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Savoury Sweets — Sweet Potato and Mushroom Lasagna

My early encounters with sweet potatoes were of the Thanksgiving variety – candied from a can and topped with marshmallows and tooth-achingly sweet. I was not a big fan. I wanted dessert for dessert, and not for dinner, and if I was going to have dessert, I wanted it to be something good, like chocolate, or at least pumpkin pie.
It wasn’t until I was all grown up and had my own kitchen that I discovered the myriad and delicious uses to which sweet potatoes could be put. (And when I say sweet potatoes, to be clear, I mean thin reddish skin, orange flesh. Sometimes called yams. To be distinguished from the white fleshed sweet potatoes you find in Japan and the Caribbean, and “true yams”). Baked with a little butter and salt, mashed with garlic, or cut into French fries, sweet potatoes offered that lovely caramel sweetness that stands up so well to savoury applications. (I’m still no fan of the sweet with sweet. Unless you are talking about sweet potato pie, which is properly served as a dessert, or the sweet potato cake served up by my husband’s Southern grandmother. My contribution to Thanksgiving is a spicy sweet potato gratin. My grandmother has a conniption about the departure from tradition and then eats it with gusto.)
This lasagna takes the noble sweet potato out of the category of “side dishes” and into the main course, where it rightfully belongs. The goat cheese and basil add a little piquancy to counter the mellowness of the sweet potato flavor, and the mushrooms add an extra oomph of umami.
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The Big Easy — New Orleans Red Beans and Rice in the Crockpot

March 2009 186 Louis Armstrong reportedly signed all of his letters “Red Beans and Rice-ly yours” in a tribute to New Orleans. Few dishes are as strongly associated with one city as Red Beans and Rice is with the Big Easy. And it’s no wonder — the dish is easy to prepare, easy to afford, and easy to eat. Just a few ingredients — beans, some vegetables, a few spices — are transformed. It may not LOOK like much, but it tastes just dandy. The simplicity, of course, made it perfect for my week of low budget meals. Dried beans are inexpensive, the vegetables are staples, and I have a well stocked spice cabinet. This is also a dish that is regularly in rotation in my household, because it cooks best in the crockpot. And if you are a working mother (or working anything, frankly), the crockpot should be your friend. Read more … [...]

Enchiladas, my lady

March 2009 179 Read more … Here’s a confession: I have never before made enchiladas. I only added them to my weekly menu because of what I had in the pantry — enchilada sauce (used in a variety of dishes), corn tortillas, chicken, cheese. But I hadn’t the foggiest clue as to how to turn these elements into enchiladas. Luckily for me, enchiladas are one of the easiest, most adaptable things I had made in a while. They take no time at all to make, can use any number of things from your pantry or refrigerator, and taste fantastic. Even the Nuni liked them, and let me tell you — girl is a PICKY eater. [...]

Frugality, Part 2

So, the challenge was to be frugal this week — I had $66* remaining in my grocery budget for the week, when I typically spend between $150 and $200 a week. This really wasn’t an extraordinarily difficult challenge because I did and do have a pretty well-stocked pantry/freezer. I was out of a couple of staples, however, but still. I’m really not the person to look to for extreme frugality. If you want extreme frugality look to the folks of the The One Dollar Diet Project or Less is Enough. I have neither the time nor the inclination to do that kind of frugality, and I’m very thankful that I don’t have the need, either. Read more … [...]

Frugality, Part 1

So, um, I haven’t yet exceeded my grocery budget for the month but I have a little less than half of my normal grocery budget to work with this week to bring it in. (and I’m not even counting the order I just placed at the Spice House — whoops!) I have some stuff in the freezer to work with, a head of cabbage, probably some pasta, some tortillas, salads, some chicken tenders, prunes, olives, various pantry items. How can I get my grocery dollars to stretch? Read more … [...]