Sweet Potato Two Ways

I have never made sweet potatoes before. Never. Not for Thanksgiving – someone else brings that horrible, orange dish. Not ever.

I do not make sweet potatoes as I do not like sweet potatoes. Not even with marshmallows. OK, especially with marshmallows. Which belong in cookies and ice cream (Mallomars & Phish Food, for example) and not potatoes, in my book.

But in my weekly CSA Farm Share I kept getting sweet potatoes. Along with info about how healthy sweet potatoes are: that they have as much Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene as carrots, and other such stuff. So I decided to search for a sweet potato recipe that looked even vaguely appealing.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I found not 1 but 2 easy and delicious (!) sweet potato recipes from Cooking Light.

My favorite was Curry Spiced Sweet Potatoes. It was not the prettiest dish (mine were not beautifully textured like this picture – because I don’t enjoy lumpy potatoes, I whipped them with a hand mixer which maybe wasn’t the best plan), but it was easy to make and incredibly flavorful. I served it with my new favorite oh-so-easy chicken-in-a-bag and happily ate leftovers of both for lunch all week. Thank you, Cooking Light – always my go-to source for low fat yet delicious recipes.

If curry is not your thing or you are looking for a sweet potato dish that’s a tad more traditional, then you should give Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions a whirl. I found this recipe on Cooking Light as well, but frankly, it’s so easy it doesn’t even need a recipe. Just crank the oven to 425, drizzle olive oil on the large-bite-size diced sweet potatoes and onions, add some pepper and diced garlic and roast for about 30 minutes. My one small quibble with this Cooking Light recipe is that it calls for 3/4 teaspoon of something called ‘garlic-pepper blend.’ Instead, use freshly ground pepper and a few cloves of diced fresh garlic for great, fresh flavor and no additives. Done this way, this sweet potato dish was tasty enough for my 16 year old. Which as you know is no small feat.

The only trouble I had with these dishes was my suggestion to serve them at Thanksgiving. My idea to replace the 13x9x2 pan bubbling with an orange mess of marshmallowed-brown-sugared sweet potatoes was rejected. Indeed, laughed at.

OK, the curry one, I get. Even I wouldn’t serve them to my 85-year-old in-laws on a holiday. But the oven roasted sweet potatoes and onions dish I thought had possibilities.

Apparently, not so much. No one wants to mess with tradition. So I will maintain my traditional stance of hating sweet potatoes – the ones with marshmallows.

Then I will come home and make these sweet potato dishes to have with leftover turkey. Maybe my son will even join me.

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The Salad Surprise

So there I was, feeling all virtuous about my Sunday dinner planning. My husband and son were having steak and fries but I was going lo-co and making a one-person salad using lettuce from my CSA farm share, topped with warm chicken (which I had roasted 2 days ago!) avocado and tomato.

Nevermind that this plan came together at, oh, 6:30 pm with me getting provisions on the way home from tennis. I’d had all day to plan a healthy dinner – my son’s baseball game was cancelled – but I was busy, OK? Had to upgrade our iPhones to iOS 5.

And let me just say that my upgrade went fine but my husband’s, not so much. Sigh.

But I got that fixed…and exercised…and shopped…and so now it’s 7:00 pm on Sunday night, and we are making dinner together: Michael grilling away and me shredding lettuce. Such a warm family tableau (please ignore that our son is on computer for 8th straight hour.)

I even scored points with my husband by turning on our it-takes-20-minutes-to-preheat oven for the french fries I was NOT going to eat.

They were short-lived points. Lasted only until the timer binged and the fries were not even remotely crispy. (The oven warmed to it’s default 350 and Michael, without noticing the 450 temp listed on the Ore-Ida bag, had simply shoved in the cookie-sheeted fries…see prior post about men and directions).

So now it’s 7:30 and we have one nice-looking, totally low cholesterol salad, two perfect steaks and very mushy fries. With much husbandly grumbling, up went the oven temp and in again went the fries.

Finally, at 7:45, we sit down to eat. Our son takes one look at his plate, heaped with steak and fries and broccoli and says, ‘THANKS, this looks great.’

Then he glances at my big bowl of salad and his eyebrows raise. Doesn’t say a word, but doesn’t have to. He is visibly sad for me.

Ordinarily, I’d add the fact that I’d passed down my I HATE SALAD feelings to the ever-growing list of my failures as a mom. But in this case, I’m off the hook as he is allergic to lettuce. (Truly – allergist said so, ridiculous as it seems.)

So I smile and say, “I think my salad looks great.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

“Uh, sure Mom,” my son mutters and shovels in a forkful of steak.

