West African Sweet Potato Soup

If you’ve never had sweet potatoes and peanut butter together, you might think this gluten free soup is a bit unusual.  But its rich quick-to-make goodness will win you over.   My entire family loves it.

Preparation Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves 6

  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 3 cups water

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Peel and cube sweet potato, adding to the water once it comes to boil. When water returns to a boil, turn heat down to medium, and let potatoes simmer for 10-15 minutes as you complete the next steps of the recipe.

  • 1/2 of a large onion, minced
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

While sweet potatoes are cooking, chop onions and green beans.  Melt butter and oil in a medium skillet on high. Add onions and let cook, stirring frequently, until onion is wilting and getting browned bits, about 3 minutes. Add green beans and continue cooking on high for 3-5 minute more, until beans soften and start to get some browned bits. Then scoop onion and green beans into the pot with the sweet potatoes and continue simmering soup on medium low.

In a blender combine the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoon cayenne, depending on how much heat you like

Puree until mixture is smooth and thick. If it gets too thick to process well, take a ladle or two of water out of your sweet potato pot and pour it into the blender. When the contents of the blender looks creamy and well mixed, add it to the simmering sweet potato/onion mixture.  Stir to combine and let simmer on medium low for 5-10 more minutes to combine flavors.
Serve with good bread and a salad.

Pasta Carbonera

This recipe uses very little meat, but even die-hard carnivores love it.  When I make it, I double the amounts given here, and we rarely have any leftovers.  I sometimes add diced tomato or sweet pepper for more color and flavor.

Pasta Carbonera
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves 6



  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente.
  • 1/2 pound of bacon
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. fresh basil or sage leaves, chopped fine (or use 1-2 tsp dried)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan (optional)

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, draining and setting it aside when done. While spaghetti cooks, chop bacon into 1/2 inch chunks and cook in a heavy skillet until nicely crispy. As you are waiting for the bacon to cook, mince the onion very finely, chop the sage or basil, and peel the garlic. Once bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside in a small bowl.

Do NOT dump out the bacon drippings, because that’s where this recipe gets its flavor. In the bacon drippings in the same pan, cook the minced onion, sage or basil, and garlic over medium heat until the onion is soft. By now your pasta is probably done. Pour the onion, garlic, and bacon drippings over the hot pasta and toss well.

Crack the two eggs into a small bowl and whisk well. Now you are going to pour those eggs over your still-hot pasta, stirring the pasta quickly so that the eggs coat the pasta as evenly as possible. It is important that the pasta still be steaming hot for this step, since it is the heat from the pasta that will cook the eggs. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper to taste.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese if you wish.

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Panda-Style Orange Chicken

I was overjoyed when a Panda Express restaurant was built near my home. There were two main reasons for my delight: their names were chow mein and orange chicken. This version of orange chicken has helped me resist the siren’s call of the panda more than a few times. Maybe they’ll save a few bucks for your family as well. Although this recipe is simple, frying the chicken in batches will take a bit of time. To use your time better, you may want to double this recipe and tuck half of the cooked chicken in the freezer to be heated up again the next time the urge for take-out hits.

Panda Style Orange Chicken

Serves 6
Prep Time: 40 minutes

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon peeled and minced or grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Orange Chicken Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup water
Grated zest from 1 orange

1. Place the cubed chicken in a large bowl. Stir in the egg, salt, black pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil. Mix well. Stir 1/2 cup of the cornstarch and the flour together in a large shallow bowl. Add the chicken pieces, a handful or two at a time, and stir to coat evenly. Tap off any excess.
2. Pour about 1 inch of oil in a wok or deep, heavy skillet and heat to 375 F. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the oil until it starts to ripple in the pan. Add the chicken pieces, a small handful at time, and fry until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. When cooking the next batch, you will probably need to turn the heat down to keep the chicken from cooking too fast and possibly add a bit more oil.
3. Once all the chicken is cooked, reserve a couple tablespoons of the oil remaining in the wok in a separate bowl. Clean the wok. Combine the sauce ingredients in a large measuring cup and whisk until the sugar dissolves.
4. Heat the wok for 15 seconds over high heat. Add the reserved oil back into the pan. Add the ginger, garlic, red pepper, and green onions and stir-fry for a couple minutes. Add the sauce and bring to boil. Add the cooked chicken, stirring until well mixed. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch and mix until smooth. Stir into the chicken and heat until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the sesame oil. Serve with rice or chow mein.

Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe is a favorite at our house. It is sooooo easy to make a second one to freeze that I went ahead and listed amounts for two 9×12 casseroles. This freezes beautifully and is also great as leftovers. Even if your family will only eat half a 9×12 dish at a meal, remember that you can serve it again in a day or two.

4 lbs boneless chicken
2 T. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic
3 cups corn
1 minced onion
4 c. pureed tomato
2 packets of taco seasoning
20 flour tortillas
5 cups grated cheddar

Start by chopping 4 lbs of chicken. I used boneless thighs that cost $1.19/lb. Cook that in a large skillet on medium high with a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. Don’t stir the meat until it gets a nice lovely brown color on one side. Then stir and cook the rest of the way. Once the meat is mostly cooked, add 4 cloves of garlic, 3 cups of corn, and one minced onion. Continue to cook a few minutes til onions are soft.

Now you are going to need about 4 cups of pureed tomato. You can puree fresh whole tomatoes in the blender, or if you’d rather just use regular tomato sauce, you’ll need about 3 cups of tomato sauce mixed with a cup of water. Once you’ve done that, pour 1/2 cup of sauce into each of two casserole pans and spread it around to coat the whole bottom of each pan. At that point you should still have three cups of sauce remaining.

Dump the rest of the tomatoes into your skillet full of cooking chicken (I told you that skillet needed to be large, right? Add 2 packets of taco seasoning and let it simmer for a few minutes.

While that mixture simmers, put a double layer of flour tortilla into the bottom of each of your casserole pans. Tear the tortillas as needed to make them fully cover the bottom of each pan. Once your chicken has simmered for a few minutes, layer 1/4 of the mixture into each of the two casserole dishes. Sprinkle each dish with about a cup of grated cheddar cheese, then put on another layer of flour tortillas. (20 tortillas should be plenty for two casserole dishes.) Divide the remaining chicken mix between the two dishes, and top each dish with 1 or 1-1/2 more cups of cheese.

You’ve just made two meals and spent probably only five extra minutes for that second meal. Cover one casserole tightly with foil and freeze for up to 6 months. Cook the other casserole at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve with sour cream and more salsa if you wish.