A Fast and Easy Way to Cook Sweet Potatoes

vegan lunch

I LOVE sweet potatoes. Enough so that I usually buy a big ole’ bag of them when I go to Costco. I especially love them roasted along with other root veggies, but sometimes I just have to grab a potato and go. So, the next best thing is to microwave it. I can do that in my own kitchen or wait until I get to work to cook the potato for lunch. I like to eat them plain or with a little butter and maple syrup. I also like to cube them and add them to my veggie mixes.

Here’s the FASTEST way that I know to cook a sweet potato. Rinse it off with clear water. Place it onto a microwave safe dish. Place a wet paper towel or dishcloth over the potato. Microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes. Eat warm or let cool and cut into cubes for your other dishes.

A plus is that the potatoes freeze well, so I can cook the whole bag in one day, plate my week’s worth of lunches and freeze the rest.

vegan lunchThis nutritious lunch is made with a medley of cooked sweet corn, squash, zucchini, black beans, diced tomatoes and cubed sweet potatoes. Add a little salsa to spice it up and you will be good to go.

S McCall

Fried Shiitake Mushrooms with Onions, Potatoes and Turnips

shiitake mushrooms and potatoes

Let me start this post with, “I HATE mushrooms!” so, you may ask, why cook some? Well, it all started with a post from the Crunchy Radish about shiitake mushrooms and how they taste just like bacon when fried. Really? Because I love the taste of bacon, but I no longer love the idea of killing an animal for me to eat. So, I happily pinned her recipe to my Pinterest board to save for when I had time to try it out.

Well, I tried it.  And I learned. Fried Shiitake mushrooms do not, under any circumstances taste like bacon. Sorry, but no. Continue reading “Fried Shiitake Mushrooms with Onions, Potatoes and Turnips”

How to Make Split Pea Soup

diced veggies

I’ll say it right up front. A lot of people, including my husband, say that they don’t like split pea soup. BUT they’ve never even tasted it! Les won’t taste it because it looks mushy and kind of, well, a pea-soup green. Plus, he hates canned peas. Well so do I! I’m telling you, split pea soup has gotten a bum rap and I also want you to know, it does not taste anything like those yucky canned peas. If you like other dried beans and legumes, then I am confident that you will like this split-pea soup recipe.

split pea soup Continue reading “How to Make Split Pea Soup”

Gluten Free Alfredo Sauce with Edamame and Mung Bean Pasta

I have a feeling that many people are buying jarred Alfredo sauce because they don’t know how quick and easy it is to make their own gluten-free sauce. Also, when you make your own version, you have better control over calories and a lot of control over ingredients. Continue reading “Gluten Free Alfredo Sauce with Edamame and Mung Bean Pasta”

How to Roast Root Vegetables

root vegetables

Fall and winter are the perfect time to roast root vegetables. Not only are they plentiful, but the weather has turned a bit cooler or downright cold as the case may be. Unlike summer, autumn is a great time to have the oven on for about an hour or so. That’s all it takes to roast a truckload of veggies ready for the week’s feasts. I cook one day a week, so popping a pan of veggies into the oven is an easy way to assure that I have plenty for grab and go lunches and dinners all week long. Continue reading “How to Roast Root Vegetables”

Easy but Delicious Lunch with Roasted Vegetables

roasted vegetables

I’m in the middle of cooking for the week again. My crock pot chicken is almost done so I’ll have that for lunch. I’ve already made the rice/ quinoa medley, so I’ll move on to roasted vegetables next. Roasted root veggies are so easy to make and I can eat those all week as well. They are fabulous when combined with other foods to make satisfying and easy meals. Continue reading “Easy but Delicious Lunch with Roasted Vegetables”

Healthy, Delicious, Gluten Free and Almost Sugar free Mini Tart Cups

gluten free tart cups

Just in time for your holiday baking – Try my gluten free, graham cracker mini tart crusts. I made them so that I could make fabulous but still healthy mini tarts to take to work for a holiday pot luck. Of course they had to be healthy, but not taste “healthy and gluten free” if you know what I mean.

mini tarts
mini tarts with graham cracker crust

They were a hit! Even the people who pooh-pooh my brown bag lunches didn’t guess that they are made of exactly what I often eat- – Gluten free honey grahams, nuts, and sunflower butter. They all ate their cake tarts and had to admit that these are delicious. One of my sugar-junkie non- believers even said that he could eat these all day long. And, seriously, so can I. Let’s just say that I have to do a LOT of taste testing when I make these little cups filled  with everything from fruit yogurt, diced poached pears or pumpkin pie desert topped with coconut whipped cream. YUM!

I’m calling these mini crusts “almost sugar free” because there is a little honey in the recipe and a little sugar in the purchased graham crackers. Since my recipe calls for a cup of pecans, it cuts way down on the graham crackers as well. You can certainly make the tart cups have even less sugar by substituting Stevia for honey. Speaking of substitutes, there is an excellent chart of baking substitutes found on Greatist. Click to see and print it out.

tart cups

Recipe for Almost Sugar Free Mini Tart Cups

  • Servings: 12 mini cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Before you get started, you will need an un-greased mini tart or cupcake baking pan and a food processor.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 6 gluten free honey graham crackers
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil
  • 1/8 cup sunflower butter
  • 2 tbs honey (can substitute 2 packets  Stevia or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
spice for mini graham cracker tarts
Ingredients for mini graham cracker tarts. There is coconut oil in the back cup, but you can’t see it in my photo. I’m still working on taking better food photos.

