Sweet Potato Soup

As you may have noticed, I love me some sweet potatoes. Served with eggs for breakfast, in a salad for lunch, or as a side of fries for dinner, they are fantastic for any and every meal of the day. Even better, they are a pretty healthy option and low on the glycemic index, which is great for those of you that care about things like that.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

A few months ago I started meal prepping for my work lunches. Each weekend I make a meal and portion into lunch-sized servings to eat throughout the week. I try to change it up each week with salads, quinoa bowls, spaghetti squash, etc, so I don’t get bored. It has helped a lot to have healthy meals ready to go and in correct portions for each day of the week, as well as given me the opportunity to try lots of new recipes that wouldn’t be particularly appealing to M.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

One of the new recipes I’ve tried is this sweet potato soup. I made a few changes to the original, by substituting zucchini for celery and nixing the nutmeg in favor of chipotle. It’s light but filling, vegetarian (vegan if you want), and makes a great lunch for chilly days, especially when served with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. This soup reheats perfectly and is nice and thick, which I personally think makes it feel more filling. I like mine extra thick but you can use 1 less potato or add a little extra stock/water to thin yours down if you prefer.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Smooth and creamy and with great sweet potato flavor, this soup has a slight kick from the cinnamon and chipotle that tones down its inherent sweetness. I have a pretty low spice tolerance, so feel free to up the spices if you want a more kapow flavor, but I recommend waiting till after it’s puréed to do so.

This soup is pretty simple and relatively quick, which makes it a pretty good weeknight dinner even without leftovers. Alternatively, it also works great in the slow cooker, so I have instructions for both methods below. Serve with a side of roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts and a savory whole-grain bread to hit all the food groups and most of the rainbow.

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

PS – Isn’t this bowl so great? It has a handle and a water-tight vented lid which makes it a great to-go option and perfect for heating in the microwave. I got it in 6 different colors and I’m very excited to use them both for work lunches and for showcasing new recipes on here!

Sweet Potato Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Sweet Potato Soup

Adapted from I Heart Naptime
Makes about 3 quarts (8-12 servings)

Ingredients

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup diced zucchini (or celery)
3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 medium-large sweet potatoes, washed and cubed  (about 10 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp ground cinnamon, to taste
1/2 tsp ground chipotle, to taste
pinch of salt

1/3 cup whipping cream, optional

Stove Top Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add onions, zucchini (or celery), and garlic, and sauté about 5 minutes, or until onion is softened and translucent.
  2. Increase heat to high and add sweet potatoes, vegetable stock, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender (or any blender) to purée the soup completely.
  4. Stir in the cream and have a quick taste. If desired, add extra spices now.
  5. Either serve immediately or return to the stove to simmer until ready to eat. (If you added more spice, I recommend simmering for at least 10 minutes afterwards.)
  6. Serve topped with a sprinkle of extra cinnamon or chipotle if desired.

Slow Cooker Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except cream to a slow cooker (you can nix the butter/oil if you want.)
  2. Cook on high 3-4 hours, or on low 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or any blender) to purée the soup completely.
  4. Stir in the cream and have a quick taste. If desired, add extra spices now.
  5. Either serve immediately or return to slow cooker on “warm” until ready to eat. (If you added more spice, I recommend cooking for at least 10 minutes afterwards.)
  6. Served topped with a sprinkle of extra cinnamon or chipotle if desired.

Notes

Vegans can either leave this out, or substitute coconut cream (or milk), although it may give the soup a slight coconut flavor if you do so.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

For years and years I’ve used the pumpkin pie recipe found on the Libby’s cans of pumpkin puree. It always turned out consistently delicious so I never really thought to try another recipe.

