Sweet Potato Recipe Contest Results

Perhaps you remember the recipe we entered into last month's North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission's Food Blogger Contest? If not, let us remind you with this link right here, because we placed as finalists with our Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin recipe and won ourselves $400. Check out the Commission's Sweet Bytes Blog to see the other winning recipes and for more great ideas for using sweet potatoes in savory and sweet dishes. Now that our backs have been officially patted, we wish you a great weekend, and thanks for reading.


Shrimp Orzo Skillet

When we saw real, Alabama Gulf Shrimp on sale at our local supermarket, we started thinking shrimp dishes. Amy has had a soft spot in her heart for Gulf Shrimp ever since her New Orleans days, and let's face it, the taste and freshness are superior to imported. That's just a fact. There are a lot of shrimp pasta recipes in our repertoire, but we wanted something new. Amy's sister Kate, a Pampered Chef representative, suggested this recipe from their cookbook 29 Minutes to Dinner. Sounded like a good weeknight plan, so we decided to give it a go.

First, we knew we could easily eat a pound of shrimp between us, so we had to make a few adjustments, and our adapted recipe is below. Doubling the amount of shrimp meant doubling the seasoning for the shrimp. Also, a miscommunication between chef Amy and shopper Chris meant we only had canned peas, and although they are our favorite (Le Sueur), frozen would have been better - more green color, less mushy texture. Nonetheless, we liked this one-skillet meal enough to make it again sometime. Perhaps we'll substitute the peas for spring asparagus, maybe add a bit more lemon and mint. There's an idea...

Cook's note: we used a cast iron skillet


1 pound raw Gulf Shrimp, peeled and deveined  
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup orzo pasta
1 garlic clove, pressed or chopped finely
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup clam juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint ribbons
1 cup peas
1 tablespoon butter

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. As oil heats, combine salt, pepper and sugar in a Ziploc bag and toss in shrimp to coat. Arrange shrimp in a single layer over bottom of skillet and cook about one minute until one side is browned and edges are pink. Turn shrimp and cook other side until centers are opaque and shrimp are cooked through. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside. In same skillet, combine orzo, garlic, chicken broth and clam juice. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until orzo is cooked through. Remove skillet from heat and stir in peas, butter and lemon juice. Arrange shrimp over orzo, cover and let stand 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with lemon zest and mint before serving.



Ambrosia is the name for the food the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses ate. The word implies something so amazing that it is beyond the scope of human imagination. Ambrosia, in addition to the drink nectar, keeps the gods immortal, and can also confer immortality on a human. In our earth-bound world however, the word conjures up that fruit salad made with marshmallows -- you know, the one that everyone has eaten at least once at some picnic or church supper. Akin to jello salad, it's a basic concept with myriad variations. Ours is one Amy's grandmother always made at Easter time, and is known simply as "Marshmallow Salad" at family gatherings. So pretty and delicious, it's a fresh springtime treat, although we're not expecting to be granted immortality anytime soon.


1 bag pastel mini-marshmallows
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges
1 10-ounce can pineapple chunks
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 7-ounce bag shredded sweetened coconut
1 8-ounce container sour cream

Mix all of the above ingredients gently in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate; serve chilled.



Chris is a port drinker, and after dinner at The Mill at 2T, the chef suggested he try a dessert wine called Vinedo de los Vientos “Alcyone," from Uruguay. 

I was intrigued as well - the name Alcyone comes from a Greco-Roman myth. The story goes like this: Alcyone is a daughter of Aeolus, king of the winds. She is married to Ceyx, who, feeling a bit tied down, decides to take a sea voyage against his wife's warnings. Ceyx dies at sea and, in a dream, appears to Alcyone to inform her of his fate. Grief-stricken and unwilling to live without her husband, she hurls herself into the sea. The gods take pity on the couple and turn them into kingfishers (notice the birds on the label). These birds nest on the beach only during the seven days in winter when her father keeps the winds in check, the days known as the "Halycon Days."

