Tuesday, September 30, 2014

For the love of parsnips...

White carrots. That's what I thought they were. Parsnips, you've probably seen them in the grocery store and not given them a second look. I am not sure that I ever paid any attention to them until my husband put them in chicken soup, and they added this lovely but unidentifiable spiciness to it. But still, who needs parsnips? If you haven't figured out by now ... YOU do!

I don't know who started the trend of roasted vegetables, but lately most of the top trending recipes are for roasted vegetables. I've always been a big fan of roasted potatoes, and especially roasted potatoes and carrots with a roast. Then while having one of those "clean out the fridge" dinners, we had only a bag of parsnips and decided to roast them. First - they taste nothing like carrots. Roasted, they have a spicy richness about them with just a hint of sweetness.

When we cooked the roast last night, I promised to share what we served with it. Here it is, a lovely blend of parsnips, carrots, purple potatoes, and yukon gold potatoes. The flavors are so complimentary, and the recipe is simple and straightforward. Roasted until just barely browned, the natural sugars in the vegetables add just a tiny bit of carmel sweetness. Between the roast, and the roasted root vegetables - it was a lovely dinner.  I hope that you get a chance to try roasting some fall vegetables and enjoy the warmth and comfort of a well prepared dinner.


2-3 large parsnips, peeled
2-3 large carrots, peeled
4-6 purple potatoes
4-5 yukon gold potatoes
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt/Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Slice parsnips and carrots into 1/3 inch discs
Cut potatoes in half and then into 1/3 (the rationale behind this is to have all pieces roughly the same size/volume so that they roast evenly)
Place the chopped vegetables into a large bowl and toss with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. There should be just enough to coat all pieces but none standing in the bottom of the bowl.  If you need a little more add by teaspoon until all pieces are coated. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Spread the vegetables out on the baking sheet and make sure they are not too crowded, and if you've got too many, just use a second baking sheet.

Put them into the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
After 20 minutes, take them out and use a spatula to give them a toss (don't worry about turning them all over, they'll be fine).
Put them back in the oven and check them in 5 minute increments. Remove as soon as you see the edges start to brown.  This batch took about 30 minutes, time may vary based upon your oven. 

My husband loves the purple potatoes, and they are sweet and so good for you. If you don't like the purple ones, add sweet potatoes as a variation, or just add more of the parsnips, carrots, and yukon golds. This recipe hits most of the comfort food requirements: sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, and best of all, it is homemade!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Roasted Rump!

At the end of the day, there is nothing better than walking into a house that smells like roast - with garlic and roasted vegetables. Trust me. My husband proved it. I used to travel weekly, and would be fully exhausted after too many planes, trains, and hotels. When we were dating, he snuck over to my house to meet me when I returned and made a roasted chicken and vegetables. I would have married him in front of my kitchen sink at that moment.

The butcher's case used to intimidate me. I didn't know what cuts of meat to choose or which ones were for cooking for a long time versus something you could broil or sauté quickly. I am grateful to be living in the age of information technology. Yes, I am the nerd that is looking up recipes in the grocery store leaning over the beef roasts.

Roast is really a wonderful, easy, and versatile meat. The rump roast that we had for dinner tonight was rich and delicious, and because it is somewhat rare, the leftovers are going to be amazing. Now - to show you just how easy it was...


3 Pound Rump Roast (let it warm to room temperature if it is just out of the cooler)
3 Cloves of Garlic cut in half lengthwise
Drizzle of Olive Oil (Or spray)
1 cup of water, or red wine
1 Onion Chopped
Salt and Pepper

Heat your oven to 500 degrees.  Cut 6 slits into the outside of the roast and push the garlic into them. Drizzle about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over the top, or use an oil mister to spray it.  Rub in the olive oil to distribute evenly.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, or your favorite beef/steak seasoning. I used an iron skillet that worked perfectly, and actually heated the skillet while I was heating the oven. Put the roast in the oven and let it sear for 20 minutes.

Now, after the first 20 minutes, remove the roast from the oven, reduce the heat to 275, and add the onion and 1 cup of water, or red wine. Put the roast back into the oven and cook for 20 minutes per pound (60 minutes for a 3 lb roast).  This should yield a medium to rare roast.  

Let it rest at least 10 minutes and slice.  

