Curry is becoming known as a  bit of a superfood.  The spice blend's famous color is from one of its ingredients, turmeric.  Turmeric is now known to reduce inflammation- brain, systemic, and joints.  Here's a great way to use up some leftovers in a flavorful, healthy way!
Curry has an affinity for sweet, so it mixes perfectly with sweet potatoes or yams.

When I was in college, I lived in the cheapest off-campus apartment around.  There were several foreign students in the complex, and one day we had a potluck dinner together.  
One of the first foods on the table was an amazingly yellow... something.  So I asked what it was.  "Curry," she responded, "It's a food from Korea.". 
Further down the table was another bowl of yellow food.  I asked about it.  "Chicken Curry," she explained, "The Jamaicans invented it."  
Another friend walked up with a now-familiar color.  I asked. 
"Curry.  It's from Africa."

It was good.  All three were.  Good enough I could see why everybody claimed it was from their own native country.

Since my roommate was the Jamaican, that's whose recipe I got, though I had to watch her make it and estimate the amounts at the time.  This recipe is based on hers, though she used bone-in chicken thighs, less onion but added a couple green onions,  potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, and serve it not only over rice, but also with thick, chewy 'Jamaican Dumplings'.  The recipe is flexible.

Curry.  From America.

Sweet Potato Curry with Turkey- makes about 6 cups

2 Tbsp. oil
1-2 Tbsp. curry
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
1 c. cooked turkey, cubed (can use chicken instead)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed*
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste
water

*I used raw sweet potatoes, but feel free to use cooked ones- you can even get away with using leftover Thanksgiving baked sweet potatoes as long as they're not too saccharine; reduce cooking time accordingly.

Heat oil on medium-high heat until shimmering-hot.  Add the curry powder- amount depends on how strong you like it.  (I like it strong.)  Stir, and let it heat for about a minute to 'bloom' the flavor.  It's done when it starts to smell delicious and a little toasty. DON'T burn it.  (Nasty, bitter flavor!...)  Reduce heat to medium, add onion; cook until they are tender, stirring occasionally.  
Stir in turkey, then add sweet potatoes, salt, and pepper.  Add water until the food is nearly covered.  Put a lid on the pan and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until just tender.  Remove lid, increase heat and gently boil until liquid is reduced by about half.  

Serve hot by itself or over rice.

Optional:sprinkle with any of the following:
chopped peanuts
green peas
mandarin orange segments
shredded coconut
diced apple
dollop of sour cream or unsweetened yogurt
chopped hardboiled eggs
bits of dried fruit

 
 
About twenty years ago, a group of my neighbors got together for a "Summer Salad Social".  One of the more unusual offerings there was a salad from a friend from Argentina; she said it was a fairly common salad there- cubed cooked beets with cubed cooked potatoes.  This one is not a lot like hers- which wasn't even pink-- but that was the memory that sparked this salad's creation.  My husband says it's a keeper, especially since it was made using fresh-from-the-garden beets and potatoes.  The flavor is even better the next day.

Since there are children to feed here, I called it something else for my girls' benefit: "Princess Pink Potato Salad".   :)

If you live near me, I have lots of garlic chive plants to share!

Summer Pink Potato Salad

1 lb. beet bulbs, about 4 medium
1 lb. new potatoes, cubed, or halved if small
1 lb. summer squash, cubed
2 Tbsp. Italian dressing OR 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 oz. ham or smoked turkey, diced
6 oz. mozzarella, cubed
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. garlic chives, chopped, OR a handful of chopped green onions and a sprinkle of garlic powder
1/4 c. mayonnaise

Bring about 2" of water to boil in a medium-large saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt.  Trim beets, leaving about 1" of stem on top.  Scrub and rinse, but don't peel them.  Let them cook, covered, in the simmering water for about 45 minutes, or until the largest can be pierced easily with a fork.  Remove beets, saving the water.

Add the potatoes to the water.  Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon, and put them in a large bowl.  Add the Italian dressing or vinegar, and toss gently to coat. 

Add the squash cubes to the water; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, or until barely tender.  Pour into a colander and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Add to the potatoes.  Now that the beets are cool, slide the beet skins off, then cube the beets.  Add to the bowl, along with the ham/turkey, mozzarella, thyme, and garlic chives.  Stir to distribute evenly, then add the mayonnaise, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until everything is a beautiful pink.  Store any leftovers in the fridge, covered.
 
 
Saw this on the web and my daughter wanted it for her birthday cake...

It's really simple- one frosting tip (2110), one color, and the roses are nothing more than spirals.

