A strange combination, yes, but I promise, it works! But, before we get to the recipe, I’m going to subject you to a little piece I call: What Jessie Did At School Today.
Before school, I fueled up on chocolate raspberry oatmeal:
Hot oatmeal, frozen raspberries, and a spoonful of Chillin’ Chocolate.
As part of our food service dietetics training, today we worked as
free labor student helpers in one of the University dining halls. (I’m just kidding about the free labor, of course. We were READY and WILLING volunteers.) After a quick meeting with the head manager, Kristen and I made enormous batches of pancake batter and French toast batter. Do you know what a quart of canola oil looks like? I didn’t.
In the afternoon, we chopped countless tomatoes and red peppers. I have a huge amount of respect for people who prep food for hours a day.
Kristen washing a HUGE colander of red peppers:
While I was cutting up the tomatoes, I almost gagged at what was being prepped across from me:
That would be a large cafeteria-sized bin of chopped celery. Vile weed. I tried not to look at it directly, but the celery odor was almost too much. Then, after I finished the tomatoes … disaster!
Yup, we were assigned to chop celery. You know, the repulsive odor ain’t so bad after you’ve been chopping celery for 20 minutes. I considered it an exercise in endurance.
The cafeteria’s new dish machine takes up a whole room and rotates trays from the eating area to the dish room, where dishes are washed and food waste is put through a composter. Good for you, UConn – going green!
After a long day in the dining hall kitchen, I decided to go home and … cook. Remember when I talked about the catered meal my dietetics program gave last week? The sweet potato gratin were served was from this recipe, and while it was delicious, the several pints of heavy cream going into the potatoes wasn’t going to cut it for me. So, I decided to make
Jessified Sweet Potato Au Gratin
4 large sweet potatoes
2 cups skim milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in a little water
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup whole grain panko breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and thinly slice sweet potatoes (I bought organic sweet potatoes so that I could leave the fiber-riffic skin on, but you can peel your potatoes first).
Place into large saucepan with milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppers, and dissolved cornstarch. Let simmer over medium heat until potatoes are soft.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat and toast breadcrumbs until they are golden brown (this move helps keep the breadcrumbs from getting soggy when baked).
You can use olive oil instead of butter, but the bread crumbs won’t have that beautiful golden color.
Once potatoes are soft, place contents of saucepan into a large baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, top potatoes with sauteed breadcrumbs and shredded cheese. Bake for 5 more minutes.
Dish #2? Tender Passionfruit Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup passionfruit juice
1 cup passionfruit juice
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper
Place chicken in a large saucepan. If you’re cool like Peter, you can Jaccard your chicken first.
Pour 1/4 passionfruit juice over chicken and add enough water to cover. Simmer on medium-low until middle of chicken is 165 degrees F (you practice food safety, right??).
For the sauce, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
I put the minced ginger in a tea strainer and let it simmer in the sauce, but I think next time I would puree the ginger right into the sauce to highlight the pungent ginger taste.
Freeze leftover juice in an ice cube tray to give convenient future portions, if desired.
When heated through and sugar is dissolved, spoon sauce over chicken and serve with a smile :)
The poached chicken was tender and flavorful, and the spicy tart sauce was such a lovely contrast to the smooth potatoes. An unusual combination, but it’s good to spice things up sometimes, isn’t it?
Before I go, thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments on my last post about nutrition labels! I loved reading each and every one of your thoughtful comments. It seems like a lot of you feel that placing a nutrition label on the front of food packages won’t make much of a difference to consumers (an opinion with which I agree). I guess we’ll just have to see if the FDA actually implements this change and what the results will be.
A few of your comments really jumped out at me as I was reading them. First, Melinda writes:
I do think standardizing the labeling terms is a good idea. I hate the word natural as it is used to mean anything. Last I checked, and I always remind my clients, lead and arsenic are natural too, and I certainly would not consider these healthy. In fact, I am allergic to smelly cleaning products and the server at a restaurant when I asked him to stop because of my allergy told me not to worry as it was all natural. I had to remind him flowers are all natural too and I am allergic to those too.
Melinda, that is such a great point. The word “natural” has become so diluted with overuse, it’s easy to take for granted. Other dishonorable mentions: the labels “Green” and “Fresh”. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to be aware of what we’re buying and putting into our bodies.
I think the bigger problem is the non-standard serving sizes. Wouldn’t it be nice if serving sizes were based on an amount a person is actually going to eat/drink in one sitting rather than the amount that makes the calorie count seem lower?? Making something like a small bottle of coke (or any other sugary drink) look like 2 servings is totally misleading since what person is going to drink ONLY 8 ounces and then save the bottle for later?
That is a great point that I didn’t bring up in my last post. For those who are not keeping tabs on portion size, then this issue is not a problem. However, for people who are keeping track of their intakes – for example, diabetics who MUST space their carbohydrates through the day to keep their blood sugars steady and their bodies healthy – serving sizes on nutrition labels can be confusing and frustrating. Yes, the serving size information is right on the food package, but for people who never learned how to read labels, or people who cannot carry out basic math, calculating out how much you have eaten calorie-wise or carb-wise can be a nightmare. Perhaps nutrition labels should include a “per package” calorie count, etc, as well as the regular nutrition information?
Anyway, before I get all het up, I think it’s time to end this entry. :) I hope you all have a wonderful evening!