You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Sweet Potato Burritos!

I remember when I first ran across this recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos in the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook–I thought the sweetness from the sweet potatoes would be an odd pairing with cumin, coriander, and cilantro, and the texture would be a little too mushy for my liking.  They were pretty darn great, actually, and the next time I made them, I “beefed” them up with some crunchy veggies and brown rice.  And, of course, I had to turn them into souped up enchilada-style burritos and top them with mango guacamole because I can never get enough fresh lime-tomato-avocado-cilantro goodness.

Another day, another yummy assembly line:

sweet potato enchilada assembly

I know this photo isn’t the best, but it sure tasted great!

sweet potato enchiladas


  • Servings: makes 15-20 burritos
  • Difficulty: easy, if you have all the ingredients ready, it's just assembly; medium, if you have to make the rice and bake the sweet potatoes, more time expenditure
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Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook


  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes, skins removed and smashed
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4-6 green onion stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced (omit if it’s too much heat for you)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups of favorite green chile or tomatillo sauce
  • 15-20 tortillas, flour or corn, depending on preference (corn tortillas are typically smaller and you will be able to make many more burritos)
  • 4-5 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Mix the ingredients through salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. If you are using uncooked flour tortillas, heat up a good stack for filling.  Corn tortillas are much more pliable when heated, so you can prepare them in a warm pan with oil, too.  Flour tortillas will heat up great without any oil, but pour a tablespoon or so of oil in the pan between corn tortillas.
  3. Spray a deep 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray and spread 2 cups of green chile or tomatillo sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  4. I use my favorite #40 cookie scooper for even filling distribution: scoop 3 scoops in the flour tortilla, side by side, and if you’re feeling cheesy that night, put a sprinkling of cheese before wrapping and placing in the baking dish.  Continue until your dish is full, usually about 12-15 burritos.  If you can squeeze more burritos in for the party, go for it.  If you’d rather give your burritos some toe room, have two pans (and more sauce) ready to go.  It’s your kitchen, no one’s gonna get offended how you want to do things!
  5. Once the pans are full, pour 2 more cups of sauce over the top of the burritos and sprinkle more cheese over the burritos (optional).  Bake, uncovered, until the edges are crispy and golden, about 20 minutes.

Serving Suggestions: Top with a dollop of sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt, scoop of Mango Guacamole, fresh chopped cilantro; serve with a side of fresh mixed green salad and sliced tomatoes with squeezed lime on top.

The Best Croutons in the World

If I ever have leftover rice or risotto, it *always* gets turned into arancini (ah-ran-cheen-ee): fried Italian rice balls, crispy on the outside, creamy rice on the inside and a melty cheese surprise right in the middle.  And since I usually load up my risotto with veggies, they’re in the rice ball party, too.  Although this may be sacrilege for hardcore risotto foodies out there,  I prefer using leftover risotto because it’s already sort of sticky and gummy and holds its shape really well in ball form.  If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can use any leftover rice, or cook up some of your own.

arancini assembly


There’s a small time expenditure getting the rice balls ready along the assembly line (I always keep power tools at the end, just in case any of those arancini get a little rowdy), but it’s worth it, and once everything is ready, the frying only takes a few minutes.  For these particular arancini, I used leftover risotto with roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts.



Arancini are traditionally served with a side of marinara for dipping, but I have come to like serving them on top of a salad–they’re the best croutons in the world!  This salad was a pre-packaged kale salad with yogurt curry dressing I found in Costco.  I usually make at least a dozen or more at a time (if I’m heating up a whole pot of oil, I better make it worth its weight in gold!)–they freeze really well and reheat crisp-perfectly.


  • Servings: enough for a party
  • Difficulty: medium, for time expenditure with assembly
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This recipe is adapted from Kelly Senyei’s Arancini recipe.  Part of my adaptation is using leftover risotto, so this recipe reflects “leftovers”.  If you don’t have leftovers, cook up some rice to use–Kelly does a great job explaining which rice works best.


