How To: Poach Chicken

How To: Poach ChickenPoaching chicken is one of those things that I think health food experts expect people to do but few people actually do it.  I am going to be straight with you.  It ain’t pretty.  Poached chicken is one of those things that is just a means to an end.  It is an ingredient in something else you are making so the fact that it looks like a sad, pale, anemic piece of meat with no flavor (which in many cases, it is) does not help its case.

The upside, however, is that it is an extremely healthy way to eat chicken.  If it is done right, it can even be a tasty and convenient way as well.  It is one of those tasks that I like to do when I am doing something else so that I have it for later.  ‘Cooked chicken’ as an ingredient is extremely useful to have in your fridge during a weekday.  Am I right?  A huge array of options are open to you!  Chicken Salad, BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Enchilada Pie, Laura’s Salad, Chicken & Barley Soup, just to name a few.  I like to take leftover cooked, shredded chicken and mix it with a big scoop of salsa.  Then I use that as my base for quesadillas and just layer on the cheese.  In the summer, toss cold poached chicken with Panzanella Salad or Margarita Pasta Salad and you have a pretty spectacular-and very healthy-supper.  Some defrosted Pesto, lots of Parmesan, and some chicken is quite wonderful when mixed with penne rigate or rigatoni.

You get the point.  Its quick and easy, its healthy, and its convenient.  There.  Now you have no excuse to cut up fried chicken from the deli on your salad with fat free dressing.

Here is how you do it:
How To: Poach ChickenOne Year Ago: Oatmeal Pancakes & Giada’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Simple Poached Chicken
Using boneless, skinless chicken breasts is the healthiest option.  For more flavor, leave the bones on but take off the skin.  Just note that it will take longer to poach with bones.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
whole peppercorns, about 8
1/4 onion, cut into large chunks
4 stems of fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, squashed
water to cover

Also note that this is all subject to change.  If you only have rosemary a not thyme, use that instead.  No whole peppercorns?  Add a few shakes from the shaker.  Leftover chicken broth from another recipe?  Throw it in there.  Use what you have.

So…in a medium sauce pan…
How To: Poach Chicken…add a few inches of water and the aromatics.  Bring it all to a simmer.  This means just a few bubbles people!  Do not let this liquid boil!
How To: Poach ChickenMake sure the liquid completely covers the chicken.  Simmer (without boiling or the chicken will become tough) for about 15 minutes.
How To: Poach ChickenPull the chicken out of the broth and let it set on cutting board for a few minutes.  Do not discard the broth!  We will get to that in a minute.
How To: Poach ChickenNow you can slice it, dice it, or shred it.  If you aren’t going to use it yet, you can prep it then chill it, or just tightly wrap and refrigerate whole cooked pieces.  And the cooking liquid I had you save?
How To: Poach ChickenStrain it into a freezable container and chill overnight.  The next day you can skim off any little bit of fat that might have solidified on the top.  Freeze it and use it in soups or stews!

So there you have it!  Go forth and enjoy!

Tilapia W/Citrus Sauce is easy and FULL of flavor! A fine, healthy dinner! {Brittany's Pantry}If you had asked me what my favorite food/meal was, oh say…ten or eleven years ago, I can guarantee you that meat would have been at the top of the list.  In particular, beef.  I learned at an early age that a good steak is hard to top and for the most part, I still agree with that 100 percent.  In my late teens and early twenties, salmon snuck in there and hasn’t left the top 5 since.  I went through a brief-but tasty-period when cheesecake came dangerously close to ousting everyone off the list, but I have since come to my senses and downgraded it to the level of things I really love but only eat in moderation.  Like Eggs Benedict.  Mmmm.  Eggs Benedict…

When my husband was stationed in Hawaii, my whole culinary world changed.  Fish, seafood, and fresh produce, the likes of which I had never tasted before, was now not only readily available, but literally all around me.  I could get a mahi mahi burger at the local McDonald’s!  The smoothie place just steps from my apartment used pineapples from the Dole plantation a few miles away.  The Ono (or wahoo fish) we ate at restaurants had been caught that morning and tasted so fresh and so clean and so…amazing…I have never forgotten it.  Moving to San Diego was much the same.  And while I am totally a Midwestern girl at heart, fresh seafood and produce only hours old is a bit impossible when you are landlocked in the very middle of a large continent.  I do love me some fresh water fish and there isn’t anything like a plate piled high with freshly caught walleye.  But a life without shrimp and prawns, lobster, crab, mussels and oysters, tuna steaks, haddock, swordfish, salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, or tilapia is not the life for me.  Those years on the Pacific changed me forever I have never looked at fish and seafood the same way since.

In addition to making sure the food I eat is sustainable (checkout this website for a handy dandy pocket guide for choosing fish and seafood) there are some items that are easier for me to obtain than others.  I had noticed after moving to Illinois that tilapia was a very common fish in my fresh and frozen seafood sections.  I had never cooked with it and it did not look very intimidating.  So I brought some home, sprinkled on some salt and pepper and fried it up in some olive oil and butter.  And my dinners have never been the same.  Over time I have since slightly modified my technique and Pan-Fried Tilapia is a major favorite in our house.  Favorite as in we have to pace ourselves at dinner, lest we look like a pride of lions tucking into a gazelle.  Occasionally, I like to mix it up.  Not because we ever get sick of it, but because I want to remind my kids that there are many different ways to eat one food.  Last night, variety came in the form of a light citrus sauce made in a matter of minutes.  It added no time at all to my dinner prep and took my fish from really good to fantastic.  I find myself making this sauce primarily in the winter, but I don’t really know why.  I suppose looking at all the citrus that is in season right now has something to do with it.  Regardless, it is light and fresh and makes you feel like you are on a beach overlooking the Pacific.  It may even make it to the top of your favorite foods list!  Right up there next to mashed potatoes, lasagna, and your Grandmothers pound cake…Tilapia W/Citrus Sauce is easy and FULL of flavor! A fine, healthy dinner! {Brittany's Pantry}One Year Ago: Smores Bars (Words cannot express how badly I want to eat these right now!)

