Sweet Relief for a Tryptophan Coma

Two Thanksgiving staples that accompany the turkey on our table each year: mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. We have since elevated our cranberry relish above the canned, gelatinous variety that my grandma used to bring (I remember the thick suction sound as it would slide out of the jar, coming to a wobbly rest on one flat end...mmm). A similar reinvention of the mashed potato has come in the addition of a new variety -- the sweet potato (mostly out of my personal distaste for Yukon Golds and the seasonal popularity of its sweeter cousin). Surpassing the stuffing, wild rice, turkey, corn, bread and salad, the two stars on my Thanksgiving plate this year were my aunt's Cranberry-Orange Relish (which I generously lathered over my turkey for an absolutely fabulous pairing) and my own creation: Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans.

My aunt was kind enough to share her recipe for the Cranberry-Orange Relish, which is ridiculously simple -- it requires no cooking and a mere 5 ingredients.


orange zest

Combine all ingredients in a food processor; pulse until a minced consistency.

We also had a chunky Cranberry-Apple relish at our table, but my preference went to this citrus version, as its flavor added a unique punch to the plate and its consistency made it the perfect accompaniment to the turkey.

The sweet potato dish that I made was an adaptation from one that my dad recently saw in Cooking Light: Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole. The recipe calls for a butter-brown sugar streusel to top the casserole, which I chose to omit this time since I felt it made the dish sweet enough to be dessert (I couldn't have it competing with the pies...) So, streusel aside, here is the sweet potato side that I served:


14 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 5 pounds)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Place potato in a Dutch oven, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.
3. Combine the half-and-half and next 4 ingredients (half-and-half through egg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add potato to egg mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. (I just used a masher to combine and left the texture slightly less creamy, but just as delicious).
4. Spoon potato mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pecans on top.
5. Cover and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 25 minutes or until the potatoes are thoroughly heated.

I made this dish the night before and just popped it in the oven for about 30-45 minutes before serving. EIther there wasn't enough, or it was quite a hit, because there was only a spoonful of leftovers at the end of the night. Culinary success.


Sandwich Mashup

I have a problem when it comes to making sandwiches. I just want to add it all: turkey, hummus, tomato, mushrooms, lettuce, apple slices, avocado, cucumber, the list goes on. I mix it up, play with variations, yet I always manage to have at least 6 ingredients layered between two pieces of bread. Which makes for a helluva mouthful and much undesired jaw-popping. So, how to solve this dilemma and keep my tower of layers from exploding out of the bread? The answer: a food processor. Grind my sandwich fixings into a pulp that I can drink or at least eat with a spoon. Okay, not exactly, but this trusty gadget does allow room to condense ingredients to save space on the sandwich. Take spinach for example. A few cups of those leafy greens can seriously bulk up a sandwich. But chopped up in the food processor, the same amount takes up a fraction of the space.

I tried the technique using a combination of carrots, spinach & arugula, and white beans. Once pulsed in the food processor, these ingredients (which would normally fall out of a sandwich) stuck together as a thick paste. I've had success pairing white beans with canned tuna, so I folded in some of the fish into the bean mixture. Five ingredients in one -- not bad. I topped the tuna salad-esque mixture with sliced tomato, spread avocado onto a toasted ciabatta, and chowed down on my new creation:


1 can cannellini beans
1 cup spinach
1 cup arugula
1/2 cup carrots
lemon juice
olive oil
1 can tuna, packed in water

tomato, sliced
multigrain ciabatta

1. In a food processor, combine 1/2 can cannellini beans, spinach, arugula, and carrots; blend into paste. Add about 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp olive oil and parsley to taste. Fold in can of tuna.
2. Toast multigrain ciabatta; spread avocado onto one half of the bread. Top with tuna and bean mixture and 2 slices of tomato.

The food processor is perfect for my habitual sandwich overload: I can fit in all the ingredients I like without having to sacrifice flavors for physical limitations. Perhaps this will be handy for my exploding wraps as well...