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Month: December 2008

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Baked Sweet Potatoes

It seems that most people serve sweet potatoes as some sort of dessert dish. I have never cared for them that way, so for years I just didn’t eat them. Boy was I missing out! I have found many delicious uses for sweet potatoes and it all started with eating them baked with all the trimmings, just like a regular baked potato.

The advantage to baked sweet potatoes is that they are very nutritious and don’t do such a number on your blood sugar. The only disadvantage is that they take longer to cook. Here is how I make mine:

1 sweet potato
Sour cream
Bacon bits

Preheat oven to 400-450. Rinse sweet potato, place it in a glass baking dish, and cover. Depending on the size of the potato, bake for 45min to 1½ hour. When it is soft and oozes juice, it’s done. Remove from oven and peel. Top as you would a regular baked potato; I use butter, sour cream, bacon bits, and salt. I also like chives on my potatoes, but find they don’t do much for a sweet potato.

One large sweet potato is usually enough for two people as a side dish or can be a meal in itself for one person.

SWAT Team Conducts Food Raid on Ohio Co-Op

SWAT Team Conducts Food Raid on Ohio Co-Op

This is just one of many frightening stories about what is becoming a war on our right to grow our own food, know what is in our food, and to choose what we eat and where it comes from.

On December 1, police raided the Stowers’ family home and the adjacent Manna Storehouse Co-Op. They came in armed without announcing that they were police before entering and wound up holding the family, including eight small children for six hours while they searched the premises.

They left with over $10,000 in food, including the family’s personal food supply for the next year, plus their personal computers used for homeschooling their children and communicating with a family member serving in Iraq, and personal cell phones.

At this point you are probably wondering why they were raided by armed officers and treated in such a manner. Meth lab? A large store of weapons and ammo? Slaughtering tourists to sell as “meat” from the co-op? No. They are under investigation for possibly running a retail business without a retail license.

Enough from me. You should read about this for yourself. Here are some links:

The Complaint
Buckeye Institute
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
YouTube video of the Stowers telling their story

In August, I wrote about Food Zoning, a completely different aspect of the problem, but still part of the big picture. I will be writing more about these issues soon.

Easy, Delicious Roast Chicken and Gravy

Easy, Delicious Roast Chicken and Gravy

I used to think that it was necessary to do all kinds of prep work to a bird to make it juicy and tasty. I have discovered that my favorite roast chicken recipe is embarrassingly simple, and it translates well to turkey, too.

This is a high temperature recipe. It is much faster than slow roasting, and I think the results are much better. The skin gets crispy and all the fat melts away, flowing through the meat for a very juicy bird.

Whole chicken
Chicken stock

Preheat oven to 500. Remove gizzards from chicken and place chicken in a cast iron skillet. You can use a roasting pan or whatever you have, but I find the iron skillet to be the easiest. Stick a meat thermometer in the chicken if you have one. Put the chicken in the oven and cook until the inside of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. I check mine after 30 minutes and go from there. Cooking time will depend on the size of the bird.

When your chicken has reached temperature, remove it to a plate or serving platter, flipping it over to let the juices run through the meat. Let rest for 10 minutes or until ready to eat.

Place the hot iron skillet on a hot burner and pour in 2 cups stock to deglaze. Scrape the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to simmer and let the stock recue by half. You can add another 2 cups stock and reduce again if you want richer gravy and have the patience. Add milk, stir vigorously with a fork or whisk while returning to a simmer or near simmer – the goal is to blend the grease and the other juices. Add flour (I use one or two tablespoons), stirring vigorously to remove lumps. Reduce heat. Stir occasionally until thickened to desired consistency.

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes and whatever vegetable is handy and easy. Salad works great. This time I am going to serve it with rice instead of potatoes, since I don’t have any potatoes and don’t feel like going to the store. The gravy will go fine on the rice.

Shrimp Filé Gumbo

Shrimp Filé Gumbo

I found cooked, peeled shrimp on sale the other day and decided to make gumbo. I have had gumbo a few times and loved it. I think I have even made it before, but this was different. I decided to look it up and find out what is unique about gumbo, if there was anything in particular that sets it aside from other soups.

I found out that the thickening agents are the keys. The first one is the roux. The second can be okra or filé. Most say that you must choose one or the other – okra or filé, a few say it’s fine to use them together. I didn’t have a need to make the choice; I had filé on hand and no okra.

1 small red onion
1 medium yellow onion
2 bulbs garlic
2 green chilies
2 jalapenos
10 slices bacon
Chicken stock (about 4 cups, should be homemade)
Water (about 4 cups)
1 pound cooked, peeled, frozen shrimp
File (about 1 tablespoon or to taste)

Celery salt
Black pepper
Cholula’s (or Tabasco, or something similar)

¼ cup bacon grease
¼ cup flour

Roast red onion, 1 bulbs garlic, 1 jalapeno, and 1 green chili, covered at 400 degrees for 45 minute to one hour. Allow to cool well enough to be handled and cut up (can be roasted and refrigerated the day before).

In a heavy bottom pan melt bacon grease. Add flour. Whisk well. Cook over low to medium heat (barely bubbling) for about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally, until it turns a deep caramel color.

Add stock, roux and water to a large sauce pan or stockpot. Whisk well. If the liquid is cool the roux will congeal and stick to the whisk. That is OK, just be sure to whisk well when it has warmed before adding other ingredients.

Add all ingredients except the shrimp and file. Spices should be used liberally. Remember to adjust salt according to saltiness of stock. Bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 ½ hour. It will reduce.

Add shrimp. Allow to return to a boil or simmer. Reduce heat and cook for 10 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and wait until it is no longer bubbling. Add file and stir well. Serve over white rice.