Healthy Cookie: Sweet Potato & Squash Brown Rice Medley

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Sometime last year, the Sweet Potato Bug bit me. And ever since, I just can’t get enough sweet potatoes to combat the fierce cravings that seize hold of me. The Sweet Potato Bug is known for leaving strong addictions in its victims, and I got hit hard. I could eat a sweet potato for every meal and never get sick of it. Curse you, Sweet Potato Bug!

But I guess this new addiction’s not all bad because sweet potatoes are unbelievably good for you. In fact, they say sweet potatoes are the most nutritious thing for you in the produce section. It just happens to be a major plus that they taste delicious too. If you haven’t been bitten by the sweet potato bug yet, then I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time. On their own, sweet potatoes are awesome. But even better yet is adding them to other things, and there isn’t much that doesn’t go well with a sweet potato. You might have noticed this from all the sweet potato recipes I’ve posted lately (see: Sweet Potato & Spinach Balls, Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet, and Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole).

With Sweet Potato Bug venom pulsing through my veins, I need as many sweet potato fixes as I can get. So, I whipped another tater-themed recipe to curb my cravings: Sweet Potato & Squash Brown Rice Medley. For me, this hearty sweet potato-packed dish was the perfect meal, but it makes a great side too.DSC_3125

The tender brown rice, fiber-rich squash, and endlessly nutritious sweet potatoes make this one very filling and satisfying dish. But there’s a difference between the kind of full you feel after devouring a bowlful of this beneficial medley and scarfing down 4 slice of pizza; this makes you feel good and content, whereas filling up on junk just makes you feel gross and uncomfortable. If both options are delicious, why wouldn’t you pick the one that’s going to make you feel as good after as you did while you were eating it?

I can’t even begin to describe the bountiful flavor of this comforting dish, especially considering the short and simple list of ingredients. Don’t you just love when that happens? No need to get fancy here; you can make this marvelous meal loaded with chunks of tender sweet potato, fresh zucchini and summer squash, hearty brown rice, a light sauce, and a hint of tangy parmesan cheese in about 30 minutes. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Butternut squash can easily be subbed in for sweet potatoes.
  2. And, if you don’t like zucchini/summer squash, try using broccoli, spinach, Brussels  sprouts, or just about any veggie you desire.
  3. The leftovers are just as delicious as the fresh stuff.
  4. Reduced-fat mozzarella can be subbed in for the parmesan.DSC_3091

Sweet Potato & Squash Rice Medley
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 medium summer squash, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moon
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook the rice according to boxed directions, replacing water with vegetable stock. If all the stock does not absorb, but the rice is fully cooked, then drain the excess stock.
  2. Meanwhile, place the potato on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels. Poke holes in the top of the potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes then flip and poke holes in the other side with the fork. Microwave for another 3-4 minutes until tender (stick a knife through the center to test).
  3. Slice potato in half so it will cool faster. Let sit until cool enough to touch. You should be able to squeeze it right out of the skins. Discard skins (or save for a snack). Chop potato into small chunks. Set aside.
  4. Bring a medium skillet to medium heat. Add the chicken stock, onion, and garlic and simmer for 5 minutes. Add squash and zucchini. Cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Removes from heat and stir in rice, potatoes, and cheese. Serve immediately.DSC_3137

Holiday Sides: Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole

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Do you ever wish you could pop back in time and give your childhood-self a good smack on the head? There were a lot of moments in my childhood that make me wish I could do just that.

Take for example the slow-motion memory of my kindergarten school project, made of 100 rainbow beads painstakingly glued to a board to write out “100,” slipping out of my hands and cascading to the floor, resulting in the scattering of a hundred individual beads and my crushed hopes and dreams. Little Colleen, you deserve a clunk on the head for that one. And let us not forget the time I went charging across slick wood flooring with socks on my feet, only to go sailing to the ground and cracking my chin open. Another brilliant move, little Colleen.

But one of the biggest blunder I deserve to be whacked upside the head for is not appreciating my Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole. This coveted casserole is served only during the holidays in our house, but as a kid, I couldn’t have cared less. Sweet potatoes were “eh,” so Sweet Potato Casserole sure as sugar didn’t excite me._DSC6337

What the heck was I thinking? Sweet potatoes are the super produce from God’s garden, and my Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole is the side dish of choice on God’s dinner table. I’m not even that religious, but I have faith in food. Glory, hallelujah, praise them sweet potaters!

