Monday, March 30, 2009

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup with Sausage

I ended up making this soup tonight instead of the gnocchi I had planned. I had great plans to grill Italian sausage and vegetables this weekend, but it rained for four days straight, so I needed a way to use them up. This was a great find! I ate the leftovers without sausage, and it was just as good.

The recipe is adapted from Rachael Ray. She uses bacon, which I'm sure would also be great.

Note: I always have chipotle peppers in the freezer - when I buy a can, I freeze individual peppers with adobo sauce in ice cube trays, then transfer them to a ziploc bag. Otherwise, I'd end up wasting most of the can since most recipes only call for 1-2.


4 sweet potatoes (2½ pounds), peeled and sliced 1 inch thick
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 links Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1/2 teaspoon thyme
One 32-ounce container chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated peel and juice of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Honey or maple syrup, for drizzling
1 cup sour cream, for passing around the table


1. In a large saucepan, add the sweet potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, in a medium pot, heat the oil. Add the sausage and crumble. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat. Add the onion, carrot, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and thyme and cook until the onions are softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, orange peel, orange juice and cinnamon; drizzle with honey/maple syrup and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the broth mixture to the sweet potatoes in the pot and puree with an immersion blender (alternatively, puree in batches in a blender or food processor). Serve the soup with the sour cream and sausage on top.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What We're Eating - Week of 3/30/09

I've been stocking up while grocery shopping the past few weeks, so this week I'm going to try to rely mainly on what I already have. My pantry and freezer are stuffed!


Gnocchi with Ricotta and Spinach

I'll make this slightly healthier with lower-fat dairy options, but let's face it: it's comfort food night.


***Frozen Pizza***!!!!

It's boys' night, because the night class I'm teaching is starting this night, and Jack has a baseball game. I always have a DiGiorno's pizza in the freezer for boys' night, and no one complains! Jack likes it better than homemade, to my chagrin.


Mongolian Beef
Brown rice

This recipe calls for cube steak, so I'll give it one more try: I wasn't a fan of the NYT cube steak recipe I tried a few weeks ago.


Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Artichokes, Lemon, and Cheese

I haven't made this Cooking Light recipe in years. It calls for goat cheese, but I'll use feta, mozzarella, or a combination.
Whole-Grain Bread


The breakfast sandwich

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pork and Peanut Dumplings

I made these delectable dumplings for my sister once, and she really liked them. When I made them for her, I was doing it from memory, so I'm sure I left a few things out. They're on the menu for this week, so it's a good time to post them.

The first time I made them was before Jack was born. I was cooking lots of freezer meals for us to have after the baby was born, and these were great. It was easy to take out just the number we needed and cook them - no need to thaw. They taste good dipped in soy sauce mixed with a bit of hot sauce and green onion, but just soy sauce is good, too.

Oh, and they're from Cooking Light, so they are quite healthy!

Pork and Peanut Dumplings

1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 cup diced mushrooms (can omit)
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon minced peeled gingerroot
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons sliced green onions
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
30 (3-inch) gyoza/wonton skins

Cook pork, gingerroot, diced mushrooms, and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well, and return pork mixture to skillet.

Combine chicken broth and cornstarch; stir well. Add to skillet; cook over medium heat 30 seconds or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, peanuts, green onions, soy sauce, and sugar.

Working with 1 gyoza skin at a time (cover remaining skins to keep them from drying out), spoon about 2 teaspoons pork mixture into center of each skin. Moisten edges of skin with water.

Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal. Place dumplings, seam sides up, on a baking sheet; cover loosely with a towel to keep from drying out.

To cook, heat a tablespoon of oil in a saute pan. Place dumplings 1/2 inch apart in pan, and cook until bottoms are golden brown. Add 1/4 cup water to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover with a pan cover or aluminum foil, and steam for 3-5 minutes, turning down heat to medium-low. Uncover and cook until water has evaporated.

Yield: 30 appetizers (serving size: 1 dumpling)

CALORIES 41 (29% from fat); FAT 1.3g (sat 0.4g,mono 0.6g,poly 0.3g); IRON 0.4mg; CHOLESTEROL 6mg; CALCIUM 6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 4.5g; SODIUM 71mg; PROTEIN 2.5g; FIBER 0.2g

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What We're Eating - Week of 3/23/09


I've never made falafel before, but I have some chickpeas in the freezer, so I thought it would be good to try them. If I have time, I may make the pita bread also.


Tuesdays are game days, and I will soon be teaching a night class on Tuesdays. I need to think of some good make-ahead or portable ideas.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches


My dear Aunt Tina is in town, so I know she and my parents will be coming over sometime this week. When they do, I think I'll make Chinese.

Pork and Peanut Dumplings
WW Sweet and Sour Chicken
Brown Rice


Pan-Seared Tilapia with Chili-Lime Butter

Sweet Potatoes



Grilled sausages with vegetables

Monday, March 16, 2009

Incredible Hulk Smoothies

UPDATE: Quick, make these and call them St. Patrick's Day smoothies - I got that suggestion from a friend on Facebook.
Green smoothie recipes are all over the internet these days. I got a huge bag of baby spinach the other day, and I thought I'd try these smoothies on the boys. Ben will already drink the green juice from Trader Joe's, so I figured this wouldn't be that much of a stretch. And it wasn't! They drank them right down, flexing muscles and tearing off shirts along the way.