This was a mistake.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie {{Baking Bytes}}

Last year my mom linked me this recipe and was like “make this immediately and ditch the usual recipe.” She was quite right! This pumpkin pie is amazingly dense, superbly flavorful, and has zero of that occasionally slightly watery texture I sometimes noticed with the Libby recipe. I don’t often use qualifiers like “best” or “perfect” in my recipes, but trust me when I say Sally definitely figured this one out.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie {{Baking Bytes}}

Deliciously creamy and superbly spiced, this is sure to be your new favorite pumpkin pie recipe and a go-to staple for the upcoming holidays. M is not much of a pumpkin fan, so I’m looking forward to having this whole pie to myself over the upcoming holiday weekend. Don’t worry, I’ll make him a pie he can enjoy too; I’m not a complete monster.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie {{Baking Bytes}}

This is a rich pie but very smooth, and goes best with homemade whipped cream and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon. I like my pumpkin pie cold, but it was also excellent at room temperature if that is your preference. Like every pumpkin pie, it works just as well for breakfast as it does for dessert, and I’m sure after your first piece you’ll already be planning your second.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie {{Baking Bytes}}

It does require some overnight chilling, so make sure you plan your Thanksgiving preparations accordingly. This pie could easily be started Tuesday and finished Wednesday, leaving Thursday free for the items that can’t be made ahead. As long as you have fridge space (or a cold garage) you are good to go. I will say that if you are planning to add the pie crust cutouts (which are super easy and really fun), you should wait until just before serving to do so in order to avoid sogginess.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie {{Baking Bytes}}

Try out your new favorite pumpkin pie recipe this year, and don’t forget to thank Sally.

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes one deep-dish pie

Ingredients

pastry for a double-crust pie (see below)

15 oz pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar (light works great too)

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
dash of ground cloves
dash of ground pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk

Directions

  1. The night before: in a large bowl whisk pumpkin, eggs, and brown sugar until completely combined. Add cornstarch, salt, spices, cream, and milk, and whisk until combined. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next day: if you haven’t already, prepare your favorite pie dough, or use the recipe linked above. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Roll out slightly more than half the dough and gently place into your pie plate. Trim edges to about 1″ then fold over and crimp as desired. Optionally, sprinkle edges of pie crust with cinnamon and sugar.
  4. Briefly whisk filling then pour carefully into the prepared pie plate. If you have extra filling, you can bake it separately in a glass dish (no crust necessary) next to the pie.
  5. Optional: With remaining pie dough, roll out to about 1/8″ thick (or slightly thicker) and cut leaves or other designs. Place on a lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
  6. Bake leaves for about 20 minutes, they should be golden in color. Remove from oven and set aside.
  7. Bake pie for one hour. Pie should still be jiggly in the middle but look solid otherwise. To avoid cracking, turn off the oven and open the door but leave the pie in there while it cools down a little. Once it has settled (hopefully without cracks), move it to the counter to cool completely, at least four hours. I prefer pumpkin pie cold, so I placed mine in the fridge after two hours.
  8. Just before serving, decorate with pie crust shapes. (Eat any extra shapes, or serve them in a small bowl next to the pie). Top slices with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Refrigerate leftovers.

No-Fail Pie Crust

Makes 2 deep-dish pie crusts

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp shortening
5-7 Tbsp ice water

