BEST THING I EVER MADE: CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

If you don’t watch FoodTV Network, you may think this is my own statement. Not the case. Best Thing I Ever Made is one of the shows I continue to tape, hoping that at some point they will air new episodes. Unfortunately,  not much luck in the past year or so.  What I love about it is that they ask chefs to share their recipes for the best thing they ever made in a certain category, like Family Recipes, Crowd Pleasers, Cheese, or this particular episode, Sweet Endings.  I didn’t know Elizabeth Falkner, but was immediately smitten by her smile, energy and aura. Instead of a super complicated recipe that required you to find beet sugar smoked on the hills of Himalaya, hers was one of the simplest formulas ever.  It’s a lot more about technique than anything else.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES STRAIGHT UP OR WITH NUTS
(recipe from Elizabeth Falkner)
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8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter, softened but still cool
3/4 cup (6 1/4 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg (1 1/2 ounces by weight)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped the size of chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) chopped walnuts, optional
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In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and brown and granulated sugars until smooth but not over mixed. (I do this by hand, but if you use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, and then scrape down the sides of the bowl before continuing.) Add the egg, vanilla and salt and stir just until combined.
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Sift in the flour, baking soda and baking powder and stir gently just until combined. Add the chocolate and nuts if using and stir just until evenly distributed throughout the dough. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
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Position the racks in the upper third and lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
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Scoop up 1-inch balls of the dough with a spoon or mini scoop and set them 2 inches apart on the prepared pans. Bake the cookies, rotating the pans after 7 to 9 minutes, for 13 to 17 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. If you like a very soft cookie, bake them for 13 minutes. If you like a crisp cookie, bake them for 17 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here.

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Comments
: I always make cookie dough using my Kitchen Aid mixer, but watching Elizabeth mix hers by hand using just a fork seemed like so much fun, I gave it a try.  It was not as hard as I anticipated, and made it easier to judge when the butter and the sugar were properly mixed together.  Two things are important in this recipe: cutting the chocolate in uneven sizes, and refrigerating the dough, the longer the better, overnight is perfect.  The larger chunks of chocolate will melt in your mouth in a way that no chocolate chip will do. Of course, use the best chocolate you can find and afford.

I made the cookie dough after dinner, left it in the fridge until lunch time next morning, baked the cookies and took them to our department still warm from the oven.  They were inhaled quite quickly, which I think is a nice compliment to Ms. Faulkner…   ;-)

ChiefCookies
Flour, sugar, egg & butter: $5.00

Trader Joe’s Bittersweet Chocolate: $6.50

Unexpectedly including your dog in a food blog shot: PRICELESS…

ONE YEAR AGO: Farofa Brasileira

TWO YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

THREE YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

FIVE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

LIGHT BRIOCHE BURGER BUNS

This recipe came up in a google search for hamburger buns, together with a gazillion others, but its title  – Possibly the Best Hamburger Bun Ever - made me stop searching, roll my sleeves up, and go to work.  It was the perfect excuse to inaugurate my heavy-duty pan featured recently at “In My Kitchen“.   Brioche, as everyone knows, is a very rich bread made with butter and eggs, but some versions – often called “Poor Man’s Brioche” – cut back a little on those ingredients for a slightly less decadent bread, but still quite buttery and luscious.  Made into a bun shape, these will take any humble hamburger to a whole new level…

BriocheBuns

 

LIGHT BRIOCHE BURGER BUNS
(from Parsley, Sage, and Sweet, originally via Comme Ça restaurant)

Makes 8 4-inch to 5-inch buns

1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, divided (one will be used for glaze)
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds (optional)

In a measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. In the meantime, beat one egg.

In a large bowl, combine both flours with the salt. Add the butter to the flours and salt and rub into the flour using your fingers or a pastry cutter, making crumbs, like you would a pie dough. Stir in the yeast mixture and beaten egg until it forms a dough. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter or board. and knead, scooping the dough up, slapping and turning it, until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively you can use a Kitchen Aid type mixer, for 5 minutes in medium-low speed.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper or sharp knife, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on the lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400 F. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash, then brush on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds pressing them in gently to adhere. Bake, turning the sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: What a nice dough to play with!  Smooth, soft, tender, and very responsive. To get that amazing rise from the first couple of photos it took less than 90 minutes, and only one hour was needed after shaping to stick it in the oven. As you can see, this bread is quite easy to prepare on the spur of the moment. I admit that sometimes it’s nice to resort to commercial yeast. I shaped two buns a little smaller, the baking pan from King Arthur accommodated both sizes without any problem.

