Taro & Yucca for days

My strategy for this assignment was to walk into the produce section of my local grocery store, find two vegetables I was relatively unfamiliar with, and google recipes at the store to identify necessary ingredients. This strategy worked so-so.

Recipe #1 Braised Taro with Dried Shrimps
IMG_2018I hit a snag right away with this recipe, as I glanced through the ingredients and didn’t pause at “dried shrimp,” instead immediately thinking “Oh, I have shrimp at home. Perfect.” The taro was easy enough to prepare (I only needed two roots for this recipe), but I had to be creative with the amount of water I added and how long I cooked the recipe to account for the fresh vs dried shrimps.

Ultimately, the dish turned out fine, but the taro flavor didn’t add much to the recipe–perhaps it would have complemented the dried shrimp flavor better.

Recipe #2 Yucca Fries
I’ve only had Yucca once at a Cuban restaurant, and I loved the dense, starchy root. I was excited to add Yucca to the list of veggies and as I love roasted veggies, I chose the roasted fries recipe. Ultimately, I’d call this one a success.

After spending a considerable amount of time peeling and cutting and boiling the yucca, I was finally able to line my “fries” on the baking sheet. IMG_2024I chose smaller fries than indicated in the recipe in part because I hoped it would enable them to cook faster, and potentially get crispier. When the fries were finally ready, I made a sauce out of mayo, Worchester sauce, ketchup, cayenne and paprika to accompany the snack.
Recipe #3 Taro Shake
Okay. So the biggest issue I encountered in completing this assignment was research whether any of my veggies were poisonous to handle raw. It didn’t even occur to me as a possibility. Now I successfully cut-up two taro for the shrimp recipe, but the shake required to cups worth of mashed taro, and as I cut up my last taro my hands were itching incredibly. I had to run my hands under cool water and then rub anti-itch cream over my hands to bear it! As I put a pause on the shakes I looked up taro and realized that this is a common reaction to handling raw taro. Yikes! Proof that I should have done research in advance and not just picked to items at random.

Once my hands stopped itching, I boiled the taro for 40 minutes, mashed them, and added the rest of the smoothie ingredients to the ninja. Thankfully, I enjoyed the shake so perhaps the foray into raw taro was worth it…
Bonus Recipe Edit: I made the Kale & Potato soup that we didn’t make last week. Loved it. Thank you for the recipe and I’d totally make it again.



Roasted Veggie Medley

So, I thought I would check out recipe options  to incorporate a combo of sweet potatoes, zucchini and red bell pepper.  Yes, I can count to two but I do like peppers so I wanted to make sure all the dishes would have a splash  of zing especially since I’ve had very little (if any) exposure to the other two.  In our week one class, we roasted some cauliflower.  I had never done that before and it was pretty good (albeit with the curry cheese sauce on top).  I wanted to try something similar with other produce.

It was also my birthday this week so there’s was a fair amount of group gatherings and of course, food.  After an all you-care-to-eat brunch on Sunday, I didn’t want much of a dinner so I thought a bowl of roasted veggies would be easy, fairly quick, and satisfying yet not too filling.

The result.  Wow does the kitchen smell good!  The medley was a bit on the soft side but the peppers and onions dominated in flavor (no surprise).   I didn’t want to burn the meal but maybe a couple of minutes more in the oven would have improved the outcome.  It was definitely enough food too but I don’t think I’m a big zucchini fan.  The sweet potato was good—I would do that again in the mix but not the z-veggie.   Maybe in my other dishes the zucchini will be better received.   I haven’t cooked with rosemary in the past but it did add a positive dimension to the food.  I would add more black pepper in the next rendition.

Sweet Potato & Zucchini Hash

Another one dish/skillet meal.  Okay, if you count the pan of boiling water for the egg then there were two but still an easy meal prep and decent clean-up.

Did I mention it was my birthday this week?  As such I was trying to cut down on some of the portions of these meals.  This one I quartered—give or take on the ingredients a smidge.  I also added red pepper which was not part of the original recipe.  Obviously, this was a more cohesive meal than the bowl of roasted vegetables prepared the other day.  Oddly enough, I kinda enjoyed the boiling or poaching of the egg.  I would normally have used a little poaching dish in a skillet.  This was my first time floating the egg in water.  I’m not sure why the recipe called for vinegar in the water.  I’ve only heard that referenced for eggs still in the shell and maybe they are easier to peel as a result.  I wasn’t able to find much of a definitive purpose on the web either.   Nonetheless, the egg turned out very well.  The aroma of the cooking veggies was very appealing too.  I would like to do this recipe another time when I have my own stock.  Given time restraints, I resorted to the packaged type.   Sorry Bill!

