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Sweet Potato Patties – kids love them!

Sweet Potato Patties on PlatterWe have all seen that version of frozen “sweet potato patties”  or “yam patties” that you can get in the store.  I think they were even served regularly in our school cafeteria when I was a kid.  I am talking about these:

FrozenSweetPotatoYamPatties

Highly-Processed Frozen Sweet Potato Yam Patties

According to the website, the ingredients for those are: Yams (Sweet Potatoes), Sugar, Cornstarch, Buttermilk, Salt, Yellow 6, Red 40, Natural And Artificial Flavoring, Disodium Dihydrogen Pyrophosphate (To Retain Natural Color).

So while they do start out as a vegetable (a sweet potato, as a real “yam” is a totally different veggie), the manufacturer has added lots of sugar, artificial flavorings and two types of food dyes.  Yuck!  So, why not just make your own?

We had the day off school last week for a Teacher’s Professional Day.  We got to wake up late and I wanted to make the girls a filling brunch before we headed out to the Chickasaw Cultural Center.  If you live anywhere nearby, I highly recommend a visit.

I had only one sweet potato and it needed to be used. Since Sarah, especially, loves roasted sweet potatoes, I decided to shred it and make a hybrid between hash browns and a pancake.  I used a combo of mashed banana and honey to give it a bit of sweetness.  Since I put honey inside it, I did not serve any honey or syrup at the table.

I shredded the potato on my hand grater, but if you are doing more than one potato, using the shredding blade on your food processor would be great.  Or, if you wanted that totally puréed potato texture that the frozen ones have, then just throw everything in your food processor and purée it before cooking.  I add the flax-seed to boost the Omega-3′s and also to thicken the mixture without having to rely on any kind of flour.  I guess it also makes this gluten-free, if that matters to your family.

By the way, “pumpkin pie spice” is a mixture of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and either allspice or cloves.  If you do not have the ready-made spice mix, then you can mix together 1.5 tsp cinnamon + 3/4 tsp ginger + 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/4 tsp cloves/allspice,  all ground, to make your own. The girls all ended up LOVING them and surprisingly, it was Emma not Sarah who loved them the most, as she ate FOUR of them.

Sweet Potato Patties - IngredientsSweet Potato Patties
Makes about 12 patties

  • 1 good-sized sweet potato, peeled and shredded
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 1 tablespoon real maple syrup or honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spiceSweet Potato Patties - Preparation
  • 2 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in bowl.
  2. Lightly grease a frying pan, skillet or griddle  and place over medium high heat.  I used coconut oil to grease mine.
  3. When pan is hot, put scoops of the mixture in pan and flatten slighty with the back of your spoon.
  4. Cook until patties are brown on both sides.  Serve.

We enjoyed ours with a piece of nitrate-free bacon, an organic fried egg, grape tomatoes, apple slices and steamed french green beans.

Day off of School Brunch

The nutritional info from About.com’s recipe analyzer, for one patty: Sweet Potato Patties - Nutrition

Look at all that Vitamin A!  And the grams of sugars in my patties are much less than the storebought frozen ones, even with the little bit of honey in them.

Bean Soup – or what to do with your Easter ham bone…

Yummy Soup Ingredients

On Easter, we had the ham from the local hog we recently bought.  It was quite tasty and since it was a whopping 18 pounds, we have lots of leftover ham in both the freezer and fridge.  As we always do when we have a ham bone, I made our family’s Bean & Hominy Soup.  I used dry navy beans and canned hominy this time, but since I got the recipe from my mom and she always uses canned beans, I am giving the recipe using those. Of course, you can use dried hominy and beans, instead of canned, if you prefer. It will be both cheaper and healthier to make that way.

This is the navy bean soup that my family makes. It is a recipe that my Mom got from her Mom and is a dish that they used to make in Key West, Florida. My grandparents were Key West “Conchs”, meaning they were born and raised in Key West. I guess that this recipe came over to Key West from the Bahamas (or maybe Cuba?) along with the immigrants from there in the late 1800’s. I’ll call it “Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup” after my grandmother.

