Meatless Monday - Sweet Potato Nachos

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

 I hope you enjoy this repost of a favorite Meatless Monday recipe!

Who doesn't love nachos? Nachos are a fun finger food for adults and kids alike. A couple of weeks ago I made an unusual one that is sure to become a favorite around here. What's so unusual about it? Sweet potatoes! These nachos are topped with a bean sauce and roasted sweet potatoes.

I think that we have established that I am not a bean fan. I am slowly but surely working bean dishes into our repertoire, though. I find that if a dish is heavily seasoned and the right kind of bean is used, I don't mind beans so much. The flavor of red kidney beans blend in nicely in a well seasoned dish. I use these beans in my turkey chili and in this dish. The bean sauce is really kind of like beans and salsa and is fine even for me.

And the sweet potatoes - divine! My husband said that every time he took a bite with sweet potato in it his mouth got a burst of delicious sweetness. The sweet potatoes are coated with wonderful, aromatic spices - cumin and coriander - that really compliment the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the bean sauce. Plus, sweet potatoes, you'll remember, are really good for you.

At long last, it's recipe time! I adapted this recipe from Linda McCartney's World of Vegetarian Cooking, a cookbook that has provided many delicious recipes to our household. It's a different take on nachos, but one that is definitely worth your time!

Beans and Sweet Potato Nachos

1 1/2 lbs sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika
14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 14 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups Cheddar cheese
corn tortilla chips

In a large baking dish, mix the sweet potato, 2 TBSP of the oil, and the cumin and coriander. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 50-60 min or until tender.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and paprika. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, about 10 min, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes with their juices and simmer uncovered for 5 min. Stir in the beans.

Place some corn chips on an oven or microwave-proof plate, and top corn chips with the bean mixture, then the sweet potato, and finish with some cheese. Bake for 10 min until nachos are well heated (or microwave for 30 seconds or so to melt the cheese).

Serve with garnish of choice - cilantro, avocado, sour cream, or jalepenos for example.


A few of my favorite things

>> Friday, November 27, 2009

Just in time for the holidays, Made from Earth is offering a special discount for A Life Less Sweet readers!  Zip over to my Reviews blog for details or see the button on the sidebar.

The holiday season is upon us!  Life is always busy here, but even more so this time of year.  To that end, I'm going to be taking a little break during the month of December.  Look for some of my favorite recipes and informative posts through the month of December instead.

But first...I want to share just a few of my favorite products - all HFCS and trans fat free, of course!

Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino Cherries - I have been searching and searching for a HFCS-free maraschino cherry, and I finally found them!  Tillen Farms makes a maraschino cherry with all natural ingredients - Cherries, water, sugar, vegetable and fruit concentrate (color), natural flavor.  I love these!  Because they're colored with vegetable and fruit concentrate (another plus) rather than food dye, they aren't as garishly red as regular maraschino cherries.  They are very sweet, of course, but they don't seem as gloppishly, syrupy sweet as regular maraschino cherries to me.  In short, these are a winner here!  And I love that I can once again make my desserts that call for maraschino cherries without compromising my food values! 

My local grocery store carries these cherries, 
but you can also buy them from the Tillen Farms site or Amazon 

Crofters Superfruit Spread - I was lucky enough to win some Crofters Superfruit Spread from Fat Fighter TV a few months ago.  I love these spreads!  They're chunky and packed full of flavor with a very simple ingredient list.  The Superspreads come in four geographical flavors - Asia, Europe, North America, and South America - each with it's own special antioxidant-packed fruit in addition to the Morello cherries and red grape base.  Asia (with raspberries and yumberries) is my favorite by a hair, but I must say that I think that all of the flavors taste very much alike.  The main flavor by far is the Morello cherries and red grape base, and it's a great flavor.  These are spreads, so they're chunky and a bit loose (unlike a jelly, which is firm).  My kids love these spreads on PB&J sandwiches.  I like to eat the spread in a way that really lets the jelly flavor shine through - like on a cracker or a simple piece of toast. 

Amy's Low-Sodium Cream of Tomato Soup - One of my comfort foods has always been tomato soup - Campbells Condensed Tomato Soup, to be exact.  I grudgingly gave up this soup when we went HFCS free.  Recently, we had a string of illnesses hit our house, and I craved my tomato soup comfort food.  Amy's to the rescue!  Amy's Low-Sodium Cream of Tomato Soup was love at first bite.  It's got a nice ingredient list and  a good tomato flavor and consistency.  And while it still has more sodium than I would like, for a canned soup it's sodium content isn't too bad.  You could, of course, make homemade tomato soup, but when you're feeling down and out, it really is nice to just pull a can out of the pantry and heat it up.

Julies Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches - Another pre-packaged luxury that was lost to us when we gave up trans fat.  Seems like almost every ice cream sandwich on the market has either HFCS or partially hydrogenated oil - or both.  These ice cream sandwiches are great!  Nice size, good flavor, nice ingredients.  And, once again, we get to enjoy the occasional treat of an ice cream sandwich!

