Mashed Sweet Potato and Banana

I just was not in the mood to cook last night, which brings me to my only beef with the Whole30 program – it’s so restrictive, in the sense you will disrupt any progress you might have made if you ingest even the most minute amount of vegetable oils, grains, dairy or soy, that it makes eating out almost impossible.

Notice I didn’t say completely impossible; they do provide guidelines for eating out.  But, you know, why on earth would I want to go out and eat an unadorned piece of (CAFO) steak or chicken and plain (industrially raised) vegetables – butter is not allowed, remember, just ghee – or a dry, undressed salad?  They recommend you ask for olive oil and vinegar for salads at restaurants, but since it seems that pure, unadulterated extra virgin olive oil (read: really expensive) is apparently pretty rare, I’m not sure that’s really an option.  It kind of makes going out to grab a bite just because you’ve had a long, stressful day and don’t want to face the stove, well, not as easy as it once was.

I dragged myself into the kitchen, though, since I had a pound of beef liver soaking in some coconut milk, and started throwing dinner together.  The liver, for which I’ll probably post the recipe next week, was well received by Beloved and The Young One and accompanied by some of our home-canned green beans and this side dish.

I’d bought some plain, run-of-the mill sweet potatoes as a change of pace last week, since we’ve been eating so many Japanese sweets lately, and decided to just mash them with some ghee and coconut milk.  I was tired and didn’t really want to be there, so I was more careless than usual about the amounts of everything I added to the boiled sweet potato, and it was a little on the salty side and a bit on the “runny” side.

Beloved found me staring into the pot with a disgruntled look on my face, and asked me what was wrong.  I told him, and he got out a fork and took a tiny bite.

“Tastes pretty good to me,” he said.

“No,” I replied.  “It’s…bland.  And over salted.  And the consistency sucks.”  I glanced to my right, where I had a couple of bananas on the verge of becoming just a wee bit too ripe, and added, “I’m tempted to throw a banana in there and see what happens.”

He shrugged and said,”Go for it – it might be interesting.”

Which turned out to be something of an understatement, because while I was taking a photo of the beef liver, Beloved’s voice came from the other room:  “WOW!  The sweet potatoes are your recipe, dear!”

And they were pretty darn good; not too sweet at all – rather tangy, in fact – and the banana flavor was really pretty subtle.  It also helped the texture immensely.

Note:  A quick Google afterwards revealed there are many recipes out there for mashed sweet potato and banana, but most are loaded with brown sugar or maple syrup.  I did find one that included pineapple, and I may try some next time.  It would also be interesting to see how the recipe would turn out with a Japanese sweet and/or coconut oil instead of ghee.

Mashed Sweet Potato and Banana
Mashed Sweet Potato and Banana
Mashed Sweet Potato and Banana
Serves: 3
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large ripe banana, peeled
  1. Bring a quart of water to a boil and cook the sweet potato until fork tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and return to pan.
  2. Add the ghee, coconut milk, salt, pepper and banana and mash to a smooth consistency.
  3. Serve immediately.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 183 calories, 11.9g total fat, 20.4mg cholesterol, 803mg sodium, 356.8mg potassium, 19.8g carbohydrates, 2.6g fiber, 7.4g sugar, 1.7g protein



Okra Stir-Fry

It’s time to celebrate – okra season is upon us again!

If you recall, I gave you several okra recipes last year (well, if you can call three “several”) and waxed poetic about it on one occasion, in which I called it a vegetable.  It’s not, you know – like tomatoes, it’s really a fruit.  But like tomatoes, we generally treat it like a vegetable, so that’s all okay.  I guess.

Anyhoo, between what we’ve gotten out of the garden so far (yup, we’re growing okra this year) and what I picked up at the farmer’s market last Saturday, I had about a pound of it in the fridge; Beloved’s been asking me to make it every day, so I figured last night I’d just go ahead.  I didn’t feel like going to all the trouble of breading and frying it; what I really wanted to do was roast it, but my oven is still on the fritz (it will be repaired this afternoon, thank gawd) and it’s too darn hot for soup.

So I decided to stir-fry it.  With some Japanese sweet potatoes.

And it was marvelous.  Who’da thunk stir-fried okra would be so tasty?  It is, though, and because it was cooked with no moisture, other than a small bit of ghee, it was tender and crisp and not in the least bit slimy or sticky.  Beloved just raved and raved about it and because he’s working from home today, I doubt very seriously if there will be any left for me when I head there for lunch later.

The fink.

Note:  you can use regular red-skinned sweet potatoes if you prefer, or even white potatoes if you like.  I think it would be lovely with either, although it was pretty darn good with the Japanese sweets.  I’ll also probably add some very thinly sliced red bell peppers next time I make it, to give it a little contrasting color along with the yellow and green.

