Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spicy Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

The days are noticeably longer now; I have recently realized that evening doesn’t begin to creep in to my life until well after 5pm. We have experienced two partly sunny days so far this week. For two days, instead of a solid winter-white sky, there have been glimpses of bright blue in between puffy clouds, and this makes all the difference in my mood as we reach the end of January.

Spooky appreciates the sun, as well. He spends his mornings on the front porch, napping in full sun. I open the door to ask if he wants to come into the house and he lifts his head, for a few seconds coming out of a heat-induced coma, and blinks sleepily at me. I reach down and stroke his very warm, soft fur. This morning it was quite cold, but sunny, and the snow had already melted on my running paths around the fields, so we took a short walk. It was a pokey sort of a walk, but it was nice to be outdoors.

At the grocery store the other day I noticed that catfish fillets were on sale. I had been craving them lately, simply dunked in milk and then seasoned cornmeal and pan-fried until golden, so I bought a couple of pounds (what would I do without my freezer?).

To serve with the catfish I decided on cornbread and stuffed sweet potatoes. The sweet potato recipe below was adapted from Vegetarian Times. I believe that recipe this might have been meant as a main course because it included 1-1/2 ounces of cheese per serving, plus each serving also contained ¼ cup of whole milk sour cream (but who would eat one medium stuffed potato as their whole meal?). To turn it into a side dish, I decreased both the cheese and the sour cream, and also the butter.

On my first glance at this recipe I looked at the ingredients and just assumed that the bell pepper, onion, lime juice, and sour cream would be included in the sweet potato “stuffing”, but that was mistaken. The peppers are to be used as a topping, before the potatoes are baked for the second time, and the sour cream is to be mixed with the lime juice and, along with the onions, used as a garnish.

I’m just thinking…1/4 cup of sour cream per person, mixed with lime juice, to garnish one potato? And the peppers were to be “diced”, but if they were diced too large they wouldn’t cook during the short time in the oven. So my changes to this recipe reflect these issues which I had. :)

I also added some ground chipotle pepper because I did not have Pepperjack cheese (I used lowfat cheddar, instead, and much less of it than the recipe originally called for), and also decreased the amount of butter, adding a little skim milk to keep the filling moist. Check out the nutritional info at the end of the recipe

These turned out to be so good, they will be on our regular rotation. All of the flavors combined nicely, and made a perfect addition to this menu.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 large sweet potatoes

2 teaspoons butter

2 tablespoons skim milk

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup diced red bell peppers -- (very small dice)

1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper -- (very small dice)

1 1/2 ounces lowfat cheddar cheese -- shredded

1/4 cup light sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon minced onion

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Wash the sweet potatoes, prick with a fork in a few places, and microwave until done. Cool slightly.

If using an oven (regular or toaster oven), preheat it to 350F.

Slice the very top off of each potato and scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/4" as a "shell", into a medium bowl. Scoop the flesh out of the cut piece as well and add to the bowl. Add the butter, skim milk, chipotle, cumin, and some salt and pepper to taste and mash a little (leaving the pieces slightly chunky). Stuff evenly back into the potato shells.

Mix red and yellow bell pepper on a small plate and carefully turn over the stuffed potatoes, pressing the tops into the peppers. Turn upright and place any remaining pepper mixture on top. Sprinkle with cheese, press into the top onto the peppers, spray with cooking spray, and place in oven. Heat for about 12-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and peppers softened.

While peppers are baking, mix the sour cream with the lime juice until creamy.

Serve the potatoes drizzled with the sour cream mixture, sprinkled with the onion and cilantro.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 237 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat; 4g Saturated; (23% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 17mg Cholesterol; 202mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

My changes to the recipe, which I did not consider to be drastic, significantly changed the nutritional information. Doing only three things, decreasing the amounts of the butter, cheese, and sour cream, and also subbing lower fat versions of both the cheese and sour cream, knocked off half of the total calories, 84% of the total fat, and 83% of saturated fat. Enough said.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Curry

It has been warmer for the past couple of days, and the rain yesterday melted the snow, but we are still seriously lacking sun. It appeared for a short while today (and we rejoiced), so I celebrated by going out for a run. I envy those who live in communities which have paved roads and sidewalks, because all I have to run on are my trails (through our 50 acres) and they are often quite mucky. But I don’t have to worry about errant vehicles trying to run me down, either, so I shouldn’t complain. And I’m not! It was a wonderful run and, if the weather forecast is correct (haha), I will be able to do another on Wednesday.

