Roasted Sweet Potatoes: The mommy of invention

Sweet PotatoI’ve tried a few new recipes on my kids over the past few weeks with no success. I did have one happy accident, though, which makes me wonder whether I over-think these things. Here’s what happened.

We were having a happy hour play date. We do it all the time. We invite our kids friends’ families over, the kids play and the parents chat over drinks and appetizers. It’s a lot of fun. I like to think we’re part of the movement to resurrect the cocktail party. Most of the time, our guests are neighbors, too, so we get snockered and nobody has to drive.

Anyway, I usually buy a bunch of frozen apps, but that’s become more difficult now that I’m allergic to corn, so I’m improvising a lot. I had some steaks in the freezer and some leftover sauteed mushrooms. I decided to make skewers. One of our guests didn’t like mushrooms, so I thought I’d make some skewers with my roasted potatoes instead. I thought I had two red-skinned potatoes, turned out I only had one but I had a big sweet potato I wanted to use up. So I thought “What the hell?” Maybe I could be the mother of invention.

I cut all the potatoes int a one-inch dice, threw them into a plastic container in two batches, separated by type, poured some olive oil and spritzed malt vinegar over them and sprinkled chopped rosemary, thyme, salt and black pepper. I sealed the top and shook until everything was evenly distributed. I separated the two types of potatoes on my baking sheet because I didn’t know if they’d cook at the same rate and put them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

When I pulled them out and cooled them off, my daughter asked for some potatoes. Here was my chance. I gave her a regular potato first, then a sweet potato. This kid, who said “I won’t eat THAT!” to whipped sweet potatoes, ate one piece and said “Ooo, sweet potato fries!” and snagged another piece. I hadn’t tasted them yet and the bottoms looked burnt, but despite all that, they were successful. I tasted one. The bottom didn’t taste burnt, just caramelized. I’d used a jelly-roll pan but I usually make potatoes in a Pyrex pan, and that would solve the over-browning problem next time.

So here’s the recipe. It’s something I make all the time. It’s easy. Not a lot of hands-on time, but it takes a long time to cook. So give yourself an hour to make it.

Two 8-inch sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to a one-inch dice

1/8 cup olive oil

Malt vinegar

1 large sprig fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 tsp dried

2 large sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped, or 1 tsp dried

1/2 tsp salt, or more to personal taste

Generous pinch of black pepper

(These herbs work on sweet potatoes, as would sage, but if you use regular potatoes, you can mix and match any combination of any number of herbs and use any flavor of vinegar, depending on the flavor profile you want. I use Mediterranean spices with Balsamic vinegar a lot.)

Put potatoes into a large plastic resealable container. Pour oil over potatoes. Spritz vinegar generously over potatoes — about 15 shakes. (If your vinegar doesn’t have a dispenser top, cover most of the bottle’s mouth with your thumb and spritz that way.) Sprinkle rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper over potatoes. Seal container top, and, holding top in place, (This is important. You don’t want oily potatoes all over your floor.) shake the container vigorously in all directions to coat potatoes. Pour potatoes into a Pyrex pan and arrange in one layer. Some of the herbs will have collected in the oil at the bottom of the container. Sweep them out with your fingers and attempt to distribute over potatoes in pan.

Bake at 400 degrees in center of oven for 45 minutes.

Serves 8.

You can, as I mentioned, use regular potatoes in this recipe. Another variation I like: add fresh or frozen vegetables to the potatoes container and shake together to coat. You can use it as a side or bake it with some whole sausages for a full meal.

Kid-Approved Kale Salad

avocadoAfter Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law gave me a bunch of kale. Well, bunch is a little too mild — more like a crapload. She got it from her friend’s garden. I wish mine was that productive. The kale, already wilted, filled a paper grocery bag. It took me three days to revive it all, soaking it in cold water, then it expanded and I had enough to fill a tall kitchen garbage bag. Seriously.

