Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Basil Pesto

 

I have been wanting to try this for a while now as it just looks so creative and artistic but is actually so easy!

I literally had no idea what was for dinner when I had these lonely sweet potatoes sitting on my bench and some chicken breasts waiting for me to whip something up for the family. It would have been the usual sweet potato chips but remembered I’d seen a few pics around on social media of these beauties and decided to give it a go. With only 5 mins prep and minimal ingredients it really was an ideal healthy side veggie.

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My Favourite Crunchy Sweet Potato Fries

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Who doesn’t love fries? I for one love them and it is my weakness, whenever I feel like having a cheat meal I succumb to a hot crispy plate of fries… But there is a healthier alternative to my weakness that is just as good as the fast food version and I’m not kidding! Replacing ordinary starchy white potatoes that offer no nutritional value what so ever with nutritious packed sweet potatoes is the first step. There is so many beneficial vitamins and minerals in sweet potatoes that ordinary potatoes don’t have, I know I’ve mentioned before but it truly is worth making the switch.

Followed by oven baking them instead of deep frying obviously making them contain less saturated fats that like to clog up arteries to our heart causing heart disease, which is one of the biggest killers in our country at present. 

Lastly making them flavoursome with spices, I like to use smoked paprika or sumac if you like it spicy try adding some ground chilli power as well and not to forget the secret ingredient of polenta. Polenta is corn meal often used in Italian cooking .You can use semolina which is similar but I find Polenta gives it that extra crunch. Coating them in the spices and polenta is what makes these fries so good. I often make these for the kids they absolutely love them and now prefer them to potato ones. If you introduce your kids to different foods from a young age I believe them become less fussy as they get older and get used to trying new things. Sometimes they need extra persuading like all kids but this switch was one we never looked back on.

Crunchy Sweet Potato Fries

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Ingredients

1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into fries

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tb polenta

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1 tsp smoked paprika or sumac

1 tsp ground himalayan salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C (350’F)
  2. Place the sweet potato fries onto a lined baking tray
  3. Sprinkle spices, salt and polenta over the fries
  4. Drizzle oil over and toss to coat
  5. Spread out the fries evenly and bake in the oven for 55-60mins until crispy and brown

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Just Like Nonna Used To Make

When does cooking become more than just about food?

For me, growing up second generation Italian Australian my childhood memories are flooded with cooking and food, It’s in my blood. As far back as I can remember we would come together as a family and were surrounded by food. My grandparents grew their own vegetables in their suburban backyard unfazed by Mr and Mrs Jones next door peering over the fence gawking with envy at the juicy tomatoes, beans, broccoli and the gigantic mango trees that my Nonno took so much pride over. We celebrated many special events birthdays, Christmas, Holiday’s eating, laughing and enjoying each others company, it is what family is all about.

Last week was the 5th anniversary of my Nonnas passing and it only seems fitting  to honour her memory with one of mine. As a young child when Nonna came to visit we would make her homemade Gnocchi. She would put on her apron, boil the potatoes and get us working. Mashing, rolling, little balls of dough spread all over the dining room table, enough gnocchi to feed a small village. Flour rubbed all over every part of our bodies, as you can imagine as a kid that was half the fun. Then we would come together as a family and enjoy the produce of our labour. They  are the moments that become lasting memories and now I am doing the same thing with my children and hopefully they will with theirs.

Cooking is not just about the food on the plate or how fancy the end result is, it’s about coming together at meal time as a family or friends, talking, laughing, enjoying each others company because after all that is what we remember and what makes ‘food’ so special.

For you my dear Nonna Caterina ♥

A variation to the traditional potato gnocchi these are made with sweet potato and ricotta making them a lighter and softer gnocchi. Paired with some caramelised onions and steamed broccolini makes for a great weekend entertaining dish or a special family dinner.

Sweet Potato & Ricotta Gnocchi with Burnt Butter and Sage

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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A lighter, sweeter and softer gnocchi dish perfect for weekend entertaining or a special family meal.

