Category: Comfort Food


I was talking to my nutrition coach earlier this week and she suggested I find ways to add more veggies to my meals. Great idea, except I’m not really excited about eating veggies. I’ve eaten quite a few salads lately but I’m a little tired of lettuce, so here we are.

I’m not sure how I came across this recipe. I must have been looking at another recipe on the site, because I wouldn’t have gone looking for a sweet potato recipe!

Sweet potatoes are OK. I know they pack a huge nutrition wallop, so I try to eat them more than just at Thanksgiving when I can smother them with marshmallows.

Sweet Potato Pear SoupI do like pears, and there are very few ingredients in this recipe so I thought I would check it out. Turns out this is a lovely soup!

I really enjoyed the pear fragrance while it was cooking. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t have a pot of spicy chili on the burner next to it.

The flavor of the soup is somewhat subtle. Neither the sweet potato nor the pear dominate – they blend nicely. Mine was fairly creamy even before I added the yogurt, so you could leave that out if you don’t like dairy or don’t have any on hand.

As for spices, the recipe suggests seasoning the soup with pepper and that’s probably delicious. For me, pears are a natural to hold the warm spices – cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice. Any of those would probably be really good! I have several containers of cardamom, so I used that plus a touch of nutmeg.

I’m excited to add this to my menus this week! I think it’ll make a good lunch paired with sliced turkey or some quinoa, and would even be a nice afternoon snack. I separated the soup into two containers and will freeze one of them (I only added the yogurt to 1 container so I could freeze the other).

Look at me, eating my sweet potatoes. My nutrition coach will be proud!

 

Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

Slightly Adapted From Orgasmic Chef

Stuff you need:

1 Tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

2 pears, peeled and chopped [I used large pears]

3-4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth [I used chicken]

1 teaspoon cardamom [Any of the “warm” spices would be good. Use your favorites!]

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg [optional]

¼ cup Greek yogurt [optional]

Croutons, dollop of yogurt or roasted sweet potato chunks for garnish

 

Now what?

Place a large pot over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted add the onion and a sprinkling of salt and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion has softened. Stir often and try to sweat the onions, not brown them.

Add the sweet potato chunks and sauté in the onions for 2-3 minutes. Add the pears and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add the stock to the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sweet potatoes and pears are soft.

Use a stick blender until the soup is smooth and then test for seasoning. [If you don’t have a stick blender you can put this in a blender in batches. But be careful – use small batches because the lid won’t stay on with the hot liquid!]

Add the cardamon and nutmeg, reheat almost to boiling and stir in the yogurt.

Garnish with the croutons, yogurt or chunks of roasted sweet potato.

NOTE:

This soup freezes well but freeze before adding the yogurt.

My son’s a fan of those boxed skillet meals. I admit to making them more than I should have when he was younger since they were easy and he ate them up. But now that we’re not on the run all the time, I have a little more time on the weekends to cook.One Pot Andouille Pasta

This recipe appealed to me because we both like andouille sausage and both like pasta, it’s quick, and there was only 1 pot to clean afterwards. Plus all the cheesy goodness you get to put into this didn’t hurt!  😉

If you like spicy food, make it as the recipe says. If you’re feeding children or others who can’t take the heat, use the adjustments in the recipe to tone it down a bit. I wasn’t sure how spicy this would be so I used cheddar instead of pepper jack. Next time I’ll go with the pepper jack cheese. I found some chicken andouille sausage which cut the calories / fat a bit. I wasn’t intentionally trying to be healthier, but it was a nice find.

The recipe was a hit with my son and me! It had great flavor, was cheesy (always a winner in my book!), and filling. It made enough for the two of us plus some leftovers – which I was happy to take to work for lunch.

Quick and easy, you can throw this together on a work night and have a great meal ready in a short time. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it!

One Pot Andouille Sausage Skillet Pasta

From Damn Delicious

Stuff You Need:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced [Milder: Use regular smoked sausage. I used chicken andouille sausage.]

2 cups chicken broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes [I used petite diced tomatoes because The Pretty One doesn’t like tomato chunks.]

1/2 cup milk

8 ounces elbow pasta

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese [Milder: use cheddar, colby, monterey jack or a combination]

 

 Now what?

