Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potatoes


I heart sweet potatoes as much as my 6 month old nephew. I’d grind ‘em up and eat them in everything too, if I could, just like he does.

I could seriously snack on this little treat all day long, and one wouldn’t feel guilty like one does when one is poppin’ M&Ms.

I’ll tell you, I could eat Grandma’s baked sweet potatoes every day till Christmas with that sweet orange glaze and little puffed golden marshmallows, but my hips and glycemic index would probably beg to differ.

I don’t even know what a glycemic index is. Or if I have one.

I was glad to adapt this recipe from Ol’ Granny. And if I know what’s good for me and that size 6/8, I’d probably better stick to it.


Start with some sweet potatoes. Prob half a ‘tater for each person, depending on what else you’re cooking.

I make one whole ‘tater for myself, because I really snack on it all day long.

Did you know sweet ‘taters are, like, the new “super food?”

I guess it doesn’t count when covered in sweet orange glaze and golden puffed marshmallows.

But don’t worry, I’ll be sharin’ that recipe come November too.

Just dice those puppies up.

Toss a tablespoon of olive oil over them and mix them around.

I also covered the pan in foil (recycle!) for easy clean-up.


Sprinkle with coarse grain Kosher salt.

Oooh. Sweet and salty.

Bake at 400 degrees roughly 40 minutes, or until tender.


How’s THAT for easy weeknight side?

Peace, Love, and Roasting ya’ll!

~ I’ve been having a lot of fun with my iPhone hipstamatic app. Go ahead and share your favorite Instagram or Hipstamatic apps on The Hill Country Cook’s Facebook page too! I’d love to see them. I’m addicted.

While we’re feeling warm and fuzzy and friendly, ya’ll are also more than welcome to post pics of recipes from the site you’ve made, recipes you think I should feature, or cooking tips. Join the party! ;)

Print Print Save Save

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Yield: serves 2

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of Kosher salt


Wash sweet potatoes and dice. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Spread 'taters in a single layer on the pan. Toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with Kosher salt. Bake at 400 degrees F, 40 minutes, or until tender.

While baking, don't turn them too much. This allows the sugars to carmelize and makes for a nice (but soft) crunch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pocket Pies


Wooowwwwww! Doesn’t that look delicious??

I’m very, very excited because this is my guest post for the Texas Farm Bureau! They have a brand new site, Texas Table Top, which celebrates all the great food, places and people that the Lone Star State has to offer.

So…. the latest trend in the foodie industry is homemade pop tarts.

Here is a delicious recipe, easily formed into any shape, pop tarts, pocket pies, or even try cookie cutters!

This post is a bit lengthy, so I have step-by-step photos, a video, then the recipe at the bottom.

So, if you’re visual, look at the pictures. If you’re interactive, watch the video.

If you’re already bored, skip to the recipe at the very bottom.

Ya’ll tell me your favorite pocket pie filling. Ok, ok, let’s just get to cookin’.

Put a pie in your pocket!


In a food processor, we’re going to add flour and baking powder. If you don’t have a food processor, a pastry cutter or fork will work just fine. Make it do.


Add in COLLLLLLDD shortening. I like Butter flavored Crisco, and I stick it in the freezer for a good 30-45 minutes before I use it.

PULSE, don’t blend, until it reaches a “coarse cornmeal” texture. If you blend the mixture, it will become smooth, and then make very tough dough.

Ha HA! Pioneer Woman was right! Enter the freaky pink alien hand! It really does look like coarse cornmeal.

We have successfully “cut” our shortening into our dry mixture!

Then we’ll slowly add our wet (Very COLLLDDD) ingredients through the pour spout in the top.

I want you to try something.
Hold a camera in one hand, pour liquid slowly, pulse your mixture at the same time because otherwise it will get soggy, and then snap the picture as the milk is pouring in.

It’s really difficult!

So, the mixture will JUST come together in the processor, enough for you to easily form it into a ball.
We’re going to separate it into 3 balls, wrap in plastic, and let the dough rest for 30 in the fridge while we make our filling.

