Smokey Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Eggs and Bacon

One of the first things I did when I switched to a low GI way of eating is to swap out sweet potatos for regular spuds. Sweet potatos are lower on the glycemic index (between 40 and 90, depending on preparation) then their white fleshed counterparts (between 60 - 98)and are chock full of vitamins A and C and fiber. I try to incorporate them into our diet at least once per week.

I was in search of a new sweet potato recipe that I could incorporate into our dining routine that is made with pantry/fridge staples. This is what I came up with. Chris ate this and all I heard was "mmmmm....mmmmm....mmmmm...." coming from his direction. That's when I knew I had a winner of a dish.

Smokey Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Eggs and Bacon serves 4

4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound sweet potatos, peeled and grated
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper
4 eggs

Heat large skillet to medium high. Add bacon and fry until browned and crisp, about 8 - 10 minutes. Removed bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and reserve. Pour bacon drippings into a heat-proof bowl and reserve.

Add 2 T of bacon drippings to pan and heat over medium-high. Add onions and fry until soft, about 4 minutes. Add sweet potatos, paprika, garlic powder and pepper. Fry, stirring often, until soft and warm (about 15 minutes.) Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 T bacon grease. Crack eggs into pan and fry over medium heat to desired doneness.

To serve, spoon has browns onto serving plate. Top with one fried egg and sprinkle with cooked bacon.

Sometimes I even amaze myself - No Sugar Onion Marmalade and Turkey Bistro Burger

OK everyone, here it is. This is my "I-cannot-believe-I-made-this-myself" onion marmalade recipe. It makes a small batch and could easily be doubled, quadrupled, etc. It is AMAZING. I could have eaten it by the spoonful without the burger.

No-Sugar Onion Marmalade (makes 12 servings)

2 slices of bacon, diced
1 1/2 pounds onions, sliced thin
2 t olive oil
1/2 t salt
2/3 C dark agave syrup
3/4 C red wine
1/4 C balsamic vinegar

Heat a large, non-reative skillet on medium. Add bacon and fry until the fat is rendered. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel. Keep bacon for another use or discard.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add onions, olive oil and salt. Place lid on pan and let cook, undisturbed for 15 minutes. Remove pan, stir and continue to cook, sitrring every few minutes, until onions are golden brown.

Add the remaining ingredients. Cook over medium-high heat until reduced but still viscous (test by running your spoon thru the onions - if it leaves a long valley it is done.)

A nutritional analysis reveals that this is not a low cal food (so it unfortunately can't be eaten all the time) but is is low in sugar and has a good sugar to fiber ratio. Here's the analysis:

Amount Per Serving

Calories - 99
Calories from Fat - 7
Total Fat - 0.8g (1%)
Trans Fat - 0.0g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 113mg (5%)
Total Carbohydrates - 20.5g (7%)
Dietary Fiber - 1.0g (4%)
Sugars 2.5g
Protein 0.6g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 2%
Iron 2%

Are you drooling yet? You should be.

As you can see, I served the onion marmalade on a turkey burger with the crumbled bacon and bleu cheese. Later in the week, I served it with grilled slices of tri tip and also mixed it into my vinegrette and used it as a salad topping. Delish!

My yummy and healthy submission for the Feasting on Art Recipe Contest

A few days ago I submitted a recipe to a recipe contest - a first for me (for those who have asked, I submitted my marinara recipe to Taste of Home). This got me thinking that maybe there were other contests out there that might appreciate my particular take on healthy eating. My search for such contests lead me to a lovely blog called Feasting on Art.

The fine folks at Feasting on Art are seeking submissions which utilize the ingredients depicted in the painting Strawberries by Renoir ( Inspired by the painting and a recent muffin recipe that I ate (not made) whose primary ingredient was almond meal, I starting thinking about cake. Mmmmm....cake. I don't eat much cake these days and it would be wonderful if I could use the flourless muffin recipe, strawberries and lemons and come up with cake. A good tasting, delicious and not-too-bad for you cake at that. A tall order, to be sure, but I was up to the challenge.

I started by researching sponge cakes make with almond meal (a sponge is about all I am up for at the moment - I don't have time to frost anything these days). I found a few, even one on a low GI blog, but these all used granulated sugar. That is a no-no for me, so I made a few calculations, tweaked the proportions and put together this recipe. This is my first shot at this cake, and I have to admit that it is a winner right out of the gate. I highly recommend you try it. Even my kids gave it two-thumbs up.

(My apologies in advance to our friends at Feasting on Art - my photography skills are sorely lacking, but the recipe is delish - so I hope that makes up for my dismal picture).

