Cooking, Crafting, Creating, Living

Southern Style Sweet Potato Casserole November 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — berkshiregirl @ 7:11 pm


  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (4 medium baked)

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup melted butter


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup flour

  • 1/3 cup melted butter

  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Bake sweet potatoes in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and peel away outer skin.  Mash in butter, brown sugar, milk and eggs.  Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.  Combine the brown sugar, flour and pecans with the melted butter and sprinkle over top of the casserole. Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.
Serves 6 to 8.


I’m Thankful For CHEESECAKE!!! November 22, 2011

Filed under: Recipes,Uncategorized — berkshiregirl @ 2:40 pm
Tags: , ,

I know, I know this is a duplicate recipe.  But who doesn’t love cheesecake!!!

Amanda’s New York Style Cheesecake

(It’s in the oven, check back soon for a photograph.)

Crust –

  • 1 1/2 cups original almond biscotti (crumbled)

  • 1/2 cup ground raw almonds

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup salted butter (melted)

  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

Filling –

  • 4 8oz Packages Philly Cream Cheese (room temp)

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 3 tbls. flour

  • 5 large eggs (room temp)

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tbls. lemon zest

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Topping –

  • 1 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 3 tbls granulated sugar

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 tbls. lemon zest (optional)

Start by combining biscotti, almonds, brown sugar, almond extract, and butter in a medium mixing bowl.  Make sure that butter is fully incorporated into crumbs.  Transfer to 9″ springform pan and press into bottom and about 1″ up sides of pan.  Refrigerate.

Next, in a large mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, flour and sugar.  Mix until smooth.  (I don’t have a stand mixer or electric mixer so all of this is done “by hand”  I use a wooden spoon and a bit of brute force, but manage to make a very smooth cake. ) Now add eggs, one at a time, stirring each in completely.  Add heavy cream and extracts and stir until incorporated.  Pour over refrigerated crust and place in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes lower oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue to bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove cheesecake from oven.  Cake should be firm on the sides and only slightly “wabbly” in the center.  Set on wire rack while you prepare the filling.

For the filling, combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  Spread topping over cake and bake and additional 15 minutes at 250 degrees.


Baked Brie with Cranberry Orange-Ginger Relish

You can make this tart ruby-red relish up to three days ahead of the feast.

Cranberry Orange Relish


  • Zest and juice of 1 orange + fruit of second orange set aside
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups fresh cranberry
  • 1 tbls fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or almonds


In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cup water with the orange zest, orange juice, sugar and salt over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes.  In a food processor chop cranberries and pecans (coarse).  Stir in the cranberries and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the cranberries soften and sauce has thickened slightly, about 7 minutes.  Sweeten to taste with more sugar.  Let sauce cool and stir in the fruit of the second orange and chopped ginger.

Serving suggestions:

Serve chilled over baked brie, garnish with pecan halves or slivered almonds and orange slices.

Baked Brie


  • Round Brie (Presidents Brand works great)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Unwrap Brie.  With hand held grater, gently remove outer most rind so only a thin layer remains.  Be careful not to remove too much.  Rinse under cool water.  Pat dry.  Place on baking sheet with wax paper.  Bake 10-15 minutes until softened.

Serve with cranberry relish and hard crusted bread.


What the FUDGE!!! November 21, 2011

Seriously the BEST melt in your mouth PB fudge you’ve every tasted!!!


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2  cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3  cups confectioners’ sugar


  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter, honey and vanilla.  Slowly sift in confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth.  Pour onto a flat cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Chill until firm and cut into squares.

Sweet Home Alabama November 19, 2011

Filed under: Change is Good,Uncategorized — berkshiregirl @ 9:52 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It’s been quite awhile since my last post.  I apologize for that, but life got in the way.

We’ve had a very wonderful, crazy, amazing past few months and things are finally settling down.

We left our beautiful Berkshires and have started fresh in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

We’ve been here since late September and are settling in.

A few things I’ve learned:

#1. Proper use of Y’all is mandatory and oddly habit forming.

#2 A winter hat is called a “Toboggan” or simply “boggan”

#3 A shopping cart is a “buggy” and a  bag is a “sack”

#4 There are genuinely nice people, and lots of them!!! Go figure!

#5 Football is a way of life!!!  ROLL TIDE!


Thanksgiving – Southern Style!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — berkshiregirl @ 3:57 pm

The Great Turkey Debate

There are a lot of us.  Myself, my husband Brandon, my mother Kay (Grandma Kay, Mom), my sister Kim and her husband Gary (The stuffing master), their two daughters Tyler and Maxine and Tyler’s son Cameron, my brother Eddie, my brother Peter and his wife Jamie and their son Jacob, Jamie’s mother and Big Kim and Louie.

Because of this we’ll need a LOT of food.  I’ve already confirmed we’ll need to cook two turkeys.  As well as all the fixins’.

Last year we cooked our Turkey in a Hole, and since none of the Alabama family got to have it Kim thought that would be a great thing to do this year.  Brandon was all for it, I’m up for anything creative, so I thought it was settled.  In the mean time Peter offered to buy the Turkeys and some of the fixins’ (super thoughtful) BUT when I told him about the Turkey in a Hole he said he’d like to try to deep fry.  I also thought it would be a good idea being a true southern tradition here, but told him either way would be fine with me.