I hope you get the chance to make this fabulously easy and fragrant roast beef for someone you love.  Only an hour and twenty minutes for a home cooked roast, where the oven does most of the work.  I am pretty sure that my husband finds it more attractive than most perfume on the market!

It's time to relax and wind down, but tomorrow, I will tell you about the roasted vegetables that went with it!  If you are not an adventurous cook, branch out and buy a rump roast. I'd love to hear what happens when your family comes home to smell this one cooking!

UPDATE - When cooking for 2, sometimes leftovers can be a challenge. No matter how wonderful a dish is, too many leftovers can be boring. This technique for cooking a rump roast was simple, and yielded a flavorful medium rare roast. I used the leftover roast in a Beef and Mushroom Red Wine Sauce served over wide egg noodles. That being said, the roast at medium rare was wonderful, however, heating it again in the wine/mushroom sauce made it a bit tough. Rump roast is cut from the bottom round and is a tougher cut than steak. If you are going to have a significant amount of left over beef, I would recommend either using a braising method or a slow cooker (which I am putting on the list of things to try).

I also wanted to include some temperature/doneness information about beef so that you will be able to properly gauge how "done" your roast is:

Rare - 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 Celcius)
Medium Rare - 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 Celsius)
Medium Well - 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 Celsius)
Well Done - 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 Celsius)

TOUGH BREAKS - Do you have leftover roast that is tough? All is not lost. Cut it into small pieces and cook it low and slow into a soup, stew, or the mushroom red wine sauce. The slow cooker works well for this. 
Here's a quick way to make the mushroom red wine sauce: add beef (chopped into small pieces) chopped onion, sliced mushrooms, mushroom soup, beef broth, red wine, and worcestershire sauce to the slow cooker and cook on high until the entire mixture is hot. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 2 hours or until beef is tender. If you like stroganoff, add sour cream to the mixture. Serve over egg noodles.  

So now, you have the good, the bad, and the yummy resurrection of leftovers for this rump roast. Enjoy the process, and enjoy the beauty of a home that smells of a flavorful home cooked meal!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Cream - Homemade means truly having it your way!

Okay, I will admit that the past several years have seen Pumpkin spice overload.  If I was not ready to face it, then the sight of pumpkin spice potato chips pushed it over the sweet cinnamon scented edge!

That being said, I had to ask my sweet husband what "PSL" meant, and had no idea of the mad rush for the "Pumpkin Spiced Latte" arrival.  I love them, they are delicious. I have a tendency to turn into a high maintenance orderer though, at least making an effort to minimize the sugar, fat, and calories.  It turns into a request for a "light syrup, nonfat, double tall, no whip, no sauce, pumpkin spice latte".  Seriously?  Coffee should not be this complicated.  So, taking the complex out of it, I made it at home.

This delicious creamer can be made as healthy or unhealthy as you'd like.  I will give you substitutions along the way. Experiment until you find what works for you!


1 Cup Half and Half (Healthier option Fat free half and half, REALLY unhealthy option Heavy Cream or Whipping Cream)
1 Cup Milk (Healthier option, 2% milk)
2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Puree' (Not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
Pinch of Nutmeg
(Instead of the Cinnamon, Allspice, Cloves, and Nutmeg above,  you can use 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice)
1 teaspoon Vanilla

Now for the sweet part...pick one of the following
4 Tablespoons Maple Syrup, OR
4 Tablespoons Caramel Sauce for icecream, OR
4 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar, OR
4 Tablespoons of Sugar Free Flavoring syrup (I used Caramel, vanilla, or toffee flavors)
This just depends on what appeals to you at the moment.  So far, I have not come up with a bad option.  (*Note, you can use sweetened condensed milk from a can in place of the milk in this recipe, but don't do it, at least not at first. The calories and fat content of merely a Tablespoon of that are enough to give you are heart attack just by reading the numbers.)

EASY METHOD - Quick, but doesn't taste as rich.  Put all ingredients in a bottle or jar and shake until well combined.  Make additions to your taste.

FLAVORFUL METHOD - Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Continue to whisk while heating until steam arises, about 5 minutes.  Do not allow it to boil.  Strain through a sieve, and allow to cool.  This method will keep the ingredients from settling to the bottom of your cup.  You will find that the flavors become more intense when left in the fridge over night.