Tilapia W/Citrus Sauce
Recipe adapted from Giada
The original recipe refers to the sauce as a bagna cauda, which in Italian translates to ‘warm bath.’  I have changed it ever so slightly to make it a bit healthier and almost always serve this with a brown rice pilaf or Lemon Thyme Orzo.  Leftover sauce is awesome over boiled potatoes.

4-6 fillets fresh tilapia
salt and pepper
olive oil
In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add:
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Let slowly warm until anchovy paste is melted into the sauce then add:
2 T orange juice
zest of half an orange
zest of half a lemon
1 T chopped basil

Let everything get good and warm and taste for salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan and heat over medium to medium high.  Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and quickly fry in the oil, just a few minutes per side until just opaque and starting to flake.  Place the fish on a serving dish and dump warm sauce over top.

This burgundy beef stew is a french classic. Simple and hearty, it warms you from the inside out! {Brittany's Pantry}I’m back!  After a quick and brief hiatus which included but was not limited to doctors appointments, way too many trips to the pharmacy to get prescriptions after said appointments, an unexpected trip to mourn the passing of a friend, and really just general exhaustion, I am back on track and in the kitchen.  So just LOOK OUT! 🙂

In reference to the title of this post I am of course talking about Julia Child.  Well, I am not exactly like her but her famous stew, Boeuf Bourguignon bubbling away on my stove makes me feel like her.  The smell of this dish will most definitely make your house smell like the French countryside.  Or so I am told, having never been there.  The point is that this is one of those dishes that makes you feel a bit like you are on vacation.  It is a little different from what you might normally make but at its roots, it is just a plain french stew.  Nothing complicated, fussy, or difficult.  It does take a little bit of time, but don’t all things worthwhile? Save it for the weekend or an extra day off of work.  Leftovers are outstanding.  You will be counting the minutes to your lunch break and making all your co-workers jealous when the smell of this stew fills the break room!  And of course, it is perfect for January weather, no?

This recipe is adapted from about a bazillion different places, all of them similar to each other.  So whether you call it boeuf bourguignon, beef bourguignon, beef burgundy stew, french beef stew, or beef stew with red wine, it is all the same.  And it is aaaallllll gooooooood.This burgundy beef stew is a french classic. Simple and hearty, it warms you from the inside out! {Brittany's Pantry}One Year Ago: Laura’s Salad and Buttermilk Bread

Beef Bourguignon
Serve this stew with plenty of crusty bread.  We like it with sourdough.

1/2 pound bacon, diced
2 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 onions, diced
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle dry red wine
1 (14 oz) can beef broth
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 lb fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 T flour
2 T room temperature butter

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot, brown the bacon until crisp.  Scoop it out and set it aside on a plate.  Brown the beef in the bacon fat over medium heat, in batches if necessary, without crowding the pan.  Let the meat get some great color on it and then remove it to the plate with the bacon.  We don’t want to cook it through, just brown it.  Next add the onions, carrots, and garlic to the pot, just letting them sweat over medium heat.  Don’t let them brown.  Add a drizzle of olive oil if necessary and season with salt and pepper.  Let the veggies go for about 10 minutes and then add the whole bottle of red wine, the beef broth, tomato paste, dried thyme, and bay leaf.  Stir to combine and cover with a lid.  You can simmer the stew on the stove over low heat, just barely letting it bubble for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or you can put the whole thing in the oven at 250 for an hour and half.  Your choice!  Just give it a stir every half hour or so and when the meat cuts in half with a fork, it is done.  Place the pot back over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms.  Mix the flour and butter together to make a paste and stir that into the stew to slightly thicken it.  Let the whole she-bang bubble away for another 5 minutes until the flour is cooked and the mushrooms are done.  Taste to see if it needs salt and pepper and serve.

Leek & Potato Soup

Christmas is over and everyone is gearing up for the New Year.  Well, most everyone.  Our holiday here didn’t quite go as planned as both of my kids were are sick.  No Christmas Eve appetizer dinner.  No festive brunch and Christmas Day Feast.  Just macaroni and cheese and soup I had frozen.  We lounged around, used up four boxes of Kleenex, and distributed medicine to keep the fevers down.  They have been sick a full week and my husband and I are continually praying that they pull out of this soon.  In the meantime, we eat soup.
Leek & Potato SoupThis happens to be one of my husbands most favorite soups.  I just love the fact that it goes together pretty quick and makes a perfectly sized batch; not too big, not too small.  It is made with leeks, which if you have never cooked with them before have a really mild onion flavor to them.  They look like really big scallions (green onions) but are actually totally different.  This is a leek:
LeekNot very intimidating is it?!  To give you a perspective on scale, it is about 14 inches long and as big around as a stick of butter.  When they are cooked down, they become wonderfully sweet.  You can find leeks at just about any local market.  Our little hometown store even carries them here.  The only tricky thing about leeks is cleaning them so please read the note at the end of the recipe or your soup will end up extra crunchy from all the sand instead of crunchy from the bacon!  This soup is light, and warm and creamy.  Add a hunk of crusty bread and it makes a great lunch or light supper.
Leek & Potato SoupLeek & Potato Soup

I prefer to use low sodium bacon, but use what you like.  Just make sure it is nice and smokey.  This is not the recipe for maple or brown sugar bacon!

1/2 lb bacon, diced
3 large leeks, sliced and cleaned, white and pale green parts only (see Note)
2 large white potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (49 oz) can good quality chicken broth or about 6 cups
1 T fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 c cream, optional

In a medium sized pot, fry the bacon until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels and set aside.  Add the leeks to the bacon fat and saute the leeks over medium low heat until soft (3-4 minutes), but do not let them brown.  When leeks are wilted, add the potatoes, chicken broth and fresh thyme.  Bring the soup to a simmer and let it bubble very gently until the potatoes are completely cooked through.  Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth.  Alternatively, pour the soup (in batches if necessary) into a blender and blend until smooth, returning to the soup pot when you are done.  BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN BLENDING HOT FOODS!  DO SMALL AMOUNTS AT A TIME!  At this point, go ahead and add the cream if you want and bring the whole thing up to temp.  Taste to see of it needs salt or pepper.  You may not need to add any if your bacon was salty or peppery enough.  Sprinkle with crispy bacon and enjoy!