 

Sliced

The day I baked them we had pork burgers that turned out very tasty: ground pork, chorizo, green apples, a few spices.  The detailed recipe will be in the Bewitching soon.   Leftover rolls were frozen and absolutely perfect after sitting at room temperature for 15 minutes and spending 5-10 more minutes in our small Breville oven at 300 F.

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 I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event….

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Blues

TWO  YEARS AGO: Headed to Hawaii

THREE YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Hidden Treasure

FIVE YEARS AGO: Avocado Three Ways

SPINACH AND CHICKPEA CURRY

This recipe was published in a recent issue of Fine Cooking magazine, and it called my attention because I absolutely love chickpeas. My dear Mom would have a shock if she read my blog. I would not touch chickpeas with a 10-foot pole when I was a child. Actually, I would not touch them until I was about 30 years old.  Then, I fell in love with hummus without realizing what went into it.  Once I became aware of the true nature of hummus,  I decided that by crushing those strange-looking grains, and mixing them with a ton of other stuff, their evil nature was neutralized.  From the tasty dip to trying the actual beans many years more passed.  But now you have me here, enjoying chickpeas in every possible way, roasted, sautéed, braised… Go figure.  This is a very nice way to prepare them, by the way. For a recipe that comes together so quickly (start to finish will be less than 20 minutes), the taste is surprisingly complex.  The amount made was enough for our dinner and two lunches for me and me only.  I did not even offer to share.  It was better on day 2, and outstanding on day 3.   Make this and you will thank me…

SpinachChickpeaCurry

SPINACH AND CHICKPEA CURRY
(slightly modified from Fine Cooking magazine)

3 Tbs. canola oil
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt or to taste
7 oz. (7 packed cups) baby spinach (I used less)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (optional)

Heat the oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, and cayenne, and cook, stirring often, until the shallot is softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, and about 1 tsp. salt. Add the spinach by the handful, stirring to wilt it as you go. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the spinach is completely wilted and the flavors have melded, 4 to 5 minutes more. Season to taste with more salt, if needed. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.

Serve with the yogurt on top, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Served

I should have changed the name of this recipe to “Chickpea & Spinach Curry“, because mine definitely was chickpea-heavy. I used all the spinach I had leftover from a huge bag, but clearly more would have been better. Spinach: the ever-disappearing leaf… We enjoyed this tasty curry with my default chicken thigh recipe that has been on the blog since its beginning.  It is one of Phil’s favorites, that and my Chicken Parmigiana. are on the top of his selected list of frequent requests. You know, partners of food bloggers suffer a strange fate: rarely a dish is made again, no matter how great.  We are always in search of the next best thing.

Back to the curry, though.  I can see it served over couscous for a completely vegetarian meal, satisfying and super delicious. On day 2, I had some chicken to go with it, but on day 3 the simple couscous was my whole lunch, with half an avocado to round-up the meal. Sort of India meets Mexico. The hot curry with the cool avocado was a surprisingly nice match.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sautéed Zucchini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

TWO YEARS AGO: Orzo with Heirloom Tomato Relish

THREE YEARS AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Rhubarb Brouhaha: Revelation Compote

FIVE YEARS AGO: Love me tender…

IN MY KITCHEN: AUGUST 2014

Once more I join the virtual party started by Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, sharing with you what is going on in our kitchen these days.

In our kitchen… A special gift.

SourCherries

Sour cherries from a friend’s backyard.  We went there, climbed on ladders, and came home with a nice load of freshly picked fruit.  We will share a recipe for what we did with them soon. Local food at its best!

In our kitchen…

cheese

A cute ceramic cheese platter with little chalkboards to write the names of the cheeses being served…   It was on sale at ideeli.com…  On a side note, ideeli.com is a place that offers special 24-hour sales of all sorts of unique items, from clothing to shoes.  I love their customer service, if something doesn’t fit right,  returning items is absolutely hassle-free.  Aren’t these shoes something?   Ok, forgive me for stepping out of the kitchen…

Now, back to cooking….

hamburgerpan

A special pan to bake hamburger buns, sold by King Arthur Flour.  I am not too wild about kitchen gadgets with limited purposes, but this thing is amazing.  Very high quality, sturdy, makes the size of buns I like, not gigantic, with a nice shape.  And, you can use it for many other items, like single quiche-type concoctions, pies.

 In our kitchen…

gadgets

Three items from the bargain bin at Bed Bath and Beyond…  I’ve been flirting with this large scoop for a long time, but bravely resisted until they were on sale. I used to have a silicone whisk multi-colored, but it broke last year. It was nice to replace it, even if this red one is a tad too discreet for my taste.   ;-)

 

In our kitchen…

IcecreamKeeper

A special container for ice cream.  It seems small, but it holds the exact amount of ice cream or sorbets we make in our Cuisinart. The shape is perfect to scoop out a ball of sweet frozen deliciousness such as this apricot-passion fruit sorbet made by my beloved husband. Available at amazon.com (the ice cream container, not the husband).

