Friday, November 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Harvest Salad

I'm sitting on the couch at our house in the West Virginia mountains, watching Sing Off videos on YouTube with my dad, and nursing a food baby of epic proportions inside my fleecy penguin footie pajamas.  Based on this description of myself, it occurs to me that now might be a good time to post a salad...

It's holiday detox time, folks.  Starting tomorrow morning, it's back to exercise and healthy eating. 

With pie still involved, though.  Can't say no to pie...

If you find yourself in a sugar coma but still hungering after fall flavors, give this salad a try.  Roasted sweet potatoes, Gala apple chunks, dried dates, and pecans combine to lend a sense of comfort to the low-calorie dish.  Add some grilled chicken - or better yet, leftover turkey! - and you've got a balanced and complete meal!

Sweet Potato Harvest Salad
Source: a Dancer Bakes original
Serves one
1 1/2 cups Romaine lettuce, washed and torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/3 recipe roasted sweet potatoes (below)
1/2 small or medium Gala apple, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dried dates
1/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded chicken or turkey (optional)

Toss first six ingredients together.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper to taste.  Top with the chicken or turkey, if desired.  Serving with a leftover roll from Thanksgiving dinner is highly encouraged :)  Enjoy!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
Ground cinnamon
Ground ginger
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400˚F with a rack on the middle position.
Place cubed sweet potatoes into a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with desired amounts of salt, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger; toss together to combine.  Spread into an even layer on a nonstick baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and your kitchen smells divine.  Enjoy hot or allow to cool before using them in the Harvest Salad.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cake Squares

I'm back!

And it feels amazing.  I've missed this so much.

The second of this semester's three shows ran this past weekend, and what an experience that was.  After what seemed like the world's longest rehearsal process, we finally opened a world-premiere musical revue of David Shire's music to a packed house and enthusiastic praise.  Furthermore, David Shire and his wife Didi Conn, also known as Frenchie in the film version of Grease, came all the way from New York City to see the premiere!  Performing for and meeting them was unforgettable, especially seeing how touched David was to see what our directors did with his music.  The looks on their faces made the insanity of the last two and a half months worth it :)

And Didi is officially the cutest person alive.  Seriously.

If you feel so inclined, you can read more about the whole experience in Playbill.  And look at my picture.  Sorry, I'll stop now.

The hardest day of tech week is always Sunday: the "10-out-of-12".  As actors, we spend 10 hours of a 12-hour block working onstage.  I'd worked them as a technician before, and they're always rough.  So, since we had the previous day off from rehearsal (or at least from the musical - I was rehearsing for another show that morning), I decided to bake something for the cast to make the long day a little easier.

Let's just say they were grateful.

The cake squares are personal servings of fall flavor.  The cool, creamy, vanilla mascarpone frosting adds the perfect sweet contrast to the moist and spicy pumpkin cake.  If you don't keep mascarpone on hand like I do (yes, I'm crazy) then go ahead and substitute cream cheese, but I think the mascarpone is beyond worth it.  It's a fantastic fall snack, or it could be a great last-minute addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table - it only takes 15 minutes to get it into the oven!  I guarantee any friend or relative would be grateful to help you eat it.

Pumpkin Cake Squares with Mascarpone Frosting
Source: adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from How To: Simplify
Yield: 1 9x13" pan

For the pumpkin cake squares:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 15oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 eggs
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large, but I used the stuff from a carton!)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F with a rack on the middle position.  Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs, and egg whites until smooth and uniform.  Pour the dry ingredients on top of the pumpkin mixture and gently stir or whisk to combine until smooth.
Transfer the batter to the greased pan and smooth the top, making sure the batter is distributed evenly.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Mascarpone frosting:
8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I recommend Nielsen Massey Tahitian Pure Vanilla)
approximately 1 tbsp half-and-half (I used fat free)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and mascarpone on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.  Decrease the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until fully incorporated and smooth.  Add the vanilla extract and the half-and-half.  Increase the speed of the mixer to medium and whip until desired consistency is reached, adding more half-and-half one teaspoon at a time if necessary.  Spread evenly onto the cooled cake.  Slice into squares and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Brief Hiatus.

Hey everyone,

As you may have noticed, I've been maintaining radio silence on the blog.  Why, you ask?

Well, you see, my schedule finally got the best of me.  I've had nonstop musical rehearsals for weeks now, and the show opens a week from today, which means the rehearsal hours are only getting longer.  As a result, I haven't cooked meals for myself in close to three weeks, and I've eaten the things that I have made too quickly to take pictures of them.  Gotta love being pressed for time.

This hiatus makes me sad.  Incredibly sad, because there are few things in this world that make me happier than making food and sharing it with others, including you!  Over Thanksgiving, I hope to have the chance to share some of our family feast with you, or at least write up the posts for the few recipes I've already photographed.  In the meantime, take a look around the blog, discover a recipe you haven't tried yet, and make it. 

Would you do that for me?