Note #1:  Leeks are grown in very sandy soil and that sand gets trapped between the layers.  To clean a leek, trim off the darkest green ends and the root end and discard.  Cut the leek in half lengthwise down the middle, and then crosswise into little half moons.  In a bowl filled with cold water, swoosh the leeks around in the water, breaking the layers apart as you go.  The sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl and the leeks will float.  When they are clean, grab the leeks out in handfuls, shaking off excess water and use as directed.

Note #2:  There are several ways to make this recipe even healthier.  After sauteing the bacon, pour off the fat and wipe out the pan.  Use a bit of olive oil to saute the leeks in instead.  Also, omit the cream and the soup will be just and thick and creamy.  Use a low fat, low sodium chicken broth or even vegetable broth for the liquid.

Potato Gratin

Potato GratinAh.  We have now come to the part of Christmas dinner that people could really care less about: the side dish.  For some reason, food that accompanies the main protein at Christmas, usually beef or ham and sometimes another turkey, gets forgotten.  At Thanksgiving, people go on and on about the potatoes and the cranberries and the *gulp* green bean casserole.  But because Christmas dinner varies so much from family to family, plates of cookies and fudge get all the attention.  Well, this potato dish will definitely be what you and your guests end up talking about long after all the presents are unwrapped and you are standing in line trying to return the stirrup pants you got from cousin Ned.  A few simple ingredients and you have a dish that could be really boring-they are just potatoes after all-but instead is swoon worthy.  Don’t be surprised if you end up rolling your eyes to the heavens in food euphoria.  I warned you.

Please note that this dish is extremely indulgent.  This is not something you should make on a regular basis or shrug and have four helpings of.  Well…I mean, you could, but I don’t want to be blamed for your cholesterol levels at your next check up.  The great thing about this though is that it goes great with any kind of roasted meat so it does not matter one iota what you are making.  I really love it with beef but it tastes great with ham, turkey, chicken, duck, venison-even just a big green salad!  So enjoy, indulge, and then get on the treadmill.
Potato Gratin Potato Gratin Potato GratinOne Year Ago: Indian Summer Chili

Potato Gratin
Adapted from Tyler Florence

2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced as thin as you can get them
2 c heavy cream
2 garlic coves, minced
1 heaping tsp fresh thyme
1/4 c chopped chives
1 c grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a buttered casserole dish.  Using the back of a spoon or spatula, gently flatten the potatoes so that everything is settled down into the cream and it is fairly smooth and even on top.  Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.  The gratin will be bubbly and brown on top and a knife inserted in the potatoes in the center will slide in easily.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Fillet of Beef & Christmas Dinner

Roast Filet of BeefMmmm.  Christmas dinner….

I was a bit alarmed when I looked at the calendar this morning and realized that there are only ten days until Christmas.  Not because I have shopping to do or my schedule is stressful, but because I make myself wait every year to do the typical holiday stuff.  Things like listening to Christmas music, making cookies, and drinking large amounts of peppermint hot chocolate.  I don’t even like to wrap my presents until just a few days before Christmas because I want the excitement and anticipation to build.  When I saw the date today I thought to myself, This is really going fast!  Have I really taken advantage of the season?  Have I made this time of year special enough for my family that they will remember the magic and wonder of this time?  Do they understand the importance of the holiday season?  The giving, the love, the selflessness, and most importantly, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?  I hope so.  I want them to think of the holidays as a time for family and traditions.

My parents didn’t approach the holidays with a big focus on tradition.  Inadvertently though, they absolutely stuck to them.  With such a large family, we rarely did much in the way of outings or excursions, and I think that the special things we did do were less because of tradition and more because it was just easier to keep doing things the same way.  But many of them stuck, making me even more aware of how much I want the same for my kids.  Not necessarily the exact same traditions, but events or activities that they can get excited about and count on every year.  This has become harder than I thought, married to a man that rarely gets any national holiday off and who has a schedule that changes every week.  One year, we celebrated Christmas the afternoon of the 24th.  The next year it was on Christmas Day, but not until that night.  It varies, depending on his schedule and part of me kind of likes the uncertainty.  We are all safe, happy, and most importantly, he is here.  His years on a nuclear submarine taught me that.  Be grateful he is here.  And I am.  No matter when we celebrate it, our little family of four (almost five!) will be together.  That is easily the best part of the holiday season.

Being who I am, I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that any tradition or activity this time of year has me thinking about food.  And no, this is not the pregnancy talking.  Believe it or not, I am usually so sick during my pregnancies that food is kind of an enemy for me till after the birth.  The cravings, endless baking and cooking of foods, and desperate drives across town for the food I need most- all that comes the rest of the time when I am normal.  This has caused my husband no small measure of grief, I am sure.

In regards to Christmas, we have had to kind of figure out our meal celebrations.  The only thing we have settled on as a tradition really, is meat.  *sigh*  Just the word makes me happy.  Beef in particular.  What accompanies the beef varies, but this year, this is what will be on our table:

Roast Fillet of Beef
Potato Gratin
Green Salad W/Quick Vinaigrette
Butter Rolls
The Best Carrot Cake In The World

The beef is what I am sharing with you today, but please don’t be intimidated.  I know so many people who never-as in never-make any large piece of meat.  No roast chicken or turkey, no roast beef, no hams, and no pork roasts!  I often hear my friends say that they just don’t know what to do with them.  How long do you cook it?  How do you know when it is done?  Well, behold!  The following is the easiest recipe you will ever find for one of the best cuts of meat that exists.  It feeds a crowd, takes less than an hour, and only has a few ingredients.  It is virtually fool proof!  Several years ago I consolidated all my recipes for this kind of dish and this is what came out on top.  It is now the only method I ever use.  It never fails.  It is expensive to make, yes, but I am not saying you should make this just any day of the week.  This is a special occasion dish.  A holiday dish that your family will definitely remember.  And just the thing if you are looking for a new Christmas tradition.
Roast Filet of BeefOne Year Ago: Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins

Fillet Of Beef
Recipe from Ina Garten
Serve it with bleu cheese and it just may render you speechless.

