Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sweet Potatoes - Beyond Mini-Marshmallows

    A few months ago, the extended Yates family had a pitch-in type meal together.  I was lucky to be seated at a table with one of my nieces, Madison, and my nephew Dustin who happens to be her brother. Their dad, Uncle Russell, is super fit and into healthy eating in a big way. He had brought a sweet potato casserole to share and it was really good, but the kids didn't have any of it on their plates. When I asked them why, Dustin said, "I just can't do it.  Ever since Dad heard Dr. Oz say that sweet potatoes are one the healthiest vegetables, he has made them every night. He only knows two ways to do it, plain or with marshmallows." Maddie agreed saying, "We just can't take it anymore!"  Since then, it's been on my mind to come up with some varied sweet potatoes recipes that would make Uncle Russell happy and that Maddie and Dustin would love.  I eagerly took the challenge of coming up with yummy dishes where sweet potatoes were the most important ingredient and the steps were quick and easy. I have been trying these out and testing them on Roy and the girls.  My favorite is the Spicy Sweet Potato Tacos. They are great on a Friday night with a beer - or in my case a non-alcoholic malt beverage! Roy loves the The Sweet Potato Side Salad is also in Easy Autumn Meal post. It received good reviews from all who tried it- no one refused to put it on their plate :)!

Smoky Sweet Potato Soup - serves 4
2 sweet potatoes                                                                  
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 (15 oz.) cans of chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.  Set them aside.  Rinse, drain, and set aside the beans.  Saute the onion and celery in the olive oil until they are soft.  Add the sweet potatoes, beans, and the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer until the sweet potato pieces are done.  Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Side Salad-serves 4 to 6
2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 tart green apples, diced
2 stalks of celery diced
1/4 cup of finely diced purple onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes.  Cook them in salted water until tender but not overdone.  Cook the rice according to the package directions.  Put the sweet potato cubes, rice, apple, celery, and oinion in a bowl.  Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together. Pour the vinegar and oil mixture over the ingredients in the bowl and gently toss.  This is refreshing chilled or equally as good at room temperature.

Spicy Sweet Potato Tacos - makes 12 tacos
2 large sweet potatoes 
1 pound package of bulk chorizo
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
12 corn taco shells
16 oz. package of queso fresco cheese
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.  Cook in salted water until tender, but not mushy! Drain and set aside. Brown and thoroughly cook the chorizo, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain any grease from the chorizo. In a large bowl, gently combine the sweet potatoes, chorizo, black beans, and cilantro. Spoon the mixture into taco shells and top with crumbled queso fresco cheese.  If desired, provide lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream on the side.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Disastrous Macaroons and Delicious Meringues


                                                Light as a Cloud Meringues =  Many Sweet Options!

A few weeks ago I was thrilled when Yates Yummies got a milestone hit!  Blogspot has a statistics feature that keeps track of how many times the blog has been looked at.  I can't see who visited this site, but the stats do share the search words that people googled to get here.  Some are pretty amusing.  My all time favorite happens to be, "is eating white chocolate with sangria dangerous?"  Recently the August 5th post, "Jose's Chocolate Dipped Macaroons", started getting an inordinate number of hits.  Out of curiosity I googled the words "Jose" and "Macaroons".  Up came the page with Google's suggested web sites.  All websites but my blog directed people to Jose Marechal and his book Irresistible Macaroons.  It turns out that these multicolored cute little egg-white/ ground almond cookies are supposed to be the new cupcake in the foodie world.  Intrigued, I hit on the Amazon link and ordered the book.  When the book arrived, I decided to give it a whirl.  What a lot of effort and what a disaster it turned out to be!  With all the steps that had to be taken - ground the almonds, make a paste with the nuts, boil water and sugar, incorporate it in with egg whites, etc. - I realized I was out of my league! However, as I was whipping up the egg whites I got a flash from the past.  Several years ago, I was lucky to spend some time with a friend from New Zealand whose husband was briefly working in the U.S.  Her trademark offering at pitch-ins were melt in your mouth meringue cookies. She would top them with whipped cream and sometimes kiwi slices. Once she made a classic Pavlova which is one large round meringue filled with fruit and whipped cream. Quickly, I threw my disastrous macaroons in the trash and dug out the handwritten recipe she gave me. It was so simple and so easy!  I made a batch and had a lot of fun pairing them with different sweet combinations.  My favorite involves the Luscious Lemon Curd recipe given below, especially because it's a great use of the egg yolks not used for the meringues.  I also made some smaller sized meringues to make sandwich cookies with various fillings. Ice cream was a great pairing as well.

Simple Meringues
3 egg whites (set eggs out a couple hours before hand)
3/4 cup of sugar
pinch salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (makes it a little easier for eggs to whip up)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Follow the steps below:

Place parchment paper on cookie sheet and draw circles the size you prefer for your meringues

Break eggs open and separate whites from yolk by passing yolk back and forth between the shell halves

Beat the eggs, salt, vanilla, and cream of tartar on high until they reach a soft peaks stage

Gradually beat all the sugar in until the mixture is glossy and stiff

Put a tablespoon or two in your drawn circles and spread the mixture flat with the help of a spoon

Bake at 275 degrees in a preheated oven for one hour, then turn the heat off, keep the door closed, till cooled (all night is ok)

Layer with fruit and whipped cream (or Cool Whip!)

or topped with ice cream

As sandwich cookies filled with raspberry jam, Nutella, and orange marmalade

With luscious Lemon Curd - my favorite!

 Luscious Lemon Curd:  In a pan over medium low heat, whisk together the 3 left over egg yolks,  the juice of 2 lemons, and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Then stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture gets thick, being careful never to let it boil.  Take it off the heat and stir in 4 tablespoons butter (I used "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter) until combined.  This is absolutely divine on toast in the morning or as a filling between two layers of a yellow cake frosted with whip cream!