Archive for November, 2010

Sweet Potato Pie with Walnut Gingersnap Crust

If you missed spending Thanksgiving with your nieces and nephews but plan on spending time with them in upcoming weeks, this is the perfect recipe to prepare with them. They love scooping out the sweet potatoes once they cool down and they have a blast “smushing” the cookie crumbs into a crust. This recipe is also ideal for any nieces or nephews that suffer from food sensitivities – it can be made gluten – and dairy-free. And if they can’t eat nuts, just add in some extra gluten-free cookie crumbs to replace the walnuts. You can also try using cinnamon-sugar cookies for the crust – which is what I ended up using for Thanksgiving last week and the pie turned out delicious!

For crust

1 ½ cup gingersnap crumbs (grind about 8 ounces of gluten-free or regular gingersnap cookies in a food processor)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (if you need to omit nuts, see notes below)
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, melted

For filling

2 cups jewel yams (approximately 2 medium ones)
1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt (omit this if you want a dairy-free dish)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
8 walnut halves for garnish
Optional: whipped cream for topping
Bake sweet potato yams

Preheat oven to 400°F. Poke holes potatoes with fork. Place yams on a lined baking sheet and bake until tender, about 1hour. Cool slightly and remove peel.

Make crust

Decrease oven to 350°F. Blend gingersnap crumbs, walnuts, sugar and salt in food processor until walnuts are finely chopped. Add butter and process until mixture forms moist crumbs. Press crust onto bottom and up the sides of 9-inch-diameter pie pan.

Make filling

Mash baked sweet potatoes yams with fork. Add yogurt, maple syrup, orange juice, vanilla extract, egg, spices and salt and stir until smooth. Pour into crust and smooth out top. Place walnut halves around edges.

Bake until filling is set in the center, about 40 minutes. Cool pie on rack. Serve warm or chill until cold. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Spoon sweetened whipped cream on top of pie between walnuts, if desired.

Serves 6-8
Preparation time: 2 hours

Recipe by Julie Negrin © 2006

Cooking tips:

-To simplify your preparation, bake the potatoes and grind the cookies into crumbs the day before you bake the pie.
-If your crust is getting too dark, remove pie from oven and create a round foil “tent” that covers only the crust and place it back in the oven until filling is “set” and doesn’t jiggle.
-If you need to serve a nut-free dish, just add around 1/4 cup of extra cookie crumbs – adjust the crumb mixture so that it sticks together but isn’t too wet..
-This dish can be made 1-2 days in advance of serving it. Just simply warm it up on the oven at 200-250 for 15-20 minutes – but keep an eye on the crust so that it doesn’t get too dark.
-For those of you who keep kosher, it should be relatively easy to find gluten-free gingersnap cookies with a hecksher (kosher certification).

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Cook Like a Professional on the Holidays

Cook Like a Pro for the Holidays

I love cooking for parties – but it’s taken a lot of trial and error to figure out how to do it without becoming a stress case. I also picked up a lot of great tips from the wonderful chef instructors I worked with in New York. The key is to be as organized as possible:

Choose the right recipes for entertaining. When searching for holiday recipes, look for dishes that can made ahead of time and easily reheated. Soups, grain and pasta salads, and many appetizers like hummus, bean dips, tzatziki, and tapenade taste better the day after they are made.

Talk to your host/hostess. If you are a guest at someone’s house, always ask your host what you should bring so there aren’t 15 pies for dessert (true story: I made 2 homemade pies – Pecan Pie and Apple Pie and when I arrived there were literally another dozen pies brought by guests). And make sure that your dish transports well and won’t be difficult to reheat if the oven is occupied. Better yet, bring something that can be served at room temperature.

Plan ahead. If you commit to making or bringing a certain dish, make sure you have a great recipe already on hand and the ingredients are easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had frantic friends emailing me for recipes at the last minute – it’s much more fun to cook when you’ve already taken care of the homework.

chef-cooking175pxShop and cook on different days. I rarely shop and cook on the same day – the only ingredients I’ll pick up at the last minute are items like fresh herbs, fish, or berries. I like to get all of my shopping out of the way as early as possible. I’ll buy pantry items a week ahead of time and gradually finish the rest of my shopping as my “Cooking Day” approaches. This strategy also means you’ll save money because you will have time to look around for the best prices. During Thanksgiving week, I try to avoid going to the grocery store after Monday.

