Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

Every year I leave beautiful warm Hawaii where the palm trees are decorated with twinkle lights and Santa wears an Aloha shirt to venture home to freezing cold Pittsburgh for Christmas.  As the song says, there's no place like home for the holidays!  I couldn't agree more.  

After the 13+ hour trip back to the Burgh, it's like I've never left!  Christmas Eve includes us running late for mass where we sit in the exact same pew as always, our small house filled with family members from both sides - the temperature quickly rising to an uncomfortable 99 degrees so we prop open the kitchen door to let the frigid outside air in, the kids are dying to know why they can't open their gifts NOW, Dad wants me to grab him a beer from the fridge downstairs, Mom's making a million things in the kitchen including punch with pink sherbet, our stockings are hanging on the railing of the stairs, the (artificial, since Dad is allergic to the real deal) tree is smothered in beautiful red & white ornaments and the cat is hiding underneath, I fill up on veggies and dip, cookies, shrimp cocktail, and wine before dinner has even begun - it's madness and it's fabulous!   

Christmas day is much different.  We spend it with my Mom's side of the family, but the numbers dwindle down.  Half of the kids spend the day with the other half of their relatives, people hang out with significant others and their families, ditch us for the movies, etc.  This creates a relaxed, nice family day and dinner.  We actually all get to sit around the table together and eat from real plates!  My Aunt Linda was making lamb this year so I looked up a veggie to compliment appropriately and stumbled across this Forever Roasted Lamb with Roasted Vegetables recipe.  I, of  course, was only making the veggies.  

Here's the gist of it:

Peel and cut 2 pounds sweet potatoes & chop 1.5 tablespoons fresh sage.

Boil sweet potatoes in salted water, reduce and simmer until tender.

Strain and cool the hot potatoes :)

Aren't my sweet potatoes and sage pretty?

Clean, trim, and halve 1.5 pounds of Brussels sprouts - might I suggest buying extra sprouts?  By the time you clean and trim them you lose a lot of weight!

Boil the sprouts in salted water for 3 minutes.

Strain and cool.

The sweet potatoes and sprouts FINALLY get to meet - in a saute pan over high heat with 1/4 cup olive oil.

Toss them to coat with OO and do not disturb until the bottoms are browned.

Flip & repeat on the other side.

Next - salt and pepper the veggies and and bake in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes.

After they've had 15 minutes of alone time, add the 1.5 tablespoons of fresh, chopped sage and 3 tablespoons of sliced garlic.

Let that party last for 15 - 20 minutes or until the garlic is golden brown.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of orange zest on them and enjoy the delicious orangey/garlicey aroma for a few minutes before you dig in!

This is what mine looked like in Mom's adorable basket weave dish.

This recipe is clearly beautiful and it's just as delicious as it is attractive.  I took it to Aunt Linda's and got many compliments on it.  Similar to the Strawberry Short Cake that was served over the same trip, the kids didn't want to eat the healthful items - oh well!  I'd never made Brussels sprouts before and was pleasantly surprised with the turnout.  To be honest, I can't remember the last time I've even eaten a Brussels sprout.  

My complaint with this recipe is the amount of dishes this recipe dirties!  1 pot for boiling the sweet potatoes, 1 pot for the BS's, 1 saute pan, and 1 dish for baking!  (Plus the cutting board, knives, potato peeler, etc.)  It just seems like a lot of dishes for a side dish, don't you think?  I suppose that's a lot of steps for a recipe, too, although I was in "vacation mode" and had no concept of time :)

Will I make this recipe again?  If someone's making lamb and I have a few hours to cook and clean, then yes!  I'll let you know when that situation pops up again... Can you hear me laughing?!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Strawberry Short-birthday-cake

Currently I'm sitting at the computer in our apartment in Hawaii eating a lousy bowl of Ramen Noodles and thinking back on all the wonderful and delicious food that was consumed over my trip home to Pittsburgh.

While we're on the topic of food, aren't we always, let me tell you that this isn't the first or only thing I've eaten today.  I honestly look forward to the end of football season at this time of year for the sake of my waistline.  On any given weekend I'm up and at the bar by 6 or 7 am on Saturday for a Penn State game or on Sunday for the Steelers.  That's bar food twice a weekend and early in the morning, which never sets a good tone for the day!  Just this weekend I watched the Nittany Lions get beat by the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl while sharing deep fried cheese curds and biscuits with gravy with Bryce.   Today I scarfed down 3 eggs, bacon, country fries, and toast while the Steelers crushed the Browns.  PSU's season is now over and the Steelers have a bye next week so my arteries may have a chance to breathe again!

Back to this post's purpose :)  My beautiful Goddaughter, Marissa Jo, was born on December 4, 2006.  I first "met" her via a picture message while I was in a lecture class at Penn State and instantly burst into tears!  Yes, I was "that" girl.  Each year of her life, which has been 4 to date, I've thrown her a birthday party in December complete with all the kid birthday essentials - themey-cake, decor, games, and lots and lots of presents.  This year she's into Strawberry Shortcake and wanted her party themed as such.  In years past we've purchased a cake for the party, but since it was SO appropriate for the party this year I decided to make a strawberry short-birthday-cake!  Since my Mom has one of those great trifle bowls I made sure to use it.

I used a recipe from for a "Strawberry Trifle" but made variations as I went along, to my liking.

For my Strawberry Short-birthday-cake I used:

2 small packages instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups cold milk
1 round angel food cake, cut in cubes
4 bananas, sliced
1 lb fresh strawberries, halved
  • First, I made the pudding and chilled it in the fridge while I cubed the angel food cake, halved the strawberries, and cut the bananas.  

Then I layered the cake, pudding, bananas, and strawberries - twice.  


I made sure to save enough cake to put another layer on the top so that Marissa would have a cake-like surface for the birthday candles.  

It was a very easy recipe and good, too!  I got a ton of compliments from the grown ups at the party.  4 year old Cooper said he didn't like bananas.  Morgan, Marissa's 8 year old sister, said she doesn't like strawberries.  I guess that's what I get for making a cake for kids that includes FRUIT!  Overall it was delicious, required no baking, and was decently healthy for a dessert = success!  Happy Birthday Marissa!