Anyway…This is a simple casserole that can be put together ahead of time. Then bake it in the oven and watch the magic take place. The indulgent, crispy brown sugar pecan topping is sweet and crunchy bliss, like having dessert at dinner. Plus, I tweaked the topping quantity so that every bit of this casserole’s surface is covered with a substantial blanket of nutty, caramelized goodness.  The filling is comprised of smooth, creamy, fluffy sweet potatoes kissed with brown sugar and vanilla. Oh lord, it is heaven. Never was there a better way to eat sweet potatoes!

The question is not whether you need this on your holiday dinner table or not; It’s why are you even debating it? _DSC6478

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If you don’t like pecans, walnuts are a great substitution.
  2. Dress the filling up with a kiss of maple. Yum!
  3. Assemble ahead of time; bake later.
  4. Serve with my Homemade Cheddar Green Bean Casserole for the perfect pairing of holiday side dishes.

Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs

For topping

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp. butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Line a microwave-safe dish with paper towels. Place potatoes on dish and poke holes in the tops with a fork. Cook in microwave on high for about 13 minutes, or until fork-tender, flipping halfway through. Let cool.
  2. Slice potatoes in half and squeeze out of their skins. Discard skins, or munch on for a snack.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine potatoes, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and 1/2 cup butter. With a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth. Pour into greased 3-quart baking dish.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together nuts, cinnamon, brown sugar, flour, and butter until well-combined. Sprinkle over casserole and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and hot in the center._DSC6312

Brown Butter & Sage Mashed Potatoes + Christmas Carol: “It’s the Most Delicious Time of the Year”

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You can probably guess my favorite part of the holidays is the food, the glorious cornucopia of indulgent, comforting foods. To celebrate, I’ve concocted a Smart Cookie original Christmas carol, based off of the classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” For your enjoyment, I present, “It’s the Most Delicious Time of the Year.”

It’s the Most Delicious Time of the Year
By The Smart Cookie Cook

It’s the most delicious time of the year.
With the kitchen a-smelling,
And everyone yelling to, “Bring some food here!”
It’s the most delicious time of the year.

It’s the fat- fattiest season of all.
With the holiday feasting that is never ceasing;
Just give me it all!
It’s the fat- fattiest season of all.

There’ll be cookies for baking,
Roast turkeys for making,
The Green beans, and mashed potatoes.

There’ll peppermint lattes,
Warm gingerbread coffees,
And hot chocolate with marshmallows.

It’s the most delicious time of the year.
With the eggnog a-flowing,
And everyone knowing
That good food is near.

It’s the most delicious time,
It’s the most delicious time,
It’s the most delicious time of the year!mcchipsnowman-3

Say what you want about the holidays; you can’t deny that they truly are the most delicious time of the year. And to get you started on your mouth-watering holiday dinner, I whipped up (or should I say mashed up) these decadent Brown Butter & Sage Mashed Potatoes. They’re so simple to make, but so darn flavor full that they’ll slap you right out of your seat.

With that nutty, rich brown butter and the comforting warm sage, these fluffy taters will envelop you in seasonal flavors. What I like most about these is that they’re a refreshing change from your same old plain mashed potatoes, but they’re not so wildly different or out-there that they throw you off. So if you’ve got a family who likes to keep things traditional, you can still have something different and indulgent without sending everyone into a tailspin with change.

Because no one needs extra hysteria during the holidays.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Fresh sage is essential to creating the fantastic flavor these potatoes yield.
  2. Never made brown butter before? It’s not as scary as everyone thinks! All you do is cook butter in a pan until little brown specks form. That’s it.
  3. Technically any kind of potato will do, but Yukon golds are best for their naturally buttery flavor and creamy texture. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
  4. Although, now that I mention it, sweet potatoes would be a DELICIOUS substitution!

Brown Butter & Sage Mashed Potatoes
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 cup milk or heavy cream, at room temperature

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water with the potatoes to boil over high heat. Let cook until fork tender then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let cook, whisking occasionally, until it starts to foam. Butter will begin to smell nutty. Continue whisking until brown specks form at the bottom of the pan and butter turns brown. Immediately remove from heat as soon as it browns so it does not burn. Continue whisking for another minute while it cools down. Sprinkle the sage over top.
  3. Transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and sage, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup milk, and beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. It’s potatoes are too thick, add more milk, a little at a time. Serve immediately and garnish with fresh sage if you’d like.  _DSC6359

From-Scratch Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

I’ve always loved Green Bean Casserole. Who doesn’t? It’s a classic holiday dish comprised of an unlikely collaboration of ingredients that someone decided to bake together because this is ‘Merica. Somehow though, green beans, condensed soup, and french-fried onions work fabulously together.

