Rosemary Sweet Potato Medalions

When I was growing up, the only time I had sweet potatoes was under a cover of marshmallows at Thanksgiving. What a long way I’ve come!

Readers of my blog know I’m a fan of rosemary, so when I thought to take a sweet potato fries recipe up a notch, that is where I started. This is fairly simple recipe with just rosemary, garlic, salt and a bit of olive oil. The peel does get a little chewy, so I do recommend you peel them first.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Medalions

2 sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Wash the sweet potatoes, peel them and then cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Toss them with olive oil to coat. Combine rosemary, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle over potatoes and stir until all pieces are covered.

Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Flip the potatoes over and continue to bake until potatoes are cooked through, about ten minutes more.

Revisiting Oceana Grill

After Latoya Cantrell’s historic inauguration ceremony, my friends Lisa and Vincenzo and I followed Madam Mayor’s second line out of the Mahalia Jackson theater into Armstrong Park.

Madam Mayor in the light blue dress and white umbrella, stage left

Afterwards, we went seeking sustanence. It was Monday and our first two options weren’t open. We went with number three – Oceana Grill on Conti @ Bourbon. The last time I was here was 8 years ago and it stands the test of time as a casual dining establishment. It was as filled with local workers as tourists and we were served quickly with large portions of good food.

I went with the fried shrimp platter. Lots of them on the plate, plus hushpuppies and french fries. Nice bite to the jalapeno hush puppies and a nice fry on everything else.

Lisa had the Black and Bleu burger with blackening seasoning and blue cheese. Nice and beefy burger with a tangy sauce.

Vincenzo had the seafood platter, pilled high with oysters, catfish, shrimp. Lovely cornmeal batter on the thin and crispy catfish.

The server was friendly and quick with refills. For French Quarter dining, the prices are reasonable. I’d definitely stop by here again.

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

You know that part of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where Arthur gets the ship’s Nutri-Matic machine to make him a drink that is “something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea?”

That’s what this recipe is.

I saw a cake on the web and didn’t have the ingredients for most of it (the original had cashews and a salted caramel layer) but the chocolate cake and frosting intrigued me enough to give the rest of it a try, with some substitutions, of course. I also switched it to cupcakes because readers of my blog know I think cupcakes have a better frosting to cake ratio.

The results are deliciously chocolately cupcakes that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Anna Olson’s Caramel Cashew Chocolate Cake.

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Kahula or vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners sugar
⅓ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ cup unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 package cream cheese (4 ounces), softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin/cupcake pans.

In a medium bowl, place the chopped chocolate and pour the hot coffee over top, letting it sit a minute to soften. Whisk gently to combine.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a stand mixer, beat the brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs and Kahlua (or vanilla) together until smooth. Add the flour mixture to this and mix well. Pour in the chocolate mixture (the batter will be fluid). Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake cups.

Bake for about 15 minutes and switch and rotate pans. Cook for an additional 10 -15 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes and then turn them out to cool completely.

For the frosting, sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Remove from the heat. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and vanilla. Add in the chocolate butter mixture. Scrape down the bowl well and then add the sugar cocoa mix and beat until smooth. Frost the cupcakes with a generous amount. Eat any extra with a spoon.


Strawberry Drinks For All Tastes

I totally took advantage of the bountiful harvest of strawberries this year and went all out in making jams and desserts with my girlfriend. But strawberries are also good in drinks and here are the ones we made with some of the bounty:

First, make a strawberry simple syrup.

Strawberry Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced

In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Gently stir to dissolve sugar. Place in the sliced strawberries and bring to a boil. Skim off foam and discard. Reduce to a low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Skim off remaining foam and pour contents into a mesh strainer, set over a medium bowl. Allow the liquid to drain. Do not press extra liquid from the strawberries, this will create a foggy liquid. Discard solids. Cool to room temperature, then transfer liquid to desired storage container and chill until ready to use. Can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator or poured into a ice cube tray and frozen.

Once you have your simple syrup, then you make the drinks:

Strawberry Lemonade

1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup strawberry simple syrup
3-4 cups water

Mix juice and simple syrup. Stir in water, tasting after three cups to see how much more water to add.

Muddle two hulled and chopped strawberries in the bottom of a glass. Top with strawberry lemonade.

Optional: muddle about 10 torn mint leaves with the strawberries.

Strawberry Margarita

cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 lime – quartered
1/4 cup strawberry simple syrup
1/4 ounces orange liqueur like Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
1/2 cup tequila

Muddle together the strawberries, all but one of the lime quarters and the simple syrup. Stir the strawberry mixture together with the orange liqueur, and tequila, then taste. Add additional simple syrup or lime juice, if necessary. Place in a shaker and shake well with plenty of ice. Pour into two salted glasses. Garnish each margarita with a half of the remaining lime wedge.

Finally, a healthy option from Michelle:

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

It is preferable that the fruit you use is frozen

1 banana
1 cup strawberries, hulled
1 cup orange juice
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup crushed ice

Mix in a blender until smooth.

May the Fourth Be With You!

I’m a Star Wars fan and I always look forward to the 4th of May. Here is my recipe for blue, Bantha milk.

Aunt Beru getting a glass of blue milk

Blue Milk

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
blue food dye

Combine milk, sugar and vanilla in a glass. Add a drop of blue food dye. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add another drop of food color, if desired.

Adultify it with an ounce of Blue Curaçao before adding the dye. Add blue dye as desired.

Old School Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Over the holidays, a friend of mine posted about doing his traditional cookies from a recipe found in an old copy of Joy of Cooking. I went to my copy (inherited from my paternal grandmother and published in 1953) and couldn’t find it. I called my mom for her to check to hers (a wedding present, published in 1964) and it wasn’t there either.

Luckily, I was able to get Lee to send me a picture of the recipe from his copy (published in 1975). They are called Rich Roll Cookies and they are quite tasty.

We made a couple of minor changes but the recipe is essentially unchanged.

Lemon Poppy Seed Roll Cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Granulated sugar for rolling

Whisk together flour and salt. Cream butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat. Pour in the zest, vanilla and lemon extract, if using. Slowly add the flour mixture. Mix in the poppy seeds.

Chill dough at least 2 hours before rolling and baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut into cookies and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake on a greased baking sheet for 8 minutes for room temperature dough or 10 minutes for chilled dough. They will only be slightly golden.