Hello Friends,

Happy New Year! I certainly didn’t expect for TBTB to go on hiatus for this long but the past few months have proven to be extremely busy ones for all of us here at the site.  I certainly hope that you had a wonderful holiday season.  I know for me personally it was one of the most enjoyable to date in spite of many small challenges encountered leading up to the various celebrations.  2013 is here and now comes the arduous yet exciting task of re-evaluating my career goals, that includes this blog.  TBTB holds a very special place in my heart because it was started out of the love and respect that I have for the many African-American food professionals out there who are building incredible careers of their own. This blog has the potential to be bigger and even better than I ever thought possible when I started it, but I’m at the point in my career where I have to put on my “business” hat and focus on the projects that are going to get me where I need to be as an entrepreneur. Not to say that this blog couldn’t do that for me, but there are other projects outside of the online world that come first. Not to mention my familial obligations. Very few people in the online world talk about the struggle at times to try and balance it all.  I have two young children, one who is a special needs child (autism), a parent with very fragile health, a husband, a home, aging grandparents and church ministry. All of those of things require much of my attention and time, so it’s even more crucial that I put my energies into the projects that are going to be the most fruitful.  This blog isn’t going to go away completely, but I need to figure out a way to carry out my vision for The Blacker The Berry Food in a way that will fit into my beyond busy life.  It could be in the form of a quarterly e-newsletter, or just through more focused social media efforts but the posts here unfortunately will continue to be rather inconsistent.  Do continue to check in with us from time to time as I will occasionally update you on the various career developments for myself and the other TBTB contributors.  At least two of them have books in the works, another is working on some very exciting community based programs and  yet another is adding one more credential and set of skills to his already prolific repertoire.  So until the next time we meet, check out this post from our resident spice lady Chef Belinda, she is talking sweet potatoes and cardamom two of my most favorite ingredients to work with.  I wish you all a year full of many beautiful blessings. ~ Heather Watkins Jones


One of my favorite “go to” spices is cardamom – probably because it is so versatile.  And I prefer it’s milder flavor over the other spices in it’s family, namely cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Cardamom is a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. It has a strong, pungent flavor and aroma, with hints of lemon, mint and smoke.  Cardamom pods contain a number of seeds, but the entire cardamom pod can be used whole or ground. There are two main type of cardamom – black cardamom and green cardamom.

Cardamom is used mainly in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. In Indian recipes, whole cardamom seeds are used in preparing basmati rice and various curries. In Middle Eastern recipes, ground cardamom is used in preparing certain desserts.  And speaking of it’s versatility, cardamom is also a medicinal spice, possessing over 25 volatile oils that combine to provide relief for stomach cramps, gas, bloating and other digestive problems, including healing ulcers.

I use cardamom in sweet and savory dishes, from ice cream, rice, pancakes and fruit; but especially like it in baked goods.  And this Thanksgiving, it will find it’s way into my family favorite, sweet potato cheesecake!

Sweet Potato Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Filling:
2 cups sweet potatoes, pureed
3 package cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Topping:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 cup melted butter and chopped pecans.  Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 1/2 inch  springform pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Cool.

Place potatoes in a baking dish.  Bake until a knife inserted in center goes through easily, about 1 hour.  Cool sweet potatoes enough to handle, peel, and puree.

Transfer 2 cups of sweet potato puree to a large bowl.   Add cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and heavy cream; beat until smooth.  Beat in eggs one at a time, blending well after each.  Add cardamom and vanilla.   Mix thoroughly but don’t over mix!  Fold in pecans.  Pour filling into crust.

Cover bottom of 9″ springform pan with foil (to prevent water from seeping into the pan).  Place pan inside a larger pan, and fill with water halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.   Bake for approximately 60-70 minutes – until center is almost set.  Turn off the oven.  Let cake stand 1 hour in oven with door ajar.

Combine brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter or margarine in a heavy small saucepan.  Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat, and bring to a boil.  Mix in 1/4 cup cream, then nuts.  Pour hot topping over cheesecake.   Refrigerate.


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Sweet Potato Bread

by Heather Watkins Jones

in Baking/Desserts,Tamara Eckles

Our baking and dessert expert Tamara Eckles clearly knows the way to my heart because I haven’t met a sweet potato or yam that I didn’t like.  And as someone who after all of these years is still slightly intimidated by working with yeast this recipe for Sweet Potato quick bread is right up my alley.  I’m thinking Holiday gifts, school bake sales and the perfect accompaniment to my afternoon cup of tea.  ~ Heather Watkins Jones

The Fall or Autumn season is one of my favorite times of year. Most people think of pumpkins and spice during this time of year, but being from the South, sweet potatoes are more prevalent in our baking than pumpkins during the Fall season. This brings me to this sweet potato bread. I am a huge fan of banana nut bread and thought it would be great to make a similar bread using sweet potatoes. I must say this bread is delicious! It’s really moist and has two great spices as the stars, cinnamon and nutmeg. To make things even more exciting, I added a praline topping. Can you get more southern than a praline topping?

This sweet potato bread will be great for breakfast, dessert, a snack or just when you feel like treating yourself to something really yummy!

Sweet Potato Bread with Praline Topping
1 large sweet potato baked and mashed *approximately 1 cup
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup self rising flour
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
~
Praline Topping
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans

~

Grease and flour (or use cooking spray with flour) a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl then add the wet ingredients. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until golden brown. Prepare the praline topping by combining the brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved on medium heat. Once the sugar is done, add the whipping cream and stir until smooth. Mix in the pecans then pour over the bread while the bread is still warm. Let cool and enjoy!

Tamara Eckles our Dessert and Baking expert is the founder of “The Dessert Sweet”, your place to “Discover Something Sweet!”. She’s a self-taught baker with over 20 years of experience and her business is quickly emerging as the destination for all things “sweet”

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A couple of weeks ago we decided to re-run our California Rice Oil Giveaway.  Friday was the deadline for entry and today we have a winner so without further ado, the lucky person who will get to try out this exciting new product is… Chal Pressley who uses California Rice Oil to make fried plantains [...]

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Our BBQ/Grilling expert Joi Disroe takes a break from the grill this month and shares with us the latest object of her culinary obesession, Zucchini! ~ Heather Watkins Jones A lot of excitement was stirred when United States, Allyson Felix won the 200m finals on August 8th.   August 8th, was also a holiday – [...]

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