Sweet and Spicy Roasted Carrots

IMGP1894I admit it: I’m recycling. If you follow this blog, you know I write about roasted root vegetables ad nauseum* because I consider them a dieter’s best friends.

Then, to add insult to injury, I am also recycling a spice mix from Spiced Sweet Potato Round and (A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven.

It happened this way: I was staring at a 3 lb. bag of carrots and asked myself, “If that spice mix is so great with sweet potatoes and squash, why wouldn’t it be equally great with carrots?” Yes, such are the profound, metaphysical questions that mark my days.

And, happily, the universe went along because the answer was a resounding “Yes,” not only from the spouse, but also from two grandchildren (aged 13 and 14) who gave it a definitive thumbs up.

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(A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven

Dear fellow-dieters,

Here’s the bad news. My weight has been gradually inching in the wrong direction (along with my hips!) even though my thyroid is fine and I’m tracking my food, staying within plan, and exercising 3-5 days a week.

So, yesterday at the WW weigh-in, I brought in my food tracker so the leader could see that I was a faithful dieter who should be losing weight. The diagnosis? Too many carbs among the fruit, cereal, and baked goods that I ate.

Some people, the leader said, can’t throw off carbs easily, adding that she was one of them and I was clearly another. I can’t print here what I thought about that (several not-nice words came to mind.). But I clearly need a carb-rev-up button. Is there anyone else out there who considers their body Enemy Numero Uno?

The solution = vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables.

The creative wheels began to turn, and I remembered those Spiced Sweet Potato Rounds. Why not add that wonderful spice blend to cooked, mashed winter squash instead? The result was a vegetable

  • Lower in calories/carbs than sweet potatoes
  • As filling as sweet potatoes
  • Equally delicious!

Voilà! (A Little Bit of) Squash Heaven. Truly.

Yours in the uphill climb,

Claire

P.S. Re the photo: I was trying for a sprinkled paprika topping, but got a little carried away.

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Spiced Sweet Potato Rounds

How do you feel about persnickety recipes?

You know—the ones that require extra time because they have a special presentation and/or taste. Some people love fiddling around, but I’m not one of them. Life is short, I say, and I refashion recipes to make them less finicky.*

Interesting to make, fun to serve, and delicious!

So…what exactly was the siren call that prompted this creation? Well, we were having a guest for dinner, but I’d really chalk it up to my love for sweet potatoes as compared to white potatoes: their taste, their lower WW points, and their **lower glycemic index (important for those of us who are pre-diabetic or have Type 2 diabetes). Plus the presentation intrigued me.

And, I’m happy to report, these rounds are truly keepers! Bite down. First, you hit the sweet crunch of sugar mixed with a complementary hot spiciness. Yum! Then you’re into the creamy sweetness of the potato itself. Yum, yum! By the way, I did sprinkle these with green onions, which happily added to the crunch and complex flavour of the topping, but only just before serving and, alas, there was no time for a photo.

Oh, and they look very impressive, don’t you think?

*Want to make a really easy version of this recipe? You could add the spices to mashed sweet potatoes or make a Spiced Sweet Potato Bean Bake with Green Onions for a low-cal lunch or snack.

**Want to know more about the nutritional value of sweet potatoes? “Are Sweet Potatoes Just Orange-Colored Regular Potatoes?“is a great article.

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Steamed Cauliflower: Variations

First of all: Many thanks to Jeff from jeffs kitchen for this post.

Jeff had read the cauliflower-tasting story from my post, Can Our Tastebuds Have Orgasms?, and clearly felt sorry for the spouse who ate the cauliflower I had served plain. Why plain? Because I thought that beautifully fresh cauliflower would taste great on its own.

And it did! To me, that is.

Anyway, Jeff wrote a great comment on that post with ideas for spicing up the cauliflower that I want to pass on to you.

Jeff steams his cauliflower whole, but you could also steam florets or roast them (see Roasted Veggies Redux) using these spices.

How to Steam a Cauliflower Whole

  1. Cut out the core from the bottom of the cauliflower.
  2. Place the head in a large cast-iron pot.
  3. Add about 1/2 inch of boiling water. (You can also add flavours to the water—see below.)
  4. Sprinkle spice generously over the cauliflower head (see possibilities below).
  5. Reduce heat so that the water is simmering.
  6. Cover pot and steam for 10-20 minutes. The amount of time will depend on the size of cauliflower and how soft you prefer it.

Jeff’s Spice Possibilities:

  • Allspice: Also add 1 tbsp. coconut milk to the boiling water.
  • Curry: Also add 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar to the boiling water.
  • Garam masala: Also add 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar to the boiling water.
  • A good quality paprika: Also add 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar to the boiling water. According to Jeff, “I’ve experimented with smoked paprika, and it tastes like I did it in a pot on a grill. The paprika adds a layer of flavor, and using smoked paprika adds yet another layer.”

I can think of other variations such as using cumin or fresh dill. Have you done something interesting with cauliflower that you’d like to share?

No-Peel Kabocha Squash “Fries”

2012 is my year for making new vegetable friends. I’ve overcome my fear of strange root vegetables with odd or ugly outsides—for example, celeriac and yucca—which have all turned out to have mild and even sweet-tasting insides. And I plan to get to know chard and kale a lot better.

For this recipe, I ventured outside my squash “comfort zone”—butternut, acorn, pumpkin—and bought a round, yellow-and-green striped gourd called a kabocha. I put it on a kitchen counter, and there it sat for a long time. Occasionally we would stare at each other.

The kabocha seemed quite happy while I dithered. It’s interesting that trying out a new food is a lot like being compelled to learn a new software product. Denial is high, but resistance is futile.

And thank goodness for that because these fries are delicious—both peel and flesh. They are sweet and slightly salty with a flavour somewhere between butternut and pumpkin. And they’re versatile: good hot and cold; good as a snack or side dish.

Enjoy!

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Cuban Crazy Quilt Pork Stew

You are likely to think I’m not quite in my right mind to be making a stew using winter vegetables in the summer.  But, honestly, there’s a method to my madness.  Some of you may recall my post about cooking for stays on our boat.  We have a barbecue on the stern rail where the captain can grill meats and vegetables, but I also prepare food in advance so that we can have variety and I don’t have to toil in the miniscule galley.

FYI: My husband is the captain, and I am first mate and cook.  When we’re on the boat, we share about 300 square feet of living space.  How does this work maritally?  Well, he has a shirt that says “Captain,” and I have a shirt that says “Don’t Yell at Me!”  Generally, the atmosphere is very pleasant although there have been moments…but back to the stew.

So, as you can see, it isn’t so crazy to make a tasty, filling, healthy, and crazy-quilt colourful pork stew whose leftovers can be frozen and then eaten when floating at anchor.  This recipe takes some chopping but it’s worth it!

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