Paula Deen’s Sweet Potato Biscuits

I’ve wanted to try sweet potato biscuits for a long time, and this recipe seemed a good starting point, from Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible, which a friend just lent me – it is also here from the food network.  After reading the user reviews, I decided to add vinegar which was a frequent suggestion by those who tried the recipe. I also used less sugar, and made it brown sugar to go with the sweet potato theme!

As usual my pathological aversion to rolling out biscuits and cutting them (why?  it always makes them worse when I do it!) required me to do them as drop biscuits.

I made these to go with the Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup.

Paula Deen’s Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 tsp vinegar (I had malt vinegar)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.soup 008

In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes, vinegar, and butter.soup 009

Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough.Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in -the amount will depend on how moist your potatoes are.soup 010

Divide into 12 equal pieces, roll into a ball between your hands, then flatten onto a baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes. (Watch your oven: If the biscuits are browning too fast, lower the temperature.)

soup 011Result:  These were delicious, tender, easier to make than normal biscuits, and possibly healthier – I will be making them many more times!  We had them with our Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup.soup 012

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Slow Cooker Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

I made this to use some of the leftover pork roast, and more importantly the gigantic bone from the roast.  I love making broth.  I save all of my vegetable scraps in a large freezer bag for this purpose, and it makes me feel very virtuous and thrifty.  You could certainly omit the broth rigamarole and make this with store broth, powder broth (shocking I know, but I use it, it is economical and I like Knorr’s), or even water!

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

For the Broth:
10 cups water (if you really wanted to go all out, I would use water that I’d cooked my beans in for the soup – but today I’m using canned beans – bean water really adds flavour)
1 large freezer bag of vegetable scraps (mine featured a purple cabbage core, carrot tops and peels, garlic and onion peels and ends)
1 large pork shoulder bone, and assorted not tasty bits (gristle, fat)
2 cups, aprx. of some entirely flavourless and unpleasantly textured frozen cubed squash which I got on sale at my meat market – I felt bad when I realized I bought a big bag of crap, but now am hoping that with oven roasting it will add some flavour!
several stems frozen herbs
2 bay leaves
2 dried thai chili peppers
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin seed

Roast everything but the water at 400’F until browned and fragrant – about 1 hour.
soup 003Dump the scraps in the slow cooker, then pour some water in the pan to lift off any browned parts, and pour in the cooker.
soup 004Add the remaining water and the herb stems to cooker. Cook on high for about 4 hours, or low for 7 or so.

Strain the solids out, and return to cooker for the main event – soup!

For the Soup:
10 cups of homade broth or water or canned/powdered broth
2 tablespoons fresh, frozen or dried herbs (I used frozen sage and thyme)
2 tablespoons creole seasoning
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp corriander
1 large (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups frozen corn
2 cans black beans, drained well
1 sweet potato (very large) peeled and diced
1 small potato peeled and diced
1 cup chopped leftover roast pork (you could use ham, chicken, or omit)
2 large onions, diced
10 cloves garlic chopped
1 pickled roasted red pepper
a few cloves roasted garlic from the fridge

soup 001(optional but tasty)While I was roasting the broth bone and scraps, I also roasted the tomatoes and corn – this concentrates the flavour and makes a big difference to my taste. Dump the tomatoes and frozen corn into a shallow greased pan and roast for 30 minutes and 400’F. Be sure to add some liquid to the pan and scrape up all the browned juices before adding to the cooker.tomato

Add the broth, herbs, and creole seasoning, tomatoes, corn, (roasted garlic if you have it), and beans to cooker.

Saute the potato and sweet potatoes in skillet until browned. Remove and add to cooker.soup 005

In the same skillet, add some more oil, then add meat to crisp up, then the cumin seed, mustard, corriander, paprkia, then the onions, pepper, and garlic until browned. soup 007Add to cooker. Simmer some broth in the skillet to remove any remaining brown bits, and add this liquid to cooker.

Cook on low for 7 hours or until potatoes are tender.soup 012Result:  This was a very tasty soup with lots of leftovers, which we had with Sweet Potato Biscuits.

