STUFFED SWEET POTATOES: A Thanksgiving (Or Anytime) Treat!

stuffed sweet potatoes text

Sweet potatoes of some sort have become an integral part of Thanksgiving in the US. Sadly, they’re often dumped out of a can, sprinkled with brown sugar, then topped with marshmallows. Sigh!

I will agree that sweet potatoes can use some flavoring, so I decided to find a better way than covering them with sugar. Stuffing them offers the benefit of utilizing the skin, PLUS being able to assemble them ahead of time – a huge bonus when you’re trying to get a holiday dinner on the table.

STUFFED SWEET POTATOES – makes 2 servings

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed & minced
  • 1/3 cup scallions, sliced (use whites and greens)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 oz (1/2 cup) jack cheese, shredded (I like jalapeño jack for an extra kick)

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Wash unpeeled sweet potato and pierce with a sharp knife a few times. Microwave 2 minutes each side until soft in center – (about 6-8 minutes total). (You can bake them in the oven if you’d rather.) Set cooked sweet potato aside to completely cook in center while you prepare the filling.

Melt butter in a saucepan, and sauté jalapeño and scallions over medium flame for about 3-4 minutes – until the butter has browned, but not the scallions. Remove from heat and add in salt and pepper.stuffed sweet potatoes4 Slice sweet potato in half lengthwise and scrap out pulp, leaving a 1/4″ border intact. stuffed sweet potatoes7Chop pulp to break up strings, then mash. stuffed sweet potatoes5Stir mashed sweet potato into jalapeño mixture along with all but 2 T of the cheese.stuffed sweet potatoes6Fill each sweet potato shell with the mixture. Sprinkle 1 T cheese on each half.  At this point they can be covered and baked just before serving.stuffed sweet potatoes1Bake at 375º F for about 8 minutes, until sweet potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted. stuffed sweet potatoes2Serve immediately.

EGGPLANT-TOMATO STIR-FRY

eggplant-tomato stir fry

The old saying proves true: you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

I was given the recipe for Eggplant-Tomato Stir-Fry years ago when my husband and I were in a gourmet group. Looking at the ingredients, I was completely unimpressed. However, when I made and tasted it, I was completely IMpressed by how well the flavors blended.

As with most stir-frys, it’s all about the prep. With Eggplant-Tomato Stir-Fry, you wash and chop the veggies, and the cooking goes quickly. Yes, at the end, you do need to cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, but that’s hands-off.

EGGPLANT/TOMATO STIR-FRY

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, cut into bite-sized slices
  • 1 medium eggplant, unpeeled and 1″ cubed
  • 1 red pepper, cut into slices or cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 3½ oz (3½cups) fresh spinach leaves, chopped (or 1 frozen 10 oz package chopped)
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise then cut into half moons
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Prepare veggies.tomato veg medley4

Heat oil in large skillet – I used a 14″ stainless steel pan. When oil is shimmering, add onions and sauté over medium/high for 2 minutes. tomato veg medley5One by one, continue to add eggplant, red pepper, garlic & spinach together, zucchini, and finally the tomatoes, cooking each 2 minutes before adding the next. Stir in the salt and pepper.

Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until veggies are tender but not mushy. tomato veg medley1Taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed.

ROASTED POTATOES: Irresistible!

roasted potatoes textI’ve almost never found a potato recipe I didn’t like. My love of potatoes (and chocolate) are most likely passed down from my Irish mam. While baked, hashed browns, mashed, and braised are all delicious, roasting potatoes kicks it up a notch making them one of my favorites.

Roasted Potatoes have a caramelized outside with a creamy inside.  What’s not to like?! And if that’s not enough, they’re easy to prepare.

ROASTED POTATOES

  • 6 Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 T vegetable oil
  • optional:  2 T parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

Cut off ends of potatoes so there’s a flat, exposed surface on both sides. (Discard the ends.) Slice potatoes into 1/2″ discs. Place in a saucepan and cover with 1″ of water. roasted potatoes1Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes – until there’s a little resistance when you poke the centers with a sharp knife. (You don’t want to fully cook them at this point.) roasted potatoes7Drain potatoesroasted potatoes2 then empty them into a large bowl. Add in the salt and vegetable oil. Gently blend. roasted potatoes3Pour potatoes onto a rimmed baking sheet, making sure you scrape out all of the oil. Lay all the potato discs flat, spreading the oil under each piece.roasted potatoes4 Bake at 425º F for 15-20 minutes, until bottom is well browned. Flip potatoes and bake for another 10-20 minutes, until both sides are well browned.roasted potatoes5 Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

BELIZEAN RICE AND BEANS: A One-Pot Wonder!

