Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (from someone who doesn’t like salads) – Daring Cooks (very challenging) Challenge

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

As we have already established, I’m a picky eater.   I generally don’t do salads of any kind mostly because I don’t like condiments – no ketchup, no mustard, no dressing (or anything with vinegar in it), absolutely no mayonnaise and healthy is clearly not my strength so coming up with a healthy potato salad recipe was a big challenge for me. I’m not a big yogurt fan either, but some of the flavored ones are ok so I went with that.  The best part though is that I do love potatoes in pretty much any form so I had something to work with! This was inspired by the sweet potato casserole that usually goes with Thanksgiving dinner.  Thanks to Jami for a great challenge.

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Printable Version

Ingredients for 4 side or 2 main course salads:

2 large sweet potatoes cubed into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon bacon or regular salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

6 pineapple rings

1 1/2 cup pecans toasted

1 cup coconut (1/2 toasted)

1 6 oz orange yogurt cup

1 11 oz can mandarin oranges

4 large fresh lettuce leaves

1/4 cup dried cherries

1 tablespoon marshmallow cream

Sweet Potatoes for baking

Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet.

Drizzle

Drizzle with olive oil

Sprinkle

Sprinkle with cinnamon and bacon salt

Mix

Drizzled and sprinkled

Mix to coat.

Coconut, pineapple and pecans

On a second baking sheet place the pecans, 1/2 of the coconut and the pineapple cut into half circles and sprinkle the pineapple and pecans with brown sugar, cinnamon and bacon (or regular) salt.

Sprinkle

Roast both pans in 400 degree oven for approx 10 minutes until the coconut and pecans are toasted – watch carefully they will go from brown to burned quickly.  Remove them from the pan and continue to roast the sweet potatoes and pineapple for  a total of 30-45 minutes until tender and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool.

Roasted sweet potatoes

Roasted pineapple

Drain the mandarin oranges, reserving the liquid.  Mix enough of the liquid with the orange yogurt to thin it to a pouring consistency.

Roasted and ready to mix

Reserve 2 pineapple 1/2 slices and cut the remaining into bite sized pieces.  Mix the sweet potatoes, pecans (reserving a few for garnish), toasted coconut and bite sized pineapple pieces together in a mixing bowl with the dressing.

Plated

On the serving plate lay down the lettuce, add the potato mixture, surround with the reserved pineapple half slices and the mandarin oranges, sprinkle with the untoasted coconut, reserved pecans and dried cherries.

Almost done

Top with a dollop of marshmallow cream.

Fresh Herb Pasta

Fresh Herb Pasta

Pasta made into Ravioli

I’ve watched the little Italian ladies on TV make fresh pasta on a board by just putting down the flour, making a well for the egg, adding a little water and maybe some olive oil and gracefully mixing it up into a beautiful dough.  Unfortunately my first few attempts were not nearly so successful.   I ended up with either the flour dam breaking and egg all over the floor, a struggle to get the dough to form and then the pasta was either too wet or too dry and stubbornly refused to make anything resembling a proper shape either by hand or with the pasta machine.   When I finally got something I could roll, apparently I didn’t do it enough and it was so thick it was like eating a wet sock.  I readily admit that I love fresh pasta but I also admit that for the few cents it costs, I was willing to just buy it.  Finally though, I have discovered this method that makes a great, easy to work with dough with very little effort.  It works with just a rolling-pin, or a pasta machine and cooks up wonderfully.  Of course, the use of the food processor is probably cheating, but that along with using the semolina flour makes all the difference in the texture.

Printable Version

Pasta Ingredients

Ingredients for 4 servings:

1 cup fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme or whatever  combination you prefer, this time I used lemon basil)

1 cup semolina flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons water (approx. add just enough to make the dough form a ball)

Procedure:

Add herbs to the food processor

Pulse several times until the herbs are finely chopped

Add the flour, salt and eggs

Pulse until well mixed

Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, it shouldn't take long to become smooth and elastic since the food processor has done most of the work

Kneaded and ready to rest

Wrapped in plastic to rest - at least 10 minutes 30 is better

After the pasta has rested, you can roll it out with a rolling-pin or run it through a pasta machine and make whatever shapes you want.

Quinoa with Fresh Asparagus and Tomatoes

Quinoa with Fresh Asparagus and Tomatoes

Quinoa with Fresh Asparagus and Tomatoes

In my not so successful quest to be more healthy (since the very next day I made mac & cheese with bacon), I decided to try making Quinoa since I’ve read about its benefits so much lately.  Here is a great article.  While treated like a grain, it is actually a seed from the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant related to beets, spinach, Swiss chard, and lamb’s quarters and is gluten-free for those who want or need to avoid that.  It is cooked similarly to rice (and even better because it doesn’t stick to the pan) and can be used to replace  grains or pasta in many recipes.   It is high in complete protein, calcium and iron and has all 8 essential amino acids.  Although I used chicken broth, and parmesan cheese you could easily use water or vegetable broth and leave out the cheese if you prefer vegetarian or vegan.

It was good, and I will definitely make it again.  I thought it was interesting, especially the little “tails” that when cooked have a little crunch (you can see them in the picture).   It kind of reminded me of the way corn pops, but the little parts are not nearly as hard as a popped corn shell,  barely crunchy.  It is basically pretty bland alone, so you need to add lots of flavor.  This is really quick to make, less than 1/2 hour and you can serve it hot or cold as a salad.

