Wish Upon A Dish: October 2013

October 31, 2013

Little Quinoa Patties {+ a Lowdown on Grains & Seeds}

Why is it that we wait until something happens to implement corrective actions, like buying heating oil the day the thermometer dips below freezing or bringing your pots of herbs in after the first freeze, when the weatherman has been warning us for days this day was coming?
Do you have that special friend that calls to tell you she's going on a drastic healthy diet immediately after finding out that all those milkshakes she consumed were really milkshakes after all, not healthy breakfast smoothies?

Do you know that person who is always ahead of the game, organized and does everything right? Yea, I got one of them in the family too! Hat's off to them but news flash!, I probably will never be 'one of those', but I can do better and I should do better. While eating a sandwich won't hurt me, too many carbs will so it's time to take inventory of all the grains that I am allowed to eat and start incorporating them into my daily diet.
Care to join me?
Let's start with quinoa, pretty much the most popular grain/seed out there and luckily there has to be thousands of recipes out there, so getting started should be easy.
I found this patty recipe over at Martha's and made a batch (with a few modifications). They will be perfect served with a roasted piece of meat or served under a ladle of warm stew. Who needs egg noodles or mashed potatoes?
Add a dollop of yogurt and a slice of smoked salmon and these make great appetizers for a party.

Quinoa -
Taste and Aroma: Quinoa by itself tastes rather bland.
Uses: Quinoa is stocked with life-sustaining nutrients all across the board, including all eight essential amino acids. There are other highly beneficial compounds, vitamins and minerals in this food that the Incas reverently called "chisaya mama" (mother of all grains).
Fun Fact: Most people who have heard of quinoa think it’s a grain, and judging by how it’s pronounced, some assume it’s from the Orient but technically, quinoa is a seed, not a grain and it’s grown high in the Andes Mountains of South America.

Amaranth -  
Taste and Aroma: Mild but distinct, sweet, nutty, earthy and malt-like flavor.
Uses: Can be used in place of rice, couscous, quinoa and other grains. Amaranth can also be used as a hot porridge-like breakfast, popped as a snack or in soups.
Fun Fact: Like quinoa, amaranth is an ancient grain and a complete protein. Cook your amaranth with lots of extra water and rinse the grains off once they are cooked through. You do this to remove the excess thickened cooking water.

Millet -
Taste and Aroma: Teeny-tiny and butter-colored, millet has a mild, pleasing and ever so slightly nutty taste (pan-roasting enhances the nutty flavor.) It has a texture and taste somewhere between egg-rich pasta and cornmeal.
Uses: Millet swells tremendously when cooked and makes a great alternative to oatmeal for breakfast. Millet is also a fabulous whole grain for fall because it combines particularly well with sweet winter squash and root vegetables. It is particularly delicious with almond milk, chopped baked apple, cinnamon and a drizzle of raw honey.
Fun Fact: Millet has been cultivated for some 8,000 years and is one of the oldest foods known to man.
Check out more indepth information and a recipe for millet grits here.

Pearled Barley -
Taste and Aroma: When cooked, barley has a chewy texture and nutty flavor, similar to brown rice.
According to the FDA, barley's soluble fiber reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and can lower cholesterol. But that's not all that this amazing food does! Barley also contains insoluble fiber, which reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. One cup of cooked barley provides 193 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 3.5 grams of protein. With less than one gram of fat per serving, barley is a virtually fat-free food and is also cholesterol-free.
Uses: Although soup is the most popular way to eat barley, you can use it like any other grain such as couscous or rice. Serve a curry or stir-fry over barley instead of rice or make a barley pilaf.
Fun Fact: 98% of barley grown in the United States will never make it into your soup! Barley is refined to make barley malt - a key ingredient in beer, and is also grown for feeding animals used for food.

Bulgur -
Taste and Aroma: Bulgur is a common ingredient in Armenian, Assyrian, Lebanese, Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean dishes. It has a light, nutty flavor.
Uses: Bulgur can be used in pilafs, soups, bakery goods, or as stuffing. In breads, it adds a whole grain component. It is a main ingredient in tabbouleh salad and kibbeh. Its high nutritional value makes it a good substitute for rice or couscous.
Fun Fact: One cup of bulgur has fewer calories, less fat, and more than twice the fiber of brown rice.

Sorghum -
Taste and Aroma: Similar to millet in texture, sorghum benefits from being toasted first before cooking. Sorghum can be cooked into porridge.
Uses: Unlike some gluten free grains, the hearty, chewy texture of whole grain sorghum is very similar to wheat berries, making it an ideal addition to pilafs and cold salads. Replace the noodles or white rice in soups with sorghum for a more nutritious alternative.
Fun Fact: Surprise and delight your friends and family by serving popped sorghum instead of popcorn at your next gathering. Sorghum is easy to pop in the microwave or on the stove top and makes a fun conversation piece for movie night.

