Mar 11, 2014

First and last attempt at sweet potato tots

Not every recipe I try is a success and I rarely post my failed recipes on Pretty Tasty Things, but this time I felt inclined to showcase my effort in my first and last attempt at sweet potato tots.  I love, love tots in general, and I think sweet potato tots are harder to come by so I followed this particular recipe because I was craving some. But sadly, it was a big disappointment. The steps seemed simple enough, but trust me, it wasn’t simple to make them. The tots turned out incredibly oily and undercooked, mainly because they were falling apart while frying. Maybe someone out there has a better recipe to try or tips to help, but honestly, I don’t even want to attempt to make them again. Some things are best store-bought and sweet potato tots are definitely one of them.

So I started off with peeling my sweet potato. Easiest step done!

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I diced them into relatively small chunks to help them along in the food processor.

Sweet Potato Tots

Next, in several batches, I processed the sweet potato into fine bits and pieces. Small enough to hold together, but not enough to make it into mush.

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I added the processed sweet potato into a medium-size bowl. I added 1/4 cup of flour with some salt and pepper and mixed with a fork to combine.

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Now, forming these little suckers. The recipe failed to mention that forming these dainty little tots are seriously not fun. There was no easy way to make these tots so perfectly uniform. I used my hands, I used a mini-scooper, but they felt too loose when I tried to form them. I’ve never felt so frustrated while cooking before. They seemed as if they were going to fall apart on me every time. But I forged ahead and made the rest—ugly and all.

Sweet Potato Tots

I placed several tots in a hot pan of oil. I didn’t move them around, I left them alone for a minute or so to crisp up. But slowly, you can see them just fall apart. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I DID WRONG?! Little bits of the sweet potato started floating to the top. Even the touch of a tong, crumbled them. I just gave up after that first round of frying. I turned off the stove, threw everything away and thought to myself what a freakin’ waste of time.

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Sweet Potato Tots

In the end, it’s not worth it for me. Maybe I tried the wrong recipe. But either way, this just took too long for something so deliciously simple. I even made Jared taste the first and only batch, and he who rarely finds fault with my food, couldn’t stomach it. Trust me when I say, I will enjoy you, sweet potato tot, in a store-bought form or at a favorite restaurant around town called Toast. But this will be my last attempt at making them at home.

Sweet Potato Tots

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Feb 13, 2014

Kiernan’s 2nd Birthday with Funfetti Cupcakes

From the kitchen of: Sally’s Baking Addiction  Makes: 12 cupcakes
Total time: 15 min to prep, 20-22 min to bake

My nephew turned 2 this past weekend. Yes, TWO. Man, how time flies. I’ve showcased every special event of Kiernan’s life. First, before he was even born, my sister and I threw a beautiful nautical baby shower for my sister. Months later, he was born in February. Here, he had his baptism at 6 months old. For his first birthday my sister continued the nautical theme. This time though, my sister decided to keep the celebration amongst the family. A low-key event, something more intimate. So, the immediate family on both sides celebrated this adorable kid with Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken and homemade funfetti cupcakes. He wore his dad’s childhood sailor outfit, which was just adorable. Kiernan is a happy kid. He loved when we sang the happy birthday song to him, and he loved it even more when he blew out his candles. So much cuteness!

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I made funfetti cupcakes for him and he loved it! Last year, I made him vanilla bean cupcakes. Maybe next year, I’ll try a chocolate recipe.

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Before Kiernan blew out his candles, we ate lunch first. If you’re in Richmond or happen to be driving through, we’ve got the best fried chicken in the state of Virginia. Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken is a staple in RVA. The chicken is super moist and tender and the chicken skin is deliciously crispy. I will say their Sweet Tea is by far the sweetest thing you will ever taste. I cut it with unsweetened tea because it is cloyingly sweet.

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After fried chicken and cupcakes, it was time to open up gifts. What’s a birthday party without presents!? It was really cute to see how excited Kiernan was about each and every one of them. I remember last year, he could not care less about the gifts and played with a plastic hanger instead! He’s growing up so fast!

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Without further adieu, here’s how to make the homemade (easy) funfetti cupcakes. The beauty about this recipe I found on Sally’s Baking Addiction is the need of a hand whisk to make these cupcakes. No need for an electric mixer!

Ingredients:
CUPCAKES
1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla; or greek yogurt; or sour cream)
3/4 cup milk (cow’s milk; or soy milk; or almond milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles

VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
2 sticks of butter (room temperature)
3 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
salt, to taste

Directions:
1. Prepare dry mixture.
First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside. In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Set aside.

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2. Prepare wet mixture. In a large microwavable bowl, melt the butter in the microwave for 1 minute or so. Once melted, remove from microwave and whisk in the sugar. The texture will be grainy. Place in the fridge to cool off for a minute or two. Once cooled, add egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract. Whisk until well combined.

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3. Combine mixtures and add sprinkles. Slowly whisk in the dry mixture to the wet mixture until no lumps remain. Do not overmix. Batter will be thick. When adding sprinkles, use the edge of a spatula to quickly cut into the batter. Swirl the spatula several times to mix in the sprinkles. Do not overmix or else sprinkles will bleed.