Slow Cooker Pork Roast

I’m constantly trying to cook roasts in the slow cooker without having them simmer in about half a pot of liquid.  I don’t have cooker insert rack, so I experimented before with using halved onions – but of course they turned to mush.  Another thing I try to control is that the veg seem to get so overcooked compared to meat – I’m realizing this is because I cut them too small.

Combining these two elements, I decided to try cooking the roast on a bed of halved potatoes and carrots.  We’ll see how it goes!

Slow Cooker Pork Roast
3.5 kg/7.5 pound bone-in picnic shoulder pork roast (big – there was a sale, you could definitely do smaller!)
seasoning salt (I mixed garlic powder, sage, thyme, oregano, pepper, sweet smoked paprika and salt)
2 large onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, chopped
7 or so potatoes, sufficient to cover bottom of crock,scrubbed well and halved
2 large carrots, peeled and cut in 3 chunks each

Cut off the tough skin and excess fat from the roast (not necessary if you are using a different cut).  Rub well with seasoing salt, and refrigerate overnight.pork 001

Grease the cooker with oil or cooking spray.  Place potatoes cut side down along with carrots to make a vegetable roast rack in cooker.pork 002

Brown roast on all sides very well.  pork 003While browning, make a foil “sling” – take some aluminum foil that will fit under the roast (on top of the vegetable rack), up its sides and out to hang over the edge of the cooker – this is to lift the roast when needed.  Arrange sling so its ready to receive the roast.  When browned, place roast on top of sling.pork 004

Brown onions and garlic in the same pan then add to cooker, overtop of roast.  pork 005Using the smallest amount of liquid possible (water, wine, stock, milk, whatever – I used about 1/2 cup of milk and water mixed) pour into skillet and remove any brown bits – reduce liquid if necessary by simmering (I reduced to about 1/4 cup) then pour over roast – the goal is not too much liquid!pork 006

Once browned, place roast in cooker on sling, cook on low for 7 to 10 hours.  This roast was huge (I had to remove some vegetables and rearrange on the side, just to fit it in!) so I expect it will take a while!pork 007Result:  On the whole, this worked well – I was able to lift out the roast about 7 hours in, remove the vegetables, and drain off the liquid to save for gravy.  When we were ready to eat, I took out the roast, let it rest, made gravy, and reheated our vegetables.  I would try this again, but maybe start the roast alone, lift it out after a few hours, and add the vegetables so everything would be ready at once.roast 001roast 002

Fried Grits with Spinach

I thought I’d try these out to go with our leftover red beans.  My mom brought me back some “Quick Grits” (not the same as instant apparently – better – everyone I’ve read seems horrified by instant grits) from her trip to the States.  I’m sure you can get them somewhere even in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I’ve not seen them yet.  I am a bit sketchy on this but I believe they are the same thing as polenta, it is all boiled cornmeal I believe.

For this you just make grits, put them in a mold, then slice and pan fry. If you had grits for supper, you can do this with the leftovers.

Fried Grits with Spinach
5 1/3 cups water
1 1/3 cups quick grits
1/2 tsp salt
Optional – I added:
1 tsp margarine
3 cloves roasted garlic
1 very small onion, finely diced
a few handfuls of baby spinach, chopped

Melt margarine and mashed up garlic in a large saucepan, add onion and saute til translucent.  Add water and salt, bring to a boil.

grits 001Slowly add grits while stirring, bring mixture back to the boil then turn to low.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

grits 002Meanwhile, grease a loaf pan and throw in the spinach.  Once the grits are cooked, add them to the loaf pan, mixing up the grits to spread the spinach throughout.grits 003

Chill in the fridge, about two hours should do it but you can leave it there til needed.  Further research revealed that it might improve results if you put a weigh on top of the grits to press them more firmly into the mold.

grits 004When you are ready, slice the grits into about 1/2″slices.  This was learning through experience, but I would recommend you then press the slices into a plate of seasoned flour, then shake the excess off before frying – they seem to stick and not brown well otherwise!grits 005

Fry at medium heat until well browned on both sides, and serve as a side dish, or however you like. They are also served as you would a pancake, for breakfast.grits 006Apologies to anyone from the South who finds this post offensive – I’ve never been there, eaten there, or otherwise experienced the cooking except through books, so I’m doing what I can!

