Sweet Potato Puffs

Happy Monday, y’all!  I know it’s technically still January, but I like my February theme so much I thought I’d put it up a day early.  I hope you like it as much as I do.

The Young One hosted 3 of his buddies for a sleep-over this weekend to celebrate his birthday; I made the boys a lasagna, some garlic bread and a chocolate cake for dinner, then eggs, bacon and waffles for breakfast the next morning.  I had one, and only one, bite of  the lasagna, bread, cake and waffle…and was very, very sorry later – my entire body ached for hours.  I’m going to have to come to terms with the fact that I simply cannot tolerate gluten, even for a treat.  The upside of this is that I made a spaghetti squash “lasagna” for Beloved and myself, and it was really, really tasty – every bit as good as the traditional dish.  I’ll post the recipe in the next week or so; I didn’t get a picture of it last night, but there’s tons of leftovers and since Beloved is going to be out of town this week, I’ll be eating them.  And taking pictures.

In the meantime I have quite a few recipes I’ve been sitting on, so I will probably post three this week.  This one was the result of me trying to find something a little different to do with sweet potatoes, and I have to say it was quite a hit – even The Young One ate a couple, and he does not care for sweet potatoes at all.  (He’s the only one of our kids who doesn’t, for some reason; the rest of them LOVE them.) This is a really fun side dish – Beloved called them “sweet potato ‘cookies’.”

Yes, I’m considering developing it as a recipe.  Seriously.

Note: If you just mound them, don’t bother pushing them through the sieve; they should be fine.   These keep in the refrigerator and reheat quite well, too.

Sweet Potato Puffs

Sweet Potato Puffs

serves 6 to 8

2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork; wrap in aluminum foil and place on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until soft and yielding when pressed. Set aside to cool.

When cool enough to handle, halve the sweet potatoes and scoop out the flesh; push through a medium mesh sieve, discard the skins and fibrous portion removed by the sieve. Place the pulp in a large bowl with the butter, maple syrup, egg yolks, salt, pepper and cinnamon and mash together well.

Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl on high speed with a stand or hand mixer until stiff, but not dry. Gently fold into the sweet potato mixture.

Place the sweet potatoes in small mounds on a lightly greased baking sheet, or load into a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe into rosettes. Bake for about 15 minutes until hot and beginning to brown.

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No Stick, No More

About 10 years ago, I bought a set of Calphalon Essentials cookware.  It consisted of two saucepans and two non-stick skillets and has served me very well.  Since I’m very partial to my large collection of well-seasoned cast iron, the non-stick skillets were used almost exclusively for eggs, omelets and crepes; they aren’t very big, at 8″ and 10″ respectively, so I rarely sauteed or stir-fried in them.  They never saw harsh detergents, and certainly never the inside of the dishwasher, but after 10 years they began to show a little wear and tear – the non-stick coating began to peel around the rivets attaching the handles to the base of the skillet recently.  (The stainless steel saucepans are still going strong and I plan to use them until they fall apart.)

I’d been vaguely aware that there was some controversy surrounding the use of Teflon® and other non-stick surfaces on cookware for some time, but hadn’t been too terribly concerned – I try to take care of my kitchen implements.  But as I looked at that peeling Teflon® I decided not only should I probably put them aside, but that I’d do a little research on what it just might mean.

What I found was sobering.

“The nonstick coating used in DuPont’s Teflon® pans has been found to release one or more of 15 different toxic gases when heated to certain temperatures. Which chemicals are released depends on the temperature of the pan. This outgassing is fatal to pet birds and can cause ‘polymer fume flu,’ also known as ‘Teflon® flu,’ in humans.

“Teflon® flu creates flu-like symptoms of chills, headache, fever and nausea. Usually, symptoms subside within a few days, and chances are many people who have experienced it mistook it for the flu. However, there are also more serious risks.

“One of the main chemicals used in the manufacturing process of Teflon® and other nonstick pans is perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) also known as C-8. This chemical has led to cancer and birth defects in lab animals, and may have led to birth defects in DuPont plant workers. In 2005, an independent panel reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared PFOA a likely human carcinogen.”

