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

 

 

 

Broccoli ‘Cheese’ Soup – all of the taste with much less fat

One of the most wonderful things about a powerful blender is the creamy soup that can be created and poured… or schmoved with a spatula into bowls – already hot!  If your blender isn’t strong enough to heat, then you can always pour this into a pot and heat after you’ve creamed it.  There is nothing like soup to fill the belly and warm the soul.

We experimented with a lot of soups when we first bought a Vita Mix (15 years old and still going strong).  One of our favorites was Broccoli Cheese Soup.  What’s not to like about Broccoli Cheese Soup?  Well, once you determine that you can’t handle dairy, and there are those that argue that the fat in dairy is a bad choice, and those that would rather leave the cow’s milk to the cow’s…. well then, the cheese is not to like about broccoli cheese soup.  So here is my dairy free version, loosely based on the recipe for broccoli cheese soup found in the Vita Mix recipe book.

Dairy Free Cheesy Broccoli Soup

1 tsp oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cups steamed or blanched broccoli
1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for about 5 hours or more (I put the cashews in a 2 cup measuring cup and then fill to the 2 cup line with water
1 c unsweetened milk – I used almond
1 c water
1.5 Tbsp bouillon

You can also substitute broth for water – or broth for water and milk.  Whatever works for you!

Steam or blanch your broccoli – keeping in mind that stemmy pieces need a little more cooking than plain florets.

I prefer to saute my onion and garlic before adding it to soup.  Just saute until translucent while steaming your broccoli (which I did in the microwave)

Put all ingredients in the blender and whirrrrr it up, or more accurately,  sideways until it is smooth and blended and if you don’t want to heat in a pot – let it spin till it’s hot!

I served mine with some broken up toasted Ezekiel bread.  My husband said it was fabulous but I was too busy eating to notice 😉

This took 20 minutes from the beginning of chopping onion to pouring in the bowls.  You gotta love that!

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Enjoy the arrival of Fall – may your windows be open, your skies blue and your hearts full like a pumpkin.

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)

Soup

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  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Relish

  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

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Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (GF,DF)

 photo IMG_0567.jpgIt would seem that I am not the only gardener overrun by zucchini this year, and I’m with most of the gardeners who responded to my last post; I’m delighted to have this problem of what to do with all of my zucchini. A few years ago a pal of mine posted a recipe on her Facebook page during the height of zucchini season. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the recipe and by the ingredient list which includes Maryland’s favorite spice mix, Old Bay Seasoning.

And so I began my usual process of fiddling, seeing how far I could move within the recipe while achieving the desired results. Over time I’ve adapted my friend’s lovely summer recipe and it is a zucchini staple in our house. While I won’t say that these actually taste like crab cakes (because my mother and many other Marylanders would be appalled by that idea), the flavor of these babies SUGGESTS crab cakes and they are just darned tasty crab facsimile aside. If Old Bay is not available in your area (I nearly passed out when I couldn’t buy it in California years ago), look for spice mixes intended for steamed spiced crabs, but be sure they don’t include super large chunks of spice as many shrimp boil spice mixes do OR try a homemade version like this one. Continue reading

Avocado Bisque with Garden Peas & Dill (DF)

 photo IMG_0421.jpgThe peas are ready! The peas are ready! Oh how I do love garden peas – the real deal, the kind you have to shell. I didn’t much care for them as a child (one for each year of life with a liberal swallow of milk so as not to choke), but have grown to like peas, but this is one area where frozen is really not the same as fresh. If you don’t care for peas, see if you can find the real McCoy at a farmer’s market and give them a go – raw, straight from the shell. Oh mercy. Spring is glorious.

I have found that my family enjoys garden peas most when they are left alone. Yesterday’s harvest may have yielded enough to cook and serve as a side, but I knew they wouldn’t like them as well, so I just rinsed those puppies and threw them in a bowl – shell and eat at will. But what else to serve? A ravenous 7 year old cannot live on garden peas alone, even if his mother would…

An old standby of mine that was ripe for an update: Avocado Bisque. I first encountered this recipe in the cookbook that came with my VitaMix, the cookbook that my sister previewed for me and annotated. Avocado Bisque earned a Bigg Sis rating of “Great,” and it is. I made a few adaptations to remove the moo and the chick and we enjoyed a lovely and light dinner of Avocado Bisque (with garden peas and dill), whole wheat bread (as evidenced by the crumb that snuck into my soup picture), and a fabulous green salad with garden lettuce. Continue reading

Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala (GF,V)

IMG_0283Things have been a little rough here at the Northern office of the pantry. I’m now 4 weeks out of foot surgery and while things are decidedly better, I am still somewhat limited in my activities and as the day wears on I get pretty uncomfortable from swelling and aches associated with walking on this ridiculous contraption. As a result, my desire to stand and cook for extended periods of time is pretty limited.