But, I will note that while my mom has always made it with hominy, recently she did she reveal that when she was a young child (late 1930’s) her Mom, Ida, made it with dried white “cracked corn”. Later, as it became easier to find hominy and more difficult to find food-grade cracked corn for human consumption (it is used today in chicken feed), they switched to hominy.

Wikipedia states about hominy that “Soaking the corn in lye kills the seed’s germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize’s comparative excess of phosphorus.”

It’s great with hominy, but I guess the cracked corn is more authentic.  Also, we always used white hominy, but this time I used half white and half yellow and it still looked and tasted fine. Feel free to adjust the hominy to bean ratio to your tastes, but there must be some hominy in it.  Sadly, there is no vegetarian version of this, since the ham bone and attached ham is what give it most of the flavor.

Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup

  • 1 ham bone (with some ham left on it)
  • 4 cans Navy beans, 15 oz. size cans (you can use Northern beans, but it’s not quite the same)
  • 2 cans white hominy, 15.5 oz. size cans (hominy is lye-soaked corn, yellow will do if you can’t get white)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Old Sour, for adding at the table (optional)
  1. Simmer the ham bone in water until the meat drops off and the water makes a rich broth. I use my crock-pot and cook it on low overnight.
  2. Remove the bone and cut up any larger chunks of meat to small bite-size pieces. Drain and rinse the beans and hominy and put the chopped onion in the broth/meat in a pot along with the hominy and beans. Add additional water if necessary, as the final product should have the consistency of a stew when finished.
  3. Cook on low heat (or in a crock pot) for several hours, until the beans and hominy have softened a little and made a saucy-broth. Add salt and black pepper to taste. At the table, you can add “old sour” to taste.

“Old Sour”  is Key Lime Juice that has salt added to it, and is then left to sit and sour/ferment for a while.  I think that its use goes back to the seafaring heritage of many Key West and Bahamian folks, as the preserved  lime juice is a good source of vitamin C when you are out at sea.  That is why “limey” is a slang term for a sailor.

I found this recipe on a Key West web site, in case you can’t find it ready-made. By the way, my Mom doesn’t use peppers in hers, just lime juice and salt. Old Sour is a very old Key West tradition and Conchs use on it just about everything.

Old Sour

  • 2 cups Key Lime juice or Persian Lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 Bird Peppers or a few drops of hot sauce, optional
  1. Strain the lime juice through cheesecloth three or four times to make sure to remove all pulp.
  2. Mix lime juice and salt together. Pour into bottles with Bird Peppers. Cork.
  3. Refrigerate two weeks or more before using, the longer the better. Store in refrigerator three to six months.

Serve the bean soup with buttered Cuban bread, or French or Italian if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a town like Tampa were you can get Cuban bread.  A salad goes well with it and gives you something green.

The girls really like this soup and at their request have taken it for lunch in their thermoses the last two days.

– Stacey

Why do people buy tubs of frosting that are full of icky chemicals?

I was watching the Food Network the other day and saw LOTS of ads for a new Duncan Hines product, Frosting Creations.  Basically, it is a tub of white unflavored frosting to which youDuncan Hines Flavor Creations add an artificially flavored and colored powder to make a flavored frosting.  The powders have things in them like: Red #40  Blue #2, Yellow #5, and lots of what they themselves call “artificial flavor”.

Why buy tub frostings at all?  Buttercream frosting is one of easiest, most foolproof things you can make.  At its most basic, it has only three ingredients:  butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  Here is an oh, so, simple recipe.

Simple Homemade Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Leave butter on counter for at least 30 minutes so it will soften.
  2. Put soft butter in mixing bowl.  Put bowl on mixer and put beaters on the mixer.
  3. Turn on the mixer and run it on medium to cream butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat in until thoroughly mixed.  The exact amount of sugar is dependent on the consistency you want.  If you screw up and put too much, no problem, just add a tablespoon or two of milk.
  5. Add vanilla. You now have frosting. If not using right away, refrigerate in a closed container until ready to use and then just fluff it a bit with a spoon.

