Instant Pot Jambalaya and Sweet Potato Soul Review

In my small area of the country, we find ourselves at a crossroads between two cultures. We are one part down-home southern and another part yuppy hipster, creating an interesting social mix. There’s  the well-dressed church crowd who stuff themselves into the mom and pop BBQ  joints every Sunday at noon,  but we also have the man bun and skinny-jean wearing crowd who fill Vegan restaurants on Friday nights. My area is an eclectic loop within the Bible belt, and I love it. It reminds me that cultures are not only able to coexist, but they’re also able to intermingle and mix.

If there is one thing both cultures have in common, it’s a love for food. We all agree that food is an enjoyable experience that can magically bring people together. The challenge, however, comes when you begin sifting through various dietary restrictions. Having my own convictions regarding food, I’m well aware of how awkward this situation can be. My primary example being that I have a religious restriction against pork, and yet here I am living down the road from the annual “Ham and Yam” festival. For the vegetarians and vegans that flock to the area, there are obvious clashes when it comes to soulful southern cooking.

This is what makes Jenne Claiborne’s cookbook Sweet Potato Soul a gem. Having grown up in Atlanta, GA Claiborne was raised on traditional southern cooking. After becoming vegan she spent years experimenting with food, working to find the perfect fusion that fits the cuisine of her heritage into vegan standards. Sweet Potato Soul is her successful masterpiece.

The book is filled with 100 easy recipes and a variety of flavors to work with, each page perfectly capturing the essence of both southern and vegan cooking. There are enough photos to satisfy those who tend to”taste with their eyes” when choosing recipes out of cookbooks, and although there are short introductions to each section, the majority of this book is straight to the point with easy to find recipes.

I’m thrilled to work my way through this cookbook, and it is a perfect resource for entertaining friends who avoid the consumption of animal products. For our regular weeknight meals, however, it is totally easy to tweak these recipes in order to satisfy my carnivorous ways. For example, I decided to give her “jackfruit jambalaya”a try (found on page 137), however, instead of dragging myself to the Asian market for jackfruit I used chicken. I also used my instant pot instead of cooking this stove top.

Definitely not vegan like the cookbook intended, and I changed my cooking method in order to utilize kitchen toys, but Claiborne certainly inspired a delicious meal.

Instant Pot Jambalaya

Ingredients

3 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves
3  celery stalks (chopped)
1 green bell pepper (chopped)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas
3 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
*3 Tablespoons creole seasoning
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
salt

*A recipe for creole seasoning can be found on page 36 or Sweet Potato Soul)

Directions

1) Add chicken breast and 1 cup of water to the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.

2) When chicken is cooked, remove and set aside. Switch the instant pot to the saute setting and heat olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper. Saute until onion is transparent.

3) Add tomatoes, rice, chickpeas, bay leaf, pepper, creole seasoning, worcestershire sauce, and salt to taste. Seal the instant pot. Switch the setting to “soup” and cook on high pressure for another 15 minutes. When cooking is finished, unseal the pot and enjoy!

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

Raspberry Lemon Scones

Valentine’s Day is underrated. Over the past couple of years, I’ve begun to see a little more value in it besides a day of last-minute chocolate purchases and sitting around a chaotic restaurant waiting your turn for a table. Lately, in my house, Valentine’s Day is an excuse to be festive during inarguably the most dreary and boring time of the year. It is a month of red and pink decor to replace the blue and white of Hanukkah. There are crafts to attempt, delicious baking adventures to experiment with, and no one can argue against celebrating love.

Last year, during the first 14 days of February, I started a small and simple

tradition focused on making my kids feel loved. Every night I stuck

a paper heart to my son’s door, which listed something I loved abo

ut him. We used it to build his confidence and encourage positive behaviors. In the mornings he was so excited to find a new heart on his door and the entire process was a way for me to express sentiments I feel are not shared nearly as much as they should. I’m looking forward to continuing the precious tradition, this time slipping the hearts into a decorative envelope or mailbox outside his door.

