As the season’s collective focus on sweet potatoes sharpens, I’m finding myself fixated on new and creative uses for this hearty little superfood. Dinner tonight was Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili and this morning for Sarah’s welcome-home breakfast: Sweet Potato Waffles with Cinnamon Apples.
There could not have been a better start to a rainy, grey Sunday and now that we have all become such fans of the hearty Sweet Potato Waffle, it’s just as likely to reappear as a dinner.
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, and cooked sweet potatoes
- 2 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp. raw sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- grated zest and 1/4 cup fresh squeezed juice from 1 orange
- 2 Tbsp. ground flax
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 4 Granny Smith apples peeled and diced
- 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. raw sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Boil one quart of water in a large saucepan. Peel and dice one large sweet potato and add to boiling water.
- Preheat waffle iron.
- Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- Beat oil, eggs, milk and sugar. Zest and juice orange and continue beating.
- When sweet potatoes are fork tender, drain and allow to cool for a few minutes. Measure 1 1/2 cups of cooked sweet potatoes and add to batter. Beat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Stir in flax and pecans.
- Coat waffle iron with non-stick spray and pour 1 cup of batter onto hot waffle iron. Cook until there is no longer any steam escaping from the waffle iron.
- While sweet potatoes and waffles are cooking. Finely dice apples and add to a small skillet with 1 Tbsp. melted butter. Combine lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes until apples are tender.
- Top waffles with Cinnamon Apple mixture and butter. Serve hot.
The pear is a tricky fruit. The window between rock-hard and mushy seems to last no more than a few hours. Unlike, say, bananas that can be peeled and frozen for smoothies, or apples that tend to last AND remain perfect for hundreds of recipes even if they are a little past their prime, too often around here, pears have just gotten tossed. I’m happy to report, however, that sorry state of affairs is officially a thing of the past. Last week as four pears started to head down that inevitable road, I peeled and cored them, sprinkled them with about a tablespoon of lemon juice and kept them covered in the fridge for a few days.
When I was ready to play with a pear cake recipe, the peeled pears were in perfect shape. Problem solved. Lemon successfully managed to buy time for the pears.
As for the Ginger Pear Cake that they ended up in: A delightful addition to Sunday Brunch. A few tweaks and it could transfer over into the dessert realm, but this version, with just a touch of sweetness and a good dose of healthy walnuts provided a solid start to the day.
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger or 1 tsp. powdered ginger
- 3/4 cup pear puree
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray.
- Puree pears and set aside.
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Beat ginger, oil, sugar, eggs and pear puree. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Stir in walnuts.
- Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
So we learned toward the end of 2012 that when it comes to predicting the end of the world, we don’t need to be looking to the Mayans. And that’s a good thing. More time to enjoy that culture’s most excellent of contributions: cocoa combined with cinnamon and a touch of cayenne.
I’ve been adding cinnamon and cayenne pepper to brownies for years, even when using (perish the thought) a box mix. The result is a little edge that takes the basic brownie to a new dimension. I’ve long struggled, though with trying to make a brownie from scratch, using cocoa — not chocolate chips or bakers chocolate — that was moist and chewy. I trust we can all agree that it’s just not right that a box mix can be better than what’s stirred up from scratch with love and real food. I think I hit upon it this week. The key: lots more cocoa than most recipes call for, and ground walnuts using a food processor or coffee grinder. The result: moist and chewy, not greasy, and quite tasty.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups raw sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup unbleached flour
- 3/4 cup ground walnuts
- Preheat oven to 325 and line and 8″ x 8″ baking pan with foil. Coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
- Grind walnuts in a food processor or coffee grinder. It’s not necessary to completely pulverize the nuts. Walnut chunks are always welcome in brownies.
- Melt butter and allow to cool slightly.
- Sift cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt. Combine sugar. Add butter is a steady stream, continuing to whisk.
- Add eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly. Stir in ground nuts, followed by flour. Stir until just combined.
- Pour batter into a prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top begins to crack.
- Lift the cooked brownies out of the pan using the sides of the foil. Allow to cool slightly and cut into squares.
So it turns out that an ice cream maker is not a requirement for making sorbet at home. It also turns out that not a lot of sugar is needed. Two very great pieces of information for turning one of the top super foods on the planet into a wildly healthy, potentially elegant dessert that’s bursting with flavor.
My first foray into homemade sorbet began with a recipe that seemed to good to be true — and it was. The directions were to blend blueberries, lemon, honey lemon zest and salt together together, freeze for an hour and have at it. I switched out agave nectar for honey and after an hour in the freezer, it was barely holding it’s shape. So I froze it overnight and it turned into a frozen brick — more like a giant ice cube than anything you could ever hope to scoop out into a bowl and serve.
Next step: Google.
When not using an ice cream maker, the trick is to blend it a second time while it’s still frozen, and then refreeze. One recipe called for a little hard liquor, which doesn’t freeze and as such, helps to mitigate against the unmanageable ice chunk. Vodka was recommended for it’s lack of flavor, and even though vodka is not on my list, desperate situations call for desperate measures …
The recipes also all seemed to recommend refreezing in a metal cake pan. So I tried again, and within about 3 hours I was serving up perfect little scoops of blueberry lemon sorbet.
- 3 cups of fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbsp. agave nectar
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp. vodka
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend thoroughly. There are those who advocate straining out the skins and the seeds. I prefer to just blend it very well and maintain the character of the fruit.
- Pour into an 8″ x 8″ metal pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap, as well as aluminum foil. Freeze for 2-3 hours.
- Break up or mash up into small chunks. Blend thoroughly again.
- Refreeze for at least another hour and serve.
While I wouldn’t argue with those who claim that there is no need to ever attempt to improve on or even stray from the basic peach cobbler or strawberry shortcake, it’s a wonderful thing for a game changer to slip into summer dessert reperatoire. Last night, I took a stab at a variation of the Individual Summer Berry Puddings recipe from my new Farmers’ Market Desserts cookbook. As I scraped the last bite from the plate, I was already planning when I was going to make it again. Bright, light and rich with fruitiness, this dish is like bread pudding meets a fresh fruit compote, and there is nothing not to like about that.
- 3 cups fresh blueberries
- 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into fourths
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 5 cups of good white bread with the crusts removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 6 cup vanilla or honey flavored Greek yogurt
- Combine berries in a large saucepan, setting aside 1/2 cup of each. Add sugar, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest to the sauce pan and bring to a very low simmer. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the berries begin to soften — about 5 minutes.
- Add the breadcrumbs into the berries and stir gently until the bread is thoroughly incorporated.
- Spoon into individual ramekins or a large serving bowl. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Serve with a scoop of vanilla or honey flavored Greek yogurt, and top with the fresh berries that were set aside prior to cooking.