Tag Archives: Sweet potato

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday I picked all the meat off our leftover Thanksgiving turkey and boiled the bones to make turkey stock.  I felt a little like Ma Ingalls making my own broth, but the whole process was just too easy for me to forgo. I followed Kalyn Denny’s instructions for making broth with turkey bones and it turned out great.  In the end, I netted 12 free cups of turkey stock for my troubles!  That much low-sodium, organic broth would cost at least $10 at the grocery store.

Besides saving money, it felt really good not to waste any parts of our Thanksgiving turkey. I had previously portioned out the leftover meat and froze it for use it for dinners in the next few weeks.  Of course, the bones went into the soup pot.  And the skin, tendons, and other leftover boiled meat bits?  I whizzed those in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of wheat flour and made 3 cups of meat Kong filling for Barclay. (We’re trying to help him gain some weight and free treats make this much easier!) The only downside to all this thrify fun is that I have 12 cups of turkey stock sitting in my refrigerator, needing my attention!

This butternut squash soup recipe is adapted from a vegan version published on Allrecipes.com, and it is one of Rami’s and my favorite winter comfort foods.  Its spicy-sweet flavors are very forgiving, and I’ve made it with mashed  sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, and roasted butternut squash, depending on what’s handy.  To save time, I always roast the squash or potatoes ahead of time and add them to the broth cooked and mashed.  However, another option would be to peel and chop raw squash or potatoes and cook them in the boiling broth until tender. Since the soup goes through the blender at the end, either way would work just fine.

Finally, a note about the light coconut milk in this recipe: it’s a must-include.  In a pinch, you could substitute heavy cream, but the coconut milk’s sweetness enhances the buttery squash and spicy red pepper flakes.  I used half a can of coconut milk in a red lentil sweet potato soup recipe I made last week. I froze the leftover coconut milk right in the can and it kept just fine until I needed the remainder for today’s recipe.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry
2 cups mashed roasted butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato
3 cups turkey stock (recipe is vegan if you use veggie stock)
1 cup light coconut milk (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish

Saute onions and garlic in oil in a heavy bottomed soup pan over medium high heat.  Once onions are soft, add pepper flakes, turmeric, curry, squash, and stock.  Stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer soup, covered, for half an hour.  Add coconut milk in the last five minutes of cooking.  Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or allow it to cool some and blend carefully in small batches in a conventional blender.  Season finished soup with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.  This soup doubles easily and freezes exceptionally well.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.


Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro

I’m ready to eat. Ready for turkey. Ready to cook two kinds of bread for homemade stuffing from scratch on Thursday.  (What was I thinking with the homemade stuffing???)  One thing I’m not really ready for is all the other dinners this week. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

Enter red lentil soup.  This recipe is healthy, tasty, and it only takes about 10 minutes of hands-on work to prepare.  It’s also inexpensive and easily adaptable to whatever fall produce you have on hand: sweet potatoes, leeks, onions, winter squash, whatever.  Best part is, while it’s bubbling away on the stove, there’s plenty of time to whip up some stuffing.

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro (serves 4)
adapted from “Vegan Red Lentil Soup” published on Allrecipes.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash
1 cup dry red lentils
2 cups water
1/2, 15 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1 lime, cut into wedges

Chop onion and garlic.  Saute them in oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Meanwhile, peel and chop sweet potato or squash. Once onion is translucent, add all remaining ingredients except for half the cilantro and all the lime wedges.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for half an hour, until potatoes/squash and lentils are tender. Taste soup and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish each bowl of finished soup with fresh cilantro and a lime wedge.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pie

Making a Thanksgiving with all local produce is a noble goal, but I was pretty bummed when I discovered there are no organic pumpkin growers in Central Texas. Yes, there are occasional rumbo squash and ornamental pumpkins at the farmer’s market, but those are pretty pricy and there’s no guarantee to get one for the big turkey day.  Luckily, sweet potatoes are readily available from lots of local growers this time of year, and they make an excellent substitute for pumpkin in many recipes.