Slow Cooker Spicy Pork and Bean Stew

I’ve been working my way through our stockpile of dried beans and came up with this idea to go with a small pack of pork stew meat I got on sale.

Slow Cooker Spicy Pork and Bean Stew
1 1/2 cup dried white beans
1 cup dried chick peas
6 cups low-sodium broth (I had homemade) or water
aprx. 0.5 kg or 1 pound stew pork (or other cubed pork meat)
2 tsp. creole spice (Emeril’s or mine – bottom of the post)
1 tablespoon fresh frozen herbs (sage and thyme) or dried
2 cups froze corn, thawed
1 can yellow beans drained (or equivalent fresh/frozen)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
splash of wine or wine vinegar (optional)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
chopped baby spinach

Soak beans and chick peas in broth/water in the fridge over night.  In the morning, dump beans and liquid into pot (I don’t rinse away the water, I’d rather have whatever nutrients leach out go into my stomach!  I know people say that discarding the liquid eliminates gas, and if that is your concern go ahead!).  Reserve about a cup of the liquid to use in the skillet.

Season the meat with creole spice and corriander – I usually chop my meat up even smaller than the butcher does for stew meat as well, I perfer to spread it out throughout the stew.

Brown all the other ingredients – I did it in this order, adding each batch to the cooker as I went, and using more oil in the skillet if needed, but leave the browned stuff in the pan, it has great flavour:
-corn, beans, carrotsstew 001
-pork meat

I forgot to take a picture of the browning onions and garlic, use your imagination!
I forgot to take a picture of the browning onions and garlic, use your imagination!

-onions and garlic

When you have browned everything and the skillet is empty, pour in about a cup of liquid and simmer while scraping the brown bits off the bottom.  Add a splash of wine or wine vinegar if you like.  Pour this liquid in the pot.stew 003

Cook for 7-10 hours on low.  Add the spinach and peas in the last 1/2 hour before serving, just before the dumplings if you are adding them.  I did cornmeal dumplings.stew 005Result:  I did add quite a bit more seasoning to this, you have to adjust to your taste – but I was very happy with it, and it is super filling!stew 006

Cornmeal Dumplings

I’ve made dumplings more often than I can count, but I’ve never made Cornmeal dumplings so I thought I would give it a try – I’m going to put them on top of a stew in a slow cooker, but you could use them in any stew or soup I’m sure.

Cornmeal Dumplings
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
seasoning to taste:
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tbs oil

Mix together dry ingredients until completely blended.stew 001

Mix togther oil and milk, then pour into a well in the centre of dry ingredients.stew 002

Drop by spoonfuls onto simmering stew and cover, cook for 30 minutes without lifting lid.stew 003

Result:  These were good and had an interesting biscuity texture, not like the fluffy plain flour dumplings I usually make.  The next time I try them I would try it with a finer ground cornmeal as I think the texture would be even better like that.stew 004stew 005

Black Magic Chocolate Cake (with Condensed Tomato Soup!)

I grew up eating desserts that baked by my grandmotherfrom recipes which would definitely be considered “vintage” today! One favourite was tomato soup cake (a spice cake with condensed tomato soup- its all over the internet, try it, you’ll like it!) so I couldn’t resist trying out this cake which I found on a great vintage cooking site, The Mid-Century Menu – Black Magic Chocolate Cake Made With Condensed Tomato Soup – A Retro Recipe Test. I only changed it a bit, as seen below!

Black Magic Chocolate Cake (with Condensed Tomato Soup!)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 cup buttermilk (I used 3/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt + 1/4 cup water)
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla

Beat wet ingredients together in large bowl.

How gross does this look?!
How gross does this look?!

Sift in dry ingredients, then beat on medium speed 6 minutes.

cake 003
Doesn’t look so bad mixed together…

Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 pan or 2 round cake pans (I used 2 square pans, who knows if this will throw things off – I’m living dangerously).

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 mins. (start checking after 30 mins if making rounds).  The two square pans took 35 minutes for me.

And quite nice now I think, we'll see when it is cut!
And quite nice now I think, we’ll see when it is cut!

Result:  The cake turned out moist and delicious, with no hint of tomato soup to be tasted!cake 008