A happy {sweet potato} hash worth waking up for

Sweet potato hashbrowns with sausage and egg

It is really easy for me to get stuck in a breakfast rut — often it’s a “peanut butter toast with honey or jam” rut. I’ll branch out into oatmeal, quinoatmeal or other more hearty things for a while, but, in the end, my old ways win out and it’s back to my trusty favorites.

The only break in my habit tends to be the weekends. Finally I have the time and motivation to create something a little more involved. This breakfast is one I whipped up a few weekends ago. It was so good I’ve brought it back for several encores.

I think the part I love the most is how the flavors in the pork sausage combine with the sweet potato in such a perfect “tastes like fall” type of way. The sausage is actually one I made myself — much easier than it may sound — and contains onions, shredded apples and sage. It seems like pork, apples and sage should be their own holy trinity, especially this time of year. It’s really hard to go wrong with that combination!

The hash doesn’t play second fiddle though — its crispy in parts and slightly sweet from the caramelized sweet potato and onion. Take all that, put an egg on it (in true Portland style) and dig in to a breakfast so good you’ll wonder why you didn’t make it sooner.

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Roasted delicata squash boats bear delicious cargo

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Delicata squash with garlicky kale, goat cheese and a baked egg.

Conversations at my job vary among a few recurring themes: crazy customers, how much we hate chicken, how we’d kill for a glass of wine, and food. While the first three conversations could practically be played on repeat, the fourth is constantly changing.

We talk about what we’re eating, what restaurants we’ve been to lately, what we ate for dinner the night before and what we’re going to eat as soon as we get home. Food talk starts when we open and continues until the office is closed and is often accompanied by photos and/or shared samples.

The two most obsessed eaters seem to be me and my co-worker Breezy. We both used to work in kitchens around town and we spend a lot of time between phone calls chatting about recipes, techniques and ingredients. This is pretty handy because it’s nice to have someone to bounce food ideas off of when I’m in need of inspiration.

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My kind of Halloween treat: Boozy Cider Shooters

Apple Cider jello Shots

Being able to make a kick ass Jello shot seems a little…immature, perhaps, and yet I cannot (and will not!) stop finding boozy gelatin fun.

The last time I experimented with it was when I made these boozy watermelon shots for a few of my co-workers back in July. So it seemed fitting that for our staff Halloween party I make something more seasonally appropriate — and what’s more autumn than apples? (If you read this blog, you know the answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing.)

These little jelly jigglers were even more popular than the apple cider cream pie that I baked for the party — and they were ten times easier to make (hooray!). No burnt pie crusts or temperamental pie pans to deal with.

I started with some good old fashioned fresh-pressed apple cider (non-alcoholic stuff though hard cider might work fine too). I used some mulling spices to amp up the fall flavor and then added a whole bunch of booze.

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A is for Autumn, Autumn is for Apple Cider Cream Pie

Apple Cider Cream Pie w. Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Apple Cider Cream Pie w. Cinnamon Whipped Cream

When autumn rolls around, some people (the internet would have you believe only 20-year-old white girls) look forward to pumpkin-flavored everything. While I love their salty, crunchy seeds, pumpkins — even baked into a pie — don’t do much for me.

Instead I am all about apple cider. I love it in any form, freshly pressed, warm and spiced, made into caramels or mixed with booze. When the leaves start to turn, you can bet my fridge is full of cider — it’s as much of a guarantee as death and taxes.

And while I tend to mostly enjoy it straight up and ice cold, I’m more than willing to experiment with it. So when my co-workers decided to have a staff pumpkin carving party yesterday, I had the perfect sweet treat in mind to contribute, this apple cider cream pie.

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Squash Agrodolce: Delicata done different

Delicata Squash Agrodolce

Delicata squash in agrodolce sauce, pepitas, pearl onions and sultanas.

Being married to a chef has its ups and downs. The upside is pretty obvious — he makes amazing, creative and delicious food. But considering I rarely see him (this would be the downside), I’m certainly not dining on homemade, perfectly plated 10-course meals all week long.

In fact, most nights I do all of the cooking, leaving him a plate of food for when he gets home around midnight. Even on the days when he’s off work — in the industry this is almost always Sundays and Mondays for chefs — he is often too exhausted to cook (yet another reason I’m endlessly grateful for the kick ass taco cart right by our house).

However, over the past few weeks he has been wooing me with fantastic Monday night meals. One of my recent favorites included a plate full of tender delicata squash in agrodolce sauce (an Italian version of sweet and sour made with sugar and vinegar), beets with pickled peppers and ricotta salata and hand torn pasta in a Parmesan brodo. Yeah. It’s serious.

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The original dish — I subbed pearl onions for his cipollino. These are certainly more of a “statement” onion…

A simple dinner for two...

A simple dinner for two…

While everything was incredible, my favorite dish of the evening was the delicata. The tang from the agrodolce wonderfully balanced the sweetness of the squash, and the sultanas and pepitas added a bit of autumn swagger. It was also a pleasant change to the overly sweet squash recipes that are ubiquitous this time of year.

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I can’t quit you: My summer love affair with shakshuka

Homemade shakshuka: adding spice to my life!

Homemade shakshuka: adding spice to my life!

This summer was the Summer of Shakshuka.

It started on a whim (“hmmm…never made that before…”) and turned into an all-out obsession (“must make more!”). Months later, my infatuation is still going strong and even though I’m no longer using tomatoes from my garden, I have happily discovered it still tastes great using high quality canned tomatoes.

If you’re not familiar,¬†shakshuka is a spicy stewed tomato dish, usually made with onions, chilies and cumin. Most versions boast a simmered-to-perfection egg and the best versions (in my opinion) also include a nice salty cheese. While the egg certainly makes it seem more “breakfast-y,” this one-pot wonder makes a great lunch or dinner as well.

It’s also a fun dish to play around with, adding or subtracting ingredients depending on what’s in season — or by what’s in your fridge. My favorite batches this summer included saut√©ed zucchini and summer squash and lots of kale. I’ve even thrown cooked farro or quinoa in at the end to bulk it up.

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