Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Orange-Spiced Sweet Potato Casserole with Macadamia Nut and Brown Sugar Topping

I tore this recipe out of Parents Magazine to save for Thanksgiving, but when a dinner recipe this week that called for sweet potatoes fell through, I thought I'd try it out. Spoiler alert: IT'S AMAZING. I changed a few things and ended up doing a completely different topping because I didn't have some of the ingredients. And since I was running late getting it on the table, it became dessert and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is quite possibly the best thing you'll eat this fall. You can quote me on that.

Before I list out the recipe, here's a close up of the deliciousness:

I think it was genius to use orange juice/zest because it completely cut out that slightly bitter undertone that sweet potatoes can sometimes have, and it added sweetness, which cut out the need for a ton of added sugar. Without further ado...

Active Time: 30 Minutes | Total Time: 2 hours | Makes: 8 servings

3 lbs sweet potatoes (3-5, depending on size)
1 TBSP finely grated orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (1-2 oranges)
1/4 cup dark-brown sugar
3 TBSP melted unsalted butter, divided
2 eggs, beaten
2 TBSP maple syrup (can sub honey)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup crushed or ground macadamia nuts
1-2 TBSP light or dark brown sugar

1. (You can cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave if you're in a time crunch, but I prefer to bake them, as I think they taste much better, and it's what I did for this recipe.) Wash potatoes, prick them generously with a fork, and bake them at 400 on a foil lined baking sheet for an hour. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut down the center and scoop out the potato flesh into a medium/large bowl. Mash well (or blend if you have a good blender and want it super creamy).

2. Add the orange zest and juice, dark-brown sugar, butter, eggs, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to sweet-potato flesh. Mix until smooth. Smooth mixture evenly into prepared dish. Cover and chill until baking time or overnight.

3. If the sweet-potato mixture is chilled overnight, allow it to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before baking. Finely crush/grind/chop the macadamia nuts and sprinkle them over the top of the dish along with the 1-2 TBSP of brown sugar. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for about 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm with dinner or for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cheap (Free) and Easy DIY Ghost Garland

Happy Fall!

Why yes, it has been 8 months since I last blogged. My kid was still crawling back then. The weather was cool and wintery. The government was still operational and I hadn't yet seen Miley Cyrus' tongue staring at me all over the internet. Fun times.

Speaking of my kid, here he is all grown up...
He adores vacuuming. Like more than you could possibly understand.

So I've been on the prowl for cheap (or free, I'll definitely take free) fall/holiday decorating ideas that also don't take a whole lot of time. 

Then today my husband was entertaining Harrison with a dryer sheet and a yard stick--as one does--and I suddenly realized that used dryer sheets would make perfect little ghosts. And what's better than a ghost garland for your mantle for Halloween? Nothing, that's what.

If you're anything like me you have a little bin on your dryer to collect all of the lint and dryer sheets and other random bits so you don't have to run to the trash can every time. So I dug through ours and pulled out all of the old dryer sheets I could find. Bonus points for recycling and whatnot.

The process is really simple, but I documented it with a series of grainy iPhone photos, which I'm sure you'll enjoy. The compromise in photo quality is seriously the only way this was going to get posted. Can you say nofreetime? I mean I have a toddler, you guys.

You will need:
Dryer sheets, yard or thread, and scissors. And like 10 or 15 minutes. Shortest materials list ever.

To start, cut a piece of yarn or string for each dryer sheet 4 or 5 inches long and set aside. Pinch the dryer sheet in the middle, then cup it in your hand and mess with it until you get the look you want. Then pinch at the base of the "head" and tie a yarn piece tightly around the sheet, creating a knot.

Cut off the excess yarn and repeat with your remaining dryer sheets. Soon you'll have a plethora of ghosties!

To create the garland, measure out the length of yarn you need for your mantle/window/staircase etc, adding an inch or two to account for the amount you'll be using to tie around the ghosts. I started tying the ghosts about 8 inches in from the end and spaced the ghosts roughly 10 inches apart, just eyeballing it. To keep the free end of the string going in the right direction, put the string in front of the ghost, instead of behind, then wrap the free end around the back of the head (like a scarf) before tying it--just once--and moving on to the next ghost. It's semi-less confusing in the photos below, but overall a simple concept.

Then hang it up and voila! Halloween decoration!

There's nothing like a revelation about a dryer sheet to get you back in the game, amiright?