Sunday, January 23, 2011

Simple sweet potatoes

I remember back in grad school eating lunch with a friend who ordered a plain sweet potato. I asked him, What's up with that? And he said, I'm trying to appreciate the real flavor of food. No butter, no salt, no brown sugar. I never forgot the sentiment, although I don't quite live up to his example. I do, however, always keep a big bowl of sweet potatoes in my kitchen. They often become lunch, snack or even dessert.

These recipes aren't going to win any culinary awards, but they're oh so easy:

Simply baked
Scrub and pierce your sweets with a fork several times.
Stick in 400-degree oven for 30 min. No foil, except maybe under them to catch drippings.
After 30 min., turn off oven and leave potatoes in for an hour or more. This is the key; it brings out the natural sweetness and makes the texture incredibly smooth.
If you're cool as Claude, mash with a fork and enjoy. If you're less cool like me, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Simple sweet and salty fries
Scrub, cut off ends, then cut potato in half.
Cut into 1/2-wide sticks, leaving skin on.
Arrange on cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and dried rosemary.
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. No need to turn.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Continuing recipes from the Top 30 list referenced in this post. 

Grilled Portobello caps

This is a favorite standby at our house and makes a wonderful meatless entree.

1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt (I use less)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 portobello mushroom caps

Preheat grill for medium heat. In bowl, mix red bell pepper, garlic, oil, onion powder, salt and pepper. Spread mixture over gill side of the mushroom caps. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place mushrooms over indirect heat, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. (I also bake in oven on 375 degrees.) Sprinkle with balsalmic vinegar and blue cheese, and serve.

Mushroom Barley soup
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup each of chopped onions, carrots, celery, celery leaves
3 cups sliced mushrooms (use different varieties for richer flavor)
5 cups water
1/2 cup barley, uncooked
4 T. instant veggie broth mix
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
salt/pepper to taste

Heat oil in large pot. Add veggies and cook 5 min, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, simmer for at least an hour.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Zen eating

Late last year I decided to try to drop 10 pounds and hopefully ward off the impending need to buy a slightly bigger wardrobe. My plan: to eat healthier and exercise more. A novel concept, I know. I've been planning this endeavor for exactly 4 years and 3 months -- ever since Caroline was born and my body decided to take a different road from my mind.

So January 2 was the day. I was coming off of a nasty stomach virus that gave me about a 3-pound jump on my goal. Plus, it zapped my appetite for a while longer, enabling me to ease into a key component of my fit-into-my-jeans-by-spring strategy: the eatin' healthy part.

In a nutshell, I'm eating less carbs and sugar, more fresh foods. In case you're wondering what that means exactly, I'm eating no pasta or baked carbs like bagels, crackers or chips, less bread although I'll still eat a sandwich occasionally on whole wheat bread. No sugary desserts except small amounts of dark chocolate. No fruit teas or colas. No mindless snacking or grazing. All meals and snacks are deliberate and written down. Including the Krispy Kreme donut I accidently inhaled yesterday. I just threw that in there in case you were getting too impressed.

A couple of days ago, my blog buddy (and real-life friend, I'm now happy to say) posted this about the 30 Healthiest Foods in Real Simple magazine. I flipped out because I love nearly all of these foods and cook with them regularly. Okay, in case you're too ADHD to click the links, here are the foods in the list, although I encourage you to click the link because RS includes a simple recipe and a more involved one for each food. Plus, they tell you the nutritional benefit of each. Here goes: mushrooms, barley, walnuts, whole grain pasta, peanut and almond butters, old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, skim milk, almonds, lentils, blueberries, bulgur, eggs, sardines (this one I can do without!), spinach, kiwi, wild salmon, extra virgin olive oil, chicken breast, kale, avocado, kidney beans, sweet potatoes, chard, edamame, pumpkins, oranges, nonfat greek yogurt, broccoli, black beans.

Aren't these great? I don't think RS's list is some great revelation. I've been reading nutritional literature for years and many of these foods consistently make the top-foods lists. So I suppose I've finally internalized the information and started making these foods part of my everyday routine.

I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite -- and for the most part, easy -- recipes using these foods. I do this in honor of dear Bridget who's exploring her kitchen while she waits on her referral of a little girl from Ethiopia. Get cookin' Bridge, 'cause soon you'll have your hands full with other exciting adventures.

Zen Bowl (easy)
This recipe is hijacked from a wonderful Nashville restaurant that closed a few years ago, and it's incredibly flexible so you can customize to your tastes. It serves 2 adults, 2 kids.

