Saturday, November 12, 2011

Soups, Stews and Sweet Potatoes, and the Mystery of the Disappearing Spinach...

Does the title of this post take you back to your days of reading Nancy Drew books?  :)  I had a sudden flashback of hunting through our school library for those hard-backed yellow covered books, then sitting and reading them cover to cover, thinking that no one was as cool as Nancy or as dreamy as Ned.  As a kid, I tried to create mysteries where there were none, just for the opportunity of solving them and being just as cool as she was.

As for the disappearing spinach...  well, you'll find out soon enough.  Although, I'm sure you already know what I'm talking about, so it's no great mystery.  My life just isn't that mysterious!

I'm always surprised when people don't like sweet potatoes, because I think they are one of nature's perfect vegetables.  They can be prepared sweet or savory, so I love how versatile they are, and we eat them every week, with at least one mid-week dinner - usually roasted, with olive oil, salt, pepper and cinnamon or nutmeg, sometimes baked or mashed, and once in a while...  sweet potato fries.  And of course, there's one of my all-time favorite side dishes at Thanksgiving...  sweet potato casserole.

My mom never made hers with marshmallows on top, so it always seemed strange to me growing up when people ate marshmallows on their sweet potatoes.  Even to this day, it doesn't appeal to me.  We made ours with a sweet and crunchy streusel topping of butter, brown sugar, flour and pecans.  I think that's the only way it should be done.  That's just home to me.

I also really love adding sweet potatoes to soups and stews - while still holding their shape, they melt just a little into the broth making it so rich and flavorful.  One of my favorite soups is Kielbasa Sausage with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach.  We ate this for dinner Thursday night with some of this apple swirl bread that I made from doughnut dough, toasted, and spread with homemade apple butter.

I came up with this recipe about 5 or 6 years ago, and everyone I've made it for has loved it.  Lean turkey kielbasa keeps the recipe light, while still adding a ton of flavor.  Whenever I make this, Jamie says that I must have hidden all the spinach, because I start with a huge mound of spinach on top of the soup, cover it with the lid to steam just before serving, and it disappears into the soup like magic! :)  So there you go - mystery solved.

When I saw this recipe for Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew, I had to try it - the flavors looked amazing, and I'm always looking for new ways to cook beef so that it's really tender.  I was concerned about the lack of liquid in the recipe, though, since the beef I used was very lean, so I did add beef stock to it to make sure the meat was well hydrated and in no danger of drying out.  I also found that mine was very tender and ready to eat in about half the amount of cooking time that was called for, which may simply be from the meat I used having less connective tissue to be broken down.

This was a really delicious stew, quick to put together, with fork-tender beef and amazing flavors, that I would definitely make again.  Both of these dishes are perfect for windy fall nights like this one.

Kielbasa Sausage, Sweet Potato and Spinach Soup
printable recipe
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 lean turkey Kielbasa sausage, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4-5 cups fat free, low-sodium chicken broth (or 1 cup homemade chicken stock, plus 3-4 cups water)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes in garlic, basil and oregano
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-5 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery and sausage, and a pinch of salt, and cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened and sausage is slightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chicken broth, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bay leaf and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.  Adjust the seasoning if needed.

Add the spinach to the pot, cover with a lid, and leave to steam for 5 minutes.  Stir the spinach into the soup and serve.

Yields about 6 servings.

Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew
printable recipe
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 - 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cumin, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper.  Add the pieces of meat, and toss until they are evenly coated.  Place meat in a crock pot.

Add the potatoes, onion, raisins, diced tomatoes and beef stock.  Stir to combine slightly.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours, until potatoes and beef are fork tender.  During the cooking process, there is no need to stir the stew, but you can taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve the stew with hot couscous.

Yields 6 servings.

Recipe slightly adapted from Texas Beef Council.

1 comment :

  1. BOTH recipes look amazing! I never liked sweet potatoes as a kid...because my family served them with marshmallows on top (they also made them from a can - ugh).

    I LOVE sweet potatoes now....I just like the FRESH ones sans marshmallows!


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