Sorry Aunt Jemima

A quick hit from my kitchen this morning.

I’ve been trying to convince my kids that sometimes fresh fruit, pure fruit spread or peanut butter make fine substitutes as toppings on waffles and pancakes instead of syrup  and I’ve been successful so far in not buying syrup for about a month or so now.

This morning however came a big  challenge….French Toast.

Pancakes and waffles are easy to tuck some sweet hits into with either fresh fruit or pureed on top but for some reason French Toast invokes the idea of stacks of thick bread dripping with syrup and powdered sugar.

Of course that could be what I see when I think of it. Making food changes has been a bit of a challenge in my life recently.

My youngest son and daughter both wanted to have French Toast and I rejected the suggestion from my 7 year old daughter to give them corn syrup as a substitute for Aunt Jemima’s warm smiling face…after all I’m trying to get some good eating habits in them as well as a sense of experimentation with their food.

So into my pantry I go and come out with a jar of a friend’s homemade apple sauce with cinnamon. Into my custard of 4 eggs and a tablespoon of heavy cream I put two tablespoons of this apple sauce. Whisk it together, dunk my whole wheat bread slices in the custard, cook it on my pancake pan and serve it up to some of my harshest critics…

There wasn’t a bite left after 5 minutes and while neither commented on the lack of syrup but kept delighting in the hints of apple.

Sorry Aunt Jemima but there seems to be a new sweetener in town…and it’s called pureed fruit.

Gotta say I’m very much looking forward to this coming berry season just so I can play with the flavours that can be incorporated as I loved this twist on a family favourite.

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Playing with Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a veggie that isn’t too hard to get into my kids. They love to eat them and when they are made there usually isn’t a bite left.

We usually have them one of two ways, however, either as store bought fries or baked and served with honey butter and cinnamon. So when the opportunity for me to play in the kitchen on a cold day presented itself today I decided to see if you could make a scalloped sweet potato.

Quick search and I get this recipe from Allrecipes.com and I figured this could be a good way to start playing with this method of cooking sweet potatoes as there are several different recipes and styles that can be found when you do an internet search.

Ingredients from left: 6 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced, 2 granny smith apples, grated and brown sugar combined with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Ingredients from left: 6 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and sliced, 2 granny smith apples, grated and brown sugar combined with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

Whenever I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com I take the time to read through the comments from previous users and see what suggestions I can glean esp when I find I haven’t got an ingredient on hand. In this case I took a suggestion from a poster to grate the apples instead of slicing them and substituted the mace with a combination of half cinnamon and half nutmeg. I think next time I make I will give using apple slices a try.

Getting ready to soften my sweet potatoes.

Getting ready to soften my sweet potatoes.

Now this is the first time I’ve ever done a partial boil on a potato, sweet or otherwise. So I will admit to feeling just a bit overwhelmed by the thought because letting it go too far will, of course, make these potatoes far to soft to be peeled and sliced. When the water came to a boil I checked it every few minutes and once I could feel the potatoes getting soft, but not squishy, I took the pot off the heat and then pulled my potatoes out of the water and put them on a plate to cool.

After peeling.

After peeling.

I let the potatoes cool so that I could easily handle them and then went to peel the skins off. I used a small paring knife and for the most part the skins came off with little effort. There were some parts where the skins didn’t want to come easily but a small wiggle of the knife worked through them and there wasn’t many of them.

Sliced and ready to go. Amazing how much these look like carrots.

Sliced and ready to go. Amazing how much these look like carrots.

One of the things I am having to learn as I work on my culinary skills is how to estimate and visualize the amount you get when you break ingredients down. For example, when I had boiled and peeled the sweet potatoes but before I sliced them I was unsure that I would have enough for a 13 x9 pan. So I was really surprised as I was slicing the sweet potatoes to find I had really did a good amount to make this dish with.

First layer in the pan.

First layer in the pan.

The layering process went quickly. One quick layer of sweet potatoes and then I used the grated apple almost as you would use parmesan in a traditional style scalloped potato. With the sugar and spice sprinkled on top and the first butter layer you can a great idea how these flavours are going to come together.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

The house smelled warm and welcoming as these cooked up and when I put the pan on the table the kids were very excited to try and my eldest called dibs on seconds after taking the first bite.