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4. Bake cupcakes. With an ice cream scoop, divide the batter evenly in the muffin cups filling close to the top. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. After baking, immediately remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin and allow to cool on a baking rack.

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5. Prepare frosting. Last, but not least, the frosting! In a medium-sized bowl, beat the softened butter with an electric mixture for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time mixing after each round. Add the cream and vanilla extract. Continue to mix on high until you’ve reached a desired lightness to the frosting. To cut the sweetness, add a pitch or two of salt. If it’s a little thick, add slightly more cream. For a rustic finish, use a knife to spread the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Add more sprinkles for decoration. Best enjoyed right away!

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Jan 20, 2014

Drinking our way through Boston

Not gonna lie, if the winters in Boston weren’t so brutal, I would pack our bags and head up north! Last September, Jared and I celebrated our 3-year wedding anniversary in Boston. We’ve never been that far up north before, and have always wanted travel there. Trust me when I say, this will not be our last trip to Boston.

Boston is beautiful, historic, fun, entertaining and quaint. A place where big feels small with all the surrounding neighborhoods. We did everything and anything during our 4-night stay in Boston. We were the typical tourists. We walked the Freedom trail, took a tour of Fenway Park (a must!), ate a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry, drank our way through all the brewery tours, and so much more.

This post isn’t really about every single detail about our trip, but a fun part of our trip entailed drinking our way through Boston. If you find yourself in Boston, do what we did and check out both Sam Adams Brewery, Harpoon Brewery and grab yourself a local beer at a neighborhood bar. Here’s what to expect along the way.

Our first stop on our first full day in Boston was the infamous Sam Adams Brewery. We’re huge Sam Adams fan so this was a must. Sam Adams Brewery is off the beaten path. We took the T to the stop and walked a few blocks through a neighborhood. Use your tour book to get you there because it’s easy to get turned around if unfamiliar with the location.

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Sam Adams Brewery

We arrived in the tail end of the hour, and was able to get on to the next tour group surprisingly because apparently it gets crowded. Just arrive early if I were you. We donated some money and got a golden ticket. I felt like Charlie from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

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Sam Adams Brewery

The tour started in a separate part of the brewery. The guy in the photo below was our tour guide. He was a little dry during the “lecture” portion of how beer is made and how they brew their beer. He passed around some hops and barley that they use to make their beer and encouraged us to try some. No thanks. Haha. After the 20-minute lecture, we moved to the room where the beer is actually made. It wasn’t as grand as I imagined, probably because I learned they only do test batches at this brewery. The bigger manufacturing/distribution center is located in Ohio and Tampa (i think).

Sam Adams Brewery

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Sam Adams Brewery

Now, on to the reason why we came. Tasting time! They moved us once again into the tasting room that had several long tables. They gave each of us a souvenir tasting glass to keep and drink out of during the tasting. We tasted about 3 or 4 different beers in a 20-minute time frame. With a few sips in, our tour guide was much more funnier and comfortable at this point :)

Sam Adams Brewery

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Lets just say, by the end of the tasting, Sam and I were BFFs :)

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After the brewery tour was over, we didn’t get on the party bus that you will be asked to at the end of the tour. If you decide to go on the party bus, it’ll take you to the first bar that served Sam Adams (allegedly). We decided to skip it and go back into the city to continue our quest for more beer. This time we found ourselves in the North end of Boston, and stopped for some wings and Harpoon’s Oktoberfest with a cinnamon sugar rim at a bar called Vito’s Tavern. The bartender introduced us to the cinnamon sugar rim, and we were hooked. And just so you know, there are no happy hour specials in the state of Massachusetts. We sadly found out that day.

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The next day, we didn’t tour any breweries. We walked all the live long day and did the Freedom trail walking tour on our own. With no tour guide, we were able to go on our own pace and even speed past through some sites. This Freedom trail is no joke. You will be walking for several hours throughout Boston. So wear some comfy shoes. After the trail, we wanted to check out Harvard in Cambridge. I found the school itself not so impressive, but Cambridge was very impressive. Tons of neighborhood restaurants, shops and people! We randomly found an affordable restaurant to grab some dinner and beers called Grendel’s Den. They had a wide selection of beer, which made us happy. Come to find out later that night, a scene from The Town was filmed right on the patio!

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Our last full day in Boston, we woke up bright and early to travel far and away to Harpoon Brewery. Not the most convenient place to get to, we took the T to our stop and continued to walk for what felt like to 2 miles or so to the brewery. It was a hike, but totally worth the long trip. We learned after our tour there was a bus to take us back to the T, and so that was helpful for the way back. Just a head’s up, Harpoon’s tours get booked up fast, so arrive early! They usually sell out by early afternoon. When we arrived for the first tour at 11am,  there was already a line forming.