Really?  Yes, really – DuPont does not deny ANY of this.

“Though DuPont is quick to point out the safety of Teflon® and to distance it from the chemical PFOA, studies show Teflon® cookware releases PFOA when heated to 680°F (360°C). This temperature can be reached within a few minutes if, for example, a forgotten pan is left empty preheating on a burner. DuPont acknowledges this, but points out that this is incorrect use of the cookware.”

Okay, I’ll buy that – I never pre-heated my non-stick cookware and never used it for any high-heat cooking.  But that peeling disturbed me – if the fumes from the stuff is toxic, what would the accidental ingestion of the stuff do to me and my family?  Not much, from what I can find – it passes through the body undigested.  However, the chemical adhesive used to bond it to the cookware can be toxic.

All righty, then.

A few more things to keep in mind about Teflon®:

“DuPont’s own research suggested a link between PFOA and rare birth defects in animals. Of the seven pregnant women at [a] West Virginia plant, two of the seven babies born bore similar serious birth defects. In response to the EWG petition, the EPA fined DuPont 16.5 million US dollars (USD) in December 2005 for failing to report the dangers of PFOA.

“While DuPont remains insistent that Teflon® is safe and inert with proper use, the chemical giant voluntarily pledged to substantially reduce environmental emissions and to phase PFOA out by 2015. DuPont also urges consumers to use Teflon® responsibly and considers overheating or burning food abusive use of the cookware. Teflon®, and all cookware that uses nonstick coatings, should not be preheated. Use low-to-medium heat and do not allow food or oil to burn. According to peer-reviewed studies as reported by the EWG, nonstick cookware, including Teflon®, begins outgassing particles at 396°F (202.2°C).”

You might also consider that Teflon®-coated burner drip pans have become popular in recent years, and they do consistently reach temperatures high enough to emit dangerous gasses and fumes.  If you have Teflon®-coated drip pans on your stove REPLACE THEM immediately.

So, what have I replaced my non-stick skillets with?   This!

All-Clad Copper Core fry pans, from CSNStores.com.  This is totally due to a generous $75 gift certificate I won at Privilege right before Christmas.  Thank you SO much Lisa!  (If you do not read Lisa’s blog – why??  Go, now, and get some of the best fashion/lifestyle advice on the interwebz!)  I treat them just like I do my cast iron – I never use detergents on them, never use metal utensils in them, and keep them rubbed with non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening between uses – and they make absolutely beautiful omelets and eggs.  And can be used at temperatures high enough to pan-fry and saute.  That’s good enough for me.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Beef Short Ribs with Thyme

I love beef short ribs.  They are meaty and rich, and actually quite versatile – ask any Korean cook (I looooooove Korean barbecued short ribs).  My favorite way to cook them, though, is to braise them.  Long slow cooking in a hearty braising liquid transforms tough short ribs into succulent, tender falling-off-the-bone meat.  It’s also a dead-easy cooking method – sear them, add your vegetables, stock and seasoning, cover and let them simmer until done, only checking now and then to make sure your braising liquid hasn’t boiled away and to turn the ribs so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Note:  I used homemade beef stock, beef tallow and arrowroot powder for this recipe, and the recipe reflects this.  You can substitute canned beef broth if you must (but use the low-sodium kind, or your finished dish will be very salty), and any fat that will withstand high heat for the tallow.  You can also substitute the arrowroot powder with an equal amount of corn starch, or triple the amount of all-purpose flour.

Beef Short Ribs with Thyme

Beef Short Ribs with Thyme

serves 3

1 1/2 pound beef short ribs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/4 cup water
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 large celery stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons beef tallow

Rub the ribs with the salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Heat the fat over high heat in a large Dutch oven, preferably cast iron or enameled cast iron, and sear the short ribs, about 2 minutes on each side.

Add the onion, carrot, celery, beef stock and thyme to the Dutch oven. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the ribs are tender. Remove the ribs to a plate, cover and keep warm.

Whisk the arrowroot into the water and add to the liquid in the pot. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon.

Plate the ribs, spooning some of the sauce over them, and serve immediately.

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Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Posted in participation with Real Sustenance’s Seasonal Sunday