Sweet Potato Casserole Yogurt

Sweet Potato Yogurt 1

Congrats! You survived Christmas! I hope yours was as merry as the day we enjoyed with family. Vore and I saw my parents and his mom then relaxed at home for the evening. How’s that for a successful holiday?

If your house is anything like ours, the fridge is absolutely brimming with leftovers. Turkey, ham, dressing, and casserole–one of the sweet potato variety. We eat ours whipped with butter, then topped with a pecan brown sugar crumble. It’s good, but whoa–super sweet.

Today, I got a little creative with the leftovers and thought I would share. I stirred 3 tablespoons of the sweet potato casserole (topping and all) into 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt. I then topped with a teensy bit of the crumble, a few walnuts and a drizzle of agave. What a fun way to reinvent leftover casserole! This could become a new fave.

What are you doing with all the leftovers?

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What’s Cookin’? The Christmas Edition

From Thanksgiving until Christmas, I turn into a cooking machine. I bet you do, too!

I thought I’d share a few things that have come out of my kitchen and the recipes that made them great:

Date, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Ball from Cooking Light

Cheese Ball

Gingerbread Boys from Southern Living

gingerbread

Eggnog Ice Cream from Use Real Butter

Eggnog Icecream

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake from Cooking Light

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

I’ve also made Honey Yeast Rolls + Baby Blue Salad from Southern Living and Legendary Bookout Dressing + Gran’s Birthday Bread Pudding from yours truly. And that just scratches the surface! What is coming out of your kitchen?

“Use Those Peels!” Apple Pie Smoothie

I'm so tasty

Remember a couple of weeks back when I made that gorgeous apple pie?   {Pats self on back for successful Martha Stewart moment.}   It left me with one tiny conundrum. Waste.

You see, the recipe called for PEELED apples, and I absolutely loathe throwing perfectly nutritious food away. So I covered a cookie sheet with parchment paper, lined those peels in a single layer and froze them for later use.

When my apple pie craving came back, I recreated the baked good experience in a much easier way–drinkable goodness. Unlike that “once-in-a-while” slice of pie, this smoothie deserves a place in your every day nutritious rotation.

“Use Those Peels!” Apple Pie Smoothie

1 cup Granny Smith Apple peels–frozen and loosely packed

1 medium banana sliced and frozen (roughly 1/2 cup slices)

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 tablespoon brown rice protein powder

3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Optional: your favorite sweetener, to taste

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and whirl away. The apple peels do take a moment to break down. I used the “high” speed on my Vitamix to obliterate them. I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Fool Your Picky Eaters! Hide Their Veggies.

Black bean soup text

It all started with a chili night gone wrong. Vore and I had divided and conquered the grocery shopping for the week, me going to Whole Foods and him Publix. I asked him to bring home dried black beans, but forgot to put kidneys and garbonzos on the list. On chili day, I had the peppers, onions and black beans, but not a whole lot else. Whoops.

All was not lost! This led me to think of an all time favorite: black bean soup at Panera Bread. Gosh I love that stuff! I did a little googling for copy cat recipes, and they all left me feeling blah. So I did what any respectable food blogger would and made up my own.

However, I kicked it up a notch. There are almost as many veggies lurking in this soup as beans! This one pot supper is positively loaded with nutrition and fiber. As for the picky folks in your house? They’ll be none the wiser. Who’s ready to sneak some veggies into a hearty winter soup?

Hidden Veggie Black Bean Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped (approx 2 cups)

1 large red pepper, chopped (1.5-2 cups)

1 large green pepper, chopped (1.5-2 cups)

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2-1 teaspoon salt (depending on the salt in your beans and broth)

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

6 cups beans, divided (1 16 oz package dried beans, cooked or 3 cans, drained)

24 ounces vegetable broth (3 cups)

Heat a large pot over a medium high heat.

Add the vegetables as you chop them. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent and everything starts to break down a bit. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook for a minute or so more.

Pour in the vegetable broth and 4 cups beans, bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Add the bean mixture to a high speed blender of food processor and blend until smooth. I did this in two batches in my Vitamix.