For the filling, try to find locally made jam. It really makes a difference. I found jam from the Austin Jam Co. It was perfect. This jam tasted as though you were biting into a fresh peach, not goopy and too sweet like store bought jams I’ve tried. Austin Jam Co. also makes a wide variety of pepper jams, I’ll have to try a recipe with those next.

Mix 1/4 cup of local jam, and fruit. I diced 2 ripe Fredericksburg peaches.

After the dough has rested, sprinkle some flour on your work surface….

Pat down your dough, and sprinkle with more flour….


Put some flour on your rolling pin and begin making long, even strokes from the center, trying to maintain an even shape and thickness. Flip and turn if necessary.

Hmmm…. looks like Greece!

Using any container you have, I chose a 4 cup Pyrex bowl, but a salsa or sour cream container works great too, cut your circles.

Depending on the thickness of your dough, you’ll get between 6 -9 pie circles.

Place a spoonful of your filling mixture in the middle….

Mmmmm, mouth watering yet?

Dip your finger in water, and run along the edge of the pie circle, then fold over. Dip your fork in water too, then crimp down the edges. Crimp them well; those pie pockets want to pop open!

Lookin’ good! Pop those babies in the oven, 350 degrees 10 – 15 minutes until they’ve reached golden perfection…..

I tried to make Texas shaped pocket pies, but my cookie cutter was too small. Sad.

While they’re baking, make the glaze. Powdered sugar, a little milk, and vanilla.

Oh look, there’s that lovely reflection of my shirt again. I swear I don’t wear pink all the time.

I really don’t even like pink.

Spread a spoonful of glaze over those beauties…… Wow. Impressive, right?

And serve!

Ya’ll will be happy, carefree, and filled to pocket pie heaven! Try making them with cherry, blackberry, soon I’ll be making chocolate.

Here’s the video, and a recipe to follow:

Peace, Love, and Pies Ya’ll!

Print Print Save Save

Pocket Pies

Yield: 10 pocket pies

Prep Time: 60 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


3 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Salt
½ cups Butter-flavored Shortening, Chilled
1 cup Milk, Chilled
¼ cups Jam, Any Fruit Flavor
1 cup Your Choice Fruit, Diced
½ cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons Milk
½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract


Begin by chilling your shortening and milk 30 minutes in the freezer before using them.

Next, place your flour, baking powder, and salt into a food processor. Add shortening, cut into small cubes. Slowly "pulse", until the shortening and flour mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Slowly add the milk mixture through the tube in the top of the processor. Pulse until the mixture just comes together into a ball. You may need more or less milk depending on the humidity.
Once the mixture comes together, separate it into 3 balls, wrap each portion in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling out.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Use 1/4 cup of local jam, and 1-2 cups of diced fruit. Mix these ingredients together and set aside.

When you're ready to roll out the dough, sprinkle your work surface with flour. Pat out one ball of dough gently, sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin, and make long even strokes from the center, trying to achieve an even shape and thickness.

Use a small glass bowl, or large yogurt or sour cream container, cut your pie circles, approximately having a 5 inch diameter.Depending on the thickness of your dough, you will be to make between 6-9 pie circles.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Add a tablespoonful of filling. Using a wet finger, outline the edge of your pie circle with water to help it stick. Fold over the pie in half. Use a fork to crimp around the edges; crimp well!!

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. While they're baking, make the glaze. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make the desired consistency. Spread a spoonful of glaze over each hot pie.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Homemade Ricotta Cheese


I must admit, my grandma never made cheese; but she did always joke about making soap. I’ve got soap covered, so I gave myself a new challenge.

Ya’ll are going to be so spoiled with this homemade ricotta cheese. So smooth, rich, creamy, you’ll be looking for anything to spread it on – and it’s SO easy to make.

(Keep reading for grilled peaches stuffed with ricotta cheese!)

I researched a few different recipes and came up with this simple alternative, you only need four ingredients.

