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.

Sick Days

I’m so sorry for missing this week’s post. I was sick all week and I couldn’t do anything at all. I’m going to post as soon as I can. Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa. I hope everyone has wonderful holidays!

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.

The Angel Tree

ChristmasThis is a little late for “Giving Tuesday,” but the angst is fresh so I’m gonna use it. That’s what we writers do. Anyway, I stopped by my daughter’s school today to get an angel from the angel tree. I’ve never contributed to an angel tree and if you haven’t, here’s how it works. Kids and families are asked what they want for Christmas and those items are listed anonymously on a paper angel that gets hung on a tree. Donors pick an angel or two, buy the items, and return them to the tree coordinator, who distributes them.

My daughter’s school sent out a message last week saying it had a tree for students’ families. So I thought, great, I’ll go, pick out an angel, buy some stuff, and I’m done. I looked at that tree expecting to get a nice toy to put a smile on some kid’s face on Christmas morning.

I was not prepared for what I saw. So many of the angels said “socks” or “underwear” or “boots” or “jacket.” I had to look hard for one that asked for a toy. There were a few, but the majority asked for basic items that most of us take for granted. It gave me a knot in the pit of my stomach. These kids weren’t homeless or living in poor areas. They went to school with my daughter. They could’ve been her friends. And I didn’t know.

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