Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sweet potatoes meet ginger

I really loved this sweet potato and ginger soup. It was smooth and creamy and very different from the usual, but it hit the spot on a day when I was in the mood for a change. I got the recipe from It is fantastic with an Asian chicken salad on the side. Or leave out the chicken and have a nice meatless meal.


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. sugar
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
Chopped honey-roasted peanuts for garnish

In large pot, heat oil on medium-high, then add sweet potatoes and onion. Saute until golden brown. Add butter, sugar, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and salt, then saute for a couple more minutes.

Pour in chicken broth and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are very tender. Puree using an immersion blender or a regular blender (leave lid slightly ajar and cover with towel to avoid pressure buildup and volcano effect). Mix in milk and adjust seasonings as desired. Top individual servings with chopped peanuts. This soup tastes better the longer it sits.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


This is a fun and easy way to make two delicious kinds of fudge -- traditional and cookies and cream. These recipes are meant to be shared! A 9x13 pan goes a long way. Fudge is rich, so you can only eat one or two pieces at a time or else you'll be induced into a sugar coma. Hey, Valentine's Day is coming up. It's a perfect time to spread some thick, sweet, creamy love.


Base ingredients:

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
3 c. sugar
1 c. butter, softened
4 c. mini marshmallows
1 Tbsp. imitation vanilla extract

Traditional mix-ins:

2 12-ounce bags semisweet chocolate chips
2 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Cookies and cream mix-ins:

2 12-ounce bags white chocolate chips
20 (at least) chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped into big chunks

Prepare ingredients before starting the cooking process. In a large pot, mix evaporated milk and sugar and bring to boil. Once it starts to boil, set a timer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, then quickly stir in butter, marshmallows, vanilla and your choice of chocolate chips. Mix until smooth, then quickly stir in your other mix-in (nuts or cookies). Pour into 9x13 pan and refrigerate at least 3 hours before cutting into squares. Store in air-tight container.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Indian bean curry

I love it when new cuisine finds a welcome place at our table. This Indian bean curry is deliciously aromatic and flavorful. It makes a great meatless main dish.

You may need an introduction, however, to one of the star ingredients. It is an Indian blend of spices called garam masala. I know it's a hassle to buy ingredients you aren't accustomed to cooking with, but I believe this is a worthwhile purchase -- even for this dish alone. I found McCormick's version in the spice aisle at Walmart. The blend includes spices such as coriander, which has lovely fruity undertones. Other players are black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. You could definitely make your own if you're feeling experimental or if you already have these spices at home and prefer to be frugal.


1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 large onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger*
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. salt
2 c. chicken broth
2 15-ounce cans black beans OR black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. milk
1/3 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
1/3 c. lightly packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In large skillet, saute onion in oil for several minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger, then add tomatoes. Stir in seasonings until well combined, then add broth and beans. Bring to boil, then reduce heat a little and simmer.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with milk until smooth, then add to bean mixture as a thickener. Stir in sour cream and cook, stirring as needed, until desired consistency is achieved. Stir in cilantro. Serve with naan (Indian flatbread) or over rice.

*There are bottles of freshly grated ginger in the produce section of your store. They last awhile in the fridge, and you can just squeeze out the exact amount you need -- hassle-free.

Friday, January 18, 2013

French onion soup

For a delicious and flavorful dinner, try French onion soup. It's very easy to make. It takes a little time, only because you have to cook the onions down, but it doesn't require much babysitting. 

Ours is a non-alcoholic version. I studied several recipes, then made the dish twice, making a few alterations to see if they made a difference in our level of enjoyment. Our conclusion is that this soup is a winner no matter what. Adjust ingredients -- you'll see the options below -- according to what you have on hand.


2-3 lbs. onions, sliced up to 1/4 inch thick*
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 ounces apple juice or orange juice
8 c. beef broth**
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Big cheesy croutons:

Sliced french bread
Garlic powder
Dried basil
Shredded Swiss cheese

In large pot, over medium-low heat, melt butter with olive oil, then toss with onions. Cover pot and let onions steep for 15 minutes to soften and release juices. No need to check on them. Stir in salt and sugar, increase heat to medium-high, and let onions cook uncovered, stirring periodically, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Onions will reduce down to about one-third their original volume. Toward the end you'll need to stir quite frequently.

Add flour and cook for a minute, then deglaze pan with cider vinegar and juice. Add broth and Worcestershire. Bring to boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. I needed an extra 1/4 teaspoon salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Meanwhile, spread butter on french bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder and dried basil. Toast under broiler until dried and crispy. (Toast both sides, even though one side has nothing on it.) Remove from oven, sprinkle with Swiss cheese, then toast again to melt cheese. Dip into soup.

*I used white onions one time and yellow onions the other. Both were great. The first time, I used 2 pounds, and the second time, I used 4 pounds. Our family preferred something closer to the 2-pound mark. My onions were huge -- about the size of a small baby's head -- and each weighed about a pound.

**The first time, I used 5 cups beef broth and 3 cups chicken broth, because that was all I had. The second time, I used all beef broth. We were equally happy both ways. I would just suggest that the majority be beef broth.