Harpoon Brewery is definitely not the prettiest on the outside. It’s a warehouse since they brew and distribute their beer here. However, they also have this beer hall inside that overlooked the water. It’s a great space to hang out with some friends and enjoy some quality beer and homemade pretzels.

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Harpoon Brewery

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We had two tour guides that described the process of how their beer is brewed. They took us through certain areas of the the brewery. It was vast and enormous. Now this is a brewery! Both tour guides were super outgoing and informative. This part of the tour took roughly 30 minutes.

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Now onto the fun part. Literally all you can drink in the time left over. Each tour was an hour long, about 30-35 for the lecture and the rest for the tasting. They take you into a separate room with all their taps. They give you a tasting glass and you can literally have a healthy sample of every single beer if your stomach allows. It was unlimited tasting in that time frame. Totally worth the $5. This was by far the best tasting of any brewery tour.

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Look! Jared made a friend! Jared’s wardrobe in Boston consisted of Manchester United jerseys so it was definitely a conversational starter with other tourists. He made a lot of friends that week. Haha.

Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery

After the tour, we went to the brew hall and helped ourselves to more beer and pretzels. Mind you, we started before noon. Needless to say after the brew hall, we were pretty toasted. One of the most fun and best experiences ever.

Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery

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After a morning of beer and pretzels, we took the T back to Chinatown. If you can imagine, we were starving so we tried dim sum for the first time and loved it. Since our bellies were full of beer, pretzels and dim sum, we took a much needed nap in Boston Common. Overall, a great finale to an amazing trip to Boston. Thank you Boston for being so awesome and tasty.

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Jan 12, 2014

Creamiest Mashed Potatoes

From the kitchen of: Bob!  Makes: 4 servings
Total time: 5 min to prep, 25-30 min to cook

Maybe I’m new or something, but I’ve never heard of adding cream cheese to mashed potatoes. Have you? My first and most unforgettable experience was over the Thanksgiving holiday. Jared and I were invited to a dear friend’s house for his annual ‘bangers and mash’ dinner party. Boy, were we in for a treat. Bob’s mashed potatoes were undeniably something special. They were just the creamiest mashed potatoes I have ever had in my life. I think I ate my weight in mashed potatoes that evening. So of course I asked him for the recipe and learning that the secret to these creamy mashed potatoes was cream cheese, I was floored. Other than the cream cheese, it’s a pretty basic and simple recipe, which is even better. I am forever a fan and I hope you will be one as well! Thank you, Bob!

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Ingredients:
5-6 medium potatoes (preferably yukon gold or red skin, but I used russet)
4 oz. of cream cheese (half stick)
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
water for boiling

Directions:
1. Boil water and prep potatoes.
First, bring a large pot of water to a boil on high temperature. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Pat dry. Dice the potatoes in generally the same size, roughly 1-2 inches wide.

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2. Boil potatoes. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Lower the temperature slightly to medium high. Cook potatoes for 20-25 minutes until fork tender. Once tender, drain the potatoes in a large colander and then add potatoes back into the pot setting the temperature to low. Allow all the steam to escape, a minute or 2, before adding the remaining ingredients.

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3. Add flavorings. Into the cooked potatoes, mash in the cream cheese until smooth. Lastly, add the butter, salt and milk and continue to mash well until you’ve reach your desired creamy consistency. If you like it more thin, add a touch more milk. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

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Jan 5, 2014

Baked Chicken with Soy, Honey and Sriracha

From the kitchen of: Isabel  Makes: 9 pieces
Total time: 10 min to prep, 45 minutes to bake

Well helloooo Pretty Tasty Things readers! I’m baaaack! It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, I think it was back in September with my Billy Bread French Toast. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should! So, lets start off my New Year’s resolution with this childhood dish: baked chicken with soy, honey and sriracha aka the holy trinity…haha! This recipe reminds me of a dish my dad makes at home. He bakes chicken wings with a similar blend of sauces. I just tweaked it slightly by using chicken legs and thighs, and adding sriracha for some kick while keeping the same flavors as my dad’s recipe. The Filipino way is to eat this chicken dish with rice. Just ladle the heavenly sweet, salty and spicy sauce over the rice, it’s seriously my favorite part. Thanks dad for the inspiration! Enjoy, all!

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Ingredients:
1 package of chicken legs and chicken thighs (9 pieces total)
salt + pepper
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sriracha (or more if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350° and prep chicken.
Remove chicken from packaging and rinse under cold water. Pat dry. Place chicken legs in a 9×12 oven safe pan. Meanwhile, trim off the excess skin from the chicken thighs and add it to the pan. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.

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2. Flavor chicken. Drizzle the soy sauce, honey, sriracha, brown sugar and Worcestershire over the chicken. If you like it spicy, feel free to add more than one teaspoon of sriracha. With hands, mix the chicken well to ensure everything is covered with the sauce.

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3. Bake chicken. Place uncovered chicken in the preheated 350° oven for roughly 45 minutes. Every 15-20 minutes or so, remove the chicken and base the chicken with the juices. By doing so, the skin gets nicely caramelized. The chicken is ready when the internal temperature for thighs reaches 180°.

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