Sweet Potato and Tarragon Gnocchi

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It’s been cold and rainy again and all I want to eat is soup, stew and gnocchi. So here another New World take on classic potato dumplings. They involve a little sticky work, but are so worth making. The tarragon really takes this former ‘poor people’s food’ from everyday to special occasion.They also freeze great, so make more than you need, freeze right on the sheet then store in zip top bags and cook from there when you’re ready. That way you could A) store them for a busy week night or B) make them ahead as a holiday side dish to serve with your Christmas dinner.

imageThe dough is a bit sticky, so make sure you flour the work surface well

imageready for the freezer!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • about 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 sprigs French Tarragon, leaves only, chopped

imageThey will look like little pillows ūüôā

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375, poke sweet potato with a fork and roast on a cookie sheet until soft  hen pricked with a knife, about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the sweet potato.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, set aside.
  3. Set sweet potato aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and squish through a potato ricer into a bowl, let cool 10 more minutes (you want it to be cool to the point where the egg does not cook when you add it).
  4. Stir in the salt, tarragon leaves and the egg, then gently incorporate the flour.
  5. Set dough aside for 15 minutes to allow the flour to absorb some of the moisture.
  6. Then flour your work surface well, and cut off a portion of dough the size of a baseball. Gently roll into a rope, about 1 1/2″ diameter, keeping your hands floured.
  7. Using a knife, cut 1″ sections of dough from the rope and place on a ¬†prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been used up.
  8. For eating right away:  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook about 8-10 gnocchi at a time until they swim to the surface, skim out using a wire mesh strainer, drain and serve.
  9. For use later: Freeze on baking sheets until gnocchi are firm, then transfer to zip top bags and store in the freezer until ready to use. Then bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook 5-6 gnocchi at a time, cooking less gnocchi at a time and making sure the water stays boiling, since the frozen dumplings will bring the water temperature down drastically and if the water isn’t hot enough, you risk having them fall apart.

Ideas for serving them:

  • with freshly grated Romano cheese and a drizzle of olive oil,
  • top with your favorite sauce,
  • bake in the oven topped with a little Parmesan cheese until slightly browned (highly recommend)
  • serve alongside roast chicken or game and don’t forget the side of cranberry or lingonberry jam!

imageCopyright © 2012 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Beans and how I cook them

imageSoaking the beans in plenty of water overnight is essential

With making most things from scratch, the question sooner or later arises: What about beans? As I have mentioned before, I do cook my own beans and then package them rather than¬†buying cans. It’s first of all cheaper, then it’s also better for the planet and most likely much healthier for you, not only due to the sodium content in most canned varieties but due to the materials used in the can lining that have come under more and more scrutiny lately. And if that does not have you convinced to cook dried beans, maybe the fact that they just taste so much better will! And it is really not all that time consuming if you are organized about it. Yes, it is easier if you have a pressure cooker, like the one I brought back with me from Switzerland. Mine is a Kuhn-Rikon Duromatic, kinda like this one, but any good quality pressure cooker would make your life easier, not just for beans (Do NOT get the cheapo ones with the wiggly-rocking-weight-thingy balanced on top, not worth it)

imagethe next morning: after soaking

I usually cook a couple of pounds of beans in one day, depending on the size of your cooker (refer to the manufacturers guidelines) about a pound at a time. So yes, I will cook several batches, one after another and then store them in the freezer for an easy addition to soups and other meals. I know some resources say that you can cook the beans without soaking, or ‘quick soak’ them by letting them sit in boiling water, here’s my experience: You know all the things beans are supposed to do to you, the bad things why folks don’t want to eat beans? In my experience, the gentler you prepare the beans the less they cause you to have to forego your upcoming social appointments. ūüėČ That includes soaking them overnight, draining and rinsing them before putting them in the cooking pot and cooking over gentle heat. Yes, it takes a bit longer but the results are way worth it.

Trust me.

