Sweet Potato Pancakes

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the first recipe I ever created. (Not exactly a big deal now, but four years ago I was amazed that my intuition could yield something so tasty.) This is based on the latkes that my mother used to make when I was young (which I actually didn’t like, because they were made with onions). I’d sit there, pull apart the entire thing, and try to pick out all the onions until my parents would give me a “finish your dinner by this time or no television” deadline. To this day, I still taste phantom onions in shredded potatoes. So when I set out to create my own latke, I knew I didn’t want to use white potatoes. Enter the sweet potato!

I’ve received a lot of praise for my sweet potato pancakes. It was even suggested that I might have a chance at besting my mother in a latke cook-off. (Apparently people who don’t harbor an intense hatred of onions think hers are quite delicious.) Back when my boyfriend Johnny was just a romantic interest, I decided to impress him by cooking these. I ended up burning the crap out of the first batch and leaving some serious burn marks on one of his nice stainless steel pans. (Eep.) Freaking out, I tossed the partially charred latkes on a plate and started on the second round. While I was concentrating on not burning things, Johnny decided to take a sample from the reject plate. He then said, “I don’t know what you did to those, but do it again. They’re delicious.”

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Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins

When I first saw this recipe a couple weeks ago, I was immediately reminded of my mother’s zucchini bread. The recipes are quite similar, which brought to mind the following logic equation:

If p = D

and m = D

then p + m = D + D

SO, if p represents pumpkin, m represents my mother’s bread, and D represents delicious, then this pumpkin bread is going to be freakin’ delicious.

Oh yeah, high school math. And I thought I’d never use it again. (Admittedly, I had to do some googling to find the logic mathy stuff I was channeling. I hope I don’t have to use it again for another ten years. Five minutes of reading about theorems and direct and indirect proofs gave me a headache.)

I usually opt to transform my mother’s bread recipe into muffins. Both are yummy, but the bread ends up creating a lot of crumbs, and sometimes it’s still a little gooey in the middle. I also tend to be somewhat neurotic when it comes to other people’s bread cutting habits. Some take giant, pig-sized slices. Others do a haphazard cutting job. And then there’s the people that lean on the other end of the bread while they’re hacking off their slice. Come on!

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Stovetop Popcorn

I know what some of you are thinking. Really? You’re going to tell me how to make popcorn? Maybe next you can give specific instructions on toasting bread. Hear me out (and stop being so sarcastic). Others of you might be saying, “Oh yeah, I already know how to do this. You take this bag filled with stuff, put it in a microwave, hit the Popcorn button, and come back in a few minutes.” Okay, yes, that does work too. But at least listen to the reasons why I am a huge advocate for stovetop popcorn:

(1) You should know how to do this in case you are ever in a situation where you don’t have a microwave. I know, who doesn’t have a microwave, right? (I don’t, actually. I’ve been without one for almost two years, and I’m surprised by how much I don’t miss it!)

(2) It’s cheaper. I buy popcorn in bulk, and it costs about $3.00/lb. (16 oz.). Your average 3-bag pack of microwave popcorn will run you around $3.50 (and each of those packs is only about 3 oz.). Plus, you won’t be wasting all those packages and bags.

(3) Ingredient control. What exactly is in those bags of microwave popcorn anyway? I know you can get plain ones and all-natural ones and what not, but it’s nice to know exactly what went into your tasty snack. And starting from scratch means you have control over all of the flavors going into your popcorn, beginning with the oil. Which brings me to my secret ingredient . . .

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

A cinnamon roll with pumpkin in it? Heck yeah. It’s the time of year when people are putting pumpkin in everything, and I’m happy to join in the madness.

These turned out pretty tasty. The pumpkin adds a bit of texture, and makes them seem much heartier than your average cinnamon roll (which is good, because I can eat a roll the size of my head if it tastes cinnamon-sugar fluff). And, because it’s pumpkin-crazy time, I used a 1:2 ratio of pumpkin spice and cinnamon for the filling. My only complaint about the way these turned out is that I would have liked them to be a little less dense. I’m not sure if that’s because I used too much flour or because the yeast I bought recently has been very difficult to work with. (It isn’t dead, but it takes forever to rise, even when I put it directly in front of a heat vent.) Regardless, they were still yummy!

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Candied Citrus Peels, Dipped in Chocolate

Oh, what to do with all of the fruit leftover from flavor tripping? If I hadn’t come down with a cold immediately after my birthday, these babies would have had Vodka Mixers written all over them. Alas, I needed to find a more creative option. My search led me to one of my culinary enemies: sugar. Now, I have no problem mixing it into something and throwing it in the oven. I’m even ok with dissolving it over heat for a few minutes. But me + sugar + heat for a prolonged amount of time = PROBLEMS. And this wasn’t exactly an exception.

While I’d like to blame it all on the evil, diabolic properties of sugar, I guess I should take some responsibility for not understanding the science behind the stuff. What I have learned so far is this: pay attention. Don’t leave it alone for more than a few minutes. Simmering citrus peels in sugar and water seemed easy enough to me. I was neurotically checking it every five minutes for the first half hour, and it seemed to be going just fine. So, I left it alone for about 30 minutes. Whoops. When I came back to check it, some of the sugar had started to burn, along with a good deal of the peels. Frick.

In the end, I managed to salvage about half of the peels. And the ones that did survive were delicious! I definitely plan to make these again, with a higher success rate. If you’re someone who likes to give homemade gifts, put these on your list (especially with the holidays fast approaching). Trust me, your friends will be impressed (and delighted—who doesn’t like candy?!).

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