Tag Archives: sweet potatoes

Signs of Spring and Springtime Ham Soup

When I think of soup from a ham bone, visions of thick and hearty Split Pea or Lentil Soup come to mind. There is nothing quite as comforting as losing oneself in the smokey richness that is found in a ham based legume soup.  It’s the perfect partner for a cold wintry night. Winter is gone now (fingers and toes crossed) and Spring is in the air.

Like many, I was left with a ham bone from Easter Dinner (Thanks Jordan & Kelly it was wonderful). I went to the pantry and reached for the lentils, then thought better of it. As tasty as the result would be, the sun coming in the window and the trees beginning to turn green led my inspiration in another direction. Why not make Ham Broth out of the bone and use it as the base to make a lighter, brighter soup. And that’s just what I did.

The mirepoix was leeks, garlic, and carrots. Olive oil made its appearance in the pan to get everything sweating in the best way possible. The broth was added along with more than a few thyme sprigs and everyone took a nice long simmer.IMG_1577

I know that sweet potatoes and corn don’t sound very spring-like, but they are the colors of spring (and often part of Easter Dinner). They were a colorful and tasty addition to this soup. I also added some haricot vert and snow peas. IMG_1581

IMG_1585It wouldn’t be ham soup with out ham so I added a generous cup of the ham bone trimmings. This meat is a little heartier and stands up to the long simmer that soup takes. Speaking of long simmering soup, the haricot vert and snow peas take only minutes to cook and can quickly turn dull, so I added them at the end. I actually blanched them and added them to the bowls before I ladled in the soup. The piping hot soup warmed them up and the crunch they gave to the soup was a bonus in flavor and texture. This soup was the perfect blend of  light yet filling and comforting. Adding a grilled cheese sandwich to the meal would make it a perfect Supper.IMG_1589

Springtime Ham Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Springtime Ham Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the leeks carrots, and garlic tossing to coat them with the oil. Add a pinch of salt and cover the pot. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 5 - 7 minutes.
  2. Add the Ham Broth and the thyme leaves to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. At this point you can remove the thyme sprigs as the leaves have probably fallen off and the sprigs have done their flavor magic. Add the sweet potatoes and corn and simmer 20 minutes more or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. While the soup is simmering, blanch the snow peas and haricot vert. Put them in boiling water briefly, then remove them to a bowl of ice water. When they are cold drain them well. This will leave them tender crisp and bright green. Set them aside.
  5. When the soup is done, taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Place a few haricot vert and snow peas into each soup bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowls and serve.
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Soup is wonderful any time of year. With the new season’s vegetables coming in, take advantage of them and create your own soup pot of love.

Turkey, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Back around Thanksgiving, the bus company that I work for gave me (and every other employee) a frozen turkey. This kind gesture is a throwback to another era when employees were given a token of appreciation at the holidays for the work they did. That turkey or ham might have meant that a family could have a real holiday dinner. Today we are more jaded and some of us are better off so that a small turkey seems like small potatoes (sorry, odd analogy) to some. Still, it is 12 pounds more  turkey than I have ever received from any other company I’ve worked for.

The gift turkey had resided in my rather small freezer since then and the time had come to allow it to do more than take up space. So, not long ago, I thawed it and prepared it to give my family the gift of roast turkey. I prepared it simply stuffing it with lemons and onions fresh thyme and garlic. I rubbed it inside, outside and under the skin with smoked paprika herb butter. It emerged golden brown and yielded moist meat that our family enjoyed casually in shifts. This was definitely not a traditional turkey dinner. Twice Baked Potatoes and Broccoli Slaw were the only accompaniments. More than a little “picking” took place and I personally enjoyed my share standing next to the stove.

The thing about turkey is there is a lot of it. Even a small bird offers many meals. While we have enjoyed the sandwiches, pot pie, and continued “picking,” the carcass, those skeletal remains, is perhaps the best gift of all. A bit of meat, some skin, and of course those bones wherein the flavor lies are waiting to transform on the stove.DIGITAL CAMERA That’s why Mama D made turkey stock. I’ve shared recipes for chicken and vegetable stock before and the process for turkey stock isn’t all that different except maybe for needing a bigger pot. A mirepoix is sweat in a soup pot.DIGITAL CAMERA Then water, heat, and time work their magic and stock is born.DIGITAL CAMERAWhile the straining process isn’t pretty, it is necessary as is a cool down, to allow the fat to rise leaving golden goodness. To accomplish this, I used my large “walk out” refrigerator.DIGITAL CAMERAThe resulting stock was divided into manageable portions, and the next layer of the gift of turkey began.

One gift that I particularly enjoyed was a wonderful Turkey Sausage Soup. I was in the mood for something with a little spicy Southwestern feel, so I started with some spicy smoked turkey sausageDIGITAL CAMERA and added a bit of jalapeno and the requisite onions and garlic. Black beans and red bell peppers further enhanced the flavor profile. For a little twist on ingredients, I added some roasted sweet potato. I roasted it and added it to the soup near the end of cooking so that it would keep more of its flavor and texture.DIGITAL CAMERAI relied on a good bit of cumin and a modest amount of ancho chili powder to season the soup. This would be great with any chili powder that you like and you can make it as spicy (or not) as you want. That’s the beauty of soup. some aromatic vegetables, good stock and your imagination result in a pot of goodness that warms the body, soul, and heart. DIGITAL CAMERA I finished the soup with lime juice and topped it with a few home-baked tortilla strips (Cut corn tortillas in strips and lay on a baking sheet coat lightly with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake 7 minutes at 325 degrees, turn, repeat the spray and salt routine and bake for 7 minutes more.) and some avocado. This was good lovin’ in a bowl that was even better the next day.