Almond Lemon Sponge with Agave Cream and Strawberries (serves 8)

1/4 C butter, softened
1/3 C light agave syrup
4 eggs, divided
3/4 C flour
1/2 C almond meal
rind from 2 small lemons, grated
juice from one small juicy lemon (or use two if the lemons aren't very juicy)
pinch salt
2 1/2 t baking powder

Agave Cream
1/3 C heavy whipping cream
1 T light agave syrup

Heat oven to 400 f. Lightly grease and flour one 9" round cake pan. Set aside.

Beat butter in a medium bowl with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add agave syrup and 4 egg whites. Whip until well incorporated and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.

r batter into prepared cake pan. Bake until lightly golden brown (around 15 minutes). Do not overbake.

While the cake is baking, prepare the Agave Cream by beating heavy cream and agave syrup to soft peaks.

Let cake cool into pan. When cooled, cut into 8 slices. To serve, garnish with Agave Cream and fresh sliced strawberries.

The nutritional analysis on this recipe is as follows (includes agave cream and two strawberries per slice as garnish)

Calories -236
Calories from Fat -116
Total Fat - 12.9g (20%)
Saturated Fat - 5.7g (29%)
Trans Fat - 0.0g
Cholesterol - 115mg (38%)
Sodium - 106mg (4%)
Total Carbohydrates - 26.3g (9%)
Dietary Fiber - 1.6g (6%)
Sugars 1.6g
Protein 5.6g

If I made the same recipe using all white flour and sugar (instead of almond meal and agave), we would be looking at 252 calories, 36.5g of carbs, 1.1g fiber and 16.3g sugar. Vastly different, especially where the sugar is concerned. Compare this to a similarly sized lemon square, and you will save 22g of carbs and 33g of sugar per serving. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

Making small changes for a big impact

Awhile back, I was chatting about a friend about my new way of eating. I jokingly said "I am a bit obsessed!" and she quickly agreed. I was a taken aback by her hearty agreement, since I really was kidding when I mentioned my obsession. She pointed out that the change in my diet was so radical that she couldn't imagine doing what I had done. I protested, saying that the changes to my way of eating were not radical at all. But in retrospect, she was right.

Since that time, I have wondered how I managed to get to where I am today. In truth, I still struggle, particularly when we are out of town or celebrating, but otherwise, I stick to my eating plan fairly religiously. How then, given my history with "diets" and my generally laziness where food is concerned, have I been able to change so radically and more importantly, remained so committed and happy about it? I am fairly certain my success has to do with making incremental changes.

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the size of my ass. It took me 40 years to get to where I was at, so I reasoned that it would take quite awhile to get myself to a point of good health. Once I came to peace with the fact that living a healthy lifestyle was a long-term proposition, making changes to my diet became easier. I came to realize that eating healthy is something that I have to do for the rest of my life, so finding ways to make the change sustainable was of utmost importance.

In looking at my then current diet, I decided to find small ways where I could make an immediate, lasting impact and worry about the "big" changes later (little did I know that the "big" change is really just an accumulation of little changes). I changed one habit at a time, slowly over the course of a number of months, so that there was no huge shock to my body or to my psyche.

Here is a list of small changes that I have made to my diet. While incomplete, you might find some easy solutions for yourself or a gaping whole in my plan. Either way, please let me know what you think. I love to hear feedback.

Small Changes for a Big Impact
  1. Read food labels
  2. Eliminate white foods from your diet (a biggie with a large caveat, but a good way to get started)
  3. Change your bread to whole grain, or better still, sprouted grain
  4. If it contains HFCS, trans-fats or MSG, don't eat it
  5. Incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet
  6. Replace sugar with agave syrup or other low-gi sweetener of your choice
  7. Give up soda (try iced tea or water with lemon instead)
  8. Limit the sodium content of processed foods to no more than 5% per serving
  9. Look for healthier alternatives to your favorite foods so that you don't feel deprived (for instance, my kids eat Kashi TLC bars instead of NutriGrain bars and we all enjoy natural peanut butter instead of Jif or Kraft)
  10. Cut out the junk foods (chips, crackers, candy, etc.)
  11. Replace sweetened yogurt with plain yogurt that you sweeten yourself (try 100% fruit jam or fresh seasonal fruit)
  12. If you can easily make it yourself, don't buy processed (for instance, seasoning mixes or bread crumbs)

The post that started it all - Sprouted Lentil Burgers

In an attempt to be virtuous, I am removing my last frozen sprouted lentil burger from my freezer today. I will eat it for dinner while my children dine on left over pizza (don't judge me - I was sick and single parenting last night, so pizza was the best I could do). As I now have 5 official followers (**yippee**) I thought I would post this to the blog. I first posted this on FB a few months back. It was such a hit that the blog ensued. If you haven't seen this yet, enjoy. If you have, enjoy again.