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion and sausage, and cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, tomatoes (undrained), milk and pasta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 12-14 minutes.

Remove from heat and top with cheese. Cover until cheese has melted, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I set out to make vegetable beef soup last week, but in my search through the freezer for ingredients I noticed a package of beef stew meat. Since I’m trying to use up my freezer stash, I decided on beef stew instead of the soup.

Beef StewIf you’ve never made stew before, you’ll be happy to know it’s easy and very forgiving. Use the recipe as a starting point, but add and subtract ingredients to suit yourself. If you like root vegetables, chop and add some more. Mushrooms would probably be good in this as well, if you’re a mushroom person.

I adapted the recipe from a slow-cooker recipe. I’ve never liked slow cooker recipes that require browning the meat first. I’m lazy and don’t like cleaning that extra pan. 🙂 I have a 7 qt. dutch oven I absolutely love. And when I say I LOVE it, I’m not exaggerating. It’s my go-to for soups, chili, pot roasts, etc. I can use it on the stove top or in the oven. Or, as in this case, I can brown the beef on the stove and finish the dish in the oven. No need for the crock pot, and only 1 dish to clean!

If you want to use your slow cooker, please do so. Just follow the first few steps and instead of putting the pot in the oven, transfer the mixture to your slow cooker and turn it on low for 4-6 hours.

So back to this beef stew. I know it’s turkey season, but you only need so many turkey dishes, right? Beef stew makes a great change of flavor from the traditional holiday meals, and with the weather cooling off, it’s a welcome dish. If you have leftovers, they’re great to pack up for lunch at the office.

This stew is rich and flavorful, a nice hearty meal if you serve it with a salad and warm rolls. It was everything I was hoping it would be! Tender beef, tasty carrots, potatoes and celery in a broth that thickens as it cooks. Try this and let me know what you think!

Very Delish Beef Stew

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Stuff you need: 

1-2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes [My package was 1.3#]
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3-4 Tablespoons cooking oil, separated
1 Tablespoon minced garlic [I used garlic from a jar.]
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
4 cups beef broth
3 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon Steak Dust, optional [In the spice aisle]

 

Now what?
If using the oven method, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, seasoned salt and pepper.
Heat 1 T cooking oil in your dutch oven (or skillet if using crock pot method).
Brown the beef in batches. Toss 1/3 of the beef in the flour mixture and put in oil to brown. Do not crowd the meat – brown the meat in batches for best flavor. [When browning meat, leave space between the cubes. Let the meat sit in the oil until it’s browned, then turn the pieces to lightly brown the other side. This is where a lot of the flavor will come from.]
When browned, transfer meat to bowl and set aside and repeat with another 1/3 of the oil and beef until all beef is browned.
Set aside the meat.
Add 1 T oil if needed and drop the garlic and onions in the oil. Let them sizzle about 30 seconds then stir.

[At this point, if you are using your slow cooker transfer the meat, onions and garlic to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for 4-6 hours.]

If continuing to use the dutch oven, stir in 1 cup beef broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the pieces. Add the remaining broth, browned beef, and remaining ingredients.

Cover the pan and put it in the oven. Bake for 2 1/2 hours.
Be careful when you take the lid off – steam is HOT!!

Stir and enjoy!

When I was younger, Mom used to take us into downtown Chicago to shop. We’d take the commuter train down and walk over to State Street, where all the big department stores had their flagship stores. We’d spend the day in the beautiful, multi-storied buildings window shopping and enjoying the experience. At Christmastime we’d go downtown and look at all the store windows, which were fixed up with elaborate Christmas season displays. The sidewalks were filled with people crowding in to see the windows. It was a wonderful tradition that I’ll never forget!

Deerfield Bakery's Pecan Pie

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Mom and I still go downtown when we get a chance. Most of the big stores are no longer on State Street, which is a shame, but we still enjoy it.  Lunch was always a part of our trips downtown, and that’s still the case. I remember eating many, many times in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field & Co. Even though it’s now called Macy’s, The Walnut Room is still there, and the current menu includes some of the traditional favorites we enjoyed years ago!