 

Already I’m starting to think of the baked goodies we should try tackling in our kitchen. I live by the idea that food is a way to express love and between the sugar cookies and chocolates associated with Valentine’s Day I know I’m not alone in that mindset.

As it turns out, we already began our themed baking. At first, I didn’t intend for it to be Valentine’s Day related treat. This week’s Five In A Row book was Peter Rabbit, and therefore our geography lessons concentrated on England. As we move around the world in our homeschool curriculum, I wanted to incorporate culinary projects representing the various cultures we learn about. This week we made raspberry lemon scones.

As soon as I pulled these things out of the oven, I realized just how perfect they are for Valentine’s Day.  Visually they have the beautiful red and pink tint for a festive look, but more importantly, they are delicious. I couldn’t stop sneaking into the kitchen for another taste, my very honest husband greatly approved, and my son ended up finishing them off while I wasn’t looking.

My suggestion would be to include these little cakes in the breakfast in bed you intend to make your spouse. Or bring them to the brunch you’re sharing with your girlfriends on Galentine’s Day. Or make them with your kiddos and have them for dessert.

 

Rasberry Lemon Scones

Ingredients

scones

1 stick of cold butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup frozen raspberries

Glaze

Juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  2. Cut butter into pieces, about 1/4-inch and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3.  Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  4. Using a fork, add the sliced butter and toss to coat. Use fingers to rub the butter into the mix. It will begin to have a mealy texture.
  5. Mix in frozen raspberries until they are well coated.  Add heavy cream, and continue mixing with a fork.
  6. When the bowl is well mixed, begin kneading the dough with your fingers. Turn dough out onto the prepared baking sheet. Gently shape the dough into a square on the baking dish. The texture may be ragged, and that is okay.
  7. Slice the dough into 9 squares, and then slice them diagonally to give them a triangular shape. Give the scones some space between them to bake. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  8. While the scones are baking, prepare the glaze by mixing lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl. When scones are finished, give them 15-20 minutes to cool before drizzling the lemon glaze on them.

 

Butternut Pear Soup

As if I really needed to dig myself further into the fall spirit, I have officially received my annual cold. This time around it even warped into inflammation going on within my head and inner ear, causing insane tension headaches and vertigo!

Of course being sick on cold fall days require some TLC…usually in the form of comfort food. Obviously the cook in the house is myself, so I needed a recipe that would be both delicious and easy. I didn’t want to spend too much time standing in a hot kitchen when I could have been lounging on the couch watching Sid the Science kid with the four year old.

This unique soup managed to hit the spot just right. The unique flavor worked as both an enjoyable dinner as well as the medicine needed to make me feel better.

It will definitely appear on my table again, hopefully under better circumstances.

Butternut Pear Soup

Ingredients

1 butternut squash – cubed into small pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil (plus another Tbsp)
3 Tbsp.  rosemary
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp salt
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup green onions
2 large pears – peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix the squash, olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt. Spread the mixture on a foil lined baking sheet and back for 45 minutes (you want the squash to be tender when poked with a fork).
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add green onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add pears, chicken stock, and syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. When the squash is done roasting, put both mixtures in a blender or food processor. Blend until the soup is smooth.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese over the top of individual soup bowls and Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake with Marshmallow Frosting

I am not ashamed of the fact that I am the most typical American girl when it comes to fall. I obsess over pumpkin spiced things, I’m over eager to pull out my sweaters and boots even if the weather isn’t quite cold enough to warrant such attire, and come September I’m immediately diving into autumn themed recipes.

Even as a child, before social media caught on to the fact that fall is the best season of the year, Autumn was my happy place. I have fond memories of Friday night football games and sitting around the campfire with friends in jean jackets. I remember the feeling I got when I woke up Thanksgiving morning to find my grandmother already working her way around the kitchen as she prepared our meal.

Baby’s first Autumn

It’s something I will never out grow, and I will continue obsessing over fall probably for the rest of my life. Even my son is well aware of how much I love fall. The other day while running errands with my husband, he picked up a pumpkin spiced candle at the drug store and asked to buy it for me.

