Tag Archives: sour cream

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo and Pomegranate

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I went back to Minnesota in August to visit my family. It was a really great trip overall. I had really nice moments with family, and had some quiet moments to myself that allowed me to reflect on how far I’ve come in my relationships with my family members. We’ve all done our share of personal growth, and it’s been manifested in the way we interact with each other. Of course, we still have our moments, but we can work through them much faster than we did in the past.

I visited my 88-year old grandma while there. She has had dementia for a while now, but she has been holding on fairly well. I know that people with dementia can deteriorate pretty quickly, but I was still not prepared for what I saw. She has whittled down to almost nothing, and she was barely lucid during the two short visits I had with her. My grandma has not had an easy life. Her husband was not a good man – he was mean, was never around, and had several affairs. She raised 8 kids largely on her own. I’ve often wondered what her life would have been like if she hadn’t met my grandpa. I think she always yearned for a bigger life. She wanted to contribute something to the world other than being a mother and a housewife. She is a very smart woman who liked to stay informed of politics and social justice issues. I remember her once telling me she was so happy that I had moved away from my small town. I think the little joy she got out of life she obtained through other people who were living happier and more fulfilling lives.

It was heartbreaking to see her now in this condition. However, my dad truly impressed me with the way he interacted with her during our visit. He was very loving and tender – making sure she had enough water, asking her if she was too warm. It almost brought me to tears. Because my dad was not a very warm and nurturing person while I was growing up, his kindness today can often times stop me in my tracks. It’s such a beautiful thing to see how people can evolve and become better human beings. My dad was never close to my grandma, and, in fact, I think they had a bit of a contentious relationship when he was growing up. Knowing this makes his caretaking of her now that much more touching.

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I lurrrrrve sweet potatoes. However, I think I am unusual in my disliking of them in a sweet preparation. That will NEVER happen in my kitchen. People, they are already sweet to begin with! And they pair so nicely with bitter, savory, and umami flavors. One of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes is to turn them into french fries, covered in rosemary, garlic and sea salt. It beats McDonalds fries any day of the week. Ok, maybe not when I’m pms’ing, but you get the point. This is a great recipe to make this time of year. Summer is winding down and the first few hints of fall are in the air. It’s a hearty dish but it’s still light enough that it won’t weigh you down. Of course, if chorizo is hard to find in your neighborhood (or you just don’t eat pork), you can substitute chicken, beef, lamb, etc. I bet lamb would be extra delicious in this recipe.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo and Pomegranate
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield: 4-6 servings

1/2 pound fresh chorizo, casings removed
3 cipollini onions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup pure pomegranate juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
Salt & pepper; Course sea salt
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Sliced avocado
Pomegranate seeds
Finely grated lime zest

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Set each sweet potato on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with course sea salt.
2. Wrap the potatoes in the foil and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chorizo and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the onions, chile and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions are softened, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Add the pomegranate juice and cook until nearly absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
5. Unwrap the sweet potatoes and arrange on a platter. Cut a lengthwise slit in the top of each one and fluff the insides with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and fill with the chorizo mixture.
6. Top each sweet potato with crème fraîche, sliced avocado, pomegranate seeds, grated lime zest and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently learned that my cholesterol is dangerously high.  In lieu of going on medication, I decided to actively try and cut out a decent amount of sugar from my diet.  Of course, there will still be plenty of dark chocolate.  I mean, I haven’t lost my mind.  There will ALWAYS be dark chocolate in my life.  What’s more, I have a huge sweet tooth.  Therefore, dessert will always be a part of my life as well, but I needed to find some recipes that incorporate sugar substitutions.   Turns out, there is a lot out there.  For the most part, bananas and dates are the healthiest options when substituting sugar in a recipe.  Although they still contain a decent amount of sugar– like fruit– they also contain fiber, which slows down the rate at which the body absorbs the sugars from the fruit.  Therefore, I have been making A LOT of (healthier) desserts lately to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my favorite things to eat around the holidays is gingerbread-flavored anything.   I love the spices, along with the deep, complex flavor of molasses.  I had a deliciously spicy slice of gingerbread loaf last week from a bakery in Manhattan.  It inspired me to try and give gingerbread muffins a go, but with no sugar (other than the molasses, which I made an exception for).  They turned out really well.  My only complaint is that they are not quite spicy enough.  Therefore, if you really want that bite that you get from a gingersnap cookie, feel free to double the amount of ginger in this recipe.  If you are ok with a milder flavor, these will be perfect for you.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHealthy Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Yield:  22 Mini-muffins