Have I ever led you astray? No? See!

image Finished Product: Black eyed peas

Here’s the way I like to do it. You need:

  • 1 lb dry beans, soaked overnight
  • water
  • snack sized zip top baggies (about 6-8 per pound)
  • 1 or 2 gallon sized freezer bag
  • pen for labeling

For most beans: 1 pound dried beans = 2  cups dried = 4 Р5 cups cooked beans= 3-4 cans of beans!

  • Rinse the dried beans in cold water, then to soak overnight place in a good-sized bowl (the beans will swell and get bigger as they soak up the water) and cover with cold water. You want them covered by at least two inches of water.
  • In the morning drain and rinse the beans, then put them in the cooking pot of your choice
  • Option A:¬†Regular pot is fine, just cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until tender, can take 1-2 hours depending on the variety. ¬†
  • Options B (my preferred method):¬†Pressure Cooker, (following manufacturers guidelines) For mine that means cover with about a finger’s width of fresh water, close the lid and place on the stove over medium heat. Slowly heat until the pressure valve gets up to the first red ring, turn heat to low and set your timer (*see below).¬†
  • After releasing the pressure from the cooker by running cold water over it, open and drain the cooked beans in a colander in your sink until cool, then package in snack sized zip top bags, and store 6 to 8 baggies in a gallon sized bag labelled with the type of bean and the date before putting in the freezer.

*Some of my favorites are listed below; with the times that I have found produce perfectly cooked beans (I will update as I add more species and specifics)

All ready to freeze, packaged in portions ( I could probably have let them cool a little longer,a s you can see there is condensation in the bags)

And please understand that every pressure cooker is different, the beans could be fresher or older, so you do need to experiment a little. A lot of times I can tell by the smell of the steam escaping the pot if they still smell ‘green’ and need more cooking. I pre-soak all of these beans, unless otherwise stated.¬†I also find that letting the pot stand off the heat for a while before releasing the pressure by running cold water over the outsides and the top keeps the beans nicer.¬†NEVER EVER try to open a cooker that is still under pressure, this could be¬†highly dangerous¬†as the¬†water still boils inside¬†the cooker long after it’s been removed from the fire! Also too drastic of a pressure change and they tend to burst, same when you cook them at too high a pressure, so stick with the first red ring. This is not an activity to watch TV next to.¬†

Type of bean: time at first red ring: standing time before releasing pressure:

  • Small Red: 4-5 minutes: 5 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Adzuki Beans: no soaking 5 minutes: 6 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Baby Lima: 5-7 minutes: 3 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Black Eyed Peas: 6-8 minutes: 4 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Cannellini Beans: 8 minutes: 4 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Black Beans: 9 minutes: 6 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Red Kidney Beans: 10-12 minutes: 6 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Pinto Beans: 10-12 minutes: 6 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top
  • Chick Peas: 10 minutes: 4 minutes: then run cold water over sides and top

Some tips:

*Buy beans at a place where they have a quick turnover. WHile they are dry and will keep a long time, quality will diminish over time, just like with anything else you eat. Buy your beans at a latin or indian grocer, folks that eat a lot of beans tend to not have them on the shelf as long.

* Don’t salt beans until they are cooked, or you are adding to the cooking time! (I usually forget in the end and just salt when using the beans)

*Do not mix beans from two packages bought at different times. Cooking time varies with how old and dry the beans are as well as by variety and a new bag plus one that just showed up in the back of your pantry could cook at different times leaving some beans hard and some mushy.