  • 4 cups leftover vegetable risotto
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 12-15 one-inch squares of cheese.  {I have used fresh mozzarella, “Babybel” circles cut in fourths, a bunch of muenster cheese sandwich slices stacked and cut–whatever I have on hand, and they’ve all worked out just fine}
  • For the assembly line, have a shallow dish ready with 4 beaten eggs, and another shallow dish ready with 2 cups panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon italian seasoning and a couple shakes of salt and pepper, and a cookie sheet prepped with a sheet of parchment paper.  The arancini will rest here after forming into balls and before going to the fryer.


  1. Prepare a large pot with four inches of oil, place over medium heat.  Use a pot thermometer to ensure the oil reaches 375, not too hot or it will smoke and burn your arancini, and not too cool, or the arancini will be heavy and dense and full of oil, not light and crispy.
  2. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Assembly line:  I use a #40 cookie scoop (it measures to about 1.5 tablespoons), scoop one scoop of the rice mixture in your hand, place a square of cheese, then top with another scoop of rice and form into a ball.  Next, roll the rice ball in the beaten eggs until all sides are covered, and then roll around in the seasoned breadcrumbs.  Feel free to squeeze the rice ball in cupped hands to make sure it’s stable, and place on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  Continue forming the arancini until the rice mixture is gone.  Watch the oil while you are making the arancini so it doesn’t get too hot.  If the oil reaches 375 while you are still assembling, go ahead and start frying.  You’ll get the rhythm.
  4. Once the oil is ready, carefully drop 3-4 balls at a time in the oil to fry.  Roll them around in the oil using a slotted spoon or a wire-mesh spider, and pull out of the oil when they are golden brown, usually 3-4 minutes does the trick.  Have a cooling rack ready on the counter with paper towels under it to catch any dripping oil, and keep the arancini on the cooling rack–they’ll stay crispier there than a cookie sheet.
  5. Serve warm, with a salad (preferred!), or with a side of marinara.  Once they are completely cooled, you can put them in a gallon freezer bag, label with the date, and freeze for future devouring.

Avocado Citrus Salad with Creamy Lime Poppy Seed Dressing and Pistachios


citrus avocado salad

Owing to the fact that a) I spent 5 hours this afternoon clearing some boxes and assembling a computer table and therefore had zero dinner prep time, and b) the boys and I ate three quarters of a bog of chocolate chips during said afternoon project (moving has its benefits, right?), I figured a salad was in order for dinner.

The avocado bag had a great salad suggestion: Avocado Citrus Salad with Lime Poppy Seed Dressing.  Buttery avocado, bitter grapefruit sections, zesty lime poppy seed dressing–it was refreshing and yummy and I felt really chefy sectioning the grapefruit.  The recipe called for more citrus by also sectioning an orange, but I didn’t have any oranges on hand, so I instead used a nectarine.  I also love throwing something crunchy on a salad and opted for salty pistachios.  We had leftover biscuits and peach jam on the side.

After all that southern talk yesterday I really had a hankering for buttermilk biscuits today, and my oldest was in total agreement.  He can down hot biscuits smothered in butter and honey like the best of them.  Can something be crunchy and fluffy and pillowy and melty and honey sweet all at the same time?  Yes, yes it can.  And yes, we seriously only ate biscuits and honey for lunch.

Oh, and speaking of crunchy, fluffy, pillowy, melty and honey sweet…my hubby walked in from work tonight to the desk being partially finished, just the hutch on top had yet to be assembled.  He took over the building process so I could throw together our dinner.  He came in to the kitchen and said, in all seriousness, “Good thing I got here when I did; one of the pieces didn’t have predrilled holes and I think it would have thrown you for a loop.”  I gave him one of those wife-looking-at-silly-husband looks (you know the kind) and said, “You came home to your wife having built a desk and you think a few missing holes would have thrown me for a loop?”  And then we both started laughing.  Things always go butter-smooth in a marriage when you can laugh at/with yourself and your spouse.