1 whole beef fillet (about 5 pounds) trimmed and tied
softened butter
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  Yes, it may smoke a bit if there is anything spilled on the bottom, but just let it go for awhile.  Place your beef on a foil lined sheet pan, smear all over with butter and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.  That is it!  Roast in the oven for exactly 25 minutes, remove, tent with foil and let rest for another 15 to 20 minutes.  This will put your fillet at medium rare.  If you go longer than that to get your meat more done, don’t go past 30 minutes.  If you are a well done or at least ‘cooked through’ kind of beef person, make something else.  This cut is too special and too expensive to ruin it with over cooking!  Remove the strings (duh) and slice into 1/2 inch slices and serve.  Seriously, this is ‘roll your socks up and down’ amazing.

These BBQ Chicken Sandwiches come together in a matter of minutes! A healthy weeknight meal! {Brittany's Pantry}I have been saving this recipe for you!

More specifically, I have been saving it for this time of year.  The time of year when shopping, card labeling, entertaining, visiting, wrapping, traveling, and cookie baking stress people out and fill up our already jam packed schedules.  At the same time, every commercial, magazine, newspaper, cocktail party, and holiday open house (yes…blogs too*see previous post) are providing the opportunity, or at least the resources, to indulge in food that is rich and sweet.  And usually contains lots of butter.

As a general rule, I am not opposed to this.  I am of the firm belief that if you want to eat half of the cookie tray your neighbor dropped off last weekend, far be it for me to judge you.  Or stop you!  Two or three glasses of egg nog?  Why not.  Half a bag of bite sized Milky Ways?  Absolutely.  However, should you do this everyday?  Not so much.  This is why I have no guilt when it comes to food.  I never-and I am not saying that this is necessarily a good thing-deprive myself of any food that I want.  Wait….umm…nope.  Never.  Thankfully, my parents raised me in a generally healthy manner and that has stuck with me.  So I crave salads and homemade wheat bread even more than I crave fettuccine alfredo.  Eighty percent of what I eat could be considered ‘healthy’, so I don’t think about the other stuff too much.

This is one of those dishes that falls into the ‘healthy’ category, but all I think about is how good it is.  Yes it is low in calories, high in fiber and protein, and can be made in thirty minutes, but it also just tastes great.  Kind of a no brainer, huh?  Now do you see why I saved it for the holiday season?  You can make this for your family or just for yourself in a half hour and it is a pleasant reprieve from the normal December fare.  And dare I say, it tastes a bit like summer.  No one you serve it to will ever know (or care) that is is good for them.  My family eats this year round and I like to work it into my weekly menu plan when I know I will be out of the house until just before it is time to eat.  It also reheats wonderfully, so you can make it ahead if you want.  I should let you know that this is not your average barbecue sauce.  It is wonderfully tangy and light, making it a welcome change from the heavy, and sometimes overpowering bottled stuff.  No extra, unpronounceable ingredients here!  And remember.  No judgement from me if you follow it up with a Christmas cookie.These BBQ Chicken Sandwiches come together in a matter of minutes! A healthy weeknight meal! {Brittany's Pantry}These BBQ Chicken Sandwiches come together in a matter of minutes! A healthy weeknight meal! {Brittany's Pantry}One Year Ago: Chewy Ginger Cookies

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches W/ Coleslaw
Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger
This recipe uses a purchased rotisserie chicken for speed and convenience, but feel free to use an equal amount of any kind of chicken or turkey you have on hand.  Remember to purchase the ‘plain’ roasted chicken as it usually has less salt and flavoring.  Also, keep in mind that the addition of slices of bell pepper would be awesome in here.

1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes, low sodium if possible
1/2 c water
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c molasses
1/4 c tomato paste
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp liquid smoke or smoked paprika, recommended but optional
1 whole rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded and meat torn into bite sized pieces or, 3-4 c cooked chicken or turkey
hamburger buns or dollar buns, preferably whole wheat

Coleslaw (recipe below)

In a bit of olive or canola oil, saute the onion and garlic over medium heat just until soft.  Add the next 7 ingredients and reduce heat to low, letting the sauce simmer and thicken, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you haven’t already, now is the time to remove the chicken from the bones!  Add in the meat, stirring gently, and let heat over low heat, stirring now and then, until all the flavors are developed and it is hot all the way through.  Serve on buns.

Note: It drives me crazy when a recipe calls for only part of a can of something, such as here when you don’t use the entire can of tomato paste.  So what I do is put the leftovers in a small, resealable freezer bag, squeeze out the air and then squish it kinda flat.  Toss it in your freezer!  When I just need a tablespoon or so for a recipe, I just break or whack (with my knife) off a hunk and add it to whatever I am cooking.  I just keep adding and removing it from that same bag and it never goes bad.

Quick Coleslaw
This is not the best version of coleslaw by any means.  It is however great with these sandwiches, extremely healthy, super quick, and a little addictive.  I like it on the side but my husband and kids like it piled on top of the meat in the sandwich.  You choose.

1/2 c plain, nonfat yogurt
1/4 c mayo (I use canola mayo)
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 generous T of honey
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tsp caraway seed, optional
1-1 pound bag of coleslaw mix (this will make your life so much easier) or 1/2 of a small green cabbage, shredded and 3 large carrots, peeled and grated

Mix all dressing ingredients together until incorporated.  Add in the vegetables and toss to coat.

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce is ridiculously quick and easy. It also happens to go with everything from turkey to ham! Perfect. {Brittany's Pantry}Yes.  I know that I have already posted two cranberry sauce recipes and am aware that this makes three.  It is actually kind of weird because cranberries are not even my favorite part of Thanksgiving!  However, while making two different kinds for dinner might be a bit much, when you do one savory, you must do one sweet!  In the interest of just feeling like doing something a bit different, I created this one to go with the Cranberry Mustard Relish that I can’t seem to live without during the holidays.  It is classic, simple, and has familiar flavors that pair so well together it makes me want to turn the whole recipe into jam!  Don’t be surprised if you hear that I smeared the leftovers on a biscuit.Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce is ridiculously quick and easy. It also happens to go with everything from turkey to ham! Perfect. {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Spiced Tea

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce

1 bag cranberries, about 12 oz
1/2 c maple syrup
3/4 c sugar
zest of 1 orange
1/4 c water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the berries have popped.  Cool to room temp-mixture will thicken as it cools-and chill.  Sauce will keep for over a week, tightly wrapped in the fridge.

