Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Cook Rutabaga

How many of you have eaten rutabaga before?  Probably not too many.  I, for one, tasted rutabaga for the first time just a few months ago.  My friend, Sandy, introduced me to it.  She raved about how tasty it was and what a great alternative to potatoes it could be. 

Rutabagas are low in carbohydrates.  One cup of cubed, cooked rutabaga contains 15 grams of carbs.  One cup of cubed, cooked potato has 37 grams of carbs.  That's a huge difference!  If you are looking to cut carbs from your diet, replacing rutabaga for potatoes is a great way to start!

At first, I was a little intimidated by the rutabaga.  I didn't know how to cook it or what to do with it.  I wasn't even sure if I would like the taste of it.  After cooking with it, I have since found it to be a delicious, versatile, low-carb alternative to potatoes.  I've made "potato" salad with it, chopped it up and used it in stews, and last night, I made mashed "potatoes" with it.

Let me formally introduce you, if you haven't already been acquainted...

 The rutabaga is a root vegetable. It's a cross between a cabbage and a turnip.  It isn't the prettiest looking vegetable.  Rutabagas can get quite large.  The one in the photo weighs 1 1/2 pounds.  It made enough mashed rutabaga to feed our family of four.  One rutabaga can really go a long way!

How to cook mashed rutabaga...

First, peel it using a vegetable peeler and slice the ends off.

Next, chop it into one-inch cubes.
I must tell you, rutabagas are hard to cut into.  Some people prefer to microwave it for a few minutes to make the chopping easier, but I like to chop it as is, using a good chopping knife.

Add the chopped rutabaga to a large pot and cover with water.  Once the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste, lower the heat to low and allow the rutabaga to simmer for approximately 35 minutes or until tender.    

Once the rutabaga is tender, drain all the water from the pot and mash it with a potato masher.  Notice, how the color changes to a beautiful golden yellow?  Add three tablespoons of butter to it and a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg, if you have some on hand. 

It's as easy as 1-2-3!

It made a delicious, low-carb accompaniment for our pork schnitzel.  

Maybe the next time you see rutabaga in your grocery store, you can bring some home and try it.  I don't think you'll be disappointed!  


Friday, March 22, 2013

Papas / Portuguese Porridge

When I was a child, growing up with my Portuguese immigrant parents, my mother used to make something called papas for us (herself, my Dad, and I).  I believe the closest possible translation of papas to English is porridge.  

Although I am giving it the name porridge, please don't confuse papas for a breakfast food.  No, it was more an indulgence that could be eaten any time of the day.  It was almost dessert-like...eaten hot with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top; the ultimate comfort food for me.  

I remember asking my mom to make papas from time to time. She didn't always make it.  After all, it was a special treat and that is part of what made it so good - the knowing that you couldn't eat it all the time.  Papas were usually reserved for special occasions or lazy Sundays when my mom had more time to make it. 

As I grew older, my mom didn't make papas as often.  I didn't request it as much.  Other foods and rituals replaced the porridge. Many years passed.  Then one day, after I was married and had my own daughter, I remembered the papas again with fondness.   I immediately called my mom at work. I told her I wanted to make papas myself, for the first time.  I needed her recipe...please! 

Well, if you are Portuguese or happen to know a Portuguese mom, you will probably already know that Portuguese moms don't usually follow recipes, measurements or directions.  If you ask for a recipe, you are more likely to hear, "Oh, just add a bit of this and a smidgen of that.  That should do it!".   So my mom gave me a list of all the ingredients and tried to guide me somewhat with the measurements. I had to play around with it myself until it was perfected.

More years passed. The memory of those childhood papas came to me again this week.  I haven't made papas in what seems like forever.  I looked for the small, pink piece of paper I had written the ingredients on years ago, in my recipe box.  I found it, but only the measurements.  

It took me three tries before it turned out perfectly.  Only three tries before it tasted exactly  like the papas my mom used to make for us, when we lived in our apartment flat on Rosemount Street.

Portuguese Porridge / Papas   (serves 2)


1 cup milk 
2 tbsp sugar 
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
ground cinnamon 


In a small pot, add milk.  Whisk in sugar, flour, and salt.  Combine very well until smooth.  Place the pot  over medium heat and keep whisking until mixture begins to boil.  This will take several minutes.  As it starts to boil, continue whisking for about one minute and then remove from heat.  Mixture will continue to thicken.  Pour the papas into two dessert plates.  Sprinkle ground cinnamon over top.  Serve immediately.  

*Papas are traditionally served on a dessert plate, not in a bowl 
(at least that's how my mom used to do it)
*Papas taste best when served hot

Did you eat papas or a special homemade porridge while you were growing up?  I would love to hear about it!  

Monday, March 18, 2013

March Break and Maple Syrup Season

Last week was "March Break" for my girls - the week-long spring vacation students look forward to shortly after returning to school from Christmas holidays.  My mother took the week off work to stay with us for a few days and to spend some quality time with the girls.  She has been doing this for the past five years.  The girls and I look forward to it every year.  If you followed my blog this time last year, you will already know that.

One of the highlights of the week was our trip to Shaw's Maple Syrup Bush.  March is maple syrup season! As soon as the sap starts flowing, a visit to the farm is always in order.  After all, it's tradition!

My mom and I outside the pancake house...

My girls...can you tell they're happy to be here?

At the far end of the restaurant is this beautiful wood-burning stove.  It kept us warm and cozy throughout our breakfast!

Three generations of girls having breakfast together! Nuno's missing; he's the one behind the camera.

Pancakes, sausage and fresh maple syrup.  YUM!

This is the machine where all the maple sap is boiled.  Can you see the steam coming out of the open lid?  Inside, the sap is boiling and when it's finally ready, the maple syrup is released into the stainless bin below.

After our breakfast, the girls made their own maple taffy on snow.
Annabel gets a little help from daddy...

Our last stop was the gift shop, where my mom generously purchased a big jug of fresh maple syrup for us to take home.

Here is a photo of my girls with grandma on her last day before returning home.   My mom's March break visits are always so special.  We had fun hanging out every day, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together, going shopping, and thrift store hunting. I miss our daily coffee outings, talks, and the extra help in the kitchen.  She is very dear to me, so when it's time to say goodbye, it's always difficult.  But, even so, I look forward to doing it all over again next year!   

Pretty smile...

Friday, March 1, 2013

This Week's Simple Pleasures...

Isn't it funny how the simplest things often matter the most?  For instance...

Spotting this female Pine Grosbeak in my crabapple tree on Tuesday.  There are actually two.  Can you find the other one?

Enjoying this pretty flower arrangement every day of this week

Waking up to this magical scene outside my front door yesterday

Appreciating all the splendor of winter, while keeping warm and cozy indoors

Cuddling with my sweet Buddy, who adds so much love and happiness to my world

Preparing a simple, but special lunch just for me 
In case, you're wondering, it's a tuna and cheddar cheese melt

What simple pleasures have you enjoyed this week?