Spicy Turkey Sausage Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Spicy Turkey Sausage Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Spray a small baking pan with cooking spray and add the sweet potato cubes. Spray the cubes lightly with cooking spray and roast in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until the cubes are lightly browned and tender. Set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, cut the sausage in half lengthwise then slice into 1/2 inch half moons. Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the sausage moons and toss to coat. Cook for 7 minutes or so until the sausage begins to brown. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon leaving the drippings in the pan.
  4. Add the onions to the pan and stir to coat with the drippings. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion begins to soften and brown.
  5. Add the peppers and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes or so. The peppers should begin to soften and the garlic should be fragrant. Use a very small amount of the stock if things get too dry.
  6. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the cumin and chili powder. Cook and stir for 2 - 3 minutes. Pour in the stock. Bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes or so.
  7. Add the reserved sweet potato and the drained beans to the pot and cook over low heat another 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of the lime into the soup. Stir and taste to adjust the seasonings.
  8. Ladle into four soup bowls. Top with a few tortilla chips and some avocado cubes and serve.
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The turkey will live on to bestow more gifts of love since there are several more bags of stock in the freezer. I don’t know what they will turn into, but I will think of that kind gesture of the gift of turkey when I use them.

 

Reflections on Christmas Present

While the magical glow of Christmas is still in the air, the knowledge that the holiday season is slowly winding down and a new year is on the horizon is creeping into my mind. This is a time of reflection. It’s more than what worked and what may have seen its last Christmas appearance though that will be given some thought. It’s the deeper emotional experience of the holiday season. This was a year that just by the nature of the changes that life has given us was cause for a deeper feeling of joy and gratitude.

DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a year of family getting bigger and home getting smaller.Scan_Pic0061 Job descriptions changed along with our address. While many changes were joyous, others were startling, causing major adjustment to thought and life style. As my mother always said, “Everything happens for the best” and in Mama D’s Kitchen and life that has proven true. I’m grateful for every change because it brought new insight into what really matters. Love and family are the most important things. What ever needs to be done to enhance that is one’s life path.

This year the holidays seemed to get here at warp speed. The baking happened, but at such a rapid pace that picture-taking became an afterthought. One newcomer (or I should say two) was added because it could be made in 10 minutes or so. It yielded a generous amount of goodness that was welcomed far and wide. “Bark” is a  decadent confection that features virtually anything mixed into melted chocolate. The mixture chills for an hour or so and is then broken into pieces. My maiden voyage included two versions taken from Kraft Recipes. One featured white chocolate with dried fruits and pistachio nuts that lived up to its name, Jewel. The other blended white and semisweet chocolate with pretzels and peanuts creating a sweet and salty treat. Check out these recipes and get your own inspiration This was so easy and yummy that I see many more variations in my future.DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I don’t have many pictures of the cookies I made, I do have a Holiday recipe that I came up with that is worth sharing. It uses the flavors of the season and pairs beautifully with the heartier holiday fare that comes along at this time of year. Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash are joined by Cheddar Cranberry Cheese. This cheese is a seasonal item at both Trader Joe’s and Aldi. It may be carried at some Delis as well. It was wonderful on the Christmas Eve cheese tray and was fabulous in this gratin.

DIGITAL CAMERASo, these three stars were joined by red onions, rosemary, and thyme.DIGITAL CAMERA

The onions were sautéed in butter and as a last-minute thought some dried cranberries came along for the ride. The herbs went in and everything took a “milk bath” as the sauce came together. I used a combination of 2% milk and fat-free half and half, but  cream would be wonderfully naughty.DIGITAL CAMERAI added plenty of grated cheeseDIGITAL CAMERAand when everything was beautifully co-mingling I poured it over the squash and sweets.DIGITAL CAMERAIt baked in the oven under a foil cover for about 35 minutes or so. Then a final layer of cheese was added.DIGITAL CAMERAA few more minutes in the oven and  the gratin transformed into golden brown deliciousness.DIGITAL CAMERA

This would be a wonderful side dish for any Fall or Winter holiday meal. It could even be a wonderful main dish for two on a cold Winter’s night… and it was.

Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin
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The perfect holiday side dish that can also be a vegetarian main dish.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Gratin
Print Recipe
The perfect holiday side dish that can also be a vegetarian main dish.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Slice the squash and sweet potatoes in similar sized slices. Layer in a Gratin dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium fry pan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook stirring occasionally until the onions soften and just begin to brown.
  3. Add the dried cranberries and the herb leaves and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in the Wondra flour and continue stirring and cooking for another 2 minutes. Do not let the roux brown.
  4. Stir the milk in slowly and continue to stir until it is smoothly incorporated. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat.
  5. Immediately add 3/4 cup of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Pour over the squash and potatoes, spreading to evenly cover the top.
  6. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or so. Check that the potatoes and squash are tender.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top and return to the oven uncovered. Bake another 10 minutes or so. The top should be golden brown and the sauce should be bubbling.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
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The holiday season is slowly winding down. I’m always a little sad to see it end. This year I’m planning on keeping the warm feelings and abiding love in my heart for as long as I can. Christmas is after all, a state of mind. I hope your hearts stay filled with the Christmas spirit, too.