I have two vivid memories of food downtown. One was the Field’s Special from The Walnut Room — iceberg lettuce, sliced turkey, Swiss cheese, smoked bacon, tomato and egg served open-faced on rye with thousand island dressing. Nothing special, but it was my favorite and I still order it!

The other is the Pecan Pie from Flo’s. I don’t remember much of the place except that it was more of a diner, noisy and crowded at lunchtime. I don’t even remember what we’d order for lunch, except that knowing me, it was probably a grilled cheese. That was my go-to meal when I was young.

But what I remember the most about Flo’s was the pecan pie. Oh, was it good!! It was served heated up, and the filling was warm and gooey and just to die for! I’ve never been much of a pie person because I don’t like regular pie crust, but Flo’s pecan pie was a wedge of heaven!!!

Pecan Pie from Deerfield's BakeryYears later, my favorite pie is still pecan pie – partly from nostalgia, and partly because it’s just that good. I recently had the opportunity to make a pie for a birthday celebration at work. I’ll admit I cheated and used a refrigerated pie crust. I’d like to perfect a scratch-made pie crust, but that will have to happen when a) I have more time; and b) I don’t need it for a special event.

When the pie was baked, I thought it looked a bit darker than the pecan pies I’ve made in the past. It took me a minute to realize the recipe I used was a little different from any I’ve used before because it includes brown sugar and honey instead of white sugar. It was wonderful! I may try it again and use maple syrup instead of honey. Maple and pecans are great complements, so that should be good in the pie.

I did use more pecans than the original recipe. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of pecan halves but I didn’t think that was enough! I used somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 cups. If you don’t want a ton of pecans, start with the 1/2 cup and see if that looks like enough for you. If you’re like me and LOVE pecans, load ’em up!

If the crust starts to brown too much while you’re baking, use foil and loosely cover the pie. Either foil or those crust protectors you can purchase will do the trick.

All the comments I received on the pie were positive, so I know I’ll make this one again!

Pecan Pie

Adapted from the Deerfield’s Bakery recipe published in Killer Pies

Stuff you need:

3 Tablespoons honey

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

10 tablespoons packed brown sugar [I used light brown sugar.]

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

1 to 1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saucepan, mix honey, corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.

Once the butter and sugar dissolve, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm. [If you add the eggs to the hot mixture, the eggs will scramble and ruin the pie.]

While the mixture is cooling, line the uncooked pie shell with the pecan halves. They’ll rise to the top while the pie is baking.

Beat the eggs and vanilla together and stir into the cooled sugar mixture.

Gently pour the mixture over the pecans. [They won’t all stay in place, so don’t worry if some float and move around.]

Bake for 1 hour, then allow the pie to cool before serving.

Meatloaf.

Almost Classic MeatloafA couple of weeks back I decided I needed to make meatloaf. Not Mexican Meatloaf like I make for The Pretty One, but classic meatloaf.

It doesn’t sound so hard, yet so often meatloaf turns out dry or blah. I wanted mine to have the “Mmmm!” factor, so I asked friends & family for a good meatloaf recipe. This is a variation of the Kitchen Kween’s recipe.

Meatloaf is very forgiving, so if you don’t like or have one ingredient, you can leave it out or switch it up with something else. Except for the meat – without meat, it’s not meatloaf! I use 90 or 93% ground beef (low fat), so I didn’t use a lot of breadcrumbs. If you use a less lean meat, adjust the breadcrumbs to about 1 cup.

I used hot Italian sausage because that’s what I had on hand. Because I only used about 1/2 pound, the finished product wasn’t too spicy. But you can always use mild Italian sausage instead. The Kitchen Kween is right about the sausage: you don’t really taste it as Italian sausage, but it gives the meatloaf another level of flavor.

I used Tone’s Steak Dust Seasoning but you could use any steak seasoning you have. It’ll add a richness to the beef, so try to use something similar if you’ve got access to it.

Other than that, add what you like, eliminate what you don’t, and serve it up! I made mashed potatoes and brown gravy for ours; I don’t care for ketchup and mustard on meatloaf. If gravy isn’t your thing, top the meatloaf with BBQ sauce before baking. Or do like our dad did – top the meatloaf with ketchup, then write something in mustard over that.

