Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thoughts of Friends and a Boyfriend who makes me Sweet Potato Chips

This morning, Jamie pulled his motorcycle jacket out of the closet since we had to take his bike in for some work, and out fell a note that I'd taped to the hanger a while back for him to find.  I won't divulge the story behind the notes, but every time he finds one, not only does it make him smile, but it reminds me of why I wrote them and how much I have to be thankful for in my life.  

I've moved around a lot over the years--going to college out of state meant that none of my college friends were here in Colorado.  After college, I moved to China for three years to teach English, an experience that made a profound impact on me.  The amazing friends I met over there were my second family.  And when I had to leave them, I was truly heartbroken.  I think I actually had reverse culture shock moving back to America, and I literally grieved for the friends I no longer had in my life other than through phone calls and Facebook.  And with my sister living in another state with her husband and their girls, Colorado seemed a little empty.

And although happiness can't depend on other people, I do need people in my life, too...  What would life be without friends?  When Jamie and I started dating, he became so much more than a boyfriend.  He was my best friend and confidante, made me laugh, made me feel beautiful, safe and secure, made me feel supported and loved (as supportive as he is, though, I think he would rather I spend less time blogging and more time giving him back massages, so I'll wrap this up...).  And something else that makes me very happy is that his friends became my friends, too.  I so enjoy the movie nights, book club and girly talks.  So I just wanted to take a moment to express my thankfulness for the many wonderful people in my life.  It doesn't have to be Thanksgiving, after all, to say thanks.  :)

*     *     *

While I was busy making jam last week, Jamie made dinner, and he never fails to surprise me with what he comes up with.  On our weekly menu chalkboard, Salmon and Sweet Potatoes were the plan for that night's dinner.  I'm happy that sweet potatoes are one of the good carbohydrates, since I really, really like them.

So that night, Jamie made sweet potatoes two ways:  roasted in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper, a preparation that's always one of my favorites;  but then he also made some crispy sweet potato chips to top the salmon.  

All with a pretty zucchini garnish on the side. Now how lucky am I to have such a guy?  :)

Crispy Sweet Potato Chips
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled or scrubbed well
  • salt and seasoning
  • oil for frying
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large flat-bottomed pan over medium high heat.  You want the oil hot enough to quickly crisp the potatoes so that they do not soak up too much of the oil and become oily and soggy.

Using a mandolin, slice the potato into very thin translucent slices.  Sprinkle a few drops of water into the oil to test the heat.  It should be ready with the water sizzles in the oil.  Working in batches, fry the potato slices until browned and crispy.  Transfer to paper towels and immediately sprinkle with salt and/or your favorite seasoning.

Cherry, Pecan, and Coconut Granola (Low in Added Sugar!)

Most granola that you buy, even at organic or healthy food markets is practically a dessert-like treat with all the sugar that's added.  Jamie and I don't buy cereal (gone are my single dinner days of Honey Nut Cheerios with nectarines), so once in a while I'll make homemade granola, adding as little extra sugar as possible to keep it (mostly) healthy.  Yes, there's still some sugar in it, but there are also whole oats and nuts, which are good for you.

Jamie LOVES homemade granola, so much so that it was his favorite bedtime snack for a while when I was making it every week or two.

This recipe I came up with only has 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 cup of honey;  since it yields 8 cups of granola, then for every 1/2 cup serving, you'll only get about 1 tablespoon of honey and less than a teaspoon of brown sugar. Which isn't bad at all!  :)  You could also substitute Agave Nectar for the honey, which is even lower in sugar.

No flavor was sacrificed in this version, though, so don't worry, it still tastes totally delicious.  The great thing about making your own granola is that you can custom it to any combination of dried fruit and nuts you like.  Dried cherries and pecans are some of my favorites, but I've also used almonds, walnuts, raisins, dried apricots, dates...  And since there's no science to it, such as with baking, you can increase or decrease the ratio of oats to nuts and fruit, without messing up the recipe.

Baking it at a lower temperature for longer helps to brown it more evenly so that it doesn't end up too crunchy.

Cherry, Pecan and Coconut Granola
(yields 8 cups)
  • 5 cups whole uncooked oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried orange peel (or use freshly grated orange zest)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup honey

Preheat oven to 250 F, and spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients, except honey, in a large bowl.  Add honey, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well until all ingredients are coated.

Spread evenly in the pan and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes so that the top does not become overly browned.  

Remove from oven and cool completely.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to keep fresh for several weeks.