Kasha (buckwheat) -
Taste and Aroma: Raw buckwheat groats are light brown or green and don't have much of an aroma at all.
Uses: The triangular seeds, known as buckwheat groats, are frequently made into flour for use in noodles, crepes, and many gluten-free products on the market these days. Buckwheat is a good binding agent and, when soaked, becomes very gelatinous.
Fun Fact: Interestingly, buckwheat is currently being studied for its nutritional benefits. It is used to relieve some of the symptoms of Type II diabetes as well as high blood pressure. Buckwheat contains rutin, known to strengthen capillary walls.

Little Quiona Patties
Makes 36 mini and 12 large patties

* 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
* 4 large eggs, beaten
* 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
* 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 1 cup whole-grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let stand for a few minutes. Form mixture into twelve 1-inch thick patties. (Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet; add water if too dry.) Mixture can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
2. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Working in batches, add patties, cover, and cook until bottoms are deeply browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium if there is no browning after 10 minutes and continue to cook until patties are browned. Flip patties with a spatula and cook the second sides until golden, about 7 minutes. Remove from skillet and cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining patties.

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October 28, 2013

I would rather be cooking......

I should be back to posting on a regular basis in about two weeks. Right now the best I can do is to sit up in bed and get caught up on all those magazines and books I meant to read but never did. Until now.
I recently read something funny I would like to share with you.....


It takes your food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.

One human hair can support 3kg (6.6 lb).

The average man's manhood is three times the length of his thumb.

Human thighbones are stronger than concrete.

A woman's heart beats faster than a man's...

There are about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.

Women blink twice as often as men.

The average person's skin weighs twice as much as the brain.

Your body uses 300 muscles to balance itself when you are standing still.

If saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.

 Women reading this will be finished now.

 Men are still busy checking their thumbs.

Have a great week!!

October 24, 2013

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Pudding

I can not pass up a great buy, especially on something that is no longer made, and fits right into my lifestyle.

I found a 1.5qt Crock Pot. No, not the little dipper one, this is a manual low-hi-off basic, no frills crock pot that is perfect for cooking for two. Recently the only place I have seen this, is on Ebay. If a large slow cooker is more than you need, seek this one out.

I also have a gigunda Corningware 6qt slow cooker that is perfect for making Sunday Sauce, applesauce and stock, especially in the quantities that you need to do a full day of canning. That one I have owned for over 25 years.

I probably should use my baby slow cooker more but because I work at home, there really is no reason. I make, maybe 10 things in that cooker, and I have a fail-proof bolognese for two recipe I love, I will make a huge batch of caramelized onions, and have been known to make a designer batch of fig jam for Christmas gifts.

I actually have three cookbooks dedicated to slow cookers for my Dad so he could easily make himself a nice big batch of soup or stew, but he refuses to read a recipe so they remain here, on my bookshelf. It was time to pull them out and see if there was something unique I could make out of one of them.

Seems the blogosphere is bursting with everything pumpkin, so I threw my dime into the pot with this version of pumpkin pie pudding. The Nudge loves pudding so I can't wait to surprise him with this.

Could not be any easier. 10 minutes of prep time, 6-7 hours in the slow cooker and you have a great little dessert. A crumbled graham cracker on top (for texture) and a dollop of whipped topping will make this special for any meal.The Nudgesaid it tasted like the pie without the crust. The best part.....I can use the leftovers to make pumpkin pie pancakes this weekend.

Pumpkin Pie Pudding
Adapted from The Everything Series - Slow Cooker

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Unattended Time: 6-7 hours
Pot Size: 1.5 - 6 quarts

* 2 eggs
* 1 (15oz) can solid-packed pumpkin (not the pie filling)
* 1 (12oz) can fat free evaporated milk
* 3/4 cup sugar or 1/4 cup Truvia+1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup reduced fat buttermilk biscuit mix
* 2 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

* 4 graham crackers, crumbled
* whipped topping

Beat the eggs with a whisk until slightly frothy. Mix together all the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for 6-7 hours.

Since I used the baby cooker, mine was cooked in 4 hours on low.

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October 21, 2013

Poppy Seed Chicken

Unlike most people I do my spring cleaning in the fall and my pantry restocking in the spring. Since I don't bake holiday cookies, cook holidays meals or host parties, I do not need to order holiday ingredients.

The other day while looking for smoked paprika (I never did find it), I found a bag of poppy seeds I ordered last spring and at this time, I can't even remember if I ordered them for a specific dish or just because I wanted to try cooking with them. I imagine, knowing my mind, I was planning on a sweet or bread. and what I did not expect to find was a savory recipe. It peaked my interest enough to put it on the menu.

Boneless chicken breasts were at an all time low this week, so I stocked up and bought a few pounds. That should get me through the winter and my first official "casserole" of the cooler months was found in the Jan/Feb issue of Cooking Light magazine, which was all about the bird.

I have had luck with their chicken recipes in the past and this one looked relatively easy but a tad bland and was hoping those poppy seeds had magical powers I wasn't aware of.
Low in calories (only 235 a serving) I added broccoli florets and cooked a handful of broad egg noodles.

