Friday, October 27, 2006

Roasted Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges

My, was this good. I made it up as I was going along, but I think I can recreate it reasonably well here.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Take three good-sized sweet potatoes, scrub them, and cut them into wedges. I split them vertically, then cut each half into three wedges, then cut each wedge once horizontally, but you can do what works for you. Dump them in a bowl with some olive oil--enough to coat them but not so that they are sitting in oil.

In a small bowl, mix together a tablespoon of brown sugar, a half teaspoon of cumin, a half teaspoon of cinammon, a dash of cayenne (more if you like things spicy and your family won't object), and a quarter teaspoon of salt.

Toss the sweet potato wedges with the spice mixture. Not every surface will be coated; that's ok.

Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet, with one cut surface down if you think to arrange them. Put them in the preheated oven.

After about ten minutes, stir them around so that a different cut edge is down.

After another ten minutes, stir them around again. If a surface is browning, turn the wedge to another surface. They will be softening up by now and browning nicely.

You get the point. Turn them every so often and they should be done in about 35-40 minutes.


This will serve three people who like sweet potatoes, by the way. We have one who doesn't so we were fine. Add another potato and more spices if you need to, but try not to crowd the baking pan.

picking apples

I'm feeling a bit too busy to blog, so here's a picture from last weekend in CT. Pickings were actually a little slim at the orchard--late in the season, after frost and high winds, many of the apples were either damaged or on the ground. But we managed to find enough to bring some home, and last night we ate some fried up with pork chops. And roasted sweet potato wedges, which now that I think of it are good enough for a recipe entry. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apparently I'm registered with the wrong party

So, if you haven't taken it already, here's the Applebees Quiz. I'm a 10 on the 12-point scale, which puts me well into Red America, somehow. I think this may be because I have been known to shop at WalMart, drink a Dr. Pepper, and buy a local brand of bottled water. Though, really, often the choices were a case of flipping a coin: I don't really buy bottled water (but if I did it's the cheap stuff); I don't really drink soda, and between Pro Wrestling and Monster Trucks I'd choose, um, a mammogram instead. I mean really, either one sounds like torture. I got the quiz from Stone Court, and so far the folks taking the quiz through their site are almost all coming up red despite their claims to blue-ness. So I'm not sure how useful it is.

(By switching Saab to Audi, Dr. Pepper to Sprite/Pepsi, local water to Evian, WalMart to Whole Foods and USNews to TVGuide, I got it to put me in the "Tipping" Tribe. And when I switched bourbon/scotch to gin/vodka (which for me is a weather-related choice, not a political one), Monster Truck to Pro Wrestling, Coors to Bud, and auction site to dating site, it moved me all the way over to blue. Since most of these are really "none of the above" answers, I may just not fit the categories at all.)

Fall in New England

We spent the weekend in New England, which certainly does fall right. We can get good colors in Virginia, some years, but they don't seem to have quite the vibrancy of New England's sugar maples. This was the first time in years I'd been in New England in the fall--it's a tough time of year to travel, but we had a family event that brought us north and it was well worth it. I didn't take these pictures--my brother did--but they'll give you a sense of what we saw.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

bread pudding

I meant to make a pumpkin bread pudding the other day, but it turned out I didn't have canned pumpkin in the house. I always have canned pumpkin--I buy it up in the fall when it appears in stores, and shelve it. It's always there--just as there are always cranberries in the freezer, bought up against some future shortage. Apparently I slipped up last year and didn't lay in quite the pumpkin supply I had expected. So, chocolate bread pudding instead, and it was pretty tasty, I have to say. This is not a dessert I grew up on -- or, if it is, I have somehow forgotten it. But it's certainly one I'll repeat while the days are cold and damp and it's a comfort to have the oven on. Easy, delicious, and thrifty--what more could you want?

