Slow cooker baked sweet potatoes

This isn’t a recipe. It’s not even a post, really. More like, a “just in case this is new for you, too” little something cool: slow cooker sweet potatoes are GOOD.

For someone who uses the slow cooker ALL THE TIME (it’s how we survive), I can’t believe it took me this long to stumble upon this treasure. Sweet potatoes are a staple at our house. They need such minimal care, accept such a variety of toppings, pack such whopping nutrition, satiate and satisfy. The only little blip in what is otherwise perfection is not wanting to leave the oven on when we leave the house. With the slow cooker solution, blip is blasted…perfection restored.



Regular potatoes, such as the humble russet, wouldn’t be so easygoing. It yearns to be fluffed. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, offer silky smoothness whether they’re steaming out of the oven or the crock pot.

I won’t wax on…that’s all I wanted to say. Except for a couple of quick bonus points: 1) Slow cooking sweet potatoes let’s you play at the park while cooking a good bulk of dinner AND handy portable toddler snack for the next day(s);  After a brief resistance to sweet potatoes, Little Monkey finds them impressive once more (yippee), so this will be a weekly go-to for awhile; and 3, in case it’s not glaringly obvious by now, I LOVE THE SLOW COOKER!

Oh, one more thing–here’s all you need to do:

Slow cooker baked sweet potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Foil

Wrap 3-4 sweet potatoes in foil (no need to prick) and place in a 6-7 quart slow cooker. Cook on high 4 hours or low 8 hours.

Lastly, and quickly, one more “one more thing”: I will always love the slow cooker, but I’m curious about the modern pressure cooker and all the amazement it has to offer. Anyone use both, regularly and want to share? Thank you for your thoughts!

Golden Rule…and honey roasted root vegetables

Love fall's gorgeous golden aspens.

We’re registered for a half on Sunday, and I’m feeling kind of crappy. Head’s stuffed, my ears are ringing, throat feels slightly scratchy, and I’m overall just weary.  I’m trying to hasten a rebound into optimism and energy with orange juice, neti pot, and hot tea. But I know there’s no quick fix.

Who doesn’t get suckered in to the allure of a promising  “quick fix”, sometimes? Even when we know there is really no such thing. In spite of accepting that the “cure all” is at best a panacea, and a zillion variations of a single “Get Rich Quick” scheme are no more than a money vacuum, at some point most of us will at least take a chance on a lottery ticket or twelve.

I’ve been thinking about this …how generally anything worthwhile takes a good deal of work, patience, and common sense to realize.  And somehow–perhaps because my desperate brain is clinging to the idea that it can trick the body into perfect health immediately–that line of thinking reminds me how occasionally we do stumble on things that are beautifully, simply, one-size-fits-all golden. If we could just abide by the example of these rare items, we’d be sure to carve a significant difference for the better into our lives.

First off, there’s the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. So easy in theory, until the ego steps in, with its inflated sense of self-importance; or, when Stress and Pressure take over, far too often the norm, making the Golden Rule much more difficult in daily practice. When you think about it, all rules can be encompassed under its umbrella…unless you’re a sadist, but who really wants to go there.

I know it’s a stretch (and probably another sure sign I’m getting sick), but Golden Rule thinking got me wondering what a golden rule might be for positive changes in diet. What a mire that question can take you to! I’ve applauded Michael Pollan’s “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” advice to the point it’s probably nauseating, but to me, an enthusiast who is not an RD, that’s about as zen as it gets.

Honey roasted root vegetables...golden food.

Still, taking a different vantage point, there is one golden rule that has been standing out…for when you’re in position to change just one thing. There’s so much continuously changing research and propaganda out there, it can litter (not just clutter) your brain in a heartbeat, beating down the best of intentions with its imposing bulk. What’s more, when we’re so often told our efforts in fact back-fired (once, not too long ago margarine, one mere molecule from plastic,  was lauded as a healthy choice), it’s easy to become deflated; and, it seems we’ve evolved to become wired with an abundance of Guilt, especially as related to food.

Image from, great post!

The whole point I’m trying to ramble my way to is, if there’s a week when cutting out cans/BPA and going all organic and keeping within budget and avoiding sugars and refined flours and maybe even grains altogether depending on where you stand and to whom you’ve been listening…when that seems overwhelmingly too much, then it seems to me there is a Number One stick-to, first-step rule that will make an enormous personal difference, and it is: eliminate all high fructose corn syrup.