If you want LOTS of frosting, then double the recipe.  If you do not have a mixer, use a whisk or even just a spoon.  Should still work if the butter is soft.   If you want to get fancier and make cream cheese frosting, then substitute some cream cheese for some of the butter.  If you want a different flavor than vanilla, then use almond, mint, lemon, or orange extract instead of the vanilla.  If you want chocolate frosting, add about 1/4 cup of cocoa powder.  Here are several variations from Taste of Home.

So, you really still think buying the tub is easier?  Well, lets look at what is in the tub.  These are the ingredients in the Betty Crocker Vanilla Frosting: 

Betty Crocker Rich and Cream Frosting Ingredients

My Stars!  They actually still have and are willing to admit that they have TRANS FATS in their product.  2 g of trans fats per serving!  Trans fats are the worst fat you can eat and they are a man-made concoction.  That is the “partially hydrogenated” oils in the ingredient list.

Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about trans fats here.  Be sure to read the part where it says ” in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat.”  So, lots of products that say 0g of trans fats, actually have 0.5g in them.  So, even if the container says 0g trans fats, if any of the ingredients are “partially hydrogenated”, the amount is not REALLY zero.

There is also artificial coloring in this frosting…isn’t vanilla supposed to be white?  So, why do you even need artificial color here? 

Okay, I am not saying that frosting is ever a “health food”.  But, if you are going to indulge, at least use a frosting made from real food ingredients.  It is so easy to make, I am not sure why they ever started selling it in a tub to begin with.  The tub stuff has such crappy ingredients, please just mix some powdered sugar into some real butter yourself instead.

Off my soapbox.  Sorry, “convenience foods” made of crappy ingredients that are actually no more convenient than making something from scratch are a pet peeve of mine.  If you are going to indulge in cake, at least make it a quality cake made from real ingredients.

– Stacey

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting – our Easter Dinner dessert

Kid with Banana CakeI recently started using Pinterest and came across a link there to some banana cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting that looked good.  So, I decided to make the recipe into a layer cake as our dessert for yesterday’s Easter Dinner.  Several of the comments at the Dash of Sass website thought that the original recipe made too much frosting, so I took their suggestion and halved the frosting.  It still made more than enough to frost the cake.

I used organic unbleached white flour, but I might try whole wheat pastry flour the next time I make this.   I also did not have any buttermilk as the original recipe specified on hand, so used my regular substitute of mixing plain yogurt with whole milk, and that turned out fine.  I may add another egg next time I make this to get some more lift. The cake is similar in texture to banana bread or carrot cake.

For the cream cheese, I was looking for one that did not have a lot of thickeners and preservatives, so I used Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese.   Unlike most cream cheese that is thickened by using guar gum and carob bean gum, this one uses probiotic cultures to thicken it and so is more natural and you get a bonus dose of probiotics.  🙂  It’s ingredients are: Organic cream, nonfat dry milk, L. acidophilus, B. bifidum and 4 strains of Lactic cultures, salt.

Mike and the girls all loved this recipe.  While it is definitely a rare treat with all that butter and sugar, I will make it again.  I tried “decorating” it with a star shape made out of cinnamon, but it didn’t come out that well.  🙂  On a positive note, if you are not that great at frosting cakes and occassionally get a bit of crumb in your frosting, the cinnamon flecks in the frosting will help hide that.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups white flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder (such as Rumford)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 3-4 bananas, very ripe)
  • 1/8 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 -2 Tbsp rum (spiced rum is even better), optional (if you leave out, add a bit more milk instead)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) real butter
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Frosting:

  • 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9″ cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon from the cake recipe. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed bananas, yogurt, milk, vanilla and rum. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl (the big one that fits on your mixer), beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, blending entirely before adding the next egg.
  5. Once the eggs are combined, add the dry and wet ingredients in alternating order. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, beat on slow to combine. Add 1/3 of the wet ingredients, beat on slow to combine. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients have been combined.
  6. Scoop batter into prepared cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from cake pans. Let cakes cool completely on wire racks before applying frosting.
  8. While cakes are baking, prepare the frosting. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add confectioners sugar in 1 cup increments. After 2 cups, check for desired sweetness. Continue adding confectioner’s sugar until you have achieved desired level of sweetness.  Blend in salt, vanilla and cinnamon. 
  9. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken

Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken

When I was a kid, my mom used to make this dish quite often.  It has simple ingredients and tastes yummy.  However, since we didn’t keep regular wine in the house, she always made it with cooking wine.  Since that stuff is full of salt and preservatives, I defintely recommend not using cooking wine and instead using a plain white wine, something inexpensive but drinkable.  If you do have to use cooking wine, then don’t salt the chicken or use any other salt in the dish. 

I had part of a bottle of leftover white wine that had been sitting in my kitchen, so that is what I used.  The alcohol cooks off, so this dish is safe for kids.  Oddly, because growing up we were a family of teetotalling Baptists and wine rarely made an appearance in our house, we always just called this dish “Wine Chicken”.  🙂

Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken

  • 3-4 lb. chicken pieces (including bones and skin), I used a whole cut-up fryer chickenWine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken - Ingredients
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • ½ tsp. dried marjoram leaves
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon (or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of white wine (preferred), water, or chicken broth
  1. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Mix together thyme, marjoram, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil.  Pour mixture over chicken and turn chicken in mixture to cover both sides. Place skin side down and let sit in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, turning twice during that period. Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken - Marinading
  2. Place the baking pan with chicken and marinade in it into the oven under the broiler.  Broil chicken skin side down for 8-10 minutes in oven until brown.  Turn chicken and broil on the other side (skin side up) another 6-8 minutes until brown.  Bake at 350 F until the chicken is cooked through, about 15-25 minutes until juices run clear (not pink) when poked with a sharp knife or the internal temperature of the chicken breasts is 165°F and the thighs 170°. During that time, when pan gets dry, add ¼ cup of white wine, water, or chicken broth and shake pan to mix.
  3. When done, transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.  Place the original baking pan on top of the stove.  Add about 1/4 cup additional white wine, water, or chicken broth and dissolve particles.  Cook down until it is a “sauce” consistency.  Serve sauce with the chicken.Wine, Lemon, & Herb Broiled Chicken - happy kid

I served this with steamed white fingerling potatoes and steamed asparagus that my friend brought me from her garden.  Everyone enjoyed this dish, especially the lemony-herby crispy skin.

– Stacey

Breakfast Casserole, without the bread

Breakfast Casserole

Everyone loves the taste of those breakfast casserole recipes that start with soaking multiple slices of white bread in eggs and milk overnight.  You know the ones that people serve for holiday breakfasts and brunches.  But, who really needs to eat a bunch of low-nutrition highly-processed white bread?

A friend of mine, Janet, makes something similar, but hers deliciously makes up for the missing bread with a LOT of cheese, kind of like a breakfast crustless quiche.  When I say a lot of cheese, I am serious. So, I adapted and modified her recipe with some others online and came up with this which has I think a reasonable amount of cheese. 

Oh, the sausage I used was from that half of a local pig we bought a few weeks ago. It was a very mild sausage, not spicy at all, so I added a bit of cayenne pepper. Adjust the peppers to your preference based on how spicy your sausage is. There is even a recipe on my blog here for mixing up your own breakfast sausage if you have access to good ground pork…my recipe is for a much spicier pork sausage.

It was a BIG hit with both Mike and the girls this weekend.  Feel free to change out the veggies or better yet, add more, maybe some sautéed spinach?

Breakfast Casserole with Mushrooms & Onions

  • 1 pound bulk sausage
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 4-6 mushrooms, chopped
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 cup half & half or milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cup colby jack or mild cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish.
2. Brown sausage, remove grease if necessary. Mine didn’t make any.
3. Add onions and mushrooms to sausage until the mushrooms are cooked.
4. Mix together the eggs, salt, peppers, half and half, and cheese in a bowl.
5. Put sausage mixture in baking dish, then pour egg mixture on top and stir to combine.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.

