Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thanksgiving Recap: Sweet Potato Casserole with Coconut

I’m pretty sure I’m going to get arrested for breaking some sort of Thanksgiving law here, but I don’t love sweet potato casserole.

Don’t get me wrong. The recipe that I made this year was both real and simple, living up to the name of magazine from whence it came. It tasted good. But I’m never going to want more than one spoonful of the stuff. One spoonful of sweet potato casserole is enough to get me to next Thanksgiving.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have made the sweet potato casserole.

Funny thing was… it WAS up to me. But my mom wanted sweet potato casserole. And you’ve gotta dance with the mother that brought ya into this world.

Like I said, the casserole is good. The author of the recipe noted her family’s tradition of arguing over whether or not this is dessert or a side. So, beware, Wilfred Brimley: this thing is sweet.

But, it’s also convenient. It can be made a day ahead. So that’s exactly what I did. And I used my Gramma/sous chef to cut all the potatoes and wash all the dishes. Y’all, I’m pretty sure we should ALL be cooking with old people as our assistants. They might have to stop to take a pill every hour, but they’re VERY helpful in the kitchen. And they love you.

Lens Flare.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Coconut, from Real Simple

  • 3  pounds  sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces | It does not need to be exact, as my Gramma (jokingly) asked me. Just similar in size and shape so the potatoes cook evenly at the same time.
  • kosher salt
  • 1  cup  sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2  cup  packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup  chopped pecans | I’m a southern girl, so I say pe-CANS. My Gramma from Northwestern Indiana says pe-CONS. Let’s call the whole thing off.
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/3  cup  whole milk
  • 1/2  cup  (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  pure vanilla extract

Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat and simmer until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 325° F. In a small bowl, combine the coconut, brown sugar, pecans, and ½ teaspoon salt.

Add the granulated sugar, milk, butter, eggs, vanilla, and ½ teaspoon salt to the potatoes and mash until smooth.

Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square or another shallow 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the coconut mixture. Bake until heated through (tent loosely with foil if the top browns too quickly), 30 to 35 minutes.

The casserole can be made up to 1 day in advance; refrigerate, covered. On Reheating Day, bring to room temperature, then reheat, covered, at 350° F until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes. If you pull it from the fridge and stick it in the oven immediately, it will be cold in the middle. Oh yes. It will be.

It’s quick. It’s easy. And while delicious, I want nothing to do with it until next Thanksgiving. That’s the NEW Thanksgiving law.

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Thanksgiving Recap: Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Icing

To quote middle aged ladies from accounting with pictures of Channing Tatum taped up to their desks who go out to lunch only on special occasions, let’s start with dessert!

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Mom made a blueberry pie. Not exactly in season, but it’s dad’s favorite. And it’s the best dessert for eating in the morning and pretending like it’s breakfast. Pie breakfast is the best breakfast. 

I decided I would knock out the gingerbread cupcakes that I had watched Ina Garten so breezily make a week before. My god, this IS easy, Ina! But you and your rhetorical questions lulled me into a false sense of security.

As this was a brand new recipe for me, I actually read it 3 times before I made it. This did not prevent me from completely leaving out a step. Imagine what would’ve happened had I only read it once. …Oh, the humanity.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange Icing, from


  • ¼ cup dark rum or water | Let’s not kid ourselves. I used rum. Why would anyone use plain water?
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream | YOU, sour cream. You will be my demise.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup) 

For the frosting :

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½  pound confectioners’ sugar, sieved | Genuinely think I forgot to sieve/fluff my sugar.

For the decoration:

  • 6 pieces dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup), sliced in half | My mom says she buys hers at Homegoods. Also, crystallized ginger a good remedy for upset stomachs. The more you know.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Like a boss.

Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. When you do this at 10 am, you will feel like you are bending the rules of society. Go with it.


Place the butter and molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.

OR. If you are like me. You will FORGET to mix in the sour cream and orange zest. You will feel confident! You will feel plucky! And then you will deflate, after you complete the next paragraph and you realize that you still have sour cream sitting on the counter.

Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together into a small bowl. Mix with your hand until combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth. 


OH SHIT. The DAMN sour cream. At this point, my first instinct was to do what I always do when there is an emergency: tell my dad. But since this was an emergency of baking and not one of banking or braking, he could not help me in the slightest and told me to ask my Gramma. She said, “well, don’t tell your mother you messed them up and add the sour cream and orange zest in now.” So, I did. And, it worked. Phew. How did it look? Let’s not focus on that.


Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula.

Divide the batter among the muffin pan (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 


For the frosting, mix the cream cheese, butter, orange zest and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined.


Add the sugar and mix until smooth. I had some lumps, probably because I forgot to sieve/fluff my confectioner’s sugar. I tried to whisk them out, which might have thinned the frosting out a bit too much. But it tasted great. 

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and garnish with a slice of crystallized ginger.


Despite my best attempts to screw this recipe up, I actually could not. I even had more batter left over after I made the 12 cupcakes the recipe calls for. So, I made a tiny loaf of gingerbread. This cupcakes were the good kind of dense and a little spicy. The frosting was light and sweet. It had great balance and it tasted like fall. 

My folks liked it. Gramma liked it. I liked it. I even think the ladies from accounting would like it. Not more than Channing Tatum, though. I mean, did you SEE Magic Mike? He was MAGIC.*






*I did not actually see Magic Mike. It was like Harry Potter, right? 

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Thanksgiving Recap: I did it. Burned, Bruised & Broken. But I did it.

Hi people!

(Did you read that in a Michelle Tanner voice? I hope you did, because that’s how I wrote it.)

Well, I did it. I made the foods. And they were good. And when you read through the list of casualties, they’re not nearly as bad as I expected. 

I had:

  • 2 migraines
  • 1 fight with my whole family
  • 1 fight with just my mother 
  • 1 foot burned with hot oil while frying shallots (who does that?)
  • 1 middle finger slammed in the folding door of the spice cabinet, which ripped the skin off 
  • 30-ish f-words said in front of my Gramma, due to aforementioned foot burning and middle finger slamming 

Mom made a blueberry pie, our go-to stuffing and the gravy. Gramma made the mashed potatoes, helped prep everything and washed 10,000 dishes. But other than that, I did the rest. Like a boss. 

My plan is to recount all the hilarious tales and recipes, one a day for this week. There’s some good stuff in here, especially since we’re just starting the holiday season. Maybe something to try yourself! Maybe something you can burn yourself with or slam your finger while making! Please, be as dumb as me! 

First up will be Barefoot Contessa’s Gingerbread Cupcakes.

I started so confident. And immediately fucked them up. 

Stay tuned! 

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Ok, I think I’ve got a plan. Commence throwing up.

Alright. I think I’ve got a plan here.

Here’s the menu, after a few handy dandy white out tape deletions.

Yes, that is a picture of me behind the menu. Yes, it is from college. Yes, I did look thinner. No, I would have used a word MUCH stronger than asshole.

The hardcore cooking starts tomorrow. Right after Thanksgiving church. Y’all didn’t know about Thanksgiving church? Guess I won’t need to save you a seat at the fried chicken and bacon picnic in heaven.

Will keep you posted. And will certainly write up my successes and failures.

Happy Thanksgiving, fake food friends. I’m thankful for you. Now, go fight with your family! Lord knows I will! 



Update: Thanksgiving Can’t Hardly Wait…to start

My dad sent me an email today about a couple Thanksgiving recipes from the Wall Street Journal that he was going to save for me. Which is pretty good, because this is what the menu looks like now:

Turkey made in some way, maybe Alton Brown’s brine?
Mac and cheese
Green beans
Another vegetable
Cranberry conserve from Barefoot Contessa
Can of cranberry sauce (back off, I love it)
Mashed potatoes and gravy (Gramma)
Some sort of Stuffing
More foodstuffs

Sounds pretty vague to me. Good thing Thanksgiving is a good….OH HOLY HELL IT’S ONLY 5 DAYS AWAY.

