Sauteed Green Beans with Walnuts & Sweet Potatoes

Green Beans with Sweet Potatoes & WalnutsThis recipe is from one of my favorite cooking magazines, Fine Cooking (issue no. 82). Other than skipping the recommended 2/3 c. dried cranberries, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I made the recipe ahead, stopping after I boiled the green beans – removed green beans from boiling water and plunged in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drained, and set aside until just prior to dinner.

  • 2/3 c. (about 3 oz.) dried cranberries
  • 1-1/4 c. fresh orange juice
  • 2/3 c. walnut halves, toasted
  • 3/4 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. plus 1/4 c. kosher salt; more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; more as needed
  • 1 to 1-1/4 lb. fresh green beans, rinsed well, stem ends trimmed
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage

If using the cranberries, place cranberries and 1 c. of the orange juice into a bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Otherwise, simply let orange juice come to room temperature.

Heat oven to 450. Combine the sweet potatoes, maple syrup, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.

Boil 4 quarts water and the remaining 1/4 c. salt. When boiling, add green beans, stir, and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain.

When ready to serve, melt butter in a large skillet (until bubbling but not browned). Add chopped sage. Stir. Allow sage to crisp slightly and season butter. Add green beans. Cook for 2-3 minute. Add sweet potatoes, walnuts, and if desired, cranberries (strained, with juice set aside). Toss and continue cooking for another few minutes.  Add remaining 1 c. orange juice (or remaining juice from strained cranberries) and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 1 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Chocolate Ganache

 

This summer, I found a fantastic recipe (and photo) for a chocolate ganache, by Kraft Foods. It’s as easy as a dessert can get, and tastes absolutely decadent. It takes about 15 minutes to make (no oven!), and then chills for a couple hours. I’ve included the original recipe below, a Raspberry Chocolate Ganache, as well as my variations at the bottom.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. whipping cream
  • 6 Tbs. seedless raspberry jam, divided
  • 1 Oreo pie crust, premade or homemade
  • 2 c. fresh raspberries
  • 1 Tbs. water

Make the Chocolate Ganache: Put chocolate and whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and continue microwaving for 30 seconds until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from microwave and whisk together to combine. Whisk in 2 Tbs. of the raspberry jam. Pour into prepared crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Top the Ganache: Arrange berries on top of ganache. In a small bowl, microwave remaining 4 Tbs. jam and 1 Tbs. water for 30 seconds. Stir until combined. Drizzle over raspberries.

Store in the fridge until serving.

My (Tested) Variations:

  • Blackberry / blueberry jam with fresh blueberries on top
  • Kahlua Chocolate Ganache: A couple tablespoons of Kahlua baked into the ganache instead of the jam. Instead of fruit on top, a Kahlua whipped cream. (I’d also like to try this with Bailey’s.)

Birthday Party Menu

I recently threw my husband a birthday party. Usually I don’t have problems with the menu, but this one has been a pain. I won’t be serving dinner, but need to have some substantial options to balance out any drinking that will be going on. I also had to keep the menu easy for me to make after a busy week while keeping it tasty.

I had gotten a variety of feedback on the menu and had a whole range of opinions. Some said not to order chicken tenders from a local restaurant because it was childish, while others liked the idea. Some said to go with a soup while others thought it would create too many dishes, and recommended cocktail meatballs or sloppy joes instead. After much deliberation, here’s what I ended up with:

 

Spread 4-1Crock-Pot Turkey Chili (Chili has gone over well at past parties, but I thought I’d try out a new one. Though it was a bit spicy for our taste, our guests made a serious dent in the double batch), served with tortilla chips and corn fritters

Corn Fritters (the one request from my husband)

Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms

Cupcakes with Bailey’s Icing

Assorted Cookies

Baileys 2-1

I also kept a stash of crackers & cheese and frozen mini-quiches in case I need to pull anything out, but we had more than enough food thanks to a couple friends who brought an extra appetizer and lots more cookies.

Cinnamon Chip Biscotti

These were very tasty with my morning coffee and afternoon cinnamon tea. I’ve been dying to try the recipe for a while, but I only recently found cinnamon chips at a local store. I’ve made it both with and without the cinnamon drizzle (and never used the white chocolate drizzle that the original recipe calls for) and it’s wonderful both ways.

Cinnamon Chip Biscotti

Adapted from Hershey’s Kitchens*

Makes ~24 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • ½ c. (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 2/3 c. (a 10-oz package) cinnamon chips, divided
  • 2 tsp. shortening (don’t use butter, margarine or spread)

Preheat oven to 325°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar until blended. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt to butter mixture, beating until smooth.  Stir in 1 c. cinnamon chips.

Divide dough into 2 logs, each about 6 inches wide. Lay a log on each baking sheet, flattening slightly and shaping as needed.

Bake 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Using serrated knife and sawing motion, cut logs diagonally into ½-inch-wide slices. (I cut carefully, right on the baking sheet, but you can also transfer to a cutting board before cutting.) Place slices back on baking sheet, cut side down. Return to oven and bake 5-6 minutes. Turn each slice and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from oven; cool slightly. Remove cookie sheet to wire rack to cool completely.

Melt the remaining 2/3 c. cinnamon chips and shortening. Drizzle over each cookie.

Note: This recipe and photos were updated in March 2011.

This recipe was originally found on Hershey’s website. As of January 2019, the URL was no longer good, and therefore was removed. I was no longer able to find the recipe on their site.

PB&J Bars

These were quite yummy, especially when slightly warm. My favorite was is that they bars stayed soft, even after a couple days.

BB's PB&J Bars 2

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

Source: Recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten

Makes 24 bar cookies

Ingredients:

nocoupons

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 c. creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c. raspberry jam or other jam (I used blackberry preserves)
  • 2/3 c. salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease a 9×13 pan. Grease and lightly flour the pan. (You can also lay parchment paper on bottom of pan, and grease & flour that.)

Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter. Mix until all ingredients are combined.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and gradually add to peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

BB's PB&J Bars 1Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan and spread over the bottom with a spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small bits of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. (Note: The original recipe said that the dough would spread in the oven, but mine did not.) Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top of bar cookies and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.

BB's PB&J Bars 3