Ghirardelli chips -  Ghirardelli has two types of chips that have found their way into my pantry.  First, their 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.  I love these chips so much that I sneak a few when I need a chocolate fix.  They have a good dark chocolate flavor and no trans fat.  I just wish that Ghirardelli would make these chips in a mini-version!


Next, Ghirardelli's white chocolate chips.  It's hard to find white chocolate chips that don't have partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list, so I was thrilled to find Ghirardelli's White Chocolate Chips.  Trans fat free!  Perfect for holiday baking!


Happy Holidays to you all!  Enjoy all of your favorite things!


Meatless Monday - Fun and yummy things to do with applesauce

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

Musselman's recently sent me a couple of different types of HFCS-free applesauce to try and review.  Applesauce is one of those products that is surprisingly hard to find without HFCS, so I was thrilled to try their products - one new and one old.  I have to admit, my family is not a big fan of applesauce.  It's a wonderful product (well, as long as it's free of added sugar), but we're just not likely to turn to applesauce as a snack.  So, I decided to find other ways to use this applesauce.  There are so many wonderful uses for applesauce!  I'm going to share just a few that we've tried, but do a little search on recipes using applesauce and you'll be inundated.

Let me start by introducing the applesauces that I used for these recipes.  First up, Musselman's Natural Applesauce.  This applesauce has no sugar added - just apples, water, and a little vitamin C for freshness.  This applesauce is a good, basic applesauce with a strong fresh-apple flavor.  It's a good one to keep on hand for baking and snacking.

Next, a new variety from Musselman's.  Musselman's Healthy Picks applesauce comes in three varieties - Raspberry Acai, Blueberry Pomegranate, and Key Lime Cupuaco.  As with the natural applesauce, the Healthy Picks applesauce has no added sugar - a requirement if I'm buying applesauce.  These applesauces boast that they contain antioxidant-rich superfruits as well as extra fiber, calcium, and vitamin C.  To be sure, apple is the predominant flavor in these applesauces with the other flavors a very subtle undernote.  They're good applesauces, but don't buy them expecting to be hit with a strong raspberry or blueberry flavor.  Despite that, my son was totally enthralled with the idea of the flavors and actually ate more than one of these - a rarity!

On to a few uses for applesauce...
First up, as an oil substitute in baking.  Yes, you can substitute some or all of the fat in your baked goods with applesauce!  Fit Sugar has some tips for using applesauce as a fat substitute in baked goods - such as only replacing half of the fat with applesauce.  Fats actually have a pretty important role in baked goods, so replacing half with applesauce will give you much better results than ditching all of the fat.  The end product won't be quite the same as the full-fat version, but chances are that unless you're serving them side by side, you won't really notice the difference!

Make a slushy treat.  Freeze a serving size of applesauce (spooned into a container or just use one of the small containers that some applesauces come in) for about an hour - just long enough for the applesauce to become slushy but not a frozen block.  Serve it to your kids as a treat.  They might not even realize that it's applesauce!

Use it to make french toast.  I came across a great recipe to make french toast using applesauce - Apple Cinnamon French Toast.  It's a hit in our house!  It's the kind of breakfast you can throw together in 10 min - a breakfast even this morning grump doesn't mind making.  The result was a piece of french toast with a slight apple flavor and a nice final texture.  I'll keep applesauce around just to make this french toast on the fly!

Top Apple Cinnamon French Toast with a little maple syrup or sauteed apples with brown sugar and cinnamon for a wonderfully tasty breakfast!

Make some fun and wonderful smelling Christmas ornaments.  My kids and I did this applesauce ornament craft last year.  Applesauce plus a lot of cinnamon (I mean A LOT) and some cookie cutters equals Christmas ornaments that will actually hold their smell for a couple of years (though they're most pungent the first year).  We'll make these ornaments again this year!

Last, I'll just mention that there are a ton of recipes out there that make use of applesauce - like Apple Quesadilla and Apple Pasta Salad.  Or you can serve it on the side as a treat all by itself or served with latkes or other dishes.  Whether you're using your applesauce in baked goods, in a craft, or in a unique dish, read those ingredients!  Surprising ingredients lurk everywhere - even in applesauce.  Applesauce is sweet enough on it's own that added sugar just isn't necessary - especially if you're baking with it!

What do you like to do with applesauce?  I'd love to hear your favorite uses!


Meatless Monday - Savory Apple Pizza

>> Monday, November 16, 2009

Good news!  Wheat Thins is well on its way to being completely HFCS free!  Read more about it at A Life Less Sweet Reviews and enter my giveaway to win free Wheat Thins!

I have a thing for pizza.  It's so easy and so good.  And while pizza can be a greasy, unhealthy mess, it doesn't have to be!  Start with a nice crust - whole wheat, preferably - add a good sauce, toppings of choice, and a little cheese (not too much!), and you've got yourself the makings of a tasty and healthy meal.  Pizza is also an easy way to enjoy a meatless meal - a meatless meal your kids won't complain about at that! 