You can sub juice and fruit and even greens with this formula - I just put some things together I thought they'd like. I suspect spinach will be easier to use than kale or another tougher green. Don't forget the frozen banana - it add sweetness, thickness, and creaminess.

Green Smoothies
Makes 3 medium or 2 large smoothies

2 frozen bananas, peeled
1 cup frozen mango, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, etc.
1 cup orange juice
Several handfuls baby spinach (I filled the blender to the top loosely)

Process the ingredients, adding more OJ or water if it is too thick. You'll probably need to stop and stir the smoothies midway through. Blend until you don't see big flecks of spinach.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What We're Eating - 3/16/09


homemade macaroni and cheese


We're moving St. Patrick's Day to Wednesday because there is too much going on on Tuesday.

Spinach Lasagna - I made it a few weeks ago and froze half. We'll have garlic bread, too.


Corned beef and cabbage, of course! I also have my Girl Scout Thin Mints that I saved. I'm going to make them into crumbs in the food processor and mix them with 2-3 T. melted butter. I'll press it into a spring form pan and bake for 10 minutes. When cool, I'll fill the crust with mint chocolate chip ice cream and serve with this hot fudge on the side:

Hot Fudge

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
5 ounces imported bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons whipping cream

Melt butter with corn syrup in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add chocolate, sugar and cream. Whisk until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill.)


Sriracha-Glazed Chicken and Onions over Rice


New York Strip steak on grill
Grilled Vegetables

Greek Layered Dip

This is a great, great recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. It's my favorite kind of food: fresh ingredients, reasonably healthy, definitely indulgent. It's party food with Mediterranean flavors. Think of a Mexican layered dip with Greek ingredients.
I added some Greek salad toppings. Be warned: this is garlicky!
Greek Layered Dip
8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups prepared hummus (or enough to cover cream cheese)
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped tomato
½ cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (reduced fat is fine, but I used more than 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
1/3 cup sliced green onions or diced red onions
pita chips or tortilla chips

1. In medium mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, and garlic with rubber spatula until smooth and well-combined.
2. Spread cream cheese mixture into deep 9-inch pie plate or oval platter. Spread hummus on top of cream cheese layer. Sprinkle on cucumber, then tomato, olives, feta, peppers, and onions.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Serve with pita chips or tortilla chips.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups of dip

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Roasted Carrots

I was going to make a salad tonight, but I have a huge bag of carrots in the refrigerator, so I decided to make roasted carrots. The boys prefer vegetables raw, but they'll eat some roasted veggies. I read somewhere that Julia Child said that nothing is worse than grilled vegetables. I don't understand that! Of course, she also boiled bacon, so I can see that she and I would have some divergent culinary tastes (not that I can compare myself to the woman who made French cuisine accessible to America!). How can you not love her? She advised, "If you are afraid of butter, use cream."

Anyway, Julia would not have enjoyed our carrots, but we loved them as usual. Did you know you really don't need to peel carrots unless you are eating them raw? Maybe everyone knew that except me. I never peel carrots that I am going to cook anymore, and no one notices. I do scrub them well, and if you are concerned about pesticides, it would be best to use organic or peel conventional ones.

Great roasted vegetables require olive oil and relatively high heat. Those elements make them irresistibly lush and caramelized. You want them a little bit blackened!

Roasted Carrots
6 carrots, scrubbed
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper

Trim the ends off the carrots. Cut them in half the long way and then into 1-2 inch pieces. Toss them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast them in a single layer on a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they are tender and slightly blackened. To make cleanup easier, line the pan with aluminum foil before cooking. Serves 3-4.

Monday, March 9, 2009


These had to be the hit of last week. They are sooo good: Jack said that they were the best bagels he's ever had. They are smaller than what you'd get at Einstein's, etc. I topped some of them this time with salt and sesame seeds, but we're thinking asiago cheese and cinnamon sugar would be good as well.

It's amazing that a change in technique can make flour, salt, yeast, and water taste so different. This recipe follows the traditional method of boiling, then baking. I'm estimating that each bagel is about 130 calories, which is much better than the typical 300 calorie bagel you can buy.

King Arthur Flour Bagels

Note: These bagels require a starter that develops overnight. You could also make the starter in the morning and make the bagels after 6-8 hours. If you use active dry yeast as I did instead of instant (which is not the same as Rapid Rise), your rise time will be longer.


1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) King Arthur (or other brand) Unbleached Bread Flour

1/4 cup (2 ounces) cool water

pinch of yeast


4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) cool water

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Water bath

water to fill a 10" - 12"-diameter pan about 1" deep

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Combine the starter ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Next day, combine the puffy starter with all of the dough ingredients and knead—by hand, electric mixer, or bread machine—to form a stiff but not dry dough. Since we're using a high-protein bread flour here, you might notice it takes a bit more effort and time to develop the gluten. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (at least 8-cup) measuring cup, cover, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough, and let it rise for another 30 minutes. Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They'll puff up very slightly.

