When I was a kid, we never ate sweet potatoes. It was another one of those foods that my Irish-German, Pennsylvania-born Mom considered ‘foreign,’ and therefore not worthy of cooking, along with things like lasagna, pizza and sauerkraut.  Essentially, anything that had spices, did not have hamburger as an ingredient or that wasn’t overcooked ,bland and tasteless was never served. As a result, it wasn’t until I was in college that I was exposed to a lot of the foods I now love. Yep.  College dorm cafeteria food as a taste treat. Amazing, eh? 

That’s where I first had sweet potatoes.  Sadly for me, it was one of those vile sweet potato casseroles where the baby food consistency potatoes were drowned in way too much butter and sugar and weighed down by mountains of marshmallows which for my money, is one of the most disgusting food products invented and I’ve eaten potted meat straight from the can.  This one actually lets you taste the potatoes, but it’s still got the requisite sweetitude but with a bit of a kick.

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 14x10 baking pan with cooking spray.  Half the potatoes lengthwise befor cutting into 3/4 inch thick wedges.  Cut the wedges down into 3/4 to one inch hunks before tossing into a bowl.

Melt the butter in the microwave.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and nuke for another minutes or so until it gets syrupy.

Pour over the potatoes in the bowl and toss to coat.  Throw the potatoes into the baking pan and spread into a single layer.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tender and the glaze has thickened and cooked down.

Serves 8-10

sweet potatoes

Photo info:
Bowl by Lamberton China for the United States Lines

Posted by Mike on Friday, December 17, 2010 at 08:34 AM
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It never fails to amaze me that you can take the most minimal, simple and bland ingredients put them together and get major yum.  Scalloped potatoes is one of those dishes.  Take some milk and potatoes and a little bit of spice and you achieve comfort food nirvana.  It’s a freakin’ miracle I tell ya!


5 TBSP flour
5 TBSP butter
1 small onion, chopped
4 C milk (I use regular and my ass is really fat to prove it.  Use 1% or 2% if you’d prefer to have only one chin.)
6 large potatoes
1 packet G. Washington Gold
1/4 C parmesan (optional)

To taste:  salt, parsley, chives, pepper


Peel and slice potatoes 1/4” thick.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.  Layer into a 2 qt casserole.  Sprinkle with parmesan.

In a 3 qt saucepan saute onion in butter.  Add flour and G. Washington all at once, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add milk, whisking constantly.  Add spices.  Cook until thickened.

imagePour sauce over potatoes moving them slightly with a fork so the sauce flows through.  It will seem like there’s a lot of sauce (see picture at left).  That’s ok, it gets all soaked up by the potatoes as they cook.  Bake at 350° for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until potatoes are fork-tender and sauce is thick.  Let cool on the counter for 15 minutes or so because this will be like molten lava...way to hot to eat.  Serves 4-ish people.

Posted by Donna on Friday, March 05, 2010 at 06:59 PM
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This is a fast and surprisingly tasty dish that could easily transition from side dish to main course.  With so few ingredients though, make sure you spring for high quality.

Mediterranean Lentils

mediterranean lentils

1 1/2 cups lentils
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
5 Tbs Tomato paste

Place lentils and 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until lentils are tender and most of the water has been absorbed-about 20 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and half the feta cheese. At this time you’ll be able to really tell how much water is left in the pan.  If you misjudged like I did and the mixture is too dry, you’ll probably have to add about a half cup or so of water to successfully distribute the tomato paste and feta.  Also stir in some pepper and if desired, salt and keep on the heat for another minute or two to make sure that everything’s good and warm. 

To serve, spoon the lentils and cooking liquid into bowls and garnish with remaining feta cheese.

Serves 4

This is pretty much a blank slate that you can take in any direction you want.  Swap some roughly chopped Parmagiano or Romano for the feta and add fresh or dried oregano, thyme and basil and you’ve given it a nice italian flavor. Some cumin and a cup of good salsa and you’re good for Mexican. 

Posted by Mike on Monday, May 18, 2009 at 10:57 AM
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After eating some surprisingly tasty vegetarian meals of late, I’ve been trying to cook vegetarian from time to time. 

Black beans and rice

Black beans and riceIngredients
1 cup Basmati rice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
4 radishes, cut in largish chunks
1/4 cup cilantro

Cook rice according to package directions.  While rice is cooking heat the oil over med high heat in a large pan.  Add the onions, bell pepper, garlic 1/4 tsp black pepper and cook until the veggies are softened.  Stir in the ground cumin and cook for another minute or so more.

Add the beans, oregano and 1 cup water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes before stirring in the vinegar. Mash some of the beans with a fork to thicken the cooking liquid. Serve over rice and top with radishes and cilantro.