This dish can be prepared up to the baking part and placed in the freezer for those nights when you are running late and won't have time to prepare dinner from scratch. Simply defrost and bake it off when you get home or better yet if you forget, cover with foil and bake from the frozen state. Just make sure to double the bake time and remove the foil 15 minutes before serving, to brown the topping.

While making this recipe, I realized after my additions it turned out to be a light take on Chicken Divan with poppy seeds. Even with my chicken breast half defrosted (I defrosted it for 6 minutes in the microwave), I had this dish ready for the oven in less than 30 minutes. Been a while since I made a casserole. I like the easy way with them, especially when time is at a minimum and you just want something comforting.
I will bake this when The Nudge walks in the door and when we are ready to eat, it will be ready for us.

Poppy Seed Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2013
makes 6 servings

* 1 (1/4") slice pancetta, diced or 3 strips of bacon
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 1/4 cup celery, finely diced
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 1 cup chicken stock
* 1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
* 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
* 1/2 ounce grated Fontina
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
* 1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 cup breadcrumbs
* 1/4 cup sliced almonds
* 2 tablespoons melted butter
* 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350°.
1. Add pancetta to a heated saucepan. Cook until almost all the fat has rendered. Add onion and celery; cook 6 minutes. Add garlic and flour; cook 2 minutes.
2. Gradually add stock and half-and-half, stirring constantly; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and stir in chicken meat, Fontina, chopped fresh parsley, poppy seeds, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper.
3. Scrape the mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish.
4. Combine breadcrumbs, almonds, and melted butter in a bowl, and sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over top of casserole, and bake for 30 minutes.

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October 18, 2013

Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken, Mushrooms & Sugar Snap Peas {+ a lowdown on Noodle Nutrition}

After a week of testing, eating, reworking and re-eating sweet potato dishes, I was craving pasta. I guess The Nudge was on the same wave length, but still managed to take me by total surprise when he asked for lasagna. The surprise was over when in the same breath, he also tried to slip under the radar, sloppy joes, nachos and a pizza. Men!

Not that I don't crave a sloppy joe every once in a while, but for today I found a simple stir-fry recipe of noodles, chicken, snap peas and mushrooms with an easy but vibrant sauce. Nothing exotic, but it got me thinking about noodles....which dishes go with which noodles, and, which ones are best for a Diabetic? While the original recipe calls for wide rice noodles, right now (and always) in my pantry are udon, ramen, soba, rice, mung bean and semolina noodles.

Soba - These noodles are made from buckwheat flour and have a correspondingly strong, nutty flavor. Many buckwheat noodles also have some wheat flour in them, which means they're not gluten-free.  Dried soba looks like thin spaghetti and is usually light beige to dark brown-gray in color.
One cup cooked has 113 calories, 25 carbohydrate and 6g of protein.

Udon - Chewy and soft, these thick wheat noodles are best when you can find them fresh. Udon has a neutral flavor, so they make a good choice for strongly-flavored dishes.
Two ounces dried has 190 calories, 37g carbohydrates and 8g of protein.

Ramen - Also made of wheat, ramen noodles are much thinner and longer than udon and have a nice chewy bite when cooked, just throw that flavor packet in the garbage.
One ounce dried has 130 calories, 17g carbohydrates and 2g of protein.

Bean Threads - These are also sometimes called cellophane noodles, glass noodles, or mung bean threads. They are made from mung bean starch, and look like little bundles of very thin, translucent threads. These noodles are fantastic in summer rolls or as a substitute for vermicelli rice noodles.
One cup cooked has 160 calories, 39g carbohydrates and less than 1g of protein.

Vermicelli Rice Noodles - Vermicelli noodles are made from rice flour and have a very similar texture to angel hair pasta. The dried noodles come in packets of long, very thin, translucent threads.
Two ounces dried has 200 calories, 46g carbohydrates and 3g of protein.

Rice Noodles - These are also made from rice flour, but flatter and softer when cooked. These are the traditional noodles in Pad Thai.
One cup cooked has 192 calories, 44g carbohydrates and 1.6g of protein.

Semolina Pasta (boxed pasta): This is the dried pasta found in every supermarket in the US. Most are made using semolina flour. Today you can also find pastas made with artisan flours. For now, we will investigate plain semolina pasta.
Two ounces dried has 210 calories, 43g carbohydrates and 7g of protein.

My dish uses noodles as the main ingredient so switching out the rice noodles for dried thin linguine pasta was the best choice. If I was using the noodle in a side dish, I would have gone with the soba noodles. I bet you think the ramen was the better choice. Ramen noodles are high in fat and have no nutritional value. I prefer foods that have something to give to the party.
As with most foods in the medium GI level, eat in moderation and bulk with vegetables. You can never go wrong with that plan.

The Nudge thought it looked blah, but once he took a bite, he polished off the whole plate. I might suggest adding a spoon of chopped pimentos for color.

Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken, Mushrooms and Sugar Snap Peas
Serves 2
Loosely adapted from Fine Cooking

* 4 oz. cooked thin linguine
* 4 oz. sugar snap peas
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 6 oz. of cooked chicken, shredded
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons fish sauce
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
* 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 1 teaspoon minced red or green chili
* 2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
* 1 teaspoon (or more) chicken broth
* 1/4 cup chopped basil
* 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
* 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Cook noodles for half the time suggested on the package. During the last minute, add the snap peas.
Drain and cool.
Prep the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic and chicken. Stir for 1 minute and add the fish sauce, ginger, sugar and chile. Fry for another minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes or until they are limp. Add the noodle/pea mixture and sauté for another minute or two. Add broth or water if the mixture gets too dry. Transfer to plates and garnish with basil and mint. Place the lime wedge on the side.
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October 15, 2013

Mexican Cheesy Shrimp Tacos

I think (though I won't swear too) I witnessed the origin of the Tex-Mex quesadilla the other night.
In the wee hours.
While I couldn't sleep.
and guess what we had for dinner?

I am not a fan of Tex-Mex foods. Mostly because I live in an area overrun with Chain Restaurants. There used to be a few family owned businesses but by 2001 they were all but gone. Now, what is available, are the bars on the lake, a few delis, and the Chinese & pizza places.
What Mexican food we eat, is prepared by me. Lately, as I became more educated in what a true Mexican might actually eat, I have tried to replicate in my own kitchen.

I am sure the food in Texas is wonderful. I am trying to convince The Nudge he wants to go but until then, the only food we will be eating, closest to Mexico, will originate in New Jersey.

Diabetics know that flour tortillas (no matter how healthy) should be eaten sparingly, but the corn versions, well they are all systems go and that's what I have been learning to cook with.
How am I doing? A few tries ended up in the garbage but I am working up the courage to make corn tortillas from scratch but until then I will buy and try different brands of store made until I find one I like.

What does all this have to do with the wee hours of my night? While most people can roll over, dig deep into the warmth of their blankets and pillows, I shed mine and turn on the TV.

I have gotten more great food ideas in those wee hours than I like to admit, since I do not have normal sleeping hours as it is and that The Nudge does not approve of this kind of midnight snack.

Tell me, who could resist a few minutes of sleep to watch someone make ooey, gooey, cheesy shrimp tacos. Not just great looking food (even for 2 in the morning), but quick and easy, with all the ingredients in your fridge? Not I.

If you love tacos, Mexican or Texican, you have got to make these tomorrow.
One reminder, these are not the Baja-Style Shrimp Taco with the shredded cabbage and salsa fresca or the fried fish tacos that we are all familiar with. After an extensive search on Google, I thought I saw one that could have been, but turned out not too. There did not seem to be anything similar to these out there, until I change the tortilla from corn to flour.

Corn tortillas, like crepes, don't always cook the way you expect and a few (at least in my kitchen) end up in the "do over" file.

Once I got the technique under my belt, these were perfect and good, really good. Make a batch, keep them on a towel lined sheet pan in a warm oven and you have a great starter for a party, in under thirty minutes.

I used a can of petite diced tomatoes with chipotle peppers, jalapenos and a mixture of cheddar and Jack cheeses (it's what I had in the fridge). Better yet, buy a container of store made fresh salsa and use that. Three ingredients, doesn't get any easier than that. Now, you have no excuse to make these.

Let's get cooking.......

Cheesy Shrimp Tacos (Encamaronadas)
Adapted from Mexico-One Plate at a Time, Season 9
* 12 ounces (2 medium-small round or 4 or 5 plum) ripe tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch pieces
* Fresh serrano chiles to taste, (roughly 3 to 5), or even more if you like it really picante), stemmed, seeded if you wish, and finely chopped
* ¼ cup chopped cilantro, thick bottom stems removed
* 1 large garlic clove, peeled and very finely chopped
* 1 small white onion, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon Mexican hot sauce (such as Valentina or Tamazula), plus extra for serving
* 1 tablespoon ketchup
* 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (optional, but you might like the zing it adds)
* Salt
* About 1/3 cup vegetable oil, divided use  .
* 1 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined if you wish, and chopped into pieces a little smaller than ½ inch
* 15 corn tortillas
* 8 ounces shredded Mexican melting cheese (full-flavored Chihuahua or Jack cheese work best)

Making the” salsa.” Scoop the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, garlic and white onion into a bowl and mix well.  Stir in the hot sauce, ketchup and optional lime juice. Taste and season with salt, usually about a scant teaspoon.

Making the shrimp filling. Heat a very large (12-inch), heavy skillet—nonstick works really well—over medium-high. Pour 2 tablespoon oil into the bottom and when it is hot, add the “salsa” vegetables.  Cook, stirring regularly, until everything softens together, about 5 minutes. Scoop in the shrimp and stir until they are barely cooked through (they can still be slightly translucent at the center)—about 3 minutes. Scoop the shrimp mixture into a bowl, wash and dry the skillet, and return it to medium heat.