Return the puree to the pan and stir in the remaining beans. Heat on the stovetop until your desired temperature is reached, then serve with sour cream, cheese, chives or whatever suits your fancy.

***Congrats to Melissa! I used Random Number Generator to pick a winner for The Unforgettable Photograph Giveaway and her comment was selected!

6 Photography Tips + GIVEAWAY!

Photography Book

Let me be the first to say that I am in no way qualified to be giving tips on photography. Mine is marginal at best. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve!

I work in a creative business. While my end of the bargain is writing, I often partner with photographers to make the necessary visuals happen. For me, it’s a highlight of the job. I love concepting marketing material, discussing ideas with a designer and photographer, then collaborating to make a great piece.

photo-3I feel like I’ve long been able to spot good photography, but not necessarily create it for myself. Last winter, I took the first step by purchasing a Nikon D600, which is WAY over my amateur head. The idea was to grow into it, learning about photography beyond the point-and-shoot.

Well…Sadly, I haven’t done much. Most of the problem is time. I usually style and finish taking food shots in less than 5 minutes. Tisk, tisk. I also need to take more steps toward shooting in the raw and creativity in general.

That’s why I was super stoked when the folks at Cooking Light contacted me, asking if I would read/review The Unforgettable Photograph by George Lange, with CL editor Scott Mowbray. Heck yeah, I’ll take a chance to learn something about photography!

So far, I’m enchanted with the book. There are 228 “tips, ideas and secrets,” each with an explanation, photo, and–my favorite–the camera settings used to accomplish the shot. I LOVE that the authors break a complex art down into much more manageable pieces. Here are 6 easy things I’d like to try with my food shots:

  1. Move into a tight, simple angle.
  2. Move around, 90 degrees.
  3. Avoid the flash.
  4. Know where the best light in your house is.
  5. Try an out-of-focus foreground.
  6. Make your own simple backdrops.

Those sound easy enough, right? Once I master those, I’ll move on to a handful more, and so on. Now then, for the good part. I have an extra copy of The Unforgettable Photograph to give away!

In the comments section below, tell me your favorite subject to photograph. Enter by midnight on December 16, and I will randomly pick a winner!

Good luck and happy photographing!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Oil

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes. You think of them at Thanksgiving, casseroled or candied. You might order them in french fry form, if you want something “healthy” to go with your burger. But they are so much more!

Ubiquitous in my native South, these little tubers pack some serious nutritional punch. They are absolutely bursting with vitamins A and C, and boast a low glycemic index. They also give you pretty skin. I’ve heard of celebrities eating only sweet potatoes for days before a photo shoot to get “that glow” beta carotene gives. It just makes my palms orange. But I digress…

Sweet potatoes are a staple on our table. We eat them super frequently, but not exactly the same way I did as a child. Then, sweet potatoes were almost always served in “casserole” form, which involved those pretty orange gems being boiled, creamed together with a copious amount of butter, then topped with more butter, brown sugar and pecans than you can shake a stick at. That preparation is certainly tasty, but then it’s pretty much dessert!

These days, we save the sweet potato casserole for holidays, and keep our weekday fare very much lighter. I have about a million variations on roasted sweet potatoes, but I’ll share this favorite today. The combination of coconut oil with sweet, savory and warm spices will blow your mind. Enjoy.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Oil

2.5 pounds of sweet potatoes, cubed into 1 inch pieces (peels or no peels–your preference!)

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon grated orange rind (optional)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Sweet and spicy pecans (optional, but awesome)

Preheat your oven to 400.

Mix the melted coconut oil, honey, orange rind, cinnamon, chili powder and cumin in a small bowl.

Pour the sauce over your cubed sweet potatoes, tossing well to coat. (NOTE: Cold sweet potatoes will make the coconut oil seize up a bit. That’s okay, just toss the potatoes again after about 5 minutes in the oven.)

Spread the potatoes evenly on a cookie sheet coated with parchment paper. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, turning once during cooking. Check your potatoes. Are they almost tender? If so, it’s time for my secret step: the broiler, baby.

Kick the heat up to broil, and roast for about 3 minutes extra, until the potatoes brown lightly on top and puff up around the edges.

Serve hot.