Sweet Potato Casserole & Thanksgiving Prep

A traditional southern recipe by a traditional, southern woman. Granny's Sweet Potato Casserole is the real deal. {Brittany's Pantry}Sweet Potato Casserole is the recipe for today’s post, but first, a few words about Thanksgiving!

If you don’t know this already-and that would only be if you don’t actually read this blog and instead only look at the recipes because I have mentioned this several times before so it should not be news to you :)-I love Thanksgiving.  It is by far my favorite holiday for many reasons.  Of course, the food.  I love the traditions with food, the warm heartiness of it all and…well…mashed potatoes.  But I also love that the stress of gifts and deadlines and wrapping and giving and all that is absent.  It is all about family and love and thankfulness.  With food.  Oh!  And the weather is just a smidge less of a factor when traveling.  I said a smidge.  Not much.  Hey!  You knew that weather was going to make it into this whole conversation eventually.  It determines a heck of a lot of our activities in the North; both good and bad.  Here in central IL it isn’t that big of a deal, but you never know!

But back to the food, this is close to what my menu will be, give or take.  There will only be four adults and two small children at our house this year.  This isn’t too much food, is it?

Brined Turkey W/Sage Butter
Mashed Potatoes & Pan Drippin’ Gravy
Wild Mushroom Dressing
My Dad’s Famous Wild Rice
English Peas W/Bacon
Glazed Honey Carrots
Cranberry Mustard Relish
Orange Maple Cranberry Sauce
Buttermilk Biscuits & Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cookies or Cranberry Chocolate Fudge (I can’t decide.  Might make both.)

I mentioned about this time last year that my best friend, the one from Mississippi, introduced me to sweet potatoes.  What I haven’t shared with you until now is the dish that started it all.  This dish.  Sweet Potato Casserole.  I made the mistake of assuming it was made with canned sweet potatoes and quite possible a bag of fluffy white marshmallows.  Wow.  If looks could kill.  “No no no no no,”  came Ashley’s indignant reply.  This is the real thing, she told me.  Her Granny’s Sweet Potato Casserole, no less.  A deep south tradition.  Ashley whipped up a batch in my tiny kitchen in San Diego and converted me, my husband, and the other unsuspecting sailors we were feeding that day.A traditional southern recipe by a traditional, southern woman. Granny's Sweet Potato Casserole is the real deal. {Brittany's Pantry}A traditional southern recipe by a traditional, southern woman. Granny's Sweet Potato Casserole is the real deal. {Brittany's Pantry} Granny’s Sweet Potato Casserole
This casserole will stay hot for quite awhile so don’t worry about it if dinner timing is off.  Leftovers reheat wonderfully.  This also goes great with anything roasted so if you don’t have a chance to make it for Thanksgiving, keep it in mind for Christmas.  Or even a Tuesday.

6-7 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3/4 c sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 c milk
1 stick of butter

1/4 c butter
1/2 c flour
1 c brown sugar
1 c chopped pecans

Steam or boil the potatoes until soft.  Drain well and dump into a large bowl.  Add the rest of the casserole ingredients and mash together or mix with a hand mixer until smooth.  Pour into a large, buttered casserole dish.  Mix all topping ingredients together and sprinkle over potatoes.  Bake at 350 till hot and bubbly.

Note: Amount of butter can be reduced but don’t tell Granny!  In a pinch, I have microwaved this with excellent results!  It also could be heated in the crock pot if oven space is scarce.  Or mix this up a day or two before but don’t bake.  Cool completely and store in the fridge then bake when ready.

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

These yeasty Pumpkin Dinner Rolls are full of flavor and go incredible with leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry}So here is the first pumpkin recipe I am going to share with you that uses up some of that baked, mashed pumpkin we made earlier!  Between pumpkin dishes and the killer sweet potato casserole recipe I have for you, the next few posts are going to be…well…orange themed.  This is not intentional, but kind of inevitable when we are talking about fall foods and my favorite holiday-Thanksgiving!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, these dinner rolls would be right at home in a basket on your holiday table.  I mean, HELLO!  Pumpkin dinner rolls?  Could they be more festive?  I think not.
I came across this recipe while reading this blog and when I read that she got the original  recipe from King Arthur Flour, I was sold!  I have mentioned it before, but at the risk of repeating myself, I will say it again.  Websites of food products are a great way to get recipe ideas!  Land O’Lakes, Spice Islands, Hershey-and especially something like King Arthur.  They need you to cook and bake in order to buy their products!  They have whole departments of recipe developers for this reason so take advantage of it!  And around the holidays?  Sheesh!  Amazing food overload!  At first I read the recipe and I liked it but not enough to stop everything and test it out.  Then I read that Nicole liked to make sandwiches out of the rolls with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce.  All right!  That did it for me.  I immediately went into my kitchen and made them.These yeasty Pumpkin Dinner Rolls are full of flavor and go incredible with leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry} Now usually, I don’t like to post any recipe I haven’t made at least twice.  Then I know it is reliable and will turn out for you when you make it.  But in this case, it has gone through enough people, and being a simple dinner roll, I have complete faith that you will have no trouble with it.  These rolls are soft and unbelievably light.  Right out of the oven they are so fluffy you won’t believe it.  The pumpkin makes them wonderfully moist but they don’t have a very pronounced flavor to them.  Perfect to round out your meal and fantastic for sandwiches later.  I have a whole bag of them in my freezer, just waiting to be thawed and rewarmed just before the feast.  Mmmm.  I can’t wait for leftovers.These yeasty Pumpkin Dinner Rolls are full of flavor and go incredible with leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Broccoli, Bean, & Cheddar Soup

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Recipe adapted from The Galley Gourmet, originally from King Arthur Flour.
Yield 24 rolls.  You might want to halve this recipe or, like me, freeze what you don’t use for later.