I do feel a great need to point out, however, that there is more flavor to fall than pumpkin spice. I love pumpkin, and I am creating quite a collection of pumpkin flavored food for myself, but there is a tendency for pumpkins to spend a little too much time in the spotlight while the cider, apple, maple, and zucchini flavors are neglected.

When Thanksgiving comes around, and you’re trying to decide what unique culinary creation you want to contribute, try something a little different. For example: A sweet potato cake.

This recipe is truly delicious, and captures that spicy fall goodness we all love. Ever since I posted a photo on my facebook, people have been asking for the recipe, and those who’ve eaten it so far seemed to enjoy it quite nicely!

The cake itself is sweet potato, however, the frosting is actually homemade marshmallow fluff. Basically this is a creative alternative to the typical sweet potato casserole. The store bought fluff isn’t going to work as well for this frosting, and it does require a decent amount of patience to get right. I also loved the crispiness of torching the surface once the cake was put together, but if you don’t have a kitchen torch than it isn’t too much of a loss.

The end result looked like a giant marshmallow, and it certainly captured a great deal of attention. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cake With Marshmallow Frosting

Ingredients
For The Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbs butter, melted
6 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 sweet potatoes
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

For The Frosting
8 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp creme of tartar
2 tsp vanilla
(have powdered sugar on hand)

Directions
For The Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  and prepare 2- 8 inch cake pans. Begin by preparing a sweet potato puree. Boil sweet potatoes in a pot. Every now and then poke them with a fork. When the potatoes are softened, drop them in a food processor to puree them.

2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl whisk butter, oil, sugars, eggs, and sweet potato.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.

5. Divide the batter into the two pans. Place them in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

6. Cool on a rack for at least ten minutes, or until cakes are completely cool.

For The Frosting
1. While the cake bakes in the oven, prepare the frosting. Begin by placing egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water. Whisk the until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is warm (about 5 minutes).
2. Remove from heat and beat with an electric mixer. Begin on low and slowly increase speed. White peaks will begin to form.  Add vanilla and continue to beat the mixture for about 7-10 minutes. If the mix is too runny, add powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time) until you’ve reached the desired consistency. The frosting will be slightly softer than store bought fluff.
3. Place frosting in the fridge until ready for use. To assemble, spread frosting in between the two cake layers. Spread frosting over the top of the cake as well as the sides. For the roasted look at taste, run a kitchen torch over the surface of the cake, being careful not to burn the frosting.

Parmesan Cream Zoodles

I am not especially crunchy. Maybe a little crispy around the edges, but certainly not crunchy. Vaccines. Formula. Gluten. These are things I have proudly taken advantage of. Essential oils and salt lamps…not so much. On the other hand I make my own baby food, I think kale is delicious, and we are planning to raise our own chickens soon. On a scale of marshmallow to granola, I’m about fried pickle percent crunchy on a good day.

I do, however, have plenty of friends who have their own versions of crunchiness, and I believe that when I host them I need to try and meet their preferences. Having religious observances that dictate certain food restrictions, I know the deep appreciation I feel when someone goes out of their way to make sure my dietary needs are met. It makes me feel cared for and honored, and I like knowing that perhaps I’ve made someone feel the same way when it comes to their concerns regarding food.

That is why I love finding delicious recipes that can meet various dietary needs. I love when I can serve a friend something that isn’t thrown together in a mediocre attempt to feed them within their barriers, but a dish that is enjoyable and tasty. Something that I would whip up for myself simply because it tasted good, regardless of whether or not I follow a particular diet.

While this dish isn’t for the vegans or dairy-free crowd, I did manage to throw together something the gluten free eaters would appreciate. As an added bonus I got to play with some kitchen toys (the spiralizer), which I love finding excuses to use.

Most importantly, however, I found a delicious meal.

