Pharm Fresh

The foodie alter-ego of a pharmacy student

Sweet Potato Casserole January 6, 2010

Filed under: side dish,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 2:08 pm
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I know, I know – it’s been a while.  I hope everyone’s Christmas and New Years were spectacular and spent with lots of friends and family.  Mine definitely were.  I’ve been home at my parents’ house for the past two and a half weeks and it has been amazing.  Especially after such a stressful and ridiculous exam week.  But I survived and now I’m gearing up for another semester.  We’ll be taking the hardest class in all of pharmacy school this semester, and I’m really hoping that it won’t take out all of my precious free time, but I’m thinking it just might.  I will try my best to keep cooking and posting though!

They say that your taste buds are recycled and replaced with new ones about every 7 years, and with this replacement your tastes can sometimes change as well.  I’m sure we all can think of foods that we once loved but now can’t stand, or vice versa.  One of these for me is sweet potatoes.  I never used to like them – I wouldn’t touch them whenever my parents made them (mainly at Thanksgiving and Christmas), even though I had no problem picking off the gooey toasted marshmallows from the top of them!  This year though, I found a really promising recipe for a sweet potato casserole that I wanted to try.  I figured if I didn’t like it, I was pretty sure that the rest of my family would.  Surprisingly enough though, I couldn’t get enough of it, and not just the marshmallows on top this time!  I think the combination of brown sugar, honey and cinnamon really helped with that.  Those three ingredients are high on my list of favorite things, so they’re bound to make even the lame sweet potato taste good.

I’ve made this a couple of times since then, and I have one word of advice: do NOT microwave the sweet potato to cook it.  I know, it’s so much easier and takes less time than baking it in the oven, but the one time I tried to microwave it, it was a disaster.  Instead of getting the creamy, fragrant sweet potato mixture, I got a sticky, gummy glob of grossness.  It was disgusting.  I’ve always been a little suspicious of the idea of baking a potato in the microwave, and now I’ve been proven correct.  So take the little bit of extra time and bake the sweet potatoes in the oven.  I promise, it’s worth it!

I’ve given a range on most of the amounts in this recipe because it should really be made the suit the tastes of those who are eating it.  For example, I like lots of brown sugar and honey in mine, but my parents like to rely more on the natural sweetness of the sweet potato, and use a lot less.  I would start out at the minimum amount and keep adding more until it tastes right to you.  There are also a lot of other things you could add in to add a nice crunch and some extra flavor.  I like to keep mine plain, but I’ve added toasted pecans, raisins and apples to it before and that’s been pretty tasty, too.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Makes: 4 servings

2 large sweet potatoes

1/4 – 1/2 c. brown sugar

2 tbsp – 1/4 c. honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. mini marshmallows

Optional add-ins: toasted pecans, chopped apples, raisins

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  It would be best if the cookie sheet had sides, like a jelly-roll pan.

2) Place the sweet potatoes on the cookie sheet and prick a few times with a fork.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until very soft (a knife will go easily through the potato when done.)

3) Trim the ends of each potato and peel the skin off.  Mash the potatoes in a large bowl until smooth.  Add in the brown sugar, honey, cinnamon and vanilla, mixing well.  If the mixture is too thick, add a few drops of milk until the desired consistency is reached.

4) Spoon the sweet potato mixture into a greased baking dish and spread evenly.  Top with the marshmallows.

5) Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until potato mixture is warmed through and marshmallows are browned, about 15-20 minutes.


Guacamole! August 31, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 10:30 pm
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Well, our Kalamazoo celebration weekend went well.  Very well!  The weather didn’t really cooperate very much with us, but we made due and still had a good time.  I have such great friends!

I made this to take with me to Jen’s along with the salsa.  I love guacamole so much!  This is a super easy (and super cheap!) recipe that’s really customizable.  You can add more or less of whatever you want…and even my measurements are really only approximations.  I usually just start adding things and I eventually stop when it tastes right to me.  So feel free to change up amounts or completely substitute/leave out ingredients as you see fit.

Make sure to buy very ripe avocados for this.  You should look for fruit with very dark, black skin that gives quite a bit when squeezed.  Unripe avocados don’t have quite as much flavor and are almost impossible to smash without breaking kitchen utensils.  Which we definitely don’t want.



3 large, very ripe avocados

1 plum tomato, roughly chopped

1/2 large or 1 small white onion, roughly chopped

1-2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/4 c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

1) With a large knife, halve each avocado by cutting all the way around the pit and twisting to separate the sides.  Using a large spoon, remove the pit and discard.  Spoon out the flesh of the avocado and place in a large bowl.

2) Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the avocado to form a relatively smooth consistency.  (I prefer the avocado to be smooth, but if you want chunks, leave chunks!)

3) Stir in about 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice and the onion, jalapeno and tomato that you previously chopped.

4) Place the minced garlic on a cutting board.  Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. kosher salt.  Using the flat side of your knife, press down on the garlic and drag across the cutting board, crushing it under the knife.  Repeat until a paste forms, then stir that paste into the mixture.

5) Gently mix in the cilantro.  Taste, and add salt, pepper and more lime juice, if needed.

6) To store, cover first with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap right onto the top of the guacamole.  Even though we added quite a bit of lime juice, the parts that are exposed to air will turn brown, but the plastic wrap will help.  Then either cover with foil or an air-tight top.


Roasted Tomato Salsa August 27, 2009

Filed under: appetizer,snacks,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 7:37 pm
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I’m back!  Did you miss me?

I can’t believe the summer is already almost over – it flew by so quickly!  As I’m sure you’ve noticed by the lack of posts these past few months, I took a little summer hiatus from blogging, and cooking in general.  I moved in with my little sister for the summer and didn’t want to lug my tons of cooking equipment with me for just a three month stay and little sister doesn’t do much cooking at all aside from making a bowl of cereal every now and again.  To be honest though, other than the bowl of spaghetti every now and then, I think I only actually cooked twice this summer.  Twice! I know, I can’t believe it either.

The good news is that I’m back and all moved into my house in Big Rapids and school starts on Monday, so I’ll be doing much more cooking (and blog updating!) now.  This weekend my group of pharmacy school friends are going on a little getaway to celebrate the last weekend before classes start.  My friend Jen (who made an appearance in the last blog post) has a gorgeous house right on a lake in Kalamazoo, so we’re all traveling down there and staying for the weekend.  It’s going to be so much fun – I can’t wait!

Jen asked everyone to either donate money so she could go grocery shopping, or bring some food to share, so I naturally volunteered to bring some food.  It felt so good to get back to cooking again!

This is one of the snacks I volunteered to bring.  I saw this recipe ages ago on 101Cookbooks and I’m so glad I finally got around to making it!  I’ve never made a salsa that involved cooking the ingredients, but it turned out really well.  Roasting the tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a little hint of smokiness that goes really well with the chipotle chiles.  The flavor is definitely different than that of a fresh salsa, but I think this makes for a nice change every once in a while.

Chipotle chiles (which are smoked jalapenos) can be found in most major supermarkets, usually in the ethnic foods aisle.  They come in a small can, usually labeled “chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.”  The original recipe calls for a dried guajillo pepper as well, but I couldn’t find any at my grocery store, so I just left it out.


Roasted Tomato Salsa

Adapted from: 101 Cookbooks

2 lbs. roma tomatoes

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp. kosher or sea salt

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 chipotle chiles (canned, in adobo sauce)

1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2)  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place, cut side down in a single layer, on a large cookie sheet.  (I like to lightly cover my cookie sheet in cooking spray, just in a case.)  Cut the onion into large wedges and place on the cookie sheet with the tomatoes.  Place the garlic cloves on the cookie sheet, too.

3) Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes, onions and garlic and sprinkle with salt.

4) Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the tomatoes have started to sink in the middle and the onions are lightly browned on the edges.  Set aside and let cool.

5) Once everything has cooled a bit, puree 3 tomato halves, the garlic cloves and chipotles in a food processor until smooth.  Roughly chop the rest of the tomatoes and onion and stir into the pureed mixture.  Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Cheesy Asparagus February 3, 2009

Filed under: side dish,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 7:58 pm
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I know what you’re thinking right now: “ew. What is that weird greenish blob?  Is it food?  Is she really posting this on her food blog?”  Well, the answer is yes, and while it may not be the most photogenic thing I’ve ever cooked, it really is quite delicious!

Necessity was definitely the mother of invention today.  I was really hungry, and after being at school all day, I didn’t feel like taking the time to cook something extravagant. I had some asparagus in the fridge that I needed to eat before it went bad.  My rumbling stomach told me that roasting it was out, as was steaming it and trying to throw together a cheese sauce.  Then I remembered this pasta dish that my old roommate and I used to make quite frequently, which combined asparagus with onion and sour cream.  I have an irrational love for sour cream, and will mix it into or dollop it on top of just about anything.  I’ve even put it in ice cream.