This creamer should keep for approximately a week in the refrigerator, but usually doesn't last that long! Whichever substitutions you make, post a comment and let me know how you liked it, and what you used to sweeten it. You can even tell me you used the sweetened condensed milk and I won't call the Pumpkin Spice police!

As the days grow cooler and shorter, there's nothing like a warm cup of sweet spicy coffee to begin the day or simply relax and watch someone else rake the leaves!?!?

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OF THE LEFTOVER PUMPKIN...Put it in ice cube trays or any freezer safe container, and use it when you are ready)

Happy Fall Y'All, lots of good things ahead!
Graciously yours,
Spoon of Hearts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Meanwhile...Back at the Ranch

Homemade Ranch Dressing is so simple that you are going to question why you ever bought it, or used a packaged mix in the first place. Most likely you already have all of the ingredients, and all it takes is a few minutes and your friends and family will think that you have hung the moon!

This recipe is healthy, but not so healthy that you will feel like you are sacrificing taste. You might find that the richness of the homemade version means using less, which makes it even healthier.  I'd be a skinny girl if I loved salad, but am learning that I like crisp, fresh, vegetables cut up and stored in the refrigerator. We tend to cut up vegetables and make a fresh jar of dressing each week and it is a great "go to" snack, not to mention fills in as a nice appetizer for unexpected company. Down the road, I will share our recipe for broiled buffalo wings, which when paired with this ranch dressing will make you wonder why they are ever fried. Even a prepackaged salad, or simple lettuce wedge will stand out with this creamy, homemade ranch dressing.

Cooking is about taste, baking is about following the rules. Every one has different tastes, and that's what make this world a fun place to live. I'm about to tell you something crazy...DON'T FOLLOW THE RECIPE BELOW. At least not exactly, or every time. Do you like garlic? Add more! Can't stand dill? Leave it out! Don't like Greek Yogurt? Well, that one you should try at least once. If you find a greek yogurt you like (I love Fage 2%) you might find that it replaces sour cream very nicely. Use fresh herbs if you would like, but remember that dried herbs have a more intense flavor and that means you have to use more if you are using fresh. I have tried it both ways and find this actually better with dried, and a great way to use them before they get too old.   

Now - brace yourself, and grab a quart sized jar, and get ready to be amazed at your own ranch dressing!

Ranch Dressing

1 Quart Sized Jar with Lid
7 Ounce Container of Greek Yogurt (Fage 2% is my personal favorite)
7 Ounces Mayonaise (I live in the South and Dukes is the best!)
3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder (Or a clove of garlic, crushed)
1 Teaspoon Dried Dill Weed
1 Teaspoon Dried Parsley Flakes
1 Teaspoon Dried Chives

STEP ONE - Empty the 7 oz greek yogurt container into the jar.  Fill up the empty yogurt container with mayo and then spoon in into the jar.

STEP TWO - Put the rest of the above ingredients into the jar.  Put the lid on the jar, turn on some good music and SHAKE IT (The jar.)

STEP THREE - Taste it.  Add more of something that makes you happy.  I always add a little extra dill (okay, really I usually double the dill...I really like dill!)  If it is a little too thick, add a little extra white wine vinegar, or buttermilk, or even a little milk. Shake it up again, and refrigerate overnight...it just gets better.  

STEP FOUR - Sit back and be impressed with your new talent for making homemade ranch dressing!

Follow us as we grow on Pinterest for more great ideas...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sometimes you just need a cookie...

Blogging and baking both seem to take a leap of faith. This has been a dream for a long time, and after a corporate downsizing (aka blessing in disguise) there has been no denying that it was time to make it a reality. I thought this was a great recipe to share on the eve of taking SPOON OF HEARTS live.  It made for a fun Sunday evening and lots of laughter while my husband and I smeared very uncooperative marshmallow creme on them.  That is what cooking is for me; a chance to spend time with loved ones, nourish our relationships, our appetites, and our sense of humor.

Thank you all so very much for your support, your enthusiasm, your willingness to taste a new recipe and learn new techniques.  Most of all, thank you for your patience as we make SPOON OF HEARTS true to our hearts, and a great place to mix up a little fun.

There's a special birthday tomorrow, and after looking at too many cake recipes, remembered that a friend made these and just the thought of them took me back to thoughts of childhood.  These treats were amazingly simple and taste heavenly. "Amazingly simple" doesn't mean that there weren't a few lessons to be learned along the way.  This blog is not just about recipes, it is about learning from trial and error so that you get a good chance to benefit from my kitchen mishaps, and enjoy the cookies!

