Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries - Two recipes!

Cinnamon-Sugar Sweet Potato Fries (Non-vegan)

On the day that my friend Jen and I made the Vegan Quinoa Burgers, we decided that we needed something else to accompany our meal.  Of course it had to be healthy because that was our theme for the day...healthy, tasty, and easy to make or bake. What better choice than highly nutritious sweet potatoes?  They're high in Vitamin A and a good source of fiber, plus they taste delicious with cinnamon and sugar. I'll admit that I have a sweet tooth so one of the recipes we tried was definitely geared toward my taste buds.  The other recipe, which I will also post still calls for a little sugar but the ingredient that offsets the sweetness is smoked paprika.  Next to cilantro, smoked paprika is quickly becoming my next favorite ingredient.  

I found this particular recipe in Joy Bauer's "Slim & Scrumptious: More Than 75 Delicious, Healthy Meals Your Family Will Love" cookbook.  For just a few ingredients, this baby packs a healthy punch. One of the healthiest being, flaxseed. It's known as a wonder food and may help reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease.  I sound so knowledgeable don't I? I'm not. I just have great "Google" skills. But hey, it's good information to know right?  

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup whole wheat or oat flour
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 kosher salt
2 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Liberally coat a large baking sheet with oil spray. (The fries will be crispiest if baked directly on the baking sheet, without aluminum foil.)

Cut sweet potatoes as shown below:

Combine the flour, flaxseed, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Crumble the ingredients together with your fingertips until they are evenly dispersed. Place the egg whites in a shallow dish and whisk until frothy.  Dip the fries into the egg whites; then tap them on the edge of the dish to drain away any excess egg white.  Add the fries to the plastic bag, seal, and shake vigorously to coat the fries evenly with the breading mixture.

Delicately remove the fries from the bag and arrange them in a single layer, evenly spaced apart, on the prepared baking sheet.  Mist the fries with oil spray.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Then turn the fries over and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until crispy and browned.  Let the fries cool slightly before serving to allow the coating to harden.

Sweetheart Fries are on the bottom rack.
Both recipes state that you should lay the fries down in a single layer.  As you can see, from the photo above, I don't always follow directions well.  We used 3 sweet potatoes instead of 2 and I piled the fries on top of each other. As a result, they came out rather soft and a little limp.  They still tasted good though!  NEXT TIME,  I will follow the directions! (famous last words).  

Cinnamon-Sugar Sweet Potato Fries

Recipe #2 - Sweetheart Fries Recipe (Vegan)

Now, onto the super simple recipe for the sweet potatoes called "Sweetheart Fries."  I found this recipe in the cookbook that is rapidly becoming a favorite in my kitchen: "Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food For The Body & Soul," by Julie Hasson.  

Here's the recipe:
2 large yams (I used sweet potatoes)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Kosher salt or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Smoke Paprika, to tastte

Like the recipe above, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  This time though, line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the sweet potatoes into french fry shapes.  In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, olive oil, sugar, a few pinches of salt, and pepper, tossing well to coat.  Transfer the sweet potatoes to the prepared baking sheet in a thin layer.  If necessary, bake the sweet potatoes on separate baking sheets to avoid overlapping.  Sprinkle the tops of the fries with smoked paprika to taste.  Bake the fries until the edges are crisp and sweet potatoes are cooked through, about 30 to 45 minutes, checking and stirring frequently to brown on all sides.  You may need to rotate the baking sheet halfway through to prevent the fries from baking unevenly.  Sprinkle with additional salt and smoked paprika, and serve immediately.

The recipe calls for serving them with homemade ranch dressing but we ate them plain and they tasted just fine! 

So there you have it, two recipes, one sweeter than the other. I liked both but I think my favorite is the Cinnamon-Sugar Sweet Potato Fries but that's only because I have that darned sweet tooth.  If you like things less sweet, try the Sweetheart Fries recipe.  You won't be disappointed with either one. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vegan Quinoa Burgers

Click image for larger view

Today, we're going to bake and cook healthy things with the help of my friend, Jen, a registered dietitian, who coincidentally showed up a little late to our kitchen extravaganza because she was hung over. She'll probably kill me when she reads this post but hopefully she'll still be in that honeymoon afterglow phase (she just got married to a nice fellow a few weeks ago) where everything and everyone is wonderful and beautiful.  If not, I'm sure I'll get a text from her in all bold letters later on. I have to say though, she's a real trouper because we baked, cooked, and took photos in the kitchen for over 5 hours. Jen, thanks putting up with me being all bossy for so long. You're a good sport!