Okra Stir-Fry
Okra Stir-Fry
Okra Stir-Fry
Serves: 6
  • 1 pound okra, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or other cooking fat, divided
  1. Melt the ghee in a wok or large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and a few grinds black pepper; reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry until the potatoes begin to soften and the edges begin to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the ginger and onions; continue stir-frying until the onions become soft and golden and the potatoes are almost cooked through, another 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add turmeric, cumin, red pepper flakes and the remaining tablespoon of ghee and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the okra and stir-fry for 3 to 5 additional minutes, or until the okra is tender-crisp. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as necessary, and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 102 calories, 4g total fat, 10.2mg cholesterol, 31.3mg sodium, 406.1mg potassium, 15.6g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 3.3g sugar, 2.4g protein


Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu

My status on the blog’s Facebook page last night read, “Dinner’s on the stove – grain-free sweet potato gnocchi with a pork ragu. If it’s any good, you’ll have the recipe tomorrow.”

Guess what.

I’d never made gnocchi before, although I really enjoy it.  And I’m not sure what possessed me to make it last night, but I’m glad I did – it came out better than I could have possibly hoped for; even The Young One ate it, and he generally turns his nose up at anything made with sweet potatoes, even the tater tots.  They came out light and fluffy, and I had to restrain myself from eating every one of the tender little beauties before I could plate them with the ragu and take a photo.

The recipe may seem long, but it really wasn’t difficult at all – the ragu is simplicity itself, and the gnocchi came together much more quickly and easily than I had anticipated.  I used Japanese sweet potatoes, because that’s what I had on hand, and the proportions of the recipe are correct for that ingredient.  If you use the more common red-skinned sweet potatoes, you may need to add a little extra of the potato flour to get a smooth dough that can be easily handled, since the Japanese sweets tend to have less moisture than the orange-fleshed variety.

If you are not grain-free, you can substitute the tapioca and potato flours with 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, but don’t substitute the almond flour – it gives the gnocchi a nice texture.  If you don’t eat pork, ground lamb would be nice in the ragu, or ground turkey, but I think ground beef might be a little strong tasting for this dish.

Note:  You’ll notice there are two options with the gnocchi at the end of the recipe; I browned it last night, but I don’t think I’d bother to do that again – I’d just go ahead and toss it with the ragu.  Also, these days when a sauce calls for thyme, I just tie several sprigs together with kitchen twine and toss them in the pot with the other ingredients, then fish it out when the sauce is ready.  Thyme is a bit of a bugger to strip from the stems, and this method saves a lot of hassle.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Pork Ragu
Serves: 6
  • Gnocchi:
  • 3 small sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), unpeeled and scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup potato flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Ragu:
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
  1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil; cook the potatoes whole, without peeling, until they are fork tender all the way through. Rinse with cold water and set aside just until cool enough to handle.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown in the olive oil; when it is mostly browned, but still pink in places, add the onion and garlic; continue cooking until the pork is completely cooked and the onion is soft. Add the wine, tomato sauce, sage, oregano and thyme; reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is thick and the gnocchi is ready. Remove the thyme stems before serving the ragu.
  3. While the ragu is simmering, whisk together the tapioca, potato and almond flours in a large bowl with the cheese, two teaspoons of kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Peel the potatoes, discarding the skins, and squeeze them through a ricer or run them through a food mill into the flour mixture. Add the egg yolk and gently stir all the ingredients together, forming a soft dough.
  4. Divide the dough into three equal parts; roll the first part of the dough into a 1/2-inch rope. Cut the rope into 1- inch pieces (about the size of a grape). If desired, roll each piece gently with the tines of a fork before transferring to a large, lightly oiled baking dish. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  5. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Gently drop batches of the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes, until the gnocchi float to the top of the pot. Transfer the cooked gnocchi with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Continue until all of the gnocchi are cooked.
  6. At this point, you can toss the gnocchi in the ragu and serve, or melt 2 tablespoons of ghee in a large skillet over high heat and gently pan-fry the gnocchi until golden brown. Drain the gnocchi briefly on paper towel; divide between six bowls and top with the ragu, and additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 485 calories, 24.6g total fat, 88.1mg cholesterol, 897.8mg sodium, 1150.9mg potassium, 43g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 11.1g sugar, 18.8g protein.


Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup

When I posted about my illness on Facebook yesterday, someone suggested chicken soup.  Not a bad suggestion at all, really – many people may believe Grandma’s claim that chicken soup will help a cold (or in my case, bronchitis) is just an old wives tale, but there’s actually some scientific evidence backing her up.

