Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Purple SWEET Potato Waffles


If you have never heard of an Okinawan sweet potato....you are not alone, I had never seen one either.
Evidently, they have been around in Hawaii and Japan for 300 years. (I am always late to the party).

One night, after too much wine, I was browsing instagram.
I saw some gorgeous photos of dishes made with PURPLE SWEET POTATOES. I must have these! Now!

I am familiar w/ purple potatoes, but purple sweet potatoes? I love sweet potatoes.
I needed to find these right away.

So I went online, and did some late night research, under the influence.

I wound up mail ordering 15 lbs. of a variety grown in California called STOKE'S PURPLE SWEETS.

I forgot all about them, and the holidays came and went....and then one freezing day, the box arrived filled with these huge, long purple potatoes via FedEx.

What the hell am I going to do with 15 lbs of potatoes?

Supposedly a "super food" filled with antioxidants and all that good stuff.....
I gave some away to friends.....share the health/wealth.

I found a lot of cake/brownie recipes.....but decided to just bake one solo in the oven first. The directions on the label said bake at 350F for 2 hours! That's too long!

I started off slow, and just baked one for a little over an hour in a 375F oven. The aroma coming from the oven was like a delicious baked good.....vanilla and nutty smell, kind of odd, but delicious smelling, and that was plenty of time to bake the potato.

They came out very creamy, dense, rich and nutty tasting.

I topped one half with yogurt, scallions, black beans, and beet pesto. Ok, maybe a little too healthy for most of you, but I was pretending to be a health nut for the day.......

I roasted them with some olive oil and kosher salt and made yummy potato coins.

On to more fun.

I came up with this delicious Sunday morning waffle recipe. I saved half of the baked sweet potato and mashed it for the next day.

These were the best waffles ever.

By the way, a few days later, someone told me that Whole Foods sell purple sweet potatoes, so you don't have to buy 15 lbs, you can just buy one if you like. ;)

Purple Waffles:

1 cup of mashed purple SWEET potato
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp orange zest
3 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup of milk
1 tbsp sugar
pecans and maple syrup for the top

Mix everything except the syrup and pecans together in a bowl, the batter will be thick.

Preheat your waffle maker and make sure you coat the top and bottom with cooking spray......believe, me, I have forgotten that step, and the waffles will stick like glue!

Place lid down and cook 5-6 minutes.

Plate waffles and serve w/ toasted pecans and maple syrup.

Purple food rules.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Winter Random Bites

We like to stay in NYC after the holidays are over and many of the tourists have gone home. :)

You get the best hotel rates and the city all to yourself in January & February.

Just bundle up, because it's cold out there!

We were tourists in an area that we don't often visit.

Downtown, by City Hall next to the Brooklyn Bridge in the Financial District.

It's not the prettiest part of the city, but there is much to do with the new Oculus at the World Trade Center and the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial.

The new Beekman Hotel is beautiful, with 2 fantastic restaurants located right inside.

Augustine, a French brasserie (same owners as Balthazar).

Where you can get a very decent plate of steak frites in a fun atmosphere.

and Fowler & Wells, Tom Colicchio's new place, that is one of the prettiest restaurants in NYC.

Delicious food.......you can stop in just for a drink in the huge gorgeous English style bar room and take a break from a day of sightseeing.

We had the spicy fried rabbit, and a delicious savory ricotta tart w/ pickled figs and pistachios, topped w/ crispy prosciutto. You'd think they made it especially for me!

What have I been cooking lately?

If you follow me on instagram, then you know exactly what I cook for pretty much every meal.....sorry to bother you with the minutia of my day.

I made my usual winter project from the New York Times.

Cured Coho Salmon w/ beets and horseradish...it comes out perfect every time.

And my new favorite way to serve cauliflower is this:

Roast florets on a sheet pan at 400F for about 30 minutes, until caramelized and golden.

Just before you take the pan out of the oven make the topping.....

In a small skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter with some chopped hazelnuts, golden raisins and capers.

Pour this luscious sauce over the roasted vegetables just before serving.

You will want to lick the plate.

Maybe winter isn't so bad after all.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Blood Orange, Cornmeal & Ricotta Cheesecake....OH MY!

It's that time again! Blood oranges are in the markets for a short time only.

I love making upside down cakes, I can't help myself, they are so pretty.

It's time again for those gorgeous, special blood oranges.
In season January- February.

I have made many polenta cakes, and they are usually on the dry side, but this one is moist and decadent, as a ricotta cake should be.

Interesting, I would always use butter and brown sugar for the upside down caramel, but with this recipe, Smitten Kitchen uses only water to mix with the sugar! It worked like a charm, and I saved half a stick of butter! :)

This cake is excellent.......but I baked an upside down clementine cake w/ ricotta that was even better!, but oh those gorgeous blood oranges......I love them so.

Make This Cake (or wait a week for my other upside down cake! sorry to be a tease).
They are both great!

