Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can this dinner be saved? African sweet potato stew and a hungry family.

Helllooooooo, everybody!! The Fresh Pioneer is back! It's been raining non-stop for a week and a half, and we're all yearning for comfort food.
Like this. Exactly like this.

But what do you do when the oven is broken and all you have is the stove top? I do remember Julie had some microwave version of a chocolate cake, but I could see me spending all day making teeny tiny cakes and there would be no dinner.

So, I must make comfort food that could pass for dinner. (Note: I said PASS. Let's not get all picky.)
This is a yam. This is a yam that was forgotten. This yam was forgotten for many weeks. This yam has decided to seek out other life forms in the hope of becoming more than a yam. I took pity on this yam and used my powers of google (TM, copyright, please-don't-sue-me-I-am-but-a-poor-author).

Apparently, yams can be used for more than sweet potato pie, which is what I wanted to try when I bought it, before the oven issue came up.
Castoldi's Walla Walla Sweet Onions from the farmer's market. You'll need one. (Onion, not farmer's market, although those are useful as well.)
Fresh garlic, minced. Excuse the overexposure. It is my shining halo reflecting on the olive oil in the pan. (Julie, stop laughing.)
Through the power of the blog, we've jumped ahead to adding one diced sweet onion and one tired yam in a skillet on medium. Sautee until onion is softened.
The recipe calls for 4 cups of chicken broth, but all I have is bouillon. So, four cups of water, add the boullon. (Don't make me pull this blog over and give you directions on that, because I will!)
1 Tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin

Those savory herbs are really, really, really important to balance out the yam. So, do not skip. I know,  cumin is related to cilantro which is related to feet. We've discussed this.
A few cans of diced tomatoes and some green salsa. (Here's the thing. The recipe calls for tomatoes and hot peppers. See where we're going with this? Hot, sweet, spicy? So, use your own judgment. You can open some canned tomatoes, cut some fresh, dice a jalapeno, or put in a jar of salsa. I don't think it matters much, as long as it's spicy like salsa and not savory like spaghetti sauce.)
A few cans of cannellini beans. It called for garbanzos, but there is not a member of this family who eats garbanzos. Why ruin a good thing, eh?
Everything is simmering quite nicely. Mmmmm. The house smells delicious! This is the point the children crowd around, wondering when it will be done. And because I'm a mean Mama, I have waited for this moment to bring out the secret ingredient.
Several large TBS of peanut butter. MWAHAHAHAHAHA! (That's evil laughter, for those who do not spend much time on facebook and are friends with teens.)
This is my 7 year old's face directly after the peanut butter went in. He's rethinking his need for dinner.
With rice, this is my husband's bowl. MMMMM.
And this is his second helping. Do you see the difference? I spy.... couscous. I made rice AND couscous because I was afraid I had hit that all-important degree know as TOO MANY WEIRD THINGS ON MY PLATE AT ONCE and he wouldn't eat it. But once he had the rice, then he was okay with pairing the stew with the couscous.
When I lived in France, my middle school served couscous 4 times a week. (Of course, it didn't look like that because it was cafeteria food and we all know cafeteria food lives on the very edge of edible.)  It's just normal for me. But for him, it's like eating lizard tongues.  So, one step at a time.
Seriously, this was probably one of the best dishes I've ever made. Definitely going in the keeper file for the next time I forget a large yam or I've been putting off appliance shopping or I feel like scaring my kids. It reminded me a lot of Thai peanut sauce: spicy and sweet and a perfect texture.
And just because this was funny, I'll post this little pic of the top Christian romance list on Amazon. Aren't they cute? So different, but they grew up in the same house and have the same mom. Some kids get on the big bus and they pretend they don't know each other, but my babies stick together. Probably eating the cookies out of their lunch boxes before the bus even gets to its destination. Those are my girls! Of course, little sister isn't quite old enough for this trip, but she's only a few steps behind, growing up fast, looking for the day they'll hog the whole row.
Ok, until next time, dearies! I hope you all have a wonderful week and I survive my camping trip + traveling with six kids + book release, I'll see you next week!!



  1. Haha, love the dry humor! That poor yam. And we love couscous around here, but definitely not with peanut butter. And what are you releasing? Or is it a big secret?

    1. P.S. Do you prefer your couscous a certain size? I don't like the eenie-meenie size very much. Larger is better in this house.

    2. It's the opposite here- the itty-bitty is better, it tastes closer to the stuff they eat in Morocco. The larger size looks like Acini di pepe (which I don't like either).

    3. That's it! I like the pasta texture, but not the Moroccon version, which feels overcooked and a bit gritty to me. :)

      More orzo, less couscous. Probably my American taste buds affecting my cooking...

    4. And my European taste buds are affecting my preferences. ;)

  2. Oh, I mentioned it last week so I didn't want to spam everybody AGAIN! It's called 'Leaving Liberty', a contemporary romance. Just a stand-alone title set to come out July 1st... Unless I suddenly decide it needs a series. Like 'Running from Reno' and 'Walking Away from Winnipeg' and 'Slipping out of San Diego', etc., etc.

    1. What, no Southern cities?

    2. Ummmmm, 'Meandering from Memphis'!! Sounds like an Alzheimer's novel...

  3. The yam looked like it was sending out signals for the mothership. For some reason I thought of the movie "Signs" and how the uncle and two kids made aluminum foil hats so the aliens couldn't get through to their brains. So the yam needed an aluminum foil hat.

    Tired (it's nearly 1 a.m. here and I'm tired of my synopsis and tired of genealogy research and I need a shower, my bed and pillow and the Debra Clopton Mule Hollow book I'm currently reading), so please forgive my nonsense of the above paragraph. (Right now you're fortunate I'm catching all my typos...)