Parmesan Cream Zoodles

Ingredients

5 zucchinis
1TBS butter
*3 cloves minced garlic
5TBS milk
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Cherry tomatoes (sliced)

  •  my general rule for cooking is to take the amount of garlic in a recipe, double it, and then pour Eeven more in. If you’re not as crazy about garlic as I am, the 3 cloves are a good start. If you love garlic, toss in what you like.

Directions

  1. Spiralize 5 zucchinis and set the bowl aside. Heat butter in a skillet, and saute garlic until well browned.
  2.  Once the garlic is cooked, add milk and cream cheese to the skillet. As the cream cheese melts, stir the mixture to create a creamed sauce.
  3. Fold in the zucchin noodles until it is well covered with the sauce.
  4. Add tomatoes, and stir in the Parmesan cheese until it is well melted, and the noodles are sufficiently cooked.

Passover Recipe Ideas: Chocolate Coconut Mousse and Brisket

Food plays such an intensely important role in our lives, and it isn’t just the fuel required to sustain us. Taste is an enjoyable phenomenon that can bring happiness into any moment. Unique ways of preparing food is a cultural foundation for all people. When friends and family come together they usually gather around food in some way, whether it’s a dinner party or chicken wings during a football game.

When we celebrate an event there is food. When a person mourns they are immediately provided with food from their loved ones. It is the most instinctive way we care for those we cherish, and preparing a meal for a guest is a simple way to honor them. Taking the time to choose dishes you know to be someone’s favorite, or putting in the effort to creatively and deliciously meet the dietary needs and/or restrictions of others can be an incredibly touching gesture.

I love everything about hosting. I love having friends that know our door is always open to their company. I love providing a feeling that my home is their home. I love feeding people. I love the sound of children giggling together in the playroom while the parents enjoy some adult time. I love providing a space to worship G-d through conversation and fellowship. After all, doesn’t the Bible say in Matthew 18:20 “For where there are two or three gathered in my name, there am I among them“? My closest friends know that in my mind someone’s home can be their own personal ministry, and most people who spend significant amounts of time in my house know that I enjoy welcoming company, and I especially love feeding people. I don’t let you walk out of my door hungry if I can help it.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why Passover and Sukkot are my two favorite holidays. Both are home based festivals that encourage an open door (or tent flap in the case of Sukkot) for guests. They are an exercise in extreme hospitality, and I feel completely in my element when I prepare for these awesome celebrations.

Naturally, the details I tend to focus most on when it comes to inviting people into my house is food. What would they like? Are there any allergies or other dietary restrictions? What foods pair well with one another? Is this enough or should I throw in another dish? (Side note: I always have enough food). With Passover specifically it can be even trickier. Some guests may have varying levels of observance regarding their regular religious food restrictions. On top of that we have holiday specific dietary needs (no leavened foods), and even within those restrictions there are various levels of observances to consider. So every year I stick with relatively the same menu that I’ve perfected over time.

Matzo ball soup. Salad. Roasted vegetables. Curried fruit. A potato dish. Matzo kugel. Salmon. And a delicious brisket.

This year I finally figured out that a chocolate coconut mousse was the perfect dessert to go along with our Seder meal. It requires only a couple of ingredients, is very easy to whip up, and most importantly it is light, fluffy, and delicious. It will definitely appear on future Seder menus.

So, if you’re looking for a dessert that will feed people with any number of dietary restrictions, this mousse is perfect. If you’re planning a special dinner and want to share something nice and tasty with your guests, this brisket is great choice!

Chocolate Coconut Mousse

Ingredients

2 13.5 oz cans coconut milk
2 tbsp powdered sugar
5 tbsp coco powder

Directions

  1. Scoop the cream at the top of the coconut milk into a bowl, and discard the rest of the liquid. Add sugar and beat together using a hand mixer until creamy and thick.
  2. Fold in the coco and continue beating. The mixture will begin to have a more fluffy texture.
  3. Place in the refrigerator to chill in order to give it a little more form, otherwise it can be served immediately

 

Brisket

*NOTE: I have three necessary rules about cooking a brisket. First: You cook the meat with the fat on it. This is crucial for maintaining flavor. Second: Baste every 30 minutes. It will give you that nice fall apart texture. Third: You should cook the brisket a day ahead, and serve reheated. This gives it time to soak in the juices and takes in as much flavor as possible.