So….. we have Kim and Brandon who are “In the Hole”, and Peter who wants to “Go Deep”.  And me, I’m Switzerland (neutral). No Schnitzel.


STEAK by popular demand February 13, 2011

The PERFECT Pan Seared Steak

I’m a snob when it comes to steak.  It has to be juicy, tender, medium rare and charred to a crisp.  If you asked me last summer how I liked my steak, I would have told you grilled, or not at all.  We’re a carnivorous family and eat steak at least once a week, and this winter has made it impossible to grill outdoors.  So I needed a solution.

We have a George Foreman Grill, that leaves the meat chewy and lacking in the flavor department.  I tried broiling, same results.   Finally I looked to the internet, desperate for something, anything, that would make my steak taste like STEAK.

What I found was a video, Good Eats: Steak Your Claim.  The host, I believe his name is Alton Brown, is like the Bill Nye of cooking.  Entertaining to watch and you can really learn something.


Finally a method of cooking steak that is SIMPLE and tastes great.

So I broke out the old cast iron frying pan, and let me just state that I have been cooking with it every day since.

I knew I wanted a nice thick cut of steak.  I think the first time I made it I had used a nice sirloin that was very lean and marbled and about 1 1/2″ thick.  I always tenderize my steak by repeatedly stabbing it with a fork on both sides.  My mom teases that what I’m doing is overkill, literally, but my steak always comes out tender and juicy.  Then, just like the video says I sprinkled sea salt on both sides and poured on some cooking oil.  I also found that cracked black pepper is a nice addition, but will make for a zesty sauce if used.

I was just experimenting, throwing things together on a whim.  I knew we were going to serve mashed potatoes and green beans, so I knew I wanted some kind of gravy/sauce and I also figured caramelized onions would be a tasty garnish.

So I started by caramelizing the onions, about two medium sweet onions, in the cast iron pan.  I then transferred them to a bowl and brought the pan up to temperature over high heat.  Then the steak went in, about 4 minutes on each side and then 4 addition minutes in the oven at 500 degrees cooked it to a perfect medium rare.

A GREAT TRICK I learned while researching pan seared steak, to tell if your steak is done, make a fist.  That’s right, take your hand, with fingers tucked into your palm, and squeeze.  The meaty part right below your thumb will be your tool, squeezing as hard as you can, press on that area with your other hand, it’s very hard with a lot of resistance.  That is what “well-done” feels like.  Then try squeezing just a little, this is “medium-rare”, firm with a little resistance.  And not squeezing at all, just holding a fist, this is “rare”, very soft, not much resistance.

When the steak was done, I melted butter over the top, and put it on a plate under aluminum foil to rest.  We have a wood stove that makes a great place to keep food warm, or you can just cover with foil and let it sit.

There was a bit of juice in the pan, and I added a little more water to bring up any flavor that was cooked on,  then I strained the liquid from the onions I caramelized into the pan and added about two cups of white cooking wine.  I had read about wine reductions and wine sauces and decided to give it a try.  Usually red wine is paired with steak, but white was what I had on hand.  I’ve since made this sauce with both red and white wine and I do prefer the flavor of the white.  The wine reduces and thickens the sauce just enough to give it substance and the onions give it such a wonderful flavor.  My husband thinks I should bottle it.

I was so pleased with the results of this method it is my new favorite way to prepare steak.  I’m torn between grilling the meat, or savoring the juices in the pan.  And still trying to come up with a way to combine the best of both for summer cooking.

So here it is.

Simply STEAK!

and…. Mandy’s SUPER DUPER SWEET AND TANGY, (not so secret anymore) STEAK SAUCE

Seasoned cast iron pan

1 1/2 lbs. Steak (I like sirloin or new york strip)

2 tbls. Olive Oil

Coarse Sea Salt

Butter for melting

2 med. Sweet Onions (sliced)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cups white cooking wine

Optional: Cracked black pepper, mushrooms*

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees









Set steak on plate or platter and coat with sea salt and olive oil.  Let rest.


Caramelize Onions over medium heat so as not to scorch.









Begin by slowly caramelizing the onions with two tbls. butter in the cast iron pan over medium heat.  Cook until softened.  Add brown sugar and cook an additional 2 minutes.   Remove from pan and set aside.


Add brown sugar for sweeter onions and more sauce.









Bring pan temperature up over high heat.  Add steak to pan and allow to cook 4 minutes per side.  Flipping only once.


Top steak with 1 tsp butter and place in preheated oven for an additional 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and test if it is done.


Remove steak from pan and place on a warmed plate.  Cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest at least 5 minutes while you prepare the sauce.










Place pan back on stove top over medium high heat.  Pour 1/2 cup water into pan and allow to lift any cooked on flavor from the meat.  Strain liquid from caramelized onions into pan and add white wine.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Cook over medium high heat 10 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.


Remove foil from steak and pour any juices into sauce.  Cut steak into 1/2″ strips, cutting against the grain.  Pour additional escaped juice into sauce.











Cook sauce over medium heat another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, add 2 tbls. butter.  Serve.

*Mushrooms can be added to sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking if desired.


Slowly cream butter into sauce









This steak pairs great with buttermilk mashed potatoes and green beans, steak fries and spinach or a rich salad of spring greens topped with peppers, red onions, goat cheese, caramelized onions and apple spears