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creamy mashed potatoes with leeks

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   If my family were asked to participate in a poll as to whether they preferred rice or mashed potatoes rice would win almost unanimously.  Almost,  because my hand would be the one to go up for rice but I’d also raise it for mashed potatoes with the explanation that there is a time for rice […]

whole roasted sweet potatoes with butter, muscovado sugar and black pepper

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As most of us know by now January is a good time to make a fresh start towards eating healthy.  So,  I couldn’t help feeling a bit virtuous  while eating this roasted sweet potato for lunch one cold winter afternoon.  With every spoonful I was raising my levels of vitamin A and getting a nice boost of beta-carotene.  But in all honesty I was feeling good from the warm melted butter , the generous sprinkling of dark muscovado sugar and the freshly ground black pepper.  It was both sweet and savory and a nice unexpected treat for lunch.

Sometimes I forget about the many ways in which a sweet potato can be cooked and end up only eating them candied during the holidays.  I forget that a sweet potato can be treated in much the same way as a white potato; it can be mashed into a puree, tucked into an au gratin even cubed and fried like hash browns.  

So recently when I found I had extra sweet potatoes, rather than forget about them only to discover them much later shriveled and a bit rubbery, I decided I’d roast them.  Everthing tastes better roasted and sweet potatoes are no exception.   Their flesh becomes soft and yields a natural sweetness that will satisfy any sweet craving.  Yet, they can also be savory.  I like this combination of sweet brown sugar and the spice hit from the black pepper.   If you felt like it you could also drizzle the roasted sweet potatoes with  extra-virgin olive oil and really good sea salt. 

This had to be the easiest lunch I have ever made.  Even easier than making a sandwich because there was really no work involved.  Once I rubbed the sweet potatoes with some olive oil I simply popped them in the oven and let it do all the work.  I sat down with a good book and less than an hour later I had a nice healthy lunch that doesn’t need to be reserved only for January.   I have started keeping sweet potatoes in the house because I enjoy eating them this way and it feels much better than eating something that’s not so good for me.   Don’t think you have to eat this alone, for a more complete lunch or dinner serve it alongside baked chicken or any pork dish.

recipe:whole roasted sweet potatoes with, dark muscovado sugar and fresh ground black pepper

Note: dark muscovado brown sugar can be found in the supermarket baking section next to other sugars.  You can use regular dark brown sugar but muscovado sugar has a more complex flavor and can be used just like brown sugar, so it’s a good investment you won’t regret.

ingredients:

a few medium-sized sweet potatoes-unpeeled, depending on how many people you will serve, you can also just roast one

olive oil, for rubbing the skin

unsalted butter

dark muscovado sugar (see head note)

Preheat oven 400°.  Lightly rub sweet potatoes with oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until sweet potatoes are completely tender and the skin is crisp.

Carefully remove cooked sweet potato from oven and while still hot split the top and insert a pat or two of butter.  Gently squeeze each end of sweet potato to expose the orange flesh a bit and sprinkle with a generous amount of muscovado sugar and freshly ground black pepper.

 

roasted broccoli florets

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For years my family has understood that when November comes around I do very little cooking,and the cooking that I do cannot in any way resemble anything that will appear on the Thanksgiving table. That means no macaroni and cheese, no rice and beans, candied sweet potatoes or even roast chicken. So during the month of November we eat a lot pasta ,pizza and chinese takeout.

My family understands there will be no macaroni and cheese at least two months before November. I want them to anticipate, savor and appreciate a meal that takes months of preparations and many hours in a steaming  kitchen with only a hot stove as my companion.It has become a sort of tradition. My family expects many quick meals and the pizza shop and chinese takeout expect to see me more than a few times in a week.

I usually try to keep the meals on the healthy side but because they aren’t usually planned just thrown together or delivered it’s not easy to do.There are nights when a cold bowl of cereal will have to do.

I try to have balanced meals at least three or more times a week, but its hard to get the kids to like any vegetable more than corn or collard greens. Collard greens happen to be on the no-cook til Thanksgiving list, so that leaves me with only corn and maybe broccoli.

Last week I made chicken cutlets with linguine and alfredo sauce. I needed a vegetable and corn didn’t quite go with the meal. I grabbed a bunch of broccoli.Its never been hard to get the kids to like broccoli aka dinosaur trees. Slathered with butter and a good glop of orange cheese its a perfect dish for any kid. I’ve been happy with the water-logged texture of steamed or boiled broccoli. I never imagined cooking it any other way. I’m embarrassed to say that unless pureed in a soup I never knew of any other way to cook it.

I never thought to roast broccoli. I roast vegetables all the time. You can’t imagine how good carrots are until you have had them drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil,sprinkled with salt and pepper and cooked in a very hot oven. Parsnips are good like this as well as cauliflower. And I wouldn’t stop there I’d roast any vegetable that could take the heat.

Why I never roasted broccoli before is a mystery to me, but I did and can tell you unless I eat it raw in a salad I will never cook it any other way. Who knew broccoli could be so sweet and taste like something that should be served in a four star restaurant?

The first time I roasted the broccoli I used only olive oil, crushed red pepper and salt and freshly ground black pepper. The broccoli were fantastic except I was surprised by the sweetness brought out in the broccoli from the caramelization during roasting. I remembered the recipe where I originally got the idea to roast the broccoli and referred back to it. That recipe uses a combination of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and even chili pepper. Right away I knew that combination would tame some of the sweetness in the broccoli. I was correct and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the hot seasoned broccoli brings it all home.

I made this twice over one weekend and each time I kept picking the broccoli florets out of the hot pan even before they made it to the dinner table. They are so good. I imagine serving this hot out of the oven in a decorative bowl when entertaining. Almost like picking popcorn out of a bowl and popping them into your mouth.

The original recipe calls for this to be roasted with shrimp. When Thanksgiving is over I will be making this as one of my quick meals because as we all know it will soon be December and time for more holidays and my family knows I don’t do much cooking in December either.

 recipe: roasted broccoli florets. Adapted from Melissa Clark

 2 pounds broccoli,cut into bite-sized florets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/ 2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 easpoon freshly grounb black pepper

1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder

squeeze of fresh lemon juice

directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl mix the broccoli well with the olive oil, coriander,cumin,chili powder and salt and pepper.

Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a cookie sheet large enough to hold it all. Roast for 10 minutes. With a long handled spoon mix the broccoli around in the pan and roast for an addiltional 10 minutes.

Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the broccoli while still hot. Serve immediatly.

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