Simple Snacks: Sweet Potato Dollars

When it comes to snacks, it's so easy to reach for a bag of tortilla chips or pretzels to satisfy your stomach, especially if you're like me and have the mind set of "I want it, and I want it now." But what if we were to take a deep breath, calm down, and take the time to prepare something that would both satisfy and nourish our body at the same time? This is the mind set I am trying to adapt to right now. This is where these crisp-on-the-outside-soft-in-the-center sweet potato dollars come in; they're so easy and quick to prepare, yet packed with loads of vitamins. Did I mention that kids love them too?

Today I tried something new by adding them to my salad for lunch. Whoa buddy! As soon as I took the first bite, my taste buds were having a party. Combined with avocado, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and spinach dressed in a lemon vinaigrette, I found a new favorite salad combination. In fact, I was so enthralled with my lunch that I didn't take the time to take a proper picture! I did however manage to take one on my phone before devouring it. My apologies for the lower quality picture.

Anyway, as with most recipes, it is important to remember that you are never confined to a recipe! Try adding lemon juice to the sweet potatoes to have a sweet-tart thing going, or maybe maple syrup and cayenne pepper if you like sweet and spicy, cinnamon and honey? Mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about all the flavor possibilities! Like them super crispy? Cut them very thin. Like them on the chewier side? Cut them thicker. I've given you the recipe as a canvas, now go have fun and paint your picture!

Sweet Potato Dollars

This recipe is originally from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, New Trends Publishing Inc., Washington D.C., 2001

Makes about 4 servings

3-4 long, skinny sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt to taste

Slice sweet potatoes thinly, a little thinner than a 1/4 of an inch thick. Arrange the slices on a buttered baking sheet and brush each slice with a *mixture of the butter and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt to your liking, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. 

*If you are adding any other flavors, it is best to add them to the butter mixture before brushing the slices. 


Soup Time ~ Irish Chicken Soup with a Twist

With the hurricane brewing on the east coast, the weather around here has been so dreary. My thoughts have been with the people who have and are facing much worse conditions than here in Ohio. Even though the sun has hardly shown up the past few days, I must admit that I enjoy this kind of rainy weather. There's something comforting about a rainy day. When I have the opportunity to stay home and cook on a rainy day, you will find me in the kitchen with the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora, as happy as can be, most likely making a big pot of soup. Those are the days I love most. 

Soups are definitely one of my favorite things to cook, mainly because they are so easy and delicious, but also because a nice mug of soup on a chilly and wet day is hard to beat. This particular soup is one I started making last winter. My family, particularly my dad, loves this creamy and hearty soup. I love it because it is so nourishing. Unlike traditional Irish chicken soup, I use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes for the higher nutrient content. With all the orange color going on, this soup contains loads of betacarotene which is great for your skin, protects against cancer, colds, infections, and diseases. When I feel a cold coming on, this is the soup I make.

 Irish Chicken Soup

Like most soups, this soup will taste even better the next day after the flavors have had a chance to combine.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 large carrots, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 chicken breasts, shredded
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot sauté the onion and celery in the oil until soft, about five minutes. Add carrot, garlic, and sweet potato; continue to cook about five minutes longer. Add stock and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cover and cook for about an hour, until the sweet potato cubes are easily pierced with a fork. Puree two-thirds of the soup in a blender, and pour blended soup back into pot. Add the chicken, and season to taste.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake with Orange-Scented Whipped Cream

Ok friends, you are in for a treat today. Last night, when I should have been sleeping, I was restlessly lying in my bed thinking about this cake. Orange, ginger, and chocolate. Seriously, this is a magical combination! I love gingerbread, but combining it with chocolate?! I couldn't wait to try it. As I developed the recipe for the cake I noticed a basket of oranges sitting on the counter, and it struck me that orange zest in the whipped cream atop the cake would be heavenly. Oh was I right! My heart was leaping at the idea of tasting this delicious dessert as it was baking. Upon tasting the first bite, I realized my restlessness had not been in vain; it was so tasty.