Assembling the encamaronadas.  Spoon just enough oil to film the bottom of the skillet. There should be no waves when you rock the pan. This is important to get the correct browning of the tortillas. If the melted cheese hits a pool of hot oil, it just sticks to everything, the pan, the flipper and the tortillas, making a mess. Trust me when I tell you this, you will thank me.
When hot, lay in a tortilla. After a few seconds, flip it, then scatter a couple of tablespoons of shredded cheese over one side, top with a generous tablespoon of the filling. Use tongs to fold the uncovered part of the tortilla over the filling, forming a turnover. Gently press flat. Continue to make encamaronadas in the same fashion until the skillet is full, frying them until crisp—2 to 3 minutes per side (I made one at a time because I used the wrong sized pan). As they become crisp, remove them to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve right away with more Mexican hot sauce or a lime crema for dipping.

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October 13, 2013

Savory Sweetpotato Cake {Recipe Redux Sponsored Recipe Contest}

I think everyone just wishes Fall would be the boss and kick Summer's butt. Let's turn on that oven and get baking already! Every food site is pushing hard for cold weather dishes, and I noticed more potato recipes then I remember in past years, to the point of putting me on the verge of tiring of something I can't even eat.
I think that when the California Sweetpotato Council decided to allow Recipe Redux members among the first to introduce their sweetpotatoes to the US, I was so totally ready to immerse myself in the challenge.
Diabetics can LOVE sweetpotatoes!! Bring 'em on babee!!

You may think I need new glasses and my spelling is atrocious but this time I am ignoring spell check. No, it's not a typo. The California Sweetpotato Council has decided that their potato is not in fact a "sweet potato" and is from now on calling them, using one word. OK, we all know the confusion of calling yams, sweet potatoes, and sweet potatoes, yams. We all figured they were the same vegetable. Not true, but now there are three. Yams. sweet potatoes and California sweetpotatoes.

Yams are from the south, brought there by African slaves, from the Caribbean and Asia. They have a yellow interior which is dry and starchy and during the 1700's, was what they cooked. That's why, still to this day, you might see yam pies in with the other traditional Fall pies.
The center of origin and domestication of the red fleshed sweet potato is thought to be either in Central America or South America. In Central America, sweet potatoes were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago. They traveled up through Mexico and ended up in California.

So, now that we know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, you may be asking yourself where the California sweetpotato fits in?

In California, sweet potatoes are grown differently than anywhere else in the world. They are grown in soft sand and are hand sorted during harvest to minimize scarring and scratching. They are also available year-round. The different colors have different interiors. Their skin is smooth, the color is amazing, the interior is perfect and they were the sweetest sweet potato I have ever eaten. I had a blast cooking with three of them, not to mention the nutritional benefits. California sweetpotatoes are a “nutrition bang for the calorie buck” with 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, a good source of vitamin C and more than a day’s worth of vitamin A, all for 105 calories per serving (1 medium size, cooked). Plus, they are available year-round.

“I received free samples of California sweetpotatoes mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Sweetpotato Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

For this dish I chose a Covington (orange). They say it is a favorite for mashing and roasting with a super sweet orange flesh and they were right. This sweetpotato was extremely sweet and with the caramelized onions, you would swear I added a sweetener of some sort. I did not.

This cake is delicious!! and nothing like you have ever eaten. Usually made with white potatoes, Italians may point and say "hey, mi excure!"  because they will recognize the technique and a few of the ingredients but the sweetpotato will confuse them and I say to them "ehi, scusate voi", there is room for all, and that all just happens to be something that would appeal to everyone (especially Diabetics), of any age.

The beauty of this recipe?.....you can switch out the cheese and the meats. Grilling a porterhouse? No problem, how about a good blue cheese? Southwestern Tex-Mex, Jack and Cheddar...say hello to chorizo. Let's not forget a nutty Gruyere paired with Ham!!
I created this recipe to have fun with. Super simple, and, it can be made a few days in advance, with a quick blast in the oven and a browning under the broiler. This might well become your annual sweetpotato dish on your Thanksgiving table.

Savory Sweetpotato Cake
Yield: 4-6 servings

* 1 large California Sweetpotato (Covington variety)
* 1/2 small white onion, sliced thin
* 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
* 2 sprigs fresh thyme
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* Salt & pepper
* 1 ounce Neufchatel cheese
* 3 tablespoons light cream
* 2 eggs
* 2 ounces both fresh mozzarella and smoked mozzarella, grated
* 3 (1/2-inch) slices both sopressata and salami, minced
* 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

