Sweet Potato Boats

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!

When I think about Autumn here in Canada, it could be likened to a      van Gogh painting. The landscape transforms into a beautiful tapestry of red, gold and yellow. As the days grow shorter and the mornings darker, your tastes turn from salads and cool drinks to your favorite comfort foods. Smells that bring you back to your childhood……. evoking so much from one moment in time is the sheer essence of Autumn.

The truth being is that fall just gives us a different perspective. The word Thanksgiving  itself makes one pause and ask, what am I thankful for this year? We start to reflect on the year we have had with it’s inevitable highs and lows.

Fall also represents a time of change. As nature bursts with it’s fabulous fall foliage, it gives us a little bit of extra time to make the most of what we have left in this year before the grand finale.

For the last 60 years, Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. It’s one of those holidays that tend to bring families together, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately though, in this highly technological age, it seems as if we have become more connected digitally than emotionally. Thinking about the food aspect of this holiday, sweet potatoes have become synonymous with Thanksgiving (and Fall).

Native to Central and South America, sweet potatoes are some of the oldest vegetables on the planet. Distantly related to commonplace, starchy Russets and Yukon Golds. Western markets have tagged some sweet potatoes with the deceptive name ‘yams’ to differentiate the southern from the northern crops. True yams are rough-skinned tubers, related to lilies.

Enter the ‘Candied Yam Casserole’. It seems to be the most divisive of the side dishes served, a real ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ kind of thing. Definitely not a venerated Thanksgiving tradition but more of a marketing promotion that caught on. It was 1917 when the first instance of sweet potatoes baked with a coat of marshmallows appeared in a recipe booklet commissioned by Angelus Marshmallow Company. The recipes in the booklet showed you how to incorporate marshmallows into everyday dishes so that their product wouldn’t fail and ‘viola’, the classic and capitalistic pairing was born.

I do remember my mother making this casserole for our special Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, being a kid that loved sweets, it tasted real good. At this point in time, I would rather just have them with salt and pepper for most part.

My blog recipe is one I came across in a Pillsbury booklet from 2010          ( pillsbury.com ). We have enjoyed it several times as it fits in perfect with a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

Sweet Potato Boats
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Sweet Potato Boats
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; spray with cooking spray. Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork & rub with oil. Place on baking sheet & bake 45-55 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. In bacon drippings, cook onion & celery about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add broth & 2 Tbsp butter; heat to boiling. Stir in stuffing mix, cranberries & 2 Tbsp of the walnuts. Remove from heat, cover & set aside.
  3. Remove sweet potatoes from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out potato flesh, leaving a 1/3-inch thick wall on inside of shell; set aside. Place potato flesh in a large bowl. Add 2 Tbsp syrup, remaining 2 Tbsp butter & the nutmeg; mash. Spoon about 1/2 cup of stuffing mixture into each potato shell; spoon mashed sweet potato mixture over stuffing, leaving some stuffing exposed around side of shell.
  4. Line a baking sheet with foil again & spray with cooking spray. Place potato boats on sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle potatoes with crumbled bacon bits & remaining 2 Tbsp walnuts; drizzle with additional syrup.
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Pumpkin Spice ‘Chai’ Latte

Fall has definitely arrived! The leaves are turning their beautiful gold and crimson colors and there is a chill in the air. Years ago, when Brion and I made the choice of what trees, shrubs and flowers to plant in our yard, our plan was to showcase the colors of every season. For me, being a farmer’s daughter, watching this seasonal beauty each year has been priceless.

The ‘flavor of fall’ brings pumpkin to mind. When I was a kid, I thought they looked great, made wonderful jack-o-lanterns but didn’t care for the taste at all. Then one day mom made a pumpkin ‘chiffon’ pie and I was hooked. 

In the winter of 2011, Brion and I traveled Turkey for a month. We were meeting our Trafalgar tour group in Istanbul. Arriving a day early gave us time to ‘snoop’ around a bit. Next to our hotel was a ‘Starbucks’, so we went in. When Brion ordered my coffee they gave me a ‘Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte’ by mistake. That pumpkin chai flavor was just incredible. I have been addicted to it ever since.

The Starbucks original pumpkin spice latte turns 14 years old this year. In January 2003, they started developing it to expand their line of seasonal winter drinks. In 2015, real pumpkin puree was added to the drink.

A stay in Istanbul would not be complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores are a mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to shore-front wooden villas, marble palaces in contrast to rustic stone fortresses and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. Since Turkey actually straddles two separate continents, its culture features strong elements and traditions from both east and west. At that point in time we found Turkey a relaxed country to travel in which made our time there very enjoyable.

I came across a recipe on a website called greatist.com  for a DIY version of Starbuck’s PUMPKIN SPICE CHAI LATTE.  I couldn’t resist trying it.

 

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small dish, combine 'Pumpkin Pie Spice' ingredients & store in a spice jar with a lid. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, milk, syrup & vanilla. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to steam. Remove from heat & pour mixture into a blender. Cover, hold the lid on tightly; blend for about 15 seconds or until frothy.
  2. Brew the coffee. If you like extra milk foam on top, pour a few tablespoons of milk into a glass jar with a lid while coffee is brewing. Tightly seal & shake for 30-60 seconds. Remove lid & place jar in microwave for 30 seconds.
  3. Divide coffee & milk mixture between 2 mugs. Top with extra milk foam (if using) & sprinkle with a bit of pumpkin spice.
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Spiced Apple & Carrot Scones

Its true that a good scone is a delicate flavor balance of opposites: rich but light, tender but sturdy, satisfyingly sweet but not overly so.