Keep it simple. Even the most accomplished cooks get frazzled on the holidays. So, whether you’re a gourmet chef or novice cook, pick recipes that you are familiar with and that are easy to prepare. There are plenty of delicious dishes that rely on flavorful fall ingredients rather than complicated cooking techniques. Pick something that you’ll have a good time preparing – your guests will taste your enjoyment.

Find a sous chef. There are days where I really enjoy cooking alone and other times, I prefer company. It’s a great excuse to get together with a friend and be productive at the same time.

And for those of you who have guests who don’t eat poultry, check out Kim O’Donnel’s new cookbook, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook!


How to Get Kids to Eat New Foods (& Pumpkin Pie Pasta Recipe)

His name is Timmy. He is 5 years old and he doesn’t like to try new foods. I’m guessing that’s why his parents put him in my after-school cooking class at PS 75 (in New York City). It’s Wednesday afternoon and I announce to my small students that we are making Pumpkin Pie Pasta.

This is my fourth week with them, and thankfully, they are starting to trust me. Timmy, however, is  still pretty resistant to eating anything unfamiliar. This is common for this age group – except that also he tells me and the class over and over again that he isn’t going to eat whatever we are making. Or, on this particular afternoon, he starts begging me for plain pasta. I tell him we are making Pumpkin Pasta, not plain pasta. He doesn’t relent. I persevere. We are in a stand-off. Who will be more stubborn? I will, of course. That’s my job.

After they prepare the pumpkin puree, I dump the cooked pasta directly into the pumpkin bowl so that there is no plain pasta left. I sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese. They start eating and there is silence. This is a group of 5-6 year olds. They are never silent. And yet, this week, everyone of them sits quietly while they eat their pasta – even Timmy.

A lot of parents of my students ask me how I get kids to eat new foods. Here are some tricks of the trade I’ve picked up over the years:

Keep it low-key. I recommend offering something new once or twice and then walking away. No begging, negotiating, or bribery. I will often put the new food on the edge of their plate so that they are exposed to it. I ask them to try one bite and if they don’t like it they don’t have to eat the rest. Then I walk away.

Take advantage of peer pressure. Introduce new foods when they are around adventurous eaters. This works well when they start elementary school because they want to fit in with their friends.

Be firm and clear – and stick to your guns. This is really important but can be hard to implement. Create meal time rules and stand by them – even if your kids are older now. One friend of mine, whose children are 9 and 6, recently stopped cooking multiple meals but allows each child to pick dinner once per week. Whatever you do, be consistent.

Have high expectations and don’t pander. The food industry has done an excellent job of convincing us that kids will only eat their expensive, highly processed kiddie food. If that were the case, our species would have died out long before Lunchables were invented! The children of chefs are perfect examples of not pandering. Chefs expect their children to eat sophisticated foods and the kids respond to that expectation.

Model good eating habits. Be exuberant about your love for a healthy dish. And if you’re a picky adult eater, then make it a project to try new dishes with your kids – a team effort.  Remember that they will eventually eat like you. It might be when they are 7, 12, or even 18 but eventually, they will mimic you.

Use reverse psychology. If they don’t want to eat something, I will often say, “Awesome, that means more for me!” and pop it into my mouth and go on and on about how good it is. You know how your kids only want to play with a toy when a visiting friend shows interest in it? Kind of like that.

Treat them like a chef. Obviously, I suggest cooking with kids – but I also advise having conversations about food, discussing which vegetables look interesting at the market, and asking them if a dish needs to be tweaked. I take them very seriously and they respond in kind. When I ask them if a dish needs more garlic, salt, pepper, etc., they nod and think about it and then declare which ingredient they want more of. They are brilliant chefs. They don’t doubt their creativity. I love it.

I have to give you this famous Pumpkin Pie Pasta recipe now, right? We also made the Crunchy Roasted Pepitas in class which were a huge hit too.

pumpkinpasta200pxP U M P K I N  P I E  P A S T A
Try adding some protein like chicken or white beans for a more balanced meal.

1 pound of bow ties
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½-1 cup canned pumpkin puree
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
½ cup of grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
½ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, except for the pasta and basil. Heat the butter a little if necessary. Set aside.

Cook paste until al dente. Drain pasta well and immediately add to sauce bowl. Sprinkle with basil and toss. Serve at once with extra parmesan.

Recipe by Jacquie Grinberg, adapted from Joie Warner’s No-Cook Pasta Sauces
For information on how to cook with kids, check out my new book, Easy Meals to Cook with Kids, available via my website.