* 6" spring form pan or a 6x8-inch casserole

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place one large or two medium sweetpotato on a rack inside a sheet pan. Poke a few holes in the skin.
2. Roast for 45 minutes or until a skewer easily slides into and out of the flesh.
3. Remove, cut open and cool to the touch.
4. While the sweetpotatos are roasting, melt a tablespoon of unsalted butter in a heavy bottomed skillet and saute the onions and garlic until they are soft and browned (caramelized). Add the thyme and salt & pepper. Cool to room temperature.
5. Peel the sweetpotatoes and mash in a large bowl. Add the cheese, cream and eggs and the onion mixture that is now at room temperature. Mix to a smooth consistency.
6. Butter the baking pan and coat the inside with the breadcrumbs. Tap out the excess and reserve for the topping.
7. Spoon half of the sweetpotato mixture into the bottom of your baking pan, and using your fingers, gently press to the edges and make the top even.
8. Add both the mozzarella cheeses, the Parmesan and the meat to the top of the sweetpotato mixture.
9. Carefully cover the cheeses with the remaining sweetpotato mixture and use a spatula to smooth.
10. Cover the top with the remaining breadcrumbs and dot with the last of the butter.
11. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn on the broiler for 5 minutes until the top is browned. Remove and cool.
12. If using a spring form pan, release the spring and remove the side. If using a casserole pan, bring to the table and scoop out servings.

October 12, 2013

Failproof Sweetpotato Yeast Buns {Recipe Redux Sponsored Recipe Contest}

Sometimes I start with an idea and surprisingly end up with a successful recipe. Most times I don't, but I never know what will happen until I get down to business. The one thing I have learned is that there will be more failures than successes and not to get discouraged. If you firmly believe you have a good idea, stick to it.
Take this recent challenge.........
Recipe Redux members were among the first to be introduced to California sweetpotatoes!

Screeech!!!  Whoa, wait a minute. Yes, I know. We all thought California sweet potatoes have been around for as long as there has been farming. Well, not really. California sweet potatoes are not in fact a “sweet potato”- they are a different vegetable entirely. What we are being introduced to is the fact that California Sweetpotatoes will now be known as one word to emphasize to consumers that they are quite different from the white potato and other sweet potatoes out there.

What’s unique about California sweetpotatoes is that they are grown in soft sand and are hand sorted during harvest to minimize scarring and scratching. The result is a visually, higher quality (i.e., more attractive) sweetpotato. California sweetpotatoes are a “nutrition bang for the calorie buck” with 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, a good source of vitamin C and more than a day’s worth of vitamin A, all for 105 calories per serving (1 medium size, cooked). Plus, they are available year-round.

They are also a Diabetic Super Food. I don't think too many of us knew that either. The GI of a white potato depends totally on how you cook them. Steamed is the best, baked is the worse.
With a sweetpotato, the GI range is never out of 61-65.

I wanted to make a yeasty muffin/bun/roll-like English muffin but with sweetpotatoes. Took three tries with three different recipes. I just didn't give up. English muffins are normally cooked in metal rings on a flat top grill. I had two rings and two tuna cans but if this challenge was to be successful, I had to make it so anyone could do this. I cut 6 (4-inch) strips of heavy duty aluminum foil (you could make 8), folded them in half and then in half again to make a 4 ply 1" strip. Any metal pin or floral pick will hold the ends together but I don't know if tape might melt. I used a tuna can for the size and in 10 minutes I had six disposable round rings. (see pics)

This recipe requires no bread maker, dough hook or food processor. A simple bowl and wooden spoon will suffice. You don't even need to wait for the dough to rise, it only needs a thirty minute rest.

Instead of a griddle, I created these to bake in the oven. Can't get any easier than this. Your family will be asking for these muffins every Sunday and with Thanksgiving around the corner, split and toast them with some good jam and butter and suddenly everyone is in no hurry to run out the door, your guests will flip over your creativity. If you make 8 instead of 6, they will be a skinny version and more like the English muffins you are used too.

Consumers often mistakenly think that sweetpotatoes are yams. The California Sweetpotato Council also wants to set the record straight to clear up this confusion and shift the vernacular. Sweetpotatoes are sweet and moist, while yams are dry and starchy and not readily available in the U.S. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that there are varieties of sweetpotatoes called yams. Sweetpotatoes with orange interiors have a higher beta-carotene content than true yams. Sweetpotatoes are grown in the United States, while yams are imported from the Caribbean. (The scientific name of sweetpotato is Ipomoea batatas and it's a member of the morning glory family. A yam on the other hand belongs to the Yam plant family.)

“I received free samples of California sweetpotatoes mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Sweetpotato Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Let's get cooking.....

Sweetpotato Yeast Buns
makes 6 - 8

* 3/4 cup mashed California sweetpotato
* 1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
* 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
* 3/4 cup hot water
* 1 envelope pizza crust yeast
* 1 teaspoon salt, divided (1/2 tsp+1/2 tsp)
* 1/4 cup warm water
* 2 cups flour
* Vegetable spray

1. In a bowl combine, 3/4 cup hot water with milk, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool and add mashed sweetpotato, yeast and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir in flour until mixed completely, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350° and place a rack in the bottom of the oven.. Spray sheet pan and rings.
3. As soon as the dough puffs and you see bubbles, add the last of the salt, stir and spoon into the prepared rings, as evenly as you can. I used an ice cream scoop (2 scoops with a #20) to make it easier.
4. Use an offset spatula or spoon dipped in warm water to spread the dough to the edges.
5. Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove and cool completely before cutting rings away.
7. To serve, cut in half and simply toast as usual.

