Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cranberry Creations … featuring sweet potatoes

To be honest, sweet potatoes or yams haven't been one of my favorite Thanksgiving foods. I'm not quite sure what it is about them. I remember having been served candied yams (probably the type out of the can) when I was little and that I didn't like those at all. I've never been crazy about having them with marshmallows or even just plain for that matter. I do, however, love cranberries in about any context.
A few years ago, I had some sweet potatoes that had been prepared with cranberries at a church dinner. During the past couple of years, we have done some experimenting with cranberry/sweet potato recipes. Here is one that we like and hope that you will as well. We like the added tart taste of the cranberries along with a little added sweetness of the glaze or sauce we pour over them.

First, a quick word about sweet potatoes and yams. My source is the North Carolina Sweet Potatoes web site
Sweet potato 
Although the terms "sweet potato" and "yam" are often used interchangeably, they are actually distinct from one another and belong to different botanical families.  Yams are native to Africa and grow primarily in tropical climates. Sweet potatoes are believed to have originated in South America where they have been grown for at least 5,000 years. Today they are grown in warm, temperate regions across the world, including the southeastern United States. Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Although the dark orange-fleshed variety is the best known, sweet potatoes come in a variety of colors
Varieties of sweet potatoes
Now, on to the recipe. This is one that you can prepare ahead of time and then warm through in the oven just before serving.
5 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Lightly spray a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick spray.
2. Boil the sweet potatoes until fork tender. If you want, you can stop just before they are fully cooked since they will cook a little more when you bake them.
3. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and place them in the casserole dish. 
  • You can see from this picture, that I used two different varieties of sweet potatoes. When we went shopping at the commissary Sunday afternoon, there were only 3 of the dark orange ones left. I think that's because they were selling for 59 cents a pound and we were late to arrive. As a result, I picked up 2 of the more expensive ones. I actually like the variety and slight differences in taste, so it's all good by us.

4. Now to prepare the sauce, glaze, topping, or whatever you wish to call it.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the cranberries and bring to a low boil. Allow the cranberries to "pop" open as you would if you were making cranberry sauce. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans. 
5. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes.
6. Bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through. If you wish, you can even do the "prep" work the night before, put the sweet potatoes & sauce in the refrigerator overnight and then heat through the next day before dinner time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A small fall project …

Here we are at Thanksgiving Eve. Although Thanksgiving week is one of my favorite times of the year, I think that this November has sped by much too quickly for me. Just the same, I am still enjoying the season and am looking forward to good food and a day full of family tomorrow.
This post will be brief and feature a small project that I completed a few weeks ago. The pattern is from Buttermilk Basin, and I purchased the kit from my local quilt shop, K & H Quilt Shoppe
This project is one that appealed to me for a number of reasons - the fall colors, the primitive style, wool appliqué and a chance to incorporate some hand quilting in the process. 
Here are a couple of "tools of the trade" related to hand quilting - a marking pen and a stencil. There are multiple types of marking tools out on the market - some are heat-soluble and some are water soluble. I don't know that one is necessarily better than the other. The main rule of thumb is to be consistent in your choice of tool within the same project. For example, with this project I used both dark and light marking pens, both of which were heat soluble. I used the dark pen on the light triangles and the light pen on the darker fabrics. 
These next pictures feature some completed hand quilting and a pattern that has been traced. The choice of thread color is really up to the individual quilter. I chose to use a light thread for both the dark and light triangles in the center of the project, and I chose a brown thread for the pattern on the edges. 
In the below picture on the left, you can see some of the stitching within the triangles as well as the traced pattern. I stitched over the white lines using brown threads. When I was finished, I ironed over the area; and the marking disappeared, leaving only the stitching (below right picture).
After the hand quilting was complete, I tacked down the mini-quilt. It features the churn dash block which is one of my favorite traditional block patterns. The next step was to appliqué the owl in the lower left corner of the project (see the very top picture). I then sewed on the binding and a hanging sleeve so that we could have this mini quilt hanging in our house for the Thanksgiving season.
As I said at the outset, this is a short post. I wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving Day. I am going to close with these words from the psalmist:
O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:1-3