Sweet potato pie is a popular Southern dessert in its own right, and it has been a popular dish in America since colonial times. According to Lynne Olver’s fantastic Food Timeline, recipes for sweet potato pie have been published in American cookbooks since the 18th century! Interesting tidbit: pumpkin pie recipes appear in America about 50 years earlier than sweet potato dishes, since sweet potatoes as we know them likely came to the southern colonies on slave and other trade ships from West Africa.

Besides being an interesting conversation piece, this sweet potato pie is an easy and inexpensive addition to my Thanksgiving potluck menu.  It sets up a little firmer than pumpkin pie, so it travels well and retains its lovely, creamy texture at room temperature. This recipe also uses regular skim milk (or whatever kind your family likes), so there’s no need purchase special processed canned milk. Another plus, since sweet potatoes keep well (store in a cool, dark pantry), you can stockpile them from regular CSA deliveries in advance of the big day, cutting down a bit on special Thanksgiving food purchases. To save a little work on Thanksgiving day, I’m making the pie crust ahead of time and storing it in plastic wrap in the freezer.  Before making the pie, I’ll let the crust thaw in the fridge for a day or two and proceed as usual.*

Sweet Potato Pie

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter
3 tablespoons ice water
1 large sweet potato (about 2 cups, mashed)
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Prepare pie crust: mix flour and salt in a small bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two butter knives or your fingers, until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour. In my crust, below, the butter pieces were too big and it was a little tricky to work with.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough with a fork, until dough consistency is even. It’s okay if it’s a little crumbly at this point. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough keeps will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

After dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover your pie plate.  Transfer the rolled dough to the plate by rolling it up on the rolling pin and unrolling it over the plate.  Use your fingers to smooth the dough into the plate, the trim away excess dough with scissors or a sharp knife.  Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the crust to make a pretty pattern in the dough and secure the edge of the crust to the pan.

Prepare filling: Wash sweet potato and pull out any strings from the peel. Poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, until potato is tender.  Wait for potato to cool. (I popped the whole cooked potato in the fridge overnight before making the pie the next day. It turned out fine.) Set butter out in a mixing bowl to come to room temperature. Use your fingers to peel skin from cooled potato, and add peeled potato to the mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to cream the potato and butter. (My mixer is a little weeny, so I had to use a fork at first to get the potato mushed enough for the mixer to handle.) Add one at a time: white sugar, brown sugar, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla and spices, making sure to mix the pie filling well between each addition.  Once the filling is smooth, pour it into the prepared crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  The pie filling will puff up like a souffle while the pie is cooking, but don’t worry– it comes down and firms up just fine! Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold, preferably with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

* A note about my pie crust.  You can see in the pictures above that when I made this pie crust, the dough was hideous. There were some large, uneven chunks of butter and a few patchy bits of flour.  I was convinced I’d ruined the whole thing. Well. I decided to use it anyway and the crust turned out fine. Flaky and delicious and better than those perfect-looking store bought crusts. If, like me, you are a little scared to tackle a homemade pie crust: Have faith! You can do it! Don’t give up! And when in doubt, go ahead and use that ugly homemade crust. There will be sweet potato filling to cover it up, anyways.

A Recipe for Barclay

Almost a year ago, I adopted my dog Barclay from the Austin Humane Society.  His name was Ringo then, and he was terrified of most things. He hated busses, cats, and his crate.  He couldn’t really walk on a leash without trying to eat it.  He was even scared of cameras, so this was one of the best pictures I could get of him during that first month. (I snuck up on him ninja style while he was sleeping.)

Today Barclay is a healthy, happy dog.  He gets along great with our cats Chloe and Cannonball Adderley, and with his cousin dog Spirit.

Barclay still struggles quite a bit with separation anxiety when he’s locked in his crate during the day.  Besides an hour-long walk each day, the best tool we’ve found for Barclay’s mental health is a kong (the red, hive shaped toy pictured to his right).  Each day we stuff it with tasty treats and he licks and plays with it all day until we’re home from work.

The only bummer is that pre-made Kong fillings can be kind of expensive and gross (liver paste is the seventh of 30 ingredients in the liver paste flavored commercial product) plus it doesn’t work that well. We’ve taken to cementing his regular kibble inside the kong using various homemade purees.  These use up our leftover local box ingredients and give us a cheap, fun way to keep Barclay entertained.  Here’s one of my favorites:

Homemade Kong Filling
1 big sweet potato, cut into chunks
1 apple, cored and sliced with all seeds removed
1/4 cup peanut butter

Cut up the sweet potato and core and slice the apple.  Be sure to get all the seeds out of the apple since the seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide which can be toxic to dogs in large amounts over time.* Microwave the sweet potato and apple for several minutes until tender.