3 cups milk

1 cup cream

2 lemons

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Homemade cheese can be this easy?


What am I going to do with homemade cheese?

Just taste it. You’ll be looking for anything to put it on. This stuff could make cardboard taste good.

For real.

First heat up 3 cups of milk, 1 cup cream, and salt to 190 degrees F.

Use medium heat.

Stir occasionally to keep it from scalding, and don’t let your thermometer touch the bottom of the pan or you’ll be reading the pot temp and not the milk temp.

Keep an eye on it, at times it foams and bubbles, and…. grows.

Just stir.


Set up a bowl, a strainer, and cheesecloth.

I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I used a clean dish towel. (This was my picture while it was straining)

Make it do.

Because I’m a goof, I didn’t take the pic before I strained the cheese into the bowl, but you get the idea.



Once it reaches 190 degrees F, TURN OFF THE HEAT. Then, add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice – that’s about 2 lemons. Stir it once or twice to mix that lemon juice throughout.

Now is the fun part. Let the pot sit for ten minutes. The acid in the lemon juice curdles the milk mixture, and separates the whey (protein) from the solids (milk fat, which equals CHEESE).

Interestingly enough, you can add any acid, vinegar, vitamin C powder, buttermilk; I chose lemon juice.

Experiment on your own; I encourage it!

After ten minutes pour it into your strainer set-up.

Now wait.

Next, wait, this part is funner. Yup, funner.

Let it sit for 1 – 2 hours. The longer you let it sit, the firmer it gets.

After one hour, you’ve got a sour cream consistency, two hours, soft cream cheese.

This recipe makes about a cup and a quarter, and it should keep at least a week.

Have your husband taste it after that.

You’ve got ricotta cheese people!

You are a cheese master.

You are smart.

People like you.

What to do with it?

Well, I had white bread.

I had cinnamon sugar.

I had cinnamon ricotta toast.

The grand finale?

Grilled peaches, stuffed with ricotta cheese, and topped with a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Sounds complicated. It’s not.

I had it for the first time at Alamo Drafthouse, a theater here in Austin where they serve you food while you watch  movie, GENIUS! Then I found the recipe here.


Grill a peach. Use the BBQ or a cast iron pan.

I used a pan.

Five minutes each side.

I’m not kidding you when I admit this is the best “dessert” I’ve had in my life.

Other than anything chocolate.

But really, it’s good.

Then stuff with ricotta.

Then add a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Don’t hide. Get your head out from under the table. Or couch. Or desk. Whatever you’re currently reading on.

Balsamic vinegar reduction is simply 2 parts balsamic vinegar, one part brown sugar – cooked down.

So, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup brown sugar go into a non-stick skillet, cook it about 4-6 minutes on medium-high, until it gets thick and syrupy.

Let it cool.

If you’re impatient like me and throw the whole thing together while the syrupy stuff is still hot, it tastes a little vinegar-y….. which some might say is a lovely contrast with the sweet warm peaches.

Let it cool, and it’s heaven.

So, make with it what you want. But most importantly, make some cheese.

What are ya’ll going to make with it? Tell me!


~Peace, Love, and Cheese Ya’ll!


~Stay tuned this month! For those who have signed up for The Hill Country Cook’s newsletter, we had a little recipe contest. Members emailed with an ingredient they’d like to see me cook with this month, then I took a poll for the winning ingredient on Facebook.

The winner was: Dessert category. Ingredient – fresh coconut.

HA! This should be good.

I’m sure ya’ll would love to see me attempt this on film while trying to avoid severing any phalangees.

Print Print Save Save

Ricotta Cheese

Yield: 3 cups

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours draining/firming time


3 cups milk

1 cup cream

3 T lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt


Heat milk, cream, and salt over medium heat until it reaches 190 degrees. Turn heat off and add juice of 2 lemons, or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, stir gently, wait ten minutes. Pour curdled mixture into a towel lined strainer over a bowl. Wait one hour for sour cream consistency, two hours for soft cream cheese mixture. Store covered in a glass container, refrigerated.