Mashed Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 apple, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
Nutmeg

Directions
Boil the sweet potatoes until soft, about 8 minutes (depending on size of cubes).  Drain.  Turn the burner down to medium low.  Using the same pot, melt the butter, then add the sweet potatoes back in the pot and combine.  Add apples, honey and nutmeg and stir.  Turn the burner down to low and let it stay warm until ready to serve.  The apples will soften but not break down completely.

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Efficiency at its Finest: Killing 5 Birds with One Stone (Figuratively of Course)

What does having a crappy blender, having an awesome juicer, having a picky toddler I must trick into eating, my homemade pasta sauce and my homemade veggie broth all have in common?  You might want to find something to hang on to (for my fellow Whovians)…it’ll be a wild ride!

I’ll start with the fact that I have a crappy blender.  It is a Ninja but not a good enough one for veggies and ice.  I made an amazing peanut butter banana smoothie the other day, but I like greening smoothies and it wasn’t cutting it for that. 

Enter juicer.   My parents bought us a juicer for Christmas 2013.  I had always wanted to start juicing.  I thought about just juicing veggies, then adding the juice to the smoothie, but what would I do with all that pulp?  Then my mother-in-law told me she heard you can use the pulp from juicing.  Perfect.

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Enter picky toddler.  I mentioned in another post how my daughter used to eat everything in sight and now at 1 1/2 has seemed to gain this newfound independence and refuses most food, shaking of the head, waving of the hand and all.  If you know me well, I HATE wasting food.  If I could send it to the starving children, I would.  I made Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (in recipe folder) the other day and she ate it all!  Hiding veggies in sauces seemed to work, so I must do it again!  The pulp from juicing is mostly chopped super fine so I needed a sauce to put it in that would hide it well.

Enter my homemade sauce.  Therese (and my hubby) have consistently loved one thing, and that is my pasta sauce, and it is a great thing to prep ahead and freeze in portions for a wide variety of future meals, like different pastas, chicken or eggplant parm, or create even more meals with lasagna, stuffed shells or manicotti.  I would hope I make my Nonna proud!  Let’s rewind for a second.  I had juiced 4 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and 1 packed cup of spinach.  I mixed a little bit of the pulp in Therese’s portion of the sauce and although it had visible spinach bits in it she gobbled it down!  SUCCESS!  I set aside more sauce and mixed the rest of the veggies in it for her for leftovers.  Now, I will never give away my sauce recipe, but I will say I do have a lot of left over stems from herbs and ends and peels from onions and garlic, plus the left over ends and peels of the carrots and celery from.  What do I do as to not waste this?

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Enter my homemade veggie stock.  My maternal grandmother showed me how she freezes organic material and although she throws it away, she doesn’t throw a lot away and freezes it to prevent it from sitting in the trash rotting.  I can just do this with celery, carrot, onion and garlic for veggie stock.  I still have plenty other organic material for composting!  Veggie stock is relatively easy.  Most recipes, like my Butternut Squash Soup and Tomato Bisque (both in recipe folder) call for 5 cups/32 oz. of stock, which is usually the size of a store-bought container.  I measure 5 cups of water in a pot and when I have about 3 cups of the peels and ends, I cover it and simmer it with salt, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and celery salt until flavorful and most of the veggies are super wilted, soft and some even translucent.  I never measure the salts, powders and peppers I put in…I just test it.  🙂

I am always trying to come up with efficient ways of doing things and this definitely is one!  I really hope it helps you!  Cheap, easy, efficient and next to no waste.  Who could ask for more?

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

-1 big sweet potato or two small sweet potatoes (this meal is for two, so if it’s for a single, use one small for yourself and cut the rest of the ingredients in half)
-2 tbls of brown sugar
-2 tbls of butter, softened
-1 tbls of ground cinnamon
-1 tsp of ground nutmeg
-salt and pepper
-1 small apple, peeled and diced
-1 cup for the recipe for two, 1/2 cup if it’s for one serving, of marshmallows

Directions
Bake whole sweet potato in oven at 400 degrees until soft but not mushy (different sized and widths make it hard to time, so you have to watch it, but I found the average to be about 40 minutes). Combine all ingredients except for the marshmallows in a bowl and set aside. When potato is ready, half it and gut it, but gently so you can use the skin as a bowl. Mix insides with ingredients until about half of the mixture is mashed and half is still a little clumpy. Spoon it back into the skins, and add 1/2 cup of marshmallows to each half (or 1/4 for each half if you are using 2 little ones) on top and put back in the oven for about ten minutes or until the marshmallows are gooey and golden brown on the top. This is a delicious side to go with pork for the meat eaters and for vegetarians like me, I eat it with a salad with apples and the BV I posted just before this!

Tomato Bisque

4 tablespoons butter (we used unsalted)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
5 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
5 cups veggie or chicken broth (I used veggie because I save scraps and make it)
1 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes (with liquid) or about 5 – 6 medium-sized fresh tomatoes that have been boiled for 1 minute and then peeled…either way they need to be roughly chopped before using
3 chopped fresh basil sprigs
3 chopped fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream (or less if desired)
1 teaspoon salt (or more if you are using unsalted homemade broth)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion until it starts to get soft. Add the garlic and stir for another minute or two. Add the flour and stir vigorously for 2 – 3 minutes making a roux. Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Throw in the herbs and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup either in a blender (in batches) or with a handheld immersion blender. Stir in the desired amount of heavy cream and salt & pepper to taste. Serve warm and freeze the rest.

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Potato Salad

6 Small Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1-2 stalks of celery, diced
1 cup Mayo
2 tbsp Spicy Brown Mustard
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Sugar
Salt and pepper

Directions
Low boil the potatoes for 15 minutes or until soft.  Drain and let cool.  Toss apple cider vinegar in the potatoes.  In a separate bowl, combine celery, mayo, mustard, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add potatoes to may mix and combine.  I use my hands to break up some of the bigger pieces.  I like the salad chunky but I want to make sure every piece soaks up the mixture.  Refrigerate. 

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Makes 4-5 servings.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4 Small Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp Unsalted Butter (you can use salted, just don’t add too much salt)
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Cheese (I use cheddar and parm)
2 tbsp Sour Cream
1/4 cup Milk

Directions
Low boil potatoes for 15 minutes or until soft.  Drain.  In the same saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of the butter and sautè the garlic until soft.  Add drained potatoes, the rest of the butter, salt and pepper and stir, mashing along the sides.  Add cheese, sour cream and milk and continue stirring until consistency is that of mashed potatoes.  Some like them chunky and some want smooth, so it is up to you.  If you want them smooth, putting them in a blender or food professor is quicker.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium to large butternut (3-4 lbs.) or other winter
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
2 large leeks, white part only cleaned thoroughly and chopped (you could substitute one onion for the leeks if you prefer)
4 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
5 cups veggie broth
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon salt (if using salted store-bought broth then taste the soup before adding any salt)
Pumpkin seeds (optional)

Directions
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the squash in half long ways and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet. If you line the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper the clean up will be easier. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until the thick part of the squash can easily be pierced with a fork. Let cool then scoop out the pulp and discard the skin. Note: That step can be done in advance. In a large soup pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped leeks and ginger. Cook for 5 – 8 minutes until tender, but not browned. Add the squash pulp to the pot along with the 5 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring and breaking up the squash with the back of your spoon, for 10 – 15 minutes. Puree the soup either with a hand immersion blender or in a counter top blender/food processor. After the soup has been pureed, stir in the cream and salt (to taste). Ladle into soup bowls, top with pumpkin seeds and serve warm. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.

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