Thursday, November 13, 2008

Crockpot Tamale Pie

First off, let me shout this out...
This makes me especially happy because I am going on a road trip to Missouri this weekend to see my snuggly-wuggly-cutie-patootie little niece who will be three years-old on Saturday.  This is my little precious right here:
Aunt Lorie can't wait to see you, sweetie!
I just can't get enough use out of my crockpot.  I love knowing that I've got an entire meal cooking and I don't have to babysit it, that way I never miss my rigorous workouts that I'm so fond of.  This recipe has been adapted from the Fix-It and Forget-It cookbook.  The ingredients will seem very watery when you mix them up, but that's okay.  In the crockpot, they will bake and form a crust that tastes similar to a tamale.  I found that it only takes about three hours on the low setting for this to be done.  Also, I have a hot spot in my crockpot.  One side cooked a little faster than the other and I would have benefited from rotating the crock.  This is not noticeable in my other crockpot meals that have more juice.
I made some slight changes to the recipe.  I decreased the meat to 3/4 pound and added a can of pinto beans.  I also added chopped onion and taco seasoning instead of chili seasoning, but either would work.

Crockpot Tamale Pie

3/4 cup cornmeal
1-1/2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
3/4 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 envelope taco or chili seasoning
1 (14.25-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (15.25-ounce) can corn, drained
1 (14.25-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grated Colby jack or cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Chopped cilantro

  1. Combine the cornmeal, milk, and egg in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Brown the ground beef with the onion.  Drain well.  Stir into the cornmeal mixture along
    with the taco seasoning, canned tomatoes, corn, and beans.  Transfer mixture to the crock.
  3. Cover and cook on low for about 3 hours.  The top will be slightly puffy and dry looking on top.  Sprinkle with cheese and put lid on until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped cilantro.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

A few weeks ago, I was invited by the cafeteria staff at my husband's high school to be the guest of honor for lunch one day during National School Lunch Week.  They invited me because of my contest cooking background and they treated me like a downright celebrity.  When I walked into the cafeteria, there was a huge banner on the wall, a table for me to display some of my prizes and gifts from past cook-offs, and lots of sweet little kids to talk to.  They had also arranged for a reporter  to interview me and take a picture for the local paper. 

I'll tell you, I even got to eat lunch at the teacher's table which made me feel pretty darn important.  I wanted to thank these fine ladies for inviting me, so I made something really special for them:  Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls.

These are not just any cinnamon rolls, people.  In 2006, I was gloriously called to be a finalist in the Southern Living Cook-Off.  There were five categories, each with three contestants in it.  My category was called "Your Best Recipe" and my recipe was "Mexi-Texi Bistec Pedazos."  Competing against me was "Fantastic Foolproof Jambalaya" and "Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls."   I had to win my category in order to move on to the final round for a grand prize of $100,000.00.  Yes, one hundred thousand dollars.  Here I am on stage with Tyler Florence...

I am the one with the big, bushy hair.  Anyway...

We all three lined up on stage after our recipe demonstration, our hearts racing and Food Network filming our every facial contortion.  Tyler Florence was to my right and he opened the envelope to reveal the name of the category winner, the winner who would win $10,000 and then go on to the final round to compete for the grand prize....

"and the winner is..."


The next thing I knew, security was pulling me off of Tyler...

No, just kidding, but in the blink of an eye, it was over for me and Fantastic Foolproof Jambalaya.  We were all escorted off stage and Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls went on to win the grand prize.

Yes, these cinnamon rolls are THAT good.

Let me give you a couple of tips about making them.  First, I made the filling and the glaze a couple of days before and stored them in my refrigerator.  I let the filling come to room temperature and I heated the glaze in the microwave so it would drizzle easy.  This helped me save some time.