I didn’t really feel like pasta today, so I decided to experiment a little and try to take the same flavors from the pasta dish and turn it into a simple side dish.  I’m really proud of this, because I came up with it myself, and it was actually good!  It’s just too bad that it doesn’t photograph well at all.  But trust me, I’m sure you’ll love this lumpy green stuff just about as much as I do, and it is incredibly quick to make.  Even though there’s only a few ingredients in this, it has a really big and bold flavor. The sour cream and sharp cheddar add a nice tang to the smooth sauce that holds it together, and that smoothness is balanced out really well by the crisp asparagus.

Cheesy Asparagus

Source: me!

Makes: a little over 1 cup

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 c. bite-sized asparagus pieces

1/2 c. white onion, chopped small

2-3 tbsp. sour cream

2 tbsp. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

salt and pepper to taste

1) In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

2) Once hot, add the onion and asparagus and saute for 3-4 minutes, until the onion is translucent and asparagus has reached the desired amount of done-ness (I like mine crisp, but if you like yours softer, cook for 3-4 more minutes)

3) Turn the heat down to low and add the sour cream and cheese, stirring until cheese has melted and everything is completely combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Broccoli Soup January 20, 2009

Filed under: soup,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 8:51 pm
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Happy Inauguration Day, everyone!  I’m so excited that we’re welcoming in a new president, especially such a confident, relevant and well-spoken one.  (I think we’ve had enough Bush-isms for a lifetime!) I’m not going to lie, I cried a little bit while watching the news coverage of the inauguration – it’s just so inspiring to hear what Obama has planned for our nation and to see other people’s reactions to such a historic moment.

I’ve been feeling decidedly under the weather since yesterday, and was really craving soup.  I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for quite a while, and this seemed like the perfect time to make it.  I love, love, LOVE broccoli, and this soup is especially hearty and comforting.  And even better, it’s actually pretty good for you!  It’s packed full of veggies, and there is no heavy cream in sight!  The soup is instead thickened with a roux, and some pureed white beans at the very end.  This combination leads to a very hearty and filling soup with very little effects on your waistline!

This, in my opinion, tasted quite a bit like Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup.  I did add some cheddar cheese in at the last moment, because, well, I really like cheese in my soup.  I really like the texture that the pureed beans gave the soup, actually even more than if it would have had cream in it.  I think next time I might add some cooked shredded carrots at the end, for a little bit of color contrast and extra veggie power.


Broccoli Soup

Adapted from: Butter and Sugar

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. milk

4 c. chicken stock

6 c. broccoli florets (roughly two heads)

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1 c. canned butter beans

salt and pepper, to taste

1) In a large stock pot, melt the butter and add olive oil.

2) Once hot, add the onion and garlic.  Saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes.

3) Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly for one minute.

4) Add milk and stir until thickened.

5) Add chicken stock and broccoli.  Cover and simmer until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes.

6) Add the beans, then using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the soup to your desired consistency.  I made mine mostly smooth, but left in a few chunks of broccoli for texture.  Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Parmesan Crusted Potatoes December 21, 2008

Filed under: side dish,vegetable — pharmfresh @ 6:42 pm
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Well everyone, it’s official!  I’ve finished my first semester of pharmacy school.  And passed with As and Bs, too!  I’m pretty excited about it.   I also finally got around to getting all of the pictures of food off of my mom’s camera and onto my computer, so I can start posting them!  So, be ready for quite a few posts in these next few days.

I made these potatoes when I was home last.  I randomly found them on TasteSpotting, which is a fantastic website where bloggers from all over the world can showcase the food they’ve made.  If you haven’t yet, I would definitely recommend checking them out!

These are definitely one of my new favorite ways to make potatoes.  Parmesan is one of my favorite cheeses, and it makes a delicious, salty crust on the potatoes that’s to die for.  My dad and I fought over who would get to eat the leftover crispy pieces of cheese from the bottom of the pan.  Extra virgin olive oil does impart a very noticable taste to the dish, so if you’re like me and don’t really care for the taste of EVOO, you can use light olive oil (which is just as good for you in the way of unsaturated fats, but with less of a strong flavor), or if you’re not so much worried about your fat intake, use melted butter! I also think that the addition of some herbs – maybe some crushed dried rosemary -would be a really nice addition to this dish.


Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Source:  For the Love of Cooking

4-5 small Idaho potatoes

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

garlic powder, to taste

1) Wash potatoes, and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Boil potatoes until fork tender, but not falling apart.  Drain and set aside.

2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3) Grease a small casserole dish.  In the dish, mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic salt.  Add potatoes to the dish, and mix until coated with olive oil mixture.

4) Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top of the potatoes, and mix until combined.

5)  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese has melted and browned.