As baking soda and baking powder came into use as rising agents in the mid 19th century, the familiar light, raised scones began to appear in recipe books.

Scones are closely related to biscuits in that they contain much of the same ingredients — flour, baking powder, salt, shortening or butter.

The making of tender scones lies in the technique itself. The ‘secret’ is to mix the dough as little yet as thoroughly as you can. The less you work at it, the more tender the scones will become.

Scones as well as muffins seem to fall in and out of ‘fashion’. For me, I love them both and never tire of making either one.

This particular recipe I developed some time back with a lot of room for variations. My sister, Loretta and I share a common addiction for scones and fully believe it should be a constant in one’s life. This one is for you, Loretta. Enjoy!

Spiced Apple & Carrot Scones
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Servings
16 minis
Servings
16 minis
Spiced Apple & Carrot Scones
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Servings
16 minis
Servings
16 minis
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds; transfer to a large bowl. Whisk oatmeal, flour, baking soda, spices, salt, flax & pecans (sunflower seeds) together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk egg, brown sugar, syrup, oil, applesauce, orange zest, orange juice & vanilla together until combined.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir a few times, then add raisins, carrots & apple. Fold together gently just until blended.
  4. Scoop onto baking sheet & bake 3 minutes at 425 F. then reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for an additional 9 minutes or until they test done. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack.
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Thanksgiving Day in Canada

The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. We have now entered into our Autumn season with all it’s breathtaking fabulous fall foliage. Part of Canada’s appeal is it’s four seasons that offer changing landscapes and temperatures. 

I, for one, have always loved the changing seasons. That’s not to say that I like freezing cold and slippery roads but that I have come to understand the important role each one plays in the ‘big picture’. When Brion and I initially landscaped our property, careful consideration was given to what plants were planted. Over the years it has developed into a beautiful tapestry of color through our growing season.

Growing up on the farm, Fall was an especially busy time with the grain crops being harvested, garden vegetables being canned, frozen or just stored for use over the coming months. So much needed to be done before winter would set in. As a teenager it all just seemed like a lot of work. Even as hard as my parents worked at making a living from farming, I think they felt a real sense of satisfaction in what they were able to achieve. I realize now that even without being aware of it the visual beauty of the farmland at harvest was imprinted on me forever.

Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia, or horn, filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘Horn of Plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

Over the years, Brion and I have chose to have a variety of different meats for our Thanksgiving meal. Turkey is always the tradition for our Christmas dinner and since the two holidays come fairly close together, why not! All that being said though, we decided this year to roast just the turkey breast with stuffing. I also incorporated some of that wonderful Butternut squash with cranberries into the meal as well. For dessert we are having some pumpkin chiffon tarts. As a ‘kid’, I remember having a great dislike for the regular pumpkin pie — you know the kind –‘solid’. Then one year my mother made pumpkin  ‘CHIFFON‘  pie. Well, now that was glorious and I have loved it ever since.

Today in my recipes I have only included the Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts. I thought I’d get into the turkey and stuffing recipes later in the season.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Butternut Squash with Cranberries / Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Butternut Squash with Cranberries / Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
Pastry
Servings:
Instructions
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Split squash in half; place hollow side down on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes or until completely soft to the touch.
  2. In a small skillet, saute celery & onion in margarine until tender. Add the apple, salt, lemon juice & pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cranberries, sugar & water. Cook & stir until berries pop & liquid is syrupy. If you prefer, you could process this mixture for a couple of seconds in a food processor.
  3. Remove seeds & membrane from cooked squash; mash well. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar & maple syrup. Place some squash in individual custard dishes. Make a hollow in the center for the cranberry 'filling'. Add cranberries & serve.
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine first 7 ingredients; mix well. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, regular milk & egg yolks; combine well. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to a heavy custard. Boil 2 minutes, add 1 Tbsp margarine. Place wax paper over custard to prevent a 'skin' from forming. Let custard become cold (it can be refrigerated overnite at this point, finishing it the following day) then stir in 1/4 cup orange juice.
  2. Whip envelope of dessert topping with 1/2 cup milk & 1/2 tsp vanilla until stiff peaks form. It should yield about 2 cups. Put aside the amount you need to garnish tarts with. Fold remaining whipped dessert topping into custard. Spoon custard into a large pastry bag with a large 'star' tip. Fill baked mini tart shells. Decorate with a small dollop of dessert topping.
Pastry
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a 1 cup measuring cup place egg & vinegar; beat well. Add enough COLD water to fill cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing until pastry pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes, making sure not to over mix pastry. Roll out on floured surface. Using the bottom side of tart pans, cut pastry circles & place over each 'cup'. Bake at 350 F. until golden. Cool on wire rack before filling with pumpkin custard. If your using purchased shells follow baking instructions & cool before filling as well.
Recipe Notes
  • This pastry & pumpkin chiffon custard recipe was one I started using many years ago while working in the food industry. They were some of my favorites because they were pretty much 'fail proof'. If you want to make a double batch of each it will give you 4 - 9-inch pies. You can make them up to the point of decorating. Freeze until needed then just bring them out & thaw, decorate and you got a nice little homemade dessert just like that!
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