So, I told myself that I would try to start eating healthier foods and get my butt back to the gym because I dared a couple of people on Twitter to do the same.  We're supposed to meet up in New York City around this same time next year and show off our fit bodies. Girlfriends, I'm telling you, I'm not showing up unless I've knocked off quite a few pounds off of this chubby body! Thus the challenge, lose weight or, or....well, show up fat lol. I don't want to do that! 

Lately, I've taken to checking out tons of cookbooks from the library (around 30) and started pouring through them in search of healthy recipes. I found two recipes for sweet potato fries (which I will post separately) and one for quinoa burgers. I'll do a review of the cookbooks that I thought were the best in another post. Gee, I'm such a tease, baiting you like that, but honestly, I think you'll find the information helpful. 

For some reason I'm fixated on quinoa. It looks so much like birdseed that I find it hard to believe that it's actually very good for you.  Jen calls it a "super food" because it is a complete protein, has no cholesterol, is low in fat, high in vitamins and minerals, and it's gluten-free. I just like it because it looks weird and tastes good.

Anyway, I found the recipe for Quinoa Burgers in the book, Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body & Soul.  I strongly encourage you to give it a try.  The burgers are very, very, flavorful.  Next time I make them I'm going to substitute parsley with mushrooms because I'm not a big parsley fan.  Although, I have to say that the parsley didn't overpower any of the other flavors like I expected it would.  It was a very nice complimentary flavor.  I just happen to like mushrooms better.

Here is the recipe:
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
12 ounces, chickpeas (about 1-1/2 cups) canned or homemade drained
1/2 cup quick oats (not instant)
1-1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tsp poultry seasoning or favorite spice blend
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsps Bragg Liquid Aminos (Soy sauce substitute) or soy sauce
2 tbsps chickpea flour (I substituted whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Brown rice flour or whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour, for dusting
Olive oil, for cooking
Hamburger buns, for serving
Lettuce or salad greens, for serving
Slice tomato, for serving
Sliced onion, for serving

In bowl of a food processor, add the onion and garlic and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the chickpeas and oats, and pulse until well mixed.  Don't puree the mixture.

Remove the mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the quinoa, parsley, poultry seasoning, smoked paprika, soy sauce, and chickplea flour. Since I couldn't find any chickpea flour, I used whole wheat flour.  Also, I highly recommend you splurge and use smoked paprika ($4.99 for a little bottle in the spice section) and not substitute it with regular paprika. The smoked variety really adds a lot of yummy flavor.

Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water, if needed to help the burger mixture stick together. You don't want to make the mixture too moist though.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Thoroughly mix the ingredients well, cover the bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Form the burger mixture into 6 balls, and press into 3-1/2 to 4-inch patties.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and lightly coat or spray with olive oil.  Place the whole wheat flour (The recipe calls for using brown rice flour to dust the patties but I used whole wheat flour) on a small plate and dust the burgers on all sides.  Add the burgers to the frying pan.  Cook patties for about 5 minutes, or until nicely browned and crispy.  Reduce the heat to medium, if necessary, to continue cooking without burning.  Add more olive oil as necessary, to keep the burgers from sticking.  Flip burgers over and cook on the other side.  Repeat with the remaining burgers.

Remove the burgers from the frying pan and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  Letting the burgers rest will give them a better texture.

Jen, trying her hand at photographing the burger.

Serve the burgers on a bun with all the fixings; lettuce, tomato, avocado, and onion.  We had ours with sweet potato fries! Yummy! 

For dessert, we had wonderful low fat Banana Chocolate Bread that Jen baked.  She'll post the recipe with photographs on her blog, Well Nourished, sometime soon. You'll have to check it out!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Filmmaker/Director Miranda Sajdak shares recipe for Raspberry Chicken today!