  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Shawn Syphus’ Citrus Salad


  • 4-6 cups mixed greens (I like the Power Green mix from Costco)
  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 nectarines, diced
  • 2 avocados, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 green onion stalks, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup pistachios


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (4-6 whole limes, depending on size)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3/4 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste


For two, this will make a large salad for dinner, for four it will make smaller fresh side salads.  Divide the greens among the number of salad bowls you are using.  Evenly divide the grapefruit sections, nectaries, green onions and avocados between the salads, and sprinkle with pistachios.  Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle over the salads.  Because you have the acids (lime and vinegar) and cream (sour cream or yogurt) together, the dressing will separate while sitting in the fridge waiting for its next salad.  Just shake or stir and it’ll reconstitute for secondary use.

Creamy Polenta with Pesto and Potato Hash

polenta with pesto and potato hash

I grew up in Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington DC.  Did you know I never knew Virginia was still considered part of “the south” until we moved to Pennsylvania before my junior year of high school??!!  I mean, I’d had all the Civil War history lessons, and I knew it was “the south” then, and “the south” during the Civil Rights Movement, but that was the past, right?!  When we moved, everyone at school asked me if I were from Virginia, why didn’t I speak with a Southern accent?

I have also since come to learn that calling my mom’s friends “Miss Trina” and “Mr. Stuart” and “Miss Irene” and “Mr. Joe” is a very Southern thing, and culinarily speaking, Southerners love their biscuits, pies, sweet and salty combos, and creamy things (ie. cream of wheat, creamy grits, creamy puddings and custards and creme brûlée and such)…so it’s good to know I often cook to my roots.  I remember my stepdad loved eating grits for breakfast, but I had no idea grits and polenta were pretty much on the same family tree.  Grits is cornmeal cooked with water or milk, and it turns out grits is “poor man’s polenta”.

Polenta is just a coarser ground cornmeal, and used to be peasant food in Italy, but it’s been gaining ground as a super yummy upscale restauranty item.  I still have yet to try and make polenta fries like I ordered at Riverhorse in Park City with that amazing roasted beet salad.  You can have creamy polenta and top it with all sorts of things, or you can pour it into a pan and cut it in strips or circles or squares and then grill it or fry it and it’ll be crispy crunchy on the outside and oh so creamy on the inside.

I was originally going to try Del Sroufe’s Polenta Pizza with Pesto, Caramelized Onions, and Potatoes, but decided to turn it into creamy polenta and top it with pesto (is it bad that I still have homemade pesto in my freezer from my garden two years ago?), caramelized onions, green lentils, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  If I’d had fresh basil, I would have put some on top.  Fresh garden, I need you!–Definitely next year’s numero uno project!


  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives Cookbook


  • 1 cup coarse ground polenta
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 medium sized red potatoes, diced
  • 4 tablespoons of your favorite pesto
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • sprinkling of parmesan cheese (optional)


  1. First prepare the polenta and lentils.  If you start with the lentils, you can let them simmer while you get the rest of the components ready.  Heat 1/2 cup lentils and 1 cup vegetable stock in a medium pot.  One it reaches a boil, turn heat down to low and cover the pot; allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed.  Keep watching the lentils to make sure the liquid isn’t absorbed too quickly.  You may need to add 1/2 cup or so of more of liquid, if needed.
  2. For the polenta bring 3 cups of water a 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium pot.  Have 2 more cups of water ready.  Once the 3 cups water is boiling, add 1 cup polenta to the pot, stirring constantly, and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Over the next 20-30 minutes, gradually add the 2 cups remaining water to the polenta and stir frequently.  The polenta will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pot.  [It’s true–cornmeal cooks pretty quickly and looks like it’s ready after just 5-10 minutes of stirring, but it’s important to cook it for the complete 30 minutes–it totally changes the texture to smooth and creamy.  I also like to add a dab of butter and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese and stir it all up.]
  3. To make the caramelized onions, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let saute, stirring occasionally over 20 minutes or so, until the onion is cooked down and golden brown.
  4. Saute the diced potatoes in another pan, with a few tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir every so often until they are golden brown.
  5. To serve, put a good scoop of polenta in your bowl, then a few tablespoons of your favorite pesto, the caramelized onions, the lentils, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.