Tonight I decided to use another of those ever-multiplying butternut squash which are in my basement. I don’t know how this happens, but I am quite certain that I harvested less of them last fall than I currently have in the basket, even though I use them regularly.

I adapted a recipe from October 2006 Cooking Light. Their Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry became Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Curry. I had about 4 ounces more squash than the pumpkin which the recipe called for, but used it all anyway.

This was absolutely delicious, and Jack surprised me with how much he enjoyed it. This recipe was to make 6 servings, but… ;)

Remember, as you prepare this, that those little red lentils cook quickly and will become quite soft and fall apart if they are cooked for too long. It is for this reason that you should only cook the squash (pumpkin) until it just starts to soften, and add the lentils. By the time, then, that the squash is cooked the lentils will be perfectly done as well. I also added a little arrowroot to thicken it a bit more.

This is a very flavorful, very pretty stew. I am happy, and surprised, that I still have fresh cilantro in my cold-frame outside (despite the bitter temperatures of the past few weeks). The cilantro is a “must” for sprinkling on top of each serving and we also found out that some chopped roasted cashews are an excellent “topper” as well. We, obviously, figured out the cashews after this photo was taken.

This time, it was served with naan (Trader Joe's), next time I will serve it over brown basmati rice.

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry

Because pumpkin has a neutral taste, it works well in Indian curries, where it takes on the flavors of the spices. For the best results, choose pie pumpkin, which is smaller, sweeter, and more tender than the larger pumpkins used for carving jack-o'-lanterns. You can substitute brown lentils and cook them 20 to 30 minutes longer, adding more broth, if necessary.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled fresh pumpkin (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dried small red lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 lime wedges

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in pumpkin and next 7 ingredients (through jalapeño); cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until pumpkin is just tender. Stir in lentils; cook 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in salt and black pepper. Ladle stew into individual bowls; sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups stew, 2 teaspoons cilantro, and 1 lime wedge)

CALORIES 222 (11% from fat); FAT 2.8g (sat 0.4g,mono 1.8g,poly 0.4g); IRON 4mg; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 123mg; CARBOHYDRATE 41.9g; SODIUM 657mg; PROTEIN 10.3g; FIBER 8.7g

Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2006

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Indian-Spiced Roast Salmon, Mashed Winter Squash with Indian Spices

The gloom of January is upon us here in the northwestern United States. Long cold days, even longer dark and frigid nights. The shortest day of the year was 3 weeks ago, but I haven’t noticed a lengthening in daylight hours yet.

We still have the Christmas tree up, and it may stay that way for a while. I enjoy its bright colored lights in the evening, and once the ornaments are removed and packed away, I see no reason to disassemble the rest. We need something bright and sparkling, now!

And under the heading of “bright” comes last night’s dinner. Not bright as in a bright idea I had of what to prepare, but bright as in orange. Salmon and winter squash, both spiced with Indian flavors, gleamed on our plate.

The salmon recipe comes from an old Cooking Light issue. Extremely simple to prepare, you rub spices into salmon fillets, pan-brown on one side, flip, and finish cooking in the oven. I have made this entirely on the stovetop, but since I needed to turn on the oven to roast the squash for the side dish, I prepared it entirely as directed (yes, no substitutions at all! Surprised???). It is quite good, the top is crusty with spices, the inside moist and rich. Salmon is such a good fish to roast, and it’s substantial flavor stands up nicely to the spices.

Indian-Spiced Roast Salmon

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
2/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425°

Place salmon, skin sides down, in a roasting pan or jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Brush evenly with juice. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt and next 5 ingredients (salt through red pepper), and sprinkle evenly over fish.

Bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Combine yogurt and cilantro, and serve with fish.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 salmon fillet and about 3 tablespoons yogurt mixture)

CALORIES 300 (40% from fat); FAT 13.2g (sat 3.1g,mono 5.7g,poly 3.2g); IRON 0.8mg; CHOLESTEROL 88mg; CALCIUM 107mg; CARBOHYDRATE 4.3g; SODIUM 403mg; PROTEIN 38.7g; FIBER 0.3g

Cooking Light, JUNE 2004

The squash recipe comes from Food & Wine, November 2006. I harvested a lot of butternut and buttercup squash this past fall and I think that while it is stored in the basement, the squash are multiplying while I am not looking. It seems as though the more I use, the more remain! So I decided to use a buttercup squash for dinner. This, also, was very simple to prepare. The squash did not need to be peeled since it is roasted, simply splitting it in half and removing the seeds was called for. I decreased the oil in the recipe a bit and added more water (I think that buttercup is a squash which is dryer in texture than butternut). After roasting, simply scoop the flesh from the squash, add it to a pan of already-sautéed onion, garlic, and spices, and stir a bit to mash it up. This was very delicious, and I will make it again soon (perhaps to serve with chicken).

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mashed Winter Squash with Indian Spices

Recipe Adapted From Food & Wine

Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 pounds butternut squash

1 tablespoon canola oil -- divided

1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

1 large garlic clove -- minced

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/8 Teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes

2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 400F. Place foil on a large baking sheet. Split squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Spray the cut side liberally with cooking spray and place, cut side down, on foil. Roast for 35-45 minutes, or until tender. Cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

In a saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook over moderately high heat, shaking the pan, until they pop (about one minute). Scrape into a small bowl.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil to any oil remaining in the pan and then sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until they soften, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, turmeric, and crushed red pepper and stir for about one minute, until fragrant. Remove pan from heat.

Using a large spoon, scrape the squash flesh from the skin into the pot. Add the water and cook over medium heat, stirring to mash the squash pieces. Once the squash is heated through, season with salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the toasted mustard seeds and serve.


"Adapted from Food and Wine, November 2006"

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Per serving: 265 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat (1g Saturated); (22% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 19mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 3 Grain (Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Since the oven was hot, I also warmed a couple of Trader Joe’s naan. Perfect. :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Oven-Baked "Fried" Chicken

These are the days when I need to have my oven on. Daily highs in the teens or low 20’s, lows in the single digits… I am always feeling cold! So while I am in the kitchen making dinner, I enjoy some nice oven-generated heat.

I usually bake something in midafternoon (today it was bread) and, then make dinner while the oven is hot. Oven-fried chicken is a favorite and, along with mashed potatoes and gravy, it certainly is comforting on these frigid, windy winter days.

I practically grew up on fried chicken, and my Gram made the absolute best, but because it contains so much fat I have been making oven-fried chicken for the past many years. It took a long time to find a recipe which gave me both flavor and crispiness, and I have tried many recipes, but I keep returning to this one which I found on the Food Network site (by Robin Miller). The Dijon mustard brushed on the chicken before coating not only adds a wonderful flavor but also helps the crumbs to adhere. A necessary change that I made to the recipe was to use panko crumbs instead of instant oats. I think that panko crumbs are the best for oven-fried anything because they crisp much more than regular bread crumbs (or oats) do. I also omitted the mustard powder in the crumb mixture since I thought it may be too mustard-y with using Dijon mustard on the chicken, and I added a shake of ground chipotle for just a bit of smoky heat.

The herbed coating was crunchy and flavorful, the chicken moist and tender-- you can’t ask for better. AND the kitchen was toasty-warm! :)

Mashed potatoes are a treat for us since we don't eat many white potatoes. I like to steam a mixture of diced potatoes and cauliflower florets, then when they are tender add warm skim milk and light butter, mash, season with salt and pepper-- mashed potatoes that taste wonderful and are lower in carbs and fat that those made with all potatoes, whole milk, and butter (ah, for the mashed potatoes of my childhood, though!!!).

One note- to make the chicken extra-crispy, I placed it under the broiler after it was done baking. Then I was distracted with pouring wine, so it burnt a little on top. Oops.

Oven-Baked "Fried" Chicken

by Robin Miller

  • Cook Time: 30 min

  • Level: Easy

  • Yield: 4 servings


  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup instant oats (I used panko crumbs)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder (I omitted this, but added a dash of ground chipotle)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a shallow dish, combine oats, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, paprika, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Brush each chicken breast with Dijon mustard. Add chicken to oat mixture with tongs and turn to coat both sides. Transfer chicken to prepared baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.

Bake 30 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

(I placed the chicken under the broiler to crisp the top-- watch carefully so it doesn't burn!!!)