Janet's Notebook
Back to Baking: Hot Meal Ideas for Cool Weather

Spicy Sweet Potatoes From the Oven

Dear oven, how I've missed you! All summer we've been apart. I've been keeping things cool by tossing salads, grilling out and loading up the slow cooker, but you've never been far from my thoughts.

There's really no substitute for a home-cooked meal right from the oven. Hot and steamy, even the simplest of dishes ooze heart-warming TLC. In fact, thanks to Stephanie Rudy even some of our favorite restaurant treats are getting a homespun makeover!

"My husband and kids love these," says Stephanie of her perfectly named Crispy, Sticky Oven Hot Wings. They are so good and true to that trademark wing flavor. Even my own persnickety family is requesting this baked wing recipe instead of getting take-out. Coated in butter, oil, Louisiana Hot Sauce and an array of kicky spices, you'll want to be prepared to make a second batch. They go fast!

For a divine home-baked dinner, consider giving a twist to the traditional potpie! Long a favorite in our house, potpies are a wonderful way to serve up a hearty meal AND use up those odds and ends taking up space in the freezer. New Jersey gal Shirley Schiavone riffed on that classic idea and came up with her own unique recipe for Roasted Vegetable and Boursin Pie.

"I made this when my vegetarian step son came to visit," explains Shirley. "It's a spin off of another recipe I had previously made."

And what a tasty spin it is! This creamy, cheesy delight of a dish is as satisfying to veggie fans as it is to meat eaters. The incorporation of garlic and herb infused Boursin - a soft, spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese - adds both silkiness and tons of rich flavor.

Also adding big flavor are the roasted veggies. I've recently become a roasting fanatic. It began with broccoli, and now I'll give nearly any vegetable a quick drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt and leave 'em to crisp in the oven. The roasting process brings out all of the natural flavors and adds a hint of caramelized sweetness.

Carol White's Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes are a perfect example of roasting gone right. Incorporating cinnamon, nutmeg, chili, garlic and agave nectar, Carol recreates all the deliciousness of traditional candied yams without all the extra calories.

"[This started with] a family recipe that I needed to make healthier," explains Carol, whose soulful cooking has a delightfully modern edge. "I took away the sugar and butter that made up a heavy syrup, and added agave nectar and olive oil in its place."

Quality ingredients combined with slow roasting result in cravably good sweet potatoes that are a lovely accompaniment to any meal, big or small. Top with fresh scallions for a pop of color and added zing.

And finally, when not baking cookies and cakes this season, you can find me whipping up a batch of Maggie May Schill's fresh Baked Custard!

"Baked Custard, flan, crème caramel... whatever you call it, it remains a wonderful blend of sugar, milk and egg," says Maggie May. "[It] constitutes one of the most indulgent, yet simple comfort foods known to man."

Comforting not only to eat but also to make, this custard is a snap to prepare. It can easily be fixed ahead of time if you're expecting a crowd. Cake is always great, but sometimes it's nice to serve something a little unexpected. This simple, rich dish is just the ticket... and a tasty one at that.

Between the emanating warmth and seductive aromas of all these baking recipes, I cannot wait to start planning our next meal. What shall it be? My coils are a'burning and I'm ready to cook!

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Marsha Scott - Oct 14, 2012
I made my first chocolate cheesecake from a recipe on this site! It is absolutely the best chocolate cheesecake I've ever eaten! I love to use the oven in the winter but we live in a mobile home so it's a no-no in the summer time.
Pat McCracken - Oct 14, 2012
I try to stay away from the oven during summer. It is the grill and crockpots for me. Looking forward to cooler weather and a cranked up oven.
Kelly Thacher - Oct 12, 2012
I hear you!---I just cranked up my oven for the first time since June (other than one or two evenings when I was desperate for pizza or cookies), and I am sooooo ready to get cooking again! Thanks for this great post.
Colleen Sowa - Oct 9, 2012
Great edition! Loved it... Congratulations to all mentioned! xo
Theresa Libert - Oct 9, 2012
Good recipes. I live in Wisconsin, so when it is time for fall and winter meals in the oven, I also use the oven to warm our home. It keeps me warm as well as does the cooking. T
Heidi Hoerman - Oct 9, 2012
Janet, here's a great hint for the oven -- whenever you are going to have it on for an hour or so, toss in a few potatoes to bake. Wrapped up, they will keep a few days in the refrigerator. I use them to make quick mashed potatoes, pierogies, gnocchi, potato bread etc. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash are also good to throw in and bake when the oven's on anyway.