Recipe | Apple Mallow Sweet Potato Bake


Among other things, November is Better Nutrition Month and sweet potatoes are one of the easiest–and tastiest!–ways to get some solid nutrition on your plate.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamins A & C, and Potassium. They’re also a complex carb–the “good” kind of carbohytrate–that your body takes its time breaking down so you feel full longer. And I think they take a lot less work to taste good compared to a russet potato.

But just because I can eat a baked sweet potato with absolutely nothing on it and be perfectly happy with its natural sweetness, doesn’t mean I don’t like to mix it up with sweet potato dishes.

For Thanksgiving it’s tradition, at our table, to serve candied sweet potatoes: planks of boiled sweet potato layered with butter and cinnamon, then covered with a brown sugar glaze and baked until nice and gooey. You might be a little more familiar with the ubiquitous sweet potato casserole topped with toasted marshmallows.

This recipe (courtesy of Princella canned sweet potatoes) put a different spin on that sweet potato casserole, interleaving sliced apples and pecans with the sweet potatoes, adding a fun texture change to the usual casserole.

Apple Mallow Sweet Potato Bake

Apple Mallow Sweet Potato Bake

1/2 cup Brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
2 Apples, sliced
1/3 cup Pecans, chopped
2 15 oz. cans Princella or Sugary Sam Cut Sweet Potatoes, drained
1/4 cup Margarine
2 cups Miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, mix brown sugar and cinnamon. Toss apples and nuts with combined brown sugar and cinnamon.

Alternate layers of apples and sweet potatoes in 1 1/2-quart casserole. Dot with margarine. Cover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Sprinkle marshmallows over sweet potatoes and apples. Broil until lightly browned.

This casserole made a fabulous side dish to an open-faced sandwich supper. And I really enjoyed the toasted marshmallow topping–we had some pumpkin-flavored marshmallows leftover from Halloween and combined those with the usual mini-marshmallows and it gave the topping a different flavor.

For more tasty recipes, check out the resources at Allens Vegetables.

A Better Bean


Last week I showed you how I made an off-limits food available again by a good recipe and a smart substitution. This week I’m sharing a better recipe for a holiday supper staple: the Green Bean Casserole.

It’s a simple side dish to prepare, made so by canned cream of mushroom soup, beans and fried onions. All that’s usually needed is a can opener, some milk and some pepper.

For all that the flavor of the dish is palatable to most diners and it does add a token green vegetable to the holiday table, the highly-processed ingredients leave much to be desired. So, this year, I set out to make the dish that we all enjoy in a way that did not make me ashamed to bring it to table.

I began with the onions. From my experience with the Indian Cooking Challenge I’d fallen in love with a certain coating for fried onions that would make the humble ring or blossom blush. With that taken care of, it was simply a matter of devising a substitute for the condensed soup. The answer? A mushroom veloute (aka white sauce made with stock, not milk). While this version takes a few moments longer to prepare, the end result was far superior to the pre-fab original.

Green Bean Casserole from scratch

We opted to use flat Italian or Pole beans as they have more surface area to collect flavor and are easier to spear with a fork. The chili powder in the onion batter can be increased or decreased to taste and adds a wonderful dimension to the finished dish. Of course, if you’re a fan of onion rings you might want to make extras to allow for, uh, quality control 😉

Yes, we still fry the onions–this is, after all, a recipe best saved for holidays–but our sauce is miles better than the preservative-laden canned stuff that would otherwise be used.

A Better Green Bean Casserole

2 lb Green Beans, fresh or frozen 

Fried Onions

2 Onions
5/8 cup Gram Flour (aka besan aka garbanzo bean flour)
1 Tbsp Salt
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 cup Water, as needed
Canola Oil for frying

Mushroom Veloute 

2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Flour
1/4 cup minced Mushrooms
1 1/3 cup Vegetable Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves 6-8

Prepare the Onions

Heat oil to 350° Fahrenheit while you prepare the onions for frying.

Peel and quarter the onions, slicing each quarter into quarter-rings. You want pieces up to 2 inches long and no more than 1/4 inch thick.

Combine the gram flour and spices and then the water, a little at a time, until a thin paste is formed, like that of pancake batter. You may not need all the water, then again you may need more. Use your discretion.

Toss the onions in the batter enough that the batter evenly coats all the onion pieces.

Fry in batches (I suggest dropping 3 tong-fuls at a time, depending on the size of your fryer). With either the frying basket or a spider-strainer, break up any clumps of onions that appear to form and fry until the onions are a light golden brown. (Remember that fried foods darken by 2 shades after removing from the fat.)

Drain the onions on paper towels until cool.

Make the Veloute

In a sturdy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, but do not let the roux darken.

Whisk in a small amount of the vegetable stock and stir until smooth. The first addition will cause the roux to bubble up or clump, this is normal, just keep stirring until it smooths back out.