The Pretty One and I really enjoyed this meatloaf. It hit the spot! I’d love to hear how you like to eat your meatloaf!

Almost Classic Meatloaf

Stuff you need:

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound Italian sausage (hot or mild, about 2 links), casing removed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs [Use 1 cup bread crumbs if you use meat that is less than 90% lean.]
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
3 teaspoons Tone’s Steak Dust Seasoning or other steak seasoning

Now what?

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Use your hands or put everything in a large zip bag and smoosh it together.
Shape into a loaf and put the meatloaf in a loaf pan. [Press into loaf shape but don’t compress too tightly.]
Bake in 350F oven for about 50 minutes. Check for doneness and bake until the center is no longer pink.
Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Classic Chicken & Biscuits“This chicken thing is amazing”

Does it need any endorsement besides that? This was my first try at chicken and biscuits, and based on that text, The Pretty One liked it as much as I did!

I had a chicken pot pie last weekend that was pretty tasty and thought about making one at home. But somehow my mind switched over to chicken and biscuits. Why? I have no idea because I don’t think I’ve had the dish before. Anyway, I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I was off on a search for a good recipe that didn’t require canned condensed soup.

I found this recipe on the Taste of Home website. I admit I cheated because I didn’t make homemade biscuits. I was lazy.  🙂 But I made the sauce from scratch, so instead of an A for effort, I’d say I get a B for effort – and an A for flavor!

This isn’t a difficult recipe, and the from-scratch sauce is definitely worth the effort! You can cook the chicken in advance or purchase a rotisserie chicken. I baked my chicken the night before and seasoned it fairly well with garlic powder and a spicy chicken blend. Be sure to use spices that compliment the basil and thyme in the sauce. And speaking of the sauce, it’s mild and creamy and allows the flavor of the chicken, vegetables, and basil to shine through.

This is family-friendly comfort food I think you’ll enjoy. I know we did!

Chicken and Biscuits

Adapted from Taste of Home

Stuff you need:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2-1/2 cups fat-free milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 package (16 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 can biscuits OR recipe below

BISCUITS:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fat-free milk
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Now what?

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until tender.
Stir in the flour, basil, thyme and pepper until blended.
Gradually stir in milk and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and STIR [so it doesn’t scorch] for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in the vegetables, chicken and cheese; reduce heat to low. [If using canned biscuits, cook over low heat for about 5 minutes.]

If using canned biscuits, cut 5 or 6 biscuits in half. You won’t need the full package, so bake up the rest separately following package directions.

OR

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, combine the milk, oil and parsley; stir into dry ingredients just until combined.

Transfer hot chicken mixture to a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish.
Top with biscuit halves or drop biscuit batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto chicken mixture.
Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-40 minutes or until biscuits are lightly browned. Yield: 6 servings.

Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Nut ToppingMy daughter and her children befriended an elderly gentleman neighbor. For his birthday, he requested an Oatmeal Cake. Tish said that was all he wanted – just a simple oatmeal cake.

This morning, tired from working so much that many mornings I wasn’t sure what day it was, I decided to take the day off and do anything but work. I hadn’t baked anything in a couple of weeks, and I felt like I couldn’t go another day without playing in my kitchen!

While I was reading cookbooks in bed I ran across this Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Nut Topping. I remembered Tish saying she’d made one, realized I’ve never had it, and discovered I had all the ingredients in-house so I didn’t have to take my lazy butt to the store.

I’m not much of a cake person so I don’t make them often, but the “homey” feeling of this appealed to me. If there is a “comfort food” cake, this is it. It’s a bowl of oatmeal folded into a cake; a bit denser than most cakes because of the oatmeal yet not too heavy, and that may be why I like it.

The other thing I like – OK, maybe like isn’t a strong enough word – is the broiled nut topping. Mmmm… Mmmm… MMMMmm!! It’s definitely worth the extra steps required. In fact, I think it makes the cake memorable.Oatmeal Cake w/Broiled Nut Topping

I added a bit more cinnamon and nutmeg than the original recipe called for because I wasn’t really smelling the spices in the cake batter. I’ll see if the flavors meld overnight and come out a bit more. If not, I’ll double the spices the next time I make it. In my world, you can never have too much nutmeg.  =D

If you want a simple, homespun cake, give this a try. If you don’t want to make the broiled nut topping, you can serve it as-is; sprinkle powdered sugar on top; or serve it warm with ice cream, caramel sauce and nuts.