There is admittedly a certain compelling logic to the “sugar is sugar” tag line of the corn sugar campaign. It rings as rationally sound as calories in-calories out. Only it’s not. It goes without saying, it behooves us always to watch our sugar intake, period. But in a sea of sugars to choose from, HFCS is the monster shark (apologies to the sharks). The research says HFCS is not absorbed by our bodies the same way as other sugars, including plain old granulated. HFCS is an industrial food product, and the chemical process that creates it alters the ratio of glucose and fructose in a way which is extremely taxing for our digestion.  According to Barry M. Popkin, Ph. D, Nutrition Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, HFCS is absorbed more rapidly than regular sugar, and it doesn’t stimulate insulin or leptin production; therefore, your body will not signal fullness, and overconsumption is encouraged. There’s an enormous wealth of great articles to read for the specifics, but if you’re looking for a good place to start, read this one by Dr. Mark Hyman. It’s clear, concise, informative…really great.

OK, one last very randomly related tangent for this post: if you haven’t already cut out all HFCS from your cupboards, fridge and freezer, fall is a great time to start. One reason being, if you have a sweet tooth, fall flavors and favored cooking techniques lend naturally to a rich sweetness that satiates, too. Like, these honey roasted root vegetables, which I love, especially with a little tiny kick of chili powder. I think I first started roasting this combination thanks to Cooking Light, but I can’t quite remember. Just know, this is no token recipe for the sake of it. It’s golden, and I wanted to share.

Honey Roasted Root Vegetables

Choose any combination of your favorite root vegetables, about 7-8 cups, such as:

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yam, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 turnip, peeled and chopped
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped
Mix in a large bowl with:
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spread vegetable mixture on a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes, or until tender and beginning to brown. Turn halfway.


Photography Lesson

This is not a recipe post, but recipes are coming. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow… soon. Consider this a sneak preview of some fun and healthy goodies I’ve been making I think you’ll enjoy playing with, too.

This is roasted eggplant dip with homemade pita chips.

Today I made lunch for Staci and Valerie, and Valerie graciously and generously bestowed some of her divine photo wisdom upon us.  For this I am so very grateful, as given my “clean” slate of prior knowledge, sustaining her level of patience is no mean feat, I am sure.  I imagine it’s like gearing down to jog at a snail’s pace. Sometimes it’s exceedingly painful to go slow.

Here's some cilantro-lime hummus I've posted the recipe for recently.

Valerie gifted me with a short tips session last summer, when we worked with a simple point-and-shoot digital. Then, the focus was lighting and positioning. Today, I’m better equipped with our Fuji FinePix s6000fd, and our focus was APERTURE mode.  A better camera isn’t worthwhile if you’re never brave enough to shift the dial away from Auto focus, and today, for the first time, I dared!

A Mediterranean quinoa salad.

I remember once, while in college, I confessed to my high school piano teacher that one of the alluring qualities of Chopin pieces is that, to me, once it “clicks”, you can impress without necessarily having to work all that hard. I was oddly reminded of that statement today when Valerie described Aperture mode. She related it to learning music–in that while it’s hard, ongoing, rewarding work to master it, basic but significant skills can come quickly.

This is my newest experiment, a breakfast "cheesecake" made of yogurt, cottage cheese, and barely any sweetener (honey). Can't wait to share the recipe!

I’m not sure how much I can claim to have yet acquired real skill, but the knowledge is coming along bit by bit, and I got some great shots of our food, thanks to Valerie. A few key takeaways I’ll hold onto:

  • A key area to check in the manual is “Exposure Compensation”.
  • Remembering the smaller the aperture number, the wider the lens, and therefore the most blurred out the background will be.
  • The manual was written for a reason.
  • 2.8 is a perfect go-to aperture number for my camera for close-up food shots and portraits.
  • Need to read the manual.
  • A light box/reflective white background is cheap and easy to create yourself. Maybe I’ll make one and do a blog post on it.
  • Losing the UV filter when photographing inside makes a world of difference.
  • Did I mention it would be good to read the manual?

Staci perfecting some watermelon shots!