Belezian rice and beans textThis is probably the easiest meal you’ll ever make. Simply chop the onion, cilantro, and red pepper, then throw everything into the pot and cook for 30 minutes.

This recipe is a lovely combination of subtle flavors. Try not to leave out any of the spices – I know most are only 1/8 tsp, but they’re important for the overall effect.

NOTE: Belizean Rice & Beans is super good topped with Avocado Sauce!

BELIZEAN RICE AND BEANS – makes about 5 cups

  • 1  15-oz can pinto beans, including liquid
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 T butter
  • 1  15-oz can coconut milk (or 1/2 cup powdered coconut milk plus enough water to make 15 oz)
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp coriander
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Belezian rice and beans3Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for a total of 30 minutes. At first, stir now and then – until it’s been cooking for about 20 minutes. At this point most of the liquid will have been absorbed into the rice. Stir more often now to prevent burning. If all the liquid has been incorporated before the 30 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit on the hot burner. This is to make sure the rice is completely cooked. belezian rice and beans2Eat as is, or do something crazy (like I do) and serve as an open faced sandwich on a homemade English Muffin or arepa, topped with avocado. Yummmm!

SPICY MACARONI SALAD: Nothing Bland About This!

spicy mac & cheese textWhen asked to attend a potluck, my Spicy Macaroni Salad is often specifically requested. Unlike the usual bland pasta salads, this recipe will wake up your mouth…in a good way!

It’s super easy to make and does well with being made in advance so the flavors have time to blend.

SPICY MACARONI SALAD

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed or minced
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Tabasco (or other hot sauce)
  • 8 oz small elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 T dried dill (or 3 T fresh)

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, Dijon, garlic, pepper, and Tabasco. spicy mac & cheese1Stir the carrots, radishes, cucumber, scallions, parsley, and dill into the dressing. Mix well and chill.spicy mac & cheese2Cook pasta in salted water until just tender. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking (don’t worry, it will continue to soften when mixed with the dressing) and drain. Mix into the dressing. Chill at least an hour to allow the flavors to penetrate the pasta.spicy mac & cheese3

 

AVOCADO SAUCE: Add A Creamy Tang To…Well, Everything!

AVOCADO SAUCE textAvocado Sauce is a quick and easy topping for tacos, salads, quesadillas, or anything else you want. As opposed to guacamole, which is usually chunkier, it’s meant to pour – thus covering more territory.

Queen of Freeze Bonus:  This sauce can be successfully frozen!!! So take advantage of avocados when they’re at bargain prices in the market (or if you’re lucky enough to have your own tree). Make up large batches (make sure you try the recipe first) and freeze in portion sized containers.

AVOCADO SAUCE

  • 8 oz tomatillos
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Remove and discard papery wrap from tomatillos. Wash thoroughly and cut into quarters. Place all ingredients in food processor.avocado sauce4Pulse until creamy – scraping down sides as needed.avocado sauce3 Adjust seasoning to your preference.

GREEK POTATOES -A Lemony Wake Up Call!

GREEK POTATOES textOne of my favorite flavor combinations is lemon and garlic, so it’s no surprise that Greek Potatoes are a go-to side dish in our house. Not only is it delicious, but it’s super fast and easy to prepare. (It does take about 40 minutes to bake, but that’s hands-off.)

I highly recommend using a firm potato such as Yukon Gold or a red potato – the pieces will retain their shape. I’ve made this dish with russets, and they tend to kind of mash.

GREEK POTATOES – makes about 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2½ T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, pressed (I use 2)
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • about 2 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 475º Fahrenheit.

Chop unpeeled potatoes into chunks that are no smaller than 3/4″. (If they’re too small, you’ll lose the balance of a firm outside and creamy inside of each piece.)

Into a flat bottomed, high sided casserole dish combine the potatoes, lemon juice, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and boiling water.GREEK POTATOES3 Place in 475º F oven uncovered. Bake, stirring gently every 20 minutes, until almost all the water is evaporated. This will take about 40-60 minutes. There will still be oil remaining on the bottom.GREEK POTATOES2 Remove from oven and sprinkle on parsley. Serve while hot.