The meal itself was better than I expected.  While I’m still not a fan of zucchini, it had a more sedate presence in this recipe.   I’m beginning to enjoy sweet potatoes and appreciate the different ways to incorporate onions and peppers too.  I purchased some dried thyme for this dish as my spice cabinet wasn’t very broad (that is changing!).  I could easily eat this meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Basil-Zucchini-Potato Frittata

This was the third meal I prepared with my two/three vegetables and the one I enjoyed the most.  The prep was very easy and straight forward—Cook the veggies in the skillet, add the egg & basil mixture, cook a bit more and tada—you have a meal!  It was nice to get the suggestion from the materials to think about breakfast and not merely a lunch or dinner meal too.


In addition to the listed ingredients, this recipe invited the addition of leftover veggies.  It also suggested shredding the zucchini but I chopped it instead.   Something about shredded zucchini made it even less appealing—I don’t think I going to be a big zucchini supporter anytime soon.  Thankfully, the other flavors were more distinct.  This recipe introduced me to dried basil leaves too. The ingredient definitely provides a layer of flavor that I like and now it’s another solid member of the expanding household spice cabinet.

The overall result was very good.  I found this meal to have the most flavor of the three and it certainly had more structure for obvious reasons.  I don’t think the tomato paste provided much punch though.  I might opt for a salsa or similar next time around.  I did like the fact the primary ingredients were chopped but I threw in some of the leftovers from the hash which were a bit larger.  It provided a little more variety to the final product.   This meal could be a simple but tasty family breakfast or used for a group brunch.  My final vote on the veggies:  sweet potatoes are surprisingly good and versatile but zucchini maybe not so much for me.  Peppers & onions rule!



Homework Assignment 2 – Kale & Cauliflower

For my Homework Assignment I choose Kale and Cauliflower.  This may seem odd to some people but I promise I have never cooked with these two ingredients in my life. I know I need to branch out a little more.  I also had wine…



The first dish I made was pasta.  To make it a little more flavorful I added shrimp and tomatoes.  This was my favorite dish by far that I made.  I would actually serve this to other people and be confident that they wouldn’t hate it.  I essentially boiled the pasta, cooked down the cauliflower and garlic, then added tomato, shrimp, and kale, salt and pepper. When the the pasta was mostly done I through that in last and cooked for a few more minutes.




My next dish was still pretty tasty but I would change a few things: Kale and Cauliflower Salad.  I didn’t have some of the other ingredients this recipe called for like pine nuts.  It was a good salad and I made a fresh dressing (fresh squeeze lemon, olive oil. salt and pepper).  However, next time I would chop the Kale and Cauliflower more finely.  It was really crunchy.  But it was actually very good and I had it with some chicken noodle soup!




The last recipe I made, or attempted to make was cauliflower and kale mashed potatoes.  However, I didn’t have a food processor so I used a beater I think (the tool for mixing up pancake batter).  Therefore it was still a little chunky.  It tasted O.K. but it had a weird texture.




Overall, I would definitely make the Pasta again and probably the salad if I had leftover Kale. I think I would need a food processor to make the mashed potatoes truly “mashed.”  I was excited I had some new recipes for Kale because it is so healthy.  I also did an extra assignment and made kale chips.  They turned out mediocre. I think I needed to use more olive oil and garlic powder.  But I really enjoyed this assignment and happy I got to cook a little more out of my comfort zone!IMG_4370


It was a tough week and I missed accompanying my wife’s grocery shopping. I will make up for that shopping part hopefully in next assignment. So I had to cook  meals using the produces that my wife purchased. I found zucchini, green onions, garlics, onions, and mushrooms. Additionally there was tofu. So I decided to cook mapo tofu with no meat and plenty of vegetables!

The first step is to chop all vegetables and tofu into small pieces. I used all knife techniques that Bill taught in the class and was able to impress my wife!


