Apple and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

20131010-083842.jpgNorth Carolina, where I live, is the king of sweet potatoes. While it is a challenge to find organic sweet potatoes, I’ve found several farmers who carry them. Potatoes are delicious and nutritious (especially sweet potatoes!), but farmers often use carcinogenic fungicides and sprout inhibitors that penetrate beyond the skin of the potato and into the flesh. So no amount of washing or peeling is going to eliminate them. These babies are definitely worth buying organic, if at all possible.

This sweet potato dish is one of my “go to” recipes for a busy fall weeknight. It has all the great hallmarks of fall–sweet potato, pumpkin pie spice, apples and maple syrup. This would make a great side dish or a light meal in itself. We have an abundance of sweet potatoes at our farmers markets and apples are back in full force, so this recipe takes advantage of all that is fresh and delicious.

Apple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (makes 3 servings)

  • 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 2 medium apples like granny smith or galas
  • 1 small bunch of kale
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or more, if you like!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork and roast in the oven until soft (about an hour depending on how large your potatoes are). Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350.
  3. While potatoes cool a bit, peel/core and chop the apples into 1/2″ chunks.
  4. Wash and trim the stems from the kale. Chop into bit sized pieces.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add apples. Cook apples for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and cook until wilted–about 4 minutes.
  7. Add spice to the apples and stir. Add more butter if you need it. Reduce heat to low and cook until apples are soft. Set aside.
  8. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut skins and scoop potato flesh into a medium-sized bowl. Add apple mixture and mix together until combined.
  9. Spoon mixture back into the potato skin shells. Top with chopped pecans, put on a baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and drizzle with maple syrup.
  11. Serve!

NOTE: You will have extra filling left over. This makes a great leftover lunch the next day! Pair it with some cooked quinoa and you have a complete second meal.

Give Me Some (Healthier) Sugar!

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Baking season is upon us, my friends, and in the next 4-6 weeks many of us will be whipping up holiday cookies, cupcakes, breads, cakes, pies and whatever else we can think of. Yes, yes, I know some of you bake all year long, but it is just too hot here in the summer for me to invest much time in baking. Come fall, though, look out!

The world of baking has changed so much from when I was a child. The range of flours, oils, butters, and sweeteners available now is astonishing. Some of us are working on gluten-free, vegan or whole food recipes, and I can’t wait to see what everyone is creating! One ingredient that has vexed many of us is sugar. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to reduce our sugar consumption. But we all occasionally want a little somethin’ somethin’. No form of sugar is “health food”, of course, but some forms are better than others. So what are they and how can we use them to our best advantage?

I was working on research about sugars and sweeteners, when I came across a blog for Small Footprint Family. Their blog post on sweeteners contained so much wonderful information, I decided to just feature their post as it is and use my energies elsewhere (like finding more pumpkin recipes on Pinterest).

In our house, we use maple syrup, coconut sugar (LOVE it!), honey, dates and molasses as sweeteners, but I always have a backup stash of unbleached, organic cane sugar. We do not buy bleached sugars, chemical sugar substitutes or corn syrup and now I’m even more glad of that.

What should you do? Hey, your pantry, your rules, and I am not here to judge. But information is your best friend when shopping for any kind of food and this blog has lots to offer, including some types of sweetener that were completely new to me. Check it out!

Click HERE for their blog post!

Get those muffin pans and cookie sheets ready! Baking season is just around the corner!

Interested in reducing your sugar consumption? Here are a few tips:

  1. Make your own treats. I’m preaching to the choir for anyone reading a food blog, but really, when you make your own treats you can control not only how much sugar you use, but also what kinds of sweeteners.
  2. Read the label, read the label, read the label. Our national sugar dependency is not the result of mom (or dad) making cookies. It is all the hidden sugar in processed foods and it is everywhere (have you looked at your toothpaste label?). If you are buying foods labeled as “low fat,” chances are they are also “high sugar”, although the marketing people won’t tell you that. Fat is a flavor conveyor and when fat is removed, companies use excess salt and sugar to make up for the loss of flavor.
  3. Be patient with your taste buds. Reducing sugar (or salt, for that matter), may seem weird at first. Your taste buds may be set on “fructose jolt” and lower sugar foods may not taste as flavorful. It takes about 28 days to make a behavioral change, so give your body and your taste buds a chance to catch up!

Maple Pecan Muffins

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I enjoy making muffins each week for family breakfasts and snacks, and this is my first batch of fall-flavored muffins for the year. These muffins are nutty, tender and just a bit sweet. The flavors are more subtle than mixes with maple flavoring–I like that, but you can also add 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring if you want to oomph up the maple. One of the things I like most about making my own muffins is that I know exactly what is in them (and what isn’t). Yes to whole wheat flour, organic sugar, locally harvested nuts and real butter. No to transfats, oils, food coloring and synthetic flavoring chemicals.

As with any baking involving nuts, I definitely recommend toasting the pecans before adding them to the mix–toasting definitely adds a depth to the pecan flavor that you won’t have otherwise. We are trying to watch our sugar intake, so these don’t have a fancy streusel topping or icing, but you could certainly add that if you like! We just topped them with pecan halves and a little sprinkle of organic, brown sugar. Simple, cozy and yummy!

Maple Pecan Muffins (makes 12 muffins)

  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted, organic butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or maple)
  • 2 farm eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 12 pecan halves
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put the pecan halves in a shallow baking pan and toast them for 4-5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Chop the pecans into fairly small chunks. Set aside.
  2. Line a muffin tin with bleach-free liners or oil with a small amount of coconut oil. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, syrup, extract, eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
    Fold in the chopped pecans.

  6. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and top each muffin with a pecan half and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
  7. Bake for 20-22 minutes.
  8. Cool individual muffins on a cooling rack.
  9. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or wrap and freeze for up to three months.

Oatmeal and Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

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This oatmeal is so good, I could have it for supper! If you love pumpkin pie, you will go crazy for this oatmeal. I think this is like a Snuggie in a bowl!

Steel Cut Oatmeal (stove top)

  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • dried cranberries, chopped pecans, brown sugar, whatever makes you happy
  1. Combine oats and water in a small pot and heat to boiling.
  2. Boil oats for about 1 minute and turn the heat down to medium. Stir.
  3. Cook oats on medium for about 30 minutes or until it is very thick like porridge. Stir frequently to keep from sticking to pot.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (crock pot)

Note: you will need to experiment with your slow cooker to see what setting works best. For mine, the low setting was still too high, but the “keep warm” setting works like a charm.

  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. milk or cream
  1. Add all ingredients into crock pot.
  2. Cover and heat on low or warm.
  3. Cook for 7-8 hours
  4. Ladle into bowls and add your favorite toppings

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Using the crock pot recipe above, substitute 1 cup of water for one can of organic, unsweetened pumpkin. Add a healthy tablespoon or two (I use 2) of pumpkin pie spice and cook overnight.

In the morning, the pumpkin will be at the top of the pot. Just stir it all back together and top with chopped pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. Mmmmmmm, mmmmmmmm!

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