Keep stirring in the stock until half has been incorporated, then add the minced mushrooms. Continue adding the stock until it’s all in, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until thickened.

**Both the onions and the veloute can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until needed. The veloute can even be frozen for longer storage.**

Assemble the Casserole

Steam the green beans until tender. 10-15 minutes in the microwave does the job well, but use the method you’re most comfortable with.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, veloute and half the fried onions.

Butter a casserole dish and pour the combined ingredients into it.

Bake at 350° Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, until heated through and bubbling. Sprinkle the remaining fried onions on top of the casserole and put back in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the onions are crispy around the edges.


the Rules of Cassoulet

Quick Cassoulet

Quick Cassoulet

As I mentioned over on the cocktail blog, I’m re-reading Toussaint-Samat’s A History of Food. I remember reading parts of it while in Culinary School and using it for a research paper (yes, folks, Culinary School requires homework, papers and all that other stuff in addition to cooking) but I really didn’t retain much. This time around I’m just finding the material so much more interesting–maybe I should have been blogging back then, too!

Cassoulet is sorta like gumbo–each person you ask is going to tell you their way is the right way. According to Toussaint-Samat, though, all cassoulet have these things in common:

  • Beans that are cooked twice (“two lots of water”).
  • It starts on the stove and finishes in the oven.
  • And have a crust of breadcrumbs that’s broken in 6 places.

The predecessor to America pork ‘n beans? Maybe, it certainly has some similarities.

I made a quickie cassoulet as a test for the cookbook, following (rather loosely, I must confess) the version presented in Joy of Cooking. Since I was going for simplicity for the new cook and speed as it was a weeknight I used canned great northern beans, 3 types of meat (chicken sausage, ham and diced chicken–no confit around that night, sad to say) and skipped the baking step.

According to the aforementioned rules I probably can’t call this a cassoulet (I suppose I’ll have to rename it to avoid some busy-body correcting me) without reworking it a bit (a possibility).

I can see multiple reasons to adjust the recipe to your needs but there’s always a work-around.

  • No time to soak and boil and cook the beans again? Canned will work, just buy quality canned goods, drain them and rinse them well before adding to your stew.
  • All out of confit? There are store-bought versions available at a specialty grocer or you can just omit it. And next time you see a duck in the store pick one up and confit-it so you can have it available for your next cassoulet.
  • Lack a Le Creuset to go stylishly from stove to oven? Transfer the stove-top beginnings to any available casserole dish with a lid and go with the flow.

But keep your eyes peeled at your favorite overstock or discount store–I’ve seen some amazing deals on very nice cookware that would be perfect for this sort of thing.

Comfort Food


Comfort foods can come in many forms: favorite recipes from childhood, treats remembered for special occasions or just starch-, fat- or sugar-laden dishes that offer a chemical reaction we associate with happiness as well as satiety. Usually considered a guilty pleasure or indulgence, I have a hard time seeing all comfort food as all bad and, I think, as long as it’s not an everyday occurrence or in massive quantities, a little comfort can go a long way.

One of the reasons this came to mind (aside from the impending holidays and increasingly cooler weather, both of which set my taste buds craving those sorts of foods) is the birthday meal I prepared for a friend last winter and is mentioned in this week’s comics. It’s pretty simple to prepare and not particularly unhealthy, so I thought I’d share.

Gnocchi Casserole with Pesto, Sausage and Broccoli

1 lb Gnocchi
Salted water
1 lb Turkey sausage, sliced
Olive oil
1 lb Broccoli, steamed
1/2 c Prepared pesto
Non-stick spray
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, shredded

Boil gnocchi in enough salted water to cover until tender. Simultaneously, saute sliced sausage in a bit of olive oil until the edges crisp. Drain pasta and combine with sausage and broccoli. Whisk together the pesto and enough olive oil to thin it out enough to lightly coat all of the other ingredients.

Prepare a 9×12 baking dish with non-stick spray (I prefer the olive oil variety, but any will do). Toss the thinned pesto with the gnocchi, sausage and broccoli and pour all into the prepared dish. Top with cheese and place in a 350-degree for 15-20 minutes.

Now, of course, this can be done up til the baking and put in the fridge until later. Just up the baking time to 30 minutes or more, or as long as it takes to bring everything up to a nice and toasty 165 degrees. Cover with foil if it seems to be drying out or browning a little too much. You can also make your own gnocchi if you’re so moved, but I remember getting the gnocchi and pesto at World Market (CostPlus in some areas) and both being very high quality.

How much you thin the pesto is up to personal preference–I tend to think a little goes a long way–and how thick the pesto is to begin with. Chances are you’ll have pesto left over. To preserve the rest of the pesto until the next use, add a layer of olive oil to the jar and store in the fridge. This will prevent the pesto from drying out while in cold storage.