whiskey sweet potato pie

It seems that every year, when the leaves begin to change colors and drift to the ground only to crunch under our boots, people become obsessed–I mean, really obsessed–with pumpkin. And I just don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin a lot. I relish that day each year when Starbucks brings their devilishly good pumpkin spice lattes back, and I am more than happy to eat a pumpkin muffin or five two any day of the week. But by the time November rolls around each year, I’m on pumpkin overload. So amid a flurry of pumpkin cheesecake brownies, pumpkin risottos, and pumpkin soups, I somehow found myself thinking about. . .you guessed it (or maybe not). Sweet potatoes.  Recently, a friend of mine suggested that I jazz up a baked sweet potato with a dash of whiskey. Never one to ignore new ways to put whiskey in food, I tried it–and I may never eat sweet potatoes the old way again. I immediately knew I had to introduce my new loves, whiskey and sweet potatoes, to an old flame–pie. And folks, they got along famously. Meet whiskey sweet potato pie.

And don’t worry about the cream and the butter in this pie! Did you know that one sweet potato has enough beta-carotene as 23 cups of broccoli? Or that it’s a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber? On top of that, recent studies have shown that eating at least 3-5 grams of fat with sweet potatoes significantly increases your body’s ability to absorb all that beta-carotene? Yep, this pie is good for you. (Sort of.)

whiskey sweet potato pie:


  • 2-1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1-1/3 sticks butter, chilled and diced
  • 4 tbs. shortening, chilled
  • scant 1/2 c. ice water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in the fats and, with your fingertips only, blend the fats into the flour until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Add in ice water all at once and blend using one hand in smooth cupping motions. Turn the pastry into a pie dish and press into a smooth layer. Trim the edges neatly with a spoon and place in the refrigerator for half an hour. (I had enough left to make a few maple leaves out of the extra dough.)


  • 4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Dash nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 3 tbs. whiskey (I’m a Jack Daniels girl myself)
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans

Wash and lightly oil the sweet potatoes. Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 450° F until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. Let cool and remove the skins. Beat the skinned sweet potatoes in a bowl with a hand-held mixer until no longer chunky. Blend in brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Add in ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg and blend. Slowly add in the cream, milk, and whiskey, beating as you go. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake at 350° F for 40-45 minutes, or until edges are set but center still trembles when shaken gently. Toast the pecans on a baking sheet for about 6 minutes. Watch them carefully! There’s nothing more depressing than a burnt pecan. (Well, perhaps there is, but burnt pecans are up there.) Sprinkle the toasted pecans on the top of the pie. Let cool completely (I mean it–don’t be hasty!) and serve.

This pie is amazing with a strong cup of afternoon coffee.



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combo pie

I recently visited a dear friend in Lexington, KY. During my stay, my friend insisted that we go to Ramsey’s, a local institution loved for its homey environment and famous for its pies. I got the combination pie, a brownie and peanut butter pie which is known to its fans as simply “the combo.” I have been thinking about that pie ever since I got back, and yesterday I really wanted to procrastinate was overwhelmed by the urge to recapture its fudgy, salty sweetness. And you know what? I did it.

The pastry was sweet and crumbly, the brownie was thick and fudgy, and the peanut butter filling was  just…perfect. And the best part was, it was actually really easy. It took more patience than anything else. Pie is my favorite food, but if you don’t love it the way I do, this pie could easily be reworked into brownie peanut butter bars.

combo pie:

pastry: (adapted from Simply French by Patricia Wells)

  • 4 tbs. softened butter
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • dash of vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • pinch of salt

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it resembles a thick frosting. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla until smooth, then add in the flour and a pinch of salt. If the dough seems too sticky, add up to two more tablespoons of flour, no more. Turn out the dough onto waxed paper, form it into a ball, and place another layer of waxed paper on top. Roll it out into a circle and place it on a cookie sheet. This technique makes this particular pastry dough a cinch to roll out and ensures you don’t get a floury mess all over your counter. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour, or in the freezer for 20 minutes if you’re in a rush. Once it’s chilled, place it in a tart pan and trim the edges.

cocoa brownie batter: (adapted from smittenkitchen)

  • 1-1/4 sticks butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. sweet cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. flour

While your pastry is in the fridge, preheat your oven to 350°. In a double boiler, melt together the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt, and then set it aside to cool slightly. You want to make sure it’s not so hot that it cooks your egg! Once it’s just warm, beat in the egg until very smooth. Stir in the flour until you can’t see it anymore, then beat the batter vigorously for about 40 seconds. Pour into the prepared tart pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until brownies are done but fudgy. Allow pie to cool, then cover it with foil and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. (Please don’t judge me for the cowboy hat in the background of this picture. I’m a college girl and it’s almost Halloween.)

peanut butter pie filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter (I use the real stuff)
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Beat everything together with an electric mixer on high until thoroughly blended and very smooth. Spread it out in the cooled brownie pie pan, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, until set.



Filed under desserts, pies, recipes, vegetarian

a five-minute salad

This little beauty took five minutes to make, start to finish. Torn green lettuce. Chunks of smoky Gouda. Salty, paper-thin ribbons of proscuitto. Finished with a drizzle of sweet date-balsamic vinegar and fresh-cracked pepper.

Smoky, salty, and sweet–everything lunch needs. What did you have for lunch today?



Filed under recipes, salads

mushroom and fontiago quiche

Sometimes you just feel like a quiche. Especially when you’re spending your weekend cooped up in your apartment studying for midterms. I took a study break and two hours later, my apartment smells like heaven, if heaven were made of butter, shallots, and cheese, which I suspect it is.