Back to the wine. Unlike many dessert wines, this red was not cloyingly sweet. Rather, it was rich and velvety, with tones of chocolate, vanilla, fig and cherry. It had a long finish and was not overly tannic. All in all, it was a perfect to an excellent dinner, and paired well with the brioche donuts and gelato trio we had for dessert. It's definitely a wine we'll add to our cellar.


The Mill at 2T

Sublime. My writer/friend Joanne once warned me about using this word, for overuse can make it less meaningful (think of the word "awesome"). However, sublime is the only word Chris and I can think of to describe the food at The Mill at 2T, a charming yet sophisticated little restaurant located in a historic mill in the Tariffville section of Simsbury, CT.

On the advice of foodie and writer Mary Ellen Fillo, we were already there when they opened in order to snag two of the six seats at the counter overlooking the tiny, open kitchen. There are seven tables in the dining room, but the counter is definitely the best seat in the house. Owner/Chef Ryan Jones and his co-chef Chris were gracious hosts, starting up conversation and patiently answering questions while maintaining a zen-like calmness that a fan of Hell's Kitchen wouldn't be able to recognize.

The restaurant filled up quickly, even at the early hour. Our friendly server promptly filled our water glasses and delivered two airy, eggy popovers with salted butter. The menu, which changes daily, was small but had an excellent variety - there were chicken, beef, pork, fish, and vegetarian entrees from which to choose.

But first, appetizers. Chris started with the rabbit stew. While the chef humbly pronounced it "one-dimensional," we thought it was superb. The rabbit was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the ratio of meat to beans to broth was spot on. Red raspberries were an unexpected and imaginative garnish.

My appetizer consisted of two George's Banks scallops that were perfectly seared to be caramelized on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. Two sauces - one honey-sweet, one red-pepper-spicy - played off each other well, and the shaved black truffle on top balanced the seafood with a luxurious earthiness.

For his entree, Chris chose the pan-fried halibut with steamed mussels in jalapeno-lime beurre blanc broth. The halibut was dusted with seasoned flour and cooked to a perfect flakiness. The spicy sweetness of the broth really highlighted the salty mussels and the light fish without diminishing either one. A bit of smoked corn and a couple of fingerling potatoes rounded out the dish. 

I chose the strip steak topped with a hen's egg, with a side of whipped potatoes topped with crispy onions. Juicy, flavorful, well-seared on the outside but exactly medium-rare, this was one heck of a steak made even better with the creamy egg yolk running onto it. The potatoes were fluffy and salty, and the onion straws, sweet and crunchy. We ate slowly so as to take in the show of the chefs working their magic.

For dessert, we shared the trio of homemade ice cream - black currant, cappuccino, and truffle butter flavors - and the house specialty, brioche donuts. The truffle butter ice cream was definitely different, but my favorite was the cappuccino. The brioche donuts were similar to beignets, only a bit more doughy, and were served with a trio of sauces - strawberry, lemon, caramel - for a sweet variety.

Chocolate-dipped "2T cookies" arrived with check and were a nice treat for later that night, since we left extremely full, deliriously satisfied, and with every intention to return again and again. This place deserves every single accolade it has been getting. Truly sublime.
The Mill at 2T on Urbanspoon


Porchetta Per Due

Easter Sunday found us at home, just the two of us, so we decided to make "porchetta per due," or porchetta for two. Since it's spring, we wanted to lighten it up a bit from the last time we did it, so we used parsley instead of rosemary, and used different veggies. 

First, we cut the pork shoulder thinly, seasoned both sides with salt and black pepper, and rubbed it with a paste we made by mixing fresh parsley, garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes in the food processor (photo, right).

We then rolled it and tied it up so that it would "pinwheel" when sliced. We browned the pork on all sides in a hot pan and rested it on a bed of carrots, a medley of potatoes and diced green apples (photo, left).

 We tossed in some parsley to the pan and added about a half cup of white wine to cook the vegetables. It roasted at 350 for about an hour and a half and then we sliced it and enjoyed it. Hope everyone had a Happy Easter!