The frosting I used was Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting and is naturally colored: use the recipe for Blueberry Cheesecake Frosting except double the batch and substitute 12 oz. strawberries, pureed, for the two cups of blueberries.  It tastes divine!
 
 
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My no-butter spread still tastes like butter plus is made with healthy fats. The spread is in the container; dairy butter is on the left for comparison.
I am so excited!

But first- if you've noticed a shift towards gluten-free and dairy-free recipes lately, good noticing!  I. Love. Dairy.  I even milked a cow every day as a teenager so I had the fresh great stuff.  But sometimes people have health problems with certain foods.  So far we've discovered that two of my children get stomach aches when they drink milk.  One of my daughters has excema on her arms that just has not cleared up.  It usually comes and goes, especially in the winter, but she's had it for two months straight.  So I've taken all dairy and wheat items out of her diet to see if those common allergens could be a reason for it.  I'm still cooking normally for everyone else, but have necessarily been experimenting with this other way of cooking.  And here's the latest and greatest:

Butter.  Sort of.  It tastes like it, anyway.  And spreads beautifully.  It even cooks like butter.  I've creamed it with sugar and made a cake, made brownies, melted it on muffins, spread on toast, made honeybutter, and made dairy-free cream of broccoli soup with it.  Yum.

The idea was sparked by reading a label on a small tub of honey butter.  Turns out there was no butter in it at all, but tasted as though it did.  Reading through the list- hydrogenated soybean oil, honey, citric acid, soy lecithin, artificial colors and flavors- it occurred to me that if THEY could make something taste and spread like butter, then maybe I could, too.  So I started researching what the flavor components were in butter and what other foods contain them too.  It was fun to read about- ketones, diacetyl, acetoin, reactions between aldehyde and niacin.  (But, dang it, how come if I was setting a good example of work, study, and loving to learn, I had to remind my daughter every 20 minutes to get back to her schoolwork?!)

Anyway, I found some foods that naturally have some of the same flavor components as butter, and used one that covered the bases.  It's the ingredient that makes ALL the difference in flavor here.  Liquid aminos.  Or just use soy sauce, which is about the same thing.  If you prefer to avoid soy completely, nutritional yeast flakes will give a similar flavor.  Vinegar also works, in the same tiny amount.  The cornstarch, coconut flour, or xantham gum thicken the water so it will better stay mixed with the oils.

This is spreadable when used straight from the fridge.  It’s fantastic on toast, muffins, and waffles.   It has about the same fat-to-water ratio as dairy butter (80:20).  You can cook with it just like real butter, too.  It can be creamed with sugar for cakes and cookies.  Use it cold from the fridge to do this, and don’t beat it longer than about 45 seconds or it begins to melt a little.  This spread can be mixed with an equal amount of honey to make honey butter.

If you’d like a firmer consistency, like sticks of butter, increase coconut oil to ¾ cup and reduce liquid oil to ¼ cup.

Turmeric and paprika give it a nice color without  affecting the flavor.  Turmeric adds bright yellow so a little goes a long way, and paprika lends a warm pinkish orange.  Both will deepen after a day. Combine a pinch of each (just under 1/16 tsp) for the best color.  If you make this using olive oil, the buttery spread has a greenish hint to it which paprika helps eliminate.

Dairy-free Buttery Spread

2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp.  cornstarch OR coconut flour OR 1/4 tsp. xantham gum
1/8 tsp. liquid aminos or soy sauce or vinegar OR scant ½ tsp. nutritional yeast
½ tsp. salt
A pinch each turmeric and paprika, optional (for color)
½ c. coconut oil, softened just til creamy and stirrable
½ c. olive oil or other liquid oil like canola

In a glass 1-cup measuring cup, stir together water and coconut flour.  Microwave until it boils, stir until smooth.  (You’ll need 3 T water if boiling this in a pan on the stove.) Mix in the liquid aminos, salt, turmeric and paprika.  Set aside to cool. 

After it’s cooled to nearly room temperature, mix in the coconut oil, then whisk in olive oil until smooth.  Put mixture in the fridge to chill.  Stir after it starts to thicken, about 15-30 minutes. 

Store covered in the refrigerator.  Makes just over 1 cup. (9 ½ oz, or 3 T. more than 2 sticks of butter)

If you want a firmer consistency to form “sticks” of butter, after it’s just started thickening in the fridge and you’ve stirred it, pack it into whatever molds you have.  I use mini loaf pans, filling them on a scale so each stick weighs 4 ounces.  Put in the freezer to solidify. After they’re hard, pop them out of the molds and store in ziptop bags or wrapped in plastic.  Label and keep in the freezer for longer storage, or keep in the fridge for shorter-term use.

