking sheet. Roast until browned and firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine chicken broth and mole paste in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the paste dissolves. Add roasted meatballs and simmer, covered, over low heat for 30  minutes.

Heat broiler to high. Cut rolls in half and spoon meatballs (about 4-5 per roll) with a little bit of sauce into the rolls. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese. Place under the broiler until cheese is golden and melted, about 1-2 minutes. Top with sliced jalapeños and serve.