October 11, 2013

Sweetpotato, Pork and Wild Brown Rice Stuffed Cabbage {Recipe Redux Sponsored Recipe Contest}

Recipe Redux members were among the first to be introduced to California sweetpotatoes!
Sweet potatoes are not in fact a “sweet potato”- they are a different vegetable entirely.

Sweetpotatoes will now be known as one word to emphasize to consumers that they are quite different from the white potato and other sweet potatoes out there.
What’s unique about California sweetpotatoes is that they are grown in soft sand and are hand sorted during harvest to minimize scarring and scratching. The result is a visually, higher quality (i.e., more attractive) sweetpotato.
California sweetpotatoes are a “nutrition bang for the calorie buck” with 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, a good source of vitamin C and more than a day’s worth of vitamin A, all for 105 calories per serving (1 medium size, cooked). Plus, they are available year-round.

Consumers often mistakenly think that sweetpotatoes are yams. The California Sweetpotato Council also wants to set the record straight to clear up this confusion and shift the vernacular. Sweetpotatoes are sweet and moist, while yams are dry and starchy and not readily available in the U.S. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that there are varieties of sweetpotatoes called yams. Sweetpotatoes with orange interiors have a higher beta-carotene content than true yams. Sweetpotatoes are grown in the United States, while yams are imported from the Caribbean. (The scientific name of sweetpotato is Ipomoea batatas and it's a member of the morning glory family. A yam on the other hand belongs to the Yam plant family.)

Aren't these babies gorgeous. I know I sound like a broken record, but I swear, they roast better, they are sweeter, the skins on mine were unblemished and evenly colored and peeled easier.

The only other thing I need to say about sweetpotatoes is that because of this sponsored recipe contest I never would have known that sweetpotatoes are a Diabetic Super Food. I knew they were better than white potatoes but I did not know that unlike white potatoes, no matter which way a sweetpotato is cooked, the GI never goes over 65. They are void of the starch that plays havoc with our glucose.
So eat them up people, they are as good for you on the inside as they are on the outside.

Talk about a nutrition bomb of a dish. I seem to have included just about all the food families in one dish + a plethora of spices and herbs. I wanted to keep what can be a deceptively sneaky unhealthy dish, as healthy as I can without sacrificing flavor. 'Tis the season for stuffed cabbage but tired of the traditional Eastern European version with the raisins and brown sugar sweetened tomato sauce, I started out with the idea of stuffing the leaves with a beef stew-like mixture but with a few twists.

I needed to pump up the volume so I started with the main ingredient. I used a pork/turkey mix at about 1:2 ratio, used a brown & wild rice blend, added an assortment of spices I thought would go well with the meat mixture and rounded out the vegetables with roasted sweet potato.
For the gravy, a simple roasted turkey gravy that used the flavorful drippings instead of water. YUM!!

For those who have never eaten stuffed cabbage or have and weren't sure you would ever eat them again, you need to try this version.
The actual technique to blanch the cabbage is foolproof and requires nothing more than boiling a large pot of water and cutting out the core. The leaves will separate on their own and you simply remove them when they are pliable. Those leaves that are tough or unsuitable get used as bedding for the rolls. It keeps the rolls moist and separate, so they are easy to remove. So, so easy.

Rolls are placed in a baking dish, covered and placed in an oven for 90 minutes to 2 hours. This is also a perfect dish for your slow cooker. What I enjoyed the most about making this dish......the house did not smell like cabbage, it smelled like a spice garden and that is always a nice thing to come home too.

“I received free samples of California sweetpotatoes mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am
entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Sweetpotato Council and am eligible to win prizes
associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

The Covington variety of California Sweetpotato was used in the stuffing. This whole week I have had the pleasure of cooking with three different varieties of California Sweetpotato.

Stuffed Cabbage
makes 4-6 servings

* 1 large California Sweetpotato, roasted, peeled and mashed
* 1/2 pound ground pork
* 1 pound ground white turkey meat
* 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
* 2 eggs
* 1 package brown & wild rice mix (about 1 cup)
* 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
* 1 tablespoon both butter and olive oil
* 1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* White wine
* 1 large head green cabbage, core removed
* 1 can tomato-vegetable drink
* 1-1/2 cups roasted pork or turkey gravy (I used a packet of both)

Slow cooker stoneware insert with lid
or, Dutch oven with lid
or, large casserole pan with foil 

Bring a large stockpot of salted water to boil.
Preheat your oven to 350°.
Cut the core out of the head of cabbage but leave it whole.