Vomit vomit vomit.

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ZOMG, FINALLY, a soup for ME!

ZOMG, finally, there’s a soup out there for young people on the go: Campbell’s Go!

You know it’s hip because it’s talking to you from a tumblr-esque page. Yeah. Tumblr is HIP.  

It’s got kittens on it. Yeah. Kittens are HIP. 

Check out its watered down personality! 

Moroccan Style Chicken with Chickpeas Animated Soup Gif. YEAH. Gifs are HIP.  

Do: Light an inspirational fire within a person. 

Don’t: Light an inspirational person on fire. 

Campbell’s Go. You are IRREVERENT!

Or the CRPAOTD (Creamy Red Pepper’s Abbreviation Of The Day), which is below.  



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Creamy Butternut Squash Soup; Do YOU need all 10 fingers?

Let’s have some real talk, folks.

Do we really NEED 10 fingers? Doesn’t 10 seem like a lot? Are we being a little bit greedy?

You definitely need the thumbs. And the middle fingers for driving and flicking off the phone after you’ve gotten off an annoying call. Pinky? Decorative, but ultimately unnecessary. As I’m still single, I’m opting to keep left hand ring finger in case I do meet THE ONE. (You’ve heard of THE ONE, right? He’s from the movies. Goofy, funny, secretly hot. Probably already my best friend but I didn’t notice him because he wears glasses and I’m head over heels for that guy who doesn’t call and rides a motorcycle and runs a bar and hates commitment and stuff.)

Anyways. No pinkies. No right hand ring finger. And you could probably lose at least one pointer.

The reason I bring this up is because I made creamy butternut squash soup last week (yeah, it’s a FAKE blog, guys…I might be late on posts sometimes). It’s a recipe adaptation from Food 52 that I found on YumSugar. And it was EASY. And it was GOOD.

Except for the whole cutting-the-butternut-squash-oh-holy-crap-I’m-pretty-sure-I’m-going-to-cut-all-of-my-fingers-off thing.

But other than that, REAL easy. Great flavor. Comforting. Comes together fast. That is, if you managed to keep your wits about you and keep your fingers connected to your palms.

There is one thing I had to go out and invest in before I did this recipe, though. And that is a Y peeler. I went to William Sonoma at the mall, expecting to shell out tons of bucks. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it only cost me 4 American Dollars. That made the whole squash peeling situation so much easier.

I made this soup for myself and my friend Em. Our only complaint was that it made us really tired. We both had the soup and then promptly went into a food coma. Like, lethargically flipping through a magazine and barely speaking to one another food coma. Does butternut squash have some sort of naturally occurring roofie in it?

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, from Food 52 as found on YumSugar


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced and cleaned (about 1 cup)
  • 1 3- to 4-pound butternut squash, peeled and roughly cubed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg | I bought some of the actual nutmeg….nuts? Alton Brown said they last for years vs. the store bought, pre-grated stuff which loses its flavor within weeks. He wears glasses. I trust him.
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry, plus more to finish
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock | I used 3 cups of chicken stock.
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for garnish
  • Sherry vinegar, to finish

To clean the leeks, trim off dark green part and spiky, white Guy Fieri-hair at the bottom. You want to use the white and light green parts only here. Leeks live in the dirt, so they’re really, really gritty. I typically split them down the middle like a hot dog/longitudinally (that was for you, Ben), and then cut them into thin half moons. Then, let them soak in a bowl of water for 10 minutes or so, changing the water out a couple times and moving the leeks around to get all the dirt and grit out. The dirt should settle on the bottom of the bowl, so when you’re done, transfer your leeks to a paper towel to dry. Boom. Clean leeks.

To peel and cube the butternut squash, here is a lovely step by step demo that I borrowed from YumSugar.

First, remove the ends. WATCH YOUR FINGERS.

Then, cut down the middle/longitudinally/like a hot dog.

Scoop out the butternut squash guts. Make sure you get all the little strings out because the blender won’t catch that and you’ll have little annoying guts in your soup at the end.