–  Stacey

Note: Sick in bed today, so written and published completely from my phone. 🙂

Defending broccoli from politicians!

Broccoli and Parsley from our garden

Broccoli and parsley from our garden

What is it about broccoli that political conservatives hate so much?  From the first President Bush’s statement in 1990 that “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” to the current one in this week’s health care Supreme Court case by Justice Antonin Scalia.

On Tuesday, Scalia asked: “Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded that buying food in the supermarket is “unpredictable and often involuntary,” unlike purchasing health insurance. Well, I feel that I need to defend the wonderful vegetable that is broccoli and mention that the government DOES affect the marketing and purchasing of lots of foods, to the detriment of poor little broccoli and lots of other healthy foods.

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) originated in Italy about 2000 years ago and is a member of the cabbage family.   It is high in Vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber, something most Americans don’t get enough of, especially from real food sources.  It also contains a good amount of vitamins K, B6, and B2 (riboflavin).  And, broccoli has multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. Something for all of these older men that don’t like broccoli to think about is that a high intake of broccoli has been found to cut the risk of aggressive prostate cancers.

And it is misguided to think that the government doesn’t already have a significant role in deciding what Americans eat through the Farm Bill.  Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Mark Bittman have all written a lot more about this subject than I can state here.   But, we currently subsidize the production of corn and soy which is then turned into cheap highly-processed foods such as snack cakes and soda.  We don’t subsidize the growers of nutritious fresh vegetables, making them a lot more expensive in your local grocery than the junk food.  Corn is the source of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) and soy is used to produce the cheap soy oil that is used in most processed foods.  My tax dollars are used to subsidize both these crops even though our family tries to avoid HFCS and soy oil. So, I am in essence being forced to pay for HFCS by the government.  I would rather my tax dollars go to making broccoli cheaper.

Although we are solidly in the lower 99%, we, unlike lots of Americans, are lucky enough to be able to afford healthy food for our family.  So, we go ahead and buy the unsubsidized fruits and vegetables.  But, it would be beneficial to everyone’s health if the veggies were cheaper than the Little Debbies, Lucky Charms, and Cokes.  In case you have not yet realized it, I am a political liberal, the bleeding heart kind.  So, since the government is going to subsidize things, I would like it to be things that help people, especially children, not benefit just the fat-cat corporations.  Not that I agree with everything in Michelle Obama’s children’s health crusade, but she is trying.  As a part of that, she is coming out with a cookbook soon that focuses on healthy foods including vegetables and here is a link to some of the her recipes including Broccoli Soup.

Now, time for a delicious broccoli recipe that even the first Pres. George Bush would like.  Several years ago, I watched Ina Garten make roasted broccoli and added that to our family’s vegetable rotation.  Since then, I have also seen Jamie Oliver and Alton Brown make their versions of various roasted veggies.  You can go to the Food Network recipe archives and find literally dozens of roasted broccoli recipes.  Here is the simple version we make.

Oven-Roasted Broccoli
(Serves 4-6 depending on appetites)

  • 2 to 3 heads of raw broccoli (or go the easy route and get a bag of the raw florets)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. 
  3. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan with a lip on it large enough to hold them in a single layer.  Drizzle the broccoli a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Some people like to add a bit of minced garlic, sliced almonds, or pine nuts to the broccoli before roasting or put a bit of shredded parmesan or lemon juice on them before serving.  But, most of the time, we go with the simple version.

I recommend cooking a lot of veggies by oven roasting.  Cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes are all excellent made by oven roasting.  Just adjust the roasting time to suit the vegetable.   For sweet potatoes, instead of olive oil, salt and pepper, I use a bit of melted real butter, pumpkin pie spice and some maple syrup.

Enjoy your broccoli and be healthy!

– Stacey

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