1/2 c warm water
1 1/2 T (5 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 c warm milk
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 c pumpkin puree
2 T softened butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)
1 tsp salt
7 c+ flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, blend together the warm water and the yeast.  Let this stand for a few minutes to ‘bloom’ and then add the rest of the ingredients through the salt.  Add 2 c of flour and blend together until smooth and combined.  Add 2 more cups of flour and mix until incorporated.  Continue to add the last of the flour in 1/2 c increments, adding more flour or using less if necessary in order to form a smooth dough that forms a ball and doesn’t stick to the bottom or sides of the mixing bowl.  Just leave it on low and if the dough starts to stick to the sides, shake in a bit more flour.  Let the dough knead on low until it springs back when poked with your finger, about 6-8 minutes.  Alternatively, combine the ingredients with just enough flour to make a sticky dough and using plenty of flour, knead on a counter top until smooth and elastic.  When dough is ready, lightly oil a large bowl (I just use the same mixing bowl) so the dough doesn’t stick and cover it with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.  Set in a mildly warm place and let rise until doubled in size.  When dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into four equal parts.  Then divide each part into six even round balls of dough, placing twelve on a sheet pan until you have 24 rolls total.  Let rise for 30 minutes until puffed and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Garlic Herb Bread

Garlic Herb Bread is easy and incredibly addictive. Awesome with pasta or a salad, but equally good on its own as an appetizer. Mm. {Brittany's Pantry}First of all, sorry these pics are a little…off.  When I was ready to photograph this the sun went down and dark storm clouds descended on our house, thus eliminating any natural light.  It is a glaring reminder to me that winter is coming and that I will need to start doing all my blog pictures before 4 o’clock!  But that is OK.  If eating cheesecake for breakfast is what I will have to do to make sure these photos are blog worthy, than I guess that is just a sacrifice I will have to make.

But back to the food, I am sharing this recipe for garlic bread because it really is the ultimate garlic bread.  It is herbaceous and buttery without being heavy and goes so perfectly with pasta you won’t ever want to be without it on Italian night!  I recently made it to go with Zesty Bolognese but it pairs well with everything from mac and cheese and alfredo to lasagna.  Absolutely fantastic.  And don’t worry.  I promise my next post will include that pumpkin we made last week.Garlic Herb Bread is easy and incredibly addictive. Awesome with pasta or a salad, but equally good on its own as an appetizer. Mm. {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Piggy Pudding

Garlic Herb Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten
The pic above only shows half of this recipe.  It is easy to do if you are only feeding three or four people.  I had just a tiny bit of the mixture leftover and I added it to the pasta I was making.  This recipe is also great as party food.  Yum!

In a mini food processor, pulse together:
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c fresh parsley
pinch of salt and pepper

Pulse ingredients until finely chopped.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to make the mixture spreadable, about 1/4 c .  Alternatively, chop garlic and herbs together until finely minced and mix with olive oil in a small bowl.

Cut a large loaf of french bread or ciabatta bread in half through the middle and spread each side with a thin layer of softened, unsalted butter.  Spread the garlic and herb mixture on each half, making sure not to go too thick.  This is potent stuff!  Put the layers back together and wrap in a large sheet of foil.  Can be made several hours ahead of time up to this point.  Bake at 350 for 5 minutes.  Open the foil and let the bread toast for another 6 or 7 minutes.  Cool slightly and cut into serving pieces.

How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree

How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think!I know pumpkin has been on the radar for a month or so, but with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it seems that now, more than ever, it has the potential to be a star at your table.  Yes, I am talking about pumpkin pie and soon I will share with you my favorite recipe for it but for now, I wanted to give you a quick How To on baking your own pumpkins.  Making mashed pumpkin for baking is extremely easy and inexpensive.  If you have never tried it, welcome to your tutorial!  Doesn’t that bowl look awesome?!  I love the color of pumpkin!

Just to be clear, let me reiterate that using canned pumpkin for any recipe at any time is just fine.  I do it myself, especially during the off months when I can’t  get a fresh pumpkin and I want to make muffins or pancakes or something.  If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Yeah right.  I will never do this.  Bring on the canned stuff!” that is totally OK.  But if you ever really wanted to make something totally from scratch and you kept seeing these pumpkins at the farmer’s market/grocery/pumpkin patch and wondered how hard it would be to do, let me put your mind at ease.  It is ridiculously easy.  Check it out!How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! So this is a sugar pumpkin.  Or pie pumpkin or baking pumpkin.  It depends on how they are labeled where you pick it up but they are usually a little darker in color than your regular carving pumpkin a bit smaller than a volleyball.  These pumpkins are less stringy and the flesh has a sweeter flavor and smoother texture than your average garden pumpkin.  They are also much easier to manage than an enormous Jack-O-Lantern size pumpkin!How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! I have two here and they have just been washed off.  Please please please rinse of your pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, honey dew, etc before you  cut them up and eat them!  No, you don’t eat the outside, but that is the part that is now sitting on your clean counter and you have no idea who has handled it, where it has rolled around, what it was exposed to, or how far it has traveled!  I don’t want that unknown grime on my cutting board.  Eew Eew Eew.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Cut them in half from top to bottom.  Over the years I have discovered this seems to be the easiest way to get the seeds out and scoop out the flesh.  Use a large sharp knife and be very careful!  Some varieties of pumpkins have a thicker shell or rind on them than others so this may be easy to do and it might be tough.  I usually have my husband cut them in half for me because his hands are bigger, he has better upper body strength to keep the knife steady, and also so I can give him smooches of thanks when he is done.  Ahem.

