Oven Baked Potato Wedges

When white potatoes became a Whole30 approved food, there were celebrations heard worldwide. In my house, however, things hummed along as usual. Aside from fast food french fries and the occasional baked potato, we really don’t eat white potatoes that often, even before we got into the Whole30 and found out they weren’t approved on the meal plan. There isn’t anything wrong with white potatoes; but for my husband and I – sweet potatoes worked just as well, if not better.

Then a few weeks ago I bought a bag of russet potatoes with a plan to make stuffed baked potatoes as something different for dinner or packed lunches. And then I took it one step farther and decided instead of baked potatoes with our steaks, I’d slice the potatoes into thick wedges and bake them in the oven.

Total. Game changer.

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Although I adore sweet potato fries, I’ve found that my body doesn’t tolerate sugar well – even the natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables. As a result, I’ve tried to cut down the amount of sugar I’m eating and so sweet potato fries (and sweet potatoes in general) haven’t made much of an appearance in our diet lately. These oven baked potato wedges have been an excellent substitute..

The key to perfectly crisped wedges is to watch them carefully and turn them regularly. The first time I made them I didn’t add enough olive oil and they started sticking to my baking sheet. Added to that, I didn’t flip them soon enough and one side of each wedge ended up pretty crisp (as in almost black and stuck to the pan), while the other side was almost underdone. Fortunately for me, I thought they tasted great, but they were so much better when cooked to a nice golden brown – crunchy on the outside with a nice soft potato middle. Delicious.

The other nice thing with regular white potato wedges (as opposed to sweet potato fries, at least in my book) is that you can experiment with your seasonings. Usually I keep these plain, with just a shake of pink sea salt, but I’ve also tried garlic salt and fresh parsley, a dusting of chipotle chili powder, and one time I even used a mixture of turmeric and smoked paprika. Obviously you can be just as creative with sweet potatoes, but I personally prefer mine plain.

Anyway – enough talk about potatoes. Go make these!

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Tostones (Twice Fried Plantains)

Let’s go to South America!

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When it comes to international travel, my tastes run more towards Eastern Europe than anywhere else. I studied several languages in high school and college, to include Russian, and I spent the first two years of my overseas career living in he gorgeous utopic country of Slovenia. Needless to say, the Balkans are near and dear to my heart. I’ve done extensive travel throughout Europe and I’ve seen my share of the Middle East, but interestingly enough the one language I’ve never studied is Spanish, nor have I traveled to any Latin American countries. I’ve recently decided that I need to remedy this, for one reason alone: the food.

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

Oh, the food. Cuban sandwiches. Plantanos. Tostones. Mofongo. With the exception of the cuban sandwich I’d never before heard of any of these exotic dishes until recently, when I was introduced to a friend of my husband who hails from Puerto Rico. Just listening to him talk about the food makes my mouth water! It also made me want to try some of these dishes he was talking about, particularly the ones that involved plantains.

I can’t remember the first time I ever tried plantains, but boy do I love them! I shared a recipe for sweet fried plantains very early on, as you can tell my the horrible photography in that post. Plantains can be sweet or savory, depending on the ripeness of the plantain and how they are prepared. And they are ridiculously cheap – the grocery store where I do the majority of my shopping sells them for 2/$1.00, and ALDI sells them for .35 each! Major win.

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

Having already tried my hand at sweet fried plantains and savory fried plantains, I decided to try my hand at Tostones. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the word comes from the spanish verb tostar, which means “to toast”. Literally, they are plantain slices that are fried once, smashed thin, and then fried again.  Kevin and I both tried our hand at smashing the plantains – apparently there is a special tool called a tostonera, which is used to smash the plantains thin, but we just used the bottom side of a regular old plate and it worked just fine – and we found out that while my plantains tended to end up on the thicker side, Kevin mashed his a lot thinner, so they turned out crispier and more like chips. Interestingly enough, once they were fried up we found out each of us liked the other’s way better!

bearfamilystrong.com | tostones

These make a great snack just eaten like chips, but they taste even better when topped with pork carnitas, green salsa, and some avocado pieces. Yum.

TOSTONES (Twice Fried Plantains)

serves: 2

prep time: 10 min

cook time: 20 min

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

2-3 unripe (green) plantains, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

olive oil

salt

small bowl of tepid salt water

WHAT YOU’LL DO:

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep skillet. You don’t want to completely cover the plantains in oil, you just want a thin layer on the pan. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain pieces for a few minutes, making sure each side is nicely browned. Set aside on paper towels to dry, but don’t turn off your pan of oil. Using the bottom of a plate or other flat, sturdy object, smash the plantain with decent force – you want a thin plantain slice. NOTE: I would recommend using a metal flipper to peel the plantain from the plate; otherwise it might fall apart. Dip the plantain into the bowl of water and set on paper towel to dry slightly. (This keeps the plantains crispy, and maintains their color during frying.) Then re-fry the plantains in your hot oil for about two minutes on each side. Blot the tostones on another paper towel, sprinkle liberally with salt, and serve immediately.

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Pan Fried Indian Spiced Okra

Okra is one of those vegetables that gets a bad reputation. When someone says “okra”, I believe 95% of the population immediately thinks “slimy”. It’s kind of like peanut butter and jelly – people think okra and slimy. Including me, until I actually tasted it for the first time.

bearfamilystrong.com | indian spiced okra

I’m not going to lie; there was much trepidation before I took my first bite. We were having dinner with the couple who leads our Bible Study and the theme for dinner was Indian – which I love. We’ll call the couple John and Mary for simplicity. John and Mary have a garden, and they also made okra with dinner – heavily spiced and cooked in a wok. I watched as John added all the spices, tossed the okra in the pan, and then started cooking…and I couldn’t help but notice that there was a lot of slime. However, once it was all said and done, John blotted most of the excess liquid from the wok and I have to say – from that first bite? I loved it. It was perfectly spiced and not at all slimy and at that moment I knew I wanted to try to make my own okra.

bearfamilystrong.com | indian spiced okra

The funny thing is – John is a lot like my husband, in that when we texted him to get his recipe the response was something like, “Oh, I don’t know – I threw in these different spices and just sort of cooked it.” Yep, just like my husband. He did however give us a list of the primary spices he used, and so I just started with that and came up with my own version of this delicious vegetables.

After a quick google search I learned that the key to making okra not slimy is to make sure your oil is extremely hot, so that when you add the spice coated okra to the pan the oil essentially flash fries the seasoning onto the pieces – somewhat like fried okra, except a lighter and healthier option. Also, you want to make sure you keep moving the pan around – you want to sauté the okra until it’s nice and brown, but if you leave it sitting in the oil too long it will get slimy and stay wet. (If you do end up with slightly slimy okra, don’t fear! Just take a clean paper towel and blot off the excess oil.)

Not surprisingly, okra went from being one of the vegetables I never thought about to one I now cook on a regular basis.

TO MAKE:

*NOTE: all measurements for the spices are suggested; this recipe is largely “to taste” and will vary based on your personal preferences and spice tolerance.

1 lb okra, chopped into half inch coins

1 Tbsp Garam masala

1 Tbsp Moroccan seasoning

1 Tbsp Cumin

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Black Pepper

1 tsp Chili powder

1-2 tsp Turmeric

Rinse and chop your okra into small, half inch coins. In a small bowl, combine your spices – you’ll want enough of a mix to coat the okra evenly. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a pan until hot. Toss the okra into the hot oil and sauté, keeping your pan moving, for about five minutes until okra turns brown and crisp. Serve!

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