I am looking forward to making these again.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (I used two Granny Smith apples and grated them)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace (I used the suggestion of 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)
  • 1/4 cup butter

Preparation:

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, then cool, peel, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  3. Arrange half the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Layer half of the apples over the sweet potatoes. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, and mace, then sprinkle half of the mixture over the apple layer. Dot with half the butter. Repeat layers of sweet potato and apple, and top with remaining brown sugar mixture and butter.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, until apples are tender and top is golden brown.

On The Side

Often with a family of five the best approach to getting dinner on table is a divide and conquer strategy.

Today Kevin did what he did best which was grill steak and I put my attention on the sides to go with the meal. It has been a while since we had enjoyed baked sweet potatoes and fresh asparagus so they were the right sides to go with the meal.

Now I’ve never cooked asparagus before so I did some reading and went with this recipe from Food Network from Emeril.

From top: One pound fresh asparagus, snapped and washed, three cloves minced garlic, 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon lemon juice

From top: One pound fresh asparagus, snapped and washed, three cloves minced garlic, 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon lemon juice

The first thing I liked about this recipe was that it was quite simple to make and the ingredient list was all items I have on hand on a regular basis.

I have to confess that working with fresh veggies can be a bit intimidating for me. There seems to be a magic moment with a lot of veggies where they taste amazing but all too quickly they can cross over into a mushy substance that can’t be recovered.

Combined with olive oil and fresh minced garlic.

Combined with olive oil and fresh minced garlic.

I went with only 1 pound of asparagus but kept the amount of garlic the same. We are a garlic loving family so this wasn’t a bad thing. In the end I also kept the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice but the reduced extra olive oil turned out to be the perfect amount.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Now I will say that I probably kept these in the oven about 3 minutes too long. Because several of my stalks of asparagus were a bit thick I wanted to make sure that they roasted through and this hesitation cost me. Next time I’ll go with the suggested time of 20 minutes.

Sweet potatoes rubbed down with a bit of butter and sprinkled with salt.

Sweet potatoes rubbed down with a bit of butter and sprinkled with salt.

Now for the making of my sweet potatoes.

I like to get my sweet potatoes from Costco. They are well priced and I can often get 5 nice sized potatoes which works out well for our family because we all love this side.

I always start with rinsing my sweet potatoes and giving them a pat down with a clean tea towel. Then I take a small amount of butter and just make sure to cover the potato’s skin with it all over. It doesn’t need to be a thick layer of butter either you just want to make sure none of the skin will be able to dry out. Then take your sea salt and give a generous sprinkle all over the potatoes.

After you’ve prepared the potatoes as I’ve suggested you can slide them into a preheated 350 degree oven or on a hot BBQ. Tonight ours were placed on the top rack of our BBQ and left there for 30 minutes to bake. Like any other potato you can test to see if it is done by simple piercing it and making sure the centre is soft.

Honey Butter: Equal parts butter and honey.

Honey Butter: Equal parts butter and honey.

A nice touch to the sweet potatoes is to do a honey butter spread. Easily done in a bowl combine equal parts honey and butter and mix with a fork until it all comes together to look like this:

Finished Honey Butter.

Finished Honey Butter.

A simple condiment where a little goes a long way.

Finished potato with some honey butter and cinnamon.

Finished potato with some honey butter and cinnamon.

Once your potatoes are done just split, add as much or as little of the honey butter as you like and top with some cinnamon. These are a big hit with our kids and they don’t last on the plate long.

Garlic-Roasted Asparagus

Recipe from Emeril on Food Network.com

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed, rinsed and patted dry (I used only 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I cut it back to 1.5 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2) In a large glass baking dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil and garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss. Bake until the asparagus are tender and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the stalks, stirring twice.

3) Remove from the oven and toss with the lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.

4) Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

My husband taught me this one.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato per person (this is our estimate)
  • 1/4 cup of butter (for rubbing down the potatoes. The more potatoes the more you will need)
  • Sea Salt
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • Ground cinnamon

Preparation

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or heat BBQ

2) Rub potatoes with butter until covered all over the skin. Sprinkle all over with sea salt.

3) Bake in oven or BBQ for 30 minutes. Check potato by make sure the centre is soft.

4) Put 1/3 cup of butter and 1/3 honey in a bowl and combine with a fork until smooth.

5) Slice potato down the middle, add honey butter and sprinkle with cinnamon