Serves 4 as an entree, 6 as a side dish

Note:  This was tasty, but a little bland. The next time I cook this, I’ll up the amounts of garlic and cumin and add a bit of cayenne or habanero pepper sauce--or at least sprinkle some on when it’s in the bowl.  I also use dried reconstituted beans which cuts down on the salt content dramatically.  Without the rice, it also works as a kind of burrito

Posted by Mike on Tuesday, May 05, 2009 at 03:22 PM
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I got this recipe from a friend years ago and have tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes. I don’t make it too often because it’s not only incredibly rich and kind of expensive to make, but it also makes enough to feed a small army. It goes over well with adults at pitch-ins and family gatherings though. Little kids are kind of hit or miss. Some like it if it’s not too far removed from Shells and Cheese, but if you’ve spiced it up, you might want to play it safe and have some boxed Velveeta on hand.  I definitely recommend using a disposeable pan since all that baked-on cheese is a killer to scrub off a regular pan.

1 lb Elbow macaroni
1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 lb jack or mozzarella, grated
1/2 lb pepper jack cheese, grated
2 cans cheddar or nacho cheese soup
1 can evaporated milk
2 eggs
garlic powder
celery salt
hot sauce (to taste)
1 or 2 tubs grated parmesan or romano cheese (not the kind that comes in a cardboard tube) to taste

Put on some cooking music (I prefer Sonia Dada, Aretha, or O.A.R. but whatever yanks your crank) and a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Pour yourself a glass of wine and groove to the tunes until the water is boiling then dump the noodles in, removing them before they reachal dente . They’ll finish cooking and pick up the rest of their liquid when it’s in the oven. Speaking of which, preheat the oven to 350.

While the macaroni’s cooking, crack the eggs into a bowl and add about half the can of evaporated milk. Use more if you like your mac a bit runnier.  Save the rest of the can for pouring into your coffee tomorrow morning. Beat the bejeesus out of the eggs and milk, then add the pepper, garlic powder, celery salt and hot sauce.  Don’t be shy with the spices. You’re seasoning a big ass mess of mac & cheese so it’ll absorb alot of spices before it gets overpowering. 

Take another sip or two of wine and drain the noodles. Put them back into the pot. Add the two cans of cheese soup and mix them in to coat the noodles. Toss in a handful or two of the parmesan or romano and keep mixing.

Pour the egg and milk mixture into the pot an cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring like crazy the whole time.

Spread a layer of the macaroni mixture over the bottom of a big disposable aluminum baking pan and cover it with a layer of the grated cheddar and mozzarella or jack cheeses. Repeat the layers, making sure that the top is really covered with grated cheese. Put it in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is all brown and bubbly.  If you haven’t finished off your glass of wine, do it now so you can bake along with the mac ‘n’ cheese.  Toss the pepper jack on top along with another handful or two of the grated Parmesan or Romano and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until it’s brown and bubbly again.

Take it out of the oven and let sit for around five minutes, then serve it up hot and chow down.


It’s mac n cheese--a tabula rasa for your creative experients, but here’s a few that have worked for me.  Add a layer of spinach between the first and second layers of noodles.

Stir some diced ham, peas or chopped asparagus into the pot of noodles before putting it into the baking pan. Diced hot or sweet peppers peppers work really well when layered in also.

Add some strips of bacon on top of the cheese before baking. 

Use italian spice blend and top with prosciutto, throwing some sun-dried tomatoes on top towards the end of the baking time.

Or--if you want to go the opposite direction and be healthy, substitute egg beaters or lowfat/nonfat cheese.  You won’t notice the difference, honest. 

Posted by Mike on Saturday, March 03, 2007 at 02:43 PM
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This recipe is actually in this month's issue of Taste of Home. My husband, who hates scalloped potatoes, loves this dish.


1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups of milk
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undilted
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
8 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes (approximately 8 medium sized potatoes)
3-1/2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender. Sir in the flour, parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme until blended. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in the soup. Remove from the heat; sir in sour cream until blended.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and ham. In a greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish, layer half the potato mixture, cheese and white sauce. Repeat layers. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 40-50 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender. Serves 6 to 8.

If you are roasting meat at a lower temperature, you can bake this at the same time, but adjust your cooking time accordingly. You can also lighten this up by substituting low fat milk, reduced fat soup, light sour cream, and/or reduced fat cheese.
Posted by Donna on Sunday, December 25, 2005 at 06:17 PM
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As requested by Brenda. This is not the same as blueberry pudding which is wrapped in cheesecloth and boiled.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh
water to cover berries
sugar to taste

Mix the first 5 ingredients together. Set aside. In a sauce pan, place the remaining 3 ingredients and boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and drop in dumplings by the tablespoonfuls.
Posted by Donna on Thursday, July 08, 2004 at 12:50 PM
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1 box Uncle Ben's wild rice
1 lb sausage (I use Jimmy Dean HOT)
1lb fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 slivered almonds
1 med onion, chopped

Prepare the rice according to the directions on the box. Brown the sausage; just before it's done, add the onion and mushroom and cook til the onion is soft. Mix everything together in a casserole dish, cover it with foil, and stick it in the oven at 350 for about half an hour.
Posted by Donna on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 at 04:48 PM
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