    Sounds like an interesting dish. Not sure my gang would go for it, but just in case I'll keep it in mind.

    Night! ;-)

  4. Hahahaha! It totally looked like that!! I should have made a tiny foil hat...

    And hugs on the synopsis. Evil little critters. Unnecessary and evil. But it is a hoop we must jump through sometimes.

  5. Thanks for the laugh because I needed it for sure. This looks wonderful.

    I wonder how quinoa would do with the stew since I can't have couscous.

    So how did the peanut butter addition go over with the kidlets?

    Peace, Julie

  6. Well, one said it was just like eating an alien sandwich (what we call PB and pickles). So, salty and sweet can go together!

    I think anything would be fine with the stew an I actually ate it without any rice or couscous the next day. The only thing I noticed was my blood sugar went weird. A few hours later I was STARVING. I think that was the sugar in the yams. I was thinking it was so healthy... and yes, but definitely heavy on the carbs.

  7. You have me wondering..... Staring and wondering... I made need to walk away, walk a dog, and come back.

    This is an unlikely pairing, tripling, quadrupling of so many things.

    But you said Sweet Potato Pie and that reminds me that one of my sweet daycare mothers bought me one at the Farmer's Market last week. I ate a third (it was one of the little pies, 4 inches....) and froze the rest to keep me on my diet.... with pecan praline topping, no less.

    And I have a back of yams in my cupboard, fresh ones, just brought home by Dave. I admit I'm afraid to do this to an innocent yam..... And yet...

    the combo....

    Actually sounds good, like something I'd get at a restaurant I'd pass by because I'd be afraid I'd hate the food and waste money.

    Does this make any sense at all? Clearly I am a frustrated Puritan Yankee!!!!

    1. Well, this was a desperation dish because I HATE to waste food. Maybe like you hate to waste money.
      So, if I had yams in a can, this never would have been made! Especially if they'd last another week before the oven arrived!

      I NEED SWEET POTATO PIE. But that's beside the point.

  8. Okay, I'm all over this one.

    First of all, you have the sweet potatoes, onion and garlic all chillin' out together, have a great convo with their different flavors, having a party...

    and then - SNAP - here comes the cumin!

    Oh yeah. That sounds delish.

    Not so sure about the peanut butter - it seems like it would kill the party as much as Uncle Stew showing up with his whoopie cushion - but I'll try it.

    And which turned out better? The rice or the couscous?

    (and congrats on your girls hangin' out on that awesome Amazon page together!)

    1. Lol, Jan! You crack me up!

      And I think without the PB, it was good. Definitely a stew. But with?? It was a whole 'nother ball game. AMAZING.

      I'm a couscous fan, so I vote couscous. And I like to say it. Couscous. There it is again.

    2. And thank you! What I love those rankings is that it fuels my sales for the second in the series. 200 a day each at .99 and 35% royalty isn't crazy money, but 100 a day at 2.99 with 70% is crazy money to me. That makes me SMILE. And my husband encourage more writing time, strangely.

    3. My husband keeps asking when he can retire.

      Silly man.

      I have things to do, people to see, LAND TO BUY!!!!!

    4. Weird, we just had that conversation and he's so traditional, I'm not sure I can ever convince him to retire. He's a man's man, where you go work up a sweat and come home exhausted and your wife cooks up a pan of bacon!

      Hm. Land. I never thought of that. I just keeping thinking of the three smallest littlies who have no college account (my grandparents passed before they were born).

    5. The college account sure helps. We weren't able to do anything for our own children - except give them a first class, solid education - but my parents started one of those college tuition savings accounts for each of their grandchildren when my mom retired. It doesn't cover everything, but it sure helps! And no, those kids don't take it for granted!

    6. I was a senior in college before I realized that most of my friends had 20K or more in debt. I HAD NO IDEA. I was so naïve. I thought everybody just paid in cash.

      So, yeah, working hard to avoid those college loan payments I see friends struggling to pay off, even 15 years later.

  9. I love that look on the kid's face. They are so inhibited aren't they?

    Love the look of the school bus kids too!

    I need to make couscous more often. Okay, I don't make it at all, but this recipe gives me inspiration.


    1. There are some really delicious couscous recipes! I don't like the tiny size, it makes me think of sand. But the pink, fluffy version is yumm-o.

      Of course, like rice, it's something I can never cook quite right. A little slimier than it should be, but still good!

  10. I am very confused. You put peanut butter in it? Your middle school was in France and had a cafeteria? I thought French kids ate at the local Patisserie.

    1. ??

      Cafeteria had 5 very long tables and you sat down, with silverware and npkins, and they passed the dishes down the row. It was very civilized.
      Northern France, maybe that makes a difference.

      I would have preferred the Patisserie but there ya go.

    2. And yes, peanut butter. PB= peanut butter.

  11. First: Congrats on two top selling slots on Amazon!!! Love it!

    Second: I just pulled the eyes/sprouts of sweet potatoes yesterday but decided I wasn't in the mood for a baked one. So NOW! I can actually use them! And I have couscous on hand. PERFECTO!

    1. Awesome!! Let me know how it goes!

      And those aren't the two top spots (an right now they're 8 and 10 or something). Funny, this historical list has some friends on it and it's a hoot. Jamie Adams' "Love's Golden Quest" has a wagon on the front. I was so sick of sitting behind her at #3 that I posted a pic to her FB page and said "GET OUTTA THE WAY".

      She told me to eat her dust! HAHAHA! Then she lost a wheel. My sweet heroine had nothing to do with that. Not at all. We used to joke about Francine Rivers hogging the front of the bus, but it's Tamera Alexander now. Big dresses. They take all the room.

      Michael Phillips is the big hog right now with THREE of the top FIVE. Overachiever alert!