Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Balsamic Roasted Japanese Yams

Japanese yams, also known as satsumaimo, are considered a type of sweet potato. They have a purplish skin, but unlike the sweet potatoes Westerners are used to, Japanese yams have a whitish flesh. They are sweeter than white potatoes but less sweet than orange sweet potatoes. (I don’t call sweet potatoes yams because, really, yams are a completely different thing. But I won’t go there right now.)

Although Japanese yams are low in protein, they are high in vitamins and minerals, such as A and C and potassium and fiber, antioxidants. And it is said by some that they have anti-aging effects. I don’t know if that last part is true, but Japanese yams still make a healthy alternative to white potatoes, and even standard sweet potatoes. They’re perfect for anyone with wheat issues, or who are on low-calorie diets because, yep, they’re low in calories, too.

A lot of fuss has been made around Japanese yams in the last few years. In fact, there’s even a diet with Japanese yams as the focus. They have been touted as a powerhouse health food. I’m clueless as to the validity of this belief, but what I do know is that they’re delicious, and including them in your meal plan is another way to diversify your vegetable intake.

This recipe is very quick and easy and makes for a flavorful side dish for any meal. Enjoy!

Balsamic Roasted Japanese Yams

Makes 4-6 servings.

2 lbs. Japanese yams, rinsed
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Trim the ends off the yams and discard. Slice the yams into ½-inch circles and place them in a medium bowl.In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour this over the yams and mix well so that all the yams are coated.Get a piece of foil large enough to enclose all the yams and lay it flat. Transfer the yams to the foil and close it tightly to form a packet. (If you can’t do it with 1 piece of foil, then make 2 packets.)

Place the packet(s) on a baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until they’re tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. (You will have to open up the foil to test them.)When they’re tender, open the foil carefully (the steam will be hot and can burn you) and spread it out flat. Spread the yams out as evenly as possible, and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes to brown. Turn them over halfway through to get both sides browned. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle them with more salt, if desired.

Transfer them to a serving platter. Serve immediately.

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Cherry Tomato Confit

If you’ve ever had roasted tomatoes, you know about the incredibly sweet, smoky flavor they have. Roasting any vegetable renders its sugars, and results in heightened flavors and vivid colors. The flavor of roasted tomatoes is deep and intense, and goes well with so many dishes.

The word confit is French and means “to preserve.” It’s usually used in relation to meats—as in duck confit, chicken confit, etc.—and it means to cook the meat slowly in its own juices (or other meat juices), along with salt and seasonings. The meat is then shredded and packed in a container and covered with fat to preserve it. This method was created for long-term storage before refrigeration was invented.

But fruits and vegetables can be confited as well. It’s extremely easy to make a tomato confit. All you need to do is mix the tomatoes with some olive oil and some seasonings and put them in the oven and walk away. They roast low and slow, and when they’re done, they’re literally bursting with flavor.

You can put some tomato confit on pieces of toast, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle the tops with parmesan cheese for a great canape or snack.  You can use them on focaccia or in a sandwich, or just served by themselves.

Enjoy!Cherry Tomato Confit

Makes 1½ cups.

2 cups cherry and/or pear tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for the jar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
Herbs of your choice, fresh or dry (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, etc.)
2 or 3 large garlic cloves, smashed

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and mix.Spread the tomatoes and herbs out on a small-medium baking sheet. (You can line it with foil or parchment, if you like.)Bake for 1 hour. Stir the tomatoes, then bake for another 1½ hours. The tomatoes should be wrinkled and easily burst when poked with the tip of a knife. Some tomatoes may burst while in the oven, and some may brown a bit. This is not only okay, it’s deliciously desirable.Transfer everything to a clean, pint-size jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in any oil and juices from the pan. Pack in it gently. Cover the tomatoes with oil. Seal. Tomatoes will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.