Also, I specifically remember Mo, one of the creators of the recipe, tell me to use a professional size 13 x 9-inch pan, which has higher sides.  The first time I made these I used a regular pan and the glaze did run over onto the bottom of my oven, so be sure to put a baking sheet underneath.  To remedy that problem this time, I cut the dough into sixteen instead of twelve.  Twelve of them I put into a disposable foil pan for the lunch ladies, and the remaining four I baked in a small springform pan.  This worked out great.  The cinnamon rolls were only slightly smaller and there was no running over of glaze.  And I had a small pan for us to enjoy at home. rolls instead of

I have to say, these melt in my mouth.  They have a subtle sweet potato flavor, so even people who may not like sweet potatoes will probably like these.  I may have to make another batch for Thanksgiving morning.  Do not leave the orange zest out!  It adds SO much flavor.  I did, however, leave the chopped pecans out of the filling this time. 

The original recipe is here.  It has directions to make them by hand and by food processor.  I don't have a food processor, so I made them using my Kitchen Aid, and wrote the directions below on how I did that.  These turned out wonderful by letting them rise in my fridge overnight.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Southern Living Magazine


3/4 cup melted butter

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon


1 cup firmly y packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla


2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)

1 teaspoon sugar

5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

2 tablespoons grated orange rind

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Non-stick cooking spray

  1. For the filling:  Stir together all ingredients until blended.
  2. For the glaze:  Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla.
  3. For the rolls:  Stir together the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
  4. Combine the yeast mixture and 1/2 cup flour in the bowl of an electric mixer; mix until combined on medium speed using the paddle attachment.  Gradually add the mashes sweet potatoes, the next 7 ingredients, and remaining flour until combined.  Switch to dough hook and knead for about 4-5 minutes or until elastic and smooth.
  5. Place dough in a large bowl that has been coated with cooking spray.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 1 to 1 -1/2 hours or until double in bulk.
  6. Punch dough down.  Turn dough onto a well floured surface and roll into a 10 x 18-inch rectangle.  Spread the filling evenly over surface leaving a 1-inch border.  Roll up jellyroll style starting with one long side.  Cut into 12 slices and arrange in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been lightly greased.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts for 30 minutes.
  7. Bake rolls at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and drizzle about 1/2 cup of the glaze over the tops, starting at edge of pan and drizzling in a circular pattern; let soak in.  Repeat with remaining glaze.
  8. Bake rolls for 7-10 minutes more or until lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Remove rolls from oven and invert onto an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.  Invert again, glaze side up onto a serving platter.  Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes.  Serve warm.
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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tortilla Toffee

Like quick and easy recipes?  Me too, and I especially like this one.  I created this recipe a few years ago and it's been one of my most requested.  It's got a short list of ingredients, can be done in under forty minutes, and utilizes everyday pantry items like flour tortillas.

I like to top this quick and easy version of toffee with roasted and salted peanuts, but the sky's the limit, so use your imagination.  Sometimes I use milk chocolate chips, but this time I used semisweet.  Either one tastes delicious.

Tortilla Toffee

Non-stick cooking spray

6 fajita-size flour tortillas

1 cup butter

1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/2 cups milk chocolate or semi-sweet chips

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts

  1. Preheat ovent to 400 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with foil.  Lightly spray each pan with nonstick cooking spray. Lay 3 tortillas flat on each pan and bake for 12-14 minutes or until deep golden brown and crispy.  If large air pockets form, just pierce with a sharp knife, then push air out with a spatula.  Small air pockets are okay. 
  2. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt 1 cup butter, the brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon over medium to high heat until melted, stirring often.  Bring to a rolling boil and boil 3 minutes stirring constantly.  Mixture will be thick.  Remove from heat and quickly spread mixture evenly over each tortilla with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  (Some of the mixture will run off to the pan, but that’s okay). 
  3. Bake in oven for 6 minutes or until the entire surface of each tortilla is bubbly (some of the mixture will run off of the tortillas).  Remove from oven and let stand about 1-2 minutes. 
  4. Sprinkle each tortilla with the chocolate chips divided evenly among them and let set until chips become shiny and melted.  (Tortillas can be put back in the oven for 1-2 minutes until chocolate melts.)  Spread the chocolate over each tortilla all the way to the edges, then sprinkle evenly with the peanuts and press down slightly.  Loosen the tortillas away from the toffee that ran onto the pan with a knife, if needed.  Place in freezer just until chocolate hardens.  Break each tortilla into about 2-inch jagged pieces like toffee. 

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