Directions

  1. Measure shortening into a small bowl and place in freezer for 15-20 minutes. Pour water and a few ice cubes into a bowl or cup and set aside. (I typically pour 8 oz of water and then use what I need.)
  2. Mix flour and salt in a larger bowl. Using a pastry blender (or two table knives), cut in the chilled shortening until the pieces are pea-sized.
  3. One tablespoon at a time, add water into mixture and gently mix with your pastry blender (or knives). Repeat until all is moistened and the dough will stick together as one ball, about 6 tablespoons. Divide dough in half and gently roll each half into a ball.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, gently flatten one ball of dough into a disc. Gently roll into a circle large enough for your pie plate. Transfer dough to pie plate, and trim to a half-inch larger than the rim. Fold pastry under itself and crimp, if desired.
  5. Roll out second ball of dough for a second pie, or cut into strips or decorations as desired.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad with Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Lately I’ve been all aboard the sweet potato train, and today’s post will hopefully get you on the bandwagon as well. I love sweet potatoes in pretty much any form, and could happily eat them for several meals a day. Luckily they are great all year round as French fries or a delicious breakfast, and work just as well in salads as they do in soups and chilis.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Several months ago my office had a catered lunch that was a bit higher class than our norm. Although all the food was delicious, the one that made the most impact on me was an arugula and spiced sweet potato quinoa salad. Their version was sweet, with heavily candied nuts, sugary dried cranberries, and a sweetened balsamic vinaigrette amongst the quinoa, arugula, and goat cheese. Although I loved this combination, it really was like eating dessert with arugula in it which isn’t necessarily something I want to do very often.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired by their concoction, I opted to test out a more savory version for myself. I kept the cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes but only lightly honeyed my walnuts. I also nixed the cranberries and used bacon instead, and adjusted the arugula:quinoa ratio to be more in favor of the former. Originally I was going to use brie as chèvre (goat cheese) can be exorbitantly expensive, but I discovered Costco carries goat cheese at an incredibly reasonable price and so I kept that flavor as well. Feel free to substitute brie or another neutral soft cheese if you prefer.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The spiced sweet potatoes, salty bacon, creamy chèvre and lightly sweetened and toasted walnuts come together in that fantastic sweet-and-salty juxtaposition that is so popular these days. Arugula and quinoa make a great base and let salad act either as a light lunch or a great side dish.

To round out the experience, I made a cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette only slightly sweetened with honey to mellow the flavor. The dressing gives the salad more of a punch of flavor, and I highly recommend you make it too. In fact, maybe make extra and use it on your other salads too since it’s just that delicious.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Although my original recipe is clearly neither vegetarian nor vegan, it could easily be altered for those diet preferences. Vegetarians can simply ditch the bacon, and a pinch of salt to the dressing, and carry on as normal. Vegans will want to substitute maple syrup in lieu of the honey as well as nix the cheese. You may want to add another ingredient to round it out, dried cranberries or salted almonds would both be great options, depending on which flavor route you want to go.

Full of cinnamon flavor, tasty sweet potatoes and a tinge of sweetness, this would be a superb side dish to grace your Thanksgiving table. Instead of those overly sugary sweet potato and marshmallow concoctions normally served this time of year, this salad would be a healthier and more sophisticated twist for this year. Even better, you can absolutely make it ahead (even a few days!) and store it in the fridge until ready to use. It’s delicious cold, at room temperature, or warmed, so pick your favorite or the most convenient and serve it as such.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

The dressing makes a fair amount, so start with half of the recipe and stir in more to taste or serve on the side for guests to add as they like. I am personally a light dressing kind of person but many people prefer a stronger flavor, and it’s good to have options.

If you’re not doing the Thanksgiving thing, or don’t want to wait that long, this also make a great lunch. I made a batch on Sunday and got about 4-5 lunches out of it. Stored in the fridge, it reheated beautifully at work for the rest of the week. Additionally, if you’re not a fan of arugula, some kind of baby spring mix would be a great substitution.

Arugula Sweet Potato Salad & Cinnamon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Inspired by Food for Thought and Just a Pinch
Serves 6-8 (side dish) or about 4 (lunch)

Ingredients

Salad
4 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

6 slices bacon (optional)1

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

5 oz arugula (or leafy veggie/mix of choice)
~4oz goat cheese (or brie, optional)1