Have you ever baked cookies and followed the directions exactly, only to have them come out too done on the bottom and barely brown on the top? I have been through too many oven thermometers to count, and was convinced that my oven was too hot or not hot enough.  Then, I read this...

PJ Hamel from FLOURISH (King Arthur Flour's Blog) does the research on how to get the best baked cookies by testing dark and light/shiny baking sheets, as well as greased vs. lined with parchment paper.  Don't miss a chance to read the entire post, as it is really interesting, but here's the best part as it applies to these cookies: your best chance for perfectly baked cookies is using light/shiny baking sheets, and lining them with parchment paper.  Seriously, it makes a huge difference.  Baking sheets lined with Silpats were my usual cookie baking habit.  After using parchment and my lighter, shinier baking sheets, I am completely converted.  PJ Hamel is my hero!

I know it seems counterintuitive to put paper in the oven, but trust me on this one - it makes all the difference.  Parchment paper is easy to find now, and sold in most grocery stores.  Look for it where you would find aluminum foil and plastic bags.

One last tip before you get started.  Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature for the best results.  When you are getting ready to mix everything up, take the eggs out of the refrigerator so that they are not cold when you add them to your softened butter.  This allows for a better mix and the best texture possible.

Now, let's get to what you came here for...the cookies!

1/2 Cup Butter (Softened to room temperature)
1/2 Cup Shortening (I used butter flavored shortening that comes in sticks)
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar (I like dark brown - always seems richer to me)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 1/2 Cups Quick Oats

Preheat the oven to 350

Cream the butter, shortening, sugars (brown and white) together using a mixer.  (If you are confident about your egg breaking skills, just break them right into the bowl.  If not, break them into a cup to make sure that no shells get into the mix) When they are pale and fluffy, add the molasses, vanilla and eggs and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Use a fork, or a wire whisk to combine and then add to the butter/egg mixture in 3 parts - mixing in between until well incorporated.  Lastly, add the oats.  Drop by teaspoon onto your parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.  If you question the baking time, always err on the side of under baking.

Helpful hints - I "rounded" the dropped dough on the parchment to make for a rounder finished cookie.  The first batch, I baked only 6 just to see how far they spread and gauge how many I could get on a baking sheet and make sure the baking time was right.  They will be golden and puffy when you remove them from the oven, but will darken and "crinkle" a bit as they cool.

Here's where you get to learn from our big cookie adventure. Memories of marshmallow creme filled my head as these baked, and my sweet husband helped me to fill each one with a heaping tablespoon of marshmallow creme.  Pressing both sides together until the creme came just to the edges.  We filled a heaping platter with them and they were gorgeous.  Which lasted all of about 5 minutes.  It turns out that too much marshmallow creme, pushed too far to the edge of the cookie allows the tops to slide off.  So, here is what I recommend:

Marshmallow Creme - put just under a tablespoon in the center of each cookie and top with another one.  Press the two sides together until the creme comes close to, but not all the way to the edge.  Don't stack them in more than 2 layers, or the weight of the cookies will press out the creme.

Canned Frosting - we just happened to have a can of cream cheese frosting in the cabinet and filled a few with it for variation.  Wow, it added a grown up twist to these that was really good.  There were not the problems with sliding on the frosting filled ones.

Combination - Mix your favorite canned frosting with marshmallow creme and you get the best of both tastes, and still less sliding.  What measurements?  Simple, start with 1 part frosting to 1 part marshmallow creme.  If you like one or the other better, add more or less to taste.

Homemade - If you are a purist and can not bring yourself to put any of the above options on these gorgeous oatmeal cookies, find your favorite homemade frosting recipe  and fill them with that.  I think that next time, I may fill a few with peanut butter just for fun!

This recipe makes about 20 cookie sandwiches.  I doubled it with no problems and yielded around 40.

I hope you get the chance to bake these with and/or for someone you love.  Let me know how it goes, and what kind of imaginative things you find to fill them with!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sneak peek at Fall y'all!

Sometimes, life takes some unexpected turns.  I am truly grateful to have learned that even the scary thrill ride kind of turns often have a beautiful and meaningful outcome.  My latest curve in the road is allowing me the blessing to work on some projects that I love - here is a sneak peek at the joy ahead!