1 cup uncooked brown rice
Cook it using 2.5 cups water

Place in steamer basket in large saucepan with 1/2-inch water:
- Sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (I leave peel on)
- Carrots, but into 1-inch lengths
- Mushrooms, halved
- Broccoli florets
- Zucchini or squash in cubes
- Onions, thickly sliced
- Green and red peppers in 1-inch pieces
Cover and steam about 10 minutes, until veggies are cooked but not squishy.

Rinse a can of black beans and heat. In another saucepan, place equal parts butter/margarine and soy sauce/tamari; heat until melted. I use about 3 tablespoons of each.

Place dollop of rice on plate; top with veggies; sprinkle with black beans and drizzle with tamari butter. Sprinkle with a little shredded cheddar, and add hot sauce to taste.

Add a handful of fresh spinach to the top of your steam basket.
Add cubed tofu; I usually saute it in soy sauce first
Add or subtract any veggie

Bam! You've got 4-5 of the top foods in one recipe -- 6 if you try this: add some lentils and extra water to your rice. My kids love brown rice, but were wary of a lentil. So on impulse, I added a few to their rice one night and they didn't even notice.

Edited to add: Just read my Zen Eating title on another blog roll and realized it sounds much more deep and philosophical than this post really is. Sorry if you made it this far and feel misled. I have a minor in marketing, so I know how to suck you in with a good headline then really let you down. Like this: Title: How to Lose Weight in Two Easy Steps
Article: Step one: Eat less. Step two: exercise more.

Also, with a kid hanging on each arm every time I sit down, I no longer have time for deep and philosophical. However, I can direct you to several blogs that do that much better than I. If you're in the mood for light summer beach reading, you've come to the right place.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Doro wat recipe

Here's the recipe I mention in my previous post. It's "borrowed" from someone I can't remember or I would give credit. I've always made it with niter, so I'm not sure if it would be as flavorful with just butter. Enjoy!

Doro Wat (Spicy Chicken Stew)
1½ lb. chicken (I like to use boneless thighs)
1 cup onion (diced)
1 Tbs. Garlic (minced)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
¼ cup butter or niter kebbeh
1 tsp. salt
¾ cup chicken stock or broth
1 tsp. ginger
¼ cup red wine (dry)
½ tsp ground fenugreek
¼ cup berbere (reduce to a couple TBL to lessen spiciness)
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp nutmeg
4 eggs (hard boiled)
1 8oz can tomato sauce

Marinate chicken for 1 hour in lemon juice. Remove and pat dry. Brown onions in a pan with little or no oil. Add Niter or butter, stock, wine, tomato sauce and all spices and mix well. Add chicken and cook for 30-40 minutes. If sauce is too thick, add water or stock; if thin, make a rue. Pierce eggs with fork and add to pan. Cook for another 15 minutes. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The doro wat dilemma

Dawit and I love doro wat. Unsupervised, we can do some serious damage to single recipe in one sitting. Ideally I would temper my indulgence with extra berbere. Heat slows me down. But it doesn't seem right light up my 2-year-old for the sake of portion control. Regardless, I do struggle over how much berbere to use. Once I made it according to the recipe (1/4 cup) for a dinner party of ET food newbies. They all loved it, but I had to hand out do-rags so they could mop their brows. Now I cut the berbere in half (~2T) for guests.

Today I cut it in half again hoping both my kids could handle it. It had a slight bite, but not enough, I guessed, to bring on tears. (Note: I'm not always the best judge of temperature -- food or bath.) So I dished up mostly chicken without the sauce, then turned to fix my own plate. Next thing I know Caroline's running for the bathroom hollering, "Mama, the chicken's spicy. I need water." So I fix her up with some milk and injera and turn to check on Dawit. Not only had he finished all his chicken, he's holding up his plate saying, "More! More chicken." So I transfer Caroline's chicken to his plate and give him a high five. My little man is tough.

Does anyone need some berbere? At this rate, I'll have enough to send some with Dawit to college.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas goes on

We had a lovely day in Ooltewah with a houseful of seriously excited -- and cupcake buzzed -- kids.

This was before the chaos began. Once the tearing began I was too busy refereeing to snap any pictures.

Birthday girl Sarah Jane, getting a kiss from her Pop:

Then the icing began...

And here's our newest addition Susannah Kate with her mom (and our wonderful hostess) Tara.