Lay flat and peel with your Y-peeler, available for 4 American Dollars.

Cut the butternut squash into fingers.

Then cube!

Melt the butter in a medium stockpot or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and sweat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not yet browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the butternut squash, nutmeg, pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.

Add the sherry to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until reduced slightly (something that I didn’t really notice happening), then add enough stock to just cover the vegetables. If 3 cups isn’t sufficient, make up the difference with water. I think I put an extra cup of water in.

Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to keep it at a bare simmer, a phrase I’d never heard of before. So in my mind, I determined that a “bare simmer” was barely a simmer. Context clues! And it worked out alright. (Again. Fake food blog. Are you seriously expecting more expertise than this?)

Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender.

Add the milk and 2 tablespoons cream and blend until smooth, either using an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a blender in batches. Be careful with that blender, y’all. Hot things in a blender means hot things in your eyeballs.

Thanks to Sarah and her dad for that phrase!

Season to taste with salt, pepper, sherry, and sherry vinegar. Literally, I just did a little glug of the sherry and the sherry vinegar. Maybe about 1-2 tablespoons each.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle with cream.

If you managed to make it to the end of this recipe with all of your limbs, bravo! You are now free to enjoy very creamy soup that is actually pretty healthy in addition to delicious.

If you did not manage to make it to the end of this recipe with all of your limbs, that’s ok too! Duct tape a spoon to your bleeding used-to-be-a-hand. This soup is too good to be missed. Someone will drive you to the hospital later.

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Grilled Pork Chops, Peas and Bacon, with Guilt and Confusion

I am my father’s daughter.

Yesterday, my dad said, “I never met a pork chop I didn’t like.” And then he listed out, Bubba Gump-ily, all sorts of ways to prepare pork chops that he liked. I’ve never agreed with him more.

And then he asked me if I had been using my grill. The one that he bought me. And I had NOT. And I felt GUILTY.

So I decided that I should. And I should make a delicious, delicious pork chop.

And then I talked to my mom because I bought an acorn squash and I didn’t know how to cook it. Dad said, “I don’t know how to cook that, you have to talk to the cooker.

Me: Hey cooker. How do I cook this?

Mom: Cook it in the oven in a pan. And then put some water in the oven.

Me: Put water in the pan? Or put water in another pan in the oven?

Mom: No, put water in the pan with the squash.

Me: The water is touching the squash?

Mom: Yes. You kind of steam them and then put butter and brown sugar on them.

Me: How do you cut the squash? Like a hot dog or a hamburger?

Mom: Oh, that’s so cute I’ve never heard that before.

Me: Oh, ok. So, do you know what I’m talking about then?

Mom: Yes. …Like…a…hamburger.

After a few more minutes of this, I just decided I’d just roast it and try the steaming method another time. Maybe when I go home for Thanksgiving. And we can confuse each other in person.

I didn’t know what to do for the pork chop. I didn’t even HAVE a pork chop. Good planning, Bethany! So I looked up and found a Sunny Anderson’s Easy Grilled Pork Chop Recipe. Easiness baked right into the name. I already had most everything for the marinade at home, too. Boom.

During my recovery from the previous night’s going away party, I watched Symon’s Suppers on Cooking Channel. And he did a straight up ode to pork episode. (I think I’m in love…) As a kid, he hated peas until his mom loaded them up with bacon. Cause bacon makes everything better. So, Michael Symon’s Peas and Bacon.

And lastly, simple roasted acorn squash from the Queen of Butter Southern Cuisine herself, Paula Deen.

Three recipes to follow, all pretty easy. I didn’t really even screw them up! Except that I ate dinner at 9:30. Which is when the Spaniards eat it so I was being INTERNATIONAL. Sure! That makes sense!

Easy Grilled Pork Chop from


  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 8 ½-inch bone-in pork chops, about 3 ounces each
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Yeah, the recipe called for 8 pork chops. But since I was just cooking for little ole me, I only cooked two. (One for now and one for later.) And they were about an inch thick. But I used the same amount of marinade. Cause, I roll hard like that.