I had to do something with the kale. As luck would have it, I’d read about some creative, healthy holiday sides on a friend-of-a-friend’s blog (radish*rose) just before Thanksgiving. One that intrigued me even before I had the kale was really simple and it promised to transform the kale into something amazing. Plus the recipe was so easy I had almost memorized it. It wouldn’t use all of the kale by any stretch – I froze most of it — but I was able to take advantage of the garden-freshness.

I am happy to say that the recipe did transform the kale. Here it is: Addictive Avocado-Lemon-Kale Salad. It’s basically kale with avocado massaged into it and a bit of lemon juice. I didn’t even add the crunchy-sliced-almond garnish and my kids went gaga over it.(Gaga? Oh my God, I’m dating myself.) The kids who wouldn’t eat cooked kale had seconds and thirds. My husband loved it too. And it’s healthy — kale’s a superfood; avocado has good fats; what’s not to love? Try it, try it, try it! I promise you’ll enjoy.

Special thanks to radish*rose.

Cauliflower Puree — Who knew?

CauliflowerIt came as a complete surprise. We were grilling steaks, I had baked potatoes but I needed a vegetable. The only fresh vegetables I had were baby carrots, celery and onions. I had kale in my freezer but after my daughter complained that I duped her on enchilada day, I didn’t want to chance it.

I sat down in front of my freezer, yanking stuff out of its vegetable drawer. I had a few slices of peppers, two bags of frozen celery, and then I pulled it out. A bag of cauliflower florets, just enough for one night. I grabbed the cauliflower, decided to get rid of the small bag of frozen celery and attempt a quick puree. I’d seen them all over Food Network, but never tried to make one, maybe because I don’t like cauliflower. But it was all I had. How hard could it be? I reasoned, and set out to cook.

I melted some butter in a saucepan, added the rough-chopped celery and cooked it until tender. Then I added the cauliflower, which in hindsight I could have added earlier. I thought it would cook fast. Didn’t really. But anyway, added some minced garlic, lots of salt, a bit of black pepper, put the top on the pan and let everything simmer until the cauliflower was soft. read more

Edible Insanity: Spicy Beef Enchiladas

This week I made spicy beef enchiladas with kale sauce. I was trying to recreate a dish I had at our favorite Mexican restaurant – chorizo enchiladas with spinach sauce. The spinach sauce was amazing;. it was bright green, rich and silky; so it inspired me to do it at home.

10448508_10204352131957807_3476426342996592596_oI’d bought a whole bunch of kale at the produce stand before it closed for the winter. It was wilted when I bought it, but I soaked it in cold water and I had a crapload of fresh kale. So I attempted to make the sauce with the kale instead of spinach. I sautéed the kale with onions and garlic and put it in the blender, adding some sour cream, olive oil and half and half. Well, kale is a bit sturdier than spinach, so my silky green sauce turned out looking more like creamed spinach.

That’s where I went wrong.

The enchiladas were fantastic, but the appearance of the sauce turned the kids off. My daughter tried a piece of enchilada to placate me, and she said it was good but she didn’t eat another bite of it. And then she got mad when she learned the sauce was kale, even though she loved sauteed kale two weeks ago. My son wouldn’t try the enchilada, but later, when we made him eat some dinner in order to get some popcorn, he just ate the sauce. So, not a total success but not a total failure either. I will try the recipe again with spinach and I’ll let you know what happens.

Kids and Food: Edible Insanity

VegsI’m introducing something new to this space. I’m writing a cookbook, and I’m starting here. I’ll still be posting the family stuff, but I’d like to add posts about food — specifically adventures in food with my kids. I’ll post experiments with new foods, their results, and for the best outcomes, I’ll post some recipes. The recipes will be corn-free and dye-free, to accommodate our allergies. I do have some recipes with corn pre-allergy and I may post one now and then. I hope you’ll enjoy the new posts. Please be vocal in the comments and let me know what you think, and if you like what you see, please tell your friends.

This week I’m experimenting with kale. My daughter likes sauteed kale, but this week I’m using it in an enchilada sauce to see if I can sell it to my son too. I’ll let you know how it goes.