Sweet Potato Chips

It is nearly fall.  Really, this just means I am excited for the return of pumpkin spice lattes and caramel pumpkin latte candles.  And of course, yummy sweet potatoes!  Between you and me, this is just a sneaky way to eat sweet potatoes outside of an official meal.

These are really easy and super healthy.  For those of you who are concerned about health or follow Bob Harper, you know he has published his book Skinny Rules, which gives 20 guidelines to help with overall health and wellbeing.  One of his rules is to say goodbye to white potatoes.  Though I did not usually keep white potatoes in my pantry, this was enough for me to embrace sweet potatoes and blue potatoes.  That combined with the fact that my household runs on chips – tortilla chips, pita chips, falafel chips, pretzel chips, oh my – inspired me to try baking a new, fresh twist on a chip.  And I love that it has very few ingredients!

Sweet Potato Chips

makes 2-3 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes

2T olive oil

1/2t paprika

1/2t chili powder

1/2t sea salt

1/4t cinnamon

1/4t nutmeg

Check out the seasonings and spices.  These could be switched up if you’d like, but I love this combination for sweet potatoes!

First preheat the oven to 400 then wash and scrub sweet potatoes, then slice thinly and evenly.  A mandolin would work well for this, but since I didn’t have one, I resorted to cutting them by hand with a knife.  I tried a potato peeler for really thin slices, but it only worked on the skinny ends of the potato, so I used the knife primarily.  This didn’t result in the most perfectly even cut, but I was pretty close.

You’ll want the slices as even as possible so they cook as evenly as possible.

Once the potatoes are cut, combine them with oil in a bowl or plastic bag and toss well to coat.

I used my fingers to ensure every piece had a light coat of oil on them.

Then, in the same bowl or bag add the spices and toss well to evenly coat.

Place slices evenly onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, then flip them over.  This is how they look after about 10 minutes.

Continue baking for 10-12 additional minutes.  Some pieces were crispy after that, others needed up to an additional 10 minutes.  When they’re finished, they’re delicious hot or room temperature!  Store in a covered container for a few days – if they last that long.

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Yellow River Smoothie

Hubby and I were recently on vacation in sunny Central America.  At one of the resorts we stayed at we were introduced to this addictive smoothie!  It’s perfect for those last few days by the pool that Summer will give us.  It’s a nice refreshing treat as a healthy dessert, too!

Yellow River Smoothie

serves 1-2

juice from 1.5 mangoes

1/2 pineapple cut into frozen chunks

1 banana

ice optional

I used all fresh fruit, juicing the mango just before this photo was snapped.  I also cut fresh pineapple and froze it earlier in the day.  I have made this before with mango & pineapple juice with ice and the ice watered it down too much.  Since I didn’t add any extra sugar (the fruit is sugary enough) I didn’t want to fruit to have to compete with ice watering it down.  This time I froze the pineapple and it worked perfectly!

Combine all ingredients in a blender.

Since there is not a lot of liquid in this recipe, and I used a regular blender, I had to stop midway through and mix the top chunks in with a wooden spoon then resume blending.  And that’s it!

Enjoy while summer is still here!

Berries and Cream

Happy Labor Day!  If you’re able to be off and enjoy the holiday, yay!  If you have a party to attend, I’ve got some recipes for you – or even if you’re just chilling at home, you still gotta eat.  If you’re going to a USA themed party, check out my Red, White, & Blue Mini Trifles and Red & White Sweet & Salty Popcorn.  If you just want a fun snack to bring – or keep for yourself – try your hand at one of my simplest, go to recipes.

This recipe is truly so easy.  It is often my go to when people are over for dinner because it is a light, sweet addition to nearly any style of food.  I love that it only requires a few ingredients, and less than 10 minutes to whip up – literally!

Berries and Cream

serves 2

2C berries – I like tart berries for this recipe such as the blackberries and raspberries I used

2C heavy whipping cream

1/4C sugar

1/4t vanilla extract

1 lemon

First, chill your metal mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill.  As I learned recently from Kellie, this causes the whipped cream to be lighter since it maintains a chilled temperature throughout the whipping process.  The cream can easily be whipped by hand with a regular whisk, but I chose to use my Kitchenaid for this recipe.  Look how frosty it is!

While the bowl and whisk are freezing, wash all the berries and set them aside to dry. Then, zest the lemon.  I have had this recipe with lemon curd folded into the cream which is just as delightful – and significantly more lemony.  But the zest is a nice light touch that compliments the berries well.

Once the bowl and whisk are sufficiently chilled, pour in the cream and begin to whip on a low setting, if using a hand beater or Kitchenaid, or medium by hand.

Once the cream has begun to be whipped, slowly add in the vanilla,

sugar, and lemon zest.

Whip for several minutes until incorporated, or until the whip cream can stand on it’s own in nice peaks that curl over.

Be careful not to over whip – you do not want to create butter!  Look at this goodness.

Prepare berries in whatever bowls you’ll be serving them in.