While I was sitting on my fanny for the initial two weeks after surgery, I did have the opportunity to come across a feature in Vegetarian Times on “30 Minute Skillet Suppers.” Yes, please. So last night I gave one of these a go, and in my usual fashion I made some modifications to make it just right for my family (yogurt out, cashews in; serrano chile out – red pepper and chile powder in; fresh ginger out – powdered in).  This experiment was wildly successful, and it really did only take 30 minutes. The cashews balanced the spice and I love the texture they added. The greater adjustability with powdered chili allowed me to knock it down for the kids and adjust on the plate for Mr. Little Sis. My sore feet and legs were spared extra standing and our little tribe got to enjoy some fabulous Indian flavors for a very reasonable price, right there on a weeknight in our kitchen.

Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala (GF,V) – inspired by Vegetarian Times’ Chickpea Tikka Masala

  • olive oil for panIMG_0297
  • 1 c finely chopped onion
  • 1.5 T garam masala
  • 1.5 T tomato paste
  • 1.5 t powdered ginger (or 3 t fresh grated – I was out)
  • 1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 c cooked chckpeas
  • 3 small cans diced tomatoes
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch chipotle or other chile powder to taste
  • 1 c raw cashews
  • chopped cilantro

Warm oil in large skillet (I used cast iron – the pan should be relatively deep). Add onions and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté  onions for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat, until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and spices (other than paprika and chile). Cook for another minute or so – until the spices become fragrant. Add peppers and sauté about another minute. Add chickpeas and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, add cashews and remaining spices. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. We served ours with leftover rice and chopped cilantro as a garnish.  Absolutely delish and deeply satisfying.

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For more quick dinners, as well as some thoughts on convenience food, check out Big Sis’ post ReCon Convenience, Step 7 in our Baby Steps Series.

Digging Indian flavors? Give these dishes a try: Mulligatawny Soup, Pakistani Lentil Kima, and Cashew Carrot Curry.

Fast & Delicious – Combo Bowl Sauce

Little Sis and I often preach about leftovers to the choir…., I mean for the choir…. I mean leftovers for breakfast or lunch or part of dinner. If you always make extra there will always be something (homemade and healthy) to eat, right?  If you are having rice twice in one week, make enough for both meals, plus a little because you can always toss in some raisins, nuts and milk and eat it for breakfast, or throw on some fresh or frozen veggies or meat or pasta sauce, without having to cook rice again.  This can be a real time saver when using brown rice….. if you’re not using it give it a try – it is so much better for you.  However, and at any rate, lots of leftovers in the frig can drive us into a rut as to how we use all of the leftover bounty.

Here is a fast solution to the leftover veggies, grains and meat in your frig which you can use for a planned or unplanned meal.

I am a fan of Angela Liddon (Oh She Glows) and have often enjoyed her Protein Power Goddess Bowl recipe which basically combines a grain, lentils (or some other bean or meat or nothing) with veggies – could be raw, could be cooked, could be a combo, AND a tahini dressing to die for.  Unfortunately the lemon tahini dressing takes a little while to make, so I don’t have it as often as I could.  I noticed however that the dressing had a lot of hummus-y ingredients and since hummus is one of the things I try to keep on hand – because you can put a schmop in a salad, spread some on bread, dip in a raw veggie, cracker or chip, etc.  With some of that LEFTOVER hummus in the refrigerator I created a tangier, thinner sauce than hummus with the same wonderful nutrition and more versatility for drenching piles of grains, beans and veggies – truly a Popeye worthy power bowl!  Oh yes, and I am indeed a Goddess.  Aren’t we all? 😉

Here is my Fast & Delicious Lemony Hummus Sauce.

