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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about vegetarian food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer more money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.

Goodness Gracious Sweet Potato Risotto

Fourteenth in a series of articles


More years ago than I care ta remember, I learnt how to make risotto. Ever'body was gittin' all a tither 'bout this fancy dish that come all the way from the country of Italy. Well, I did taste that risotto an' what come ta mind from the start was that folks was gittin' all excited about some kind o' fancy white rice with just a tad o' spices that was turnin' inta nothin' but a pan o' mush.

But if'n y'all know me by now, you kin bet I was payin' attention. I shure did take to the idear of makin' risotto, but it had ta be fur better than that. Why, that fancy white rice weren't much good fer ya. It had no fiber ta speak of an' not much anythin' else.

So I let the idear set a spell 'till I come up with some mighty fine risotto fixins' that's got goodness in ever' bite. Now I'm feelin' good 'bout my own Aunt Nettie risotto that's cooked up with a heap o' chopped vegetables, some brown rice or pearl barley, an' even some healthy greens that's loaded with fiber an' plenty o' vitamins.

I knows in my heart that after fillin' yer belly with my recipe, y'all gonna come away from the table feelin' mighty chipper an' a little perkier than when y'all set down. An' if'n there's some extra dollars ta spare from yer paycheck, why them li'l chopped pistachios sprinkled on the top is the mighty speshul.

I hopes you'll take ta this recipe right quick 'cause it's a whole meal in jes one big skillet, so ya don't need ta go messin' up ever' pot in yer kitchen fer this dinner. What is important, is ta spend some time cuttiin' up a giant size salad with lots o' veggie fixin's ta start yer meal. Then bring on that Goodness Gracious Sweet Potato Risotto fer a plate o' Aunt Nettie style country eats.

Sweet Potato Risotto


Yield: 6 servings

    1 1/2 pounds (675g) yams, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
    3 medium zucchinis, cut into bite-size pieces
    1 large onion, chopped
    1/2 red bell pepper, diced
    2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
    3 to 6 cups (.75 to 1.5 liters) water, divided

    3 cups (720 ml) chopped fresh kale or collard greens
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) short-grain brown rice or 1 cup (240 ml) pearl barley
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked edamame or garbanzos, rinsed and drained
    3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    1 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    1 1/4 teaspoon salt

    1/2 cup (120 ml) raw or roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped (optional)

  1. In a large, deep skillet combine the yams, zucchini, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and 1 cup (240 ml) of the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the chopped kale, brown rice, garbanzos, thyme, marjoram, cinnamon, pepper, and 1 cup (240 ml) of the remaining water and cook, stirring frequently, until the water begins to evaporate. Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the remaining water and, again, cook until the water starts to evaporate. Continue cooking and adding water, 1/2 cup (120 ml) at a time, until the rice is softened and the sweet potatoes are fork tender. The cooking time may take up to 50 to 60 minutes.
  3. Season with lemon juice and salt to create tasty risotto and top each serving with a generous sprinkle of chopped pistachios.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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