Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie

It's one of those fantastic autumn afternoons where the trees a bursts of color but the sunshine still feels like summer, there's just the slightest chill in the air. And I came home early from campus to add my beloved green apron to my outfit, which already would have fit in well on the set of Julie & Julia. My church ward is having a pumpkin carving activity next week, and since we have an excess of graham crackers from our last s'more activity, I've been called upon to concoct a recipe for a marshmallow-topped sweet potato pie with a graham cracker crust. I'm not sure that I've ever been so happy about a church assignment.

I've never even tasted sweet potato pie until today—much less attempted to make one before—but I'm happy to report that my Tasting Committee (roommmates and boyfriend) all approved of this latest incarnation of my favorite starchy superfood. The flavors were warm without being overwhelming, the consistency was decadent, but not overly rich, and the addition of the toasted marshmallows added a bit of whimsy. Yes, pies can be whimsical. Since I lacked any experience with this particular pie, I turned to Smitten Kitchen; the filling recipe belongs to her, with a few minor tweaks. For a sweet way to celebrate autumn's goodness, try this pie!

Sweet Potato Pie

Graham Cracker Crust
12 Graham Crackers
5 tblsp. butter, melted, plus some softened for buttering pie dish
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
(1/4 tsp. salt if using unsalted butter)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Put your graham crackers in a plastic bag (layer two bags if yours are a bit flimsy). Find a sturdy object (I used a rolling pin) & bash them to bits. This is great fun, but may startle your neighbors. In a large bowl, melt 5 tblsp. of the butter. Also coat the inside of your pie dish in butter (I used the remnants that stuck to the wrapper). Add brown sugar and vanilla to melted butter and stir until smooth. Add crushed graham crackers and mix until butter mixture is thoroughly blended throughout. Spread crumbly crust mixture into pan and press it down firmly, pushing crumbs up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until crust is golden and crisp, but not dark brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Sweet Potato Filling
This recipe is taken directly from Smitten Kitchen; my only additions were a dash of ground ginger and the marshmallows on top.

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and chopped into a 1/2-inch dice (I used two fairly large potatoes and had twice what I needed. One large sweetie would do the trick.)
4 tblsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt if using unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp. if using salted butter
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tblsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup full- or lowfat buttermilk (or, you can make your own, see below)
About 20 large marshmallows, cut in half, or as many mini marshmallows as it takes to cover the pie

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Pour 1 1/2 inches of water into a 3-quart stock part with a strainer basket suspended over it and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Place the steamed sweet potatoes in a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Mash them into a smooth puree with a fork or potato masher. You should have 1 1/4 cups puree; discard any excess (by topping with a pat of butter, sprinkling with salt and cinnamon and making yourself a most-excellent snack). Add the butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and salt; mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula after each addition.

2. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a whisk, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until they’re a creamy lemon-yellow color, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir until the eggs are thoroughly incorporated and the filling is a consistent bright orange color. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. Add the buttermilk and again stir until smooth and even.

3. With a cleaned whisk (or electric hand mixer), whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a clean, dry bowl. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the sweet potato-buttermilk mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the crust and bake on the middle rack of the oven until the center is fairly firm, only jiggling ever-so-slightly if you give it a light shake, about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and turn your oven to broil. Top with marshmallows and return the pie to the oven. BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE MARSHMALLOWS! Leave your oven door open a crack or even try simply baking them (at about 400°F). They will go from white to charcoal super fast under a broiler; this step of the baking process shouldn't take more than three minutes.

4. I suggest allowing the pie to cool slightly before serving, but it's good both warm and cold. Happy Baking!

Monday, October 10, 2011


I wrote this little ditty during my first semester at BYU, now 4 years ago. I was still figuring out college life (still am, really), new to Facebook, and loved tying ribbons in my hair. I'd forgotten about this poem until my darling friend Carrie asked me about it a few days ago. She and I met each other in that writing class so long ago. After 2 years of living in the same room, planning her wedding, lots of late nights, crying on each others' shoulders as our Daddies battled the same cancer monster, and sharing life in general, I am still so grateful for that crazy beautiful blonde girl (who I later found out changed her hair color monthly) who shared a mutual stalker with me and a propensity to procrastinate on the housing hunt. Here's to you, Currface. luhju.

PS - Cerusa is a character from Greek drama —I was writing an essay about her & ran out of story so... like any good writer with a stagnant character, I killed her. I'm not really a morbid person.


Today I am a ribbon,
Just floating on the breeze.
Not quite sure where I’m going,
but just doing what I please.

I write a silly sonnet,
wait for a boy to call.
Decide to kill Cerusa,
leave a message on a wall.

I try to make decisions,
give my life a place to go,
but today I am a ribbon,
softly drifting, falling slow.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Coconut Curry Soup to Cure Your Ills

I've been holding on to this recipe until 1) I had time to write it, and 2) it felt like soup weather. There is snow covering the mountains yonder. It is time.

Besides being delicious, this warm, creamy curried concoction is an anti-sickness soup. It quite literally gave me superpowers of illness resistance. Last month, my boyfriend was stricken with a nasty case of strep throat. My typically strong go-getter of a guy was reduced to slumping on my couch and writing me messages on a whiteboard as he could hardly speak. After he dropped over five pounds in two days, I decided we needed a nutrient-packed, carb-packed, protein-packed soup that would be soothing to his throat and give both of our immune systems a bit of a turbo charge. And I, my friends, never did succumb to that virulent bout of sickness. And he didn't fade away into nothingness. Success!

We all know that nothing feels more healing than Mom's Chicken Noodle Soup... at least, nothing until I brewed this soup. It's warm, slightly creamy, and full of filling things with just enough spice and coconut flavor to keep it interesting (I used a fairly mild curry powder). I know I've lauded the awesomeness of sweet potatoes before, but those babies are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and all sorts of goodness.

So if you're feeling under the weather or feeling the need to celebrate the chill in the air, this should be on your menu this weekend.

Coconut Curry Soup with Sweet Potatoes & Chicken
Serves 8 to 10, but also stores well and can be frozen.
For a spicier soup, up the amount of curry to 5 tblsp. and add 1 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes and 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper.

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 tblsp. curry powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
3 tblsp. olive oil
1 potato, peeled & diced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled & diced
2 cans chicken broth
1 can full of water
1 can coconut milk
3 tblsp. cornstarch
diced green onions for garnish
brown rice (optional)

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high. Add onion, garlic, curry, paprika, nutmeg, and other peppers (if using). Heat until onions become slightly transparent, then add chicken. Saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until nearly fully cooked. (Begin cooking rice if you'd like to serve the soup over rice.)

2. Add both cans of chicken broth and half a can full of water. Bring to a gentle simmer and add both types of potatoes. Simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes. If you'd like your broth to be thicker, mix 3 tblsp. cornstarch with remaining water, and gently stir in. Simmer on high for an additional 5 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and slowly stir in coconut milk (and go for the good stuff, not the light version). Serve over rice if you like, topped with sliced green onions. Enjoy!