 

In our kitchen…

brownsugarcomposite

A box to store brown sugar. I love it!  Finally a decent way to deal with brown sugar, keeping it loose, and making it easy to scoop out the amount you need.

In our kitchen….

CoconutOil

I suppose coconut oil is a very trendy ingredient, as I see it in recipes everywhere. I decided to get a bottle and was surprised by how much I like it. Very delicate flavor.

In our kitchen….

SunbeamPaprika

The morning sun shinning through the window, surprised me with a very nice effect on a bottle of paprika left on the counter top.  It was a wonderful sight to start the day…

In our kitchen….

crackerscomposite

Snacks, a winner and a loser. The winner?  Crunchy Coated Black Edamame.  Hard to stop nibbling on those, they are spicy, salty, we love this stuff!   The loser?  Hummus crisps.  The concept seemed brilliant.  Eating those feels like punishment.  No one deserves it. Sawdust compressed into rounds would likely taste better.

 

In our kitchen…

SpinachBreading

A new take on breading for pork or chicken cutlets…  too simple to actually compose a blog about it, I  added to the food processor a little panko, a little Parmigiano cheese, and… ready for this?  Fresh spinach!  Used that to coat pork chops.  The inspiration came from Giada de Laurentiis, she used it to make baked chicken nuggets for a kids’ friendly meal.  I love the way this turned out, and intend to use it often. Plus, it’s a great way to deal with a little spinach leftover in the bag. Just a handful is all you need.

 

As usual, I close this IMK series with a message from our faithful furry friends…

 

Chief thinks Mom’s cooking is the best in the world!  Nothing like a little leftover couscous to spice up a bowl of dog food, and start my day right.

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Although it does make me a little sleepy….

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As the weather warms up, Buck is the only one of our four-legged friends who can keep up with our running and long walks. That dog is resilient, to say the least.  In one of these walks, we reached a farm where Buck made a new friend.  A big friend, curious, and surprisingly gentle.

Buck_Cow22

Oscar is not interested in long walks or getting up close and personal with bovine creatures. He thinks a much better activity is snoozing close to Mom while she exercises, then jump up at the end to give her a hug. Still a little groggy, but happy to comply.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  I wonder how many words a video is worth?  I’ve got two to share with you today. If you want to see how excited Buck gets by the perspective of going for a walk, click here.

And, you can also see him  showing off his abilities as he learns a new trick.  (You may have to increase the volume a little for this one). Not bad for a rescued dog who was abused for 5 long  years, don’t you think?

compositeWell, friends… it’s time to say goodbye.  
It’s been so hot outside, what we really love the most is just chillin’ out with mom.
See you next time!

 

If you want to see kitchens from other food bloggers, or add your own post to this great virtual party, visit Celia’s site by clicking here.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Jerusalem: Pasta with Yogurt, Peas, and Chile

TWO YEARS AGO: Edamame Hummus in Cucumber Bites

THREE YEARS AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Twice-Baked Goat Cheese Souffle

FIVE YEARS AGO: Golly Moses: She’s  a Muffin!

STRAWBERRY COFFEE CAKE

This is a lovely cake, not too sweet, not too rich.  The strawberries more or less melt into the batter, the pecan topping makes the cake more complex, with a nice contrast of textures.

StrawberryCoffeeCake

 

STRAWBERRY COFFEE CAKE
(recipe from food.com)

for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2-2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

for the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir to mix.

In a second bowl, add the egg, milk and butter; stir to mix; add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.

Pour mixture into a greased 8-inch square baking dish. Place strawberries evenly over the top of batter.

To make the topping: Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until consistency of coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans.

Sprinkle mixture evenly over the strawberries.

Bake at 375 F (190 C) for 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This recipe comes from Meryl, a long time contributor of the cooking forum Eat.at, who recently passed away.  Several members of the forum are celebrating her life by cooking her favorite recipes. I chose this cake to do so.