 

Oh, blackberries!  Good thing I love you!

Serve cream over berries immediately. I chose to add a little more lemon zest on top for presentation.  So easy!

My food wanted to model.  The camera loves it!

 

Grain Free “Granola”

 

In my search for grain free options, I stumbled upon this idea.  I have attempted making granola bars before with various ingredients and have never found the right combination for a bar with a great consistency.  Or any consistency for that matter.  Every “bar” recipe I’ve tried before turned into mushy crumbles.  With some inspiration from around the internet and Pinterest, I was able to create this lovely “granola.”  Some pieces turned out to be bar like, but most of it turned out to be a great granola.  It has a great flavor, great texture, and knowing that I put only wholesome ingredients makes me feel really great about having this available for me and my husband to have something quickly available.  There is a lot of time required to make these – but it’s not a lot of hands on time, so pick a day off you have and make these while you do something else around the house.

The flavor is so ridiculous that I had to hide some to photograph because my husband was gobbling it up!  We ate it as a dry snack and with almond milk as a yummy cereal.  The first cereal that doesn’t go mushy! Lovit!!!

I based my recipe off of this one, and know that you could switch out any nuts and seeds for others if you’d like.

Grain Free “Granola”

makes about 4 cups

1C almonds

1C pecans

1/2C sunflower seeds

1C of golden raisins or various small dried fruit of choice

1C shredded coconut

1/2C maple syrup

1/4C coconut oil

1/2t salt

1/2t vanilla extract

a few dashes of cinnamon

 

First I put 3/4 of the nuts and seeds with the coconut in a food processor

 

and pulsed several times until it was a fine chop.

Then, I roughly chopped the remaining nuts and seeds and preheated the oven to 200 degrees.

 

Stir the two nut mixtures together with the dried fruit.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil with the vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and maple syrup.

Once the mixture begins to boil, promptly remove from heat…

and add it to the fruit & nut mixture.  Mix well with a wooden spoon.

 

Press into a pan lined with parchment paper.

Press into the pan well with the wooden spoon, greased fingers, or another piece of parchment paper. Set in the oven for 3-5 hours.  The time will be determined by how thick your mixture is in the pan.  If the mix hasn’t had time to dry out enough, it will be moist and crumbly.  A few hours into the dehydrating process, most of the mix will be bar-like if you’d like to make nut bars out of the mix.  Continue dehydrating to create crunchy “granola.”

 

 

Or like me, kick back with a bowl and enjoy!

Add a little almond milk.  So delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Basil Bars

Oh, summer.  I love it!  It has been a busy, yet wonderful summer thus far!  Light summer desserts are one of my favorite things about summer and I cannot get over my obsession with the combination of strawberry and basil!  In March, some friends and I ran a 5K in St. Augustine and afterwards we treated ourselves to a gourmet popsicle shop!  (After a rewarding breakfast of fruit, pancakes, and potatoes!)  This popsicle shop, called the Hyppo was fairly new and had a line out the door!  We had to check it out.  They had several flavors to choose from, so of course I chose strawberry-basil!  It was the perfect combination in a not too sweet popsicle.  I will tackle trying to create my own version at some point this summer.  For now, I have these lovely goodies to eat!

I am a firm believer that if you have a friend’s Tupperware (or Gladware or Ziploc containers, etc.) they should be returned with treats!  I tweeted this a few weeks ago and got a container returned to me with Dove dark chocolate.  I had forgotten about that container, but was greatly delighted to receive it back – with the lovely contents.  I had accumulated two different friends containers so I decided to bake them a summer treat.  I found a recipe for strawberry bars and changed up a few thing to account for my own friends’ tastebuds.

Strawberry Basil Bars

makes about 24 bars

Adapted from allrecipes.com

1C sugar

1/2C butter or margarine, softened

1/4C mashed ripe banana or fruit purée of choice

2 eggs

31/4C flour, divided

1t lemon zest

1t baking powder

1/2t salt

1 dash of cinnamon

8-10 basil leaves

12oz strawberry jam

First, combine 3 cups of flour, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Then preheat your oven to 350.

Whisk dry ingredients together.

In my Kitchenaid, I creamed the butter, mashed banana, and sugar together, but of course this could be done in a bowl with a hand mixer.  This was somewhat of an experiment since I found out that banana can be a butter substitute.  Since I used the banana, I cut butter and sugar from the original recipe, but did not end of compromising on flavor.

Then added the eggs in, one at a time allowing the beater to incorporate each egg individually.

Add the lemon zest.

Then slowly add the flour mixture…

until the dough appears as big crumbles.

Set aside 1/4 of the dough-crumbs (about 1 cup,) then press the bottom of the remaining crumbs into either a 9×13 or 10×15 inch baking dish.  Greasing your fingers to press the crumbs helps tremendously.  So as not to brown the basil leaves, rip them into strips rather than cutting them, and spread them on top of the pressed dough.  (It’s ok if there are finger prints!)

Spread the strawberry jam on top.  If you’re really feeling adventurous and want to make your own strawberry jam, check out my first attempt here.