If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast, you could pretend this is a good choice. After all, oatmeal with cinnamon is a common breakfast, right? So why can’t it be in a cake? (I can justify just about any food choice when I try.) Enjoy!

Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Nut Topping

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (the pink Limited Edition)

Stuff you need:

CAKE

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1 cup rolled oats [not quick cooking]

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon [More if you like more spice.]

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg [More if you love nutmeg!]

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 recipe Broiled Nut Topping (see below)

 

Now what?

CAKE

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In small bowl pour boiling water over oats. Stir until combined; let stand 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour a 9-inch springform pan; set pan aside. [I don’t think a regular 9-inch pan will work – this bakes up higher than a regular cake and will need the tall sides of the springform.]

In medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla; beat until well combined.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Alternately add flour mixture and oatmeal mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove sides of pan; cool on wire rack at least 1 hour more.

Transfer cake to a baking sheet. [For easier clean-up, put some foil on the baking sheet.]

Spread Broiled Nut Topping over warm cake. Broil about 4 inches from heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until topping is bubbly and golden. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

 

BROILED NUT TOPPING

 Stuff you need:

1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons half-and-half, light cream, or milk [I used milk and it worked fine.]

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1/3 cup flaked coconut

Now what?

In a medium saucepan combine butter and half-and-half, light cream, or milk.

Cook and stir until butter melts. Add brown sugar; stir until sugar dissolves.

Remove from heat. Stir in chopped pecans or walnuts and flaked coconut.

I love macaroni and cheese, but had never made a good one from scratch. I know there are lots of recipes online, and several of them claim to be “the best” ever. I’m sure I’d enjoy trying some of them, but maybe another time. I love the classic macaroni and cheese and wanted a “tried and true” recipe.Classic Macaroni & Cheese

We were talking about food at work and somehow the subject landed on macaroni and cheese. My friend Stephanie said her Grandmother McNeil in Topeka makes great mac & cheese, and she offered to share the recipe. Well I jumped on that offer and I’m glad I did!

This is the classic macaroni and cheese. No foo-foo here. No bacon, peas, pickles, truffles or other creative ingredients. Just a basic white sauce, elbow macaroni, and lots of delicious, gooey, sharp cheddar cheese.

Bottom line: this is exactly what I was looking for!

I served this with a nice ham when all the kids and grandkids were home Thanksgiving weekend. I made a double-batch to make sure there was enough, and was very happy to find I had leftovers! Note: If you’re re-heating your leftovers, you might want to add a little milk before you heat it up so it’s still creamy.

A huge Thank You to Stephanie and Grandmother McNeil for sharing this recipe! It’s delicious and will be one of my favorites for years to come.

Grandmother McNeil’s Classic Macaroni & Cheese

Stuff you need:

2 cups uncooked macaroni (I used the classic elbow macaroni)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups milk

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Now what?

Cook macaroni according to directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add flour, salt and pepper. Stir until the consistency is smooth.

Slowly pour the milk in while stirring. Continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently.

Once the milk mixture is thick enough (to your liking), add the shredded cheese and stir until fully melted.

Add the drained macaroni to the pan and stir until nicely coated.

Pour mac & cheese into greased casserole dish.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 30+ minutes until golden brown. Can take up to 45 minutes if you like it really brown on top.

Today is Thanksgiving, and my mama is in town to celebrate with us!

Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Pie

“Light and fluffy. The perfect pie!”

Thanksgiving is full of traditions, except in my house. We’re not big turkey people, so I usually make something else. I guess you could say that’s our tradition. One year we had baby back ribs, another fried chicken.

Today was no exception – I made stuffed pork chops with an apple/onion/celery stuffing, mom’s sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, mashed potatoes & gravy (maybe the BEST food ever!!), corn, rolls, and of course, pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Pecan Crumble PieI’ve said it before – I’m not so whoopie on pumpkin stuff, but it’s “traditional” so I was set on making a pumpkin pie. However, somehow I got the idea of a nut streusel-type topping for it. I must have been looking at recipes with streusel or something. Well, it turned out to be a good addition to the pie – just enough crunch and a little extra flavor for a pie that’s typically simple.