1. Place the cabbage in the water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove all the leaves that are soft and pliable, to a platter, lined with paper towels. Repeat until all the larger leaves are blanched and remove the cabbage to a plate.
2. Roast the sweetpotato while the cabbage cooks.
3. Heat a fry pan and melt 1 tablespoon of both butter and olive oil. Saute the onions and garlic until they are caramelized and soft. Add the wine and the seasonings and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and cool.
4. In a large bowl, add the mashed California sweetpotato, the pork, turkey, eggs, rice mix, onion mixture and cheese. Stir and mix until everything is evenly distributed.
5. Place the large first few thick leaves in the bottom of a bake pan.
5. Cut the core out of the larger cabbage leaves, in a v-shape cut, about 1" into the leaf.
6. Lay a leaf on a work surface and spoon a large amount of filling on to the bottom middle of the cabbage.
Roll the core side up and over the filling, while bringing the sides up and over the core, rolling until the filling is tightly encased in the cabbage leaf.
7. Place the cabbage rolls side-by-side in the baking pan. When that is full, add the rest of the unused, smaller cabbage leaves over the stuffed rolls (saving a few for the top) and repeat until all the meat mixture is gone. If there are no more leftover leaves, you could use a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit.
8. Pour the tomato-vegetable juice over the cabbage rolls and cover the pan tightly.
Bake for 2 hours, piercing a roll with a knife after 90 minutes to test for doneness. If the knife hits no resistance, the cabbage rolls are done. 
9. Remove the rolls to a platter and tent to keep warm. Remove the used cabbage and drain the drippings. Make your gravy using the drippings.

October 7, 2013

Spicy Sweetpotatoes and Peas {Recipe Redux Sponsored Recipe Contest}

“I received free samples of California sweetpotatoes mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Sweetpotato Council and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Are you like me? Is walking into the produce section at Whole Foods a religious experience? Do you punch your spouse and yell "Stop the car!" when you pass a farmer's market? Do you buy zucchini because they just happen to be shiny smooth and nick-free when in fact you were there to purchase eggplants?
Just look at these beauties. Just as beautiful as that huge fruit basket you always wish you got at Christmas.
Yes, I am ga-ga over potatoes.
I have a small confession to make. I couldn't think of cooking them, really, they were simply too pretty.
Each one was hand wrapped in a blue paper towel.
I had Orange Covingtons, Tan O'Henrys and Red Dianes. Did you know they even came in different colors and varieties? I didn't.
Bet you also did not know that these sweetpotatoes are in fact not a "sweet potato" - they are a different vegetable entirely. OK, I know you must think I lost my mind, but the truth is, California sweetpotatoes are grown in soft sand and are hand sorted during harvest to minimize scarring and scratching.
So from this time forward, California Sweet Potatoes will now be one word.

As beautiful as this vegetable is on the outside, it is just as gorgeous on the inside. As potatoes go, a sweetpotato is LOW on the Glycemic Index (63-66 as compared to a white potato at 95). That, my friends, is a good thing and not just to Diabetics. It's the MVP of the potato industry. Totally low carb, low cholesterol and low in saturated fat, they are full of Vitamin A and C, fiber and protein and all for only 105 calories per serving.

Why would you not want to eat a sweet potato everyday? I absolutely love them, all of them.

I created this recipe for those who want a simple side, healthy but with lots of flavor.

Spicy Sweetpotatoes and Peas
Serves 6

* 1 1/4 lb. California sweetpotatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 3 teaspoons honey
* 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided (2T + 1T)
* 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, mashed
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup water
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas

1. In a small bowl, mix together the honey, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, the chipotle pepper in adobo, cinnamon and the cardamon. Set the honey mixture aside.
2. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium low heat. Add the sweetpotatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and cook another five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the sweetpotatoes from sticking. Add the onion, butter salt, the remaining tablespoon vinegar and 1/4 cup water. If you are using fresh peas, add them at this point. Cool, stirring constantly, until the onion just begins to brown -- about five minutes.
3. Pour the honey mixture over the vegetables; if you are using frozen peas, stir them in now. Cook the vegetables, stirring constantly, for another two minutes and then transfer them to a serving dish.

Calories: 128 Protein: 2g Cholesterol: 5mg Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 2g Sodium: 98mg

October 3, 2013

Rum-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Ready for a 1-2-3 meal?
I have not been cooking much, just finally getting over a bout with pneumonia and able to eat adult food (not that I don't love soup). The good news is The Nudge finally learned how to roast pork.

Even though I love to challenge myself in the kitchen, there is always room for a recipe that has 2 steps and a glaze that is also the sauce. I printed this out one out weeks ago and it proved to be the perfect recipe for a newbie chef.

This glaze is great. Full of flavor, it kept the pork tender and moist without overpowering. The Nudge especially liked the addition of the mustard. Since I did not have apple jelly, we used a pepper jelly but feel free to go with what the original recipe called for.

Rum-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Adapted loosely from Cook's Country

* 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup Tobasco brand pepper jelly
* 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons spiced or dark rum
* 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons molasses
* 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
* 1 (1lb) pork tenderloin, cleaned and tied

1. Simmer sugar, jelly, rum, vinegar and molasses over medium heat, stirring occassionally, until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Off heat whisk in mustard and cilantro. Cover.
2. Season tenderloin with salt and pepper and grill over hot fire until browned on all sides (about 10 minutes). Brush with glaze and cook until the meat registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes total (Ours was roasted in our toaster oven at 425° for 30 minnutes).

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