One thing I tried this time was to fry garlic pieces with olive oil before anything. This I think allowed garlic flavor to spread over all ingredients that I added later.


Then I added all the other vegetable pieces starting with onion and followed by zucchini. The last one added was mushrooms.


When zucchinis and onions became translucent in olive oil, it was the time to add tofu. I takes about 5 minutes or so until all tofu are cooked. The trick is to be gentle in order to mix without breaking firm tofu.


The last step is to add oyster sauce. At this step, I tried adding a very spicy pepper sauce and found it working great! But I had to be careful not to make it too salty.


Here is the final product! It turned out great.


My family’s diet is primarily vegetarian, so there was not much difference this week in terms of vegetable consumed. As we have three children, we are often quite overwhelmed with what daily cooking requires. This practically forces us to buy things in bulk. One exception is vegetable. We always try to be thoughtful about the amount of vegetable we buy so we maintain the balance of fresh vegetable and not-having-to-shopt often.









Homework#2 – Red Cabbage and Chayote Squash

In my first picture, I took in the store so I would know how to spell it to look it up. This week it was a challenge of sorts as I chose the red cabbage and chayote squash. The last picture is actually the first dish I made with the cabbage – nothing special just fried cabbage in margarine.

The 4th picture – I found a recipe and tweaked it a bit to my liking. It has red cabbage sauteed in margarine then added brown sugar and apples, some allspice and 2 tsp. of balsamic vinegar. (I told a neighbor about this one and she wanted to taste it. She said I could make it again for her.)

The 2nd picture – I sauteed red cabbage and the chayote squash with salt and pepper.

The 3rd picture was my dinner tonight, baked chicken, the chayote squash and red cabbage and a dinner roll. I also tried this Jackfruit which I plan to bring to class tomorrow so others can taste it.

As to the questions for the week: How does the amount of fresh vegetables and fruit consumed this week compare to other weeks?  I try to take either fruit or vegetables in my lunches but I sure ate more cooked vegetables this week.

Do you see advantages or drawbacks to purchasing fresh produce in bulk? I only bought a head of cabbage but got 3 meals out of it because I am the only one to eat it. However, in the past, buying produce in bulk, I noticed that I have wasted a lot because it went bad.

Made by Debbie

Assignment 2: Trying Something New

For the “something new” challenge I went to one of my favorite places to find new eats: United Noodle. I love this grocery store! I went to the produce section and grabbed the first two things I had never seen before. These ended up being:

Chinese Okra:


According to my research, they are not always this long…

Lotus Root:


I forgot to take a picture of the uncut lotus root, so here is one from the internet

I was hoping I would get lucky and simply by happenstance grab some in-season produce, but this was not the case. Both Chinese Okra and Lotus Root are fall vegetables (but given our current weather, maybe they would be doing just fine about now). Since I had no idea what these things were I turned to the internet. From what I have gathered, Chinese Okra is somewhere between a cucumber and okra. It is also known as luffa and when dried out can be used as a scrubbing sponge! The Lotus Root is more potato like, but crisper and a bit more starchy.

Dish #1: Breakfast

KIMG0046This was a pretty simple dish, but I can’t say I would recommend it. I sauteed the peeled and sliced Chinese Okra with garlic. I then made some quick scrambled eggs and steamed them together for a couple minutes.

It came out okay, and watching the scrambled eggs get all inflated during the steaming process was fun, but the flavor was weak and the eggs just tasted… soggy. Maybe with a bit of spice this would be better.

Based on this Chinese Okra and Egg Stir Fry.


Dish #2: State Fair Approved!


Some assembly required

This one definitely missed the “for wellness” mark, but just sounded too good to pass up. I had some spicy pulled pork in the good ol’ deep freeze, which made the process go much quicker (I love when past-me is generous and does extra work so that I don’t have to do it now).

The frying was rough going at first since the lotus root slices hold water pretty well, preventing the thin beer


Glamour shot courtesy of Sam learning how to use her fancy camera. Don’t get used to this.    

batter from sticking. A quick flour bath did the trick, as did letting them fry a bit longer. I actually double fried the first ones since the first go round went so poorly. It was a lot of work but the results were delicious! Don’t be surprised if you see my Deep Fried Lotus Root Sandwich stand at the Fair this year!


Based on this Stuffed Lotus Root with Pork.


Dish #3: By Your Powers Combined!