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes

200g fresh ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups flour (plain, wholemeal, or spelt)

salt and pepper

2tbs butter

fresh sage leaves

1 spanish onion cut into large chunks

1-2 bunches of broccolini

Extra ricotta to top

Directions

  1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and bake in a hot 200’c oven for 1 hour or until middle is soft
  2. Alternatively you can steam them in the microwave for 5-8mins for a quicker method, I like roasting time permitted as gives them a much sweeter robust flavour.
  3. Once soft in the centre peel skin off and in a  large bowl mash sweet potato flesh  with a fork.
  4. Let cool a little then add ricotta, teaspoon salt and pepper, 1 cup of the flour 1/2 cup at a time and with your hands gently mix together, adding the a little flour at a time until comes together and forms a dough.
  5. Turn onto a floured bench and knead gently until comes together and dough isnt sticking to your hands may need a little extra flour.
  6. Roll into a ball and cut into 8 pieces like a pizza. Roll each piece into long skinny rope like logs around 2cm thick
  7. With a knife cut into 2cm pieces you can roll them out on a textured board (can buy at kitchen stores *see pic) to make circular gnocchi or you can leave them as they are, lay onto a floured tray until ready to cook
  8. Repeat with remaining dough
  9. Boil a large pot of salted water on the stove
  10. Once Boiling add half gnocchi to the pot dusting off any excess flour, they are cooked once they float to the surface only takes a minute. Strain from the pot with a ladle and set aside repeat with remaining  gnocchi.
  11. Heat a pan on med-high with butter and sage until the butter is bubbling, Add onion and cook for 1-2mins until soft and has caramelised when butter has turned slightly brown and sage has crisped add the gnocchi to the pan and coat in the butter.
  12. Serve gnocchi adding a little extra ricotta and drizzle the butter and sage over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with steamed broccolini and caramelised onions.

Note: Time Saver;  You can cook sweet potatoes, peel and mash them prior, even the day before and keep in the fridge until ready to make the gnocchi. Drain any excess liquid before making the gnocchi.

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Make The Switch

Love Potatoes? Making the switch from ordinary white potatoes to sweet potatoes (kumera) is definitely a favourable move.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A which is what gives our skin a healthy glow. Can help with acne and overall skin health and vitality, also plays a vital role in our immune system to fight of bacteria. Has a very good source of vitamin C and many other vitamins and minerals needed to assist in healthy body functioning.

Now we have know why we should be eating them, how do we cook them? Easy as you would normally enjoy potatoes. Boil, Roast, Bake or Mash. You can add to soups, salads, risottos, or my kids favourite make as chips. One of my favourites is baked, stuffed with delicious fillings.

 

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To make Sweet Potato Chips:

+Peel and slice sweet potatoes into thin or thick strips depending on how you like them.

+Toss with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and some paprika (can omit paprika if you prefer)

+Line them out on a tray and bake in a hot oven 200’c for 20-30mins turning them half way through cooking. If you are making thicker you will need a longer cooking time 45-50mins.

 

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To make Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: 

+Prick sweet potatoes with a fork all over and place on a baking tray

+Bake in a hot oven 200’c for 1 hour

+With a knife slice open down the middle of the potato, add filling of choice such as chilli beans,savoury mince, coleslaw, avocado, cheese, natural yoghurt, coriander, kale to name a few.

 

 

 

Brussel Sprouts with Sweet Potato, Garlic, Lemon and Feta

As a kid and like most kids I hated Brussel Sprouts. The pungent smell of foot odour that excreted from those little over cooked balls of cabbage made me sick to my stomach. Sorry mum, but back in the 80’s people were non the wiser and cooked the bejeezus  out of their vegetables as that is all they knew and were taught, which explains the odour of these beauties.

Recently  we have become more aware of how eating your vegetables with a still a little crunch and ‘just cooked’ not only tastes better but also has a lot more nutritional benefits. Majority of the health benefits diminish when vegetables are over cooked and that’s a damn shame. Did you know that Brussel Sprouts actually help block the continued growth of cancer? They are truly AMAZEBALLS! (No pun intended)

The rise in ‘Raw foods’ and ‘Clean Eating’ lifestyles have given us more informative approach on this topic making us rethink how we are cooking our vegetables and eating them ‘raw’ can be a healthier alternative. √ Big tick in my book. If you are still wary of the raw foods aspect of these then here is a recipe that is not just healthy for you but also delicious and contains no smelly foot odour…I promise.

Brussel Sprouts with Sweet Potatoes, Garlic, Lemon and Fetta

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

6-8 brussel sprouts ends trimmed and halved

1/2 large sweet potato or one small peeled and diced small cubes

1tsp olive oil

1tsp butter or ghee

1 crushed garlic

1/2-1 tsp dried or fresh chilli

Juice 1/2 lemon

1tsp rice malt syrup

50g  fetta cheese

handful of slivered almonds

Directions

  1. In a pan on med to high heat place oil and butter until butter has melted
  2. Add garlic, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes to the pan and toss through until garlic has browned then add 1 tb water and place a lid on top
  3. let the vegetables steam for 1-2 mins until softned but just cooked. Sprouts should still be a little firm.
  4. Add lemon juice, chilli and rice malt syrup and toss to combine
  5. Place in a serving dish top with fetta and slivered almonds

 

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