 
 
A surprising amount of people think you can't make frosting without powdered sugar.    I shouldn't be too surprised; I used to think that, too!

Frostings made without it are usually exceptionally smooth; powdered sugar sometimes comes across as a little chalky.  This is because at least some brands add cornstarch to the powdered sugar.

Anyway, here are some creamy, fluffy, dense, or fudgy frostings you can make without using powdered sugar:  Enjoy!

Chocolate Blender Frosting- or caramel, coconut-chocolate, hazelnut-chocolate, and more!
   version made with milk chocolate chips

Cheesecake Cloud Frosting
Blueberry Cheesecake Cloud Frosting
Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting
Cherry Cheesecake Frosting

The frosting in the photo above is Apricot Cloud Frosting: use pureed apricots in place of the pureed blueberries, also add 1-2 tsp. almond extract.

Cooked Frosting (the no-Ultra-Gel version of Cloud Frosting)

Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting (doesn't go runny)

Marshmallow Frosting

Ganache(may be whipped)

Seven-Minute Frosting-
includes variations for Peppermint Frosting, Seafoam Frosting, Strawberry Fluff Frosting, and Chocolate Fluff Frosting.
 
 
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Do you have to go colorless when avoiding artificial colors?
 
The NYTimes recently ran an article called "Colorless Food?  We Blanch", claiming nobody would want to eat food anymore if manufacturers didn't use artificial colors.   It was a little ridiculous.   One response to it is found here.

Yesterday I needed to make a pink and purple unicorn cake for my daughter.  And one extra detail- no artificial colors, or one son couldn’t have any of the cake.  At least not with any frosting.

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My husband now has a new favorite frosting, as does a neighbour who stopped by:  Fluffy Blueberry Cheesecake Frosting, which was my answer to needing a purple mane, tail, and border. 

(If you just want the frosting recipe, go to the bottom of this post.  To read about making a non-artificial pink-and-purple unicorn, read on. :-)



To make the basic pony part, I greased a pony-shaped cake pan, mixed up 4 cups of liquid with enough gelatin, and let it set up in the fridge.  I use unflavored gelatin; Knox comes that way in packets, but I buy it in the bulk section of a local health food store.  To make the pony pink, I used fruit punch as 3 cups of the liquid, and 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt; I used kefir ‘cause that’s what was in the fridge!) to make it opaque pink instead of transparent red.  Use twice as much gelatin as you would normally; otherwise it will fall apart when you flip it out of the pan. (Mine did, thus the recommendation to double the gelatin!)  It might anyway, but at least you’ll be upping the chance for success.

I baked a rectangular cake big enough for the pony to fit on and frosted it with Fluffy Cheesecake Frosting.   I set the pony pan in a sink of hot water for just a couple seconds, then flipped the pan over the cake so the pony landed in the right place.  Then I decorated with the purple frosting, and carved a horn out of a stick of jicama.  (I was going to use the tip of an ice cream cone, but we were having jicama for dinner.)  Voile!  Everyone’s happy!

Fluffy Blueberry Cheesecake Frosting- makes about 2 1/2 cups
(See here for Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or 6 oz. other berries)
½ c. sugar
1 Tbsp. Ultra Gel
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz butter, softened
½ tsp. vanilla 

Combine blueberries and sugar; either puree them in a blender until smooth, OR cook and stir until boiling; cool.   Beat cream cheese until smooth, add butter, sugar, blueberry mixture (cooled if you cooked it),  Ultra Gel, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and fluffy.  Let stand 5 minutes. 

_____
Ultra Gel needs five minutes to fully absorb liquid; that’s why I’ve added the 5-minute wait time.  These frostings are easy to adjust- if too thick or pasty, add a little (1-2 tsp.) water, or as needed.  If too thin, sprinkle on another 1 tsp. Ultra Gel and beat it in. 


The cream cheese frosting recipe I tweaked to get this, above, as well as the white base layer:

No-cook “cooked”
Fluffy Cheesecake Frosting
½ c. sugar

1 Tbsp. Ultra Gel
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz butter (1 stick), softened
¼ c. milk
½ tsp. vanilla

Stir together sugar and Ultra Gel, set aside.  Beat cream cheese until smooth, add butter, milk, vanilla, and sugar mixture.  Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes.

 

Another variation I’ve come up with, in case you don't use table sugar at your house:

Fluffy Honey –Cheesecake Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. butter, softened
1/3 cup honey
3 T. water, milk, or cream
½ tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. Ultra Gel

Beat cream cheese until smooth; add butter, honey, water, and vanilla.  Sprinkle the Ultra Gel  on top, then beat all until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes.