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Archive for the ‘sweet potatoes’ Category

Recipe facts: Wheat-free, Meat-free, Dairy-free. NOT peanut free. Total time: about 45 minutes. (Though Betty says 10 min prep, 23 min cook.) Serves 6 (but that is probably an underestimate); Recipe at end of post

I was enjoying dinner so well I forgot to take a picture of the meal until I'd already started chowing down.

I was enjoying dinner so well I forgot to take a picture of the meal until I'd already started chowing down.

Sweet potatoes are good for far more than the (in my opinion) sickeningly sweet sweet potato casseroles drowned in brown sugar and marshmallows many of us grew up on. Here’s an easy, weeknight sweet potato dish I made on Tuesday that went pretty fast, was extremely inexpensive to put together, and was absolutely delicious.

My friend Shara, who I had over for dinner, liked it so much that she asked for a copy of the recipe. One other guest who partook of leftovers gave it a big thumbs up. It’s vegan and gluten-free, but you’d never know it from tasting it. It’s again out of Betty Crocker’s Vegetarian Cooking (1 ed. — there’s a new ed. out now that may not have it). The great thing about this cookbook is it gives optional meat additions for families where some are vegetarian and some are not. You can just divide your recipe in half if necessary, or add the meat in at the end for the carnivores. This recipe has such an option.

The setup for West African Sweet Potato Supper

The setup for West African Sweet Potato Supper

I chose this recipe because I was looking for ways to use (yet more!) sweet potatoes that had gone on sale for 79 cents a pound at King Soopers. It caught my attention because it incorporates the rich flavor, protein, and good fats (primarily poly- and mono-unsaturated) of peanut butter with the protein and fiber of beans (I subbed black beans for the great northerns because I thought they would be prettier) and colorful tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. There’s also some wonderful ginger and chili powders thrown in, with a little bit of cayenne for kick. Add it to taste, especially if you are heat-sensitive.

Jen’s version: I made a half recipe, because it supposedly serves 6. Even at half size, this recipe made enough food to feed an army. I’ve already had three meals from it (including 5 total servings so far), and it looks like I’ll get at least 3 more. I didn’t want to halve a can of corn, so I used  about 3/4 c. frozen. As for the beans, I just threw the whole can in and figured it’d work out. I found that one large sweet potato yielded the requisite two cups of cubed sweet potato. Sadly, I did not notice the tip about peeling the sweet potato (see below) until AFTER I’d availed myself of the vegetable peeler. C’est la vie.

The finished product in situ

The finished product in situ

Since I had some leftover cilantro in my fridge, I threw that on as a garnish. That proved a good move (although check with your guests/family; some people think cilantro tastes like Joy dish soap). Finally, to top it all off, I made coconut rice using some leftover coconut milk that I had frozen. More on that in a subsequent post. The rich peanut flavor coupled with the tropical coconut of the rice made this dish really satisfying.

West African Sweet Potato Supper

Notes from Betty: To make peeling the sweet potatoes easier, microwave potatoes on High for two minute first. For a nice color contrast, try a can of black beans instead of the great northern beans.

1 T. vegetable oil
1 med. onion, sliced and separated into rings
1/4c. creamy peanut butter
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. ground dried ginger
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2in cubes (about 4c.)
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) diced tomatoes with roasted garlic, undrained (if you can’t find ones with garlic, just get plain and add a couple cloves of crushed garlic)
1 can (15oz) great northern beans (or black beans), undrained
1 can (15oz) corn, drained (you can also use 1 1/2c. fresh or frozen corn)

Rice or couscous

1. Heat oil in 4qt dutch oven over med-high heat. Cook onion in oil, stirring frequently, until tender.
2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to med-low. Cover and cook about 20-25min, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender. Serve over couscous or rice.

1 serving: Calories 340 (Calories from Fat 80); Fat 9g(Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 870 mg; Carbohydrate 62g (Dietary Fiber 11g); Protein 14g.

Meat option: Add 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, with the onion in step 1. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. Continue as directed.

p. 123 of Betty Crocker’s Vegetarian Cooking, 1st ed.

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So as you’ll recall from my last post, I mashed sweet potatoes to make risotto. The question arose: what’s the best way? Two possibilities occurred: my dowdy, old-fashioned, hand-held potato masher:

potato masher

Or my new hotness food processor, the Cuisinart KFP-7TM.

I pulled out the machine’s manual (yes: miracle I could still locate it) and to see what I could find on the subject. There was a warning against mashing (white) potatoes (they get “gluey” — likely from the lysis of the starch cells by the blades) — but what about sweet potatoes? Toooootally unrelated species, right?

Well, I’m a scientist. Why not do an experiment? After cooking the sweet potatoes as peeled, cubed chunks per instructions, I threw them in the food processor and hit go. In no time flat, they were mashed sweet potato smithereens, but instead of the homogenous, fluffy cloud I’d been hoping for, they were more like gooey, mini-sweet potato shards.

processed sweet potatoes

Oh, what the heck, I thought. Cooked butternut squash cubes dissolve in risotto. Why not sweet potato shards? So, I packed them in the measuring cup and dumped them in. In the end, my hypothesis was incorrect: the shards didn’t dissolve entirely, though they did so well enough to color my risotto a lovely shade of yellow. And the risotto still tasted great!  In the mean time, I whipped out my hand-held potato masher and went to town. That helped some:

mashed sweet potatoes

I scooped some out for part of my lunch today, mixed in a little salt and pepper and dusted it with cinnamon. But still: potato shards.

sweet potato lunch

America’s Test Kitchens advises using a food mill — an old fashioned apparatus with a hand-crank on top — to mash sweet potatoes. I used one of these with my Grandma when I was a little girl and to help her process her home-grown tomatoes and applesauce for canning. I don’t own one now, but I think next time I’ll try starting with the potato masher and see if that corrects the problem.

But there’s another lesson here: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Mistakes are OK! Even failures make good lessons (I wouldn’t be writing this blog today if I hadn’t learned from countless ones I made), and 9 times out of 10, the finished product still tastes great. Even Julia Child once said something like if you screw up in the kitchen, just keep going and serve it. Most times, your company won’t even know the difference. Don’t miss this blog by Mark Bittman at “Bitten” on this very subject.

The home cook, especially the aspiring home cook, needs encouragement — not befuddlement. Show people what actually happens in the kitchen, show people that mistakes are made (”The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes” — Julia Child), show people that, just as you need not be Rafael Nadal to play tennis, you need not be Gordon Ramsay to cook a decent meal.

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Over time, I have discovered there is a small thing I can do that will greatly increase the chances I feel motivated enough to cook the meal I have in mind for the next day. It isn’t hard. It doesn’t even involve will power. All I have to do is set out the ingredients I will need for the next night the night or morning before. For example, two nights ago I made sweet potato risotto. Here’s what my setup looked like:

Prep for sweet potato risotto

So in the picture, you see bulk arborio rice (never goes bad – saves money!), the dregs of a week-old bottle of white wine I saved for this purpose (but carefully stored in the fridge), some rosemary I dried, sweet potatoes (were on sale at King Soopers for 79 cents a pound!), bulk vegetarian chicken broth powder (more on this in another post), parmesan cheese, garlic, nutmeg, onion, etc. Note I’ve also carefully placed the cookbook open to the appropriate page with a nice friendly picture of the finished product gently, yet firmly, urging me to cook my own d*** dinner rather than another box of mac and cheese.

Somehow the sight of this when I get home is very motivating. I don’t know why this is, I’ve just noticed it is. It doesn’t guarantee I’ll actually cook it (let’s face it — we all come home exhausted most nights), but I’ve noticed it helps a lot, and it definitely helps me get ahead of the game when I get home from work. Sometimes I even pre-measure the spices into little bowls.

And while I’m at it, I’ll mention a quick thing about cooking recipes that you learned in home ec but probably forgot: Prep, chop, measure, and cut all your ingredients before you start cooking. This will save you much grief and help ensure your recipe comes out as it should. Here’s what my stove looks like just before I started cooking (and yes, I microwaved my sweet potatoes before mashing — the book with the microwave cooking table is open in the back of this photo).

Sweet potato risotto: Ready to rock and roll

Sweet potato risotto: Ready to rock and roll

Total time from start to finish: about 1:30. I know that’s  a lot for most people, but if I’d cooked and mashed my sweet potatoes ahead of time, it would have been a lot less. And I had my lunch all ready to go for today, and didn’t have to cook tonight — in fact, I had so much left over, I had my friend Dave Peascoe over to share a meal of the leftovers. And If I was tired of risotto, I could just freeze it for later. Here’s the finished product:

Finished sweet potato risotto

And here’s a simple, home-cooked meal all put together: sweet potato risotto garnished with rosemary and parmesan cheese, spinach with craisins (the house salad), and a cup of homemade (not from the box endorsed by Bill Cosby) vanilla pudding I made the night before. Bellisimo! The rosemary and nutmeg really make this risotto quite delightful. And no, in spite of the color, it doesn’t have saffron. This is a sweet-potatoes-only party.

A home meal cooked well

If you’d like to make this risotto yourself, it is from the Betty Crocker’s Vegetarian Cooking (1st ed.), but you can find the recipe here.

Happy home cooking!

Jen

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