Sweet Potato Pie Gooey Bars Recipe

Sweet Potato Gooey Bars
Sweet Potato Pie Gooey Bars

I’m a cereal fan.  I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Although Captain Crunch will always hold a place deep in my heart, I have tried to find cereals more suited to my adult needs. But that does not mean I want to eat a cereal that I feel is better suited to the horses in the stable down the street.

I recently got a new cereal from Nature’s Path Organic called Flax Plus Maple Pecan Crunch, and as soon as I took the first bite I started thinking  of what I could make with it.  The maple, cinnamon and pecan flavor reminded me of something, but I could not put my finger on it. Then I realized it would pair well with sweet potatoes.

A sweet potato pie! But I don’t really like sweet potato pie.  Next!

A sweet potato pudding with a cereal crust.  I don’t know… kind of strange.

Sweet potato cheesecake… no sweet potato cheesecake bars!  That’s it!  Well, that wasn’t quite it.  Somewhere along the way my cheesecake bars turned into gooey bars.  But the flavor was so good, and the creamy, gooey texture was nice too.  Not cheesecake, but I liked it.

The great thing about this dessert is that you can use leftover roasted sweet potatoes, if you have them.  In fact, I would recommend roasting your potatoes instead of boiling them for better flavor when making these.

Sweet Potato Pie Gooey Bars

1 1/2 cups Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Maple Pecan Crunch

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 stick of butter, melted

1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, slightly softened

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups cooked sweet potato, about 4 small

2 TB light brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

pecan halves (optional)

Crust

Graham cracker crumbs and maple-pecan cereal
Graham cracker crumbs and maple-pecan cereal

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the cereal into a thick plastic zip top bag.  Crush the cereal with a rolling pin, or other heavy object.  Do not make the crumbs as fine as the graham cracker crumbs, but leave them a little bigger for added texture in the crust.

Maple-Pecan cereal ready to be crushed
Maple-Pecan cereal ready to be crushed

In a medium bowl combine the cereal, graham cracker crumbs and sugar.

Graham cracker crumbs, maple-pecan cereal and sugar
Graham cracker crumbs, maple-pecan cereal and sugar

Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and mix well until moistened.  The crumbs should hold together when you pinch them.  Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Press the crumbs into the pan, making an even crust.  Bake the crust for 6-8 minutes, until crisp and slightly browned.  Let the crust cool completely.

Baked crust
Baked crust

Sweet Potato Pie Topping

While the crust is cooling, beat the cream cheese until smooth in a food processor.  I used a food processor because sweet potatoes often are stringy, and wanted to make sure my batter was smooth.

Cream cheese, sweet potato and sweetened condensed milk
Cream cheese, sweet potato and sweetened condensed milk

Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the sweet potato, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice. Beat until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

Sweet potato topping
Sweet potato topping

Pour the topping onto the cooled crust. Using a spatula spread the topping out to the edges of the crust.

Sweet potato topping on crust
Sweet potato topping on crust
Sweet potato topping swirled on crust
Sweet potato topping swirled on crust

At this point you can place it in the refrigerator to firm up, or decorate it with the pecan halves.  I used the pecan halves to mark the area to cut the bars.  These are very rich, so I made decided to make them small.

Pecan halves on topping
Pecan halves on topping

These bars need to chill for at least 8 hours to overnight.  Once completely chilled the topping is still soft, but will hold it’s shape when cut.  But don’t attempt to pick them up with your fingers to eat them. Which is what my sister Karen called to inform me after I gave her some.

Karen: “They taste really good, but they don’t seem very cheesecakey to me. When I picked it up it broke apart, so I had to lick my fingers.”

Me:  “That’s why they are called gooey bars, not cheesecake bars.”

Whatever they are, I hope you make them and enjoy them.

Sweet Potato Pie Gooey Bars
Sweet Potato Pie Gooey Bars

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista

Oven Fried Pecan Crusted Catfish

Oven Fried Pecan Crusted Catfish
Oven Fried Pecan Crusted Catfish

Catfish is one of my favorite types of fish to eat.  Because they are bottom feeders, I have heard people say they taste like mud, but that has never been my experience.  If you catch your own catfish it may indeed taste muddy, not to mention it may be full of pesticides and pollution from the river sediment. Catfish you buy in the store or at your fish purveyor has been farm raised, making it eco-friendly and a sustainable food choice.  We are rapidly over fishing many species in our oceans, so farm raised catfish is a good option.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great program called Seafood Watch which lists the fish you should avoid due to overfishing, damage to the habitats of sea animals or the plight of sea animals who get caught in fishing nets.  You can even print out a guide to take with you to your store.

Catfish crusted with cornmeal and fried is a classic Southern dish.  I love fried catfish, but in the interest of health (or the fact that my jeans cringe when I come near them) I oven fried it instead. But the meaty, flaky texture of catfish lends itself to almost any kind of cooking.  Grilled, baked or in a fish stew, catfish is a healthy way to get protein in your diet.

Oven Fried Catfish Ingredients
Oven Fried Catfish Ingredients

Oven Fried Pecan Crusted Catfish

1 lb catfish filets

1 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 1/2 TB Cajun seasoning

3 TB butter, melted

1 TB olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Place catfish filets onto baking sheet.

Breadcrumbs, pecans and cajun seasoning
Breadcrumbs, pecans and cajun seasoning

In medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, pecans and Cajun seasoning.  Add the butter and olive oil, and mix well to moisten all the breadcrumbs. This mixture will be quite crumbly, but hold together when pressed.  Evenly divide the breadcrumb mixture between the filets, pressing down to pack the crumbs tightly.  Let the filets rest for about 5 minutes before putting into the oven.

Breaded Catfish
Breaded Catfish

Bake the catfish for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filets.  To check if the catfish is done, the fish will flake easily and will be completely opaque.

The crust on the fish will still be slightly crumbly, so be careful removing the fish from the pan.

For more catfish information and recipes go to The Catfish Institute.

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista

Need a brunch idea? Make french toast casserole

French Toast Casserole

One of my favorite things about the weekend is having more time to make a nice breakfast for the family.  During the week I am usually rushing to get my toddler to daycare. While making her lunch I am also making breakfast, and hoping she’ll stop jumping around long enough to eat.  Although, I have found bacon will get her stop on a dime!

This past weekend my mother requested I make a french toast casserole, which is one of the easiest and most delicious breakfasts to make.  Most of the prep work is done the night before, and in the morning you just pop it into the oven to bake.

I adapted this recipe from Paula “Pass me a stick of butter” Deen because I liked the topping, but there are many variations to be found on the web.

Baked French Toast Casserole

2 12 oz. loaves Hawaiian sweet bread, cut into 1″ slices

8 large eggs

3 cups half-and-half

3 TB granulated sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/3 tsp ground cinnamon

Praline Topping

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

2 TB light corn syrup

1/3 tsp ground cinnamon

Arrange bread slices in two rows in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking dish.  In large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until blended.  Pour mixture over bread, pressing the bread down lightly to help absorb the mixture.  Spoon the liquid over the bread until well coated.  Cover dish with foil and refrigerate overnight.

In medium bowl mix butter, brown sugar, pecans, corn syrup, and cinnamon together until well blended.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave out overnight, because it needs to be soft enough to spread the next morning.

The next day preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove foil from casserole, and evenly spread praline topping on french toast.  Bake for 40 minutes, until puffed up and browned.  Let sit for 5 minutes to cool.  This serves 8 – 10  people.

Cheryl D Lee on Foodista