Author Archives for theRaggedys

Sweet Potatoes


I cannot possibly tell you how obsessed we are with sweet potatoes – but not just any kind or variety.  We have to have either Beauregard (a variety developed at LSU) or O’Henry.  In fact, we’re so crazy about them that Katie, our 87-year-old friend in Baton Rouge, routinely ships Beauregard potatoes to us from Louisiana.  And she puts them in a USPS flat rate box that gets so heavy that she has to have someone take her to the post office and carry them in for her (do you think we could be called abusive friends?).  And why the obsession?  Well, we can pop them in a hot oven (400 degrees) for less than an hour after absolutely no preparation, then slice them, add some butter and salt, and have the perfect baked veggie side-dish.  Then we use the leftovers for mashed sweet potatoes, warmed in the microwave – or sweet potato/black bean/cabbage, lime, and cilantro tacos – or my new favorite muffin, Sweet Potato Ginger Muffins, from Deborah Madison’s most-wonderful Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

And FYI – that’s an O’Henry pictured above.  It’s readily available – at least in Glen Ellen. It’s long, often thin with a very light skin color and yellow-ish flesh – very different than the ubiquitous Garnet (dark reddish skin, super dark orange flesh).  And, yes, Louisianans may call them yams.  But they’re not.

Sweet Potato Ginger Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins - though I actually made 16 with the batter; maybe we like small muffins?
  • Print
Adapted from Deborah Madison


  • 1/3 c finely chopped candied ginger (the original recipe says dates and raisins may be substituted – but I love the ginger in it)
  • 1/4 c oil (canola or peanut works fine)
  • 1/3 c molasses (I wouldn’t want to tell you how long I’ve had this molasses.  Do you think it gets old?)
  • 1 c mashed baked sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin tins (or line with paper liners). Mix together the ginger, oil, molasses, sweet potatoes, eggs, buttermilk, and brown sugar, stirring until the batter is smooth .  In another bowl combine the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; use a whisk to mix the flour mixture well.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir but don’t beat.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake for 22- 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  After they’ve cooled for a few minutes, lift each muffin out and turn it carefully onto its side in the tin and let it continue to cool – or move them all to a cooling rack.  Serve slightly  warm. These sweet potato muffins will freeze well and will keep (not refrigerated) for several days.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy & Ann

Pho-ish Chicken

‾‾Our daughter, Sara, just got back from a 10-day trip to Vietnam. According to her, one of the highlights of the trip was a boat ride through the fascinating and lovely Mekong Delta. Now I know I’m going to really date myself here, but I’m of the generation that has trouble not thinking of the Mekong Delta as the place where John Kerry commanded a Swift boat, patrolling those waterways and seeking out “hostile forces” and getting shot at. What a joy to think it’s now a much-heralded spot to visit.

Anyway, after hearing Sara rave about that fabulous food of Vietnam, I’m determined to make some for Andy and me. I love Sara’s Banh Mi recipe from her Picnics cookbook (shameless pitch), but I want soup on this chilly day, not a sandwich. We love beef Pho but have never tried chicken Pho, so here we go. I got my ideas from a Smitten Kitchen post and she got her ideas from Charles Phan of SF’s Slanted Door. And I also used ideas from a blog by Nadia Lim.

Pho-ish Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

This is a very simplified way to fix a Chicken Pho (pronounced Fuh, not Pho. It rhymes with Duh, not Dough. Obviously, homemade chicken stock is better, but we're in a hurry.