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (sub 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
11/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Candied ginger, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the molasses.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, yogurt, milk, ginger, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  3. Add the olive oil and molasses from step one.
  4. Add the flours, baking soda, salt, and dry spices. Stir a few times until just combined. Scoop into a mini-muffin tin and place a piece of candied ginger on top of each muffin. Bake for 10-12 minutes (if making full-size muffins, bake for 17-20 minutes) or until the tops are puffy and firm to the touch. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

DSC_4057Now that we are deep into the throes of winter, I have to force myself out of my apartment in order to stave off depression.  Some weeks are better than others, and when I do force myself out, I am usually glad that I did and try to make a mental note of my high spirits afterwards.  Friday night was one of those nights.  Mr. K and I were invited to dinner and an Off-Off Broadway play by some friends of ours.  It was a rainy night but I was actually excited about leaving the apartment for once.  I figured even if the play was subpar, I could get out of my head and we would enjoy our friend’s company.

We had a fantastic time.  The couple that we went out with just got married a few months ago; it’s great to see people so in love.  The pizza joint (that I chose) was pretty bad but we all had a great time sharing stories.  Mr. K and I are pondering moving to Southern California in the next few years, and since this couple grew up there, we got some good pointers about the best places to live.  The play was excellent.  If any of you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.  Grounded is the name of it and it’s playing at the SoHo Rep.  It’s about a female fighter pilot who goes back to work after having a baby only to discover that the rules of war have changed.  Fighter pilots now fly drones remotely from a location in Las Vegas and work 8-hour shifts like most Americans.  The play highlights the complexities of modern warfare and how it affects soldiers.  A remarkable but sad fact I learned was that the rate of PTSD has actually increased with pilots that operate drones.
DSC_4036Walking home Friday night, I took inventory of how I felt mentally.  Although tired (Mr. K and I are not usually out later than 11 pm on any given night), I felt invigorated and joyful.  Someone once told me that they liken the importance of sleep to charging your phone every night.  Your brain needs a break and a recharge at night in order to operate fully during the day.  My brain must operate the same way when it comes to intellectual and emotional stimulation.  Without it, I seem to operate at 50% capacity.

The tricky thing about depression, though, is that even though you may know intellectually that you need stimulation from the outside world, your emotions will try to convince you otherwise.  Vitality and liveliness appear to be unreachable when depression rears its head.  And yet, vigor and energy is exactly what you need.  I remember my therapist once telling me that the secret to managing depression was to simply force yourself out of the house and the happy endorphins would follow.  If you wait for joy and enthusiasm to appear in order to leave your house, you will wait indefinitely.  The cart needs to come before the horse, essentially.
DSC_4043 A friend gave me the Baked cookbook several years ago and I am slowly working my way through it.  Baked is a popular bakery in Brooklyn and they make insanely good desserts.  I thought it was time to try another recipe from their first cookbook, so I chose  Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins.  I haven’t tasted too many savory muffins over the course of my life, but of the ones that I’ve had, I’ve liked.  Liked, I say.  Not loved.  However, I am a sucker for all things pumpkin (except pumpkin pie) and I thought the combination of pumpkin, cheddar and black pepper sounded curious.  After taking my first bite, I was flabbergasted by how delicious these muffins were.  They are definitely on the sweeter side because of the pumpkin, but the cheddar and black pepper are nice foils for the sweetness and add an interesting level of flavor.  I immediately had visions of eating these alongside every future pot of soup I made throughout the winter.  And so far, I have.  Don’t be scared of the black pepper.  It’s not too strong by any means.  The muffins have a very similar texture to biscuits, which made me love them even more.
DSC_4048Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins
Adapted from Baked:  New Frontiers in Baking

Yield:  12 Muffins

1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons sour cream or greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1-1/4 cups (about 4 oz.) grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Spray each cup of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly along the bottom and up the sides of each cup.
3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream/yogurt.
4.  Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.
5.  In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and brown sugar.
6.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined.  Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.
7.  Divide the batter among the muffin cups.  Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin seeds on top of the muffins.
8.  Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins.  Serve them warm.