Into the food processor, toss the dry ingredients and whirl them until they are all crushed up. Add melted coconut oil and sunflower butter and process until smooth and pebbly.

Drop spoonfuls of the cracker mix into the baking pan. Use your fingers to press down into the cups and up along the sides.

Pop the pan into the oven and bake for fifteen minutes. When they come out of the oven, the cups will be a little raised and puffed up. Use a dowel or small jigger glass to push them back down so that they are nice and flat on the bottom. Cool and fill with whatever you like.

trio of tarts

How To Make Sugar Free Fruit Sauce

I LOVE Greek yogurt with a little honey, nuts, pumpkin seeds and dried fruit. I also like it with mixed fresh fruit. But I do NOT like the store bought fruity versions of yogurt that are supposed to be sooo healthy. You know, the kind with fruit sauce in it and lots of sugar. If it’s fat-free, then it’s sugar-high. If it’s sugar-free, then it has an awful artificial sweetener in it. Plus the fruit usually looks like some kind of pureed something. I don’t know what, but it’s not pretty fruit anyway.

Sugar free Greek yogurt parfait with raspberry jam made with Stevia
Sugar free Greek yogurt parfait with raspberry sauce made with Stevia

I spent a good deal of my youth picking fruit in the orchards of Silicon Valley. Yep, there used to be a ton of orchards and way less silicon back then. How times have changed. Anyway, back to the story- I KNOW what the over-ripe, mildewed fruit looks like that is set aside for large companies to make jams and jellies and canned stuff. Did you know that, in canned goods, the companies bleach the offending coloration and mildew off of the produce and then they add color back in? I’m not kidding. That’s why all of the carrots and peas look suspiciously the same color and shade when you open a can. Work a few summers in the fruit and vegetable biz and you will know far more than you ever wanted to know about processed food. So now you know why I want to make my own fruit sauces.

OK, back to the homemade fruit sauce. I’ve been wondering how I can make it with no sugar – or even very little sugar. I already know how to make a great sauce with two cups of sugar in the boil. It thickens up very nicely with all of that sugar. But I wondered if there was some other, low cal and body friendly type of thickener that I could use.

pectin

There is! It’s called Pomona’s Universal Pectin. The box claims that it jells with low amounts of any sweetener. I decided to give it a try. It turns out that I gave it a lot of tries. I experimented with both mixed berries and pears. With both kinds of fruit, I used either Stevia, honey, or Wax Orchards Fruit Sweet. In different batches, of course. The Stevia is no- cal and the other two sweeteners have calories. The Wax Orchard  and the honey have about the same amount of calories per teaspoon, but the Fruit Sweet is twice as sweet as honey so you use only half the amount and are, in effect, eating half the calories. It is organic, natural and made with the juice of fruits and it’s delicious. I highly recommend it as a sweetener.

With this pectin, you can make jam, jelly, fruit sauce or syrup. This time I want fruit sauce instead of jam for my yogurt so, I’m using one part fruit to one and a half cups water.

The box of Pomona’s comes with a small packet of calcium and a larger packet of pectin. With low or no sugar, the pectin needs some of the calcium to work. So, before you do anything, prepare your calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder  with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.

rinsing berries to make a simple syrup with Stevia

Sugar Free Fruit Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Sugar Free Fruit Sauce

  • 1 cup berries (frozen works as well as fresh)
  • 1- 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp Pomona’s fruit pectin powder for low sweetener amounts
  • 1 tsp calcium water (powder and instructions included in the Pomona’s pectin box)
  • Whichever sweetener you like. For the sugar free version, I used four small packets of Stevia. If you don’t mind a little sugar, then Honey, maple syrup, Agave or Wax Orchards Fruit Sweet work great too.

Tip: You can use this pectin to make fruit syrups, sauces, jams or jellies. To make a syrup you use way less pectin then to make a sauce and so on with Jam using the most pectin. The instructions in the Pomona’s packet are for thicker jellies and jams so measure out accordingly. My syrup takes only 1/4 the amount listed in the Pomona’s recipes.And my sauce is only 1/2 the amount.

To get started on the sauce, choose about a cup of berries and rinse them off. I make small batches that I know will be used up in a week’s time but you can definitely double or triple the recipe if you like.

In a separate bowl, add one half teaspoon of pectin powder and your sweetener. Stir to mix well. In my experiments, I used four packets of the Stevia, or four tablespoons of the honey or two tablespoons of Fruit Sweet. Set aside.  (The fruit sweet turned out to be my favorite.)

To a sauce pan, add the berries and one and a half cups of water plus one teaspoon of calcium water. Bring to a roiling boil.

boiling berries to make simple syrup

Add the sweetener with the pectin, stirring constantly to dissolve the sweet/ pectin mix. Continue stirring for another minute or so.

Transfer the sauce to a glass jar and cool in the refrigerator. When the sauce has cooled, it will be jelled. Stir it up and you are ready for a treat.

Making simple syrup and berry jam with fruit and stevia.

Pictured is a sugar-free pear simple syrup, mixed berry simple syrup, green tea with the berry syrup, yogurt and mixed berry sauce and a bowl of the jelled sauce itself. All of it made very easily with the Pomona’s Pectin.