Printable Version

Ingredients for 4 servings:

2 cups quinoa

3 cups chicken broth, water or vegetable broth

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 lb grape tomatoes

1 lb asparagus spears cut into 1 inch pieces

3 cloves of garlic minced (I like a lot so you can cut that down if you prefer)

2 Tablespoons fresh basil (or 1 T dried)

2 Tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 T dried)

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

Procedure:

First rinse the quinoa well using a very fine strainer or cheesecloth.  Although some brands are pre-rinsed, this is important not to skip as otherwise you could end up with a bitter taste.

Add the quinoa and broth to a large saucepan over medium heat up to a simmer, then lower the heat and maintain the simmer for about 15 minutes.

Asparagus and Grape Tomatoes

In a large skillet, add the olive oil and sauté over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, just until the asparagus is cooked but still crisp and most of the tomatoes are still intact.  If the tomatoes start to break apart it is done.  Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.  When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the vegetables, along with the basil and oregano and the shredded parmesan.

Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart

Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart

Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Italian four cheese blend (or mozzarella) cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup crisp bacon bits (real bacon please!)

Directions

  • In a  food processor, add the flour and butter, pulsing 5-6 times until the mixture is crumbly.
  • Gradually add water, pulsing until the dough forms a ball.
  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until it can be rolled easily.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. tart pan with a removable bottom.
  • Place the pastry in the pan and trim the edge.
  • Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes until lightly browned.

 

Pastry Baked

 

While the pastry is baking, thinly slice the tomatoes and place on paper towels, salt them and cover with another layer of paper towel.  This will prevent the dough from getting soggy.

 

Tomatoes sliced

Tomatoes drying

 

Sprinkle 2 cups cheese into the crust; top with basil and garlic slices.

 

Cheese and garlic

Add basil

Add tomatoes

 

Arrange the tomato slices in a circular pattern around the edge of the tart leaving three for the middle.

 

Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper

Drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper. 

  • Sprinkle the rest of  the cheese over the tomatoes in the center.
  • Sprinkle the bacon bits around the tart.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts.

Ready to Serve

Click here to find out more!
White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Of course we had ham for Easter and with everyone gone home and just the two of us, there was a lot of leftover ham!  There is always freezing, but first I pretty much use it until we can’t stand anymore.  This week I’ve made ham and eggs of course, Ham and Lentil soup, which was delicious(and will be posted another time) and today I made White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham.  I had some leftover cheese sauce but if you don’t happen to have some made, here is the recipe I use for my white cheese pasta sauce.  I made it just a little differently, not baking it for as long to keep it more “saucy” and after taking it out of the oven I stirred it and added some steamed broccoli (or you can serve the broccoli on the side).  This recipe is for 4-6 servings, I only made half for us so it will be more than it looks in the pictures.

Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Ingredients:

White Five Cheese Sauce

1 lb pasta shells

1-2 cups cubed ham

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cups broccoli

Procedure:

Make or heat the sauce in the microwave for about 1 minute just so it will pour while the pasta is cooking according to the package directions.

Brown the ham cubes

Fry the ham in a heavy skillet until nicely browned.  You can skip this step, but I like the flavor it adds.

Ready to bake

Add the drained pasta, ham and sauce to a baking dish and mix well.  Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt.  Remove from the oven and stir to mix well.

Cook the broccoli covered in the microwave for 3 minutes and mix into the pasta (or serve with broccoli on the side).

White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham

Four-Cheese Risotto with fresh Roasted Tomatoes

Four-Cheese Risotto with fresh Roasted Tomatoes

Garlic-herb Roasted Tomatoes

I’m far from vegetarian, but even for me there is nothing like roasted vegetables, especially tomatoes.  What better to go with them than a great risotto?  This recipe is very simple and takes less than an hour, although it does require some serious stirring.  It makes a filling meal or great side dish and the garlic-herb roasted tomatoes add a lot of flavor to the creamy cheesy risotto.  It is also very flexible, I used a prepackaged four cheese blend but sometimes use whatever cheeses I have on hand, a mixture of  fontina, mozzarella, Asiago, parmesan and/or Gruyère.

Ingredients:

6-8 Roma tomatoes sliced in half

2-4 cloves of garlic sliced very thinly

1 sprig of rosemary

Several tablespoons of olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Few leaves of Basil for garnish

one half onion chopped finely

1 cup arborio rice

5 cups chicken stock (or one cup white wine and 4 cups chicken stock)

2 cups four cheese blend or mix of shredded cheeses

1/2 cup cream

Procedure:

1.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly oil a large sheet pan either with olive oil or vegetable spray.

Place the tomatoes flat side up, add a few slices of garlic and a few bits of rosemary to each.  Place in the oven and roast for approximately 10-15 minutes, until they are soft and the garlic is slightly browned.

For the risotto:

Heat the broth to a simmer (I do it in the microwave but traditionally it is done in a separate saucepan).

Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft but not browned.

Rice in olive oil

Rice and onion saute

Add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated with oil.

First addition of broth

Add the wine first if using, then the remaining broth one cup at a time, stirring constantly and waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next cup.

Keep Stirring

Keep stirring and adding until all the broth has been added, is absorbed and the rice is tender.  I find sometimes it takes a little more broth, sometimes a little less.  Be patient, it will take 20-30 minutes but it’s worth it!

Adding cheese

Add the cheese, stirring gently to melt.

Done

Then add the cream to the consistency that you like.

Four Cheese Risotto with Roasted Garlic Herb Tomatoes

Serve with the roasted tomatoes and a little fresh basil.