1 cup of hummus (I used Lemony Roasted Garlic Hummus)

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5 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (I used these)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 6 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup water

Mix together.

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Pretty fast and simple, right?  Now, your consistency will vary depending on the consistency of the hummus you start with, thus some choice in water amount.  Add some water and see what you think.  How lemon-y you come out will also have to do with what you start with.  My hummus had a little lemon in it already, so if yours does not you may want to add a little more.  Additional lemon juice will also thin the consistency.

Taste it and see what you think!    This sauce is meant to be put on rather heavily, why not?  It’s tasty and nutritious – and might be a refresher for some of the leftover grains and veggies in the frig.  Add a can of rinsed and drained beans and you too are a goddess of the healthy and tasty.  😉

We have special friends with whom we often have ‘community stir-fry.’  Bring some cut up veggies to share and we cook some rice, stir-fry or roast the veggies, sometimes some chicken and throw it all together with some sauce.  We used this sauce last night and it was a big hit over the roasted onion, steamed red peppers, broccoli, & kale, and warmed spinach with rice and a little chicken.  Our friends are cool – and they have the coolest plates in town, don’t they?  (Made by Tray Eppes)

De-licious!

Dee-licious!

What’s for dinner?  If you don’t have much time and there are some leftovers in the frig and some hummus you are all set.

If you’ve never made hummus before, it’s not hard and so much cheaper than what you buy at the store.   Little Sis is the queen of hummus and has offered up Navy Bean Herb Hummus, Baja Hummus and Garbanzorange Hummus, in the past.  Try them or use up that tub you’ve got in the frig first.

Morning Veggies

I am frequently reminded (in documentaries about other places that my son loves) that much of the rest of the world actually eats a breakfast that looks a lot like the other meals of the day – some kind of grain and some veggies, maybe a little protein, maybe not. And yet these sweet loving taste buds lead so many of  us to constantly seek out a breakfast that does a great job in satisfying a sweet tooth, but doesn’t necessarily do much else.  Despite all my sugar busting, I confess that my own flavor preferences in the morning tend toward the sweet side of the spectrum.

While on the morning in question, I wasn’t necessarily interested in simply having leftovers for breakfast (although this is an entirely reasonable proposition), it occurred to me that I had no good reason for not including vegetables in my morning repast. Vegetables CAN be in a dish that’s not primarily savory. I took my lead from my sister (yet again 😉 ) and just turned up the volume.

The result? Very slightly sweet, super satisfying, nutritionally superb and a definite keeper.

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  • bowl of oatmeal & leftover sweet potatoes (cooked to your preference; I like my oats decidedly underdone)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped and cooked with the oats
  • handful of fresh spinach or other mild green, chopped
  • palmful of raisins
  • sprinkle of grated coconut
  • handful of walnuts
  • splash of coconut milk (or your preference)

I thought the celery and greens would interfere, but truth is they were absolutely delightful.  And I don’t care who you are, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with sweet potatoes for breakfast.  Okay, so I haven’t shaken the sweet tooth just yet, but things are definitely looking up. Throw some greens in there – you just might be surprised. Delish!

30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili

We finally made it through the fall crud.  This tenacious little virus swept its way through all four of us, Mr. Little Sis being the final victim.  I was long done with soup, but he still needed a little respiratory assistance.  Mr. Little Sis’ favorite form of respiratory assistance is spicy. And so, I whipped up some lunch (to avoid sharing with the ungrateful spicy-hating children) to give him a leg up. 30 minute bean and bulgur chili made a quick, spicy, and satisfying lunch for both of us.

Bean and bulgur you say? Those who’ve been playing along with us for a while will be familiar with the bean and bulgur combo, but if you’re new, check out this earlier post. The short version is that beans and bulgur together make a cheap, easy, and tasty substitute in a lot of recipes that traditionally use ground meat. I’ve found that making up a batch of bean and bulgur allows me to use it in a couple of dishes in the same week  with tasty and speedy results.  This chili was the second bean and bulgur dish of the week, after these burgers, so admittedly the 30 minutes does not include cooking the lentils and bulgur.  You could, however, use any bean and grain combo successfully – leftover rice and canned pintos? Great! This recipe is very forgiving and you should, as always, feel free to tweak according to your preferences and the ingredients you have on hand.

30 Minute Bean and Bulgur Chili

  • olive oil for the pot/panIMG_0323
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 c lentil/bulgur mixture
  • 1/4 t ground sage
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 can drained and rinsed black beans (or 1 1/2 c soaked and cooked)
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t chipotle chili powder
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t oregano

Warm olive oil in skillet over medium.  Add lentil bulgur mixture to skillet and LET IT SIT.  You are going for a little browning and crisping here.  If you stir too much, you will get neither. Check after you’ve given it a few minutes, add sage and 1/4 t salt to lentil/bulgur,  then stir/flip to brown the other sides. Warm olive oil in large pot.  Add chopped onions and saute until onions have softened and become a bit translucent.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add green peppers. When lentil/bulgur mix is browned to your liking, transfer to pot with onions/peppers. Add spices and diced tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate.  Bring to simmer and let cook to meld flavors, about 15-20 minutes.  30 minute bean and bulgur chili.  Done and delish!

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Sweet Potato / Apple / Oat Nuclear Incident: Fast veggies with the Sunrise

It is a constant challenge to introduce vegetables to the breakfast table.  It is in the US anyhow… I’m sure there are places where veggies are more regularly eaten as part of breakfast but it is a struggle here.  I partially solve the problem with smoothies – throw some fruits and veggies in with milk or vegetable juice, hit the button and my child has actually eaten kale before 7 in the morning.  But I do like to find other ways to increase the intake of produce in the morning without relying solely on fruit.

One recent morning (when my good camera was not working, nor was my planning) I looked in the pantry and saw 2 sweet potatoes.  They were close but not touching, clearly having a little trouble getting along and both of them wanted to transform their molecular energy into a new form…. perhaps new cells for my ailing brain?  So I chopped them up fairly small. chopped up a big apple, and nuked the whole lot of red, orange and yellow bits until getting soft.  Although I am dimly aware (especially on the particular morning in question) of objections to microwaving food, I have to say that getting more veggies down the hatch seems to me to over-ride them.  I could be wrong, but I’m sticking to my Veggie-ful approach, and sometimes it needs a little help!!

Okay so now I have sweet potato and apple.  Where to go from here?  Well, after my son reported to the neighbor who gave him a ride to school one morning that he had a big bowl of nuts and seeds for breakfast, I decided we would forego the neighborhood report on the big bowl of potato and apple and add some morning normalcy…..

thus was born the Sweet Potato / Apple / Oat Nuclear Incident

1 – 2 sweet potatoes
1-2 apples
1 cup oats (I do not use quick oats – should be fine)
1 1/4 cups milk of your choice (I used unsweetened almond)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp – 1 Tbsp. cinnamon (I use a lot because it lends sweetness without sugar and is so darn good!)
handful of chopped walnuts
optional: sweetener, raisins, other nuts, broccoli (just kidding)

Chop the sweet potatoes small
Place them in the microwave in a large bowl for a minute or two while chopping the apple
Add the apple to the bowl and nuke again for a minute
Add the oats, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and walnuts and stir
Nuke for a minute and then stir again.
You can stop and eat this now if you like crunchier / more raw oats or you can nuke it again, but don’t go more than a minute at a time – or even 45 seconds til you see how your microwave does so that it doesn’t boil over the top.
You can also add more milk or water if you want your oats softer.
Add any optional delights!  I encourage you to taste before sweetening as the cinnamon and apple might just do it for you!

If you’ve never eaten soaked oats you may be surprised at eating oats that aren’t completely soft and mush-ified.  It’s perfectly fine – in fact some would argue that they are better for you…. less cooking, less altering of enzymes (uh-oh, the microwave is coming up again)
If you’d like to try some truly soaked oats (no cooking – throw it together at night, ready in the morning) check this out!
And if you’d rather not nuke the veggies you could cook them the old fashioned way the night before and mix in with soaked oats, or pot cooked oats in the morning.  But if you forget – don’t have time, whatever….. you can resort to the nuclear incident.

Here’s my one lame picture from the phone.  

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I was very pleased with this concoction and we will have it many times in the future.  It is much faster than some other hot cereals I make PLUS it has a glorious vegetable making it’s way down the gullet prior to 7am…. on weekdays that is.