I love Twitter. It's a cool thing when 140 of your typed characters meet 140 characters from someone in a totally different state or even country. Romances flourish and end, people connect and disconnect or just get crazy wild on Twitter.  Foodies like me can't be concerned with all of that though. There's more important things that catch our attention like gawking at twitpics and instagrams of pictures of food and sharing recipes.  That's how I met Miranda Sajdak (@BearRanda), Los Angeles filmmaker/director, and self-professed foodie.  

Somehow, through the chaos of millions of fellow Twitter buffs, we found each other and after an exchange of  tweets about recipes and food, well, one thing led to another and here she my virtual kitchen sharing her recipe for Raspberry Chicken.  Thank you Twitter! Thank you Miranda!

Please welcome my multi-talented guest, Miranda, Chef-in-the-Kitchen today:

Raspberry Chicken

The first recipe is for what I refer to as "Raspberry Chicken," something I adapted from a German restaurant called The Student Prince,  that I used to go to near my home town in Springfield, Massachusetts. Having loved the recipe there for some years, I played around with a number of different ideas until I adapted it over time to taste like the recipe at The Student Prince. So - this is my adapted version:

  • 2-4 Chicken Breasts (fillets or tenders work here)
  • 1-2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pepper (to taste)

While I heat a saute pan over med-high heat, I dredge the chicken in a mixture of flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Once coated, I brown the chicken lightly on both sides in 1/2 stick butter (this is one of those "super-healthy" recipes ;). Careful, as both flour and butter have a tendency to burn - stir frequently.

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm to the side.

Mince shallots.

Add minced shallots to pan and saute 1-2 minutes, or until slightly translucent.

 Add the chicken stock and raspberry vinegar, and saute another 4-5 minutes until the stock/vinegar is reduced. 

Around this time I add about 1/2-1 tsp more salt, or to taste (pepper if needed).

Once the stock/vinegar has reduced, place the chicken back in pan, and add heavy cream. You may want to remove the heavy cream from the fridge and let it sit to the side when starting the recipe; it has a tendency to separate at high heats, though I've never found this to be a major issue with flavor here - more an aesthetic thing. 

Once the mixture is bubbling again, put the heat down to med-low/low, place a top on the pan, and cook for 20 mins, flipping the chicken to the other side and stirring at the halfway mark.

While the chicken is cooking, I make spaetzle:

Recipe for Spaetzle:
(this recipe is pretty much the same everywhere you look online; I've gotten it a number of different places over the years, but here's one I found recently that's closest - from Design Sponge)

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 fresh farm eggs (good eggs = good spaetzle!)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
Spaetzle is one of those weird foods that can only be found at specialized (German/Swiss/Austrian) restaurants in America, but seems to be everywhere in Eastern Europe. Basically it looks fancier than it is, and acts as a very versatile but not particularly difficult side dish, for those of us not counting the carbs.

Fill pot with water and place on stove on high (whichever pot you cook pasta with should be fine, size isn't hugely relevant here). Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately.

Gradually add wet ingredients to the dry, mixing together until you have made a sticky batter (it will be thick and stickier than you think it should be). I'm a bit partial to spaetzle, so have a spaetzle-maker, but you can easily do this with your fingers or a spoon if you prefer.

 Scoop tiny bits of batter into boiling water. 

Within a few seconds they will float to the top - that's when your spaetzle is done. 

Notes: I just add salt/flour as dry ingredients, but you can add garlic powder or cayenne or any number of ingredients to spice this up. Also, when I have time, I usually will cook the spaetzle in some butter/oil over high heat for a few minutes after removing from the water - this makes them crisp up really nicely for some extra texture.

Note 2: Living with a lactose intolerant-y makes these dishes a bit difficult (heavy cream/milk - oy!) - but though I can twist her arm for the heavy cream part of the chicken, I make spaetzle with soy milk. It sometimes helps to add a little extra at the end to make the batter a bit more malleable - that stuff is really sticky. Usually I just pour probably what amounts to 1/8 cup over the batter at the end to make it pliant.

Note 3: I generally also serve with a side salad/peas/broccoli/something green.

Mouth watering raspberry chicken and spaetzle!
Miranda, thank you so much for taking the time to share your recipe and great photos!