Chicken soup has been touted for it’s curative properties for centuries, especially for respiratory illnesses, but why is that?  First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response.   Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the mucus membranes.  It is also incredibly nourishing, especially when made with bones as well as meat and vegetables, as well as being easy to digest.

I certainly wasn’t up to making any kind of chicken soup from scratch, but that was okay because we made chicken stock not too long ago and I have quite a few jars of it tucked away in the basement.  So I sent The Young One (who considerately ordered pizza and took it upstairs for his own dinner) down to fetch me a couple of pint jars.  I could have just heated it up as it was and enjoyed it – there’s nothing quite like homemade chicken stock; the stuff in the stores simply doesn’t compare – but,well, you know me; if I’m able to stand and face the stove, there will be cooking.

I’ve pretty much been using Japanese sweet potatoes exclusively for the last few months, but recently I bought some of the ordinary, red-skinned variety and hadn’t used them yet.  I decided to cook them up in the chicken stock, and if I’d stopped there it would have been marvelous, but I got a bit carried away.  I was out of ghee, so I decided to sauté onion, celery and garlic in coconut oil, then added the chicken stock and potatoes.  Since there were sweet potatoes in the pot, next went in a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg.  After it all cooked down and the potatoes were soft, I used my stick blender – the best invention EVAR, in my humble opinion, to pureé it all directly in the pot.  It was all lovely, but still needed something else, so I added a can of coconut milk to make it creamy (and compliment the coconut oil), and added salt, pepper and a touch of cayenne just give it a little heat.

Oh. My. Gawd.  It turned out marvelously, and was the first thing I’ve had any appetite for in days.  It was so good, in fact, I ate two bowls of it and when I gave a taste to The Young One, who normally turns his nose up at sweet potatoes as well as coconut, he said, “That’s pretty good, actually,” and looked as if he regretted his pizza.  Beloved, who was out of town on business last night, also seemed bummed that he missed out on the soup, so I suppose I’ll be making it again very soon.  The addition of some andouille sausage would just knock it out of the ballpark.

As for it’s curative properties, well…I woke up this morning feeling quite a bit better and my cough, instead of being dry and hacking, has actually become productive.

I’m a convert.

Note:  The soup is Whole30 compliant and can be made vegetarian/vegan if you use vegetable stock.

Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 small celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (13.5 ounce can)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth; return to pot. Or use an immersion blender to puree directly in the soup pot.
  4. Add coconut milk and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne, if using. Ladle into bowls and garnish with unsweetened coconut flakes, if desired.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 320 calories, 18.6g total fat, 4.8mg cholesterol, 304.3mg sodium, 733.4mg potassium, 33.3g carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, 8.5g sugar, 7.4g protein.


Sweet Potato Pancakes

I’d like to promise you that this will be the last time I throw something in the shape of a disk, made out of Japanese sweet potatoes, at you, but…well, I just can’t.  I’ll do my damndest, though.

At any rate, last Sunday we invited Jolly and The G Man over for Sunday brunch, and this was it – tomato basil sausage, scrambled eggs, strawberry muffins, and these potato pancakes made with chilled, leftover Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  They were pretty tasty – Beloved, at least, devoured his, but I think Jolly would have enjoyed hers more if it had been topped with a little butter and pure maple syrup, so I’ve given both a sweet and savory serving option in the recipe itself.

These are not at all difficult to make, but the trick is to make sure the leftover mashed potatoes (and yes, you can use regular mashed potatoes if you prefer) are well-chilled, and that you fry them slowly, or else you’ll miss out on the lovely golden, crispy exterior.  Which, quite frankly, is one of the tastier aspects of this dish.  Will I make these again?  Indeed, I will – if for no other reason than Beloved carried on about how good they were.

I’ll also be honest and admit that I did not measure the tapioca flour or the ghee – if you find you need more, by all means, use more.

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Serves: 8
  • 2 cups [url href=”″]Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes[/url], chilled
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup ghee or clarified butter
  1. In a large bowl, combine the chilled sweet potatoes, egg, potato flour and onion until well blended. Using wet hands, form the mixture into 8 pancakes.
  2. Dredge the pancakes in the tapioca flour. Melt the ghee, over medium heat, in a heavy skillet large enough to hold the pancakes without crowding them, and gently fry the pancakes until they are crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.
  3. Serve with sour cream for a savory side, or butter and maple syrup for a sweet side.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 209 calories, 11.3g total fat, 48.7mg cholesterol, 97.6mg sodium, 369.9mg potassium, 25.1g carbohydrates, 3.2g fiber, 4.2g sugar, 2.7g protein