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

 

 

 

Small Mouths, Small Bites

Happy day after Mother’s Day! I was planning to give you a garden tour this morning to celebrate the new plantings that were part of our Mother’s Day festivities, but the rain has chased me inside… well, okay, I never made it out.  A garden update is in our future, and it’s very exciting, at least in my humble opinion.  Dead seedlings were replaced and the garden is exploding, and when the sun comes out, I’ll show you.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about lunch.  Okay, I think it’s pretty clear to all of you that I’m thinking about food most of the time, but lunch has been on my mind ever since I registered my wee ones for kindergarten in the fall.  I have already resigned myself to packing lunches daily, a plan that was reinforced when I looked at the school lunch menu – but that’s another post for a day when I’m already in a bad mood, because it will have a pretty high percentage of rant in it.  For this gentle rainy morning, I just want to explore a trend that has emerged in yummy, nutritious, fun lunches for me and my little people.  I’ve stumbled upon a recurring theme.  Small bites.

In Big Sis’ discussion of Lunchables (Lunchables are also a zen threatener for me, so I’ll be brief here), she conceded that the packaging of these products (many of which have as much sugar as a Snickers bar, BTW) is kid-sexy.  Little compartments, small amounts, a variety that they can choose from, assemble, control.  The bento box craze reveals some of the same appeal.  Compartments that contain small amounts of various bits that they can choose between, manipulate, control. Honestly, this has also been one of my favorite things about eating Ethiopian food or tapas: variety, tastes, experiments.

So with these thoughts in mind, I decided to put a lunch together that really offered as many different bites a I could fit on the plate, a strong element of choice, some possibilities for assembly and experimentation.  I included one new food, and some things they’ve been reluctant to eat in the past as well as some old standbys.  This was not revolutionary; I’ve offered my kids strange little collections of food before, but I’ve not been this deliberate about it, nor have I ever watched and listened as carefully while we ate.  I tried to be quiet (this is hard for me) and see what choices they would make without pressure. This lunch was remarkably successful.  Was it the quantities?  Was it the variety?  The fact that they couldn’t help but have a healthy lunch if they ate any two of the items on the plate?  I have no idea; what I DO know is that they both ate most of it.  And my little picky one ASKED about 2/3 of the way through the meal if she could skip the rest of the celery if she ate all the other veggies, because the flavor of celery is okay, but she doesn’t like the way it feels in her mouth….  If you’ve eaten with my daughter, you know this is not the way our meal conversations usually go.  Delightful.  And Daddy and I got to finish the dip which they liked with the apples and on the bagel, but not on everything else.  My preference was to have it with the celery and banana.

Nutty Lunch Dip

  • 4 T peanut butter
  • 4 T plain yogurt (I used almond yogurt)
  • 1/2 t maple syrup
  • generous shake cinnamon

Ready for another miraculous cooking procedure?  Put all those bits in a bowl and stir them thoroughly to make smooth yum.  Adjust ingredients to taste.  If it seems like a little more sweet would be good, try a little more cinnamon first; you may be surprised.  When you’ve got it tasting the way you want, dip a few things in it.  Let your inner five your old take control of the lunch plate.  Pretend you don’t already know what tastes good together; you just might find something new hiding in the guise of an old trusted and predictable vegetable.  Nutty small bites for all!  Delish.

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!