  • 2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
  • 1 ½” piece of ginger, cut into 3 pieces and smashed
  • 6-8 c good quality chicken broth or stock
  • 3 whole star anise
  • ½ cinnamon stick (about 3”)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used Mary’s chicken – 7 thighs were in a pound, but the only reason that matters is that the cooking time might need to be increased with bigger thighs).
  • 1 T (or to taste) fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
  • 8 oz thin dried rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • Garnishes: Your choice of sliced green onions, bean sprouts, torn basil leaves (Thai basil is perfect but regular works too), chopped cilantro leaves, thinly sliced jalapenos.
  • Serve with quartered limes and sriracha sauce and/or hoisin sauce


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a pan with aluminum foil, place the onions, cut side down, and the ginger on the foil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Rinse the onions to cool and then peel off outer layer and cut off tops and bottoms.   Add the onions and the ginger to the chicken broth. Add the anise, cinnamon, coriander, and sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon or small strainer, remove the chunky things from the broth. Add the chicken thighs to the strained broth and simmer for another 15 -20 minutes or until the thighs are just cooked. Remove the thighs and either cut up or shred with forks.   If you want a clear broth, as is typical in pho, you should strain the broth, using a fine mesh strainer.

Add about half of the cut-up thighs back into the broth and stir in the fish sauce.  Reheat, if necessary.

Dish up the cooked noodles into soup bowls; add the chicken and broth and top with the garnishes of your choice (see above).

Save the remainder of the chicken for a Banh Mi sandwich, a chicken salad, or fried rice. Freeze leftover Pho for another day.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

Homemade Chicken Broth

You’ll never regret doing this.  Pick a day when you’re a little bored and have a lot of time.  Turn on some music, enter your kitchen and make broth!  A really wild and crazy cook with lots of big pans might make several kinds of broth (pork? vegetable? chicken?) all on the same day, but most of us aren’t quite that hard-working.  So pick chicken as your go-to (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course).  Our friend, David (married to Frankie, my roommate from my junior year at Colorado College – oh so many years ago), says he only cooks by looking in the refrigerator and using what’s there.  This is ideal for that.

Pick your biggest pot for the top of the stove.  My mother gave me mine, saying that everyone needs a really big pot, and I’m still using it, probably 45 years later (fyi – it’s 6″ deep and 12″ across, but a slightly smaller one would work too).  Once your chicken has cooked for hours and hours and has been cooled and strained, divide the broth into the perfect size (for you) freezer containers and freeze.  I think 4 cups is ideal for 2 people and 2 cups for 1 person.

Homemade Chicken Broth

  • Servings: depends
  • Print
I kid you not.  You don’t need a recipe for this.  If you have some cooked leftover chicken, add the bones and skin to the pot, if it doesn’t have any super-intense spices on it.  If you’re buying uncooked chicken, don’t bother with buying a whole one.  The white meat will be wasted and doesn’t add much, except dry meat.   Instead buy wings, backs, necks.  I don’t do feet, but maybe you do.  Buy as much as you can get into your really BIG (not little) pot, maybe 4-5 pounds?  You want lots of bones and skin.

The next step may be controversial.  I’ve adopted the Chinese way of putting the chicken in the pot (nothing else at this point), filling the pot with cold water, barely covering the chicken, bringing it all to a boil, letting it boil for about 2 minutes (it will get really nasty and foamy looking) and then dumping that all into a colander in the sink, rinsing everything, including the chicken and the pan, off, putting the cleansed chicken back into the cleansed pot, re-filling the pot with cold water until it barely covers the chicken, bringing the water back to a simmer, and  then starting the real broth-cooking, adding the vegetables, etc. at that time.  The only catch to this is that it’s very tricky and scary when you pour out the water, because the pan is heavy and hot.  The advantage to this approach is that the time-consuming, slightly-annoying task of skimming off the scum for about 10 minutes has pretty much been alleviated.

If you don’t want to risk scalding yourself (or your dog who is beneath your feet, watching you), do this instead:  barely cover the chicken with water, bring it all to a hardy boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, stir, and skim off the scum which comes to the surface until it quits coming.  My mother would even take a paper towel and go around the edge of the pot to remove scum, so, of course, I do that too, if I’m using the scum-removing approach.