More about Miranda Sajdak: 
On your Twitter profile, you describe yourself as a queer filmmaker, movie-lover, foodie,  bookaholic,and  laughaholic.  Those sound like the perfect  ingredients for a fun and interesting person to be around.  Can you tell us any current projects you're working on?
Well, I certainly HOPE I'm fun and interesting! :) I'm working on a lot of things these days; my last short film project, Snapshot, got into Outfest and Palm Springs, as well as a number of other queer festivals (yay). My current project, Gone, is aiming to do even better! Gone got a great write-up in Autostraddle this week (, and we have a Facebook ( and a Kickstarter set up ( ) should you be interested in learning more about it!

You live in Los Angeles, movie capital of the world. How exciting! What's it like? Give us a snapshot of a day in your life.
What's great about LA is that it's always changing - I have access to incredible food, a wide range of people, and resources that aren't available in many non-metropolitan areas. My weekly life is generally pretty full of day-job stuff, but on the weekends I can do anything from going to Disneyland to browsing the local shops. One of my favorite Sunday activities is to get up early, hit the Hollywood Farmer's Market (where they have everything from fresh produce to locally-made ice cream and even a massage booth!), then head across the street to Arclight Hollywood to see a movie at a theater that doesn't have advertisements or cell phones interrupting your film experience. Makes for a great day combining two of my loves: food and film. 

You mention that you're a foodie.  Do you have any favorite chefs, cooks, bakers, Food TV personalities?  food TV shows? What makes you a foodie?
I have many favorite chefs, but I'm really a sucker for classical-style cooking. Ina Garten is probably my favorite modern TV personality, and I love her cookbooks as well - hearty, fresh ingredients are always the best. Healthy matters, too, but I'm never one to sacrifice flavor - spices are a necessity to any kitchen. But I think my dad is probably my favorite cook in the world. Though he doesn't cook for a living, he can make pretty much anything taste delicious. He definitely inspired in me my love for all sorts of ethnic cuisines, and I was lucky enough to grow up in a town where, within a block, you can find Moroccan, Tibetan, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, and of course classic American food. Gotta love that! 

What's your favorite food? dessert? least favorite?
My favorite food is probably my dad's cooking. Really anything he makes is incredible. I'm also a sucker for ethnic cuisine, with Indian and Chinese probably being near the top of that list. Dessert - German Chocolate Cake. Not actually German, surprisingly! Who knew? But still delicious.

Do you prefer to bake? cook? both? Any humorous kitchen situations or food disasters you'd like to share?
Oh man...I love to do both. My favorite baking book is Maida Heatter's Great Chocolate Desserts. I just live for her FBI Cake. Yum! But I think cooking is probably the thing I lean towards most - perhaps because it's more of a necessity than baking. Though I love to bake on special occasions.

Food disasters...Well, this one time I was trying to prep for an International Cooking Day, and I decided I was going to make Rouladen for the first time (note: not a great first-time meal). Anyway, I bought way too many ingredients and didn't have the right kind of pan to cook them in, so I just shoved everything into a (relatively small) pot and hoped it would turn out all right. Of course, the bottom burned, the top was raw, total disaster. Just another lesson in the kitchen! Fortunately, we had every cook's Kitchen Savior at hand: speed dial for pizza delivery.

Here's a question for the single ladies.  Are you single? partnered?
I am happily partnered! 

Dinner for two...would you rather go out to dinner or cook for her? Or would  she cook for you?
Ohhh...well I think she'd rather have me cook, but I like to cook or to go out. I definitely like to cook to relax on the weekends, though the dishes sure do pile up. When I'm really looking to kick back, I enjoy a nice night out where neither of us have to worry about cleaning or prep. She's not so great on the cooking, but, fortunately, she is fabulous at eating my meals (and quite flattering about my kitchen skills as well - definitely a good thing to have in a girl).

Who rules the kitchen? You or your girlfriend?
Oh, I rule the kitchen. Many a time I've had to rearrange the fridge post-grocery-shop when the lettuce isn't in the crisper! But we get a good laugh over my Kitchen OCD behavior, and at least good food comes out of it all. 

Gang, keep your eyes on this talented woman, I'm sure we'll see more of her projects coming soon to a screen near you.