Ingredients

1 4lb beef brisket
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (needles taken off of the stem and chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
Black pepper
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 celery stalked, cut into chunks
4 red onions, chopped
1 bottle of dry red wine (or about 2 cups)
1 16oz can of whole tomatoes (hand crushed)
a handful of fresh parsley
3 bay leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Stir together garlic, salt, and rosemary. Combine with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Season both sides of the brisket with a decent amount of salt and pepper. Place the brisket into a dutch oven or pan over medium-high heat and sear both sides until browned.
  3. Transfer to a roasting pan (or keep it in a dutch oven if there is room). Arrange vegetables around the pan, and pour the garlic rosemary mixture over the entire brisket. Pour in the wine and tomatoes, and add the parsley and bay leaves.
  4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, or the cover of the roasting pan. Bake for 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes.
  5. Store the brisket in the refrigerator over night (keeping it in the pan with the juices). Reheat in a warm oven before serving (I started on 350 until it heated through, and then left it at 170 for a couple of hours before we were ready to serve).

Caprese Chicken Lasagna

With Passover coming up it is once again time for me to go through my kitchen and find ways to use the breads and pastas hanging out in the back shelves of my pantry before the big chametz clean. “Kashering”, which is what we call the process, is basically a major spring cleaning right before the beginning of Passover where we rid our home of any food and ingredients that contain leavening (crumbs and all). At the end of the prep there are a few moments where I can sit back and sigh in relief as I enjoy the house being the cleanest it has been all year. It’s one of the more taxing parts of my job as matriarch of this house, but I love the end result.

Leading up to the big sweep I try to salvage what I can in terms of food. This time around we had a ton of lasagna noodles, so of course this meant Shabbat dinner was going to be more on the Italian side this week.

Usually I stick with one particular recipe I’m familiar with. A basic vegetarian lasagna my grandmother gave me. This time around I wanted to try something a little different to add to my collection of recipes. Caprese is an Italian salad I absolutely love. It’s simple to throw together, it warms my heart and waters my mouth whenever someone provides it at a pot luck, and it’s sure to win people over whenever I introduce it to those who have never tried it. For those who are not familiar, caprese is a piece of tomato, basil leaf, and fresh mozzarella cheese put together with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Sometimes it is tossed together in a salad. Sometimes the basil and mozzarella are laid on top of a piece of sliced tomato. Sometimes they are made into a cute bite sized appetizer by using baby tomatoes and toothpicks.

This time around I decided to turn caprese into a lasagna, and the result was incredibly delicious.

For those of you needing to use up that box of lasagna noodles before Passover, here’s your answer. For those who are simply looking for new dinner ideas or something to provide at a pot luck, this will put smiles on the faces you serve.

 

Caprese Chicken Lasagna 

Ingredients
1 box of lasagna noodles
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp oregno
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 cloves of garlic (divided)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 yellow onion (chopped)
2 1/2 cups milk
5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 – 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
4 tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
extra balsamic vinegar for a glaze

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and cook noodles according to package instructions

2) In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Cut up the chicken and mix with oregano, parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook until golden. Stir in balsamic vinegar and 2 cloves of garlic until well combined. Set aside.

3) In a sauce pan melt the butter. Saute chopped onion and the remaining garlic for about two minutes. Add flour and cook until a golden color. Stir in milk and simmer until the texture is creamy. Add one cup of mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese.

4) In separate bowl stir together ricotta cheese and egg.

5) Assemble the lasagna in a large baking dish. Spread a thin layer of sauce. Add a layer of cooked noodles. On top of the noodles spread a third of the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by a third of tomato slices, and a third of mozzarella. Repeat layers.

6) Bake for about 35 minutes. Once the lasagna is bubbly, drizzle a balsamic glaze over the top and serve!