While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water and sugar to a very gentle boil in a wide-diameter (about 10") pan. A 10" electric frying pan works well here.

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of each ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole till it's about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 3 ½" across). Place each bagel on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Transfer the bagels, four at a time if possible, to the simmering water. Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil, if necessary. Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, or the end of a wooden spoon, remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Bake the bagels for about 22-25 minutes, or until they're as deep brown as you like. To top with seeds, remove them from the oven after about 15 minutes, spray with water or brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with seeds or kosher salt. Return to the oven to finish baking. Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a rack. Yield: 1 dozen chewy bagels.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What We're Eating - Week of 3/9/09

Bistec de Palomilla
chopped salad

A while ago I bought a bulk meat package from the local butcher. Included were some cube steaks that I had no idea what to do with. Recipes I found online were basically chicken-fried steak, which I'm sure would be delicious! I held out for something more healthy, and this week the NYT ran a story on the resurgence of cube steak popularity. This recipe is from that article. Oh, and of course they also included a chicken-fried steak with country gravy version!

Pizza Pouches

This "recipe" is on the Epicurious site, but it's basically taking pizza dough and lining a muffin tin, adding sauce, a meatball, and cheese. This will be good for a quick meal before baseball practice.

Grilled Pork Chops with Tomatillo and Green Apple Sauce
Roasted Potatoes

Baked Penne with Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes

This recipe is from MS's Everyday Food. It makes a double recipe - one to freeze. I love having meals in the freezer for later - it's like money in the bank!

Layered Greek Dip with pita chips

This is a Greek version of the popular Mexican layered dip - I'll post it if it's really good!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Giant Chipotle White Beans

I've had this recipe on my menu plan for weeks now, and I'm so glad I finally got around to making it last weekend. It is a recipe with several steps, so you may want to make it over a day or two. It's a great vegetarian meal that doesn't make you feel like something's missing. Flavorful, slightly spicy, warm, rich, and filling - yum!

Giant Chipotle White Beans (adapted from

1 pound of large, dried white beans (corona, giant limas, gigantes, or any giant white beans you can find), rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight - or up to 24 hours. You can follow the directions below, or if you'd rather use canned beans, use 2-3 cans of rinsed white beans.

Chipotle-tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 big pinches of red pepper flakes
2 pinches of salt
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 t. oregano, dried
1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers or chipotle salsa

Cilantro Pesto:
1 medium clove of garlic
1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
big pinch of salt

1 cup feta cheese

1 1/2 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs, toasted in a pan with 1 T. olive oil (I just used panko)

To prepare the beans: Drain and rinse the beans after their overnight soak. Then place them in a large saucepan and cover with an inch or two of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are cooked through and just tender. This can take anywhere from an hour to two hours (potentially more) depending on your beans, but do your best to avoid overcooking. Remove from heat, salt the beans (still in bean broth) with about a tablespoon of salt - enough that the bean liquid is tasty but on the salty side. Let the beans sit like this for ten minutes or so before draining and setting the beans aside.

In the meantime, make your tomato sauce. Place the 2 tablespoons olive oil, red pepper flakes, couple pinches of salt, and chopped garlic into a cold medium saucepan. Stir while you heat the saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute just 45 seconds or so until everything is fragrant - you don't want the garlic to brown. Stir in the tomatoes and the fresh oregano and heat to a gentle simmer, this takes just a couple minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the adobo sauce or chipotle salsa. Taste and correct seasonings.

Make the cilantro pesto by combining the clove of garlic and cilantro in a food processor. Pulse while you drizzle in the olive oil - alternately, you could do this by hand. Season with a bit of salt and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. In a 9x13 baking pan (or large oven-proof casserole/dutch oven) toss the beans with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the top-third of the oven for roughly twenty-five to forty minutes, I look for the cheese to start browning and any visible beans to get a bit crusty. Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes. Top the beans with the breadcrumbs and just before serving, drizzle with the cilantro pesto.

Serves about 6.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What We're Eating - Week of 3/2/09

This week is a busy one for me - I have to go to campus about 45 minutes away to give finals on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon/evening, so I need to leave something for dinner that will be quick and ready whenever the boys are ready to eat.

Fish tacos

Chicken Caesar salad wraps (deconstructed for the boys)
I can take this with me to my finals, and the boys can eat it whenever - helpful because Jack has baseball practice that night!

Hamburger Stroganoff
Comfort food from my childhood

Mexican lasagna

Kung Pao chicken
brown rice

Make-Ahead Projects for Sunday
  • Cook and freeze brown rice
  • Make Caesar dressing
  • Make sauce for fish tacos
  • Soak and cook black beans for Mexican lasagna
  • Make Kung Pao sauce
Weekly Baking
King Arthur Flour bagels - I've never made them from scratch
Cookies - giant chocolate chip