Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Since Dr. Atkins taught us how evil the potato is (my apologies to those with roots in Idaho) we have been looking for other alternatives in our side dishes. The solution? Brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta instead of semolina, and let's start coming up with something to eat instead of potatoes.

One more point: there is a difference between a sweet potato and a yam. Most people use the terms interchangeably and most recipes can handle either. You can use either for this recipe. I find that most stores carry yams year round, but sweet potatoes only seasonally. Both are good and Yams have more orange in them which usually is a sign of really good vitamins and antioxidants and other really positive things.

Now that we know how good they are, lets add naughty things. The main thing we are adding here are apples, which aren't naughty so that is a good sign. They sweeten up the potatoes quite a bit. The only key is that, depending on how you like the texture, the potatoes will probably need more cooking time than the apples. Cut them both the same size. This recipe serves 12, I have cut it in half many times. While typing this in, I also was thinking that you could toss some nuts into it as well. I haven't tried it yet.

6 sweet potatoes OR yams (cooked, peeled, and cubed)
6 tart apples (peeled, cored, and cubed)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Place cooked potatoes and uncooked apples in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients and mix together in a separate bowl. Toss with potatoes and apples. Bake for 1 hour.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

This recipe is courtesy of Kim Donaldson. I do not always pick friends who are great cooks. It is merely a coincidence that I seems to be drawn to them. When I first tried this, I was a little skeptical. I love pumpkin desserts. I couldn't imagine liking pumpkin in something savory.When I saw nutmeg was added, I was really skeptical, even though I like nutmeg in savory dishes (spinach, Alfredo sauce.) I too closely associate pumpkin and nutmeg with sweet. But what can I say? It works. Because this includes a can of puree pumpkin, it is easier and smoother than cleaning, roasting, scraping, chopping, and puree-ing a real pumpkin. But hey, if you have to do that to live with yourself, go for it. I was just fine with the can - better than fine. This is smooth. With a little swirl of cream and a sprinkler of an herb - I am thinking sage - this is fine dining.

A big PS to this: all my children love ... adore this soup. That alone makes this a keeper.

4 T butter
1/3 C flour
2/3 C grated onion (1 medium)

4 C water
4 chicken flavor bouillon cubes

1 (16 oz) can of pumpkin
2 t salt
1 1/3 t lemon juice
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t nutmeg

2 2/3 C half & half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large pan, melt butter and saute onions until soft, stir in flour. Stir until the flour and butter make a nice smooth roux (except for the chunks of onion.) Add the bouillon cubes which have been dissolved in water. Stir until smooth and thick. Add pumpkin, salt, lemon juice, pepper and nutmeg. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Let simmer 15 minutes. Add the half & half. Heat through but do not boil. Add the cheese, if so inclined and stir until blended. Correct seasoning. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tres Leche Cake

This is my favorite cake in the whole world. I first tasted it when I was teaching at Fenton Ave. Charter school where 98% of the students were of Hispanic descent. One day, to celebrate a birthday, a mother brought in what looked like an ordinary cake with lots of fruit on top. She offered me a piece and, being a true cake girl, I graciously accepted. I took a bite and almost died right then and there. The mother spoke no English, but somehow in that moment, language was transcended as I expressed that it was love at first bite. The next day she brought me my own - which by the way, despite my cake-lovers instinct, I shared with other teachers - and the business card to the bakery. It was the greatest gift I ever received as a teacher.

When I moved, I found other tres leche cakes. They had them at Walmart and Fresh & Easy (in the frozen section.) No, no, no. I am sorry but those were sorry excuses. I had a few homemade and a few from other bakeries. I was in trouble. Apparently I had eaten the BEST ever and would never find anything that was even close. Even the Martha Stewart recipe called for "frozen whipped topping." I mean how could anyone put anything but real whipped cream on this glorious creation. I couldn't even attempt the recipe because of that disrespectful overture. I ended up having to ask around. I got all sorts of answers to my pleading. Nothing was close. I finally asked a mom of one of my kid's sport teams where to get one. She didn't speak a lick of English and neither did the people in the bakery. It was divine. So my conclusion: The good stuff is a safely guarded secret by those who are completely fluent in Spanish bit don't speak more than ten words of English. I just don't trust anyone else.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk

1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over flour mixture and stir very gently until combined. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on, pour in 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold egg white mixture into other mixture very gently until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out surface. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes.

1 pint heavy cream, for whipping
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Fruit to garnish - I love strawberries

Whip cream with sugar and vanilla until thick and spreadable. Spread over the surface of the cake. Garnish with fresh fruit (or maraschino cherries.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Layers of Skin Lesson

I think the only legitimate justification for jello is to build parts of the body for educational purposes. I also believe that once you make this, the layers of the skin enter into the permanent memory. Sure you might forget the details, but the image of it will stay forever. The coolest part is that as the dye from the peanut M&M's liquefies, you get that really cool blob of blue and the yellow as well. This makes it more realistic, but takes time. Let it sit in the refridge for a little.

I am not sure how this tastes, but I'm sure some sugar fiends will love it.

Layer, in reverse order:

Epidermal Surface - made up of dead cells - crushed up cornflakes
Epidermis - made up of dead, dying, and new skin cells - cool whip mixed with cocoa powder to resemble skin color.
Hair Follicle - hole from which a hair grows - large marshmallow
Hair - licorice. Put the licorice in the marshmallow and then insert into the dermis layer.
Meissner's Ending - detects light pressure - grapes
Pacini's Ending - detects heavy pressure - Peanut M&M's (yellow)
Sebaceous Gland - makes sebum, a natural oil - Peanut M&M's (blue)
Dermis - made up of tough, flexible fibers or collagen and elastin - red jello (or pink)
Subcutaneous Fat Layer - helps to store food, warmth, and absorb knocks - orange or yellow jello with corn pops

Friday, September 4, 2009

California Geography Lesson

This geography lesson is about as good as it gets. Trace the map on the back side of wax paper. The beans represent the Mountains. The guacamole is the Central Valley. The cheese is the Desert. The sour cream is the Coast. Eat with tortilla chips when you are finished. Geography has never tasted so good.