Anyway, scoop out the guts and save the seeds!  This is your opportunity to make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, an extremely healthy snack!  Don’t let the opportunity pass you by to try these if you have never done it!  It always makes me feel all resourceful and stuff.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Scrape the stingy membrane away with a spoon until the inside is smooth and clean.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Finish cleaning all your pumpkin halves and then place them on a sheet pan lined with foil.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Place them cut side down.  I have discovered that they steam nicely this way instead of actually roasting.  This is perfect since you want the flesh to be nice and smooth, not browned or crispy on the edges.  Bake the halves in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the flesh gives easily when pierced with a knife.  Some pumpkins have a harder shell on them than others so you may need to turn a half over to see if it is nice and soft.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Scoop the flesh out of the shell and into a large bowl.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Isn’t that a beautiful big bowl of pumpkin?  Mmmm.  Smells good.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! This is where people differ a bit.  Some people put the pumpkin in a food processor and whiz till it is baby food.  I prefer to just mash the heck out of it with a potato masher.  If you have cooked your pumpkin until it is good and soft, it will smooth out just fine.  See?How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Nice and smooth.  Now just cool it to room temperature and chill in a covered container in the fridge.  If your pumpkin collects a bit of moisture around the edges, just pour it off.  I like to do this while it cools in a bowl on the counter.  You don’t want it to be soupy so I don’t like to stir in any of the excess water that surfaces.  But it really doesn’t matter.  Unless your puree is really watery, it should be just fine as is.  Measure it out just like you would the stuff from the store in a can!  Mashed pumpkin will last at least a week in the fridge but feel free to freeze any you don’t use.  It is super easy to just thaw it out and bake with it at a later date.How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think!How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree via Brittany's Pantry, is easier than you think! Lovely.  Now you can make Pumpkin Pie Muffins or Marshmallow Pumpkin Dip.  You could also make Sweet Potato Biscuits, but replace the potato with mashed pumpkin.  Scrumptious!

Stay tuned for more recipe ideas to use up your pumpkin puree!

Chicken & Barley Soup

Quick Chicken & Barley Soup via Brittany's PantryIf you have been following along on Facebook (You can ‘like’ Brittany’s Pantry by clicking on the logo to the right!  Thanks!) you may have noticed that I mentioned making soup.  Several times actually.  But this weird fall weather-i.e. 80 degree days-has made the thought of a hot pot of soup a little ridiculous.  So instead, I have been making things like Ribs, Salmon, and Chicken Salad.  When I dropped my daughter off at school yesterday morning and it was in the low 50’s, I decided it was finally time to make that pot of soup.  Well, that and the fact that I am sick of the chicken I already roasted taking up space in my fridge.

If you have never eaten or cooked with barley, let me put your mind at ease.  Trust me.  It isn’t that big of a deal.  It is a grain that you cook and eat just like rice.  It is inexpensive and delightfully chewy which makes it a great addition to soup because it adds a bite to your bites.  When I was kid, my parents used to cook a whole mess of it in some chicken broth and serve it as a side dish.  At the time, I had no idea how good it was for me.  Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains and they say it was served to gladiators in training.  Would you believe it is actually high in calcium as well as B vitamins?  The protein and fiber don’t hurt either.  Of course we are talking about the unrefined version here.  Pearl barley has had the outer bran removed so that it cooks faster and is a little less chewy.  Shorter cooking time is why I am using it in this soup.  Also, there is a good chance that it will be the only kind you can find in your supermarket because it is the most widely used.  If you so desire, use the unrefined.  Just know it may take awhile to cook the grain through.

So just a few quick tips on how to make the whole ‘homemade soup’ thing go a little faster.  If you have all day, you could make your own chicken stock with fresh herbs and vegetables.  I do this myself sometimes.  But this week, I was looking for something a little quicker.  So this recipe uses store bought chicken stock.  I do not feel the least bit guilty about this, as there are some really fantastic versions on your grocery shelves.

This is what I ended up doing.  I like to buy the big, bone in, skin on chicken breasts when they go on sale.  Our store packs them about six to a package and I store them in my freezer for just such time as this.  They are so huge that just one would feed a family of four if I was putting the chicken on a salad or in a wrap or something.  Two would almost make a full batch of chicken salad.  But they take so long to roast, they aren’t really convenient for quick weeknight cooking.  When I have some extra time, on a weekend or watching a movie or something, I rub them down with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and then roast them at 350 until golden brown and juicy.  When they cool, you just discard the skin and take the meat off the bone (or just refrigerate them until later) and you have chicken in the fridge for whenever you need it.  Roasting them on the bone with the skin gives the meat fantastic flavor, making whatever you use it in that much better.  I like to go one step further and strain the juices and drippings in the bottom of the dish and chill it.  When it is cold, I  spoon the fat off the top and use that little bit of drippings to flavor my soup.  If you decide to do this, it will make your soup taste even more outrageous.  No big deal if you skip this step.  Either way, your finished dish will be warm and healthy.  Perfect on these fall days that are NOT in the 80’s. One Year AgoBaked Macaroni & Cheese

Quick Chicken & Barley Soup via Brittany's PantryChicken & Barley Soup
This makes a nice big batch so share with a friend or freeze some for later!

1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 1/2 c pearl barley
1 tsp dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf, optional
2-49 oz cans good quality chicken broth (I use Swansons, low fat, low sodium)
2 c cooked chicken, diced or shredded, or the meat from one rotisserie chicken from the deli

In a large soup pot saute the first four ingredients in a drizzle of olive oil.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until just starting to soften.  Add the barley and dried thyme and stir, letting the barley toast a bit for about a minute.  Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, and any leftover chicken drippings, if using.  Bring to a boil and then drop the heat to a simmer, cooking just until the barley is puffed and cooked, 35-45 minutes.  It should be a bit chewy, but not super firm.  Remove the bay leaf and add the cooked chicken.  Let simmer just until the meat is heated through, taste for seasoning and serve.

Note: A handful of fresh chopped parsley adds some freshness and an extra hit of Vitamin C, so toss some in if you have it.  Also, feel free to skip the barley and just make chicken noodle soup.  Toss in half a bag of egg noddles, cooking them in the soup, just until done.  Then add your chicken.  Yum!