Here's what I did:

Dug in the freezer for the half-baguette I knew was in there. It was. Pretty stale, and not very big, but there nonetheless. I let it sit out a while to thaw, then broke it into chunks and dropped them into my 3-quart (or so) casserole. That didn't look like enough bread, and Mark had brought some big sub rolls back from his camping trip with Nick, so I ripped one of them up and put it in there, too.

Then I melted half a stick of butter in the microwave. Most bread pudding recipes seem to want you to butter the bread, but I didn't see that happening with the chunks I'd just thrown in the casserole. So I broke three (well, really, two, but that wasn't enough and I added another one later) eggs into the same container with the butter, then added three cups of milk, and whisked it all together. Oh, with about half a cup of brown sugar and a teaspoon or more of vanilla. It was a big container--a one-quart pyrex measuring cup, as a matter of fact. I probably should have mentioned that earlier.

So then I poured all that nice stuff over the bread and let it sit there for a while as the oven preheated to 350. (What really happened is I had only two eggs and two cups of milk and the bread absorbed it all, so I added another one of each and it looked much better. But you can skip that step.) Just before I put it in the oven I threw a handful of chocolate chunks into the casserole as well, trying to push most of them down under the bread/milk mush. At this point I was pretty skeptical, I have to say. It looked like strata. In fact, of course, it was strata, with sweet instead of savory fixings. Who knew?

Then I baked it for about 40 minutes. Towards the end I turned the heat up a bit to brown the top.

While the pudding baked, I made a caramel sauce by melting a stick of butter in a pan with a cup of brown sugar, then whisking in half a cup of cream when it was all melty looking. I poured half the sauce over the hot pudding and let it soak in before we ate it--and if I make this again I'll probably only make half a recipe of sauce, since I don't have any vanilla ice cream to pour the sauce over. But that's easily fixed, of course.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

fall break

The fall study break is two days in October with no school. That's it, just a slightly longer weekend and some time to catch up. We need it, too. Mostly so we can finish things that we've started.

Like these:

These are felted clogs for Nick. See how big they were before? (Pear for scale.) I hope they fit--I measured them against his sneakers.

I also finished this yesterday. The cool part is I started it yesterday, too. I love quick knits.

Monday, October 09, 2006

bullet points

I don't think well in bullet points. When people ask me for quick summaries I inevitably end up with paragraphs. I start outlines and part-way through realize that I'm writing out the material, not summarizing. Nonetheless I'm time-limited today and I'm going to try for bullet points for a quick weekend update.

  • Cooler weather means dinners in the oven, and dinners in the oven means cream sauce. Or so it seems. Creamy cheesy chicken bake (thanks, H!) on Friday, chicken pie (leftovers from Friday, with veggies, more sauce, and a crust on top) on Saturday, and tuna casserole on Sunday. Time to exercise more.

  • Rain. It rained all day Friday and Saturday. I literally didn't leave the house on Saturday. The roof, however, did not leak, and the Jetta didn't, either. Praise be!

  • If you've got to stay in all weekend there are worse things to do than watch MirrorMask, a Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean movie that evokes Coraline quite nicely without in any way recreating it. Nick, who often finds movies too scary to watch, enjoyed it just as much as Mark and I did. (Mariah was out and missed the fun...)

  • Of course, you can also watch baseball right now, so I did that, too.

  • Sunshine on Sunday meant we actually did get to the Fall Fiber Festival. What, you didn't know about the fall fiber festival? I'm not quite sure how I found out, but once I learned there'd be sheepdog trials, I had to go. Come on, you remember Babe, right? Mariah kept chanting "Baa, Ram, Ewe!" as the dogs were trying to herd the sheep. And, yes, it was terribly muddy. But Nick learned to spin on a drop spindle (we'll see how long it takes him to make me some knittable yarn), and we bought yarn, and we walked around in the sunshine. A good time for all.

  • It's midterm time, so I'm now officially a grading machine. See you in a while...
  • Monday, October 02, 2006

    my lovely sister

    Is in yesterday's NYTimes. I almost never open the Business Section, so I'm glad she let me know.