Listen, I don’t make the rules; I just eat ’em.

The only things I could never get behind when it came to Green Bean Casserole were the gray, rubbery chunks of mushrooms in the cream of mushroom soup. I am not a mushroom fan, and each time I ate GB Casserole, I found they bothered me more and more to the point where I didn’t even want to eat the casserole at all. Since I know I’m not alone in my distaste for mushrooms, I figured the world could certainly benefit from a Green Bean Casserole recipe without the little fungi. Furthermore, GB Casserole would be so much better with a homemade sauce instead of a can of artificial condensed crap.

This From-Scratch Cheddar Green Bean Casserole is down-home comfort food joy in a pot. It tastes just like the original recipe you’re used to making with the can of soup, only it’s 10x better. The sauce is creamy and rich, but not overly so, with great flavor from chicken stock and garlic. It’s just like a creamy soup base, but much more delicious because it’s made from scratch without all the preservatives and junk.

The sauce perfectly coats each tender green bean, which on its own is yummy enough. But we make it even better with a blanket of gooey melted cheddar cheese and, of course, those must-have crispy, crunchy french fried onions. It’s so beautifully golden brown, with that great contrast of crispy vs. creamy textures in each forkful. Once you try Green Bean Casserole like this, you’ll never go back.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. The cheddar cheese is optional; the casserole is stellar and flavorful without it. I just thought it’d be a fun twist.
  2. Assemble this dish ahead of time and bake when it’s time for dinner.
  3. If you, unlike me, enjoy mushrooms in the traditional casserole, then feel free to add ’em in.

From-Scratch Cheddar Green Bean Casserole
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 12-oz. bags frozen french-cut green beans, cooked & drained
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion or 1 shallot
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk, preferably whole
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. salt1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 3/4 cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 1/3 cups french fried onions

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and onions and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour and let cook about another minute then slowly whisk in the milk and chicken stock until free of lumps. Cover and let simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in salt and pepper, adding more to taste. Fold in cooked green beans and 1 cup of the french fried onions until evenly coated. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle cheddar cheese and remaining onions over top. Cover and let cook until warm in the center, about 20 minutes. Remove cover and let cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Cornbread + Honey Butter

Every Thanksgiving, I say I’m going to make cornbread. And every Thanksgiving, I wind up not making cornbread.

I’m not sure exactly what gets in the way, but up until now, I never got around to turning my cornbread dreams into reality. This year, I was determined to break that cycle, and I set out on the hunt for a perfect cornbread recipe. It’s hard picking a recipe for something you’ve never made yourself before; you’ve yet to see what works and what doesn’t, what you like and what you don’t. I wasn’t sure how I’d ever choose, that is, until the perfect recipe basically waltzed right up to me and slapped me in the face with a skillet.

This Pumpkin Cornbread found me while I was doing my daily reading on Serious Eats. I figured I’d never find a better cornbread recipe than one that included my beloved pumpkin. After all, the days of pumpkin season are dwindling. I jumped at the chance to squeeze in one more squash recipe while I still could.

This cornbread was one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever thrown together. The result was a plump, moist cornbread with the most gorgeous orange hue that looked perfectly festive on the dinner table. The pumpkin flavor is not prominent; in fact, I’d say it adds a hint of fall flavor more than actual pronounced pumpkiness. It also makes the cornbread tender, unlike some cornbread that’s like corn-flavored sawdust.

The perfect compliment to the subtly sweet Pumpkin Cornbread is some simple Honey Butter. Literally all you need is honey and butter, and BAM; you’ve got a sweet and delicious spread to slather your cornbread in. What a perfect combination!

If you’re also a homemade cornbread virgin, this is a great recipe to start with. It’s so simple, but it’ pretty presentation will impress all your dinner guests. Or your cats. Or whoever you eat with.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I found the original recipe was lacking in that signature cornbread sweetness, so I added a touch of honey to fix that.
  2. You don’t have to bake this in a skillet; do it in a cake pan, or whatever baking dish you have on hand.
  3. This cornbread is great toasted up in the morning with coffee.
  4. Serve this warm straight from the oven or let it cool.

Pumpkin Cornbread
Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups corn meal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Honey butter, for serving (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together corn meal, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, honey, pumpkin, and milk until combined. Stir in dry ingredients.
  4. Place butter in skillet and place in the preheated oven for 2 minutes, or until butter is melted. Take skillet out of oven and pour in batter, smoothing top. Bake until top is golden and cracked and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting.

Honey Butter
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp. honey

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together butter and honey until well-combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat. Let soften again before serving.