Combine cooked apple and sweet potato with 1/4 cup peanut butter in a food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container until you’re ready to feed to your dog.  I layer about a tablespoon of Kong filling with a tablespoon of kibble in Barclay’s kong until it’s full, making sure the puree creates a plug in the top.  For extra long days I prepare the kong the night before and freeze it overnight so Barclay has to work extra hard to lick out all the goodies inside.  This recipe lasts us about a week in the fridge.

*Please talk to your vet about any food allergy or health concerns you may have about your dogs.  This recipe is vet-approved for Barclay!

Homemade Hamburger Buns

When I was shopping for tailgate ingredients I noticed how expensive organic hamburger buns are.   A package of six, locally made whole wheat organic buns at the market costs about $6.  Although the rolls looked delicious, I put them right back on the shelf.   Who can spend $6 on bread when you’ve gotta buy beer, too?*

I knew I could make some buns at home for much cheaper.  I had all the basic dough ingredients on hand in my pantry, plus some leftover sweet potatoes and rosemary from my pesto roll party earlier this week.  The bun recipe I created is a spin-off from my pesto roll dough, using whole wheat flour and honey this time to get a similar taste and texture to the store-bought hamburger buns. I used a handy recipe cost calculator to figure out that my homemade buns cost $5.21 cents, or $.43 per bun.  Cheap and delicious!  Here’s a picture of a finished bun in action:

In the background is the “Oklahoma Suks” beer I splurged on instead of the other hamburger buns.  It’s brewed every year right here in Austin by Independence Brewing Co., one of my favorite local vendors.

Hook ’em Hamburger Buns
2 small sweet potatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)
1 cup potato cooking water, reserved
1 cup milk at room temperature
1 Tbs. honey
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 egg
4 cups whole wheat flour plus 1/2 cup for rolling and shaping dough

Chop sweet potatoes into sixths and boil unpeeled potato chunks with rosemary sprigs in water for about 20 minutes.  Once potatoes are tender, remove them from water with a slotted spoon.  Reserve 1 cup potato water & the rosemary.  Allow potatoes to cool enough to handle, then remove skin.  Puree potatoes and rosemary needles in a food processor, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add reserved water, milk, honey, lightly beaten egg, and melted butter to potato puree and stir to blend.  (Mixture should be between 100-120 degrees.)  Add yeast and allow it to proof.  Add 4 cups of whole wheat flour, stirring dough to incorporate.

Continue stirring dough for several minutes until it is fully formed and elastic.  It may be soft and a little sticky– that is okay.  Cover bowl with a damp dish towel and set in a warm place to rise for half an hour.

Once dough has doubled in volume, turn it onto a floured surface.  Knead dough for 5-10 minutes, incorporating as little flour as possible, until it is firm and holds its shape.  Use a pastry scraper to divide dough in half, set one half aside for later.  Roll remaining dough into a circle about 1 inch thick and divide into six pieces. Shape each piece into a roll using floured hands.  Tip: the technique for shaping roll dough is quite different from, say, cookie dough or clay.  Instead of rolling the dough ball between your hands, cup the dough ball firmly in one hand and use the fingertips of the other hand to fold under the edges of the dough until the top surface of the roll is smooth.

Repeat the rolling/shaping procedure until you have formed 12 rolls. Each roll should be about the size of a tennis ball. Place dough balls on a buttered cookie sheet about two inches apart.  Brush roll tops with butter and sprinkle with sea salt and crushed rosemary.  Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour.

Bake rolls 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Brush again with butter after you remove from the oven, move to a wire rack to cool.

*I know that not all hamburger buns cost $1 each. A package of 8, nationally distributed buns made with high fructose corn syrup costs just $1.50.  This makes me angry since I know that my tax dollars subsidize the cheap corn, wheat, and GM soy in those rolls.  When my niece is an adult her tax dollars will continue to pay for the long-term environmental and human health costs of those crappy hamburger buns.