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© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade

Herbed Yellow Tomato and Lentil Soup

imageFinishing my last bowl of soup, I thought it might be time to share this one with you instead of keeping it all to myself. Using the last tomatoes from the garden. Oh no, they have not been out on the vine for a while now. I had to pick them a while back when we were expecting a hard frost, even though they were hard and green as a granny smith apple. But oh wonder, after a couple of weeks, (yes folks, it took that long) they started to turn yellow and even a little red/orange in some spots, I guess because they remembered they were Pineapple tomatoes after all. But knowing that the flavor would not be a sun-ripened version of tomato, I decide soup might be a good bet. And since they are probably less sweet than their sun-ripened cousins, I pondered, maybe creamy would be the way to go? But I also did not want to make it too heavy or rich and full of fat, well I think I struck the balance just right, but judge for yourself. I have eaten the entire pot of soup (serves 4) over the past week, all by myself, there was no sharing here, I admit ūüėČ

imageBy the way, I bet this would be even better with real ripe tomatoes

As I write this, it is very calm outside and very hard to imagine that there is a storm brewing that might outdo last years Halloween Snowstorm. (For those of you not familiar with my area, we don’t usually have snowstorms this early in the year and last year all the leaves where still on the trees, which made the foot of snow into a disaster leaving some of my friends out of power for 2 weeks. I got lucky mine came back on in 2 or 3 days, not too bad, considering. Well this time they are not calling for snow, but a WHOLE LOTTA rain and wind, and for a much longer time) Thank goodness for weather service, or I would have happily packed my bags for a week end hike and ended up blown away ūüôĀ

Instead I might make some more soup tomorrow, and work on one of my little winter projects…

imagePretty, right? You can get the pattern from¬†Pam Powers’¬†website

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Ingredients

  • 5 medium counter ripened tomatoes, yellow or red (sun ripened would work too), chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 rapunzel vegan bouillon cube or 2 cups of vegetable¬†broth
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 medium carrot, grated on the coarse side of the grater
  • 1/2 cup Le Puy (french green) lentils
  • 1 red pepper, seeded, peeled and chopped
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • water, 2-4 cups

Directions

  1. Heat some oil over medium high in your soup pot, then add the onions and cook until slightly browned in spots, then add the tomatoes. Add salt, pesto and herbs and cook until the tomatoes render their juices (and it all becomes soup-y)
  2. Add the bouillon cube and about 4 cups of water (or 2 cups broth and 2 cups water) and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the rinsed and sorted lentils. Add the sun dried tomatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. In the meantime cook the bell pepper over the grill until blackened, set aside covered or enclose inside a paper bag, and when cooled enough to handle peel the blackened skin off (rubbing it with a paper towel works pretty well), then chop the roasted pepper and add to the soup
  5. Add the cottage cheese and stir until mostly melted.
  6. When the lentils are cooked, season the soup to taste with black pepper and more salt if desired

image© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade

Baby Lima salad with lemon and herbs

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We haven’t had beans in a while, I was told by my other half. And he’s right, they sure have slipped from the menu into oblivion as the cold weather faded from our memory. Usually I like to make all kinds of dips and things but somehow just did not get to it yet. So to remedy that and since a hot dish really wasn’t gong to cut it, I decided ona ¬†white bean salad with simple and fresh flavors: lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and some parsley. Using baby butter beans, or lima beans ¬†for a buttery texture you have to be careful cooking them, since they tend to get butter soft when you cook them. Make sure you don’t over do it, which is easy to do, or you’ll end up with mush=not ideal for salad. You might have to go for dip at that point…

imageCan be served warm, room temp or from the fridge: tested and tastes good either way!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb dried baby lima beans, soaked in water overnight (half a pack)
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • ¬†1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper or to taste (if using canned beans, reduce the salt)

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Directions

  1. Drain beans and add fresh water, then bring to a boil and cook until beans are tender (If you have a pressure cooker, it makes this take so much less time!)
  2. Drain and cool the cooked beans
  3. In the meantime make the dressing: juice the lemon and stir in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Note that if you use canned beans or added salt to the cooking water, you may want to reduce the amount, you can always add more…
  4. Chop the parsley fine and add to the dressing, toss with the beans.
  5. Grind some fresh pepper over top and serve garnished with lemon slices.

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© 2012 SimpleHealthyHomemade