In either case, once your broth has had the scum removed, add lots of what you’ve got on hand.  Parsley?  check.  Carrots?  check.  Celery? check.  Onion? check.  Same with garlic.  Thyme?  Oregano? perfect – about 1 tsp each.  A leek? fabulous.  Salt, of course.  Start with about 1 T of kosher salt.  Pepper – about 1 tsp.  Tony Chachere’s Seasoning? YES! to taste.  Bay leaves?  1 or 2. Or you could go the Asian route and add ginger, scallions, lemongrass, maybe some cilantro,  a few slices of a jalapeno pepper, fish sauce, and/or star anise.

Simmer everything – with no lid or with a lid just partially on – for as long as you are willing, hopefully about 3 hours or more.  Do NOT let it boil hard.  I did that recently and ended with very cloudy stock.  Add hot water, if necessary, to keep the chicken covered.

Then cool, strain, and freeze.  FYI – my 4# of chicken backs yielded about 10 cups of broth.

Once cooled you’ll want to remove the fat that has come to the surface.  If you do this after it’s been frozen, you’ll have to kind of scrape it off before it defrosts.  I usually divide my broth into freezer containers, refrigerate it over night, remove the fat, and then freeze.

Recipe provided by BigLittleMeals and Andy & Ann

Carrot Ginger Soup

So it’s going to be just us here for Easter, and we’ve been thinking about what we’ll have for dinner that will be properly celebratory, isn’t a pain in the butt to fix or clean up, serves just the two of us, and tastes great.  It’ll be a big little meal!
Andy first suggested that we have rabbit for dinner, but I managed to convince him of the impropriety of that.  But I thought that maybe something with carrots seemed appropriate.  Carrots and dip?   Too much work for just us. Carrot cake? Yum!  I have a fabulous recipe for that, should you ever want to try it, but it’s time-consuming to make.  Maybe carrot soup?  Yes!  It’s beautiful, it’s easy; it’s light, healthy, and delicious.  You can make it vegetarian (or not) by your choice of broth.  It’s gluten free (I think). The ingredients are easy to find.  Note: don’t think that you’ll just make half of it, cause it’s just you eating.  Fix the full recipe and you’ll have soup left for a lunch next week and some to freeze for another time.

Carrot Ginger Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Print
adapted from Sara Deseran’s Asian Vegetables


  • 1/4 c butter (4 T)
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 or 2 serrano chilies, seeds and membrane removed and chopped
  • 3 c vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into chunks – about 10 big (not little) ones
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 c half and half.


Using a medium-sized pot over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the ginger, garlic, and chili and cook and stir until the garlic and chili have softened and are fragrant – maybe a minute.  Add the broth and chunks of carrot, coriander, and salt; bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook until the carrots are very soft – about 25 minutes.  Now is the time to use your hand blender, if you have one.  We don’t – so we’ll put the carrot mixture into our food processor (a regular blender works here too) and puree it until it’s almost smooth.
At this point take note: if you’re freezing some, put it in your freezer dish now, because it will reheat better if you add the half & half after you defrost it.
Put the rest of the carrot mixture back in the pot, add the half and half, decreasing the amount a little, if you’ve frozen some. Return the soup to a simmer.  Put it into bowls and have a HAPPPY EASTER!
Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

Alton Brown’s French Toast

French toast1

Alton Brown’s recipe for french toast from the Food Network.

Andy and I have had some serious disagreements about French Toast.  Since Andy does all the breakfast cooking (well, I do dish up granola now and then), he gets the blame when the French Toast doesn’t turn out perfect.  After years – maybe decades – of imperfect FT, Andy discovered this Alton Brown recipe, and, if done precisely, is both easy and just right.  Things do get better.

One note here: we always use a sweet, as opposed to a sour dough, french bread (from the Basque Boulangerie, if you’re local) rather than the suggested challah or brioche, but I’m sure they would be wonderful too.

A second note: we tried freezing the leftover finished slices of French Toast, and they freeze well!  Just be sure they’re cool when you put them in the freezer and don’t pile them on top of each other – until they’re frozen.  To defrost and eat I simply popped a slice in the toaster and it turned out great (though you might have to adjust the length of the toasting).

%d bloggers like this: