Sweet Potato Risotto with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Heather says:

As many of you know, I’ve moved. I now live in a house with a tiny kitchen that is more fixer-than upper. I spent the whole day working on the yard and wanted needed some serious comfort food. I’ll warn you, the kids did not approve, the blue cheese was too much for them, but it was exactly what I needed, wanted and craved.

Recently, I finally found medium-grain rice at the store that doesn’t have the ridiculous markup of Arborio. Medium and short-grain rice has the starch necessary to create the creamy consistency of risotto. (Around here it has mostly been long grain, parboiled, and occasionally Basmati as the rice options) Save the extra pocket change unless you’re cooking for serious snobs (why would you do that, I ask)

I’d been searching for a recipe to riff on when I found How Sweet Eats’ Roasted Sweet Potato and Bacon Risotto. Close, but I really wanted the unique flavor of blue cheese with the sweet potato, this was a good start and it gave me the idea for the following.

Sweet potato bacon and blue cheese risotto

Sweet Potato and Bacon Risotto with Blue Cheese

  • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 lg sweet potato peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large, yellow onions, diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice -medium grain rice will do
  • 2/3 cup dry, white wine (cooking wine will do in a pinch)
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles (you can absolutely substitute Parmesan)
  • 4-6 slices bacon cooked and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste -skip the salt if you use commercial stock like Better than Bouillon
  • Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped -optional – I didn’t have any.

This is a two pot recipe, use one to heat the stock and cook the potatoes. By the time the rice is ready to begin adding the stock, your sweet potatoes should be just tender enough to mash with a fork.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet or a stock pot with a HEAVY bottom – using a pot with a thin bottom is asking to scorch the risotto you’re going to a lot of trouble for. Proceed at your own risk.
Add the onions to the skillet, cook until they just start to become translucent, then add the rice.
Stir frequently to toast the rice for a few minutes (3ish). Add the wine to the pot a little drizzle at a time and continue cooking (stirring frequently) until the liquid is absorbed.

Add 1 cup of the hot stock, stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed (see, I told you this dish was needy).

Add the garlic, and another cup of stock. Cook and stir until absorbed.
Guess what, add another cup of stock, cook and stir until absorbed.

Use a fork to mash the sweet potatoes cooking in the stock. (Unless you have an immersion blender, in that case go that route). Slowly transfer the sweet potato stock mixture into the rice and stir until incorporated.

Continue in this manner until your rice is just tender and creamy.
Stir in the bacon taste, adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Top with blue cheese and serve.
Enjoy!

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans

saltgirl9.jpgBobbie says:

If you live in the U.S., green beans are probably still “in season” for a little while, so you’ve still time to try Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans – a savory side with a couple unexpected ingredients. Things to like: short ingredient list, simple prep and short cooking time. Things to love: Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans tastes like it took way more effort than it really does.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - the money shot

 

My teenage self would never believe I’m writing about this. Other than babysitting, my first job was on a green bean farm. Sure, they grew other stuff. But seriously, it was mostly beans. Beans, beans, beans. All summer long. But we didn’t pick the beans. They were mechanically picked, and hauled to the barn and dumped into a contraption the owner’s son built to sort out most of the stems and rocks and teeny-tiny beans. Anything that made it through was dumped onto a conveyor belt manned by a handful of kids (can you still say “manned” if they’re teens? And mostly girls?) whose starting pay was $1 an hour, and whose only job was to pick out anything that wasn’t a nice, pretty-looking green bean before it went into the crates at the end. And not to get hypnotized by the conveyor belt going past oh, so steadily, because then you’d fall over. (Or maybe that was just me….) And we’d listen to the radio and sing along to the Bee Gee’s Bald-headed Woman.**

Moving on…

A few weeks into that job, I’d given up on trying to grow long fingernails (stupid conveyor belt) and also I never wanted to see another green bean. In. My. Life. By the time I’d worked there three summers (and late springs, and early falls) if anyone had told me one day you will go out of your way to buy fresh green beans, I would have told them they were nuts.

And speaking of nuts (see my subtle segue?) – they’re a major player in today’s recipe: Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans. Most people have had, or at least heard of, Green Beans with Toasted Almonds, which may be called Almondine or Amandine, depending on where you live and the circles you move in. Quite tasty, but been there, ate that, and most likely dribbled it on my t-shirt.

Well, this one’s a bit different, with butter toasted walnuts (obviously) but also a couple “secret ingredients” that you might not expect. Dry vermouth and…vanilla. Just a touch of each, combined with butter, garlic and onions, makes a sauce that belies the tiny amount of time and effort to make it. It tastes gourmet without much effort.

If you don’t have dry vermouth, you can use a dry white wine. Do not use sweet vermouth or other sweet wine, because sweet won’t work here.

Oh, and the vanilla! If you’re one of those who’ve always thought vanilla meant plain or boring, then you need to try vanilla extract in this non-sweet dish.  It enhances the other flavors in a decidedly non-vanilla way. Be sure you use real vanilla extract rather than imitation.

Make ahead: The nuts can be toasted and the sauce made earlier in your meal prep, but it’s best to cook the beans right before serving, so as to avoid overcooked beans, or you can serve them at room temperature if they’ve cooled down, rather than reheating them. I know any time I try to hold beans at serving temperature for a while, or when I reheat them, they taste overcooked. I can’t be the only one who hates mushy beans.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans

1 1/2 pounds green beans, washed, stem ends trimmed. Leave whole, or cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup broken walnuts. Not chopped – break each walnut half into 4 or 5 pieces with your fingers
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dry vermouth (or dry white wine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Add beans to a saucepan of already boiling water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. They should be still be bright green when they’re done.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - toast the walnuts

While the beans cook, prepare the nuts and sauce.

Melt 1 T butter in saucepan over low heat.  Add broken walnuts, and stir until lightly browned. Remove to a small bowl.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - saute the onion

 

Melt remaining butter, then add onion and stir for one minute.

 

 

Add garlic, vermouth, vanilla, garlic, salt & pepper. Let it come to a boil and cook for a minute or two. Remove from burner, but keep warm.
When beans are done to your liking, drain, then return to pan.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - toss with sauce

 

Pour the sauce over and stir to coat well.


Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - top with walnuts

 

 

Transfer to pre-warmed serving dish, then sprinkle walnuts over top. Serve immediately.
This same sauce would also go wonderfully on roasted green beans. Those may take just a bit longer to cook, so plan accordingly. Toss with the sauce after roasting the beans.

 

Frozen green beans can be used out of season, but do try Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans with fresh, in-season beans while you can!

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - dinner is served

 

** I swear I am not making this up. One of my co-workers at the green bean farm, a girl who shall not be named, absolutely  believed the Bee Gees were singing bald-headed woman instead of more than a woman. We learned this the first time the song came on, and she started singing the wrong words. Unironically, because nothing was ironic in the 70s. And when we tried to tell her the real lyrics, she argued with us about it, convinced she was right, and she was not the kind of person to try and put one over on us. So now, over 35 years later, I always sing Bald-Headed Woman quietly to myself as I wash and trim the green beans.

 

Bobbie Laughman is a dabbler in this, that, and the other thing. She is blessed to be Gwamma to EB: a half three-year old girl, half fierce tiger, and half genius philosopher, who currently lives 2 miles away and visits frequently.
Bobbie lives in the Gettysburg PA area, with her husband who has known her since 1981 and loves her anyway.

 

 

Homemade Pasta – Fettuccine Noodles from Scratch

Heather says:

Here is an updated recipe for making fettuccine noodles from scratch.

I should do this again very, very soon.

Or maybe I shouldn’t look at this when I’m hungry.

Homemade Noodles

A (Very)Basic Tutorial

Noodles

It won’t be long before someone whose traditional, Italian grandmother taught them how to make noodles chimes in and tells me I did it all wrong. I know this, There is a different (more traditional) technique that involves piling all the flour on the cutting board and mixing the eggs in a well. My goal for this tutorial is to explain the process in a manner even a very novice cook could attempt. I also live in a small town and Semolina flour requires a long drive I wasn’t going to make for an experiment. Ok, now that’ we’re on the same page, let’s get started.

  • 4 eggs (use the best quality you can afford / find)
  • 1/4 tsp salt aka a pinch
  • 2 TBSP olive oil (again best quality)
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose (plain, not self-rising) flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

beat the eggsIn a large bowl, beat the four eggs with the oil and salt.

white and wheat flourIn another bowl whisk together the all purpose flour with the wheat flour.

stir with forkUsing a fork to stir, slowly add one third of the flour mixture. Stir until there are no lumps, then hunt down a spoon.

Add another third of the flour mixture while stirring. The dough will be very sticky.

Slowly add flour from the final third of the dough until it has all come together and isn’t impossibly sticky. It was so humid in my area that I had to use all the flour. Drier climates and seasons may require less flour. Don’t underestimate the weather when it comes to some recipes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about five minutes. Much like bread dough, you want to knead enough to encourage the gluten (basically flour glue) but not so long that the proteins from the wheat break down.

shape into a ballShape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Allow it to rest for 15 – 30 minutes. If you’re bored, click through the McKlinky above and see what other Home Eccers have been up to.

Roll the dough out using a rolling pin. Turn the dough (or I highly recommend the pastry mat,  for less than $10) about an 1/8th of a turn after each roll to try to keep the thickness of the dough as even as possible.

eighth inchRoll the dough out until it’s about 1/8th of an inch thick. Don’t break out the ruler, eyeball it. Think about boxed fettuccine, as that’s the general idea of what we’re going for.

Let the dough hang out for at least then minutes. A little longer if the air is so humid that it’s hard to breathe (what, like you’ve never complained about the weather before?)

Grab the bottom of the sheet of dough. Fold it about 1/4 of the way toward the top. Grab the bottom and fold it up again, repeat until you reach the top. It’s kind of like rolling up the dough, but it’s flat folds.

slice into ribbonsGrab a sharp knife and cut the dough into 1/4 – 1/2 inch strips.

draped noodlesUnroll the strips and drape over whatever is handy. If this is your first time making pasta, I bet you don’t have a past drying rack, either. I used one of my grill accessories as it happened to be nearby. Whatever floats your boat.

Let the noodles hang out and dry for a while. Some tutorials said ten minutes, some said three hours. My noodles hung out somewhere around 30 – 45 minutes.

pot of waterNow, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

boil the noodlesDrop your noodles in and check after 3 minutes. Fresh noodles don’t have to boil anywhere near as long as dried pasta. Don’t forget about them or you will have a pot of starchy mush, not the best way to end a culinary adventure.

Drain and toss with your favorite sauce.

In our case, we had alfredo with beef stewed in a wine gravy. All I can really say is NOM!

Homemade noodles

Enjoy!

Lemon Shake-Up Recipe — A Refreshing Summer Drink

Bobbie says:

Ah, summer. The scorching heat, the overwhelming humidity. Fun times. Well, when life hands you lemons, shake things up a bit and make Lemon Shake-Ups. Depending where you live, you may have had these treats at a local fair or carnival. For the uninitiated, a Lemon Shake-Up is basically a freshly made individual lemonade. At the fairs where I’ve had them, it’s a big production: One person operates a big press to squeeze the bejeebers out of a lemon, into a tall, heavy glass. Another person adds sugar, ice and some water. A paper cup is turned upside down over the glass, and someone else shakes it all up to dissolve the sugar. The whole lot is dumped into the paper cup, water is added to fill, et voila – a Lemon Shakeup is served. You’d have to pay four or five dollars for this refreshing beverage and the opportunity to see it being freshly made in front of you.

I’d been reminiscing about this unofficial beverage of state and county fairs, but not about the hassle of actually going to a fair and the expense of paying several dollars for one beverage. For the cost fair admission and ONE Lemon Shake-Up at the fair, I could buy enough lemons to make shake-ups for the whole neighborhood.