Salmon Nicoise is a twist on a classic. {Brittany's Pantry} It isn’t you.  Do not be alarmed.  Don’t bother to rub your eyes and blink rapidly.  What you are seeing is real.  This is most definitely not an autumnal dish.  I am slightly embarrassed to even post this right now as it uses several ingredients that aren’t exactly in season and can be hard to find when the temperature dips below 50 degrees.  But let me plead my case…

The temperature right now is definitely not below 50-in fact it isn’t even below 80!  And the thought of roasting something in the oven for several hours or putting together a heavy, multi-course meal makes me want to find the nearest couch and put my feet up.  The other day we grilled brats and ate them with beans.  Summer is kind of holding on here folks.  That is why I decided to take advantage of the last of the available tomatoes, the Yukon gold potatoes that are in season now, and the haricot verts (green beans) that are most definitely NOT in season, but my store had anyway.  This is a totally summer dish, and while I wouldn’t serve it in January, a little bending of the rules is allowed.  A summer supper for summer temperatures.

This meal is as scrumptious as it is beautiful.  Traditionally, it is served with fresh tuna instead of salmon, but…well…99 percent of people would rather eat salmon than tuna.  Wouldn’t you?Salmon Nicoise is a twist on a classic. {Brittany's Pantry} The combination of flavors is so fresh and so flavorful, most people are a little shocked when they eat it the first time.  Then they usually say, “This is the best salmon I have ever had.”  Then I smile, because I totally agree with them.  If there is any one way for you to eat salmon the rest of your life, this is it.  This is easily up there with one of my favorite meals of all time.  Great for a group and just right for a family meal too.  Just adjust the quantities.  Even though I am so full right now having eaten what is pictured above, I could fill my plate again when I look at the picture above.  Sooo goood.  Just perfect for the freakishly warm day in October, coming to a weekend near you.Salmon Nicoise is a twist on a classic. {Brittany's Pantry}Salmon Nicoise is a twist on a classic. {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Apple Cider Syrup

Salmon Nicoise
Adapted From Ina Garten
This recipe serves 4-6 people.  Leftovers are outstanding, cold, straight from the fridge.

2 1/2-3 lbs salmon fillets, rinsed and patted dry

In a small bowl, whisk together:
3 lemons, zested and then juiced
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
4 cloves fresh garlic minced

Place salmon in a shallow, foil lined baking dish and pour sauce over top.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes then bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until fish is just done and flakes in the middle.  Remove and let sit for a few minutes while you assemble the salad.

Yukon Gold Potatoes, cooked and sliced
Kalamata Olives
Hard Boiled Eggs, cut into wedges
Green Beans, steamed and drained

I don’t have quantities for you because it varies depending on how many you make it for or how much you like tomatoes or beans or whatever.  Assemble your platter with the roasted salmon, arranging the rest of the ingredients in piles.

Mix together:
1/3 c olive oil
3 T white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Whisk well and drizzle over the beans, tomatoes, and potatoes.  Serve.

Note:  There are a few ways to do this dish.  The salmon, beans, and potatoes can all be warm, or everything can be made ahead of time and you can serve the whole she-bang cold.  This is great anywhere in between so do what you have time for.  Also, I like to use asparagus in place of the green beans when it is in season in early spring.  The addition of a sliced avocado or two is also absolutely stellar.  Any kind of tomato works.  Little cherry tomatoes, wedges of big tomatoes, doesn’t matter.  It all tastes wonderful.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

These Simple Mashed Sweet Potatoes are quick and easy. Perfect for holidays, or anyway! {Brittany's Pantry}It is fall.

I know! I know!  The 80 degree weather out your door (depending on where you live) is desperately trying to convince you otherwise, but it is upon us and I love it!  And when certain vegetables are in season, we like to cook things that are orange.  Pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes.  Actually, if I can find them, I eat sweet potatoes year round, but it helps to have a best friend who drives home to Mississippi and brings back a grocery bag of them for you.  I know this must not be true, but I swear they grow them year round down there…

Mashed sweet potatoes, like the recipe below, are so lovely, it is hard to add anything to them.  But was anything really ruined by adding maple syrup to it?  I didn’t think so.  While we are on the subject of maple syrup, you may have noticed that I specify pure maple syrup when it is called for in a recipe.  Please.  I beg you!  Do NOT use the pancake stuff you eat in the morning that comes in a bottle shaped like an old woman.  This is NOT pure maple syrup.  Yes, I know the real stuff is expensive, but it last a very long time.  Just suck it up and buy a good sized bottle and you can use it for the next six months or so.  Trust me!  You will not regret this!!

So back to sweet potatoes…
Please continue to read all the hints and ideas below the recipe for more ways with mashed sweet potatoes.  There is a combo there for every palette, and if you think of something, or make something that is fantastic and I don’t mention it, add it to the comment section below.  I really love to hear about what you all are cooking!These Simple Mashed Sweet Potatoes are quick and easy. Perfect for holidays, or anyway! {Brittany's Pantry} One more thing!  If you decide to make these, I highly recommend reserving 1 c of the plain potato mash before you continue with the recipe, just so you can make Sweet Potato Biscuits.  I do this every time so that I am making the effort once and getting two recipes out of it.  Also, because Sweet Potato Biscuits make me happy.These Simple Mashed Sweet Potatoes are quick and easy. Perfect for holidays, or anyway! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Remoulade Sauce

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2-3 T pure maple syrup
2 T butter
salt and pepper

Steam the potatoes until tender.  Drain well and dump into a large bowl.  Mash thoroughly with a potato masher, or if you really want them smooth, use a hand mixer to get the consistency you want.  Stir in the maple syrup and the butter.  Add a bit of salt and pepper and then taste for more syrup or more seasoning.  These seem to do very well with a heavy hand on the pepper.  Butter can be omitted completely and you probably wouldn’t even know it, so do what you like!

Ideas:  Use honey or brown sugar in place of the syrup or skip it altogether.  Stir in crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, finely chopped pecans, crumbled bleu cheese, Parmesan cheese, or sprinkle with cinnamon.  Mashed sweet potatoes are also fantastic with a bit of butter and a splash or two of orange juice.  Sooo good!  Also, try mashing equal parts sweet potato and regular russet potatoes.  Just peel and cube and steam together.  Salt and pepper and maybe a bit of butter and you are good to go!