When it comes to quiche, mushrooms are sadly neglected in favor of a traditional ham/bacon, onion, and cheese mixture (quiche Lorraine, anyone?). But dig this: mushrooms are a good source of fiber, selenium, and potassium, among other vitamins and minerals, and unlike many vegetables, they actually retain most of those nutrients when they’re cooked.

They’re perfect for redeeming a quiche from all of the butter, milk, and cheese that might send health freaks running for the hills make you feel a little guilty for indulging. In my opinion, quiche is one of those perfect foods that you can eat any time of day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or (my favorite!) brunch.

A note on the crust: I’m not a big believer in premade pie crusts, but that’s only because I love making crusts! I grew up in a family in which a really lovely, flaky pie crust could magically win you compliments with very little effort, so I learned to pinch together a pie dough at a very young age. I’ve always found something very rewarding about it. If you don’t get the same nerdy satisfaction from making pie crust as I do, just use a premade one–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it! For this particular crust, I adapted Julia Child’s pastry recipe, subbing in 3/4 c. whole wheat flour because I like to work it into my food whenever I can. It makes me forget that I’m eating a quarter of a stick of butter in one sitting. If you’re not a fan of whole wheat flour, just use 2-1/4 c. regular flour.

mushroom and fontiago quiche:

(Adapted from Bon Appétit, October 2009, p. 54)


  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks chilled butter, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 4 tbs. shortening, chilled
  • scant 1/2 c. ice water

Preheat oven to 450°. In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the butter and shortening and pinch into the flour with your fingertips. Be careful not to let your palm touch the mixture because you don’t want it to melt your fats. When it vaguely resembles oatmeal, pour in the ice water all at once and blend the dough vigorously with one hand until it just comes together. (Be careful not to overblend it. The reason pastry dough is flaky and not doughy is because you don’t give the gluten in the flour a chance to become activated.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface for the fraisage, a fancy term for the final blending of fat and flour. Push the dough away from you using your palm in short bursts. Roll it out with a rolling pin (or if you’re a college student, a wine bottle) and wrap it around your rolling pin to transfer it to a buttered pie dish. Tidy up the edges and blind-bake the crust for about 15 minutes. Remove and reduce the oven temperature to 325°.


  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 3 medium shallots, chopped
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 c. half and half
  • 2/3 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 lb. Fontiago (or Fontina) cheese, coarsely grated

While your crust is blind-baking, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Add shallots (a wonderfood, it’s like garlic and onions had a baby) and sauté until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté for another 8 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool while you whisk together the eggs, half and half, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl. Take 1/2 c. of the cheese and set aside. Stir the rest of the cheese and the mushroom mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 c. cheese. Bake quiche at 325° until barely puffed, golden brown, and just set in the center, about 45 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and serve.


I paired mine with a simple salad with vinaigrette for a light lunch. Best study break ever.


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Filed under eggs, main course, pies, recipes, vegetarian

how to: poach your egg and eat it too

Because this is my first post, I’m feeling pressure to write something poignant that you’ll take with you for the rest of your week, or maybe your life; something inspiring that will make your mouth water and maybe get you into the kitchen. In lieu of that, I simply decided to up the ante and face two fears at once: the first blog post and poaching eggs. I’m happy to report that not only do I have a blog post for you today, I have poached eggs. Four of them, to be precise.

I fell in love with the idea of Eggs Benedict when I was fourteen but I could not poach an egg to save my life. My numerous attempts to master the art of poaching an egg ended in sorry-looking messes that at best resembled unseasoned egg drop soup, and at worst generic cat food. The eggs flowered every time, leaving me frustrated and still hungry. Finally my mother took pity on me and bought me an egg poacher. I considered the poacher a sort of culinary cheating mechanism, but I used it regardless because a fried egg on Eggs Benedict is practically sacrilegious.

I don’t know what possessed me to poach an egg for lunch yesterday. Perhaps it was the “Elegance with Eggs” episode of The French Chef that I watched the night before, or the fact that, due to unforeseen circumstances, I had over two dozen eggs in my refrigerator. No one will ever really know, but I plead temporary insanity.

Just as I had in the past, I followed all the traditional steps. Simmering water, check. Shallow transferring dish, check. Vinegar, check. I cracked my egg. I slid it into the water. And then I waited. About four minutes later, I gritted my teeth and prepared for the worst. Armed with nothing but my slotted spoon, I gingerly scooped my egg out of the simmering water, and nearly fainted with both delight and disbelief when I found that my egg was perfectly poached. Not leathery, not underdone, just delicate and a little bit creamy. I was so pleased that I giggled like a small child and made three more, and each one was better. I melted a few slices of Etorki cheese (from the Basque region of France; if you have the means, I highly recommend it) on some whole-wheat toast with whole-grain Dijon mustard, and proudly placed my eggs on top, dusted with a few grinds of salt and pepper.

Here’s what I learned. Make sure your water is just barely simmering. If it’s not hot enough, your egg will be a tad rubbery by the time it’s properly cooked on the inside. If it’s boiling too violently, the water will tear your egg apart from the bottom up.

That being said, watch out for vertical movement from the bubbles but also beware of horizontal movement from stirring the water. You must ensure that your water is as still as possible, because otherwise your egg will whirl itself into a tangled, irredeemable jumble.You can fortunately keep the inevitable egg flailing to a minimum by corralling the egg with your slotted spoon during the first few seconds of its swim.

Use vinegar! I can’t stress it enough. It makes the outer bit of egg white congeal more rapidly, which means the egg is less likely to flower. Just a tablespoon regular old white distilled vinegar in the poaching water should be enough. Any more and your egg will actually taste like vinegar, and you don’t want that.

Above all, you must persevere. After all, it’s just food, and the worst you can do is mess it up. You eat it and you move on. But if I can poach an egg, so can you.

Be fearless in the kitchen.


Filed under eggs, gluten-free, recipes, techniques, vegetarian