Begin by making the marinade. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, vinegar, cumin and red pepper flakes.

Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper and place in a resealable plastic bag with the marinade. Let rest on the counter for 1 hour.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Remove the pork chops from the bag and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook until the pork chop releases from the grill, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes. If using a grill pan, be sure to do in batches so you don’t steam the chops.

Since my chops were thicker than the ones the recipe called for, I did them for 4 minutes on each side, and then flipped it again and left it on the grill for 3 more minutes.

If you don’t have a grill or a grill pan, ain’t no thing. You can do them in the pan.

I cut into one of the chops to make sure it was done, and it was. It was just over medium, but still really juicy. But man, what you see on those cooking shows is true. Just by cutting into that pork chop to check for doneness, I let so many juices out. Let your meat rest, people. #savethejuicesyall

Peas and Bacon from


  • 1 cup bacon, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (frozen peas are good too; just defrost prior to using)
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt

Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 5 minutes. Yeah. This took me more like 8 or 9 minutes. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Maybe I didn’t believe in Santa hard enough. Or maybe it just took me longer.

Add the garlic and shallots and sweat for 1 minute. Add the peas and increase the heat to medium. Pour in the orange juice and cook until the peas are tender, about 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and fold in the orange zest, parsley and butter. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary, though you shouldn’t need much because the bacon adds a natural saltiness to the dish. I just added a tiny sprinkle of kosher salt.

Baked Acorn Squash from


  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, like a hot dog (I cut it like a hamburger…but I should’e cut it like a hot dog)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (I didn’t have any of this, so I just didn’t use it. Yep.)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Scoop the seeds and stringy pulp out of the squash cavities and discard.

I cut these like an ass.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, syrup and salt and pepper, to taste. Rub the squash cavities and cut sides of the squash with the butter mixture and place them on a baking sheet, cut side up.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Serve 1 half per person. After 50 minutes in the oven, mine looked like this:

Here’s the finished meal. I’m not gonna lie, it was rull good. It had a very comforting, fall vibe to it. Everything had a touch of sweetness, but it balanced the sweet and savory. I’m coming back to this one again.

Maybe I’ll even make it for my pops. Make sure he REALLY likes ALL the pork chops.

The One Where I’m In Charge of Thanksgiving Dinner

I got two emails from my mother yesterday.

One had the most brilliant typo referring to Snoopy and “all the Penis gang.” I giggled about that one for just hours.

The other one is as follows. The typos have been included for color and if my mom knew I had a blog and knew how to search for it, she’d be REAL mad that I put her email here. 

Subject: You and Grandma cook Thanksgiving

My sweet Babu, [Honestly? No idea why she calls me this. My dad doesn’t get it either.]

I have a hectic week trying to prepare for the Indiana trip: hair, nails. Have church commitment and take two classes on the 19 th. I need your help a d Mom’s. I will pick up groceries for you but you and gma will have lots of time to bond. Thx sweet ma am

Um…did my mother call me ma’am at the end of her email? Or did she misspell mama? She normally signs her emails off mami (we’re Puerto Ricans), so I honestly don’t even know.

Anyways. I think we’re overlooking the major point of this: You and Grandma cook Thanksgiving.

Charles what now?

I’ve been in charge of the turkey for the last two years, which has gone really well. And I’ve done a couple sides too. But… I haven’t done the whole thing. And certainly not with a 90 year old sous chef. (Calm down, I love her more than anything and I’m so excited to hang/cook with her but…she has to sit down a lot.)

I guess I’m going to need to menu plan. Like, now. Cause…it’s three and a half weeks away. I picked up a Southern Living, Martha Stewart Living, Cooking Light and Real Simple today. Just need a Bon Appetit and a Food Network Magazine and I’ll have COMPLETELY overdone it.

This is going to be interesting. There are only 4 of us. And dad doesn’t can’t eat shellfish. And doesn’t like onions.


Y’all have any family favorites? Or surprise hits that you’re willing to share? 

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