Blood Orange, Cornmeal & Ricotta Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the Upside Down Part:

2 blood oranges scrubbed and cut into very thin slices
1/2 cup brown (100g) sugar
2 tablespoons water


1/2 cup (100g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (170g) whole milk ricotta
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup (135g) almond meal/flour
1/3 (45g) cup cornmeal

Preheat your oven to 300ºF. Butter a 9-inch round baking pan (I used a springform) and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Mix the 1/2 cup sugar w/ water and spread the syrup on the bottom of the pan. Arrange the orange slices on the bottom of the pan.

Cream the butter and sugar together with the lemon zest until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds in between each addition. Then beat the mixture for 5 more minutes. Beat in the ricotta and lemon juice (I also used some of the juice from a blood orange).

Stir in the almond meal and cornmeal to make a thick batter.

Spread the batter over the orange slices and bake the cake for 50-60 minutes (the original recipe which is on Smitten Kitchen says 30-40 minutes.....there is no way), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert it onto a platter. Carefully, remove the paper.

I glazed mine w/ some orange marmalade so it was nice and shiny.

Best served after the cake has been chilled a bit and the top is set.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Delicious Lentil Veggie Burgers

So I had a lot of leftover cooked lentils and was looking for recipes to use them in.

Google it and you can make anything with lentils.
I am behind the times, because I didn't realize that vegans eat pasta made from lentils.

Lentils are super healthy for you and delicious too.

I love my lentil soup recipe the best....and a French lentil salad is so good, especially made w/ lentilles du Puy (greenish blue lentils from France).

Here, I made healthy veggie burgers using Beluga lentils, which are black. They stand up better in soups and salads, they don't get as mushy.

I followed the recipe to the letter, except added an egg to bind (it needed it).

My husband was skeptical about eating a "lentil burger" for lunch, but he quickly got over it and asked for another one.


Lentil Veggie Burgers (adapted from Food.com)

1 cup dry lentils, well rinsed (I used black Beluga lentils)
2 1⁄2 cups water
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄2 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
a handful of sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 small egg
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3⁄4 cup rolled oats, finely ground in a food processor
3⁄4 cup breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned breadcrumbs)

You can make the lentils the day before and keep them in the fridge.

Boil lentils in the water with the salt for around 35 minutes. Lentils will be soft and most of the water will be gone.

In a separate skillet, fry the onions, mushrooms (if using) and carrots in the oil until soft, it will take about 5 minutes.

In a bowl mix the cooked ingredients with the black pepper, soy sauce, ground oats, egg and bread crumbs.

While still warm form the mixture into patties.

Fry in a nonstick skillet with some olive oil for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Serve on English muffins or pita with some mayo or beet pesto OR top with a fried egg!

SO GOOD! You won't miss the meat, I promise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sausage & White Bean Stew

You have seen this type of bean stew here many times before.
It's the best cold weather dinner and is very simple to put together.

A traditional cassoulet uses duck legs w/ Toulouse sausage, but we are not in France right now, and all I have in the house is Italian sausage......

I suggest you find a good butcher and make friends with him (or her).
I buy the best quality homemade sausage from a local Italian butcher, the same goes for my meats and chickens.

If you can't know the farmer personally, you can certainly make friends with a butcher, even if he is the guy behind your supermarket meat counter.

This is a delicious hearty dish, makes a lot, so is good for leftovers the next day too.
Feel free to add some leftover chicken thighs to the mix.

Sausage & Bean Cassoulet:

1 lb. good quality spicy Italian sausages
1 large onion, cut into thick pieces
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 fennel (anise) bulb, sliced
pint of cherry tomatoes, halved (or canned cherry tomatoes)
handful of fresh thyme
1 cup of chicken stock
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
kosher salt & pepper
1 cup of dried breadcrumbs for the top

Preheat oven to 375F.

You can brown the sausage first if you like, but I just throw it all in a big Dutch oven coated w/ olive oil and cook it all together.

Cook everything (including the tomatoes) until the pink is out of the sausage, and the onions and fennel are wilted, about 15 minutes on the stove.

Add in the beans and the stock with the fresh thyme and simmer for 5 minutes.

Top the stew with the toasted breadcrumbs (I do this in a frying pan with olive oil) and place the pot, uncovered, in a 375F oven.

Bake the cassoulet for 30 minutes, until the top is nice and brown and all the liquid is absorbed.


Monday, January 16, 2017

No Bake Granola Bars

I love granola bars, not sure about you......I love KIND bars, KASHI bars (sea salt & chocolate) and even the Nature Valley crapola, the sticky kind.....these are the few pre-made snacks I buy.


I always have a few in my purse for hunger pangs....usually happening while I am driving around 3 pm.

Here is a fabulous recipe for no bake granola bars. Healthy as you want them to be.......I added chocolate chips, just a few, cause I like that little bite of chocolate surprise.

You can use whatever nuts you like......I added in some unsweetened coconut and organic maple syrup........however, I USED SKIPPY PEANUT BUTTER!

Anytime I use it, I get emails "how can use that peanut butter?"...."it's not organic, it's not vegan, it's loaded with sugar and oil; it's made by an evil corporation....blah blah".