Sprouted Lentil Burgers (Makes 4)

½ C dried lentils sprouted 3-4 days (this amount should fill at least ¾ full a large mason jar)
1 large bell pepper (I used yellow)
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil, divided
2 T butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 ¼ C bread crumbs, divided *
1 t tarragon leaves
½ t oregano leaves
Pinch hot pepper flakes
1 T parsley flakes
S and P to taste

Sprout lentils 3 – 4 days or until sprouts are 2 – 3 times the length of the bean. If you need instructions on sprouting, here is a good youtube video: (BTW, you don’t need a sprouting lid for your mason jar. I just cover mine with an old piece of nylon stocking (clean, of course!) or a thin dish towel). Add sprouted, cleaned lentils to a food processor and pulse until lentils are ground, about the size of corn meal. Set aside in a large bowl.

In the food processor, add the bell pepper, onion and garlic cloves. Pulse until the same size as the lentils. Add 1 T olive oil into a frying pan. Fry pepper, onion and garlic mix over med-high heat until soft and golden brown (about 8 minutes).

Meanwhile, prepare bread crumb mix with ¾ C bread crumbs, parsley flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and put into pie pan or other shallow bowl as this is the breading for your burgers.

Add pepper mix to the bowl of ground lentils. Add the following ingredients to the bowl: butter, egg (I used egg whites, but a regular egg would do fine), ½ C bread crumbs, tarragon, oregano, hot pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Mix well. Divide mixture into 4 and gently shape into ball-sized patties. If the mixture is too wet to hold its shape, try squeezing a little bit of the liquid out of the patty before you form it. Dredge patties well in bread crumb mixture and set on a plate. Chill in refrigerator (or freezer) until set, at least one hour.

When ready to cook, add 1T olive oil to pan and heat to med-high. Fry patties until golden brown on heated through, approximately 6 – 8 minutes. Serve on sprouted grain toast with shredded carrot, lettuce and lime-mayo sauce.

(NOTE that these freeze well, but must be thawed completely before cooking)

Lime Mayo Sauce

4 T mayo
1 t lime juice
S & P to taste

Mix well in small bowl. Serve over sprouted lentil burgers.

Finally about bread crumbs

While I generally eschew processed foods these days, there are several that I still use. My rule for buying processed is 1) is it useful? 2) is it healthful? and 3) is it hard to produce at home? If the item doesn't fit all three tests, then it stays on the shelf at the store. Things like yogurt, most condiments, peanut butter and the like pass my test and are regularly found in my shopping cart. The one thing that you will never see me purchase is bread crumbs.

Store bought bread crumbs mystify me. Why in the world would I pay good money for something that I can get for free? For free you say? Yes, for free. Besides free, they are better for you too (but more on that later).

We all buy bread and how many of us actually eat the heels? No one in my house does. Even when I bring (gasp!) white bread into the house, I cannot pay my family to eat the heels of the bread. I used to throw them away, but then it dawned on me.... BREAD CRUMBS!

Here's what I do: When we are at the end of a loaf of bread, I keep the heels in the bread bag and chuck the whole thing, bag and all, into the freezer. When my freezer is getting full of empty bread bags (or I run out of bread crumbs) I pull the bags out of the freezer and dump the frozen bread bits into my food processor (the blender works too). Five minutes later, I have an overflowing large zip-top bag full of free bread crumbs (about $5 worth if you purchased them at the market). I tuck the zip-top bag into my freezer and I have bread crumbs ready whenever I need them. Viola!

Now, I know that a $5 savings every month or two isn't going to impact my bottom line, but its the principal that does it for me. Besides the $30-odd dollars a year that it saves me, making my own bread crumbs is better for me too. I can hear you all saying "Oh Julie Anne, PLEEEEEZE! They are bread crumbs for heavens sake!" Yes, you are right, they are only bread crumbs, but I am still putting them in my mouth. I used to buy Progresso Plain Bread Crumbs. They contain the following:

Bread Crumbs (Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil [Soybean and/Or Cottonseed and/Or Corn and/Or Canola], Water, Salt. Contains 2% Or Less of: Yeast, Honey, Molasses, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Whey, Soy Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Rhy Flour, Corn Flour, Oat Bran, Corn Meal, Rice Flour, Pnotato Flour, Butter, Dough Conditioners [Mono- and Diglycerides, Sodium and/Or Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, Soy Lectchin, Calcium Carbonate], Yeast Nutrients [Ammonium Sulfate, Calcium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate], Vinegar, Nonfat Milk, Buttermilk, Lactic Acid, Calcium Propionate and Pnotassium Sorbate [Preservatives], Sesame Seeds), Oat Flour, Sunflower Seeds, Egg.

BLECK! Why bleck? Let's look at what is in here. Sugar occurs 5 times - yes, really - 5 times, in the ingredient list (high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, honey, molasses and sugar). There is hydrogenated oil in here too. Read no further - you don't want to eat this stuff. Instead try making your own from bread that you already have (nutrition caveat: buy good bread!) and your pocket book and your body will thank you (and you will feel virtuous too.)