Finally, mix the remaining crumbles with the flour.

Work with your fingers until it looks about like this.

Then top the jam and basil mixture.  You want to keep this part crumbly, but you also want to make sure all your basil pieces are covered.  Exposed basil in the oven = black, burnt basil = no bueno.  It’s ok if some strawberry jam peeks through.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes and viola!  Crumbly, gooey goodness.  Seriously, they’re so good.  The bars aren’t too sweet, and the basil and strawberry combination shines!

Strawberry basil bars!!!  Eat liberally, or be a hero and give them to your friends.  And oh, yeah, Operation-Return-Tupperware was successful.

Sweet & Salty Popcorn

Here’s another fun recipe that could be adapted to any holiday based on the food coloring chosen.  Since 4th of July is rapidly approaching, I attempted red, white, and blue popcorn.  The red & white worked, but the blue was a fail.  I’ll have to experiment with blueberries or something in order to get a good, healthy, natural blue food dye into my repertoire.  Though the blue didn’t work out, it was still delicious!!!

If there is a food that is near and dear to my heart, it’s popcorn.  My childhood is full of memories of my popcorn-freak-father having popcorn weekly and in as many different varieties as you could imagine.  One of my favorite “dates” with him was when we would go to the popcorn store to buy specialty popcorn.  He would always get something cheesy or spicy and I, a cool kid of course, would get the multi-colored popcorn.  Cuz that’s basically what kids do.  This is a fun, healthier version to make at home!

Sweet & Salty Popcorn

makes 6 quarts

1C popcorn kernels

1/4C high heat oil, I used Safflower

salt to taste, for salty popcorn

spray oil or butter, for salty popcorn

1T butter per colored, sweet popcorn

1C sugar per colored, sweet popcorn

2-3T water per colored, sweet popcorn

food coloring of choice, I used beet juice for red color (ignore the failed blue food coloring pictured)

Burnt popcorn is one of the most awful culinary tragedies.  It’s shameful, disappointing, and stinks up the house.  So don’t do that.  Make homemade popcorn with the most preparedness possible.

Heat the oil on medium-high heat and toss in 2-3 kernels.  Prepare the rest of the kernels.  (You may want to make this in 2 batches if your pot is small.)

Once the first 2-3 kernels pop, dump in the rest of your kernels.

You’ll want to get a splatter screen quickly, otherwise popcorn and oil will be filling your kitchen rather quickly!

Shake the pot occasionally so the popcorn doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Then divide popcorn into respective number of colors desired. I divided my popcorn 3 ways for 3 colors, but since the blue didn’t work out, I ended up having 2/3 salty white popcorn and 1/3 sweet red popcorn – which actually was a nice ratio.

With the white, salty popcorn spray oil or butter onto it lightly and sprinkle salt to taste.  Toss well (or as I did, attach a lid and shake well.)  Then prepare the colored sweet coating for the remaining popcorn.  On medium-high heat combine butter and sugar

and water and food coloring.  Since my food coloring was natural and very liquidy I used 1.5T beet juice and 2T water.  (You couldn’t even taste beets!)

Bring to a slow boil.

It is ready when it is the consistency of a thick syrup.

Remove from heat for a moment to cool, then dump over reserved plain popcorn.  Mix well to coat and set aside to cool.  (I cooled mine in the fridge so the plastic bowl the popcorn was in wouldn’t melt.  The syrup is super hot!)  Once all colors are mixed, cooled, and dried, combine with salty, plain popcorn and serve!

Black Bean Hummus

Hummus is a staple in our household.  (If you didn’t already figure that out from my Garlic Hummus recipe.)  We eat it with pita chips & vegetables, and also use it as a spread on sandwiches or tortilla wraps.  Hummus is so versatile you can make it fit with whatever flavor food you’re preparing.  I make black bean hummus a lot because I always have black beans in the pantry and we eat Spanish food so much, that this is perfect!  I love this recipe because it can be made in less than 10 minutes.  Plus, with all the Puerto Ricans we know who are a little shy of chick peas, this is a great gateway hummus.

I call this my Latin Hummus!  For the first six months of marriage, my husband didn’t know what to cook in the kitchen because I didn’t have Adobo – a Latin staple.  I learned to change it, and learned why all the Puerto Rican and Dominican cooks that I know love it!  So for all you Latin food lovers and hummus lovers alike, here you have it:

Black Bean Hummus

makes about 1 cup

1 C cooked black beans (if using canned, drain and rinse well)

1/8 C tahini

3T water

1T lemon juice, or about half a lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/4t salt

1/4t Adobo

1 small handful of either parsley or cilantro

Put all ingredients in a food processor.  I started with the beans, parsley, and garlic.

Then added the lemon juice, water, seasonings, and tahini.

Process until smooth and at a consistency you like.  To get it more thin you can add more water, lemon juice, or a small amount of olive oil.

Viola! Delicious, healthy snack.  I like to refrigerate mine before serving.  Enjoy!