Making Lemon Shake-Ups at home means I can choose my own sweetener. Most of the time, I use a stevia-based sweetener such as Truvia or Pure Via. (I like my lemonade on the tart side, so I usually use 3 packets.) Honey and lemon is a great flavor combination, but getting honey to dissolve well in the ice water is difficult, so it’s best to first melt the honey in a small amount of very hot water. Once the honey melts into the water, add the ice and lemon and proceed. (As always, do not give honey or anything prepared with honey to infants under one year of age.)

Whatever sweetener you choose, use an amount equivalent in sweetening power to ¼ cup sugar.

 

 

Lemon reamer

Personally, I prefer this handheld wooden kind,because I find I’m able to get more juice out of each lemon or lime. I used to have one made of shiny black plastic, which looked gorgeous but was too slippery to get a good grip, so I could hardly
squeeze anything out of the fruit. That tool wore out its welcome almost immediately.

 

 

 

One-quart jar with lid

If you use a wide-mouth jar, you can put the lemon halves right in for a more authentic shake-up. If not, you can cut the lemon into smaller pieces after you’ve juiced it thoroughly. Make sure it has a leak-proof lid. This replaces the potential disaster of the tall-glass-and-large-paper-cup shaking method used in the carnival and fair production.

 

Lemon Shake-Up Recipe

  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sugar OR 3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup or agave nectar (OR equivalent amount of a sugar substitute – read package to determine amount – remember to dissolve thick syrupy sweeteners in a little hot water first)
  • 1 cup ice (crushed or cubes)
  • Cold water

Wash the lemon, and cut it in half. Juice the lemon into the jar using your method of choice. If you prefer your drink to be slightly less “authentic” you can remove the seeds.

Add the lemon halves to the jar. If you wish, you can cut these into smaller pieces first, but it’s not
necessary. Add the sugar or sweetener, ice and about a cup of water. Cover tightly and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the lid and add enough ice and water to make 16 ounces. Pour into a tall glass, or just drink it straight from the jar. I won’t tell.

 

 Bobbie Laughman is a freelance writer who thinks she’s normal. Don’t try to tell her otherwise.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps, Regular and Gluten-Free

Heather says

Did you think oven fried goodness was out of reach just because you have to go gluten-free?

Here’s a simple, magic substitution for you… swap crushed Rice Chex for Panko crumbs and you’re set. No other changes, no mixing a bazillion different flours or buying special bread to make your own crumbs. Take out your aggression on a handful of cereal and call it a day.

Tested. Tasted. Proven.

I really like oven-fried zucchini chips, but find them a bit too fiddly for most occasions. If you have older kids, make them bread the zucchini, it’s a great exercise in patience with a decent pay off. I see these often suggested for parties, but unless you want to keep the oven on until serving time, save them for a rainy afternoon with a craving for some savory, crispy deliciousness.

zucchini crisps

 

: Zucchini Parmesan Crisps (Gluten-Free)

: Crisp, cheesy, oven-fried zucchini chips

  • 2 medium – large zucchini sliced thinly (use the slicer on a grater)
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of milk or water
  • 1 cup grated parmesan -yes, the cheap stuff
  • 1 cup Rice Chex, crushed  -if you don’t have a wheat allergy / you can use Panko crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Instructions:

  • Spread the sliced zucchini on paper towels and lightly sprinkle with salt
  • Turn the oven on to 450°F
  • Beat the eggs with either a splash of milk or water in a shallow bowl to create an egg wash.
  • In a second shallow bowl or dish, combine the crushed cereal, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, a pinch of salt if desired, and a few turns of fresh ground pepper. (If you want to kick up the heat a little, cayenne pepper is a nice addition)
  • Grease a baking sheet.
  • Roll or blot the zucchini in the paper towel to absorb the moisture it sweated due to the sprinkle of salt.
  • Dip the zucchini slices in the egg wash and then the breading.
  • Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes and flip the zucchini slices with a fork or tongs. Bake for another 8 – 10 minutes depending on how done / crispy you like your cheese. Watch them carefully toward the end.
  • Serve immediately.

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4