Thank you, Valerie, for taking the time to humor my plodding-along progress in the quest to become a reasonably average photographer. If I can consider this an annual tradition, I will be happy indeed. Better yet , let’s up the frequency.  : )

Clean & Green Grill


 First of all, let it be known that we’re on vacation, and I’m typing on an iPad. I can’t upload photos, except from said iPad, and I’m not actually sure if I can really do that,  when it comes to a blog post. In any case, please forgive (or enjoy) the brevity of this post, as well as lack of visuals and any unfortunate typos. All that aside, bear with me, if for just a cursory skim, because within the roughly thrown together casement is a little gem from one of my very favorite resources,…a crazily simple, cheap, and effective grill cleaner. Yes–the halting, semi-asthmatic, never really left the ground grill challenge is still alive!

Don’t you just love it when easy meets Eco meets budget all at once? I suppose that happens regularly in food, with simply prepared whole ingredients being astounding beyond any complicated interpretation of gourmet. Nevertheless, it always carries a bubbly little feeling of surprise (the good kind) when little things please. It makes me feel like unwrapping a fairy parcel delivered by elves. Even when the vehicle for the surprise is nothing more extraordinary than plain Jane vegetable oil.

We’re in Tofino, BC, and the seafood is exquisite. Everything is splendid, in fact, but as much as I’d like to, I can’t linger on that now, because I’ve already had numerous stubborn disputes with this but temperamental iPad just getting this far. It seems obsessed with someone named Cecilia, for instance, because her name keeps infiltrating my sentences in place of less romantic but logical words like “once” and “cheap”. Later, when we’re back, I’ll share some pics.

Returning to seafood, you can’t help but have a hankering for it in the clean, fresh, salty air here. And, you just know you’ve got to prepare it in the cleanest, most unadulterated way possible. To grill, do yourself a favor and give your grill a little spritz. It takes less than 5 minutes active time,with this great Rodale tip. All you need is a wire grill brush, tongs, a paper towel, and some vegetable oil.  Preheat your grill (it’s best to work with a warm grill, because bits will scrape off better). Once the grill’s warmed up, turn off and scrape off the crunchy charcoal chunks with your brush. Wad up a paper towel and soak it with some vegetable oil. Use the tongs to clutch the paper towel to clean the finer soot from the grill, and wallah. Your grill has a glowing grin ready for its/your next meal.

In the pretty awful photo below, you may be able to see the difference between the untouched right side of the grill with the cleaner left side. The left is the result of literally just two minutes quick cleaning using this method. I really wish I could tell you more about Tofino, but it’ll have to wait for now.  I do have to say, though, the odd juxtapositions within a day on vacation can be just ridiculous. An hour ago I was running on the beach, taking in the sensation of sea meets sky, and feeling in touch with the very curvature of the earth, so alive and breathless and free. Now, here I am writing lusty but pedestrian thoughts on vegetable oil grill cleaner, and yeah, I’m fine with that. Big and little, it all matters. It’s perspective that’s  most important.



Edible Art at the Library!

This morning, Melissa and I had got to share an edible craft snack time at the Longmont Public Library!

The caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

Today was a fun and exciting opportunity in so many ways:

1) We got to support LiveWell Longmont, who graciously supported us, purchasing copies of Plot to Plate as giveaways for parents signing up to be part of Kaiser Permanente’s Weigh and Win program, which offers cash incentives and prizes to participants for working towards and maintaining a healthy weight, and is Live Well sponsored.  LiveWell Longmont worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to bring the new Weigh and Win kiosk to the library, and it was a real honor to be able to share this launch event. The LWL mission is to make Longmont the healthiest city in the healthiest state in the nation, and the organization is composed of fabulous, driven people who can certainly accomplish their goals!

2) It was a nudge to us to be bolder in building some local exposure for our book.

3) Best of all for me, what a chance for me to spend time with my dear friend and co-author, Melissa, not just one morning, but two in a row (we shopped for supplies yesterday), and also her darling, amazing, gorgeous daughters, who were the crucial key to drawing in kid interest with their dazzling smiles and cool factor.

And as if the above weren’t enough, we got to visit with some wonderful friends and community members who stopped by with their families. Check out some of these creative plates kids produced!

Scene by Adelaide


Chipmunk by Anna


Scene by Ben


Daniel's 3-D island


Elizabeth's face



Face by Finnian


Design by Melissa


Oliver's face


Richie's horse


Rory's scene


Spencer's caterpillar


Sreya's scene


Stella's scene


Tom's design


William's face


Thank you for all the fun! Kids, your creativity is beautiful!

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