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine sweet potatoes, olive oil, and cinnamon. Stir with a rubber scraper until potatoes are well coated. Arrange in one layer on half of a cookie sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, combine walnuts and honey and stir until completely coated. (Heat the honey sightly to liquify for easier stirring.) Arrange in one layer on the other half of the cookie sheet.
  4. Arrange bacon in one layer on the other cookie sheet.
  5. Place cookie sheets in oven (I put the potatoes on the middle rung, and the bacon one rung below it) and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until walnuts are lightly toasted.
  6. Remove the walnuts to a plate to cool. Continue baking potatoes and bacon for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, and bacon is cooked to desired doneness.
  7. Remove bacon to paper towels to cool, pressing to remove excess grease. Dice bacon and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, in a medium pot bring quinoa and water to a boil, then cover and simmer until all liquid is soaked up, about 15 minutes. Uncover and set aside.
  9. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until completely combined.
  10. In a large bowl, combine arugula and half the dressing, tossing to coat. Add quinoa and sweet potatoes, and stir gently until well combined.
  11. Add walnuts (breaking apart if necessary), diced bacon, and goat cheese, stirring gently to combine.
  12. Serve immediately, later today, or tomorrow since it’s good at pretty much any temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge, or make it ahead the night before. Reheats well with a brief stint in the microwave and is also excellent right out of the fridge.
  13. Add additional dressing just before serving if necessary, or serve it on the side.
  14. Delicious as a side dish (6-8 servings) or for a lighter lunch (4 servings).

Notes

For a vegetarian option, just leave out the bacon, it’s great without it too! To get that added salty flavor, add a pinch to the dressing or include a few chopped salted almonds in its place. Vegans could also use maple syrup and ditch the cheese, although you may want to add another ingredient (maybe dried cranberries?), and follow the same salty suggestion.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode

Ah, October. While most think of Halloween all month long, I focus on race season. Every weekend except one is taken up by a race, with this past weekend being the sole half marathon and taking place in Dallas. Unfortunately it was crazy hot and I missed my goal time by several minutes, but I did get third place in my age group and an award to boot!

I’m now in Houston and kicked off the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing which I’m superbly psyched to be attending. I do miss Bozeman’s October weather, but a whirlwind weekend with my favorite aunt for running and eating and Six Flags, followed by the inspiration of being around so many women in tech fields (plus my first time in Texas), is definitely worth skipping a few properly autumnal days.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

Even with my disinclination towards Halloween, it does make for a great excuse to bake overly decadent treats that have no real justification. Although I’m still working on losing a few pounds and ergo drastically limiting my sugar intake, these tortes a la mode I made for my anniversary with M last Valentine’s Day are even more appropriate for the current holiday season.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe created a full-size dessert, but I felt a mini version was the right choice for me. Already portioned, pretty for pictures, and simpler to tote around. As a bonus, it’s also easier to give away the extras to my unsuspecting coworkers. I have included the instructions for the miniature ones, but for the full-size option simply double the recipe and use two 8″ cake pans.

Intensely chocolatey and riddled with peanut butter flavor, these tortes are drizzled with more of both because, well, why not? Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to round out the experience, it’s an immensely rich dessert and high in presentation points.

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

Fudgy chocolate cake interspersed with chopped Reese’s, the tortes on their own are a wonderful treat, made extra decadent by sandwiching a spread of peanut butter, and drizzled with a peanut butter glaze and chocolate sauce. Smooth vanilla ice cream tones down the decadence just a tad, and makes for a lovely creamy and fudgy juxtaposition. (The sauces also make great ice cream toppings on their own.)

Mini Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode {{Baking Bytes}}

For an extravagant dessert experience bring out the big guns and make these layered tortes a la mode as directed below. For maybe a slightly more tame dessert endeavor, just top each mini torte with a little peanut butter glaze and chocolate sauce, and call it a day. Whichever route you take, or perhaps a hybrid of the two, your peanut butter chocolate lovers are sure to be thrilled.

Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte a la Mode

Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Makes 6 or 12 servings

Ingredients

Cake
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup sugar
2 eggs

1.5 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt

5 Reese’s cups, chopped

Filling
peanut butter, heated if necessary for spreading

Glaze
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 – 4 Tbsp heavy cream

2 Tbsp prepared chocolate sauce

vanilla ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Liberally coat a mini cheesecake pan with cooking spray. (A muffin tin will also work.) If you’re using anything besides silicon or mini springform pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter and cocoa powder until completely combined.
  3. Stir in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition (use a spatula).
  4. Repeat with eggs, 1 at a time.
  5. Add vanilla, flour, and salt, and stir until there are no streaks of flour.
  6. Fold in chopped Reese’s.
  7. Divide batter evenly between mini cheesecake (or muffin) wells, about 3 Tbsp each.
  8. Bake 18-25 minutes, until tops are matte and a toothpick comes out mostly clean, similar to brownies.
  9. Let cool completely.
  10. Run a knife around the edges of your pans and remove all cakes.
  11. Spread peanut butter on half of the cakes (I used about 1 tsp each), then top with another cake. Transfer to a platter, cake plate, or individual plates (or whatever you plan to serve from). Alternatively, for 12 smaller servings you can carefully cut each cake in half, spread peanut butter on the bottoms, and replace the tops.
  12. Whisk together additional peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 Tbsp heavy cream until smooth. If you want a thinner glaze, add additional heavy cream in small amounts at a time until desired consistency is reached. (If you are making 12 servings and want ample glaze, you may want to double the amounts.)
  13. Carefully top each mini cake with 1-2 tablespoons of glaze, letting it drip slightly down the sides.
  14. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips or chocolate sauce.
  15. Just before serving, top each stack with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  16. Enjoy!

Notes

I recommend you use a sweeter peanut butter like Jif or Skippy which probably doesn’t need to be heated, but if you insist on using a natural peanut butter it might need to be warmed a little in order for it to be easily spreadable.

I used homemade chocolate sauce I already had on hand; Hershey’s or similar would work great, or melted chocolate chips are always a good option. If you are concerned with presentation, I recommend putting the chocolate sauce in a piping bag and cutting off a very small tip so you have good control over your drizzle.

[Slow Cooker] Bacon Bean Soup

There’s something about bean soup that just feels cozy: nice and filling, warms you up on a cold day, and requires fairly minimal effort on the cooking front. I made this soup last year and then the springtime weather promptly returned with no time for me to post another wintery item.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

With a recent cold snap here, I decided to resurrect this recipe and share it with all of you. Full of veggies, easily made vegan, and quick to throw in the slow cooker, this is a great meal for a busy week. Ditch the bacon (or use pre-cooked crumbles) and there’s almost no hands-on time other than chopping some veggies. I like to prep the veggies the night before, dump everything in the crock pot in the morning, and come home to delicious aromas and a hot meal. A quick puree with the stick blender and a side of bread and/or a vegetable and you’re good to go.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This soup is one I like to describe as comfortable. Nothing too snazzy with the flavors but it tastes great, fills you up, and is a healthy way to end the day. It keeps for at least a week and reheats well in the microwave, so don’t be afraid of a large batch even if you’re on your own to finish it off.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I personally nixed the celery in favor of zucchini, but if you have celery on hand throw it in there too. With it all pureed together at the end the flavors meld into one instead of a more traditional and chunky vegetable soup. It turned out fairly thick, great for topping with extra bacon, cheese, chives, or whatever else you like to throw on there.

Warm yourself from the inside out with a healthy and filling dinner, then maybe splurge on dessert.

Bacon Bean Soup

Adapted from Emily Bites
Makes about 2 quarts

Ingredients

8 slices bacon1

3 (15oz cans) Great Northern beans, rinsed
1 can butter beans, rinsed
6-8 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
4 stalks celery, diced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp parsley (fresh or dried)
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Fry bacon or bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Allow to drain, then crumble into small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add half the bacon and all remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) to a slow cooker and stir gently. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 4 hours.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree at least half the soup (I did all of it, but you can stop whenever you like the texture) in the crock pot, or carefully remove 3-4 cups of soup to a blender and puree, then stir back into the crock pot.
  4. Taste soup and add salt and pepper if necessary. Top with remaining bacon and serve hot. Also delicious with a little grated cheese!

Notes

It would also be great with cubed ham. Great way to use those leftovers! Or nix the meat entirely for a vegan/vegetarian option, it’s delicious that way too.