A balanced diet is equal parts of milk and dark chocolate.” 
(Meryl’s signature line)

 

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MINI-CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES

August is already knocking at the door, this year is flying by.  But before a new month starts, there’s always the excitement of the last Monday of the month, with Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club. For those who are new to this concept, bloggers are paired in secret, have a few weeks to stalk their assigned site, and everyone in the club blogs about their recipe on the exact same day and time. Nothing cooler than that, you must admit…  This month I was paired with Colie’s Kitchen.  Nicole, who hosts the site, is a full-time college student, with a full-time life of organized chaos.”  Ha!  I can totally relate…  She is married and a “bonus mom”, what a great expression, much better than step mom,  I guess I can relate to that too.  I had quite a few options selected as possibilities for my assignment, like her Lasagna Rolls, her Parmesan Meatloaf Muffins (great idea!),  her Oh My God Macaroon Pie, and her Cauliflower Cheddar Fritters.  But, as is often the case with The Secret Recipe, I took the sweet path, and ended up with these super cute single bite (ok, a couple of bites) desserts…

MiniCheesecakeBits

 

MINI CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE BITES
(from Colie’s Kitchen)

3 Packages of Neufchatel, softened
1 + 1/4 cups sugar
1 (8 ounce) container of dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
28 Oreo cookies halves, removing the cream center
28 cupcake tins/liners

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until blended. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until fully mixed.

Beat in cocoa and flour. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until well blended.

Remove Oreo filling with a butter knife and add one half of a Oreo to each cupcake tin. Fill each tin with one large spoon full of cheesecake filling until you have filled all 28 then go back and top off each tin with any extra filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours. Store covered in refrigerator or in the freezer.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I cannot tell you how much fun I had making this recipe! The toughest part was discarding the filling of the Oreo cookies. Part of me wanted to throw caution to the wind and behave like my former self of decades ago: shamelessly open the Oreos, scrape them clean, and try to sneak the cookie halves to the trash can without my Mom realizing. That never had a happy ending.  At most, I could get by with a couple of cookies, then pay a price for my behavior. Waste not. Ever. Do you know how many kids in the world went to bed hungry last night?  Apparently, I did not. (sigh)

The idea of using Oreos as a base for these cheesecake bites is a strike of genius!  Perfect size for cupcake liners. Because the recipe made so many and I only have one muffin baking pan, I got the disposable aluminum pans at the grocery store, and was quite pleased by how well they worked.  No difference in quality of baking, although in the name of full disclosure, I confess that I dropped one of the disposable pans while taking them out of the oven.  Huge big mess, coupled with language even more colorful than the cupcake liners. I am glad there are no hidden cameras in our home…

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If you follow my blog, you know that I never add the caloric content of any of my recipes for the simple reason that I don’t pay attention to it. But, since Nicole provided that info, I will share it with you: one of these babies has only 134 calories, which, as far as dessert is concerned, sounds pretty moderate to me.  Keep in mind this interesting linear fit, though. It can be cruel to your waistline.

cheesecake

 

Nicole, thanks for such a cute recipe that was very appreciated by our colleagues at the department…  I hope you had as much fun as I did with my assignment this month.

As usual, if any of my readers would like to see all assignments for my group, click on the blue amphibian at the end of this post, and enjoy the ride through the blogosphere…

ONE YEAR AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

THREE YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

FIVE YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

CRISPY CORNMEAL SWEET POTATO FRIES

I am not quite sure how many recipes for oven-fried sweet potatoes I’ve tried in the past few years in a quest for the right amount of crunch outside, and a creamy, perfectly cooked interior. It’s not easy to get this combination. All my previous attempts failed to impress us, but this version was definitely blog-worthy.

Cornmeal Crusted Sweet Potatoes
(made on May 09th; blogged on July 24th)

CRISPY CORNMEAL SWEET POTATO FRIES
(adapted from My New Roots)

2 – 3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
4 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp paprika (sweet, hot or smoked)
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Scrub the sweet potatoes well under running water. Slice them into long sticks (thinner than 1/2 inch). Place them in a bowl of water, swish around a few times, then drain. Lay them on a clean tea towel and dry thoroughly. Let them air dry completely.
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Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. On low heat, melt coconut oil in a small saucepan. Place cut potatoes in a plastic bag, seal and shake the bag vigorously to coat (this can also be done on a baking sheet, drizzle the oil over and toss very well to coat). Add cornmeal, salt, and smoked paprika to the bag and toss well to coat.
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Place potatoes on a lined baking sheet, making sure that they are not overlapping.
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Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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We are not too wild about buying frozen food, but Alexis frozen sweet potato fries are the exception to this rule. I have no idea what they do to make their sweet potatoes so crisp, without any apparent coating. Still, I am glad this recipe gave us a nice alternative, with the added bonus of being able to season them according to our mood, or what we are having as a main dish. In this particular evening, we had open-faced cheeseburgers with slices of avocado and tomatoes.  The sweet potatoes with the amazing paprika our friend brought all the way from Slovakia were perfect alongside.

dinnerDinner is served!


ONE YEAR AGO:
Pan-grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika & Avocado Cream

TWO YEARS AGO: Golden Saffron and Fennel Loaf

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2011

FOUR YEARS AGO: Heavenly Homemade Fromage Blanc

FIVE YEARS AGOA Perfect Sunday Dinner