Still sweetly smiling at him, I take a bite, then spit it out. “Uh, honey?” says my husband. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s, um, really chewy.” I try another lettuce leaf thinking maybe something was wrong with the first piece. But no, the second is the same. “And, it tastes like dirt.”

“Did you wash it?” I roll my eyes at my husband. Luckily my son is transfixed by his so-not-low-cholesterol dinner. (See, I really am a terrible mother.)

“Sorry,” my husband says. “That was a stupid question.” I nod. (You know this conversation, right?) “What kind of lettuce is it?” he asks. “Green leaf, is what I thought,” I say. “But it’s really weird – bitter and chewy.”

After gulping my Montepulciano (what, I didn’t mention my wine?) I go over to my Mac and search for the ‘what’s in your box this week’ email explaining what’s in this week’s CSA farm share. As I read it, I start to laugh.

“What is it, Mom?” (Oh, so the 16 year old was listening…who knew?) “Escarole,” I say. “What’s that?” he asks. “A green that you usually cook,” I say. “Not eat raw in salads.”  Staring at my bowl of green uncooked leaves, he says, “So you CAN’T eat it raw?”

“No, you CAN,” I say. “But apparently,” I continue, reading from my screen, “it tends to be chewy and bitter unless you cook it.”

“Oh.” My son turns to my husband. “Dad can you pass the steak please?” My son holds the platter out to me. “There’s plenty left, Mom.”

But I don’t spear a piece of steak. Instead, I pour another glass of wine – a big one – and slowly eat the uncooked escarole topped with no-longer-warm-chicken, avocado and tomato. The wine gets me through it. Well, most of it.

Later, I reward myself with Mallomars. Did you know they are back ‘in season‘ (not even joking), so are piled high at supermarket cash registers everywhere right now. This is a real problem for me.  Almost as bad as Easter candy and Girl Scout cookies.

I wonder if 2 3 OK OK, it was 4 Mallomars (with a glass of skim milk, I’ll have you know) has more cholesterol than steak and fries.

If I can get up the courage to look, I’ll let you know.

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From Furry to Flavorful

Big points to anyone who can identify this vegetable.

Here’s a hint: the Japanese translation is “Beans on Branches.”

What? You still can’t guess? Well, you are in good company. Two weeks ago, my friend Lisa and I met at the town farm to pick up our weekly CSA produce share, and this furry mess of green stalks was sticking out of the top of our boxes. Lisa, who knows more about veggies than anyone I know, was momentarily stumped. I was completely clueless.

Turns out, these are edamame (eh-dah-MAH-meh), or fresh soybeans. Lisa figured it out by plucking one of the green fuzzy pods from the stalk, opening it up and nibbling. Who knew that fabulous appetizer of hot, salted pods I always order at sushi restaurants grew on massive, messy stalks? And that soybeans grow in Connecticut?

Certainly not me. And apparently not many others either, as the ‘leave-a-veggie / take-a-veggie’ bin was overflowing with soybean stalks.  Here’s a close-up pic (thank you iPhone) so you can see the beans hidden in the branches.

Having absolutely no idea how to turn this mess of furry stalks into the delicious and nutritious edamame I love to order, I put the pile on the kitchen counter and started googling. Meanwhile my husband, unbeknownst to me, did not await direction (are there any men who ask for directions? Ever?) but simply stripped the pods off the stalks, piled them on the counter, then left.  Thank you, Michael!

Plucking the pods from the stalks is the only hard part of this recipe (and you will probably not have to bother, as you’ll be using frozen soybean pods…because, hey, what are the odds a bunch of fresh soybean stalks has landed in your kitchen?) Once you have pods, it’s just minutes to a delicious, healthy lo-co treat.

The recipe I chose (end result pictured here) was penned by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, both recently on Top Chef Masters, and it’s online at the Food Network site: Edamame: Cooked Fresh Soybeans. What I love about this recipe is these are two seriously accomplished chefs so the end result is great, they’ve made it clear and easy what you should do – and not do, and the recipe calls for either fresh soybean stalks OR FROZEN!

So why should you try edamame? It’s ridiculously easy to make and is a terrific high fiber, cholesterol-lowering snack. Here’s how a Cooking Light online article (which includes 10- count’em-10 recipes) describes edamame:

“Edamame are as addictive as peanuts but with far less fat―only 3 grams per ½ cup, all of which is the heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated kind. Because they are high in protein (8 grams per ½ cup), they make an ideal choice for getting your 25 grams of soy protein daily, which can help reduce cholesterol when part of a low-fat diet. Edamame also provide 4 grams of fiber per ½ cup.”

Either way – using furry stalks or frozen pods – give this recipe a go.  You’ll be rewarded with a delicious, nutritious, lo-co treat.

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