Sweet Potato & Lime on Your Chip?

Basically, I’m beginning to think that sweet potato is like chocolate….. there seems to be very little that does not benefit from the addition of sweet potato.  I try to always keep some on hand because in and of themselves they are a great addition to any meal as a simple side (or with the addition of some walnuts a breakfast!).  Pop a sweet potato (or 4) in the oven if you have time, or the microwave if you don’t and 4 – 40 minutes later you have a delicious and healthy side that is even better with a little cinnamon sprinkled, a little coconut oil drizzled, a little salt scattered, yum.

One appreciates such simplicity when life is complicated by school and work and, well, life.  As a result of all the complications, lately I have not been very adventurous in creating whole new entrees.  (Or in posting – thank you Little Sis for picking up the slack!).  I hate receiving an unenthusiastic, “Oh,” or “Again?” when I answer queries about dinner.  But I have found that a great way to inspire new combos when I am uninspired is to try a new sauce or dip.  Pour or spread something flavorful on old standbys and suddenly it’s like a whole new thing.  I think dips are particularly nice because they also fill the bill with veggies or Ezekiel bread as a snack, or as a way to make a sandwich very special. Combine this idea with my love of sweet potatoes and I could not pass up this recipe that I found in an old issue of Vegetarian Times (I’m a little behind in my non-school reading!!). This sweet potato dip is rounded out in terms of flavor, consistency and protein content with some white miso and in terms of flavor with lime and ginger.  Simple, delicious and it was scooped onto tortilla chips and added to a tortilla with cheese and salsa in it’s debut in our household.

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Miso-Lime Sweet Potato Dip (from Vegetarian Times)

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. white miso paste (soy bean paste available in the refrigerated section of some groceries – also great for making miso soup!)
2 Tbsp. lime juice (I think next time I’ll cut down on the lime juice just a tad – maybe 1.5 Tbsp)
1 tsp freshly grated ginger (Freeze your fresh ginger root and it becomes very easy to grate and lasts a good long time!)
1/2 tsp lime zest for garnish (optional)
salt and pepper (optional)

Cook the sweet potatoes until very soft.
Cool until you can touch them then cut into chunks with skin on and toss in the food processor
Add the other ingredients and process until smooth.  You may have to add a little water – I added about 2 teaspoons – to desired consistency.

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Then dip, spread, slather and put it anywhere that might change the “Oh,” or “Again?” into, “That sounds interesting,” and eventually, “I like this!”  My son ate his in a tortilla with cheese and salsa.

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I was thinking the addition of some black beans (just open a can on a busy night!) would have been perfect.
Mr Bigg Sis and I complemented the last of the leftover chicken soup with the dip and chips.  Really made those last 2 bowls of chicken soup more interesting!

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If you would like to try some dips or sauces to easily add interest to the same old same old…. Here are some more to try! Happy Dipping and Spreading my friends!

Nutty Lunch Dip

Lemon-y Hummus Sauce

Cheddar Cheesy Cashew Ball / Spread

Easy Artichoke Dip

Orange Hummus

Bean & Green Spread

Prune Cardamom Sauce

Healthy Bechamel Sauce

Berry / Thyme Sauce

Happier Caramel-la Dipping Sauce

 

 

 

Smoky Baba Ghanoush

I like vegetables a lot. And there are many, many vegetables that I like a lot. There are others that I will confess I have no use for (lima beans are at the top of this list – don’t judge). Then there is a category of vegetables that I have often disliked, but for some reason keep trying to find a way to love. Eggplant falls into this category. I did not care for it and yet the eggplant itself is so beautiful that I kept being drawn back to it. The deep purple skin gets me every time.  I’ve tried it a variety of ways, including the French classic ratatouille, and just couldn’t get anywhere with it. And then I found baba ghanoush.

It’s no secret to those of you who’ve been with us for a while that I am a fan of versatile condiments. I love turning on the food processor and then finding myself with a bowl full of yum that can serve as dip, spread, flavoring for veggie burger, spoon filler. You get the drift. Baba ghanoush makes eggplant work for me AND it serves beautifully in every nibbling and lunching application I throw at it.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately if you think about it, the store where I used to satisfy my baba ghanoush jones stopped selling it and so I was forced to venture out on my own. Who knew it would be so easy and so delicious freshly prepared and served with humble crackers and olives?  Ready to get your snack on? I usually am, and a veggie based dip sounds like just the ticket for my persistent munchies. Take a little dip; take a little dip; take a little dip with me.

