I recently became aware of a website that lists national food holidays — it’s www.foodimentary.com if you’re interested — and checked it out to get some inspiration.
From what I can tell so far, just about every day of the year is national-something-or-other day, which makes the site a great source of ideas.
I was pleased to learn Feb. 20 is National Muffin Day and just two days later, Feb. 22, is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. Ironically, sweet potato muffins have been on my radar recently, so I thought this was a good time to whip up some more muffins.
I picked up a half-dozen sweet potatoes, stuck them in a baking dish, covered them with aluminum foil and put them in a hot oven. When they were done, I set them on a cooling shelf in the garage (also known as the winter walk-in freezer) and let them cool. Once they’ve cooled down, the skin is incredibly easy to remove. Then all you have to do is mash them up and put them to use.
I used a few cups to make jam-filled sweet potato muffins, which were moist and delicious. As I’ve mentioned before, my family has to be up and out the door at various times in the morning — usually when I’m still sound asleep — and I like knowing they can grab a nutritious muffin as they head out the door to start their day. (I’d seen the empty fast-food bags from drive-thru coffee places piling up in the trash and decided it was time to take action.)
A jam that works particularly well in sweet potato muffins is Stonewall Kitchen’s blueberry jam, which has incredible flavor, but you can substitute whatever jam you like.
I used the remainder of the mashed sweet potatoes to serve with dinner and added some local maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Topped with some roasted pepitos, the maple sweet potato mash is an easy and delicious side dish.
One other dish I tried recently is seared cauliflower. This is not the soggy gray cauliflower I encountered in childhood. In fact, I hated the stuff when I was a kid.
A friend recently suggested I try seasoning the cauliflower first, then sear it in a little olive oil and finish it off in the oven. While the cauliflower is cooking, you sauté some mushrooms and shallots with a little lemon juice and use it to top off the seared cauliflower. It’s extraordinary. When prepared and served this way, you will forget how much you hated soggy cauliflower as a kid and will fall in love with this vegetable.
Now, that’s sweet.
Jam-Filled Sweet Potato Muffins
3 c. mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T. coconut oil, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
2 1/2 c. flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. chia seed for garnish (optional)
Blueberry jam, about 1/2 cup, for filling
Add sweet potatoes, eggs, vanilla, brown sugar and honey to a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until all ingredients are well incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, then spoon the batter into the tin filling the muffin cups halfway. Use a teaspoon to add the jam to the center of each muffin, then top with more batter. (You want the muffin tin to be about 3/4 of the way full). Sprinkle the chia seed over the top, if using, then set in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are pulling away from the sides of the muffin tin and the tops are lightly browned.
Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
3 sweet potatoes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 T. maple syrup
1/4 c. pepitos
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Prick the potatoes a couple of times with a fork, then set in a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and set in the oven to bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove skins and add the sweet potatoes to a saucepan. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until they are no longer lumpy. Set the pan over medium heat on the stove and add the maple syrup and salt. Stir frequently while heating. Once the potatoes are warmed throughout, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with pepitos and parsley.
Seared Cauliflower with Mushrooms
1 head of cauliflower
2 T. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
3 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 T. butter
1/2 c. vegetable broth
10 oz. package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 shallots, sliced
4 oz. jar capers
1 lemon, grated and juiced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the cauliflower flat on two opposite sides to resemble a cube. Reserve the trimmings for a future use. Cut the cauliflower into slabs, 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil to a shallow dish and add the paprika, cayenne pepper, one and a half teaspoons of the Kosher salt to the oil and mix with a fork. Rub each side of the cauliflower into the seasonings. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat, then set the cauliflower slabs in the pan. Add the butter into the pan while the cauliflower is searing and spoon the butter over the top as it melts. Sear the top and bottom of the cauliflower for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then add the vegetable stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, then remove from heat and set in the preheated oven to cook for about 8 minutes. While the cauliflower is cooking, add the lemon juice to a skillet and set over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots and remaining salt and sauté until softened, then add the capers and grated lemon. Once the capers are warmed, remove skillet from heat. Remove the cauliflower and transfer to a serving dish, drizzling any remaining liquid over the top. Spoon the mushrooms over the top before serving.