In addition, this is not your typical over-the-top rich kind of cake. Although it is a dessert, and should be eaten in moderation, it is healthier and more nourishing than the average cake. I used only natural sweeteners, along with freshly ground whole wheat flour to add more nutrients. If you do not have a grain mill at home, I suggest using unbleached white flour, as store-bought wheat flour tends to be bitter. I also used non-homogenized, and not ultra-pasteurized, whipping cream to make the whipped cream, because it contains more of the beneficial "good stuff" for our bodies. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I did!

Chocolate Ginger Bread Cake with Orange Scented Whipped Cream

For the Cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup full-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, honey, and molasses. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Stir in the vanilla and ginger. In a medium bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients together; fold into butter mixture. Once combined, stir in the milks, and beat at medium high speed for two minutes. Scrape batter into prepared pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until tester inserted comes out clean, and cake springs back slightly when touched.

For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
zest of one orange
honey to taste (I think I used about 1 1/2 Tbsp.)

Whip all ingredients together and place a generous amount atop each piece of cake. Go sit down, relax, and enjoy while you indulge in the moment.

With Love,

Harvest Time ~ Baked Honey and Spice Apple Chips

My favorite time of year has decided to set in. The breath-taking color change in the leaves, the cool breeze that rustles through the trees, bonfires with family and friends, and best of all, it's harvest time! Apple harvest time that is. Picking your own anything is exciting, but walking through an orchard and picking your own apples is just too much fun, especially when you can shake the hand of the farmer who grew your food. Be sure to take advantage of your local orchard this fall; get out and go pick some apples!

When you get home from the farm with your muddy shoes and bags of apples, try making these delicious apple chips! They are bursting with flavor, and make a quick and healthy snack. Baking them gives them their crunchy and crisp texture, but you could also dehydrate them if desired. Be sure to leave the skins on the apples, since most of the nutrients are contained in the skin!

Baked Honey and Spice Apple Chips

3 large apples (I like more tart apples such as Jonathon, Suncrisp, or Goldrush)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
dash of sea salt
touch of vanilla

1. Slice apples as thinly as you can; the thinner the slice, the crisper the finished product will be. Place slices in a large bowl.
2. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl; coat apple slices with honey mixture.
3. Align in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 225 degrees for an hour. Turn slices over, and continue to bake for another hour or so, until dry and crisp.

Happy Fall!

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

A few weeks ago, I quickly put this salad together for a work potluck. Thinking that it wouldn't go over very well, I decided not to take a very large bowl of the stuff. What was I thinking? To my delight, there was none left after lunch; the only thing that remained were friends asking for the recipe. I was thrilled! If you're one of those crazy people who loves to nourish your body with healthy wholesome foods, and gets even more excitement from sharing this love for food, well, then you can relate to how I felt at that moment. It was a success in helping spread my passion for wholesome foods. 


So what in the world is quinoa? Well first of all, if you have ever discussed it with someone who is familiar with this grain, you were probably like me and mispronounced it the first few times. Gosh I felt dumb the first time I did that. But how else do we learn? It is in fact pronounced keen-wah.

 Okay, now that we have that cleared up, we can move on to why I love including this nutrition-packed powerhouse in my diet. Quinoa, though technically a seed, is marketed as a gluten-free grain high in protein, rich in B vitamins, as well as all nine essential amino acids, making it a high-energy food. Because it's coated in a natural chemical compound called saponins, it is very important that quinoa be rinsed before cooking, otherwise it will taste bitter and have an off-taste. Of all the different whole grains, quinoa has to be one of the fastest cooking whole grains out there, ready in less than fifteen minutes, making it a great last-minute go-to when you forget to start the brown rice an hour before dinner is ready!

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Avocado-Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 12 minutes, until translucent and little "tails" appear. Remove from heat, and "fluff" with a fork after 5 minutes.

For the Salad:

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup diced colored bell peppers (I like orange and red)
1 cup loosely packed, shredded fresh spinach
2 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 tsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the corn off the cob, and quickly sauté in olive oil for a few minutes, until corn is bright yellow. Combine remaining ingredients, including the cooked quinoa and set aside while preparing dressing.

For the Dressing:

1 small, ripe avocado
1 cup full-fat buttermilk
Juice of one lime
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp. minced red onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. The dressing will be thick, you can thin it out with more buttermilk or water if desired.

Hope you're excited about including more whole foods in your diet!