Smoky Baba Ghanoush – method and starting point borrowed from The Joy of Cooking

      • 1 eggplant (mine was about 2 lbs, big and VERY purple, just beautiful)
      • 1 T tahini
      • 2 large cloves of garlic
      • 1/2 lemon juiced
      • 1 t salt
      • 1/8 t chipotle pepper powder (you could also use an actual pepper, but be VERY sparing, you’re going for the smokiness, not the heat, you could also use Liquid Smoke I imagine)

Preheat the oven to 400.  Poke holes all over the eggplant with a fork.  Roast the eggplant (and garlic cloves (skins on) in a roasting dish or on a baking sheet.  Take the garlic out after about 15 minutes.  Leave the eggplant in for about another 45.  You’re looking for very dark skin and more importantly, soft flesh.  Allow eggplant to cool to handle it.  Scoop the flesh of the eggplant away from the skin of the eggplant and place in a colander.  When all the eggplant is in the colander, press down with a spoon or other flat utensil to squeeze the extra water out of the eggplant.  The hard part is now over.  Throw all of this with the other ingredients into the food processor.  Blitz.  Place in lovely bowl and garnish with olives.  Serve to your generous mother who has been playing with your children for several hours… or to whomever you like.  Delish.

Eggplant drawing a big zero for you, but you are intrigued by my take on condiments?  We’ve got plenty to spread around….

Big Sis serves up some artichoke dip and white bean and greens spread to give sandwiches a kick.
Craving another Middle Eastern favorite? We’ve got hummus galore.
And last but not least, my perpetual favorite sunflower cheez spread.

Riffing on a Theme in the Kitchen

When a musician “riffs on a theme,” she keeps some core element of a bit of music and adds new bits, changes it in some way, re-interprets that bit in a new way.  She may do all of those things.  Some central and fundamental bit remains, the theme, but the riffing is what makes it new, fresh, and individualized.  Riffing on a theme is a great way for someone to get into cooking and to provide a wide variety of dishes based on a few core theme dishes.  The spinach namul dish that I wrote about a couple of days ago is like this – you can riff on the namul all over the place and have a wide variety of nutritious and delicious veggie bits.  The white bean dip that Big Sis wrote about on Sunday is a riff on a theme as well – the infamous bean dip with other delish bits.  Today we’re going to explore veggie spreads a little more with the queen mother of all bean-based spreads… hummus.

I’m imagining that hummus is no longer new to folks, that you have at least had it on a chip at some group event, but I want to encourage you for a moment to REALLY give hummus a good go.  It is incredibly versatile – dip, sandwich filling, cracker spread, spoon in mouth (okay that’s me and I REALLY like hummus).  Hummus is a great way to add some vegetable protein, fiber, and flavor to your diet in places that might otherwise require mayonnaise and deli meat (we can talk about that more later, too, wow I better start a list).  So in my never-ending quest to provide some measure of acceptable variety at lunchtime, I’ve broached hummus a few times.  Until a few days ago, however, I never had hummus like this.

Baja Hummus - Inspired by Dreena Burton’s Black Bean & Orange Hummus in Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan

  • 2.5 c cooked black beans
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 3 T tahini (or nut butter of whatever kind you have)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/4 t chili powder (whatever kind you like)
  • 1/3 c fresh parsley
  • 1 t orange zest (zest before squeezing juice)

Throw all of your ingredients into a food processor and go to town.  Stop a couple of times to scrape down bowl with spatula.  Process until you get the consistency you like.  We loved this slathered onto a whole wheat tortilla and covered with a whole mess of spinach and a few slices of avocado.  Delish.

One of the great things about hummus is that it is the perfect dish to practice riffing on a theme – using a basic recipe and applying different flavor profiles to it.  If you look closely at the recipe above, you can see the main components of a hummus: beans, a nut or seed butter (or sometimes just nuts) an acid (citrus is common, but sometimes it’s just vinegar), a little oil, and flavorings.  The proportions are important only to the extent that your food processor will spin on its own and create a texture that you like.  While my darling spouse and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED the Baja Hummus, our children were not inclined to give it a go.  I think the color did them in.  And, silly me, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that they actually DO like chickpeas – a wiser bean choice for the every 4 months or so “let’s see if you like hummus now” test.

So after we demolished the Baja Hummus, I decided to make a milder version to attempt a second pass at the hummus accord.  I used the above recipe as a guide because I liked the texture of the first hummus and simply changed some of the ingredients to mellow things out a bit.