I couldn’t find any recipes that included both Chinese Okra and Lotus Root, so I just added the Chinese Okra to this Curry. I actually didn’t add enough either. It cooked down so much that it kind of got lost.

The curry flavor was really good and the Lotus Root adds a nice crunch, but not much else in terms of flavor. I added some lemon juice to brighten it up, which helped some. My real failing was using canned tomato sauce. Such a mistake. It would have been fine if I just added a bit less or even used a can of diced tomatoes instead. Even though the flavors were all good, I couldn’t stop tasting just a hint of spaghetti-o’s.

Based on this Lotus Root Curry with Gravy

Playing with Produce

I was excited for this homework assignment, since I am always interested in ways to incorporate new/more produce into my meal planning. The big question was which produce I wanted to use. After some consultation, I decided on artichokes and squash– both items that I enjoy eating but have little to no experience (aside from the rare stuffed acorn squash) with preparing. I went a little rogue in using “squash” so that I would have some flexibility in types of squash.

2017-03-05 20.25.08

One recipe was for a spaghetti squash dish that included artichokes. Another was for a butternut squash side dish that I served with a main dish including artichokes.

First, I made Crab-Stuffed Artichokes. The recipe can be found here:


I cut the recipe in half and am glad I did. Some things I learned, or was reminded, of in the process of preparing this recipe:

  1. Read the whole recipe. I might not have made it if I had read ahead and realized I had neither a melon-baller nor a Dutch oven in my kitchen. I made do, and it worked out okay, but it added to the already labor-intensive nature of the dish.
  2. Even though I cut the recipe in half, I would use the whole 8 oz. of crab meat if I were to make it again. The stuffing was good, but I thought the crab ratio could have been higher.
  3. Trim the spiky tops off the artichoke leaves. The recipe didn’t specify that, but it would have made the artichoke easier to work with and eat. Googling images turns up lots of stuffed artichoke recipes where the leaves have been trimmed.

I ate one of the stuffed artichokes and tossed the other in the freezer for a future meal.

2017-03-03 21.22.28

That was Friday night. On Saturday, I made Spinach Artichoke Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken. (I added mushrooms because I had some on hand to use up.)


Props to my mom, who suggested ahead of time that I ask someone in the produce department to cut the squash for me. Thanks to her and to a nice young man at Lunds & Byerlys, I was spared a huge headache and still have all my fingers.

This recipe had lots of steps but wasn’t necessarily difficult. It made a LOT of food– half of which is still in my refrigerator. The recipe could easily be a filling meal for four people. More if you have sides, salads, or other items. I will probably portion the leftovers accordingly and toss them in my freezer. (Sensing a theme here?)

2017-03-04 20.29.45

On Sunday, I made Butternut Squash Kugel. . .

2017-03-05 15.52.32

to serve as a side dish with Chicken in Artichoke Pan Sauce:


I used fresh squash but went the route of buying some that had already been peeled and cut. It was a huge time saver. I could have used frozen, as was called for in the recipe, but I felt like that would be a little too much corner-cutting. Plus, using fresh left me with some extra squash that can use in another recipe later this week.

2017-03-05 18.08.47

As with the previous meal, I added mushrooms to the chicken dish (saute with garlic and shallot– or, in my case, onion powder– at the beginning of the gravy making process). Also similar to the previous meal, I used jarred artichoke hearts. In looking for recipes, I noticed that most artichoke recipes called for artichokes to already be jarred or canned. Given my experience on Friday night, I can see why. Definitely easier to work with.

2017-03-05 19.30.09

This recipe was my favorite by far– including the kugel side dish. Of all the recipes I prepared over the weekend, it is the meal I will definitely be making again.

The challenge with buying produce in bulk, for me, is figuring out how to use all of it before it goes bad. Sometimes, though, that’s a good challenge. As noted earlier, I am inclined to prepare recipes and freeze them; so that helps. I also like the opportunity to try multiple recipes (like making tacos tomorrow with the leftover squash after having made kugel yesterday). So that can be a fun excuse to experiment and spend time in the kitchen– if you like doing those things. The best outcome of this exercise is that I am more likely to use these produce items again in the future. While I’m not in a huge rush to handle fresh artichokes again anytime soon, I am more likely to use artichokes, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash in my meal planning from now on.