Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sweet potato and carrot soup

Sometimes on a lazy weekend afternoon, I just want a quick and easy lunch, which doesn’t require a lot of cooking or cleaning. Soups generally fall in that category, and given how cold its been lately, that didn’t seem like a bad idea. I had a sweet potato on hand and typically have some carrots too for making salads, so I threw them all together along with some yogurt for a little tanginess. It took me only 10 minutes to put together this scrumptious meal.

1 small sweet potato cooked (~½ cup)
¼ cup chopped carrots
½ cup water/stock
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tsp flour
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
lemon juice (optional)
chopped parsley (optional - for garnish)
1 tbsp chia+flaxseed powder (optional)
In a blender/food processor, make a puree with the sweet potato, carrots, water/stock, yogurt, flour, nutmeg, salt, pepper. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened to your liking and heated through. Add chia+flaxseed powder if using. Adjust water/stock if required. Adding lemon juice and lots of freshly ground pepper helps cut the sweetness of sweet potato and carrots. Add a dollop of sour cream or yogurt on top and garnish with fresh parsley. The soup makes for a perfect guilt free (aka oil/cream free) lunch on a cold winter day.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Spinach Avocado Pasta

Avocado is an incredibly nutritious fruit – its good for your heart, has lots of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. However, it is also quite expensive. So when I saw it on sale a few weeks ago, I jumped on the opportunity and bought a few avocados. I generally eat it with salads or spread it on toast sprinkled with some salt and pepper, but I had to get more creative to use them all up before they would go bad. I had some spinach on hand, so I decided to make pasta sauce with spinach and avocado. Its flavored with basil and garlic which pairs well with the creaminess of the avocado. Like everything else made using avocado, this is best eaten fresh. I made it for lunch and had leftovers for dinner. The color got darker due to the avocado, but it still tasted the same!

1.5 cups dry pasta of your choice (I used Farfalle/bowtie)
½ avocado
¾ cup fresh spinach (reduce quantity if using frozen)
½ tsp chopped garlic (~1 clove)
1 tsp chopped basil
2 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)
½ tsp oil/butter
Parmesan cheese (optional) 
Cook pasta as per package instructions. While pasta is cooking, heat oil/butter on medium heat and saute garlic for a few seconds before adding spinach and basil. Cook only until spinach is slightly wilted (30-60 seconds), and take it off the heat. Transfer the spinach mixture to a food processor along with avocado and lemon juice. Process until you get a smooth paste. Add water or olive oil if it is too thick. Add salt, pepper to taste. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta, top it with any vegetables you like. I only had tomatoes at home, but sautéed mushroom, broccoli, asparagus would taste great with this sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese (optional – I didn’t use any), squeeze more lemon juice on top if you like, and enjoy the delicious creamy pasta without any cream!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Orange-glazed Sweet Potato Bread (Or: You Can Never Have Too Many Desserts)

This past holiday season, my husband and I hosted a Christmas Day potluck at our house. Everyone brought all sorts of amazing food, from ChristmasTree Pastries to green bean casserole to corn pudding and more! My mom was in charge of candied sweet potatoes, and, since my parents were driving 5ish hours to come stay with us over the holidays, I figured she would make the dish once they got to our place. To my surprise, they showed up with coolers overflowing with pre-made food – including candied sweet potatoes! I then had a serious dilemma on my hands – what should I do with the extra sweet potatoes I had already bought? In true Cooks of Cake and Kindness fashion, I made another dessert!

This recipe was originally for cookies (see recipe here), but I soon got tired of waiting for each batch of cookies to bake (I had a lot of batter!). Solution: mini bread loaves!

2 cups well-mashed or pureed sweet potato (roughly 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes)
2.5 cups flour (I used about half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
2.5 tsp baking soda
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (optional - I added only a dash)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine (or substitute 1/4 cup applesauce + 3/4 cup canola oil)
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp finely grated orange rind (optional - I did not add orange rind)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional - I did not add nuts)

Glaze: 1 cup confectioner's sugar + 2 TBSP orange juice (adjust amount of liquid for desired consistency)

Heat oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, sweet potato, vanilla, and (optional) orange rind. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. (Optional: stir in pecans.)

To make cookies, drop the batter by heaping teaspoons onto a baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between – they will spread! Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown and firm. This amount of batter should make about 6 dozen cookies.

If you get tired of too many cookie batches, as I did after 2 rounds of making cookies, grease 6 mini-loaf pans. Divide batter evenly among the pans and bake about 20 minutes (you should be able to bake all the loaves together at the same time) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. In all, I made 2 dozen cookies and 4 mini-loaves.

For the glaze, mix the confectioner’s sugar and orange juice to desired consistency (you may need to increase the amount of both depending on how many cookies/mini-loaves are made). Glaze is best when applied to cookies or loaves when they are still warm. Note: I didn’t actually have confectioner’s sugar, and I didn’t really want to break out the food processor just for this step, so I used regular granulated sugar in the glaze. It wasn’t as smooth as it would have been, but it turned out okay and still tasted delicious!