It should come as no surprise that I like unusual pizzas (see my past pizza incarnations - Pizza with White Sauce and Peach Pizza).  Pizza doesn't always have to be tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese!  This week I happen to have a couple of boxes of organic Utah Fuji apples sitting in my kitchen, so I experimented with apple on pizza.

Fruit on a savory pizza?  Why not!  The thinly sliced apple added a hint of sweetness, and the apple flavor was an afterthought - not nearly as prominent as I thought it would be.  My husband and I both liked this pizza.  I made a simple goat cheese sauce, but you could use a white sauce, a tomato sauce (though that doesn't sound very appealing with apple to me), or no sauce at all!  I used fontina cheese as the topping, but I think that next time I will use feta cheese instead for a little more zip.  I also think that I'll add some roasted garlic (like on my Pizza with White Sauce), but I'm a garlic fiend. 

I should note that when I make my unconventional pizzas, the kids get a plain ole cheese pizza.  We use this tomato sauce recipe with a few minor changes.  I like to add some oregano to give it more of a pizza sauce flavor.  I also halve the red wine, and double the water.  Sometimes I use broth instead of water.  It makes a very good pizza sauce that freezes well to boot.

Savory Apple Pizza

Use crust of your choice.  If you have a breadmaker, my pizza dough recipe is at the bottom.

Goat cheese sauce:
1/4 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup low-fat evaporated milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ground thyme (or herb of your choice)
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Stir while heating over medium heat until the cheese melts and the liquid simmers.  Cook for about 10 min or until sauce is the desired consistency.

1 small apple, thinly sliced (leave peel on)
1-2 onions, caramelized
1/2 TBSP fresh thyme leaves (or herb of your choice), optional
roasted garlic cloves (optional)
cheese - fontina, feta, or whatever suits you

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Spread a thin layer of goat cheese sauce over pizza crust.  Top with caramelized onions, a single layer of apple, thyme, garlic cloves, and cheese.  Bake at 425 F for 15 min or until crust is browned. 

A note on the crust - I like to prebake my pizza crust for about 5 min before adding the toppings.  I end up with a crispier crust that way.

Breadmaker Pizza Dough
For a 1 lb batch of dough

3/4 cup warm water
1 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 cups flour - can be completely all-purpose or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour (I usually do about 1/2 white whole wheat)
1 tsp yeast

Combine water, oil, sugar and salt in breadmaker pan. Add in flour, and pour yeast on top of the flour. Put in breadmaker on "Pizza Dough" setting or consult your breadmaker's manual for the best setting.


Peter Rabbit Organics fruit pouch review and giveaway!

>> Sunday, November 8, 2009

I am really excited about the product of the day. Why? I just think it's so refreshing to find a fruit puree made of something other than apples. Not that applesauce is a bad thing, but my family is just not that crazy about it as a snack.

Read the rest of the review and enter the giveaway!


News, links, and recipes from me to you!

A Life Less Sweet is now on Facebook! Become a fan for even more info, links, random musings, and a unique opportunity to provide input.

A Life Less Sweet has been included in the 100 Best Blogs for Healthy Parents! Lots of great blogs in this list, and more that I'm looking forward to discovering!

Next, a great blog that I came across recently - Fix Me A Snack. This blog's tagline - "A healthier approach to family friendly snacks." Scroll through this blog whether you have kids or not. There are lots of great looking snacks! Like Cheesy Sweet Potato Balls (on my to do list for today!), or Pizza Muffins, or Apple Crisp "Cookies." We're always on the search for tasty snacks that happen to be healthy too, so this blog is like a dream for me!
Last, I want to tell you about a great new site for kids that will be going live soon. PBS Kids Go is launching Fizzy's Lunch Lab, a site for elementary kids to explore food and nutrition in a fun way. Kids will join Professor Fizzy and friends as they "prepare tasty snacks, investigate the difference between good and bad food, and learn what happens once the food you eat goes into your body."

I love this concept! It sounds like Fizzy's Lunch Lab is a very comprehensive look at the foods we eat. I love that they're tying in what happens to food after it's eaten. I think that this site has great potential and can not wait until it's fully ready for my kids to explore.

You can preview Fizzy's Lunch Lab now, and then go back on November 16 when it launches. The preview has an introductory video and a yummy looking recipe (click on the "Print this recipe!" tab for the recipe - Apple Banana Chillers).

In the meantime, here are some recipes from Fizzy's Lunch Lab - a taste of things to come! All of their preview recipes are healthy, loaded with fruits and veggies, and are recipes that you can get your child to help with. The two recipes that I'm sharing (compliments of PBS Kids Go!) are two that looked especially good to me. Check out all of the Fizzy's Lunch Lab preview recipes at the PBS Parents Nutrition site.

(Click on each card to see recipe bigger.)


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