I grew up on Skippy, and nothing has happened to me....yet.

If you don't make your own nut butters at home, then please don't email me.

And though I do my best to eat healthy, locally grown, in season only vegetables and non-processed foods.....I do buy commercially made mayonnaise, peanut butter, condiments and cereal.

Guilty again.

I hope you will still like me.

Here's the recipe.......adapted from Minimalist Baker.
These are easy and delicious.

Make 'em.

No Bake Granola Bars:

1 heaping cup packed pitted dates (deglet nour or medjool) (I buy Anna Sarah brand, organic & no sulphur dioxide added)
1/4 cup organic maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey
1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
1 cup roasted unsalted almonds loosely chopped
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I use Kings Own Brand Organic Oats)
optional additions: chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, coconut, vanilla, etc.

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency. (Mine rolled into a ball.)
Optional step: Toast your oats (and almonds if raw) in a 350 degree F (176 C) oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Otherwise, leave them raw.

Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl, set aside.

Warm honey (I used maple syrup) and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat.

Stir and pour over the oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.

Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8x8-inch baking dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.

Press down firmly until uniformly flattened, I used the palm of my hand to press down.

Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let firm up in fridge or freezer for 20 minutes.

Remove bars from pan and slice into squares or rectangles. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days.

The original recipe recommends keeping in the freezer for freshness. They thaw quickly and are still chewy from the freezer. I liked them frozen the best!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

La Miascia Cake from Lake Como

What is she talking about now?
A Miascia cake? What is that?

I'm still not positive, except that it is a peasant cake made with stale bread from Lake Como......google la Miascia cake and a million Italian recipes come up.

It's really a bread pudding.

I loved this peasant cake with dried plums (prunes), figs, raisins and lemon zest. There's not much sugar in it, so it's not too sweet, the perfect breakfast in my house.

The top gets nice and crispy and the kitchen smells wonderful.

It's pretty simple to make, you just have to follow the waiting time directions of 1 hour for the bread to get stringy in the milk mixture.

This recipe is from the lovely book Cooking With Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux.

La Miascia Cake:

2 cups of stale bread cubes (preferably a plain white baguette or Italian bread loaf...no seeds, no crust)
2 cups of whole milk
2 medium ripe pears or apples, peeled and diced
3 tbsp raisins, soaked in warm water
4 dried plums (prunes), thinly sliced
3 dried figs, thinly sliced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar (plus 1 tbsp sugar for sprinkling the top)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg

Make sure your bread is nice and stale.....you can leave it out on the counter for a day or two if you like.
Trim all crusts and cut into small pieces.

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and sugar a 9" round cake pan.

Place bread pieces in a large bowl and pour milk over them. Set aside for an hour or more, turing the bread in the milk from time to time and crushing it with your hands. Soak the bread until it has broken down into a homogeneous mass of moist shreds (sounds yummy!).

There should be no loose milk remaining.

Add in the pears/apples, the strained raisins, the figs, prunes and lemon zest and juice. Mix together gently.

Whisk in the eggs and the 1/2 cup of sugar with 3 tbsp of the melted butter and the pinch of salt. Gently fold this into the bread and fruit mixture.

Pour the mixture into prepared cake pan. Dust the surface w/ freshly grated nutmeg and brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter.
Sprinkle the top with the remaining tbsp of sugar. You want a nice crusty top.

Bake for 1 hour. The original recipe calls for a higher baking temperature and an extra 15 minutes. My cake was done and brown on top in 1 hour at the 350F temperature. Check the cake, it should be crispy on top, and pulling away from the sides of the pan. You may need a few more minutes.

Let cool in the pan 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm......this was even better the next day.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sweet & Spicy Sesame Noodles w/ Broccoli

I have finally found the perfect sesame noodle recipe.

I was never a fan, they are always too greasy or too dry......this recipe has just enough sauce to coat and packs a big flavor.

I added some shrimp for protein (the original recipe calls for chicken) and a little extra hot pepper for more spice.

This is delicious and so easy.....the kids will love it too.

Sweet & Spicy Sesame Noodles w/ Broccoli (adapted from Cooking Light)

8 oz. package uncooked soba noodles (you can use thin spaghetti or linguine)
1 cup fresh broccoli florets
frozen shrimp defrosted (I used about 12 small shrimp, and cut them in half)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 green onions, chopped for garnish

Steam the broccoli florets (you can do this in the microwave too) for 3 minutes, until al dente and bright green. Drain the water and add broccoli to a large bowl.

Cook the pasta/soba noodles in salted boiling water, and the last 3 minutes of cooking time, throw in the cut up shrimp (this will save you from cleaning up another pot!).

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large Pyrex glass measuring cup, mix the vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and garlic with a fork.

Pour the drained pasta with the cooked shrimp into the bowl w/ the steamed broccoli. Pour over the sauce and mix well to coat the noodles.

Plate in a large bowl and sprinkle sesame seeds and chopped scallions (green onions) on top, and an extra shake of red pepper flakes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.