GARBANZORANGE HUMMUS

  • 2.5 c cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1/3 c orange juice
  • 3 T tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/4 c parsley
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Bits in processor bowl.  Go to it.  Scrape down sides a couple of times.  Run it until it’s the consistency you like.  Suggest to your little ones that maybe they’d like some chickpea (okay, so I called them tushies, cause you know the chickpea has a little bum on it and it cracks my kids up) hummus.  Totally different reception.  Still didn’t win over my picky one, but she at least took a bite.  The boy declared it delicious and began campaigning to get his sister to eat some.  We will get there.  And so will you, just keep trying different versions and you’ll find the one that makes your family go garbanzos (har, har)!  Maybe a more Mediterranean version would work (yeah, I know, I’m like a compass, I have to go there).  Replace the orange juice with lemon juice or a mix of lemon juice and wine vinegar and add sun dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, and pine nuts.  How about a little Frenchy hummus action?  That would surely include some thyme and perhaps a little basil.  Maybe white wine vinegar in place of the red wine and lemon in place of orange juice.  The really great thing here friends is that beans are CHEAP.  Buy them dried and boil them at night while you’re doing other things.  Store in jar in fridge until you’re ready to use them (don’t wait too long, they will spoil) and then you’ve got a really cost effective sandwich filling to spread your culinary wings with.  Riff on that theme.  Polish those chops.  Pretty soon you’ll be improvising with the best of them.  And it will be Delish.

A Note on Cooking with Beans:  While canned beans are convenient, they can be loaded with salt and they are, while still cheap as proteins go, far more expensive than dried beans.  The problem with dried beans?  Well, they’re dried.  So whipping something up at the drop of a hat doesn’t seem possible.  My solution to this is to either 1) soak beans overnight prior to cooking and using them the next day OR occasionally at night or on the weekend I will do a quick soak (bring beans to a boil, boil for 2 minutes and then soak in hot water for an hour) so that all that’s left is cooking time.  If time allows, I will also go ahead and cook them further and store them in the fridge completely ready to go.  More info on cooking with dried beans can be found here.

Spread those Veggies on Thick!

Veggies on veggies, veggies on toast
Veggies on crackers, I love you the most
Veggies on sandwiches, might make you smarter
Leave out the beans and you won’t be a …

Sorry, my inner 11 year old boy has been talking to my actual 11 year old boy a lot lately.  And I’m a nurse.  I like gross stuff.  But you’d probably like to hear a little more about the veggies and a little less about the bodily functions!  On to veggies.

Some people do not get all excited about a veggie tray, or tortilla chips, crackers or sandwiches unless they are slathered with something fattening, and/or dairy, and/or chemicalicious like mayonnaise, french onion dip, or ranch dressing.  Personally I love mayonnaise, but where I can happily and willingly substitute healthier and especially veggier items in my diet?  I’m in.  Mayonnaise and creamy dips have competition now!

Following are a couple of recipes to get more veggies and less sour cream, mayonnaise (or if you’re buying commercial spreads or dips – MSG, potassium sorbate and questionable milk products) onto your favorite vehicles for spreads and dips.

The first is an artichoke dip that is so easy you have to think twice before you bring it to a party.  If you bring it to a party, everyone will love it and ask you for the recipe and you will have to say:
I bought a jar (or can) of marinated artichoke hearts (after checking the label for unsavory ingredients);
I dumped it into my good blender (or food processor);
I turned it on until the stuff got creamy;
I scraped it into a pretty bowl and provided scooping devices.

Voila!  That is it.  It is delicious, nutritious (artichokes have fiber and vitamin C without fat or much sugar at all) and it really dresses up a sandwich.

Now, if you don’t like what you see on the marinated artichoke label or you have un-marinated in the pantry approaching their expiration date, you can jump from the above ‘Easiest’ version to the ‘Easy’ version.

Artichoke Dip:
Place 3 cups of drained artichoke hearts in the blender or food processor.
Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Add 1/2 tsp each of oregano & thyme (your option to include or sub basil or rosemary)
Add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
Process until creamy.
Scrape it into a pretty bowl and provide a variety of scooping devices.

Also ridiculously easy with room for variation according to your taste.

The next spread was inspired by a cilantro-pesto spread described in delicious detail by my friends from ‘Our Spartan Kitchen.’  They had extra cilantro and I have these beautiful red mustard leaves that have a horse-radishy bite to them.

Mix in the Vita Mix blender (or other powerful blender)
2 cups de-stemmed mustard leaves
4Tbsp. olive oil
1 &1/2  cup cooked white beans – rinsed and drained (1 can)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 tsp salt

With the bite of mustard, this one is really good on a sandwich.

Admittedly, this one takes longer to make, and you may not have mustard greens around – however, the basic idea (check out the cilantro-pesto spread as well) gives you the basis to veggify and/or herbify some bean mash into something healthy and delicious.  Take the beans, nuts and oil in the above recipe, add some other veggies and spices, adjust for consistency and you will have expanded the repertoire for healthy lunch and snacks.

I think next I’m going to experiment with beans and sweet potatoes, hmmmm…

Also check out this sweet pea hummus from Gena at Choosing Raw and let us know about any veggie spreads or dips that you like!