With the extra step of the topping it takes a bit more effort to make this pie, but according to my mama, it’s “so light and fluffy! It’s the perfect pie.” I’ll take her word for it; she really likes pumpkin pie! I tasted it but didn’t love it, mostly because it wasn’t a chocolate pie.  🙂 I expect my daughter will love it – she’s the family pumpkin queen. If you like pumpkin, I bet you’ll love it too!

Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Pie

Adapted from Food Network.com

Stuff you need:

1 unbaked pie crust [Use your favorite recipe or buy one. Follow directions on package to prepare, but do not pre-bake crust.]

Filling:

2 eggs, beaten
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk [I used light. I don’t think fat-free would be good in this but I could be wrong.]

Pecan Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Now what?

Filling:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat eggs until frothy [probably about 5 minutes]. Add all remaining ingredients in order given [one at a time], beating only until well blended.
Pour filling into crust.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. [The original recipe said to bake for 35 minutes and then add the topping, but my topping sank. Try it out with just a few pieces and see what happens. If most of it stays on top, you’re good.]

Topping:

Combine topping ingredients.
Remove pie from oven and sprinkle topping over filling. [Or gently pull the oven rack out enough to put on the topping and then gently push the rack back in. No need to remove the pie.]
Return pie to oven and bake 15-25 minutes more or until center is set.
If crust is getting too brown, cover with foil (with the center cut out) or pie crust shield.
Ovens vary, so you’ll have to keep an eye on the pie to see when it’s done. Mine took 60-70 minutes total.

The first place I had Cuban food was a restaurant called Havana in West Palm Beach, FL. The second place I had Cuban food was Havana in WPB – about three days after the first time.

Boliche & Brown Rice

You can see the roasted garlic in the lower corner of the piece on the left, and the delish ham stuffed in the middle of the piece on the right. Yum!

The Pretty One and I were in Florida visiting relatives and the beach. When we arrived I told my cousin I wanted to try some Cuban food in Miami. I’m not sure where I got the idea I needed to try it, but it was probably from one of those food shows I watch way too often. As luck would have it, my cousin said they lived within blocks of an excellent Cuban restaurant, and plans were made!

I enjoyed the food; The Pretty One enjoyed the view. The young lady who seated us was gorgeous! So when asked where we wanted to eat on our last night in town, I chose Havana and The Pretty One agreed.

Several years later I still remember the ropa vieja, the rice & beans, and the plantains. Contrary to what many people think, Cuban food is not spicy. It’s flavorful, but it doesn’t carry a lot of heat. Cuban food is good, down-home comfort food. Simple ingredients, simply prepared. For the most part, Cuban recipes use ingredients you can find at your local grocery store, although some items you might need to hunt down at a specialty store or online.

I started looking for recipes before I even got back to KC, and couldn’t wait to make some Cuban food in my own kitchen! The first recipe I tried was this Boliche. Click for recipe. I couldn’t resist trying this roast that’s stuffed with ham, studded with garlic, browned, and then cooked in a wine mixture.Boliche I used a pork roast, but in reading the recipe for the 17th time, I realize I could also have used a beef roast.

This turned out to be a really easy recipe, despite the steps of stuffing and studding the roast. Don’t let those steps intimidate you. It’s not hard, and the pay-off is huge! The garlic roasts as you brown the meat, then infuses the broth with a wonderful, mellow garlic flavor. The roast cooks on the stove for close to 3 hours, and the smell will have you watching the clock waiting for it to be ready!

Being cooked in a liquid keeps the roast juicy, even when you reheat the leftovers. I shared the roast with a friend, and we ate it with brown rice. The traditional beans and plantains would be great accompaniments, and if I cook this for a big family meal, I’ll be sure to include those.

Oh, and I should mention the leftovers make a great “soup” if you pile some rice, chunks of roast and broth in a bowl.

I’m certainly glad I ventured out to try a new cuisine, and have got another Cuban recipe in mind to try soon. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!