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Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey-Soy-Mirin Glaze and Honey-Pomegranate Sauce

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Leave the zucchini and other fair-weather vegetables to summer. Winter calls for thick-skinned squashes. img_6321

My favorite is butternut squash. In my opinion, it not only has the best flavor, but the best texture as well. When cooked down, it’s creamy and smooth, and incredibly diverse. 

Roasting brings out the sweetness and beauty in most vegetables, but this is especially true of squash. My mother wanted me to roast squash for Thanksgiving and I wanted to come up with something that was familiar, that I knew would be liked, but something every-so-slightly different. I came up with an easy, delicious honey-soy-mirin glaze and honey-pomegranate sauce…because, you know, pomegranates. 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard how healthful pomegranates are. Here’s a quick rundown of their health benefits:

Based on US RDA, one cup of pomegranate seeds contains 7 grams fiber, 3 img_6349grams protein, 30% vitamin C, 36% vitamin K, 16% folate, and 12% potassium. They have antiinflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.They help fight cancer, especially prostate and breast, and heart disease, and have been known to improve memory function.

Delicious AND healthy. Do you need anything more? Give this a try on a cold winter day…or even a warm one. Enjoy!img_6356

Roasted Butternut Squash with Honey-Soy-Mirin Glaze and Honey-Pomegranate Sauce

2-3 pound butternut squash
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Honey-Pomegranate Sauce

1 pomegranate
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white wine or ginger ale

Grease a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place them in a large bowl.img_6324In a small bowl, mix together the honey, olive oil, soy sauce, mirin. pour over the squash.img_6325

Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Use your hands to spread the mixture over both sides of the squash. Lay the slices neatly on the baking sheet in a single layer.

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Roast until almost tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn the slices over and continue roasting until fully tender and golden brown at the edges.img_6348Meanwhile, make the Honey-Pomegranate Sauce. Cut open the pomegranate and place the pieces in a large bowl of cool water. Separate the seeds from the membrane and discard the skin. Let the membranes rise to the top and scoop them out.img_6353Drain in a mesh strainer and rinse.img_6355Measure out ½ cup seeds and place in a small pot. Reserve the remaining seeds for the top or another purpose. Mix together the honey and wine and add to pomegranate seeds. Cook over medium-low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes.img_6358Transfer cooked squash to a serving platter. Drizzle sauce over top, sprinkle on some fresh pomegranate seeds, and serve.img_6371

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Amaranth Pilaf and Red Onions

Roasted Spaghetti SquashMore spaghetti squash? Why not? It’s squash season, after all. Squash is synonymous with autumn. img_6232

Although spaghetti squash can be found from fall through the spring, there’s something comforting and pleasurable about roasting vegetables in the fall, especially squash. And since many people aren’t sure what to do with spaghetti squash, I’ve been offering some recipes. Last week, I offered Easy Spaghetti Squash Chili. This week, I have for you Roasted Maple-Bourbon Spaghetti Squash with Amaranth Pilaf.

Cultivated by the Aztecs 8,000 years ago, amaranth is a tiny little grain that is surprisingly high in protein, as well as other nutrients. One cup of raw amaranth contains 28 grams of protein, 15 milligrams of iron, and 18 milligrams of fiber, which makes it one of the most nutrient-rich grains on earth. img_6256

Amaranth is also a great source of lysine, a protein-rich amino acid. This is good news for those of us who suffer from canker and cold sores. L-lysine has been shown to shorten the life span of canker sores. I can personally attest to this because when one of those little monsters starts making itself known, I start digging into the giant bottle of lysine, and believe me, it works.

So this dish makes the perfect side dish to any autumn meal, but because of the amaranth and almonds, it also is a satisfying entree on its own. And spaghetti squash is low in calories, low in carbs, and almost fat free, so whatever diet you may be on, you can’t go wrong with this squash. You can serve it in lovely slices, or you can scrape out the spaghetti-like flesh and eat it like a pasta dish. Continue reading